A medical crew is treating a COVID-19 patient in the intensive care unit at the Joseph Imbert Hospital Center in Arles, southern France, on Wednesday October 28, 2020. Many French doctors are calling for a new nationwide lockdown, finding 58% of patients The country’s intensive care units are now occupied by COVID patients and the medical staff is under increasing strain. (AP Photo / Daniel Cole)
A new wave of lockdowns and shop closings hit France, Germany and other locations in Europe on Wednesday as rising coronavirus infections there and in the US erased months of struggle against the Scourge on two continents.
The resurgence and the ensuing crackdown shuddered financial markets and stocks fell.
French President Emmanuel Macron declared a new nationwide lockdown on Friday, saying the country had “been overwhelmed by a second wave”. Many doctors had requested the move as 58% of the country’s intensive care units are now occupied by COVID-19 patients.
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a four-week closure of bars, restaurants and theaters. “We must act now to avoid an acute national health emergency,” she said.
Countries like Switzerland, Italy, Bulgaria and Greece have closed or otherwise re-trapped nightspots and imposed other restrictions such as curfews and the wearing of masks. Madrid and other parts of Spain have banned all travel to and from their regions.
“We are deep in the second wave,” said the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. “I think this year’s Christmas will be a different Christmas.”
In the United States, where virtually every state has seen a surge in cases, Democratic Governor Tony Evers of hard-hit Wisconsin was reduced to asking people to stay home after an order issued earlier this year was overturned by the courts . The governor of Illinois banned eating and drinking indoors in Chicago this week. Other states are also considering reintroducing restrictions.
The Exam Corp Lab staff member, right, wears a mask as she speaks to a patient queuing for COVID-19 testing in Niles, Ill., Wednesday, October 21, 2020. (AP Photo / Nam Y. Huh)
The virus has been blamed for more than 250,000 deaths in Europe and about 227,000 in the US, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The long-feared surge is due in part to increased disregard for social distancing and the wearing of masks, as well as the onset of cold weather forcing people indoors, where the virus can spread more easily.
Dr. David Letzer, an infectious disease specialist who also chairs the Wisconsin Medical Society’s COVID-19 task force and is inundated with patients, said he was outraged to see people without a mask go to a restaurant while driving between hospitals .
“I’ve just come from a place with fans and people just go to an indoor restaurant,” he said. “Those are the things that are frustrating and take their toll.”
In the US, an average of more than 71,000 people test positive each day, up from 51,000 two weeks ago. Cases are increasing in all but two states, Hawaii and Delaware, and deaths are increasing in 39 states. In the US, an average of 805 people die each day, up from 714 two weeks ago.
Medical assistant Aneka Gopaulsingh gives Julian Bernstein a swab in the new COVID-19 test facility XpresCheck at Boston Logan International Airport on Wednesday, October 28, 2020 in Boston. The test site is open to airport and airline employees and will be open to passengers and the general public in mid-November. (AP Photo / Elise Amendola)
One of the worst trouble spots of all, Wisconsin set a record Tuesday for the number of daily infections at nearly 5,300 and deaths at 64. Less than 13% of the state’s intensive care beds were available as of Tuesday, according to the Wisconsin Hospital Association.
“It’s absolutely exhausting right now,” said Dr. Jeff Pothof, Chief Quality Officer at UW Health, the hospital and medical arm of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Almost a third of COVID-19 patients are in the intensive care unit and fill all three wings of the intensive care unit. Some require personal attention around the clock.
“We throw everything at them to keep them alive,” he said.
The hospital has started training doctors and nurses to deal with the virus and is trying to convince retired doctors to get back to work, he said. Pothof said he worked 12 to 15 hours a day himself and was always on call.
In the northeast, which appeared to have got the virus under control over the summer, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo said the state is seeing record numbers of new infections and may need to bring back company restrictions that were eased months ago.
Nurses comfort a COVID-19 patient in the intensive care unit at the Joseph Imbert Hospital Center in Arles, southern France, Wednesday October 28, 2020. Many French doctors are calling for a new nationwide lockdown, noting that 58% of the country’s ICU patients are in the care units are now occupied by COVID patients and the medical staff is under increasing strain. (AP Photo / Daniel Cole)
“We’re in a bad place. These data are not encouraging. They are going in the wrong direction on every metric,” she said.
The S&P 500, Dow Jones Industrial Average, and Nasdaq were all in the red on Wall Street that afternoon amid fears that new lockdowns and business rollbacks would continue to weigh on economies.
After a devastatingly deadly spring, Europe appeared to have beaten the virus back in the summer. Their success was seen as a reproach to the United States and an example of what the US could achieve if Americans simply stopped their political struggles and listened to the scientists.
In the past week, more than 2 million new confirmed coronavirus cases were reported worldwide, the shortest time for such a surge, and 46% of those were in Europe.
Both Italy and Germany set records for new infections on Wednesday. Italy reported nearly 25,000 and Germany nearly 15,000 in a single day. France, Belgium, the Netherlands, most of Spain, and the Czech Republic are also seeing alarming rates of infection.
The nursing staff in protective equipment will look after a corona patient in a hospital in Essen on Wednesday, October 28, 2020. People with a new coronavirus infection will be treated in the intensive care unit IT2 in Operations Center II of the Essen University Hospital. (Fabian Strauch / dpa via AP)
Workers from various sectors, including restaurants, bars, hotels, taxis and nightclubs, march during a protest against the latest virus restrictions in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday October 28, 2020. Bars and restaurants have been closed since October 14, are allowed to serve They take away and delivery only food and drinks. A curfew on Sunday from 10 p.m. until 6 o’clock was imposed. Still, virus cases are on the rise, and the Catalan authorities are now considering even more restrictions, including blocking weekends. Banner reads “we want to work” in Spanish. (AP Photo / Emilio Morenatti)
Deaths are also on the rise in Europe, up about 35% from the previous week, according to the World Health Organization. France reported 523 virus deaths in a 24-hour period Tuesday, the highest daily number since April.
Von der Leyen of the European Commission said Europe was facing “two enemies”.
“We are dealing with the coronavirus – the virus itself – and also with the corona fatigue,” she said. “That means that people are getting sick of preventive measures.”
In Italy, where the Lombardy and Campania regions are hardest hit, officials have accused right-wing extremists, soccer hooligans and anarchists of using widespread dissatisfaction over new antivirus restrictions on restaurants, gyms, pools and theaters as an excuse for “urban” wages by guerrilla guerrillas “Violence during the recent protests.
Talk of new lockdowns also sparked rioting in Germany, where thousands protested at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate to demand more financial support from the government.
Even Sweden, which has avoided national lockdowns and has generally imposed far lighter measures than other European countries, is now urging people to avoid shops and public transport.
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