Europe and US pass virus milestones as France locks down

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Europe weathered 10 million coronavirus infections, the US surpassed nine million and France imposed a new lockdown on Friday as the resurgent pandemic increasingly forced other countries to ponder lawsuits.

Belgium was the youngest European country to tighten restrictions as virus numbers skyrocketed across the continent. According to an AFP tally, 41 percent more cases were recorded this week than in the previous seven days.

Europe is currently seeing 241,000 new cases per day – compared to 15,000 in early July – and accounted for about half of the world’s infections last week.

14 European countries have now registered a record number of hospitalizations related to the virus this week.

The virus is also on the rise in the United States, which posted a daily record of 91,295 new cases on Thursday and topped the 90,000 mark for the first time just days before the country’s presidential election.

The total number of cases was nine million while 229,000 people have died from the disease in the United States.

President Donald Trump further downplayed the dangers of the virus, telling a cheering crowd at a rally in Tampa that bans under his Democratic rival Joe Biden would ban normal life.

“We’ll never lock again,” Trump said ahead of the November 3rd vote, telling fans that his most recent fight with COVID-19 – which he was hospitalized for – proved he can be beaten.

Also in Tampa, Biden responded by saying, “I’m not going to grind the economy, I’m not going to grind the country. I’m going to grind the virus.”

Italy posted its own daily infection record on Friday, fueling the debate over whether to follow France into a national lockdown.

“Over 31,000 cases and 199 deaths. I ask you a question: what are you waiting for?” The virologist Roberto Burioni tweeted.

A new U.S. government study found that people infected with COVID-19 infect around half of members of their household, with adults only slightly more likely to spread the virus than children.

“I have no choice”

Belgium, which has the highest number of COVID-19 cases per capita worldwide, said it would impose stricter lockdown rules, close non-essential businesses and limit household visits from Monday.

France’s 65 million people awoke to a new lockdown Friday, mostly confined to their homes and requiring written explanations to leave.

However, some medical professionals voiced concerns that steady traffic and significant numbers of people on public transport in Paris showed that the public did not take the lockdown as seriously the second time around.

“Today’s crossing of Paris looked more like an ordinary day than the first day of a lockdown,” tweeted the director of Paris hospitals, Martin Hirsch.

“We don’t have a choice, we have to live, shop and act like it’s normal even with some security in place,” said Fabrice Angelique, 18, who bought headphones from a book and electronics store in Paris.

According to official figures on Friday, a total of 49,215 new cases were registered in France within 24 hours.

Nottingham was the youngest of a host of cities in central and northern England to enter the highest level of local restrictions on Friday. The 2.4 million residents of Leeds will follow suit next week.

Czech lawmakers voted to extend the state of emergency until November 20, while Iceland ordered bars and nightclubs to be closed and public gatherings limited to no more than 10 people.

However, there has been resistance to measures to combat the virus. On Friday there were clashes between protesters and police against mobility restrictions in the Spanish city of Barcelona.

“Existential Threat”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he had no plans to put in place a comprehensive lockdown despite the country seeing record charges with reports of hospital ambulance queues and medical bottlenecks.

In some countries, however, there were glimmers of hope – sometimes controversial.

In Slovakia, a government program was due to begin on Saturday to screen the entire population of 5.4 million people for coronavirus with antigen tests.

And in Italy, pharmacists are facing a huge surge in demand for a niche product – of previously unproven effectiveness against COVID – that is usually marketed as a baby’s immune system strengthener.

Demand for lactoferrin comes weeks after a viral video suggested it could help protect against coronavirus.

There was also some good news for soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, who tested negative for COVID-19 and will exit isolation in Italy on October 13th after a positive result.

However, Russian Alexander Vedernikov, chief conductor of the Royal Danish Orchestra and former music director of the famous Moscow Bolshoi Theater, died of coronavirus on Friday.

Follow the latest news on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

© 2020 AFP

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