“It’s not a word I’ve heard in a long, long time,” an elderly Paris resident said, leaving her apartment in mask and gloves for an early expedition to the shops. “A curfew. That’s for wartime, isn’t it? But in a way I suppose that’s what this is.”
Europe’s second coronavirus wave took a dramatic turn for the worse this week, forcing governments across the continent to make tough choices as more than a dozen countries reported their highest ever number of new infections.
In France, 18 million people in nine big cities risk a fine from Saturday if they are not at home by 9pm. In the Czech Republic, schools have closed and medical students are being enlisted to help doctors. All Dutch bars and restaurants are shut.
Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland are among countries to have broken daily case records, prompting the World Health Organization to call for an “uncompromising” effort to stem the spread.
Unfortunately, that requires making all but impossible compromises.
Most European governments relaxed strict lockdowns over the summer to revive economies shattered by the pandemic’s first wave. The return of normal activity, from packed bars to new academic terms, has fuelled an exponential increase in infections.
With infections across the continent breaking the barrier of 120,000 a day, authorities must tighten restrictions once more to slow the spread of the disease – while doing all they can to avoid destroying already-jeopardised jobs and livelihoods. [Continue reading…]