Germany will have a November lockdown but schools and shops will stay open, Chancellor Angela Merkel has said, calling for a “major national effort” to fight coronavirus. Social contacts will be limited to two households, and bars, catering and leisure facilities will shut.
France is also expected to announce new lockdown measures in the coming hours. Covid daily deaths have risen above 500 there and officials say everything must be done so it “does not overwhelm us”.
EU special adviser Prof Peter Piot has warned that some 1,000 Europeans are now dying every day from the virus.
Night curfews are in force in several countries, including for 46 million people in France. However, one minister has complained that they have failed to halt social interactions.
“[The curfew] has simply shifted them – instead of getting together at 21:00, people meet up at six,” the unnamed minister was quoted as saying.
The German government is keen to enable families and friends to meet at Christmas, but daily infections have soared to a new high of 14,964, with 85 more deaths reported in the latest 24-hour period.
Ireland imposed tight measures last week with the aim of reopening before Christmas and Italy shut cinemas and gyms this week in an attempt to “save Christmas”. Now the UK government is under pressure to act too.
A broad but limited German lockdown will now start on Monday November 2, under terms agreed during a video conference involving Merkel and the 16 state premiers.
Social contacts will be limited to two households with a maximum of 10 people and tourism will be halted. Bars will close and restaurants will be limited to takeaways. Tattoo and massage parlours will shut. Smaller companies badly hit by the lockdown will be reimbursed with up to 75% of their November 2019 takings.
Merkel and the state premiers are expected to reconvene on November 11 to reassess the situation.
“We have to act now,” the chancellor explained, to avoid a national emergency.
In France, the defence council and cabinet were deciding the extent of the planned four-week lockdown on Wednesday, but reports suggest schools will stay open and online study will be encouraged for older children and universities.
The changes could kick in from Thursday night.
France recorded 523 deaths on Tuesday, including 235 in residential homes, and the hospital federation has appealed for as broad a lockdown as possible.
“The country is really on the verge of having its health system becoming deluged,” it said, warning of significant excess mortality in the most vulnerable groups.
The French government has been taken by surprise by the virulence of this second Covid wave. Some 50,000 new cases a day are being reported and that’s probably a big underestimate.
The proportion of critical beds occupied by Covid patients is now 70% in Paris. So, at 20:00 (19:00 GMT) on Wednesday, President Macron is going to announce new restrictions – probably a new national lockdown, as in March, but with some key differences.
Schools for example will probably stay open. For business, it’s going to be another massive blow – especially for sectors like entertainment and events – though the president will doubtless also say that extra government aid to struggling companies can also now be expected.
After the economy picked up in the third quarter, it now looks inevitable that it’ll contract again between now and the end of the year, and for the whole of 2020 the government’s predicting a 10% fall in GDP.
While Western Europe has seen numbers returning to levels last seen during the initial wave, there are also big rises in Central and Eastern Europe.
Prof Piot, who’s head of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said on Wednesday “the situation is very serious and risks getting worse”. “Deaths are rising also: last week about one-third more deaths than the week before which means that about 1,000 Europeans die per day from Covid.”
In his role of special adviser to the president of the European Commission, he said currently an average of 60% of people in the EU wore masks and if that rose to 95% then hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved.