French President Emmanuel Macron ruled out bringing the nation to a standstill and the Spanish government appeared rudderless as Europe grappled with a coronavirus resurgence that threatens its preliminary recovery.
France reported 3,776 new infections on Wednesday, the largest daily increase in three months, while Spain – which has once again become the epicenter of the pandemic on the continent – recorded 3,715 new infections, the most since April 23. The German infections increased by more than 1,000 for a third straight day on Thursday, and Austria saw the highest daily increase since April 4.
Recent spikes in Spain, France and Germany are forcing countries to reassess lockdown measures
Europe's economies were decimated by the crisis in the second quarter, and governments are desperate to encourage a swift recovery without triggering a broad new wave of the disease. The surge in cases in recent weeks has been attributed to social gatherings and travelers, but officials are reluctant to resort to the strict lockdowns imposed during the first peak of the pandemic in March and April.
"We cannot close the country because the collateral damage to the detention is considerable," said Macron, who will start talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel later on Thursday, in an interview with Paris Match Magazine.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, meanwhile, is on vacation with his family and has not gone public, even as bad news piles up.
Governments across Europe are tightening restrictions to combat the spread. In France, masks must now be worn in busy outdoor areas of Paris and Marseilles. Toulouse will have to wear a general mask from August 21, reported Agence France-Presse, the first major French city to do so.
The country's response must be to "speed up vaccines, ensure their access and, to our knowledge, get the best possible health response," Macron told Paris Match, adding that authorities should resort to local "targeted" lockdowns if necessary . Testing, tracking down, isolating the infected and expanding the wearing of masks when necessary are also vital, he said.
Given the volatile Spanish tourism industry and economic crisis, some voters are nervous, and any perceived political indifference could harm the weak minority government that relies on separatists to stay in power.
Sanchez's handling of the pandemic is widespread, while Italy, which served as a role model for Spain, appears to be the first country into crisis, seems to be getting the crisis under better control. Both countries are in deep recessions and have had to try to balance the need to keep people safe with the desire to capitalize on a lucrative summer season.
Italy has seen recovery in new cases too, albeit more cautiously than elsewhere. On Wednesday, the country reported 642 new infections, the largest increase since May 23.
The government has closed nightclubs, banned dancing in public places and required face masks from 6 p.m. by 6 a.m. in all locations including streets and squares where crowds can gather.
The recent outbreaks can be traced back to parties in seaside resorts such as Porto Rotondo in Sardinia, as well as people returning from abroad.
The government could even try to isolate Sardinia, one of the busiest summer vacation regions in the country, after the number of coronavirus cases linked to the island rose, Corriere della Sera reported Thursday, citing unnamed ministerial officials.
Austria's dark number
Austria said its recent surge was due to returnees from Croatia, Kosovo, Serbia and other parts of the Western Balkans, as well as from Turkey. Norway added Austria to its list of high-risk destinations along with Great Britain, Ireland and Greece on Wednesday, shortly after Austria added the Spanish Balearic Islands to its own list.
Up to 300,000 Austrians – twelve times the official number – could have been infected with the virus, a much higher factor for the so-called dark number than previously assumed, said the head of the Austrian health department AGES in a television interview on Wednesday.
In the recent crackdown on travel in the region. The UK is expected to remove Croatia from its quarantine exception list as early as Thursday, the Guardian reported, without saying where it got the information. If the country is removed from the list, it means that people arriving in the UK from Croatia must be quarantined for 14 days.
In Sweden, the government's decision to adopt a strategy to fight the pandemic has increased the death toll per capita many times over the rest of the Nordic region.
In July, however, the situation improved dramatically. The pace of infections in the country is now converging with that of neighboring Denmark and Norway, where governments are recommending the use of face masks for citizens for the first time.
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