Madrid Desk, Dec 14 (efe-epa).- An uptick in Covid-19 cases ahead of the Christmas holiday period has prompted several European governments to implement or study stricter measures to avoid a possible third wave of infections.
German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said Monday that restrictions on social and economic activity in the last six weeks had not been “sufficient” enough to contain the pandemic. In an address to the nation, he called on citizens to act responsibly to stem the spread of Covid-19.
According to the Robert Koch Institute, there were more than 16,000 new infections recorded in the last 24 hours, down from the previous week’s average but more than 4,000 more than documented last Monday.
To face this situation, the German government and 16 regional leaders agreed Sunday to implement tougher restrictions between Wednesday and 10 January. It spells the closure of non-essential businesses and schools.
Hospitality and the culture sector were put on hold in November.
Social gatherings will be limited to five people from no more than two households, although these limits are to be slightly relaxed around Christmas.
Italy’s government is studying possible new restrictions for the holiday period, which could include bringing the night-time curfew forward or closing bars and restaurants.
It comes after crowds of people headed to city centers in Rome and Milan this weekend to do Christmas shopping or meet friends for lunch.
The situation prompted authorities to close the Trevi fountain in Rome when security officials found it impossible to control the crowd within social distancing rules.
Italian media on Monday reported that the prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, was mulling the possibility of declaring the whole country a so-called red zone, the strictest tier in Italy’s Covid-19 alert system. It would mean restrictions on travel and the closure of restaurants during the Christmas period.
Spain’s health minister, Salvador Illa, said the country would begin to administer the first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in early January, just after the candidate is due to be approved by the European Medicines Agency on 29 December.
Spain is set to get 180 million vaccine doses, enough to cover 80 million people.
“There will be more than enough vaccines for everyone,” Illa told a conference.
“They won’t all arrived on 4 or 5 January, but rather progressively as they are manufactured and delivered,” the health minister said.
UK health secretary, Matt Hancock, said London and parts of southeast England would be placed in tier three of Covid-19 alert, the strictest level.
The change means that pubs and restaurants will only be allowed to offer takeaway services.