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Europe’s Virus Battle Enters Next Stage With Partial Lockdowns
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Europe’s battle to check a dramatic surge in coronavirus infections is entering its next phase, with the continent’s two powerhouse economies clamping down on movement for at least a month while trying to limit the impact on business activity.
Germany will begin a partial shutdown Monday, with bars, restaurants, leisure facilities and cultural venues closed, while schools and most shops remain open. France started its version of “lockdown lite” on Friday, part of a series of tighter measures imposed by governments across Europe, where more than 215,000 people have died from the disease and nearly 7 million have been infected.
With protests multiplying and political unity fraying, officials are hoping they can bring the disease back under control as Europe heads into the winter, allowing them to avoid the sweeping restrictions that plunged the continent into recession in the spring.
99,321 in U.S.Most new cases today
-5% Change in MSCI World Index of global stocks since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23
-0.8588 Change in U.S. treasury bond yield since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23
4.7% Global GDP Tracker (annualized), Sept.
Here’s the latest in Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Spain:
After talks Wednesday with the country’s 16 regional premiers, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced measures to severely limit movement, while keeping schools open and the economy ticking over.
Merkel said that the country is in a “dramatic situation,” with health-care services stretched close to the limit and authorities no longer able to track infections back to their source.
If Germany waits until intensive care units are full, it will be too late, she said, warning of “four long and difficult winter months” ahead.
More than 19,000 new cases were reported on Friday, the second-highest daily number yet.
Officials insist the latest steps will broadly allow Europe’s biggest economy to continue to function, and Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said Friday the government still expects growth of 0.4% in the fourth quarter.
Merkel is struggling to retain control over the crisis. An address she made Thursday in parliament was repeatedly interrupted by heckling from opposition lawmakers as she condemned “lies and disinformation, conspiracy and hate.”
Boris Johnson’s government is sticking with its plan to tackle localized coronavirus hot spots rather than impose a national lockdown, amid growing warnings that tougher measures are needed.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Friday it would be “desperately unfair” to impose all-inclusive measures when Covid-19 rates vary so much across England, adding that the government is “striving to avoid” a broad shutdown. But he didn’t deny reports that it is considering adding a new tougher level of restrictions for the worst-hit areas of the country.
“We do think the situation is serious,” Raab told the BBC. “We’re confident we have got the right measures and framework in place, which is not to have a blanket approach but to target measures -- both restrictions but also financial support -- on the areas where the uptick is the highest.”
France’s goal is to limit the economic contraction to 15% during the latest lockdown, about half of the 30% decline during the one that started in March, according to Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire.
That was caused in particular by a halt to construction work, while this time building sites and stores selling building materials will remain open, as well as government services handling permits.
The announcement of the new curbs came less than a week after France expanded a curfew to about two thirds of the population. “Virus is circulating in France at a speed that even the most pessimistic forecast didn’t foresee,” President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday in an address to the nation.
On Friday, France reported the mostnew deaths since April 20, the same day the first lockdown went into effect.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s cabinet is not expected to make any decisions on possible new restrictions until next week, as the premier insists more time is needed to assess the efficacy of the most recent measures in the original epicenter of the pandemic on the continent.
A next round of restrictions could involve targeted shutdowns of entire urban areas, possibly including hard-hit Milan and Naples, local media have reported. The country could still go into a near-full lockdown as soon as Nov. 9 if infection figures continue spiking, according to daily Il Messaggero.
Italy has already set an 11 p.m. curfew, curtailed operating hours for restaurants and bars, and shut down gyms, swimming pools and entertainment venues.
Reported new cases exceeded 30,000 on Friday for thefirst time since the pandemic began.
A majority of Spain’s 17 regions have already closed their domestic borders or will do so this week, preventing non-essential travel.
Targeted regional lockdowns will remain in force until after Nov. 9, and cover consecutive bank-holiday weekends, which would typically lead to massive flows of travelers moving across the country.
Regional authorities have extraordinary powers to declare curbs on movement after Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced a state of emergency on Oct. 25. Spain this week reported more than 9,000 daily coronavirus infections on two consecutive days, the most since tracking started.
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— With assistance by Stuart Biggs, Jerrold Colten, Rodrigo Orihuela, and Rudy Ruitenberg