BFF-07 Paris goes under curfew as Europe ramps up virus restrictions

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BFF-07

HEALTH-VIRUS

Paris goes under curfew as Europe ramps up virus restrictions

PARIS, Oct 15, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – France on Wednesday became the latest
European country to toughen anti-coronavirus measures, imposing a curfew in
Paris and eight other cities from Saturday, while Germany and Ireland also
ramped up restrictions.

“We have to act. We need to put a brake on the spread of the virus,”
President Emmanuel Macron told public television, announcing a shutdown
between 9:00 pm and 6:00 am that will remain in force for as long as six
weeks.

Other major French cities such as Lyon, the Mediterranean port Marseille
and southwestern Toulouse will similarly impose curfews, with around 20
million people affected in all, out of a total population of some 67 million.

Just minutes before Macron’s announcement, his government had said it would
prolong a state of health emergency.

With over one million coronavirus deaths and nearly 40 million cases
worldwide, regions like Europe that suppressed the first outbreak are again
facing tough choices on how to control a new wave without the economic
devastation wrought by nationwide lockdowns.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced tougher measures on
gatherings and mask-wearing.

“I am convinced that what we do now will be decisive for how we come
through this pandemic,” the leader said.

New infections in Germany continued to rise Wednesday, pushing past 5,000
cases in 24 hours — a level not seen since a lockdown imposed on Europe’s
biggest economy in the spring.

“We’re in a situation where I think we can still flatten the exponential
growth,” said Lothar Wieler, head of Germany’s disease control agency. “But
for that we all need to make an effort.”

– Worsening situation –

In Spain, bars and restaurants will close across the northeastern region of
Catalonia for the next 15 days as the country tackles one of the highest
rates of infection in the European Union, with nearly 900,000 cases and more
than 33,000 deaths.

In the Netherlands, where new measures also came into force, including
restrictions on alcohol sales and new mask requirements, people drank and
danced to pumping techno music in the final minutes before all bars,
restaurants and cannabis “coffeeshops” closed down.

Ireland’s prime minister Micheal Martin announced a raft of new curbs along
the border with the British province of Northern Ireland, including the
closure of non-essential retail outlets, gyms, pools and leisure centres.

Earlier on Wednesday Northern Ireland’s devolved government announced plans
to shut pubs and restaurants for four weeks, tighten restrictions on social
gatherings and extend the mid-term school break to counter soaring case
numbers there.

Infection rates “must be turned down now or we will be in a very difficult
place very soon indeed,” First Minister Arlene Foster told lawmakers in the
Northern Ireland Assembly.

– Lockdown ‘disaster’ –

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is also under increasing pressure to
impose more stringent measures to cut spiralling rates in England, including
a two-week “circuit-breaker” lockdown.

Johnson said a new UK-wide lockdown would be a “disaster” but refused to
rule it out as the government’s science advisory committee endorsed a
temporary shutdown.

And in Italy, authorities recorded 7,332 new cases on Wednesday — the
highest daily count the hard-hit country has yet seen.

Rome has already imposed new, tougher rules to control the virus’
resurgence, including an end to parties, amateur football matches and
snacking at bars at night.

Beyond Europe, the US death toll rose by 794 in a day to 216,597, according
to Johns Hopkins University, with just three weeks before a crucial election
in which the pandeic plays a central role.

Another 52,160 had become infected in the past 24 hours, an increase of 0.7
percent.

Iran on Wednesday announced new travel restrictions affecting the capital
Tehran and four other major cities, as well as new single-day records in both
Covid-19 deaths and new infections.

And neighbouring Iraq’s death toll since the start of the pandemic passed
10,000 people.

At least 1,089,039 people worldwide have died of the coronavirus since it
emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late in 2019, according to an AFP tally
using official figures. At least 38.3 million cases have been recorded around
the world.

In online talks, G20 finance ministers and central bankers agreed to extend
a moratorium on debt repayments by the world’s poorest countries for a
further six months and trailed another prolongation in spring.

The virtual talks, hosted by current G20 president Saudi Arabia, came a day
after the International Monetary Fund warned that global GDP would contract
4.4 percent in 2020 and the damage inflicted by the pandemic would be felt
for years.

– Drug setbacks –

As Europe imposed new restrictions, hopes for vaccines or treatment to
provide relief suffered a blow with the suspension of two clinical trials in
the United States.

US pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly said Tuesday it had suspended the Phase 3
trial of its antibody treatment over an unspecified incident, the second in
less than 24 hours after Johnson & Johnson ran into a similar problem with
its vaccine candidate.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow had registered a second
vaccine dubbed “EpiVacCorona”, developed by a top-secret Siberian laboratory,
to follow its first “Sputnik” jab.

BSS/AFP/RY/09:45hrs