ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Coronavirus infections hit new daily highs this week in Russia, and Germany and UK announced plans to expand virus testing on Tuesday as European countries are fighting coped with the rapid increase in cases and hospitalization of COVID-19.
According to Johns Hopkins University, countries have put in place limited measures to deal with a virus that has caused more than 1.2 million deaths globally, more than 270,000 of which are in Europe, and are stressing the health care system.
The new measures came into effect on Tuesday in Austria, Greece and Sweden, after a partial decommissioning was introduced in Germany on Monday and stricter regulations in Italy, France, Kosovo and Croatia. The UK faces an almost complete shutdown from Thursday, though schools and universities will remain open.
Infections spiked in Russia, where authorities reported 18,648 new cases on Tuesday. It is the fifth day in a row with more than 18,000 confirmed cases, compared with the country’s daily record of more than 11,000 in the spring.
Russia has the 4th highest reported coronavirus in the world with more than 1.6 million confirmed infected people, of which more than 28,000 people died in the pandemic.
The country lifted most of the restrictions related to the virus this summer and Russian officials said the health care system could cope. However, alarming reports have emerged of overcrowded hospitals, drug shortages and flooding medical staff.
Sweden, where the government ignores the ban on other countries has adopted a much more controversial approach, keeping much of society open, setting new nationwide limits on the restaurants and cafes, which order them to only serve customers sitting and to a maximum number of eight per table. The Scandinavian country has announced local restrictions in three other counties including Sweden’s largest cities.
“We are going in the wrong direction. The situation is very serious, ”said Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven. “Now, every citizen should be held accountable. We know how dangerous this is. ”
The country of 10 million people has 134,532 reported cases and nearly 6,000 deaths.
Amidst the gloom, a partial lock in the Netherlands seems to have paid off; Dutch officials said the number of new confirmed cases fell 5% to 64,087 in the past seven days, the first drop in weeks.
The downfall comes three weeks after the government forced the 17 million population to partially shut down, including shutting down bars and restaurants, halting amateur sports for adults and urging everyone people working from home.
Dutch authorities remain concerned that the number of COVID-19 patients is causing unbearable stress to hospitals, and Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced further restrictions on Tuesday night.
“It’s not too bad but it’s definitely not good enough. The number of infections must drop faster, ”Rutte said, explaining that the government would shut down cinemas, theaters, swimming pools and museums for two weeks.
He warned that some areas could be placed on a curfew if the infection rate didn’t drop, and warned Dutch residents not to travel abroad until mid-January.
In the UK, the government plans to provide a regular COVID-19 test to anyone living or working in Liverpool, the city of 500,000 people.
“These more advanced tests will help identify infectious individuals who do not show symptoms … so they can isolate themselves and stop the virus from spreading,” said the Ministry of Health.
The Liverpool trial, one of the places with the highest infection rates in the UK with more than 410 cases per 100,000 people, is considered a test of how the UK can deploy a mass test nationwide.
Germany said it is buying in bulk millions of antigen tests, giving quick results, to avoid banning visitors to nursing homes and prevent suffering for residents and their loved ones that isolate that cause in the spring. Nursing homes will receive up to 20 free monthly tests per resident, which can be used to check on patients, staff and visitors who may be carriers of the virus. Italy.
Melanie Brinkmann, an expert at the German Helmholtz Center for Infections Research, says there are no private public health measures that can slow the spread of the virus, but they both work.
She likens actions to being out of society, using masks, washing hands and extending the use of antigen tests to Swiss cheese slices, which have individual holes but form a mass. snake.
“The Swiss cheese model says that every slice of cheese has holes and imperfections,” said Brinkmann. The measures “are all new cheese slices, all with defects, but if we put them all together, we can better protect ourselves from this virus.”
In neighboring Austria, new restrictions go into effect on Tuesday allowing restaurants and bars to operate only for delivery and purchase until the end of the month, while also canceling cultural activities, sports and entertainment .. Non-essential stores are still open, but residents are required to stay home from 8pm to 6am
Greece closed its second largest city, Thessaloniki and neighboring northern Serres province starting Tuesday. Residents can only leave their homes for specific reasons after notifying the authorities by text message. Lighter restrictions were in effect in Athens, where restaurants, bars, cafes, gyms, museums and entertainment venues were closed.
Domestic and international flights to Thessaloniki were canceled and retail shops, restaurants, gyms, churches and entertainment venues closed for two weeks. Elementary and junior high schools remain open, but high school and college classes are moving online.
Angelos Georgiadis, 39, of Thessaloniki, said: “What happened is needed. “We had to close for fun, the cafes were packed. Now we want and hope we will get over this quickly ”.
Nationwide, the government imposes curfew from midnight to 5am and requires the wear of a mask outdoors. Greece, which has a population of around 11 million, reported a record 2,166 daily cases on Tuesday and 13 deaths, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to more than 44,200 cases and deaths. death from COVID-19 to 655.
In France, where health authorities reported 36,330 new confirmed cases since a day earlier, high school students blocked the entrance to about a dozen schools in Paris to protest the month-long lockout. .
At a school in Paris, police fired tear gas to disperse a noisy crowd, and about 40 students were fined 135 euros ($ 158) for violating detention rules, newspaper Le Parisien reported. . Schools in Paris remain open, but students say virus control measures are not respected. They shared on social media pictures of overcrowded classrooms and common areas.
French health authorities on Tuesday also reported 854 new deaths related to the virus, bringing the country’s death toll during the pandemic to 38,289, the world’s seventh highest number. The new figure includes 426 people who died in hospitals in the past 24 hours and 428 people who have died in nursing homes since Friday, the authorities said.
COVID-19 patients now account for more than 73% of French intensive care units, a rate rapidly increasing that prompted the government this week to impose a month-long lockout, shutting down all businesses. unnecessary.
An ordinance by the French government released on Tuesday stipulates “essential” items that can be sold during the closing hours. Supermarkets are prohibited from selling flowers and books, but can still sell baby care, personal hygiene and grooming items, as well as household cleaning products.
Supermarkets have blocked aisles or removed products from shelves based on new rules, introduced after small businesses such as florists and bookstores complained that they were being unfairly punished for forced to close.
Associated Press writers across Europe contributed to this report.
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