Europe tightens rules as second coronavirus wave intensifies

German police using a water cannon to disperse anti-lockdown protesters in Frankfurt city on Saturday after they were found to be not observing social distancing rules.
German police using a water cannon to disperse anti-lockdown protesters in Frankfurt city on Saturday after they were found to be not observing social distancing rules.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ATHENS • Greece on Saturday announced the closure of primary schools, kindergartens and daycare centres as coronavirus deaths crossed a thousand.

Police yesterday also banned public gatherings of four or more people ahead of the annual anniversary of a 1973 anti-junta uprising.

The authorities reported 2,835 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, taking the total to 72,510, and 38 new deaths, raising the toll to 1,035.

Since late October, the daily number of deaths in the country of nearly 11 million has quadrupled while the number of infections has doubled to around 3,000.

The most hard-hit area is Thessaloniki in the north.

Primary schools would be closed until the end of this month. Secondary school lessons have already been taking place remotely since last Monday.

"Closing elementary schools was the last thing we wanted to do. This is a measure of how serious the situation is," Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said.

Greece's nationwide lockdown will last until at least Nov 30. A 9pm-5am curfew is also in place.

In France, police stepped up controls in Paris over the weekend to ensure residents were complying with lockdown rules amid signs that some were breaching them.

Police broke up an illegal party hosting up to 400 people at Joinville-Le-Pont near Paris.

The authorities confirmed 32,095 Covid-19 infections on Saturday, pushing the total count to nearly two million. New deaths rose by 354, taking the toll past 44,000.

Despite some gains in the epidemic situation as a result of the country's lockdown and night-time curfew, French President Emmanuel Macron warned that "the coming days will be decisive".

"Our fight against the epidemic is collective... In class, office, at home, five life-saving gestures: Wear a mask, wash your hands regularly, keep a distance of at least 1m apart, regularly ventilate closed spaces and download the TousAntiCovid app," he tweeted on Saturday.

In Germany, people were told to brace themselves for another four to five months of severe measures to halt the spread of the virus and not to expect a quick easing of rules.

"We're not out of the woods yet," Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told weekly Bild am Sonntag. "We cannot afford a yo-yo shutdown with the economy constantly opening and closing."

Germany has imposed a set of measures dubbed a "lockdown light". While restaurants are closed, schools and shops so far remain open.

Data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases yesterday showed that the number of confirmed cases rose by 16,947 to 790,503. Weekend figures tend to be lower as not all data is reported by local authorities.

Mr Altmaier said Germany should be wary of relaxing restrictions too quickly.

"If we don't want days with 50,000 new infections, as was the case in France a few weeks ago, we must see through this and not constantly speculate about which measures can be relaxed again," he said. "All countries that lifted their restrictions too early have so far paid a high price in terms of human lives lost."

The German chairman of the World Medical Association, Mr Frank Ulrich Montgomery, warned: "My forecast is that we will have to talk about further restrictions rather than any easing."

German police fired water cannon during an anti-lockdown rally in Frankfurt on Saturday and eventually broke up the gathering as social distancing rules were not observed.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA, REUTERS

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2020, with the headline 'Europe tightens rules as 2nd wave intensifies'. Print Edition | Subscribe