Alarm over Covid case rates in 19 European countries
Spain and Luxembourg have reported more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people in the past two weeksEuropost
Nineteen European countries have crossed a key threshold of new coronavirus infections, with Spain’s figures particularly worrying. According to figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the countries have recorded cumulative 14-day infection totals higher than 20 per 100,000 inhabitants, considered an early alarm level by many health experts.
Luxembourg and Spain have reported more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people in the past two weeks, the figures show, with Malta recording more than 80, Belgium more than 60, and France and the Netherlands more than 40. The UK has 20.
Spain reported on Monday a total of 1,833 new infections in the past 24 hours, bringing its seven-day total to 32,329. The daily figure provided by the health ministry was lower than Friday’s post-lockdown record of 2,987, but infection statistics in many European countries often dip on Mondays due to diagnosis and reporting delays on Sunday.
Four more Spanish regions imposed new laws intended to curb the spread of the virus, including closing nightclubs and obliging bars and restaurants to shut by 1am, joining two that began applying the measures – which also include limits on visits to retirement homes – on Sunday. In total, 59,162 cases have been detected across Spain in the past two weeks, leading public health experts to warn the country is in a critical moment in its ongoing battle against the virus.
Last week nine scientific organisations published a joint letter warning that the recent surge in cases could risk a “collapse” of the country’s healthcare system. “If the situation continues and new measures are not adopted, there is a high probability that we will again face the situation seen during the state of alarm,” it noted.
Health officials have played down these fears, pointing to the fact that the majority of cases being detected are among people under 65 years old. As a result, they said, the number of deaths remain relatively low at 54 in the past week.
In Germany, which announced a comparatively low 561 new cases on Monday, the health minister said large gatherings and celebrations were the main source of new cases. Weddings would be under threat if numbers continued to rise, Jens Spahn said, adding that while returning holidaymakers accounted for many new cases, domestic outbreaks were just as significant. Big parties could “spread the virus very, very fast”, he said.
In France, where Monday’s new infections figure was 493, also well down on the 3,000-plus reported on the two previous days, a government spokesman said riot police would be dispatched to Marseille, which along with the greater Paris area was this weekend classed as a Covid-19 “red zone” to ensure stricter rules on mask-wearing and social distancing were observed. The Île-de-France region around the French capital also announced tougher measures in care homes, including mandatory tests for all new care home workers and residents as well as those returning from holiday.
The French public health agency described the situation as “preoccupying”, adding that “all indicators continue to progress and the transmission of the virus is accelerating”. It said all age groups were affected but most particularly young adults, and most infections were taking place outside of recognised clusters. A historical theme park, the Puy du Fou, drew a storm of protest on social media after the local prefecture allowed it to organise an event attended by 9,000 people, far exceeding a government limit on gatherings of more than 5,000.
Opposition politicians and workers in France’s otherwise stricken arts sector said the park’s owner, a former conservative cabinet minister and friend of President Emmanuel Macron, had benefited from special favour. The culture minister, Roselyne Bachelot, denied this, saying the park had followed distancing requirements.
The Czech Republic, which has so far reported about 20,000 cases in total and just 397 deaths, said face masks would be compulsory again from 1 September on public transport and in many indoor public venues because of a resurgence of infections. The country was among the first in Europe to order people to wear masks in most public places in March, but lifted the requirement when infections fell.
“We consider this to be a preventative measure given that we are probably facing a complicated autumn, especially after 1 September when there will be high social interaction,” the health minister, Adam Vojtěch, said on Monday.