Saturday 11/28/20
CORONAVIRUS

European countries impose new restrictions as second wave builds

Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Italy and Slovenia were among European countries imposing new restrictions on Monday.
Workers set up a new hospitalization auxiliary unit at the CHR Verviers hospital (Belgium), to fight the Coronavirus. Photo: Benoit Doppagne/dpa.
Workers set up a new hospitalization auxiliary unit at the CHR Verviers hospital (Belgium), to fight the Coronavirus. Photo: Benoit Doppagne/dpa.

Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Italy and Slovenia were among European countries imposing new restrictions on Monday in a bid to keep a second wave of new coronavirus infections from overwhelming public health services.

The Belgian government ordered all bars, cafes and restaurants to close and imposed a nightly curfew starting Monday. Working from home was obligatory where possible.

In Italy, where daily infection figures rose above 20,000 for the first time on Sunday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte ordered the closure of bars and restaurants from 6 pm.

Restrictions also include the closing of gyms, pools, cinemas, theatres and concert halls, a total ban on fans in football stadiums, and online classes for at least 75% of high school students.

According to the latest risk assessment from the European Centre Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC), most countries in the region are currently classified as experiencing an epidemiological situation of serious concern.

Pressure on the health care sector and the impact on mortality has become "increasingly evident," according to ECDC.

Slovenia is expanding its effort to contain the virus with a ban on travel between municipalities, the STA news agency reported on Monday.

The measure will be in place for at least for a week across the entire country, the Slovenian government said.

Alcohol sales ban

Denmark's ban on night-time alcohol sales entered into force on Monday, as did a tightened cap on public gatherings to curb a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.

The country's daily coronavirus caseload hit a new high on Monday when authorities said they registered a record 1,056 new coronavirus cases over the last 24 hour period.

In Belgium, an all-time high of 18,217 new coronavirus cases were recorded in one 24-hour period last week, state crisis management spokesman Yves Van Laethem said on Monday.

The figure for last Tuesday, 20 October, was reported over the weekend as 15,432 but was revised in a new tally - released on the same day as tighter restrictions on daily life come into effect.

If hospitalization rates don't slow, all 2,000 intensive care beds in Belgian hospitals would be occupied within two weeks, virologist Steven Van Gucht of state health body Scienscano warned on Monday.

The capital Brussels - currently one of Europe's worst affected regions - is home to the biggest EU institutions, with exploding virus numbers taking their toll on the business of politics there.

For the time being, high-level meetings will be virtual wherever possible, a spokesperson for the German EU presidency said on Monday.

Foreign workers to self-isolate

The Norwegian government said on Monday that foreign workers arriving from countries with high rates of coronavirus were to self-isolate and regularly test for coronavirus, amid rising infection rates.

Norwegians were also urged reduce their social contacts and not be in close contact with more than five other people outside their own household, as part of measures to limit the transmission of the virus.

"If we take action now, there is a much greater chance that we can have a normal Christmas celebration with the extended family," Prime Minister Erna Solberg told a press conference.

Infection rates are rising, although Norway has lower rates than many other countries in Europe, Solberg said. The country has reported about 18,000 cases and 279 virus-related deaths.

Until now, foreign workers have been exempt from the 10-day self-isolation rule and testing unless they have presented symptoms.

As of Saturday, workers arriving from countries labelled "high-risk" would need to self-isolate for 10 days and test every third day. Solberg mentioned Britain, France and Poland as current examples.

Bars closed in Malta

Malta, the European Union's smallest country with a population of 500,000, announced that starting on Thursday all bars on the island will shut until December 1.

The new public health rules also limit the number of people allowed to gather socially to a maximum of six.

A day before, doctors in Malta warned that the country’s health care system risked collapse unless coronavirus case numbers were brought under control.

Malta has reported 5,578 Covid-19 cases and 53 deaths so far. The majority of those infections were reported in the past two months.

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