Madrid Desk, Aug 27 (efe-epa).- Health authorities in France, Germany and Italy on Thursday were considering a range of measures to tackle a new spike in coronavirus cases that have seen infection rates surge to levels not seen since lockdowns were lifted at the start of the summer.
The French government has classified 21 departments – mostly in the region around the capital, Paris and the French Riviera – as high-risk “red zones” amid a recent jump in Covid-19 cases.
The decision allows local authorities to limit the movement of people and vehicles, bans large gatherings and allows for the provisional closure of restaurants, museums and markets where necessary.
“We have for a few weeks a phase of an unquestionable resurgence of the epidemic,” Prime Minister Jean Castex told a press briefing.
“The virus is gaining ground,” he said after advising that the reproduction number was around 1.4.
That number had risen to 3 at the peak of the pandemic, while it had fallen to 0.7 in May when lockdown restrictions were first lifted.
France is reporting 3,000 new daily infections, with 39 cases for every 100,000 people, a rate that is four times higher than a month ago.
Faced with this situation, Castex said “our goal is to do everything we can to avoid another general confinement” like in March and April, which he said was “within our collective reach”.
German chancellor Angela Merkel met with the prime ministers of the country’s 16 states in an attempt to coordinate a harmonized national response to a recent resurgence in coronavirus cases.
More than 1,500 new infections have been recorded in the past 24 hours, while over 2,000 were reported on Saturday.
Germany has seen an upward trend in infection rates for the past two weeks, after having managed to lower daily infection rates to around 350 at the end of June.
The rates remain well below the peaks of over 6,000 daily infections seen at the end of March and April.
Merkel was meeting with the leaders of Germany’s 16 federal states to find consensus on how best to contain the resurgence of the virus.
As well as requiring travellers from high-risk countries to quarantine unless they can provide a negative coronavirus test result within five days, the federal government wants to extend a ban on large public events – which was due to be lifted at the end of October – until January.
The Chancellery is also considering fines of at least 50 euros to those who refuse to wear face masks – which have been mandatory on public transport and in shops, but not on public roads, since May.
Family gatherings, according to state broadcaster ARD, will be reduced to a maximum of 25 people.
Recommendations against travelling to some 160 countries, most of which are outside the European Union, remain in place, while for destination within the EU, German authorities have urged against non-essential travel to the whole of Spain – except for the Canary Islands – and parts of Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Croatia and Romania.