Coronavirus cases surge in Europe, Latin America

BERLIN (AFP) – Germany and Poland enforced new restrictions to fight the coronavirus Saturday, as the number of cases surged in Europe and breached 10 million in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Restaurants are to close at 11pm in Berlin until October 31 in a partial curfew, a measure already imposed – but starting an hour earlier – in the financial capital Frankfurt.

With more than 400 new cases daily in Berlin, the shutdown of the German capital’s legendary nightlife also covers all shops except pharmacies and petrol stations.

“This is not the time to party,” said Berlin mayor Michael Muller. “We can and we want to prevent another more severe confinement.”

Police said “several thousand” people marched through Berlin on Saturday in a silent protest against restrictions.

Protesters also rallied in Rome, Warsaw and London against mask-wearing requirements and virus curbs.

Policemen check in at a neighbourhood business area to ensure the coronavirus regulations are being adhered to in Hamburg, Germany. PHOTO: AP

Governments across the globe are struggling to keep up with a sharp rise in infections and manage growing public frustration over a new restrictions as the pandemic enters a second wave.

Since it emerged in China late last year, the virus has killed more than one million worldwide, infected nearly 37 million and forced millions more out of work as the pandemic batters the global economy. Latin America and the Caribbean marked 10 million cases on Saturday and with more than 360,000 deaths, the region is the worst hit in terms of fatalities, according to official figures.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel had already warned on Friday that high-infection areas would be given 10 days to bring down cases or face tougher action, calling big cities the “arena” to keep the pandemic under control.

In neighbouring Poland, authorities told people to wear face masks in all public spaces after coronavirus cases hit a new record daily high of 4,280.

To the south, the Czech Republic faced the prospect of a new lockdown as the growth in Covid-19 cases set a fourth straight daily record. The number of 8,618 was the fastest spike in Europe.

European Union (EU) Commissioner Mariya Gabriel was the latest high-profile figure to test positive for Covid-19. She announced the news on Saturday, the first top Brussels official known to have caught the coronavirus.

British cyclist Simon Yates pulled out of the Giro d’Italia after he tested positive.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who himself spent time in hospital for the virus, is to outline a new three-tier lockdown system today.

But as with the Berlin march, new restrictions have often run into opposition as public frustration grows over curbs on social life, mask requirements and business shutdowns.

Local leaders bristled at London’s plans, with Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham saying “We will not surrender our residents to hardship this Christmas or our businesses to failure”. In Rome, hundreds of people gathered for two separate marches against mask-wearing orders, one organised by a far-right group, the other bringing together conspiracy theorists, “anti-vaxxers” and other protesters.

“Of course there is a virus, but from a political and philosophical point of view, they are just exaggerating,” Giulio Lessi, a Rome protester, said of the government measures.

Spain’s government also faces increasing public resistance to anti-virus measures after declaring a state of emergency and a new partial lockdown for Madrid on Friday.