Record-breaking business as Europe’s latest wave hits

LONDON – The latest wave of Covid-19 cases is hitting Europe with a vengeance, with a number of countries seeing record daily infections, imposing partial lockdowns and more restrictions on unvaccinated people.

Germany broke a new record on Thursday, reporting more than 65,000 new cases, with health officials warning that the actual number of cases could be two or three times that.

In the neighboring Netherlands, more than 20,000 new cases were reported on Wednesday, a new record for the third day in a row, and in France, where a fifth wave of the pandemic is underway, the number of new cases topped 20,000 on Wednesday, a level not reached since Aug. 25, Reuters reported.

While the Netherlands and Austria have implemented partial lockdowns, other countries are desperately trying to avoid full or mid-range lockdown measures like they will be in 2020 given the economic damage they could wreak, opting instead for more Covid rules and Covid-virus restrictions. passports.

New Covid measures have been announced in Belgium mandating home working and the use of masks indoors, amid one of Europe’s steepest rises in infections.

Medical staff work in intensive care with Covid-19 patients at a hospital in Freising near Munich, southern Germany, on November 16, 2021.

CHRISTOF STACH | AFP | Getty Images

However, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo is keen to avoid another lockdown but told CNBC’s Silvia Amaro on Wednesday that while there was an increase in the number of cases, thanks to widespread vaccination, it was not as dramatic as previous waves.

Nevertheless, he said, “pressures are mounting in our hospitals, so we need to be careful, but prudent measures should allow us to avoid closing certain parts of our society or economy.”

Read more: Belgium announces new Covid restrictions, but prime minister promises to avoid lockdown

Covid passes or passports are becoming the norm across Europe and indicate a person’s Covid status (whether someone has been vaccinated or recovered from a virus). They are not without controversy, however, and such passes are leading to an increasing number of public spaces – from bars and cinemas to Christmas markets – being segregated, granting access to vaccinated people but limited to unvaccinated people.

Merkel’s meeting

Germany’s outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet with the country’s 16 state prime ministers on Thursday to discuss her country’s national response to what she described yesterday as a “dramatic” situation.

German states were largely free to determine their own Covid responses and public health measures, leading to several pandemic state-by-state actions, though the government has sought temporary powers to enforce lockdowns and other restrictive measures in areas with high infection rates.

As it stands, the German state of emergency, which allowed the government to have tighter control over public health issues, will expire on November 25.

Some health ministers have urged officials to extend the state of emergency (because it would allow states to take measures such as lockdowns or school closures), but the three parties currently in negotiations to form a new government have agreed to extend the state of emergency. to expire next week. .

Read more: Merkel warns fourth wave of Covid hits Germany with ‘full force’

Thursday’s new number of Covid cases, from 65,371 new cases, is the first time since the start of the pandemic that the number has risen to 60,000 in a single day, Deutsche Welle noted. It also reported that Lothar Wieler, the head of the national agency for infectious diseases, the Robert Koch Institute, said the true number of cases could be much higher.

“The under-reporting of the actual numbers is increasing,” Wieler said during an online discussion with Michael Kretschmer, Saxony’s state prime minister with the highest seven-day incidence of Covid in Germany.

Wieler said he believes there were “two or three times as many” cases per day than were actually reported. “We are in an emergency situation. Whoever refuses to see that is making a big mistake,” he said on Wednesday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gestures as she sits down for a weekly cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin.

JOHN MACDOUGALL | AFP | Getty Images

The fact that Germany is seeing such a sharp rise in the number of cases is alarming, especially as the country has been widely praised for its early strategy to deal with the Covid outbreak.

Widespread testing and tracing, and a modern health care network, helped the country keep deaths much lower than its neighbors, though that gap has narrowed. To date, it has recorded more than 5.1 million cases of the virus and nearly 100,000 deaths, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. By comparison, France has recorded more than 7.3 million cases and just over 118,000 deaths.

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