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WRAPUP 4-Curfews and lockdowns as shaken Europe overtakes U.S. in virus surge

Wed, 14th Oct 2020 11:32

* France orders curfews in Paris and other urban hotspots

* Europe reels as second wave of COVID-19 spreads

* New lockdowns affect schools and surgeries in some areas

* 'At the edge of crying': health workers overwhelmed again

* Cases double the average daily tally in United States

By Benoit Van Overstraeten and Jan Lopatka

PARIS/PRAGUE, Oct 14 (Reuters) - France imposed curfews
while other European nations are closing schools, cancelling
surgeries and enlisting student medics as overwhelmed
authorities face the nightmare scenario of a COVID-19 resurgence
at the onset of winter.

With new cases hitting about 100,000 daily, Europe has by a
wide margin overtaken the United States, where more than 51,000
COVID-19 infections are reported on average every day.

And with cases in France climbing fast, President Emmanuel
Macron announced night curfews for four weeks from Saturday in
Paris and other major cities, affecting almost one third of the
country's 67 million population.

"We have to react," Macron said in an interview on national
television. He said France had not lost control of the virus,
but added: "We are in a worrying situation."

Most European governments eased lockdowns over the summer to
start reviving economies already battered by the first wave of
the coronavirus pandemic.

But the return of normal activity - from packed restaurants
to new university terms - fuelled a sharp spike in cases all
over the continent.

Bars and pubs were among the first to shut or face earlier
closing in the new lockdowns, but now the surging infection
rates are also testing governments' resolve to keep schools and
non-COVID medical care going.

Even Pope Francis was subject to new coronavirus rules,
staying put at a safe distance from well-wishers at his weekly
audience on Wednesday.

In Lisbon, football fans were unsurprised after Portugal
captain Cristiano Ronaldo tested positive for the virus, saying
it simply showed everyone was at risk of getting infected - and
famous athletes were no exception.

The Czech Republic, with Europe's worst rate per capita, has
shifted schools to distance learning and plans to call up
thousands of medical students. Hospitals are cutting non-urgent
medical procedures to free up beds.

"Sometimes we are at the edge of crying," said Lenka
Krejcova, a head nurse at Slany hospital near Prague, as
builders hurried to turn a general ward into a COVID-19
department.

Poland is ramping up training for nurses and considering
creating military field hospitals, Moscow is to move many
students to online learning, and Northern Ireland is closing
schools for two weeks and restaurants for four.

"I don't have any good information. We are on the brink of
disaster," immunologist Pawel Grzesiowski said in Poland, which
reported a record 6,526 infections and 116 deaths on Wednesday.

Efforts to develop a vaccine hit snags in some areas, with
Johnson & Johnson pausing its trial after an unexplained
illness in a study participant. AstraZeneca's U.S. trial
has remained on hold for more than a month.

Russia, which recorded a record daily increase in cases, has
meanwhile granted regulatory approval to a second vaccine.

IMPOSSIBLE CHOICES

Germany, England and France have so far resisted pressure to
close schools, but in Germany, politicians are debating whether
to extend the Christmas-New Year school break to curb contagion.

The Netherlands returned to partial lockdown, closing bars
and restaurants, but kept schools open.

European infections have been running at an average of
almost 100,000 a day - about a third of the global total -
forcing governments to tighten restrictions while attempting to
avoid destroying livelihoods.

The United Kingdom, France, Russia and Spain accounted for
more than half of Europe's new cases in the week to Oct. 11,
according to the World Health Organization.

In the United States, with the world's highest number of
confirmed infections, 22 states have so far in October set
records for increases in new cases. But deaths are trending
downward and have averaged 700 a day over the last week.

FIELD HOSPITALS

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces opposition calls
for another national lockdown in England, but has so far
resisted. Hospital admissions, however, are climbing and field
hospitals constructed in the spring are once more being readied.

London faces tighter restrictions within days, the Financial
Times reported.

In Spain, authorities in Catalonia ordered bars and
restaurants to close for 15 days and limited the numbers of
people allowed in shops.

In Belgium, with Europe's second worst infection rate per
capita, hospitals must now reserve a quarter of their beds for
COVID-19 patients.

"We can't see the end of the tunnel today," Renaud Mazy,
managing director of the University Clinics of Saint-Luc in
Brussels, told La Premiere radio.

In Australia, one of the most successful countries in
fighting the virus, clusters have emerged in the two most
populous states, prompting New South Wales to delay relaxing
some restrictions.

And new curbs have been imposed in Malaysia, where the royal
palace postponed all meetings for two weeks.

(Additional reporting by Emma Thomasson, Geert De Clercq,
Antonio Denti, Agnieszka Barteczko, Carl O'Donnell, Michael
Erman, Vladimir Soldatkin, Catarina Demony, Miguel Pereira,
Emily Roe, Carl O'Donnell, Manas Mishra, Manuel Mucari, Melanie
Burton and Luis Felipe Castilleja
Writing by Mark Bendeich, Andrew Cawthorne and Giles Elgood
Editing by Alison Williams and Mark Heinrich)

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