Madrid Desk, Oct 14 (efe-epa).- Several European countries imposed new measures on Wednesday in a bid to contain rising coronavirus infection rates.
Spain, the Czech Republic, Vatican City, Germany and Romania all introduced fresh restrictions while Russia avoided doing so despite rising cases.
Catalonia announced a series of new restrictions including the closure of bars and restaurants in the region for 15 days.
Infections have increased sharply in recent days, with 1,620 cases recorded in the last 24 hours.
Fresh measures also include reduced capacity in shopping centers and gyms, suspension of face-to-face university lectures and a ban on non-professional sports competitions for two weeks.
Madrid continued to be Spain’s contagion epicenter with an average of 489 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the region, which has been placed under a state of alarm and partial lockdown.
Schools, bars and restaurants across the central European country have shut for just over two weeks.
A total of 8,325 new cases were confirmed in the last 24 hours, the second-highest daily tally so far, with 467 people hospitalized in a serious condition.
Health officials reported a cumulative seven-day infection rate of 524 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, the highest figure in the European Union followed by Belgium with 429 and Spain with 300.
There are 2,500 coronavirus patients in hospital and the number of medics affected by the virus has jumped 79% in the last week with health services recruiting student doctors to shore up staffing numbers.
Pope Francis did not greet faithful at the end of his weekly general audience at the Vatican to avoid crowds of people as daily coronavirus cases in the region rose to levels not seen since March.
“I would like to come down and greet you like I normally would but with the new measures it’s best to maintain distance,” the pontiff said after his weekly address.
Catholic faithful were allowed to return to the general audience on 2 September, six months after the services were halted due to Covid-19, which prompted a nationwide lockdown in Italy.
It was the first time since the return to a relative normality that the Argentine pontiff did not greet members of the crowd.
Several regions introduced new measures including early closures for bars and restaurants and restrictions on the hours of alcohol sales.
Germany registered 5,132 daily infections, the highest level since April, with more than 4,100 active cases.