Spain may have tamed its second wave of coronavirus infections as the total number of cases began to decline, although the number continued to rise across Europe.
The country saw a sharp surge in cases after starting non-essential stores reopening in mid-May, about two weeks before the UK, and having the highest infection rate in Europe in August and September.
But that trend has now reversed and infections have decreased An average of 9,500 this week, up from 11,200 two weeks ago, despite the country keeping bars and restaurants open and largely preventing local lockdowns – with travel bans imposed by Madrid's ministers and now overturned by the city's highest court.
The numbers suggest that the spread of infection can be contained without the need to close bars and restaurants, as is planned in the UK and France, and that a decline in measures already in place may be two weeks away.
Measures decided by Spain include curfews in bars and restaurants at 1 a.m., mandatory table service, strict social distancing, face masks both indoors and outdoors, and capacity restrictions in crowded public places such as beaches.
Madrid residents must continue to adhere to other rules, including a six-person limit on gatherings and restrictions on restaurant, bar and shop capacity and opening times – although these are only coming into effect today and have not contributed to the current decline in cases.
Coronavirus cases are on the rise in much of Europe – with France recording its highest daily reading ever on Wednesday, with strong peaks in Italy and Germany
Spain had some of the highest infection rates in Europe in September (left), but the number of cases has declined over the past two weeks and deaths appear to have stabilized too
European leaders will be watching Spain's declining totals as they grapple with infection containment while avoiding lockdowns as they devastated their economies earlier this year.
In France, ministers have already closed bars and placed curfews on the country's two largest cities – Paris and Marseille – and are preparing to hit other areas on Thursday, with Lille, Lyon, Grenoble, Saint-Etienne and Toulouse on the Hit list.
It comes after the country recorded 18,746 new infections on Wednesday, the highest single-day total in the entire pandemic in the country, although deaths and hospital admissions are still well below their peak – suggesting the increase is not as dramatic as it seems .
"The virus has spread faster in the past few weeks," President Emmanuel Macron said late Wednesday.
"In places where it is spreading too quickly, especially where it is spreading among the most vulnerable older people and where more and more intensive care beds are occupied, we need to put more restrictions on."
Experts have advised caution when examining the number of cases during the "second wave" of the pandemic, saying that they are not comparable to those of the first wave as the tests are now much more widespread.
In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to impose tough measures on 10 million people in the north, including closing all pubs and restaurants and restricting non-essential travel.
It comes after the UK saw its coronavirus case numbers accelerate, with 14,542 new cases reported on Wednesday – three times as many as two weeks ago.
France introduced local bans in Marseille and Paris (pictured), with bars and restaurants closed and curfew, with further restrictions in place today for other parts of the country
France reported the largest single-day total of coronavirus cases at 18,746 (left) as ministers put new local curbs in place to slow the spread of the virus as deaths also increased slightly – but nowhere near the beginning of the Outbreak
In Germany, Health Minister Jens Spahn also warned of a "worrying" increase in infections after the total daily number of cases in Germany rose by more than 40 percent overnight from 2,828 to 4,058.
"Hardly any other country in Europe has so far mastered the crisis so well," he said, warning people not to "gamble" what they have achieved while adhering to rules such as wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing.
Italy has also seen an increase lately: 3,678 were reported on Wednesday but are still well below the levels seen at the start of the outbreak.
The hardest hit countries in the “second wave” are the Czech Republic and the Netherlands, which are in the lead after falling Spain in terms of infections per capita.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis announced that the country will return to a state of emergency for 30 days this week after a "rocket-like" surge in cases over the past two weeks.
State borders remain open, but no more than 10 people can gather indoors and 20 outdoors, and professional sports must take place behind closed doors.
The Czech Republic had already introduced measures such as limiting the opening times of the bar, public events and the compulsory wearing of face masks.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands, previously boasting of its “smart lockdown” and despised mask-wearing, were forced to take immediate action this week as infections skyrocketed.
For the first time, people in Amsterdam, The Hague, Eindhoven and Rotterdam are being advised to wear face covers in shops, and bars and restaurants will also have to close at 10 p.m. People are also encouraged to work from home where they can.
The German health authorities warned of a "worrying" increase in infections after the number of cases rose by 40 percent overnight (left), although the deaths remained largely stable (right).
Italy has also seen a sudden surge in coronavirus cases, although the daily number is still below the previous pandemic (left) and the death toll has not yet started to rise (right).
In Madrid, a local court last week rejected tough new lockdown laws imposed by the Spanish capital's government to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The Ministry of Health had banned 4.8 million people in the city from leaving their local areas, except for essential business on Friday.
Mallorca and Ibiza are preparing for the THIRD wave of the coronavirus
The holiday islands of Mallorca and Ibiza are preparing to fight a third wave of corona viruses.
Health chiefs say they don't know if it will hit in the next few weeks or around Christmas, but they are sure it will.
It's the first time a Spanish region has spoken publicly about a third wave, but the Balearic government says it is already making contingency plans to deal with it.
However, the prospect of further coronavirus outbreaks will hurt plans to revive tourism this year. It's also a blow to the Balearic Islands, where new cases of Covid-19 are finally slowing down under the second wave.
The shock was recorded during a press conference to discuss the evolution of the pandemic in Mallorca, Ibiza, Menorca and Formentera.
Public Health Director General Maria Antònia Font said they bent the curve of the second wave and cases were falling, but admitted, “There will likely be a third. We don't know when it will arrive, but we are working on all the scenarios as we don't want it to surprise us. We waited for the second one and it arrived earlier. & # 39;
She said they were working on the scenario that a third wave could happen "tomorrow" and added, "We are analyzing what there is room for improvement for the first and second waves."
However, regional leader Isabel Diaz Ayuso denied the order, saying it would destroy the region's economy and the ministry had no power to impose such restrictions.
The Madrid Regional Court endorsed its decision, calling the restrictions "an interference by the authorities with the fundamental rights of citizens without a legal mandate to support them".
Madrid has been at the center of a political impasse between Spain's national and regional authorities that has angered many people who see more partisan strategies than real measures against the pandemic.
The two sides met later on Thursday.
The region has a 14-day infection rate of 591 coronavirus cases per 100,000 population, more than double the Spanish average of 257 and five times the European average of 113 in the week ended September 27th.
However, the R-rate for Madrid – that's the infection rate – remains below the crucial 1.00 level and is now 0.91 after rising to above 1.50 in July.
A value above 1.00 means that the infections are multiplying.
In an initial government response – which can appeal the ruling – Health Minister Salvador Illa said he had not yet had time to study it.
& # 39; We will make the legal decisions that best protect health. We are sure that the Community of Madrid will agree to this approach. We only care about the health of the citizens, "he told a parliamentary committee without going into it.
The ministers had approved the new rules in order to lower the infection rates in Madrid. This made Madrid the first European capital to be completely closed again.
According to the WHO, Europe has registered more than 6 million cases of coronavirus since the pandemic began, which is 18 percent of the global total.
The continent added nearly half a million new cases last week, a slight increase from the previous week, and there were more than 5,000 new deaths.
Most European leaders decided to force their countries into full lockdowns in March as the first wave of the pandemic, closing anything but essential stores and keeping people indoors for months.
But amid some of the record leaders' most dramatic GDP declines, they began reopening their economies in late spring, with some spikes.
Italy, which has kept its total coronavirus count low since the summer, also saw an increase on Wednesday, as 3,678 cases were reported (in the picture, people are wearing masks at the Trevi Fountain in Rome).
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