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Covid: Lockdown return as Europe confronts second wave

Two of Europe’s biggest economies are reinstating some form of national lockdown, as the continent confronts a surge in coronavirus cases and deaths.

From Friday people in France will only be allowed to leave home for essential work or medical reasons.

President Emmanuel Macron said the country risked being “overwhelmed by a second wave that no doubt will be harder than the first”.

Germany, meanwhile, is imposing a “soft” national lockdown.

The measures coming into force on Monday are less severe than in France, but they include the closure of restaurants, bars, gyms and theatres, Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

Infections are rising sharply across Europe, including in the UK which on Wednesday announced 310 new deaths and 24,701 new cases.

In England, a new study shows almost 100,000 people are catching the virus every day, putting pressure on the government to change policy from a regional approach.

In France, Covid daily deaths are at the highest level since April. On Wednesday, 36,437 new cases and 244 deaths were confirmed.

German health officials said on Thursday another 89 people had died in the past 24 hours, with a record 16,774 infections.

News of the fresh restrictions being introduced in the European Union’s biggest economies led to  sharp falls in the financial markets on Wednesday.

“We are deep in the second wave,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. “I think that this year’s Christmas will be a different Christmas.”

How did Europe get here?

The first wave of the virus earlier this year hit some parts of Europe incredibly hard, while other areas were able to escape the worst.

Italy, Spain, France and the UK were among the worst-hit nations, with all imposing strict national lockdowns that over time brought cases, hospital admissions and deaths down to a very low level but ravaged economies.

Restrictions started to be lifted in the early summer, with non-essential shops, bars and restaurants reopening, and travel restarting. In August, cases began to rise again too, with a major acceleration in recent weeks that has alarmed policymakers.

Countries that were not hit badly by the first wave – such as the Czech Republic and Poland  have not been spared this time, with experts warning of alarming infection rates across much of the continent.

CREDIT: BBC
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