The regional office of the WHO stated Thursday deep concern after Europe re-registered its highest weekly incidence of COVID-19 infections, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned of “a difficult winter”, France was preparing for a new confinement for a month and General Courts of Spain they expanded the state of emergency.
During a meeting with the European health ministers, the director of the WHO for the region, Hans kluge, said that “hospitalizations have increased to levels not seen since the spring” and there has been an increase of more than 30% in deaths. He stressed that Europe has reported more than 10 million cases of coronavirus and “is found at the epicenter of this pandemic once again ”.
At the risk of sounding alarmist, I must say that we are genuinely concerned, ”Kluge said.
At the end of a virtual EU summit, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, declared that the increase in infections “is very serious. Cases are increasing. Hospitalizations are increasing. Deaths are on the rise, thankfully not so fast … but the spread will overwhelm our healthcare systems if we don’t act urgently ”.
Von der leyen reported that Brussels will make 220 million euros (257 million dollars) available to help EU countries organize the cross-border transfer of infected patients. During the meeting, officials discussed how to better coordinate their testing for the virus, contact tracing and vaccination plans, despite disagreements between their countries in terms of imposing full or partial lockdowns.
Hours earlier, Merkel told the German parliament that her country faces “a dramatic situation at the beginning of the cold season.”
Germany’s agency for disease control indicated that local authorities reported that 16,774 tests tested positive for COVID-19 in the last day, bringing the total number of cases in the country closer to half a million. The total number of deaths is 10,272.
Winter will be difficult, four long and difficult months. But it will end, ”Merkel assured lawmakers.
According to the new restrictions that take effect on Monday, restaurants, bars, and sports and cultural facilities will be closed for four weeks. Meetings will be limited to 10 people from a maximum of two families and all non-essential travel will be discouraged. Schools, kindergartens, shops and temples will remain open, although preventive measures must be implemented.
Merkel said authorities They had no choice but to drastically reduce social contacts because three-quarters of infections in Germany are no longer traceable.
If we wait until the intensive care units are full, it will be too late, ”he said.
Berlin announced a new fund of 10 billion euros ($ 11,700) to support businesses affected by the additional measures.
For its part, France announced a second nationwide lockdown on Wednesday, but other countries have been hesitant to adopt such drastic measures for the second time in a year, wary of the resulting painful economic consequences.
Some French doctors expressed their relief and business owners their despair as the country prepared to halt its activities again for a month. The new lockdown in France is less severe than the tax at the beginning of the year, but it is still harsh on restaurants and other nonessential businesses that have been ordered to close their doors.
The British government has resisted calls for a confinement nationwide despite having biweekly contagion rates considerably higher than Germany and a cumulative death rate four times higher.
In Spain, authorities have increased restrictions on free movement, nightlife and social gatherings, but have not issued a strict stay-at-home order like the one that served to reduce the first wave of infections.
But as officials predict that current infection levels will lead to a severe shortage of intensive care beds in November, some experts are already calling for a total closure.
Meanwhile, the Spanish parliament approved maintain the country’s recently declared state of emergency until May to try to stop the resurgence of the pandemic, despite the objections of some opposition parties. A vote to lift the measure could be held in March if things improve.
Spain has officially recorded more than 1.1 million COVID-19 cases, although authorities say the true number could be at least three times higher. The death toll from the virus is at least 35,000.
Russia, meanwhile, has no plans to impose a national lockdown.
Despite the difficult epidemiological situation, right now we are much better prepared to work during an epidemic, “said Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia has registered more than 1.5 million confirmed cases of coronavirus, the highest number in Europe and the fourth highest in the world.
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