Several countries in Europe reported record numbers of daily cases of coronavirus as the continent struggles to contain the virus spread.
Europe intensified efforts to stem the outbreaks, with France announcing further restrictions and London set for a clampdown.
Around the world, cases of the coronavirus have reached 38.5 million with according to Johns Hopkins University data.
French health authorities on Thursday reported the number of new daily coronavirus infections jumped above 30,000 for the first time since the start of the epidemic.
French president Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday ordered a nightly curfew in Paris and eight other big cities where the virus is rampant.
There were a total of 30,621 new Covid-19 infections over the past 24 hours, up on Wednesday’s 22,591, while hospitalisations and deaths linked to the disease also rose.
The number of people in France who have died from Covid-19 infections rose by 88 to 33,125, versus 104 on Wednesday.
Germany’s new cases increased at the fastest pace since the pandemic started, the latest sign that Europe is failing to control the outbreak.
The country registered 7,173 new infections in the 24 hours through Thursday morning, taking the total to 344,487, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That exceeded the previous high of 6,933 recorded on March 28. There were 44 new fatalities, lifting the overall number of deaths to 9,716.
German chancellor Angela Merkel warned late Wednesday that Germany needs to do everything possible to stem the pandemic because the country would struggle to handle a repeat of the fallout from the initial outbreak.
Germany will see in the coming days whether the measures agreed to control the spread of the coronavirus are tough enough, and more people need stick to the rules to keep infections at a manageable level, the health minister Jens Spahn said on Thursday.
“It’s important to understand that we are not powerless against this virus. We can do something, we all can make a difference every day,” Mr Spahn told Deutschlandfunk radio on Thursday.
“We can be the spoilsport for the virus if we are careful with one another and keep the number of new infections to a level we can handle.”
London, Europe’s top financial centre with 9 million people, will enter a tighter Covid-19 lockdown from midnight on Friday as prime minister Boris Johnson seeks to tackle a swiftly accelerating second coronavirus wave. The respiratory pandemic is spreading in most parts of the United Kingdom, whose official death toll of 43,155 is the highest in Europe. Anger, though, is rising over the economic, social and health costs of the biggest curtailment of freedoms since wartime: one former government adviser warned some people would have trouble clothing their children soon. Health secretary Matt Hancock said London, as well as the adjacent, heavily populated county of Essex, would be put on “high” alert level, up from “medium”, at one minute past midnight. London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “I must warn Londoners: We’ve got a difficult winter ahead.” Manchester, in the north of England and one of Britain’s largest cities, had been tipped to be moved to “very high” alert from “high”, but Mr Hancock said talks with local leaders were continuing so no decision had yet been made.
The Czech Republic registered 9,544 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, the highest daily number since the start of the pandemic, according to health ministry data published on Thursday.
The country, which has the highest two-week cumulative number of infections in the European Union when adjusted for population, is preparing emergency medical facilities, health minister Roman Prymula said in a video on his Twitter account.
Czech Republic has shifted schools to distance learning and plans to call up thousands of medical students. Hospitals are cutting non-urgent medical procedures to free up beds.
“Sometimes we are at the edge of crying,” said Lenka Krejcova, a head nurse at Slany hospital near Prague, as builders hurried to turn a general ward into a Covid-19 department.
Poland announced new restrictions on Thursday to curb the coronavirus pandemic, including limits on opening hours for bars and restaurants, sports events and schools in some areas as it faced another daily record spike in infections.
“I am calling on all elderly people to stay home...we will win this fight, but only if we are united and responsible,” Poland’s prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki told a news conference.
Sports events will be held without audiences, gyms and swimming pools will close, and schools in red zones, where the coronavirus has hit the country hardest, will have to provide only distance learning. The capital Warsaw will also be in a red zone.
Italy on Wednesday reported a record number of new coronavirus cases, as the spread of the contagion surpassed levels reached at the peak of last spring’s outbreak.
New cases jumped to 7,332 from 5,901 on Tuesday, higher than the 6,557 infections at the peak of the pandemic on March 21st. The spike at least partly reflects more thorough screening. Daily tests totaled 152,196, up from 112,544 the previous day and more than nine times the March daily average of 15,752.
Mexico’s health ministry on Wednesday reported 4,056 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and 478 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 829,396 cases and 84,898 deaths.
The ministry also said 127,053 healthcare workers have contracted confirmed cases of Covid-19, with at least 1,744 fatalities since the pandemic began.
The government says the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.
Already on track to overtake the United States with the world’s most coronavirus infections, India is bracing for a surge of cases in coming weeks as it heads into its main holiday season with an economy freed of virus restrictions.
The recent experience of the southern state of Kerala, which was praised for its initial handling of the pandemic, indicates how rapidly the situation can worsen. Reported infections there have jumped by five times since it celebrated the 10-day harvest festival of Onam in late August, far outpacing the two-fold increase in cases nationally over that time.
Still, cash-short state governments are reluctant to stop people from venturing out during the money-spinning Hindu festivals of Durga Puja, next week, and Diwali in mid-November.
The holidays are celebrated with family gatherings, bumper buying and the giving of gifts, from sweets and snacks to clothes and cars, generating vital income for many people.
Some doctors have accused politicians of undermining public health out of fear of upsetting religious sentiments, while the health minister has warned the situation will worsen if social distancing and other rules are not followed.
India has reported more than 7.2 million coronavirus infections and more than 110,000 deaths, though the rate of increase has slowed in recent weeks. – Agencies