People wearing masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus walk along Regent Street, one of the main shopping streets in London, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a second national lockdown in England to curb the spread of COVID-19 from Thursday, the same day that Portugal, Austria and Greece unveiled partial lockdowns.
Johnson said that non essential businesses would have to close and people would need to stay at home but that schools, construction sites and manufacturing would remain open.
The lockdown, which is less strict than the first one in the spring, will last until December 2.
“The virus is spreading even faster than the reasonable worst-case scenario of our scientific advisers,” Johnson said, adding that no prime minister could ignore the figures.
England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said there was an increase in COVID-19 cases “in virtually every part of the country”.
Whitty said that hospitalisations were increasing throughout the country and if the country did nothing, the “inevitable result” would have numbers exceeding the first peak of the virus epidemic.
The country has now recorded more than one million cases of the virus since the beginning of the pandemic and more than 46,200 people have lost their lives to the virus in the UK — Europe’s highest death toll — and the country has recorded over 20,000 new daily infections for the past five days.
It comes just after Austria announced a new lockdown that includes a curfew and the closure of restaurants hotels, cultural institutions and sport clubs. Schools, shops and hairdressers will remain open however. The curfew will be in place from 8:00 pm to 6:00 am.
“A second lockdown is in place from Tuesday and until the end of November,” said Sebastian Kurz at a press conference in Vienna.
Portugal will also enter a partial lockdown, the prime minister said, beginning Wednesday.
Several other European countries such as France, Belgium and Germany have issued new lockdowns amid rising cases in Europe.
France recorded 545 deaths and nearly 50,000 new cases yesterday as the country entered its second national lockdown with residents required to fill out a government document every time they leave their homes. It has one of the highest per capita rates of daily COVID-19 cases.
Meanwhile, Italy recorded more than 30,000 new cases in a single day and 297 deaths, a record. The country saw large protests after issuing a curfew in certain areas.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis also announced that the country would be under a month-long partial lockdown from Tuesday.
Under the new measure in Greece, local areas will be categorised as either Surveillance or High Risk zones.
In the former, a curfew will be implemented from midnight to 05:00 CET. Mask wearing will be required everywhere, both indoors and outdoors, higher education is to be conducted remotely and gatherings are prohibited.
In the latter, the same measures will apply but all hospitality businesses, as well as theatres, museums, cinemas and indoor gyms, will also be asked to close their doors to the public.
Mitsotakis stressed that contrary to the lockdown implemented in the spring, “we are not talking about a total freeze of everyday life, as shops and schools will remain open.
He conceded however that “today’s message is what I was hoping not to have to do”.
“After a long period of stability, cases are increasing exponentially in our country,” he said. “Scientists warn that soon, the new wave will test our national health service endurance.”
“We must act now before our ICUs (Intensive Care Units) fall,” he added.
The country of 10.7 million has so far recorded 35,510 COVID cases and 615 deaths, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
Mitsotakis’s announcement, delayed by a day following a deadly earthquake on Friday in the Aegean Sea, comes days after several other European countries announced tighter measures to slow the second wave of the pandemic.