Coronavirus deaths have nearly doubled today in Italy and at least nine European countries have recorded a record number of new cases.
Financial markets plunged on Thursday as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland recorded their highest daily number of infections ever checked in.
The increase in testing capacity means it is impossible to compare these numbers to the first wave of spring, but the continent is seeing an increase in hospitalizations and deaths.
Italy recorded 83 more deaths, an increase of almost double the 43 deaths on Wednesday, but still far less than at the height of the pandemic, when a daily peak of more than 900 deaths was reached.
Civil protection staff prepare beds for the field hospital for possible COVID-19 patients in Turin, Italy, Thursday
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland recorded the highest number of infections on Thursday.
Deaths from the virus have also started to increase, although they are still well below their first wave peak, as better tests find more mild cases and better treatment improves survival rates.
Coronavirus cases have increased across Europe and are now above the peak of the first wave in most countries. The Netherlands and the Czech Republic have become the continent’s new hotspots, Germany, Italy and Sweden without lockdown
The main German index, the DAX, fell well below 2% on Thursday
Paris CAC 40 was shaken by developments on the continent today
London’s FTSE 100 index took a similar hit on Thursday amid rising coronavirus infections
Germany, which recorded a record 6,638 cases, reported 33 new deaths on Thursday, triple the figure recorded a week ago, although still fewer than its European neighbors.
France has reported more than 100 deaths per day on average this week, the UK 110 and Spain 160.
Major European stock indexes fell well below 2% for fear of what the new lockdowns would bring.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and the 16 German state governors – responsible for imposing and lifting restrictions – agreed on Wednesday evening to tighten mask-wearing rules, close bars early and limit the number of people may congregate in areas with high infection rates. But these decisions “are unlikely to be enough,” Merkel’s chief of staff Helge Braun told ARD television.
“We must stop this exponential increase, the sooner the better,” said Merkel, stressing that neighboring European countries must take “very drastic measures”.
This week, the Netherlands closed bars and restaurants and the Czech Republic closed schools.
The Czech health ministry confirmed more than 9,500 new cases of the virus on Wednesday, more than 900 more than the previous record several days old.
The government announced Thursday that the military will set up a virus hospital at the Prague Exhibition Center.
Angela Merkel announced new restrictions in places where infections are above 35 per 100,000, and tightened rules in places above 50 infections per 100,000
The Czech Republic has the highest infection rates in Europe, with comparable figures in the worst-affected regions of Britain, France and Spain
“We need to build capacity as quickly as possible,” Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said. “We do not have the time. The prognosis is not good.
The governor of the German state of Bavaria said his region had received a request for treatment of Czech COVID-19 patients.
In France, which reported more than 22,000 new infections on Wednesday, President Emmanuel Macron put 18 million people in nine regions, including Paris, under a 9 p.m. curfew as of Saturday.
France will deploy 12,000 police officers to enforce the curfew and spend an additional 1 billion euros ($ 1.2 billion) to help businesses affected by the new restrictions.
“Our compatriots thought that this health crisis was behind us,” Prime Minister Jean Castex said. “But we can’t live normally as long as the virus is here.
Daily cases in the Czech Republic hit a record high of 9,544 today after the country’s relative success in the spring gave way to a massive second wave in the fall.
The Czech Republic has recorded 66 new deaths today, and unlike most countries in Western Europe, the daily death rate is higher than in the first wave of the pandemic.
As Macron’s government tackles the resurgence of infections, French police on Thursday searched the homes of a former prime minister, former and current health ministers and other senior officials as part of a investigating the government’s response to the pandemic.
It has been triggered by dozens of complaints in recent months, including over shortages of masks and other equipment.
Aurélien Rousseau, director of the public health agency for the Paris region, said nearly half of its intensive care beds are now occupied by patients with coronavirus, with other hospital beds also filling up quickly.
“It’s kind of a spring tide that affects everyone simultaneously,” Rousseau said. “We had a blind spot in our monitoring policies. It was the private sphere, the festive events.
Poland on Thursday recorded a record of nearly 9,000 new cases. Masks have been mandatory outside since Saturday and strict limits have been placed on the size of gatherings.
Portugal has decided to limit social gatherings to a maximum of five people, while preparing to make masks mandatory outside and to impose fines on those who break the rules.
Even Sweden, which has taken a very controversial approach of keeping large swathes of society open, raised the prospect of tighter restrictions.
“Too many people don’t play by the rules,” Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said. “If there is no correction here, we need to take more specific action.” He didn’t elaborate.
In Germany, the Frankish governor of Bavaria, Markus Soeder, has insisted on the importance of acting now, saying that “anything that comes later will cost more”.
“I would even go so far as to say that the prosperity of Europe is at stake,” he said.