29 Oct 2020

Covid-19: New lockdowns for France, Germany

9:00 am on 29 October 2020

France will move into a second national lockdown for at least the whole of November, President Emmanuel Macron has announced.

French President Emmanuel Macron looks on as he speaks to the press after chairing a meeting with the medical staff of the Rene Dubos hospital center, in Pontoise, in the Val d'Oise, on October 23, 2020,

French President Emmanuel Macron. Photo: AFP

Macron said under the new measures, starting on Friday, people would only be allowed to leave home for essential work or medical reasons.

Non-essential businesses, such as restaurants and bars, will close, but schools and factories will remain open.

Covid daily deaths in France are at the highest level since April. On Tuesday, 33,000 new cases were confirmed.

Macron said the country risked being "overwhelmed by a second wave that no doubt will be harder than the first".

The president said that people would need to fill in a form to justify leaving their homes, as was required in the initial lockdown in March.

Germany limits gatherings

Germany will also have a November lockdown but schools and shops will stay open, Chancellor Angela Merkel has said, calling for a "major national effort" to fight coronavirus.

28 October 2020, Berlin: Chancellor Angela Merkel puts on her face mask at the end of a press conference in the Chancellery after a meeting with the prime ministers of the Länder on how to proceed in the corona pandemic.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: Reuters POOL via AFP

Social contacts will be limited to two households, and bars, catering and leisure facilities will shut.

Covid daily deaths have risen above 500 there and officials say everything must be done so it "does not overwhelm us".

EU special adviser Prof Peter Piot has warned that some 1000 Europeans are now dying every day from the virus.

Night curfews are in force in several countries, including for 46 million people in France. However, one minister has complained that they have failed to halt social interactions.

"[The curfew] has simply shifted them - instead of getting together at 21:00, people meet up at six," the unnamed minister was quoted as saying.

The German government is keen to enable families and friends to meet at Christmas, but daily infections have soared to a new high of 14,964, with 85 more deaths reported in the latest 24-hour period.

Ireland imposed tight measures last week with the aim of reopening before Christmas and Italy shut cinemas and gyms this week in an attempt to "save Christmas". Now the UK government is under pressure to act too.

What do we know?

A broad but limited German lockdown will now start on Monday 2 November, under terms agreed during a video conference involving Merkel and the 16 state premiers:

  • Schools and kindergartens will remain open
  • Social contacts will be limited to two households with a maximum of 10 people and tourism will be halted
  • Bars will close and restaurants will be limited to takeaways
  • Tattoo and massage parlours will shut
  • Smaller companies badly hit by the lockdown will be reimbursed with up to 75 percent of their November 2019 takings
  • Merkel and the state premiers are expected to reconvene on 11 November to reassess the situation

"We have to act now," the chancellor explained, to avoid a national emergency.

How are infections spreading?

While Western Europe has seen numbers returning to levels last seen during the initial wave, there are also big rises in Central and Eastern Europe.

Prof Piot, who's head of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said on Wednesday "the situation is very serious and risks getting worse".

"Deaths are rising also: last week about one-third more deaths than the week before which means that about 1000 Europeans die per day from Covid."

In his role of special adviser to the president of the European Commission, he said currently an average of 60 percent of people in the EU wore masks and if that rose to 95 percent then hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved.

  • In Russia, Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova has warned of a critical situation in hospital bed capacity in 16 regions. Five regions are at 95 percent capacity, she says. Masks are now required in crowded public places across Russia.
  • In the Siberian city of Omsk, two ambulances were unable to find beds for Covid patients, so they turned on their sirens outside the health authority headquarters in protest. After more than 12 hours, beds were found in a hospital said by a member of staff to be "bursting at the seams".
  • Poland on Wednesday announced a further 18,820 cases and 236 deaths.
  • Belgium has reached its highest number of hospitalisations in a single day (689) since the Covid-19 pandemic began. The number of deaths has now surpassed 11,000.
  • Spain has recorded 267 more deaths - the highest number since 1 May.
  • Night curfews start at 9pm today in the Czech Republic - except for working, walking the dog or urgent medical needs. Shops shut at 8pm. The country has again recorded more than 15,000 new cases.


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