Germany, Spain risk losing control as cases hit records

Germany, Spain risk losing control as cases hit records

Shoppers leave as others wait in a queue to enter a supermarket in Schulzendorf near Berlin, during the coronavirus disease outbreak, in Germany, in March. (Reuters photo)
Shoppers leave as others wait in a queue to enter a supermarket in Schulzendorf near Berlin, during the coronavirus disease outbreak, in Germany, in March. (Reuters photo)

Germany and Spain risk losing control over the coronavirus, health officials warned, as new infections climb to records across Europe and governments scramble for an adequate response.

The resurgence of the disease on the continent has prompted officials from Ireland to the Czech Republic to impose tougher restrictions to try to check the spread without having to resort again to nationwide shutdowns that could scupper still-tentative recoveries.

Underlining the challenge, Germany registered 12,331 new infections in the 24 hours through Thursday morning, the first time daily infections exceeded 10,000. Italy’s 15,199 new cases reported late Wednesday were well above the previous high of 11,705, while France and Spain both passed the grim milestone of 1 million infections, behind only Russia in Europe, which has more than 1.4 million.

“The general situation has become very serious,” Lothar Wieler, the president of Germany’s RKI public health institute, said Thursday at a news conference in Berlin, reiterating an appeal to citizens to respect distancing and hygiene rules.

“We have to expect that the virus will continue to spread rapidly, at least in some regions of Germany, and that the virus can expand in an uncontrolled manner,” Wieler added. Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa said “more drastic measures” may be needed as the disease “isn’t under control” in some parts of the country.

Spanish authorities are already contemplating a curfew for the capital, Madrid. The country registered 6,114 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the total to 1,005,295. France, which has imposed a nightime curfew in Paris and eight other major cities, is close behind, with 1,000,369 infections.

Highlighting the worsening situation in eastern Europe, the Czech Republic, the nation in the region worst affected by the new wave of the disease, also registered a daily record of cases Wednesday, with 14,968.

The government has approved a series of measures to minimise social contact as it warned that its health system is at risk of collapse as soon as next month. Poland on Thursday recorded 12,107 cases in the past 24 hours, a jump of more than a fifth from the record set a day earlier.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has promised to do all she can to prevent another nationwide lockdown like the one that hammered the economy in the second quarter. Though as the number of infections surges, more communities will inevitably have to restrict movement, shutter businesses and close schools and nurseries.

Some officials have proposed introducing a short “circuit breaker” lockdown for the whole country to try to slow the spread and mitigate the economic impact. Wieler said taking such a step is up to local health authorities, though the RKI doesn’t recommend it.

One district in Bavaria on the border with Austria imposed a two-week lockdown this week after infections climbed above a rate that triggers an automatic tightening of restrictions.

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