Sunday, October 25, 2020

Covid-19 coronavirus: Europe’s new rules – curfews, circuit-breakers and bar closures

Covid-19 coronavirus: Europe's new rules - curfews, circuit-breakers and bar closures

People dine at a restaurant as France’s President Emmanuel Macron gives an address on television, in Saint jean de Luz, southwestern France. Photos / AP

France is imposing 9pm to 6am curfews on nine cities including Paris, Emmanuel Macron announced, as Europe struggles to stem spiralling coronavirus infection rates.

The French President said the restrictions could last up to six weeks and those caught breaking the rules face a fine of €135 ($238).

With 20,000 new cases per day and 200 daily admissions to intensive care, Macron said: “We are in what people call the second wave … We must take stricter measures.

“It would be disproportionate to place the entire country back into lockdown but yes, what they call a curfew is a pertinent measure.”

The restrictions begin in Paris, Grenoble, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Saint-Étienne, Toulouse, Montpellier and Rouen on Saturday.

The curfews, which allow for essential outdoor trips, will last for at least a month and could possibly be extended to six weeks, with parliamentary approval.

The French have been told to stick to bubbles of six people whenever possible, and office staff should work from home for at least two days per week. Furloughing is to be maintained in all businesses hit by curfew measures.

However, Macron said there would be no travel restrictions and the French can still go on holiday.

“We haven’t lost control. We are in a situation that is worrying and justifies neither being inactive nor panic-stricken,” he said in a TV interview.

In Spain, Catalonia’s Government announced a circuit breaker two-week lockdown with stricter measures against social interaction than any other region. It includes the complete closure of bars and restaurants, which will only be allowed to provide takeaway services.

“We need to act today to avoid a total confinement in a few weeks’ time,” said Pere Aragonès, the acting president of Catalonia.

As well as the pre-existing rule-of-six on social gatherings, Alba Vergès, Catalonia’s regional health minister, asked people to avoid all meetings outside the family unit.

Similar measures came into force across the Netherlands, including restrictions on alcohol sales and new mask requirements.

António Costa, the Portuguese Prime Minister, also declared a new nationwide state of emergency as infections surged in a country once applauded for its response to the coronavirus.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the governors of the country’s 16 states agreed to tighten mask-wearing rules and make bars close early in areas where coronavirus infection rates are high.

The meeting came hours after the country reported more than 5000 infections in one day for the first time since mid-April. Germany is still in better shape than many other European countries, but infections have accelerated rapidly in recent weeks.

“We must stop this exponential rise, the quicker the better,” Merkel said. “If we don’t, this won’t end well.”

So far, German authorities have called for districts to take action when they report 50 new infections per 100,000 residents over seven days. Many major cities have exceeded that mark recently, including Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Munich.

Today’s agreement — reached in eight hours of wrangling with state governors, who are responsible for imposing and lifting restrictions — called for action once infections hit 35 per 100,000 people.

Officials recommended that mask-wearing – already required since April on public transport and in shops – should also be made obligatory in public places where people are packed closely together when infections hit 35 per 100,000. They also called for bars and restaurants in those districts to be closed early.

In areas where infections top 50 infections per 100,000 people, gatherings in public and private parties should be limited to 10 people, and bars and restaurants closed at 11 pm.

If those measures don’t halt the rise in infections within 10 days of being imposed, “further targeted restrictions are unavoidable,” with only five people allowed to gather in public, federal and state governments said.

They appealed to people to refrain from non-essential domestic journeys to and from places where infections top 50 per 100,000 people.

– additional reporting AP

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