Czech hospitals are three weeks away from being overwhelmed by coronavirus cases, the government said as Germany today announced a new high of more than 11,000 infections and Rome imposed a curfew to fend off the second wave.
The Czech Republic has seen the largest increase in infections in Europe with a new daily record of 14,968 cases announced on Thursday morning.
Prime Minister Andrej Babis says the health system will not be working until November 11 if the contagion does not slow down. New restrictions on movement come into effect today, along with shop closures and mandatory masks in cars.
The rise of 11,287 cases in Germany – which destroyed the previous record of 7,830 – is due to the fact that Angela Merkel's Minister of Health Jens Spahn reacted positively to Covid-19 in a renewed blow against a country that was widely praised for its handling of the pandemic has been tested.
Rome's midnight curfew will take effect tomorrow, while Spain became the first country in Western Europe to reach a million confirmed cases of Covid-19 last night.
CZECH REPUBLIC CASES: The hardest hit country in Europe’s second wave saw another record increase today with 14,969 new infections within 24 hours
CZECH REPUBLIC DEATH: The death toll rose 120 today to 1,739. The government warned that hospitals are on the verge of being overwhelmed
In the Czech Republic, Prime Minister Babis apologized for lifting restrictions after repeatedly saying that the spring lockdown would not return.
"I even apologize for ruling out this option in the past because I couldn't imagine this happening," he added.
"Unfortunately it happened and now we have to protect the lives of our citizens above all else."
The Czechs acted quickly to close the borders and shut down public life in the spring. They emerged from the first wave with relatively few cases and deaths.
But no European country was hit harder by the second wave, with more than 110,000 cases in the country of 10.7 million in the last two weeks.
Approximately 4,500 patients have filled hospitals with the government, expecting the health system to be overwhelmed in three weeks if the surge doesn't slow.
Babis warned that "our health care system would collapse between November 7th and 11th" if no new restrictions were imposed.
The new measures include restrictions on freedom of movement and the closure of many shops, shopping centers and hotels. They will remain in effect until at least November 3rd.
As of Wednesday, it is mandatory to wear masks outdoors and in the car.
Health Minister Roman Prymula said 30 percent of the tests were now positive, in what he described as "an immense burden on the population".
"In some regions the number of infected seniors has already increased by up to 500 percent," he added.
CZECH REPUBLIC: Medical workers are caring for a Covid-19 patient this week in an intensive care unit at the General University Hospital in Prague
In Germany, cases jumped 11,287 to 392,049, while another 30 deaths brought the country's total to 9,905.
The record increase means that the 7-day average of infections in Germany has almost tripled from 2,600 to 7,200 in just two weeks.
While infection and mortality rates are still lower than in much of Europe, politicians have warned that the virus could spiral out of control in Germany.
One Alpine district was closed again this week, while masks are mandatory in parts of Berlin as city and state leaders take measures to curb the boom.
Health Minister Jens Spahn, who was praised for his calm handling of the crisis, tested positive for the virus himself on Wednesday.
The 40-year-old Spahn shows cold symptoms and isolates himself at home, said the Ministry of Health.
Spahn attended a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, but ministers are meeting in a large conference room, which means others may not need to be quarantined.
64-year-old German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is also in isolation after a bodyguard tested positive, despite testing negative himself.
GERMANY CASES: The country saw a record surge of 11,287 newly confirmed cases today, destroying the previous high of 7,830 set on Saturday
GERMANY DEATH: These were still lower than much of Europe, but the average daily deaths have increased from five months ago to almost 30
GERMANY: Angela Merkel's Health Minister Jens Spahn, who is pictured in Berlin on Wednesday, isolates himself with "cold symptoms" after he tested positive for Covid-19
Italy also saw a record increase in cases yesterday, adding 15,199 infections in 24 hours for a total of 449,648.
The death toll rose 127, the first three-digit increase since May 30, and has risen to 36,832 since the pandemic began.
The Italian region of Lazio, which also includes Rome, announced on Wednesday a curfew from midnight to 5 a.m., which will come into effect tomorrow.
Lazio is responsible for more than 17,000 active cases and added more than 1,200 new infections on Wednesday.
Under the curfew, people are only allowed to leave their homes to travel to work or for urgent reasons such as medical problems.
The Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who briefed the senators, appealed to the Italians to limit "unnecessary" movements as well as "unnecessary actions".
In Lombardy, the northern region at the center of the first wave, authorities yesterday ordered the reopening of intensive care units in Milan and Bergamo, which were closed after the first wave.
In Spain, cases rose by 16,973 on Wednesday to 988,322 to 1,005,295.
This makes Spain the sixth country in the world to have affected a million cases after the US, Brazil, India, Russia and Argentina, and the first in Western Europe.
More than half of the million cases have occurred since early September as Spain suffers one of the worst resurrections in Europe.
Daily deaths hover around 100, far from the nearly 900 high that was recorded in late March.
However, hospital admissions in two weeks have risen by 20 percent across the country and by 70 percent in the region of Catalonia, which includes Barcelona.
ITALY FALLS: These hit a new record of 15,199 on Wednesday, as infections continue to increase months after Italy's one of the toughest lockdowns in the world
ITALY DEATH: For the first time since late May, more than 100 new deaths were announced on Wednesday, bringing the total to 36,832