Fri, 04 Dec 2020

DUBLIN, Ireland - Ireland has become the first European country to enter a second national lockdown, and Germany's daily cases leapt to a record high as the second wave of coronavirus continues to spread across the continent.

As a second surge of Covid-19 infections swept European countries ahead of the onset of winter, Spain added to the list of disquieting statistics when it became the first country to pass a million cases.

Many European authorities have been reluctant to reimpose harsh lockdown measures, after previous restrictions caused deep recessions and widespread bitterness.

But the Republic of Ireland's five million people have been ordered to stay at home for the next six weeks, with non-essential businesses urged to close.

The Irish authorities have also imposed a strict five-kilometre travel limit, have told bars and restaurants to sell takeaway only, and have extended a ban on visits between households.

In France, major cities including Paris were virtually deserted on the fifth night of a curfew affecting some 20 million people from 9pm. The number of patients in intensive care in France has passed 2,000 for the first time since May.

Huge surge in German infection rate

Germany, once a European success story for its virus response, leapt to a record 11,287 new infections in 24 hours, soaring past the previous high of just over 7,800 set last Friday.

Faced with the sharp rise, authorities have toughened anti-pandemic measures, such as banning large gatherings and making face masks compulsory on certain streets in Berlin.

Spain announced 16,973 cases, taking it to more than a million since its first diagnosis in January.

Spain, with a population of 47 million people, becomes the sixth country worldwide to record more than one million infections. The others are the United States, India, Brazil, Russia and Argentina.

"Months of agony" ahead

Meanwhile Britain, with Europe's largest death toll of 44,000, said more than a million people in the north would be banned from mixing with other households, prompting opposition leader Keir Starmer to warn of "months of agony" ahead.

The coronavirus epidemic has killed at least 1,126,000 people since emerging in China late last year. Global GDP is expected to contract 4.4 percent in 2020, the International Monetary Fund has said.

Volunteer dies in vaccine trial

Wednesday also saw the first reported death in a vaccine trial -- a volunteer in clinical trials in Brazil developed by Oxford University.

It was not clear if the victim had received the vaccine or a placebo in one of a series of trials to bring a much-anticipated vaccine to market.

"Following careful assessment of this case in Brazil, there have been no concerns about safety of the clinical trial, and the independent review in addition to the Brazilian regulator have recommended that the trial should continue," Oxford said in a statement.

Orginally published on RFI

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