A man wearing her protective face mask walks into the Vellaces neighborhood after new restrictions come into effect as Spain sees daily cases of daily coronavirus (Covid-19) in Madrid, Spain on September 21, 2020. (Photo by Burak
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LONDON – There is no longer any doubt that Europe is facing the dreaded "second wave" of coronavirus cases after a hiatus in new infections this summer when severe restrictions on public life helped halt the spread of the virus.
Now that cases are rapidly increasing in the region, various European nations are taking steps to stop the surge in infections and prevent a significant increase in deaths.
To date, nearly 2.9 million cases of the virus have been confirmed in Europe and over 186,000 people have died, data from the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows.
Despite the risks, the region's leaders are reluctant to reinstate nationwide lockdowns, given the economic and social impact of such measures, and are now considering more targeted, localized measures.
Here's a snapshot of what Europe's largest economies are doing to stop the virus from spreading:
Spain has recorded 671,468 infections – the highest number in Europe and 30,663 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. More than 30,000 new cases have been reported on Monday since Friday, according to Reuters.
Madrid has become a virus hotspot. Almost 800 new cases were reported on Monday. The boom has prompted the city's regional government president to seek help from the army to combat the rise and parts of the capital have been closed, sparking protests.
On Monday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the data showed that in Madrid "the infection rate is twice that of the national level, the number of intensive care beds used is three times that of the national level". He signaled that stricter measures could be put in place in the city and said it "requires a plan of its own," reported El Pais.
France has the second highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Europe after Spain, with 496,974 infections and 31,346 deaths, according to JHU data.
France reported 5,298 more cases from the previous day on Monday, a lower daily number due to data lag over the weekend. Last Friday, France reported 13,215 new infections, the highest daily number since the pandemic began.
As a result of the increasing cases, the city of Lyon (France's third largest city) has put in place stricter restrictions restricting public gatherings and banning the sale and consumption of alcohol outdoors after 8 p.m., France 24 reported on Monday. Visits to nursing home residents are also limited to two per week. Similar restrictions have already been imposed in other cities such as Marseille and Bordeaux.
The UK has also seen a dramatic increase in coronavirus cases in recent days, prompting the government to put localized lockdowns and other national restrictions in place in parts of northern England. To date, the country has recorded a little more than 400,000 coronavirus cases and 41,877 deaths, according to JHU.
On Monday, the government announced that bars and restaurants would close at 10 p.m. Groups of more than six people are also not allowed to meet.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will address the nation at 8 p.m. Local time Tuesday evening and is expected to announce further measures. He is also said to be considering a "mini" two-week lockdown in an attempt to act as a "breaker" to stop the virus from spreading.
Key government medical and scientific advisers warned Monday that without action, the UK could see up to 50,000 new coronavirus cases a day by mid-October, which could result in more than 200 deaths a day by November.
Germany was praised for its first response to the first wave of the coronavirus crisis. To date, Germany has registered over 275,000 cases but reported fewer than 10,000 deaths, as JHU data shows, a far lower number of deaths than its European counterparts.
However, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) show that the number of cases is increasing, particularly in the cities of Munich and Hamburg.
Another 1,821 new infections were registered on Tuesday after 922 cases were reported on Monday. Chancellor Angela Merkel has reportedly called for a crisis summit with regional governors next week, German media reported on Monday.
Munich has tightened the rules for face masks, which must now be worn in public, and contact restrictions. Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn also said Germany would step up its testing regime if the cases increase.
On Monday, the RKI called for "the entire population to be obliged to control infection" by consistently complying with the rules for distance and hygiene and pointing out that "crowds should be avoided if possible and celebrations should be restricted to close family members and friends."
Italy was the epicenter of Europe's first outbreak in late winter. The first outbreak in Europe occurred in the north of the country in February. To date, Italy has reported nearly 300,000 cases and over 35,000 deaths.
Italy is also seeing an increase in new infections, but not at the rate of its neighbors. For example, on Monday 1,350 new cases were reported in the past 24 hours, the Ministry of Health said.
Italian politicians are reluctant to revert to a severe lockdown prohibiting Italians from leaving their homes except for the most important reasons.
Instead, Italy appears to be trying to test people coming from other European virus hotspots. Health Minister Roberto Speranza said in a Facebook post on Monday that he had signed an order making it mandatory for people "coming to Italy from Paris or other parts of France with significant spread" of the coronavirus to be tested.
Speranza added that the European data on Covid-19 "should not be underestimated" and that "Italy is better off than other countries … great care is still to be taken to avoid sacrificing the sacrifices made so far in vain become."