Chancellor Angela Merkel urged German citizens to gather as they did in the spring to slow the spread of the coronavirus as the country posted another daily record of new cases on Saturday.
“Hard months are ahead of us,” he says in his weekly video podcast. “How winter will be, how will our Christmas be, it will all be determined in the days and weeks to come, and it will be determined by our behavior.”
Meanwhile, new restrictions have come into effect in several other European countries in an effort to stop the pandemic’s rise.
In Paris and eight other French cities, restaurants, bars, cinemas and other places were forced to close by 9 p.m. to try to reduce contact between people. The country has deployed an additional 12,000 police officers to enforce the new rules.
Many restaurant owners were angry at the order. Previous months of lockdown devastated this sector.
“I have the right to question the government’s approach, I think it’s a catastrophic move for the industry,” said Xavier Denamur, owner of Les Philosophes and several other bistros in Paris’s chic Le Marais district, saying that if nothing else, the curfew should be 11 nights
“At least it won’t destroy us,” he said. “There is no evidence that this difference of several hours will have any impact on circulating viruses.”
In the UK, the three tier regional approach to fighting the pandemic introduced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson is taking effect, with each tier imposing increasingly stringent restrictions.
On Saturday, tier 2 cities such as London and York were banned from socializing with people from other households indoors, while the Lancashire area joined Liverpool in tier 3 with the strictest restrictions.
Among other things, it means that pubs are forced to close and socializing with other people is prohibited even in many places outdoors.
In Northern Ireland, a four-week lockdown goes into effect Friday. All pubs and restaurants must be closed except for the take-out service, and schools will be closed for two weeks for an extended half semester holiday.
Data from Friday showed that another 136 people died in the UK in 28 days of testing positive for the coronavirus, bringing the official total to 43,429.
The World Health Organization has warned that intensive care units in several European cities could reach their maximum capacity in the coming weeks if the number of infections does not slow down.
Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg joins a list of top politicians who have tested positive for the virus, and are quarantined even though he is asymptomatic, his office told Austrian news agency APA.
The Vatican, meanwhile, said someone staying at the same hotel as Pope Francis tested positive for the virus, adding to the 11 COVID-19 cases among the Swiss Guards protecting him.
In Germany, which is widely praised for rapidly slowing the spread of the virus when the pandemic first emerged, the numbers have been increasing rapidly.
On Saturday, the country’s center for disease control, the Robert Koch Institute, reported 7,830 cases overnight, a new record.
Like most countries, Germany has grappled with how to keep schools and businesses open while trying to prevent people from making close contact with one another.
Germany has registered a total of 356,387 coronavirus cases and a relatively low number of 9,767 deaths.
Merkel urged Germans to avoid unnecessary travel, cancel parties and stay home if possible.
“What helped us get through the first half of the pandemic?” she asked. “That’s because we stand together and obey the rules with reason and common sense. This is the most effective treatment we have today against the pandemic and is more needed now than ever. “
In neighboring Czech Republic, the number of new infections surpassed 10,000 for the first time, jumping to 11,105 on Friday, the Health Ministry said. The country has now recorded a total of 160,112 cases, including 1,283 deaths.
Despite limiting new measures to slow the surge, Health Minister Roman Prymula said he still expects an increase in those who have tested positive for about two weeks.
Next door, Slovakia said it was obtaining 13 million rapid antigen tests – enough to test each member of the population twice – and would set up 6,000 test sites.
Prime Minister Igor Matovic said testing would take place over the next two weekends, starting with the three or four hardest-hit districts. It’s not clear whether the tests will be mandatory.
Italy’s northern Lombardy region, where the European outbreak began in late February, has taken new steps to contain rising infections, restricted bar services and alcohol sales, banned contact sports and closed bingo halls.
The local government late Friday asked middle schools to adopt a mixed schedule, with students taking turns studying online in person.
Action comes after Lombardy, Italy’s most populous region, has once again been the most affected, adding more than 2,000 infections every day. The hospital is under stress and the intensive care unit is full.
The new measures only allow table service for bars from 6 p.m., prohibit the sale of takeout alcohol from then on, and prohibit all alcohol consumption in public spaces.
Italy’s other worst-hit region, southern Campania, has taken similar strict measures, including two weeks of school closings. After the parents protested, the regional governor stepped down on Friday and allowed the childcare center to remain open.
In the capital, Rome, residents grumble as cases escalate, fearing a return to strict countrywide measures imposed when the virus spreads out of control.
“The situation is critical thanks to stupid people, because I call them stupid, who don’t respect the rules,” said resident Mario Massenzi. “And if we return to the same situation as in March, we’re done.”