A second wave of Covid-19 appears to be striking Europe, forcing Spain to reimpose lockdowns and cases spiking to a three-month high in Greece.
The head of Germany’s doctors’ union has declared that the country is already in the midst of its second wave because people have flouted social distancing rules.
And France’s top scientific committee has warned the virus ‘could at any moment tip into a scenario that is less under control’.
Greece’s prime minister has urged the country to maintain social distancing after it recorded 121 new cases yesterday, the highest daily tally since April 22.
Italy – once the sickman of Europe – has managed to avoid an uptick, but two cruise ships are now quarantined in the Civitavecchia port in Rome.
Spain saw 8,500 new cases over the weekend; an all-inclusive resort in Majorca was shutdown and two towns north of Madrid have been put under strict lockdown.
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How Covid-19 cases have changed in Spain, Belgium, Finland, Greece, France, Ireland, Germany, Italy, the UK, Luxembourg and Europe overall. The biweekly growth rate on any given date measures the percentage change in the number of new confirmed cases over the last 14 days relative to the number in the previous 14 days
Biweekly change in confirmed COVID-19 cases in Europe
The biweekly map shows how most countries in Europe have reported between a 25 and 200 per cent increase in cases in the past two weeks
People wearing protective face masks walk at the Trocadero square near the Eiffel Tower in Paris as France reinforces mask-wearing as part of efforts to curb a resurgence of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) across the country, August 3, 2020
A woman asks a health worker about the voluntary testing for covid-19 that is taking place in Ripollet, Barcelona, Spain, 05 August 2020
So what is the situation in countries that are reporting increasing cases?
Finland today announced it plans to reintroduce recommendations to work from home whenever possible just days after dropping it, due to a rise in COVID-19 cases.
By August 1, Finland’s cases had risen by more than 300 per cent in two weeks.
Finnish health authorities today recorded 29 new cases, raising the seven-day total to 98 from 52 in the previous seven days, Reuters reported.
‘The rise in infections gives reason to consider continuing remote working …where it is possible,’ Minister of Social Affairs and Health Aino-Kaisa Pekonen wrote on Twitter, adding she had asked for official guidelines to be updated accordingly.
The recommendation in favour of remote working had ended at the end of July.
New infections remained very low throughout June and July, allowing Finns to enjoy their summer holiday season in relative security but prompting some to flout social distancing rules.
The COVID-19 epidemic in Finland, which has suffered 7,512 cases and 331 deaths, peaked in March and April.
The quick introduction of containment measures including travel restrictions and the closure of schools and restaurants helped curb the number of infections.
Authorities in France are grappling with a sharp increase in fresh cases which has seen more than 7,000 new infections within the last week, as well as a rise in the number of people being treated for the disease in intensive care.
Around 1,219 new cases are being reported per day. But two weeks ago, the seven-day rolling average was 719.
At its lowest point at the end of May, the country was recording around 272 new cases per day.
The scientific committee said that the situation was ‘under control, but precarious. We could at any moment tip into a scenario that is less under control.’
It added: ‘The short term future of the pandemic mainly lies in the hands of the population. It is highly likely that we will experience a second epidemic wave this autumn or winter.’
The statement said the virus ‘has recently been circulating more actively, with an increased loss of distancing and barrier measures’ since France emerged from its strict two-month lockdown in May.
‘The balance is fragile and we can change course at any time to a less controlled scenario like in Spain for example,’ it said.
The warning came as authorities grapple with a sharp increase in fresh cases which has seen more than 7,000 new infections within the last week (graphic showing growing number of daily coronavirus cases in France)
The country also reported 29 new coronavirus-related deaths which takes the confirmed total to 30,265 since the pandemic began – one of Europe’s highest death tolls (graphic showing growing number of daily coronavirus deaths in France)
Several French cities have now toughened their face mask rules and made it mandatory to wear outdoors in busy areas of cities such as Lille, Nice and Biarritz (pictured)
HOW MANY CASES ARE BEING REPORTED IN EACH COUNTRY?
The seven-day rolling average for each country today or yesterday compared to two weeks ago, on July 22:
In Germany, Susanne Johna, head of the doctors’ union, told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper on Tuesday: ‘We are already in a second, shallow upswing.’
Some 730 cases have been reported each day on average this week, against the 460 being recorded per day two weeks ago.
Ms Johna said there was a danger that a longing to return to normality and a suppression of containment measures would fritter away the success Germany had achieved so far, urging people to stick to social distancing and hygiene rules and wear masks.
Europe’s biggest economy has so far withstood the pandemic with far fewer deaths than some large neighbours like France and Italy, owing to widespread testing, a well-equipped healthcare system and good adherence to social distancing.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 879 to 211,281, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Tuesday. The reported death toll rose by eight to 9,156, the tally showed.
Johna said hospitals were prepared and would make intensive care beds available to COVID-19 patients on a staggered basis, while at the same time gradually reducing the number of planned admissions to normal wards.
According to the DIVI intensive care register there are almost 21,000 intensive care beds in Germany, of which some 12,200 are currently free. As of Monday, there were 270 COVID-19 patients in intensive care, of whom 130 were being ventilated.
