PARIS: Paris cafes will shut for two weeks as the city and its region were placed on maximum alert on Monday, with Europe facing a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
France reported nearly 17,000 new coronavirus cases on Saturday alone, the highest daily number since the country began widespread testing.
Tuesday’s shuttering of cafes — seen by many as the essence of Parisian life — were “braking measures because the epidemic is moving too fast,” Paris police chief Didier Lallemant told journalists, adding that restaurants will remain open provided they respect new safety measures.
These will include providing sanitising hand gel, limiting patrons to six a table with at least a metre (about a yard) between seats, and allowing diners to remove their masks only for eating.
“It’s not going to work for small restaurants,” said the owner of a tiny Paris eatery that also operates as a cafe — depending on the time of day — as well as a tobacconist.
“Everybody is going have to crunch numbers: Is it worth staying open or not?” the owner who gave his name only as Michel said.
Meanwhile two prominent Europeans announced on Monday going into self-quarantine after coming into contact with individuals who have tested positive for the virus.
Ursula von der Leyen, the 62-year-old head of the European Commission, said she would self-isolate for a day.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius, 59, also started a week of self-isolation after meeting with a Covid-positive French embassy staffer during a visit by President Emmanuel Macron.
Linkevicius himself has tested negative for the virus, foreign ministry Rasa Jakilaitiene said.
Europe, which has recorded 235,553 deaths, is approaching a caseload of six million out of the more than 35.2 million cases officially diagnosed across the world.
That figure, the World Health Organization said on Monday, is a fraction of the likely actual count, which the UN health body estimated at one in 10 of the world’s 7.8 billion people.
“Our current best estimate tells us that about 10 per cent of the global population may have been infected by this virus,” WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said.
The virus has killed at least 1,037,971 people worldwide according to the latest tally based on official sources.
IRELAND, RUSSIA HESITATE
Britain remains the worst-hit European country, passing its latest milestone of 500,000 confirmed coronavirus infections on Sunday.
Neighbouring Ireland for its part is mulling a nationwide lockdown after a surge of new cases.
The National Public Health Emergency Team recommended that the entire country reprise the highest level of Covid-19 restrictions imposed during the original lockdown in March.
Russia recorded 10,888 new cases on Sunday — close to a peak reached in May — but stopped short of reimposing a new lockdown.
Spain has decided partial lockdowns for two more cities, Leon and Palencia, after residents of Madrid and nine nearby towns were barred from leaving city limits for any reason other than work, school or medical and legal appointments.
While Madrid’s regional authorities have criticised the two weeks of restrictions as too stringent, healthcare experts have said they do not go far enough. — AFP