France notes a sharp increase in deaths in Covid-19 as Europe tightens restrictions

The number of confirmed new Covid-19 cases and deaths in France has risen sharply over the past 24 hours, according to data from the French Ministry of Health published on Saturday when a number of European countries announced new restrictions to stop a deadly second wave.

France registered 32,095 new cases of Covid-19 in the previous day and reached a total of 1,954,599. Deaths in hospitals in France from Covid-19 increased by 359 in the previous day and reached a total of 44,246 so far, according to figures from the French Ministry of Health .

The increase in infections and deaths in France came as new restrictions were announced or entered into force in a number of European countries.

Schools closed in Austria and Greece

Austria announced on Saturday that schools and non-essential shops would be closed from Tuesday, just two weeks after a partial lock-in was introduced.

“There are still many who say that infections do not occur in schools, shops or services,” Chancellor Sebastien Kurtz told a news conference.

“But the truth is that the authorities can no longer detect 77 percent of new infections, which means they no longer know where the pollution is taking place.”

Greece, which is fighting for a saturated national health system, announced it would close all schools after imposing a nationwide curfew on Friday.

“Closing primary schools was the last thing we wanted to do. This is a measure of how serious the situation is,” said Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias. High schools had already been closed.

In Italy, the regions of Tuscany and Campania – of which Florence and Naples are the capitals respectively – were plunged into “red zones” with severe restrictions, which now cover 26 million of the 60 million inhabitants.

“There is no other way if we want to reduce the number of deaths,” said Health Minister Roberto Speranza, while the country’s death toll rose from 544 to 44,683, one of Europe’s worst.

New antivirus curbs also went into effect in Ukraine on Saturday, with all non-essential companies ordered closed for the weekend.

‘Do not kill the economy’

Several Germans protested against forced worm-carrying, and police said they used water cannons to disperse nearly 1,000 people in Frankfurt.

France’s resort of Nice looked 1,500 to the streets to demand a more coherent set of restrictions to combat the disease.

Hundreds of protesters also marched in Portugal, defying a curfew imposed on seven out of 10 million people in 10 million.

The curfew prohibits driving on public roads after 13 on Saturdays and Sundays.

“The pandemic is on and we must be protected, but without killing the economy,” said 33-year-old Carla Torres, who works in Lisbon’s restaurant business.

Poland became the latest country to report record numbers of 548 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours, just days after the government decided to impose a nationwide quarantine.

EU bodies expect positive views on vaccines

The European Medicines Agency lifted the gloom and raised hopes that an effective vaccine could soon be available.

The EU body said it was expected to give a positive opinion on a vaccine at the end of the year if the test results turned out to be positive. This would enable distribution from January.

But if barriers to testing and distribution are overcome, another challenge awaits: will people get a vaccine?

“My fear is that not enough French people will be vaccinated,” French Prime Minister Jean Castex told Le Monde newspaper.

French restaurant and bar owners announced legal action against the government’s action, which closed them from the end of October.

( Jowharwith AFP and REUTERS)