Lockdowns return in France, Germany as Europe confronts second Covid wave

By BBC On Thu, 29 Oct, 2020 09:21 | 2 mins read
Emmanuel Macron
French President Emmanuel Macron. PHOTO | SCREENGRAB

Two of Europe’s biggest economies are reinstating some form of national lockdown, as the continent confronts a surge in coronavirus cases and deaths.

From Friday people in France will only be allowed to leave home for essential work or medical reasons.

President Emmanuel Macron said the country risked being “overwhelmed by a second wave that no doubt will be harder than the first”.

Germany, meanwhile, is imposing a “soft” national lockdown.

The measures are less severe than in France, but they include the closure of restaurants, bars, gyms and theatres, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday.

Infections are rising sharply across Europe, including the UK which on Wednesday announced 310 new deaths and 24,701 new cases.

In England, a new study shows almost 100,000 people are catching the virus every day, putting pressure on the government to change policy from a regional approach.

In France, Covid daily deaths are at the highest level since April. On Wednesday, 36,437 new cases and 244 deaths were confirmed.

News of the fresh restrictions being introduced in the European Union’s biggest economies led to sharp falls in the financial markets on Wednesday.

“We are deep in the second wave,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. “I think that this year’s Christmas will be a different Christmas.”

How did Europe get here?

The first wave of the virus earlier this year hit parts of Europe incredibly hard, while other areas were able to escape the worst.

Italy, Spain, France and the UK were among the worst-hit nations, with all imposing strict national lockdowns that over time brought cases, hospital admissions and deaths down to a very low level but ravaged economies.

Restrictions started to be lifted in the early summer, with non-essential shops, bars and restaurants reopening, and travel restarting. In August, cases began to rise again too, with a major acceleration in recent weeks that has alarmed policymakers.

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