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Covid-19: New restrictions begin in Italy, Belgium and France as European death toll hits 250,000

Many governments are seeking to avoid a repeat of full-scale lockdowns seen in spring.

A policeman checks a resident during a curfew in Lille, France
A policeman checks a resident during a curfew in Lille, France
Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

SEVERAL EUROPEAN COUNTRIES including Italy and Belgium have introduced new measures from today to combat a second wave of Covid-19 infections.

It comes as the number of people who have died as a result of the virus passed 250,000 in Europe, as the pandemic spreads across the continent.

Many governments are seeking to avoid full-scale lockdowns like those imposed in the first wave as they battle to keep their economies going.

In Belgium, where hospitalisations doubled in the last week, bars and restaurants were closed on Monday for a month and a curfew is set to be reinforced overnight.

The county’s second major shutdown comes after Prime Minister Alexander de Croo warned the situation was “much worse” than in March when there was an almost complete confinement.

In Italy, which was the initial epicentre of Europe’s outbreak in spring, fresh curbs including earlier closures for bars and restaurants and a push to increase working from home were also announced.

“We cannot waste time,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said, also flagging bans on amateur team sports and local festivals.

The restrictions announced by Conte on Sunday stopped short of a curfew like those imposed in Paris and other major French cities.

But Italian mayors can close public squares and other gathering places after 9pm, permitting access only to reach homes or businesses.

Restaurants and bars are restricted to table service only after 6pm, three hours earlier than the previous measures allowed, but can maintain the current midnight closing time.

Local festivals have been banned, while gyms and public swimming pools may remain open but could be closed in a week if they do not do a better job of following restrictions.

New confirmed infections in Italy have doubled in a week to more than 10,000 a day amid increased testing.

In Poland, where around half the country is now designated as a coronavirus “red zone”, the government said the national stadium would double as a field hospital to help ease the strain on overwhelmed health care facilities.

Meanwhile, Switzerland has made mask-wearing compulsory in indoor public spaces and put limits on public gatherings after infections doubled over the last week.

“The second wave is here, earlier and stronger than we expected, but we are prepared,” health minister Alain Berset said.

And France imposed its own overnight curfew from the weekend in nine cities including Paris, affecting 20 million people, with a record 32,400 new infections reported on Saturday.

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© AFP 2020 with reporting from Press Association.

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