European countries worst hit by Covid-19 could already be above the peaks of their second wave as lockdowns on draconian nations are reintroduced across the continent.
After transmission paused in summer and early autumn – thanks to the first round of nationwide shutdowns – most European countries were hit by a tsunami of new infections in mid-September.
The bolt of falls sparked a ripple effect across the continent, with nations sequentially announcing national lockdowns in October and November, albeit shorter and less restrictive than the spring measures.
And now that the interventions have lasted more than a week, most of these nations are seeing that the infections are either dramatically decreasing or weakening.
But in EU countries that ignored calls for another national lockdown and instead stuck to regional Covid-19 strategies – especially in Italy and Spain – infections are still rising rapidly.
Belgium, which was banned for the second time on November 2, appears to have come out on the other side of its second wave. In the days leading up to the shutdown, the country recorded nearly 2,000 daily infections per million people, which was the highest on the continent. But the Belgians managed to bring the number of cases down to 540 per million by November 11 – the latest snapshot.
The Czech Republic was one of the first EU members to implement a second national lockdown on October 21. At that time, the Czechs were reporting 1,400 cases per million a day. However, thanks to the two-week shutdown, that number has halved and is currently 734 per million.
A dramatic drop in cases has also been seen in France, which was locked for a month on October 30. At the time, the country had an infection rate of 730 per million people, up from just 113 per million the previous month. France's case rate peaked on November 8 – it takes more than a week for interventions to take effect – but has since declined by more than half. The current rate is 508 people per million.
Coronavirus cases have declined in some European hotspots after the lockdown was instituted, despite executives and health experts warning that they may not fall fast enough for Christmas parties to take place
Coronavirus deaths, typically two weeks behind the rise in cases, are still rising in most European countries. France warns that one in four deaths is due to the disease
In the Netherlands, which announced a two-week lockdown on November 3, the daily diagnosis rate has dropped to 315 per million after peaking at 650 on October 31. In Ireland, where a six-week lockdown was enforced on October 19, the daily infection rate is 78 per million, compared to 260 on October 19.
In the UK, the case rate hasn't dropped yet, but it wasn't banned for the second time until November 5th – but infections are no longer increasing exponentially. The case rate was only 60 per million at the end of September but rose to 393 the following month. It appeared the lockdown measures had worked when cases plateaued for about a week. But an unusually high number of daily cases on Thursday and Friday raised eyebrows and left scientists scratching the head as to why.
Angry Irish expats say they're coming home for Christmas and Leo Varadkar can't stop them
Irish expats reacted with anger after being told not to expect to be allowed home for Christmas this year, with some vows to make the trip anyway.
Leo Varadkar, Ireland's deputy prime minister, yesterday warned people against booking flights home for the holidays, while the country's chief medical officer Tony Holohan called Christmas travel "not essential".
Executives in France, Germany and Sweden have also warned that travel restrictions are likely to apply during the Christmas season and advised people not to schedule large gatherings or invite relatives who have to travel long distances.
Ireland imposed a strict six-week lockdown on October 19, which means people cannot travel further than three miles from home, and closed all non-essential businesses. That has led to a decrease in cases (shown)
Ireland imposed a strict six-week lockdown on October 19, prohibiting people from traveling more than three miles from their own homes while all non-essential businesses were closed. Anyone coming to Ireland from overseas, including Irish citizens, is currently required to be quarantined for 14 days. Arrivals from Northern Ireland are excluded.
Conor Moroney, an Irishman living in London, told the Irish Times: “I have booked my flights and will be coming home for Christmas this year. Leo Varadkar's most recent comments were diversionary tactics.
"With no strategy, plan or new thinking … please excuse me if I now take responsibility for my own life choices as the country progresses in 'living with the virus'." I'll see you in December. & # 39;
Kate O & # 39; Connor, who was also planning to return to Ireland from London, added, “I have already booked flights. It's been an incredibly tough year and I haven't seen any family since Christmas.
“I live alone in a small apartment in London with no outside space and the thought of Christmas is all that keeps me going from a mental health perspective.
"I plan to be isolated for 10 days and get tested here before I go home. Then I will be isolated for another 5 days and tested in Ireland before I see my family."
Comic Jarlath Regan (left) said on Twitter that he would do anything to get back to Ireland, while Aisling Carey (right) described Leo Varadkar's comments as "pointless" and "a kick in the teeth".
Eva Murphy Ryan, who is from Ireland but lives in New York, said she was hoping to get home for Christmas
Jarlath Regan, an Irish comic, also promised to do whatever it takes to get home for the festive season, adding, "There is no Christmas like an Irish Christmas."
Aisling Carey, who also lives in the UK, wrote on Twitter: “Kick the teeth of those like me who are dying to go home. Pointless comments, but not surprising. Do a Leo Varadkar. & # 39;
Eva Murphy Ryan, who is from Dublin and now lives in New York, said she was clinging to hope she could come home for Christmas – but has now dropped plans to return.
Despite the backlash, Mary Lou McDonald – leader of the opposition party Sinn Fein – admitted on Friday that it was "unlikely" that large numbers of Irish people would be allowed home for Christmas.
