Minggu, 01 November 2020

‘Bleak midwinter’ in Europe as quarter of a billion face lockdown -

More than a quarter of a billion Europeans are now in, or facing, fresh lockdowns after a second wave of COVID-19 deluged the continent.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson grudgingly announced on the weekend that the 55 million residents of England would head into a four-week lockdown – even as some Brits headed off to Spain for autumn holidays.

The UK nations of Wales and Northern Island are already in coronavirus lockdown and Scotland has warned it may be forced to ramp up restrictions following the move in England.

Britain joins a host of other nations, including France, Germany, Greece, Belgium, Ireland, Austria and the Czech Republic, in imposing new lockdowns.

It’s been dubbed the “bleak midwinter” as more than 250 million Europeans are now being told to stay at home for all of November.

Other countries, such as Italy, Portugal and Spain, have imposed restrictions at a regional level and have warned they also may go into full lockdown mode.

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On Saturday, the UK PM said a four-week lockdown from November 5 was vital to avert a “medical and moral disaster” for the country’s health service, the NHS.

He said deaths could reach “several thousand a day” and could peak above that of April’s lockdown.

Mr Johnson had previously vowed not to put England into a second lockdown, relying on regional restrictions to fight outbreaks. However rising numbers – 22,000 new cases on Saturday alone – have pushed the UK into the one million coronavirus infections club.

Like the initial lockdown, people will be encouraged to work from home; pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops will shut; and people will be prevented from mixing with others outside of a “support bubble”.

However, the lockdown will be looser as schools and universities will remain open.

“Christmas is going to be different this year, perhaps very different, but it’s my sincere hope and belief that by taking tough action now we can allow families across the country to be together,” Mr Johnson said.

But senior UK Minister Michael Gove has warned the lockdown could last beyond the December 2 end date unless infection rates dropped significantly.

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Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, who heads Britain’s business lobby, said the second lockdown must be used to bolster the UK’s handling of the pandemic to prevent a third.

“For many businesses, a second lockdown marks the start of a bleak midwinter,” she said.

A two-week lockdown in Wales is due to come to an end just as neighbouring England’s restrictions begin.

There was fury in the principality, which has a population slightly larger than Western Australia, when supermarkets were allowed to remain open but could sell only essential items so as not to harm the sales of other shops forced to close.

This meant products such as duvets, frying pans and underwear were on the shelves but could not be purchased, leading customers to demand they be allowed to deem what was and was not essential.

In late October, Ireland became the first European country to reintroduce lockdown measures.

“I understand, and I feel very personally and profoundly, the sense of disappointment, the feelings of loneliness, perhaps even the despair that this announcement will bring for many,” Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) Micheál Martin said.

“The days are getting shorter and colder but I ask you to remember this: Even as the winter comes in, there is hope. And there is light.”

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Statistically speaking, Belgium has been the European nation hardest hit by COVID-19 with more than 100 deaths per 100,000 population.

From Monday, a strict lockdown will be accompanied by a curfew for up to six weeks.

Belgium has been challenged by its small geographic size but highly devolved regional governments which has meant virus restrictions have varied, in some cases, from one town to another.

Meanwhile in France, a cumulative 700km traffic jam choked the streets of the greater Paris region as residents streamed out of the city to spend a second lockdown in the country where many have second homes.

Anyone leaving their home will have to fill out an “attestation” form declaring their reason for doing so.

President Emmanuel Macron declared the country was being “overwhelmed” by coronavirus with 36,000 new cases on a single day last week. Half of France’s intensive care beds are now filled with COVID-19 patients, reports the UK’s Sky News.

Borders will be closed to non-EU nations and residents will have to remain within their region.

In contrast, Germany is often held out as a shining example of handling the pandemic. But even it is now seeing a surge of cases, albeit at a lower level than France.

Its lockdown begins on November 2. It will be a lighter touch lockdown than the UK or other countries with shops and schools allowed to remain open and indoor gatherings still permitted.

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The Czech Republic and Greece, two countries which successfully avoided a COVID catastrophe earlier in the year, are also imposing new restrictions.

Cases are rising in Greece but it’s still doing better than many of its neighbours. Bars, cafes, cinemas and gyms will have to close for one month.

Italy and Spain have yet to impose national lockdowns but tensions are high nonetheless.

Italy’s government is eyeing a lockdown of the country’s major cities, including Milan, Rome and Naples, to try to slow the alarming rise in infections, local media reported.

“We are meeting with experts and considering whether to intervene again,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told newspaper Il Foglio.

Even before those restrictions are discussed, protests have broken out in some parts of Italy railing against current measures.

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An unauthorised protest in Florence late on Friday turned violent. Clashes broke out between police in riot gear and protesters, some of whom hurled Molotov cocktails, bottles and rocks, overturning bins and breaking security cameras, reported AFP.

The protests came as Italy reported over 31,000 new virus cases on Friday, breaking a daily record.

Spain is still relying on local restrictions rather than countrywide lockdowns. Police have been out in force on main roads and railways stations to stop people leaving Madrid as regional borders are closed.


Despite the increasing number of lockdowns, a number of countries with lower infection rates are holding out against major restrictions.

The Nordic nations of Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland are largely lockdown-free.

Sweden, which has relied on voluntary guidance rather than legal enforcement, is seeing an increase in cases. But deaths remain low.

The Government there has asked residents of Stockholm and Gothenburg to avoid heading indoors to gyms and shops in an attempt to reduce infections.

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2020-11-02 01:43:30Z

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