Coronavirus restrictions tightened in Europe as cases peak in major cities

A nun wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of coronavirus climbs stairs of a subway in downtown Madrid, Spain, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. Source: AAP

Some European countries have registered record high daily coronavirus infection numbers, with many cities tightening restrictions.

Several European countries have announced new restrictions to curb surging coronavirus infections.

Cases in the UK almost doubled to 6000 per day in the latest reporting week as hospital admissions rose and infection rates soared across parts of northern England and London.

Asked by Sky News about the possibility of a new UK-wide lockdown next month, British Health Minister Matt Hancock said it should be seen only as a last resort but the government would do whatever it took to tackle the virus.

"The number of people in hospital is doubling every eight days or so... we will do what it takes to keep people safe," he said.

Britain imposed new COVID regulations on the North West, Midlands and West Yorkshire from Tuesday.

Infections have climbed steadily across most of Europe over the last two months.

Intensive care admissions and deaths have also begun to tick up, especially in Spain and France.

In Spain, which has recorded more cases than any other European country, the region including the capital Madrid will limit movement between and within areas badly affected by a new surge in infections, affecting more than 850,000 people.

Regional leader Isabel Diaz Ayuso said on Friday that access to parks and public areas would be restricted and gatherings will be limited to six but people would not be stopped from going to work in the country's hardest-hit region.

"We need to avoid lockdown, we need to avoid economic disaster," Ayuso told a news conference.

Authorities in the southern French city of Nice banned gatherings of more than 10 people in public spaces and restricted bar opening hours following fresh curbs introduced earlier this week in Marseille and Bordeaux.

France on Thursday registered almost 10,600 new infections, its highest daily count since the start of the pandemic.

In Denmark, where the 454 new infections on Friday was close to a record of 473 in April, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said the limit on public gatherings would be lowered to 50 people from 100 and ordered bars and restaurants to close early.

Iceland ordered entertainment venues and pubs in the capital area to close for four days between September 18-21.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said his government was preparing "regional" measures to combat the coronavirus outbreak after the Netherlands registered a record 1972 cases in the past 24 hours.

A pupil gets his temperature checked during the beginning of the new school year in Athens, Greece.
A pupil gets his temperature checked during the beginning of the new school year in Athens, Greece.

In Greece, which emerged largely unscathed from the first wave of COVID-19 which hit Europe in March and April, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the government was ready to tighten restrictions in the greater Athens area as cases accelerated.

Mitsotakis said Greece's committee of health experts had recommended extra curbs on public gatherings, the suspension of cultural events for 14 days and other measures which "could be decided today ... and go into force on Monday".

Europe is still hoping not to follow the example of Israel, which entered a second country-wide lockdown on Friday at the onset of the Jewish high-holiday season.

The borders between the United States, Mexico and Canada will remain closed to non-essential travel until October 21, a US official said on Friday.

The borders between the three countries have been closed to non-essential travel since March.

Essential cross-border workers such as health care professionals and truck drivers are still permitted to cross.

Globally, more than 30.26 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus and 945,533 have died.

US statistics suggest the coronavirus has infected more than 6.67 million and killed almost 198,000 people in the country.

India's coronavirus cases jumped by another 96,424 in the past 24 hours, showing little sign of levelling, authorities said on Friday.

The health ministry raised the country's total cases to 5.21 million or 0.37 per cent of its nearly 1.4 billion people.

It said 1174 more people died in the past 24 hours for a total of 84,372 fatalities.

India is expected to have the highest number of confirmed cases within weeks, surpassing the US.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his birthday on Thursday made a fresh appeal to people to wear masks and maintain psychical distancing.

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said with a recovery rate of more than 78 per cent, India has only 1 million active coronavirus cases.

China on Friday reported that "imported" coronavirus cases surged to 32 over the previous 24 hours.

Thirteen of those cases were reported in the northern province of Shaanxi, whose capital Xi'an is a major industrial centre, while the eastern financial and business hub of Shanghai reported 12.

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