Europe raises alarm over second wave of Covid infections as WHO warns of ‘exponential’ rise

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The European Union’s disease control agency has joined in hectic health workers to sound the alarm over a coronavirus wave across the continent, as the World Health Organization warned of an “exponential” increase in infections.

Even countries that avoided serious outbreaks during Europe’s first wave of infection in the spring have seen their number of cases rise, with Germany’s death toll exceeding 10,000 on Saturday.

Governments have reintroduced containment measures to curb the re-spread of the virus in nations that only weeks earlier believed they had triumphed over the crisis.

But populations tired of social isolation and economic hardship have pushed back against new restrictions, including overnight clashes in hard-hit Naples between Italian police and hundreds of protesters.

The continent faced a major threat to public health and a “very concerning epidemiological situation”, said Andrea Ammon, director of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

The agency said all EU countries except Cyprus, Estonia, Finland and Greece fell into the “serious concern” category, as did the United Kingdom, compared to seven a month ago.

After Spain became the first European country to officially register one million Covid-19 cases earlier this week, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Friday that the actual number of infections was likely to more than triple that number.

France followed Spain past the milestone of millions on Friday, while Germany reached a fresh daily record of nearly 15,000 new cases, with health authorities urging the public to follow social distance measures.

Prohibition restrictions

Urgent new restrictions in daily life have entered into force in several nations, with France extending curfews to cover 46 million people.

Parts of Italy, including the capital Rome, went under curfew late Friday, prompting a call to protest on social media, which saw hundreds of protesters in Naples throw objects at police and set rubbish bins on fire.

The country is recovering from its worst post-war recession following a grueling two-month national shutdown following one of Europe’s worst outbreaks, and authorities have so far been reluctant to repeat the drastic quarantine restrictions seen at the time.

Wales came into full lock on Friday night, a day after Ireland’s closure, while Poland adopted a nationwide “red zone” lock-in that required the partial closure of primary schools and restaurants.

Only Sweden, which famously refused to lock in earlier this year, continued to hold on to its weapons despite an increase in the number of cases.

‘We are overwhelmed’

Across the planet, Covid-19 has now claimed the lives of 1.1 million people and infected close to 42 million, with the WHO warning that the northern hemisphere was at a critical time.

“Too many countries are seeing an exponential increase in Covid-19 cases, and this is now leading to hospitals and intensive care units running close to or above capacity,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Belgium has seen one of Europe’s deadliest outbreaks per Inhabitant and has found himself suffering from some of the highest duck waves in Europe.

“We are losing. We are overwhelmed. We are bitter,” said Benoit Misset, head of the intensive care unit at the University Hospital in the city of Liège, where several of his staff have to work despite being positive – – if they are asymptomatic – themselves.

Work has continued on the international search for a vaccine against the disease, with clinical trials of a candidate developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University resuming in the United States on Friday six weeks after a subject became ill.

U.S. Presidential hopeful Joe Biden said that if elected, he would mandate free coronavirus vaccines for all Americans.

“Once we have a safe and effective vaccine, it must be free for everyone – whether you are insured or not,” Biden said in a speech on his pandemic response plan just 11 days before the November 3 election.

(AFP)