General reconfinement from Friday in France, hardening of measures in Germany, Belgium and Spain: Europe, overwhelmed by the violence of the second wave of coronavirus, expects a very difficult month of November and multiplies shock decisions.
“Like all our neighbors, we are overwhelmed by the sudden acceleration of the epidemic by a virus which seems to be gaining strength as winter approaches, as temperatures drop,” French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday evening, before announcing a reconfinement lasting at least one month.
“There is no other solution”, said Thursday its Prime Minister Jean Castex, who foresees a peak of hospitalization in November “higher than in April”.
The reconfinement in France will cause a fall in economic activity of nearly 15%, warned the Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire.
The confinement will not be quite identical to the very strict one experienced in the spring for two months by France, at the time of a first wave which had killed 30,000. Nurseries, schools, colleges and high schools must remain open with a reinforced health protocol, which should allow many parents to continue working. But “non-essential” businesses will be closed again, as will theaters and theaters.
The French authorities fear the saturation of intensive care services, where more than half of the 5,800 available beds are already occupied.
France thus becomes one of the few countries or regions in Europe – along with Ireland and Wales – to choose to confine its entire population, the most powerful weapon against the virus.
On Thursday, the French were preparing for this prospect. Some rushed to the hairdresser while others proceeded to purchase ink cartridges or toilet paper.
Romain Aubugeau, 29, has decided to leave the capital. “I cannot live a second confinement in a studio, it is not possible. It’s done once, not twice, ”he says.
Thousands of Parisians were on the start: shortly after 4:00 p.m. GMT, the number of traffic jams in the Paris region reached nearly 700 km.
” The worst is yet to come “
Many other European countries have for their part decreed curfews, a measure often presented as a last resort before a total reconfinement.
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced drastic measures on Wednesday, including the one-month closure of restaurants and leisure facilities.
On Thursday, she warned against “the lies and disinformation” circulating around the pandemic, calling populism “irresponsible” as protests by opponents of the wearing of masks have multiplied in her country.
Belgium, the country where the coronavirus circulates most intensely, convened a new crisis meeting on Friday. “The worst is yet to come”, ruled the government spokesperson for the coronavirus, Yves van Laethem.
In Spain, Spanish deputies on Thursday approved the government’s request for a six-month extension of the state of health emergency. The regions complete their territory one after the other.
In England, new regions will be placed on alert level 2 on Saturday, prohibiting the inhabitants concerned from meeting people who do not belong to their home inside. But the British government is still resisting calls to confine England.
In Greece, the second city of the country, Thessaloniki, will see its bars and restaurants close on Friday. While excluding general containment as in spring, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis intends to announce on Friday “a one-month action plan […] to prevent the worst ”.
Sweden is generally keeping the course of its strategy without containment or coercive measures. But its health authorities are now recommending residents of Stockholm, as well as two regions in the south of the country, to limit contact and avoid closed places.
In the Vatican, Pope Francis again cancels his general Wednesday audiences in the presence of the faithful, due to a widespread resurgence of the COVID-19 epidemic in Italy.
And the European Central Bank (ECB) warned Thursday that the economic recovery in the euro area “is losing momentum”. In this context, the institution made it clear that it was preparing to strengthen, by the end of the year, its measures to support the economy.
A virtual summit of heads of state and government of the European Union, supposed to take stock of the pandemic, began Thursday evening.
Elsewhere in the world, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he is not considering national containment for his country, despite the sharp rise in COVID-19 cases in Russia in recent weeks.
In the Middle East, Iran has recorded a record of new confirmed cases of the coronavirus with 8,293 people infected in 24 hours.
In Tunisia, Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi announced a Monday to Friday curfew from 7:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. GMT and from 6:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. GMT on weekends, without specifying its duration.
An African Union (AU) health official, John Nkengasong, called on Africa to prepare for a “second wave” of the epidemic.
The United States on Thursday recorded a return to economic growth in the third quarter but remains the country in the world most severely affected by the virus, with 227,701 deaths since the start of the pandemic, followed by Brazil (158,456), India (120,527) and Mexico (90,309).
Worldwide, the pandemic has infected more than 44.5 million people, for more than 1.175 million deaths since the end of December, according to a report established by AFP on Thursday.