Europe’s virus fear becomes reality with new peak


LONDON • Europe’s fears of a coronavirus resurgence are becoming reality with France hitting a new peak and infections rising in Germany and the UK after a summer of lax containment.

Earlier lockdowns decimated European economies and authorities are resisting renewed nationwide restrictions on movement. Despite thousands of more cases, the situation is very different than in March and April. Death rates are rising more slowly, and hospitals are still able to treat the sick, easing pressure on European leaders to take drastic action.

Confirmed cases in France rose by 4,203 on Monday. The seven-day rolling average has been rising steadily in recent weeks and surpassed 6,000 last Friday, above previous peaks in March and April.

Germany registered 1,898 new infections in the 24 hours through yesterday morning, the most since April, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. While that’s a far cry from the almost 7,000 daily cases recorded at the height of the pandemic, the country’s public health authority warned that the situation continued to be “dynamic and serious.”

The UK reported almost 3,000 cases on Monday and case numbers in recent days rose to the highest since May. The increase has largely been attributed to younger people being infected, leading Health Secretary Matt Hancock to warn of the dangers of ignoring social-distancing rules, which could widen the spread.

“People have relaxed too much, now is the time for us to re-engage, and to realise that this a continuing threat to us,” Jonathan Van Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, told the BBC on Monday evening.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been urging workers to return to offices and reopened schools in an attempt to kick-start the economy after the worst recession in at least a century. The government has already moved to introduce local lockdowns in areas where the virus is spreading.

On Monday, the UK announced 14 days of self-isolation for travellers arriving from islands including Crete and Santorini. While avoiding limits on the Greek mainland, the move adds to confusion and complexity around where people can fly unhindered, hitting the already battered travel industry.

EasyJet plc yesterday said it pulled back on a plan to increase the number of flights it targeted for the current quarter, blaming changing restrictions throughout Europe.

“It is difficult to overstate the impact that the pandemic and associated government policies has had on the whole industry,” CEO Johan Lundgren said in a statement. — Bloomberg