Italy became the latest European country to announce new restrictions to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus on Sunday as countries across the continent continue to report surging infections.
France on Sunday announced more than 50,000 new infections, a new record for the fourth day running. Germany, widely lauded for its initial handling of the virus, reported a surge of its own. The number of coronavirus cases in Poland has doubled in less than three weeks. And Spain has also imposed new restrictions.
The World Health Organization reported new daily case records worldwide three days in a row last week, with new infections reaching more than 465,000 on Saturday. Almost half of those cases were in the organization’s Europe region. The United States set a new record Friday with more than 82,000 confirmed new infections.
“The pandemic is spreading rapidly again, even faster than at the start of it more than half a year ago,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned in her weekly video podcast.
Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, called trends in both the United States and Europe “deeply troubling.”
“Unless the U.S. and Europe take decisive action to stop the spread of the virus, we could easily see case numbers that eclipse pre-lockdown levels,” she told The Washington Post. “If case numbers get too large, it may be too difficult to meaningfully slow the virus using measures other than shutdowns.”
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the new restrictions as the country reported a record 21,273 cases on Sunday. Beginning Monday, restaurants and bars will be required to close by 6 p.m., and gyms, pools and movie theaters must shut down entirely. The restrictions are the fourth round of tightening this month in Italy, and the most severe since the country lifted its nationwide lockdown in May.
Despite a months-long shutdown in the spring, when the country suffered thousands of deaths, an overloaded health-care system and bodies piling up in hospital wards, it’s clear the fight is far from over.
Italy had 1,208 covid-19 patients in intensive care on Sunday — more than on March 9, when Conte announced the lockdown.
“These are difficult days,” Health Minister Roberto Speranza said Sunday, according to the Associated Press. “The curve of contagion is growing in the world. And in all Europe the wave is very high. We must react immediately and with determination if we want to avoid unsustainable numbers.”
Europe appeared to beat back infection rates during the summer. But as economies have reopened and colder weather pushes people indoors, several countries are now reporting case numbers that are eclipsing records set in the spring.
Numbers have soared in the Czech Republic, which in recent days has requested additional ventilators from an