Aisling Henrard from Tipperary, who now lives in Brussels, burst into tears when she was contacted by RTE. She wanted to bring her two young children home to see their grandparents – plans that now seem to be in ruins.
“The only people I will see are my family. I don't go into town or hang out in malls. I literally want to take my kids home to see their grandparents, ”she said.
“It was a very tough year not coming home. I miss my mother and statements like these are just another kick in the teeth for us. & # 39;
Audrey Eager, who is from Dublin but now lives in London, said Mr Varadkar's comments made her "absolutely angry" and accused him of washing his hands from the Irish diaspora. Where is the direction, where is the planning, where is common sense in it? She snorted. "This is my country that rejects me – and if I think about it too much, I'll get upset."
Germany's lockdown on November 2nd has not yet affected the case rate, which has risen from just 16 at the beginning of October to almost 300 per million.
Italy and Spain are increasingly being asked to carry out a second lockdown, as the regional approaches pursued there seem to have failed. Italy's daily case rate is currently 628 per million – up from 44 in early October – while the Spanish one stood at 1,120 per million on November 9.
In Sweden, widely praised for opting out of a national lockdown in the spring, officials were forced to impose a 10pm curfew on bars and restaurants for the first time due to climbing incidents. The restriction is a departure from the previous guidelines, which were mainly based on voluntary measures to end the transfer. Authorities have also asked people not to meet others from outside their household. The case rate is 425 per million compared to 80 a month ago.
The fall rate data was compiled on the Our World in Data website, which compiles test statistics from around the world.
Germany reported a record number of virus cases on Friday with 23,542 confirmed infections within 24 hours, while the UK also reported a record 33,470 cases on Thursday.
Following the German announcement, Spahn said it was "too early to say" whether additional measures put in place on Nov. 1 – including closing all bars and restaurants – were enough to contain virus cases.
Spahn warned that life was unlikely to return to normal in December, and said winter events like office Christmas parties, birthdays and weddings were unlikely to happen.
"We never said November would be so hard and then everything would be the same as before."
The Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Soeder also warned against lifting the curbs too quickly and said: “If we now just lower the numbers a little and stop too early, we could find ourselves in a constant alternation of locking and opening.
“That would be difficult for people to understand. That is why we must continue the treatment we started until it is successful. & # 39;
In France, Mr Castex on Thursday gave an update on the country's new full lockdown on Thursday – two weeks after people were nearly banned from leaving their homes, except for essential activities.
The Prime Minister announced that hospital admissions in France are now at an all-time high and one in four deaths is related to the virus.
But, he said, the number of people infected per 100,000 has been falling for 10 days, and the number of virus patients in hospitals is expected to peak early next week.
"This is good news, but not enough," Castex said when he announced that the current restrictions would remain in place until at least December 1st.
Even after December 1, he warned that things will not be the same as they did in summer as restaurants, bars, gyms and attractions will remain closed until further notice.
He also warned that people shouldn't be planning big Christmas or New Year celebrations. However, he said if hospital admission rates slow, the government could start reopening stores selling non-essential goods in December.
Castex pledged "massive economic support" to companies that had to shut down after hundreds of billions had been spent to keep workers and keep businesses alive.
In Sweden, chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell had to admit that the country is fighting a second wave of the pandemic after suspecting in August that such a scenario was unlikely.
"I don't think the definition is that important, but we see that the community is currently expanding in many regions at the same time," said Tegnell.
Sweden registered 4,658 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, just below a daily record set last week when the virus reappeared, which saw hospital stays and intensive care units increasing.
Tegnell downplayed hopes that Sweden's severe spring outbreak of the virus could offer considerable protection through widespread immunity, which he had previously suggested.
He also warned that travel restrictions could change between now and Christmas, and warned people not to make plans for large gatherings.
"We're working on it now, hopefully we can be clear about what we want in a few weeks," he said.
Three weeks ago, Tegnell warned that Christmas gatherings would likely be affected by the virus and that older relatives would have to stay away.
People shouldn't be planning large family gatherings with guests traveling from across the country, Tegnell said at the time, adding that he plans to celebrate Christmas with a small group of his closest relatives.
The European benchmark index fell on Friday, ending its second straight week on a dismal result as rising coronavirus cases heightened fears of harming the bloc's economy in the coming winter months.
The pan-European STOXX 600 fell 0.3% to 0805 GMT after jumping earlier this week on optimism about a working COVID-19 vaccine. The index has risen by around 12% in the past two weeks, which was also supported by hopes for calmer world trade under the US President-elect Joe Biden.
France's CAC 40 index lost 0.1% when Prime Minister Jean Castex said there would be no immediate easing of a second COVID-19 lockdown as hospital stays are now higher than at the height of the first wave.
The energy index hit declines, falling 1.4%, with banking and travel stocks also falling more than 0.8% in early trading.
On company news, French energy group EDF fell 0.3% after seeing a drop in sales in the third quarter as the COVID-19 pandemic weighed on electricity demand and weighed on nuclear production in France.
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