Exasperation, anger as Europe further tightens coronavirus restrictions

Many people weary of confinement and anxious about economic cost of shutdowns

Many leading European nations have announced they are going back into lockdown, but that has caused some backlash amongst those countries.
An empty outdoor dining area in Stuttgart, Germany, yesterday. Chancellor Angela Merkel has ordered a round of shutdowns from yesterday until the end of the month, during which bars, cafes, restaurants, theatres, operas and cinemas must close. Tighte
An empty outdoor dining area in Stuttgart, Germany, yesterday. Chancellor Angela Merkel has ordered a round of shutdowns from yesterday until the end of the month, during which bars, cafes, restaurants, theatres, operas and cinemas must close. Tighter lockdown rules were also set to kick in for Belgium, Portugal and France, while England prepared for fresh stay-at-home orders, and Italy opted for targeted regional restrictions.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BERLIN • Germany yesterday led a further tightening of coronavirus curbs in Europe that have triggered anger and frustration across the continent, while the Covid-19 crisis in the US deepened.

The virus has infected more than 46 million people worldwide, with over 1.2 million deaths and the acute outbreaks in Europe and America sparking further alarm about the state of the already devastated global economy.

To curb the resurgence in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel has ordered shutdowns from yesterday until the end of the month.

Germans will not be confined to their homes, but bars, cafes and restaurants must close, as well as theatres, operas and cinemas.

The sadness was palpable at the renowned Bavarian State Opera House in Munich as it prepared to close. It is "a slap", said baritone Michael Nagy, unable to hide his tears.

England prepared for fresh stay-at-home orders, following in the steps of Austria, France and Ireland, with many expressing anxiety about the economic cost of the four-week shutdown due to take effect from Thursday.

Tighter lockdown rules were also set to kick in yesterday for Belgium, which has the most Covid-19 cases per capita in the world. Portugal, too, has ordered a partial lockdown starting tomorrow.

And in France, Prime Minister Jean Castex said supermarkets would be barred from selling "non-essential" items from today to protect small shops that have been forced to close.

Spain has already imposed a night-time curfew, and almost all of its regions have implemented regional border closures to prevent long-distance travel.

Italy's government yesterday opted for targeted regional restrictions amid the latest surge in Covid-19 cases, in a bid to avoid a new nationwide lockdown.

Regions with the highest transmission levels will be subject to tougher curbs under a three-tiered system, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said. These will come on top of new nationwide measures, including a night-time curfew.

  • 15 Number of regions in Italy in which hospitals could reach a critical situation next month, according to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

Hospitals in 15 of the country's 20 regions could reach a critical situation next month, the Premier said.

The newest plan includes shutting down museums across the country and closing shopping malls on weekends. The government will also impose movement restrictions to and from the hardest-hit regions.

Meanwhile, the threat of the virus was illustrated further on Sunday when the head of the World Health Organisation announced that he was self-quarantining after someone he had been in contact with tested positive.

"I am well and without symptoms but will self-quarantine over the coming days, in line with @WHO protocols, and work from home," Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a tweet, stressing the importance of complying with coronavirus guidance.

However, the ongoing tightening of virus rules and restrictions has sparked anger in people weary of confinement and the painful economic costs.

That frustration has led to protests in many parts of the world, especially Europe, with some leading to violent skirmishes with police.

Protesters in several Spanish cities clashed with security forces for a second night last Saturday, police said, with vandalism and looting breaking out in some parts.

There has already been violence in several Italian cities as well as the Czech capital, Prague, recently.

The health situation is also deteriorating in the United States, which is gearing up for the election showdown between President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden today.

The US is the worst-affected country in the world, with 9.2 million infections and more than 230,000 deaths, and the pandemic has been front and centre during the bitter election campaign.

And with Covid-19 cases surging again, experts have warned of more devastation.

In Mexico, parades were cancelled and cemeteries closed on Sunday during the Day of the Dead festival, when people normally deck their homes and streets as well as relatives' graves with flowers, candles and colourful skulls.

Many remembered those who have passed in the privacy of their homes, as the authorities urged people to avoid gatherings.

Ms Janet Burgos decorated an altar with confetti, fruit and a photograph of her mother Rosa Maria, who died in June aged 64 from suspected Covid-19.

"Now I begin to see what the Day of the Dead really represents," Ms Burgos said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 03, 2020, with the headline 'Exasperation, anger as Europe further tightens virus restrictions'. Print Edition | Subscribe