With large parts of Europe witnessing a resurgence of Covid-19 cases, experts are warning of a possible third wave of infections. In a bid to combat the deadly new outbreak, local authorities are now reimposing lockdowns and introducing fresh measures to tackle the latest bout of cases.
The situation was complicated further when several European Union nations decided to suspend the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine over fears of the jabs causing blood clots in its recipients. While Germany, Italy, Spain and France have since said that they will resume using the vaccine, the rate vaccinations in Europe is still not at par with the United States and other countries.
The emergence of new, more virulent variants of coronavirus has also grown to become a cause for concern. With hospital beds and Covid facilities filling up fast, many European nations have little choice but to resort to imposing lockdowns.
Here are some of the European nations imposing fresh lockdowns and restrictions due to rising cases
On Thursday, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced a month-long lockdown in Paris and other regions reporting a surge in Covid cases. According to the French government, schools and essential shops will remain open.
The fresh restrictions will impact around 21 million people living in 16 areas across France. But the lockdown will not be as strict as the one imposed a year ago when the first few cases of Covid were reported in the country, Prime Minister Castex clarified.
People will be permitted to exercise outdoors as long as they remain within 10 km of their home. However, non-essential travel within the country has been banned.
A year after Italy became the first European country to impose a national lockdown to contain the spread of Covid, fresh restrictions were imposed on Monday amid a recent rise in cases.
The country’s health minister Roberto Speranza said he hoped the strict measures would help combat the surge in cases and permit the government to ease restrictions by the second half of spring.
From Monday, all regions reporting over 250 cases per 100,000 people will automatically be demarcated as red zones, with the strictest restrictions in place. During Easter weekend, between April 3 and 5, all of Italy will be under complete lockdown.
Since March, Italy’s seven-day average of new cases has steadily increased. Presently, the country is reporting an average of over 22,000 cases and 360 deaths every week.
Fearing a deadly third wave, German authorities have extended its coronavirus lockdown until March 28. At the same time, the government has also been easing some restrictions since March 8. Restaurants, bars, sports and leisure venues in the country have remained close since November, DW reported.
“These should be steps toward opening but at the same time steps that do not set us back,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin, according to AFP. “There are a great many examples in Europe of a dramatic third wave.”
Regions recording a lower number of cases will be permitted to reopen nonessential stores, including museums and a few other venues, but on a limited basis.
Meanwhile, thousands of protestors have stormed the streets to oppose the government’s Covid restrictions. Dozens of police officers were injured in the clashes that broke out between them and the demonstrators in recent weeks.
In the wake of a resurgence of fresh Covid cases, the Polish government said it would introduce a nationwide lockdown from Saturday to contain the spread of the disease.
“We are losing control over how the pandemic is developing,” President Andrzej Duda said in Parliament while announcing the lockdown earlier this week. “The situation is bad, and containing it is now of fundamental importance.”
All shopping malls, swimming pools, cinema halls and non-essential stores will be shut and hotels will not be permitted to give rooms to non-business guests. School children between classes 1 and 3 will return to digital learning until April 9. Only nurseries and kindergartens will be allowed to remain open.
Hungary, too, has extended its Covid-19 restrictions from March 8 onwards. Nurseries and primary schools will remain closed until April 7, all non-essential shops will be shut for a two-week period and services — not including private healthcare — have been suspended until the end of the month.
While public areas and parks will remain open, fitness centres and gyms have been shut. Employers have been urged to permit their employees to work from home.
According to data released by the Hungarian government, the total number of people infected with the coronavirus now stands at over 539,080.