PARIS • Europe's resurgent coronavirus pandemic is threatening to shut down Paris' culinary institutions and spurring record cases in the continent's east.
The disease is spreading at such a pace in Paris that positive tests and the number of intensive-care patients have climbed past the "maximum alert" level, French Health Minister Olivier Veran told reporters.
If the trend continues, "we have no choice" but to declare the capital and its nearby suburbs a high-risk area as soon as next Monday, which would trigger the closing of bars and restaurants, he said on Thursday.
Representatives of France's hospitality industry are trying to thwart the move and were planning to present proposals to the authorities yesterday.
President Emmanuel Macron is seeking to avoid a second nationwide lockdown, but targeted measures have shown little impact.
The country's virus cases increased the most in Europe over the past two months and have reached nearly 617,000, according to Johns Hopkins University, while monthly Covid-19-related deaths tripled last month.
The so-called winter resurgence has sparked a spate of tighter restrictions across Europe, threatening a stumbling recovery after national lockdowns hammered economies in the second quarter.
In Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, new cases hit daily records.
The Czech Republic has the second-worst outbreak in Europe and declared a state of emergency this week. It recorded 3,493 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the highest daily count since the pandemic reached the country in March, data by the Health Ministry showed yesterday.
The overall number of confirmed cases grew to 74,255 in the country of 10.7 million, where 678 people have died in connection with the illness.
Trends are worrying across Europe.
London residents are being told to take immediate action to avoid catching and spreading the disease amid warnings that the British capital is at a "tipping point".
However, Britain's Office for National Statistics (ONS) said yesterday there is some limited evidence that the recent sharp rise in new cases in England is levelling off.
New cases of Covid-19 in England totalled about 8,400 a day in the week up to Sept 24, down from about 9,600 a day during the previous week, an ONS estimate said.
Germany had the most new daily infections since April, as did Italy, where Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is seeking to extend his emergency powers until Jan 31.
New cases in Germany are "predominantly due to transmission at family and other private events", the country's Robert Koch Institute said in its latest situation report.
The number of confirmed cases in Germany increased by 2,673 to 294,395, data from the institute showed yesterday. The reported death toll rose by eight to 9,508.
To counter the spread of the virus, Chancellor Angela Merkel's government this week recommended limits on public and private gatherings in hard-hit areas.
Meanwhile, the authorities in Italy ruled yesterday that face masks will have to be worn at all times outdoors in the capital Rome and the surrounding Lazio region.
Italy on Thursday registered more than 2,000 new coronavirus cases for the first time since the end of April. Lazio accounted for 265 of those cases and has been increasingly concerned by the growing contagion.
"Most of the cases are tied to the lack of respect in using masks and in social distancing," Lazio's health chief Alessio D'Amato told reporters yesterday.
Italy was the first country in Europe to be slammed by Covid-19 and has the second-highest death toll in Europe after Britain, with almost 36,000 people dying since the outbreak flared in February. It has registered 317,409 cases.
In Spain - again the epicentre of the pandemic on the continent - the virus fight has been bogged down by infighting.
Madrid's regional leaders yesterday filed a legal challenge against a central-government decree imposing a partial lockdown across the capital and nine nearby towns, just hours before it came into force.
With 859 cases for every 100,000 people, according to the World Health Organisation, the Madrid region is the worst Covid-19 hot spot in Europe.
With the new restrictions that came into force at 10pm yesterday (4am today in Singapore), 4.8 million people will see borders closed to outsiders for non-essential visits, with only travel for work, school, doctors' visits or shopping allowed. A curfew for bars and restaurants will be moved to 11pm from 1am.
BLOOMBERG, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE