Europe’s largest cities are facing drastic restrictions, with Paris set for a curfew and London on the verge of a clampdown, as leaders struggle to cope with record new cases around the region.
In an extraordinary step taking effect Saturday, French President Emmanuel Macron will confine residents of nine of the country’s biggest cities to their homes between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. for four weeks. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is poised to order tighter restrictions in the U.K. capital, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel renewed an appeal to citizens to abide by hygiene and distancing rules and avoid groups.
The moves come as Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic all reported record increases in cases. European authorities are grappling with how to devise targeted strategies that slow the spread of the disease without resorting to the kind of broad national lockdowns which decimated economic activity in the second quarter.
Merkel struggled to forge a consensus with regional German leaders in a meeting that dragged on for more than eight hours into Wednesday night. Her chancellery minister, Helge Braun, said measures agreed for hard-hit areas -- including closing bars and restaurants at 11 p.m. and extending mandatory mask wearing -- are unlikely to be sufficient to tame the “enormous infection dynamic” seen in recent days.
“There can be absolutely no question that this is the start of a very broad second wave,” Braun, a qualified medical doctor, said Thursday in an interview with ARD television. “The longer we wait and the more indecisive we are, it’s not only key for our health but also for our economy.”
Merkel was unable to agree with state premiers on restrictions on domestic travel, with some officials arguing that they are unnecessary and ineffective. Germany recorded 7,173 new cases in the 24 hours through Thursday morning, exceeding a high during the previous peak of the pandemic in late March.
“Economically we can’t afford a second wave with the same consequences as we had in the spring,” Merkel said. “What we do and don’t do in the coming days and weeks will be key to the question of how we make it through this pandemic.”
European infections began a resurgence in the late summer, fueled by returning travelers and young party-goers. Local family, work and social gatherings have since spurred further contagion.
The varied approaches around Europe to deal with the disease have caused confusion and stoked unrest amid the pandemic-weary public, especially amid low hospitalization and death rates -- which nonetheless are now steadily rising. Leaders have little recourse but to implore people to knuckle down.
The region as a whole recorded almost 700,000 new cases last week, the most since the pandemic began, and taking the total to just below 7 million, according to the World Health Organization. Britain, France, Russia and Spain accounted for over half of all new cases.
Tighter restrictions in London, including a ban on two separate households meeting indoors, are likely very soon, according to an official in Mayor Sadiq Khan’s office.
Elsewhere in the U.K., Northern Ireland is planning to close schools from Monday and impose new curbs on pubs and restaurants, while Wales wants to restrict travel from English hot spots, with new regulations coming into force Friday.
In France, daily cases have jumped to more than 17,000 from less than 12,000 a week ago, and more than 40% of intensive-care beds in the Paris region are taken by Covid-19 patients.
Read the original text at Bloomberg.