PARIS, OCTOBER 5: Europe is tightening restrictions to regain control of resurgent Coronavirus infections, with Paris closing bars and new curbs likely on the way in Italy and Ireland.
The continent is struggling to control the latest outbreak as opposition to limits on movement mounts and leaders resist the stringent lockdowns that hammered economies in the second quarter. Instead, the approach is on a shifting array of measures, which risks being similarly disruptive.
“Authorities have an extremely difficult job at the moment,” Martin Hirsch, head of Paris hospitals, said on France Info. “If we go too far we are accused of killing freedom or the economy, and if we don’t go far enough, it’s homicide.”
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo on Monday will announce new restrictions to contain the spread after a surge in cases in the capital and its suburbs.
Authorities are planning to entirely shut down bars and impose tighter distancing rules on restaurants as the region is declared on maximum alert, according to Agence France Presse. In Marseille, however, restaurants will be permitted to reopen after a week of closure.
France’s virus cases increased the most in Europe over the past 2 months and monthly virus-related deaths tripled in September. The country reported a record number of laboratory-confirmed new cases on Saturday.
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel will chair a special Cabinet meeting on the pandemic response in Berlin. Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said “it will take time” to return to pre-Coronavirus levels of activity, even if more effective therapies and a vaccine are made available.
“We will be dealing with this ‘new normality’ and with the virus into next year,” Scholz said in an interview with ARD public television late Sunday. “It’s not gone, and it’s a great danger for everyone around the world.”
In Hungary, the Government over the weekend announced what it called an unprecedented increase in doctors’ wages. Prime Minister Viktor Orban predicted that the “7-8 months ahead will require extraordinary efforts” from medical professionals, according to a Facebook video.
Amid a surge in cases in recent weeks, Ireland’s national health authorities recommended the country move to a level 5 lockdown. That’s the highest level of shutdown, with most stores closed, household visits banned and limits placed on how far people can leave their homes. Most of the country is currently at level 2, with Dublin at Level 3.
While the Government is set to consider the recommendation in coming days, the surprise proposal is already running into resistance, amid concern that such a drastic step would devastate the nascent economic recovery.
“It is intolerable that after 6 months we are still receiving both vague and changing criteria to advance such serious restrictions,” said Danny McCoy, head of the nation’s biggest employers’ group, IBEC.
In a sign of the economic risks, Cineworld Group Plc lost more than half its value after the company said it will temporarily suspend operations at all its American and British movie theaters now that crucial income from winter blockbusters has been pushed into 2021.
Operations will resume when “key markets have more concrete guidance on their reopening status and, in turn, studios are able to bring their pipeline of major releases back to the big screen,” the world’s 2nd-biggest cinema chain said.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte warned that people may have to give up some liberties to combat the renewed spread of the Coronavirus, as his Government prepares to require masks in all outdoor areas and impose limits on gatherings, Corriere della Sera reported.
Italy reported 2,578 new cases on Sunday, as figures continue to be higher than any time since late spring, though the flare-up has been more contained than in most neighboring countries.
In a reminder of the risks, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is self-isolating after being exposed to someone who tested positive. Romanian Prime Minister Ludovic Orban canceled all public events on Monday after he came into contact with a person who was confirmed to have COVID-19.