Covid Across Europe: As UK Prepares For New Lockdown, Europe Too Is Struggling. Just as Europe was hoping it could put Covid to rest, the virus has risen again, with renewed venom. Case numbers have been rising and in their wake, hospital admissions too.
However, each country is trying to find the right combination of measures, local lockdowns, test-and-trace initiatives, economic support, and public communication, to drive down numbers as winter approaches.
Covid Across Europe: As UK Prepares For New Lockdown, Europe Too Is Struggling
As the UK government prepares to unveil a range of new lockdown rules, BBC reporters from France, Germany and other European capitals explain how their countries are managing. (Deaths 32,521 | Death rate 50 per 100,000 people | Total cases 671,638)
Warning lights are flashing in French cities as the long-anticipated autumn surge starts to make itself felt, writes Hugh Schofield, in Paris.
All key indicators give cause for concern. Roughly 18,000 new cases are being detected each day. The number of cases is 116 per 100,000 people and also rising. According to doctors, the main vector is young people resuming social lives post-lockdown and then passing the virus on.
However, there is a change from the first wave in March/April because this time, thanks to testing, the big regional and city/countryside variations are clear to see. Increasingly the epidemic is seen as an urban phenomenon. This means that the government’s response is not – and is unlikely ever to be – another national lockdown.
Instead, the health authorities have devised a complex system of regional alert levels. About two-thirds of the country is now in a red zone, meaning the virus there is spreading. With each level, new restrictions kick in. For example in Paris, on maximum alert along with five other cities, bars are now shut. It is what the people expect – not that they show huge confidence in the way the epidemic is being handled
At the lowest alert level, gatherings are limited to 30; at the higher levels, the limit is 10. In addition, government representatives in the regions have discretionary powers to order other measures – such as the compulsory wearing of masks in Paris.
Like in other countries, France’s mantra is tested, trace, isolate. The number of daily tests is now about 175,000. There is already a nationwide network of independent laboratories that have become testing sites, though others have been set up by town halls. When I got tested after developing symptoms in September, it took just a day to arrange the test and another day for the result (negative). However, by general admission, the contact tracing system it is not functioning as it should be. Simply put, there are too many cases and the government is recruiting an extra 2,000 extra staff.
In keeping with its reputation, France claims to have the most generous state help in Europe to individuals and businesses that are suffering from Covid.
A poll by Elabe this week suggested only 35% of people trusted the government to “fight effectively against Covid”. Some 73% said they were “personally worried” about the virus – an increase of four points in a week.
Covid Raising Report From Czech Republic
The Covid situation in the Czech Republic report.
(Deaths 906 | Death rate 8.5 per 100,000 people | Total cases 109,374)
Back in March, the Czech Republic was feted for its rapid response to Covid, shutting its borders and swiftly locking down most of the economy. People were told to stay at home where possible. Masks were made compulsory indoors and out. Most respected the measures with good grace and humor.
By the end of June, an infamous dinner party was held on Prague’s Charles Bridge to celebrate the end of “this difficult period of the coronavirus crisis” (although not to declare the virus itself vanquished, as is sometimes wrongly claimed). At that time, the country of 10.7 million was seeing 150 cases a day and had recorded 347 deaths in just over three months.
An infamous dinner party was held on the Charles Bridge to celebrate the end of ‘this difficult period’ The sun shone. The holidays were booked. Masks and other restrictions were gleefully abandoned.
Today, the Czech Republic has both the highest and the fastest-growing daily number of new cases in Europe, with figures almost double those in the UK. The ratio of positive cases to tests stands at 30% – a number that terrifies epidemiologists.
The total death toll now stands at more than 800, but will almost certainly pass 1,000 by next week. Officials warn the country’s hospitals could soon become overwhelmed. The track-and-trace system has struggled to keep up. Authorities are taking days – sometimes 14 – to contact people who might have come into contact with an infected person. Its helplines are permanently engaged.
“A difficult period lies ahead of us. We will need all hands on deck,” Health Minister Roman Prymula, himself an epidemiologist, told a televised news briefing. Standing next to him on the podium was Prime Minister Andrej Babis, the man whom many Czechs blame for the current crisis. It was Mr Babis – it is widely believed – who vetoed a plan to re-introduce regulations on masks. In the end, the numbers began their inexorable climb to their current peak, and new measures are being introduced anyway.
They were too little, too late.
The PM has warned that a new lockdown cannot be ruled out and urged people to stay at home for the weekend.
Czechs, meanwhile, are trying to grapple with the myriad new rules and regulations coming into force on Monday. Pubs, restaurants, and bars will only be able to seat a maximum of four people at one table and must close at 20:00. Wi-fi will be switched off in shopping centers to put off young people from gathering. Only groups of two will be able to enter shops or shopping centers together, and children aged 12-15 will take turns doing online teaching on a class-by-class basis, to keep classes from mixing in schools.
Some scientists say the Czech numbers in March were so low it was wrong even to call it That, sadly, is no longer the case.
Global Covid Cases, Germany
Deaths 9,609 | Death rate 11.6 per 100,000 people | Total cases 320,899
Germany is widely held up as a model of how to manage Covid in Europe, but there is a nervousness in the air as the weather gets colder, writes Damian McGuinness in Berlin.
So far it has fared comparatively well. Total deaths are below 10,000 – less than a quarter the UK total, in a population significantly larger. But infections, which had remained low over the summer, have started to surge. The latest daily rate is almost 5,000 – a high not seen since April.
This is still low compared with other big European countries. And so far, Germany’s track-and-trace system has held up well, but it has its limits. As infections rise, the system will start to struggle. This has already happened in Berlin, Frankfurt, and Bremen. Other urban centres are also seeing a sudden rise in infection rates.
And while it’s mostly young people now, the fear is that the virus will find its way into the older, more vulnerable population.
This is why on Friday afternoon Chancellor Angela Merkel had a video conference with the mayors of Germany’s 11 biggest cities to decide new stricter measures.
“Now is the time that we will determine in what shape Germany will get through the pandemic this winter,” Mrs. Merkel said.
This weekend some cities, including Berlin, are introducing a 23:00 closing time for bars, cafes, and restaurants. Limits on the number of people allowed to meet are also being brought back. Mrs. Merkel will meet mayors again in two weeks, and if infection rates haven’t fallen, tougher measures will be introduced.
The lockdown in Germany was milder than in other European countries — there were never restrictions on going outside, for example. It was also shorter, meaning that businesses suffered less of a hit. Mask-wearing has become ubiquitous, so there have been few outbreaks on transport, in shops, or at other services such as hairdressers.
Polling shows that most people support the government’s measures. It’s rare to see anyone flouting the rules about wearing face-coverings in shops or on public transport. Mrs. Merkel’s personal ratings are the highest of any politician. Unemployment rates have only increased by one percentage point since March. In September, the jobless figure even went down slightly.
But Germany would struggle to afford another lockdown — particularly with such generous state support. And unlike the UK, where furlough payments have tapered off in recent months, in Germany, they increase the longer someone can’t work, or is forced to take a salary cut, because of Covid. 67% of the salary paid to workers with kids for the first three months rises to 87% after six months, and the scheme is set to run until the end of 2021. To read further on this article Covid Across Europe: As UK Prepares For New Lockdown, Europe Too Is Struggling, use the link below https://www.bbc.com/news/world-54482905