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Europe on the brink of a second wave?


Germany will offer free coronavirus testing to all returning travelers as concerns about Covid-19 increase across Europe and cases in France, Belgium and Italy increase.

Berlin Health Minister Dilek Kalayci said today that those returning from high-risk countries should be tested, and those returning from non-risk countries will also have the option.

She said the tests were initially not mandatory and the costs would in all cases be borne by the state in the new measure agreed by the health ministers of the 16 federal states.

It is because France has reported a sharp increase in coronavirus cases. Yesterday, more than 1,062 new infections were registered, compared to 584 on Tuesday – when people gave up their vigilance during the country's summer break.

According to health authorities, cases in mainland France have increased 66 percent in the past three weeks, and 26 percent in the past week alone.

In Belgium, health officials said a three-year-old girl died after being tested positive for COVID-19 after new infections increased 89 percent from the previous week.

On Thursday, the Belgian authorities tightened restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus, including the requirement for masks in crowded public outdoor areas.

In Italy, the number of daily new infections reported on Thursday rose to over 300, the first time since mid-June that they had exceeded 300.

Germany will offer free coronavirus testing to all returning travelers as concerns about Covid-19 increase across Europe. Pictured: People are standing in line at a test center at Frankfurt Airport today

France has reported a sharp increase in coronavirus cases as people give up vigilance during the country's summer break. In the picture yesterday a crowded beach in Argeles-sur-Mer in the south of France

France has reported a sharp increase in coronavirus cases as people give up vigilance during the country's summer break. In the picture yesterday a crowded beach in Argeles-sur-Mer in the south of France

Most new cases have occurred in northern Italy, where the outbreak in Europe started in February. Infection clusters have recently emerged in the southern regions, which have been relatively spared the worst pandemic.

Recently, many cases have been attributed to people returning from abroad, most of them foreign workers from Asia, Eastern Europe or the Balkans. Other clusters were among migrants who were saved at sea and in southern Italy.

Concerns about the increasing number of cases in France had already prompted the government to make it mandatory to wear masks in all public spaces this week.

In their daily update to France's outbreak, which had already killed 30,182 people, health officials said that people don't care too much about social distance and that "our recent habits have been promoting the spread of the virus for several weeks".

“During the summer and the holidays it can seem artificial to keep your distance when greeting, to keep apart while chatting, to wash your hands regularly and to wear masks in closed rooms.

"But this individual and collective effort is crucial to prevent the virus from trampling on our freedom and rebounding the epidemic."

French President Emmanuel Macron was wearing a face mask when he attended the Coupé de France final at the Stade de France tonight

French President Emmanuel Macron was wearing a face mask when he attended the Coupé de France final at the Stade de France tonight

Mr. Macron [left] and President of French football Noel Le Graet [right] presented the trophy to Paris St. Germain, who defeated Saint Etienne 1-0 at the Stade de France

Mr. Macron [left] and President of French football Noel Le Graet [right] presented the trophy to Paris St. Germain, who defeated Saint Etienne 1-0 at the Stade de France

France has introduced strict rules for the use of face masks in public places

France has introduced strict rules for the use of face masks in public places

Dozens of passengers from different countries are waiting in a corona virus test center at Frankfurt Airport today

Dozens of passengers from different countries are waiting in a corona virus test center at Frankfurt Airport today

Police patrol the area on Argeles-sur-Mer beach in southern France while coronavirus cases occur

Police patrol the area on Argeles-sur-Mer beach in southern France while coronavirus cases occur

According to health authorities, cases in mainland France have increased 66 percent in the past three weeks when people go on vacation. In the picture yesterday a beach in Argeles-sur-Mer in the south of France

According to health authorities, cases in mainland France have increased 66 percent in the past three weeks when people go on vacation. In the picture yesterday a beach in Argeles-sur-Mer in the south of France

The mayor of the popular seaside resort of La Baule-Escoublac has warned the tens of thousands of tourists who flock here with holidaymakers after the city's flood to observe social distance.

In Italy there were also clusters among vacationers, among them Riccione, a seaside resort on the Adriatic, which was linked to the contacts of a young woman in a disco.

Last week the Mayor of Capri, one of the two capitals on the tourist Mecca island in the Mediterranean off Naples, ordered people to wear masks on the streets.

The main square of Capri, with its trendy cafes and narrow streets with luxury fashion shops, was full of vacationers, many of whom wore no masks.

Three young Romans who returned home after a holiday this week were positive for COVID-19, Italian media said on Friday.

In Italy, masks must be worn in shops, banks, churches, in public transport and in all places where it is impossible to keep a safe distance, even outdoors.

France and Norway have threatened to close their borders with Spain due to the increasing number of coronavirus cases.

France has said it would not rule out closing its border with the Catalan region of Spain as it sees a "significant increase" in infections, according to the French health authority.

Catalonia, which borders France, has been at the heart of a recovery in coronavirus cases since Spain lifted a nationwide block a month ago.

The Mayor of Argeles-sur-Mer, a French city whose population is multiplied by 15 in the summer, has decided to wear a mask on pedestrian paths and markets. Tourists are pictured in the city yesterday

The Mayor of Argeles-sur-Mer, a French city whose population is multiplied by 15 in the summer, has decided to wear a mask on pedestrian paths and markets. Tourists are pictured in the city yesterday

Amid fears in Spain that poor living conditions for seasonal workers in agriculture create coronavirus hotspots, the country's minister of agriculture called on Friday for employers to provide adequate housing and transportation.

The Spanish Ministry of Health reported 971 new infections in the last 24 hours, the largest daily increase in the country since the end of the ban.

Some clusters in Europe were linked to jobs, including in a slaughterhouse in Germany. The company, which operates the slaughterhouse that was at the center of a severe outbreak last month, said 30 other employees had tested positive for the corona virus – but most of them were old cases.

The authorities have linked more than 2,000 cases to the outbreak of the Toennies slaughterhouse in Rheda-Wiedenbrück, West Germany, which partially closed the area last month. These restrictions have now been lifted and the facility reopened after four weeks of closure.

Overall, Europe has recorded over 201,000 pandemic deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Experts say the actual number of pandemics worldwide is much higher than all reported numbers due to limited testing and other issues.

A woman is wearing a face mask when she left the beach in southern France yesterday, while cases are increasing across Europe

A woman is wearing a face mask when she left the beach in southern France yesterday, while cases are increasing across Europe

Health Minister Oliver Véran warned earlier this week that France had between 400 and 500 active clusters of the virus.

President Emmanuel Macron declared a "first victory" over the virus in June and has ended the national emergency, but local outbreaks remain.

There are an increasing number of cases in the northwest and eastern regions, particularly in the northwest department of Mayenne.

France recorded its first three cases of coronavirus on January 25 and its first death less than a month later, on February 15.

Since then, the country has seen a total of 179,398 confirmed killer bug cases and 30,182 deaths.

France culminated in new daily coronavirus cases on April 1, when there were 7,578 new diagnoses.

Since then, the cases have been trending downward, but the latest data indicate that the cases are starting to rise again.

French Health Department director Jerome Salomon said the authorities expected a second wave of cases "this fall or this winter," depending on the seasonal effects, which remain uncertain.

"We have to understand that the resurgence of the epidemic depends largely on our behavior," he said in an interview with Figaro newspaper.