France will extend an overnight curfew to dozens more areas in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced Thursday.
“The second wave is now under way,” he said, shortly before the country announced a record 41,622 new cases.
The 21:00 to 06:00 curfew will come into force at midnight on Friday, and some 46 million people will now be affected by the measure.
Countries around Europe are struggling with rising infection rates. France, Italy, Spain and the UK are all hotspots.
“The coming weeks will be hard and the number of deaths will continue to rise,” Mr Castex told a press conference on Thursday. Over the last 24 hours France recorded 162 more deaths.
“If we fail to stop the pandemic, we will be facing a dire situation and we will have to mull much tougher measures,” he added. “We still have time to avoid that but we don’t have much time,” he said.
The prime minister’s announcement came less than a week after the same curfew was applied to the Paris region and eight other cities, including Marseille, Lyon, Lille and Toulouse.
The restrictions will be extended to 38 more administrative departments as well as the overseas territory of Polynesia, and will remain in place for six weeks.
The overnight curfew has drawn complaints from restaurant owners, whose businesses are already suffering after the two-month lockdown in the spring. But President Emmanuel Macron has said they are necessary to avoid the risk of hospitals being overrun.
France has reported more than 20,000 new cases over the past six days, and the total number of confirmed infections now stands at nearly one million.
Elsewhere in Europe, new “level 5” rules have come into force in Ireland – the highest level of Covid restrictions there. Its five million people have been ordered to stay at home for six weeks.
A second lockdown is in force in the Czech Republic which is facing a big surge in cases. Prime Minister Andrej Babis said the harsh restrictions were needed to avoid hospitals being overwhelmed.
Slovakia is closing schools until November 27, imposing a week-long lockdown on its four most affected districts, a partial lockdown on the rest of the country, and embarking on two rounds of testing for the whole population, PM Igor Matovic said on Thursday.
Greece’s prime minister has declared a night curfew in Athens and other areas. It will come into force from Saturday and applies between 00:30 and 05:00.
Germany has announced a record 11,287 daily number of infections. Health Minister Jens Spahn has himself caught coronavirus. The country also added the UK to its list of high risk countries from which visitors must quarantine
In the UK, officials announced that the urban areas of Stoke-on-Trent, Coventry and Slough would move into tier two restrictions on Saturday. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in all of these areas the infection rate was over 100 per 100,000 people.
Italy’s Lazio region around Rome has joined two other Italian regions in declaring overnight curfews. Lombardy in the north starts its curfew at 23:00 (21:00GMT) on Thursday, and Campania and Lazio will follow suit on Friday. Prof Walter Ricciardi, who advises the government on health, has warned that “some metropolitan areas like Milan, Naples and probably Rome are already out of control”.
Spain is the first EU country to record one million infections and the northern region of Navarre has imposed restrictions on movement. The Rioja wine region says it will do the same.
Belgium’s 45-year-old Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes has been admitted to intensive care after testing positive for Covid-19 last week. Her spokeswoman said she was in a “stable” condition. Meanwhile, health workers have raised concerns over the rising number of cases in the country, with the head of a coronavirus testing centre in the city of Liège warning that the “situation is close to catastrophe”.
The Netherlands may begin transferring patients to Germany within two days as its health system faces increasing strain from coronavirus admissions, the hospital association LNAZ said. The Netherlands also registered more than 9,000 new cases in a new daily record.