Half Europe fears a third wave when it is just emerging from the second and the other media continues to struggle because it cannot bend the curve as they have done, for the moment, and without being able to claim victory, much less, countries like Spain, Italy or France. Christmas, both authorities and epidemiologists assume, will mark a turning point in the form of a probable rebound in cases after the celebrations. To mitigate this, several countries are presenting tougher measures than they had initially planned. Some close the non-essential trade again and advance the school holidays so that the schools are closed already this week. Germany, which already had six weeks of restrictions, made the decision at the weekend to tighten them even more. “Most of Europe is in the middle of the second wave, and in a very intense way,” recalls Daniel López Acuña, former director of the World Health Organization. Countries like Croatia (with an incidence of 1,200 cases per 100,000 inhabitants) or Sweden (739) are a good example of this.
But states with less scandalous contagion figures are also concerned, some because they have been restricted for weeks and have not managed to lower the infection rate, and others because they fear that the Christmas holidays will ruin the decline in cases and hospital occupancy they have achieved in the last month. France, Germany, Holland, Italy and the United Kingdom have announced in recent days a tightening of the measures, either immediately, or to apply them during the holidays. This Monday they were announced for London, the British capital, where more than nine million people live (12, if the metropolitan area is counted). The increase in cases has led the Government to reimpose the so-called Tier 3 (level 3, very high alert) both in the metropolis, as in some areas of south-east England such as Essex, Kent or Hertfordshire.
Closing of bars
The restaurants, bars and pubs they will have to close their doors again, a considerable blow for these businesses in the middle of a Christmas campaign in which they trusted to remedy part of the losses carried throughout the year. In the current situation, they could remain open every day until eleven o’clock at night, as long as the last command was not taken later than ten o’clock. Groups of up to six diners could meet in the establishments, as long as they were not part of more than two convivial nuclei.
According to the new restrictions, they will only be able to maintain their food delivery service. During the week of December 2 to 8, with the registered data already reviewed and ready, the accumulated rate of infections in London was 225 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last week, compared to 166 cases throughout England.
The UK reached its peak in second wave cases in mid-November, and was at a good rate of decline until early December when the case curve rose again. Its cumulative incidence at 14 days is currently 348 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. In eight days it has risen by 9%, according to data from the European Center for Disease Control.
This happens when France is on the verge of leaving the last decreed confinement, which ends this Tuesday. There will remain more restrictive measures than those that had been envisaged, such as a tougher curfew (from 8:00 p.m.), with museums, cinemas and theaters closed. The country has not managed to reduce the pandemic figures to the level it wanted, which have stabilized at still too high rates (236 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 14 days). The curfew will be lifted on Christmas Eve, but not on New Years Eve.
“The combination of a high incidence, with many cases in the community, and a high healthcare pressure mean that any relaxation or excessive openness has the potential to cause an increase in transmission even greater than the one we saw in summer”, says López Acuña. The evolution of the rest of Europe, he adds, is between three and four weeks behind Spain, where the second wave started earlier. Now there is an added problem: that we are in the middle of winter and cold climates invite indoor meetings, the scenarios with the highest risk of contagion. “To this must be added the relaxation and in many cases the fatigue of many people after so many months of pandemic,” says the epidemiologist.
This Tuesday the restrictions in Germany that Chancellor Angela Merkel announced over the weekend, and which will last until January 10, also come into force: the practically total closure of public life. Bars and restaurants had been closed for six weeks, except to sell food and drink to go, but the measures have not managed to reduce the rate of infections. If you look at the incidence curve in Germany, you can see how daily cases reached a peak in mid-November but did not begin to decline, but instead remained stagnant, as in a plateau. In recent days they have risen again and maximum infections and deaths have been registered. That is why the federal government and the leaders of the countries They agreed to close all shops except the essential ones (food, pharmacy, banking…) and the advancement of the Christmas holidays in schools.
Closing in Holland
The Dutch Government also ordered this Monday the closure of all non-essential establishments until next January 19 due to the increase in infections, which at the moment are around 10,000 a day. The country has had incidents of more than 400 cases per 100,000 inhabitants since mid-October, and not only is it not able to lower them, but in recent days it has been shooting over 500. Primary and secondary schools will close starting tomorrow, and homes may not receive more than two people each day. Contact professions, except doctors, should stop as well. Although the curfew is not imposed, citizens are asked to leave as little as possible. Churches and other religious temples will remain open, and sports competitions will continue, but without public.
Also in Italy, new more restrictive measures are expected with the movements of citizens and with the curfews on the Christmas holidays. Italy also reached its second wave peak in mid-November, and its curve has been steadily descending, but over the weekend images of thousands of citizens strolling and shopping in city centers have once again alerted authorities. “The crowds are unjustifiable, irrational, irresponsible,” one of the ministers, Francesco Boccia, complained to the newspaper The Republic. Last Saturday Italy surpassed the United Kingdom as the European country with the highest number of deaths from covid. According to the Italian press, the Government could decide to impose confinement rules again from January 24 to January 2: non-essential movements prohibited, closing of shops, bars and restaurants and night curfew. The decision is expected next Monday.
With information from Rafa de Miguel (London), Isabel ferrer (The Hague) and Ana Carbajosa (Berlin).
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