BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans to come together as they did in the spring to slow the spread of the coronavirus as the country posted another daily record for new cases on Saturday.
“Difficult months are ahead of us,” she said in her weekly video podcast. “How the winter will be, how our Christmas will be, everything will be decided in the days and weeks to come, and it will depend on our behavior.”
Meanwhile, new restrictions have come into force in several other European countries in a bid to stem the resurgence of the pandemic.
In Paris and eight other French cities, restaurants, bars, cinemas and other establishments have been forced to close no later than 9 p.m. in an attempt to reduce contact between people. The country was deploying an additional 12,000 police to enforce the new rules.
Many restaurateurs bristled at the order. A months-long lockdown has devastated the sector.
“I have the right to question the government’s approach, I think it’s a catastrophic measure for the industry,” Xavier Denamur, owner of Les Philosophes and several other bistros in the chic Marais district, told Paris, saying if nothing else, the curfew should be 11 p.m.
“At least it wouldn’t destroy us,” he said. “There is no evidence that this difference of a few hours will have any effect on the circulation of the virus.”
In Britain, a three-tier regional approach to tackling the pandemic introduced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson has come into effect, with each tier bringing progressively tighter restrictions.
On Saturday, Tier 2 cities like London and York were placed under a ban on socializing with people from other households indoors, while Lancashire County joined Liverpool in Tier 3 with the toughest restrictions strict.
Among other things, this means that pubs have been forced to close and socializing with others is prohibited, even in many outdoor settings.
In Northern Ireland, a four-week lockdown came into effect on Friday. All pubs and restaurants are to close, except takeaway services, and schools will close for two weeks for an extended half-term holiday.
Friday’s data showed a further 136 people died in the UK within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus, bringing the total official toll to 43,429.
The World Health Organization has warned that intensive care units in a number of European cities could reach maximum capacity in the coming weeks if the number of infections does not slow.
Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg has joined the list of top politicians who have tested positive for the virus and has been quarantined despite showing no symptoms, his office told the news agency. Austrian APA.
The Vatican, meanwhile, said a person who lives in the same hotel as Pope Francis has tested positive for the virus, adding to 11 COVID-19 cases among the Swiss Guards protecting him.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the country’s head of state, has been quarantined after a bodyguard was infected, his office said. A first test was negative.
Germany, which was widely hailed for rapidly slowing the spread of the virus when the pandemic first broke out, has seen a rapid rise in numbers in recent days.
On Saturday, the country’s center for disease control, the Robert Koch Institute, reported 7,830 cases overnight, a new record.
Like most countries, Germany has grappled with how to keep schools and businesses open while trying to prevent people from coming into close contact with each other.
Germany has recorded a total of 356,387 coronavirus cases and a relatively low number of 9,767 deaths.
Merkel urged Germans to avoid unnecessary travel, cancel parties and stay at home whenever possible.
“What got us through the first half of the pandemic so well?” she asked. “It’s that we stuck together and obeyed the rules out of consideration and common sense. It is the most effective remedy we currently have against the pandemic and it is needed more than ever. »
In the neighboring Czech Republic, the number of new infections topped 10,000 for the first time, reaching 11,105 on Friday, the health ministry said. The country has now recorded a total of 160,112 cases, including 1,283 deaths.
Despite further restrictive measures to slow the outbreak, Health Minister Roman Prymula said he still expects the number of people testing positive to rise for around two weeks.
Next door, Slovakia said it was acquiring 13 million rapid antigen tests – enough to test every member of the population twice – and establishing 6,000 testing sites.
Prime Minister Igor Matovic said the tests will take place over the next two weekends, starting with the three or four hardest hit counties. It was not immediately clear whether the tests would be mandatory.
Italy’s northern region of Lombardy, where Europe’s outbreak began in late February, has taken new steps to contain rebounding infections, limit bar service and alcohol sales, ban contact sports and close clubs. bingo halls.
On Friday night, the regional government called on high schools to adopt hybrid schedules, with students alternating in-person learning with online learning.
The measures were taken after Lombardy, Italy’s most populous region, once again became the worst affected, adding more than 2,000 infections a day. Hospitals are strained and intensive care units are filling up.
The new measures only allow table service for bars from 6 p.m., prohibit the sale of takeaway alcohol from that time and prohibit all alcohol consumption in public spaces.
The other hardest-hit Italian region, southern Campania, has taken similarly strict measures, including closing schools for two weeks. After parents protested, the regional governor backed down on Friday and allowed child care centers to remain open.
In the capital, Rome, residents grumbled as cases rose, fearing a return to strict nationwide measures that were imposed when the virus spread out of control.
“The situation is critical thanks to the morons, because I call them morons, who didn’t follow the rules,” said resident Mario Massenzi. “And if we fall back into the same situation as in March, it’s over.”
Thomas Adamson in Paris, Sylvia Hui in London, Nicole Winfield in Rome, Colleen Barry in Milan and Karel Janicek in Prague contributed to this report.