A survey of 3,600 people carried out by Mannheim University found that pandemic fatigue was beginning to take hold, and roughly 50 per cent of those involved now socialise several times a week, in comparison with 30 per cent in May and just 10 per cent in late March.
On Saturday, just under 20,000 people gathered in Berlin to protest against Germany’s coronavirus regulations.
Many flouted guidance on wearing masks and physical distancing during the demonstration dubbed ‘Day of Freedom’.
The number of daily confirmed coronavirus cases has ticked up steadily in recent weeks
On Saturday, just under 20,000 people gathered in Berlin to protest against Germany’s coronavirus regulations
In Spain, a hotel in Majorca on Sunday became the first on the holiday island to close after an outbreak of coronavirus saw ten staff fall sick.
The Club Cala Barca is not accepting any new bookings and closed its doors for disinfection over the weekend after the last guests left.
The outbreak was first detected last week when a worker fell ill, and 192 more tests uncovered another nine infections among staff and four more among their relatives.
Bosses say no guests are showing symptoms and they do not have any plans to test visitors, since all staff are required to socially distance.
It comes as Spain announced 8,500 new coronavirus cases across the country at the weekend – its largest jump in three months – bringing its total to 297,054.
Yesterday 5,760 cases were recorded in 24 hours, the highest since the height of Europe’s pandemic, on April 23, when 6,740 cases were diagnosed.
It means Spain’s seven-day rolling average is hovering around 3,200 — ten times the figure one month ago.
Spain is the worst-hit nation in Europe at the moment, with many of its neighbours including Italy, Germany and the UK, recommending against travelling there.
Elsewhere in Spain, two towns are back in lockdown after a coronavirus outbreak at a poultry farm left 49 workers infected.
Around 10,000 people living in Iscar and Pedrajas, 80 miles north of Madrid, were told to remain in their homes for all-but essential business, starting this week.
The Club Cala Barca hotel, in Mallorca, has been forced to close after an outbreak of the virus saw 10 staff infected along with four of their relatives
Extra police and a helicopter have been drafted in to stop people leaving their homes for non-essential business.
Rule-breakers will face on-the-spot fines as mayors of both towns accused people of not taking advice seriously, including failing to wear masks and socially distance.
The outbreak started after a worker at a local slaughterhouse fell ill and was tested positive.
Trackers traced numerous contacts, including other workers who had travelled in the same car, family members and friends and other people with whom they had mixed.
So far, 22 of the 49 positives work at the slaughterhouse.
The new lockdown will remain in place for 14 days, during which time nobody will be allowed to leave the towns but will be allowed to travel between them.
Meanwhile in Lleida, 80 miles west of Barcelona, a business has been forcibly closed after inspectors discovered 19 staff were still working despite having the virus.
Owners of the business had initially refused to comply with regulations meaning staff had to be tested.
They eventually agreed, but insisted that only staff who volunteered for the tests should have them. Ninety people took the tests, and 38 tested positive.
When inspectors returned for a follow-up six days later, they found that 19 people were still at work, despite the positive test result.
Officials did not name the affected business, or say what work the staff were doing.
Greece’s prime minister warned on Wednesday that new restrictions may be needed if a worrying rise in daily cases does not abate.
Greece reported 121 new cases on Tuesday, the highest tally since April 22 and part of a surge of what appears to be mainly domestic infections.
The seven-day rolling average is now at 82, which is almost as high as its peak in the first week of April – when 93 cases were being reported per day.
‘Any form of complacency is unjustified,’ Kyriakos Mitsotakis said. ‘We still don’t know how …many months we will be forced to live with the virus.’
In spring, Greece fared better than other countries in controlling the spread of COVID 19 mainly due to targeted lockdowns followed by nationwide curbs imposed during March.
Mitsotakis described the registered rise in infections, three months after restrictions were eased, as ‘worrying’.
Total cases have reached 4,855, with data showing the virus affecting more younger people than before. Experts say that could be due either to an increase in tests or because more visitors have been tested during Greece’s peak tourism season.
‘Strict adherence to the rules is demanded even more at this crucial turn, to prevent a new significant rise in cases in August and the adoption of possible new restrictive measures which will hurt the economy and society,’ Mitsotakis said.
Britain’s coronavirus outbreak is still growing as officials recorded another 892 cases today — causing the average daily number of infections to shoot up again.
Department of Health bosses say 820 Britons are now being struck down with the life-threatening virus every day, on average. The rate has been rising since dropping to a four-month low of 546 on July 8.
The figures add to mounting fears of a second wave in Britain, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson understood to be ‘extremely concerned’ about cases bubbling up in the UK and in other European nations.
But the number of patients being admitted to hospital has yet to spike, bolstering claims from top scientists that the outbreak is not getting worse and cases are only rising because more patients are being tested.
Aberdeen today became the latest city to be put back into lockdown as pubs, cafes and restaurants were shut. Officials last week imposed tough new restrictions on 4.5million people living in Greater Manchester and parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire to curb spiralling coronavirus rates.