Europe’s Covid crisis looks to be diverging further this week as the public health situation deteriorates in France and Germany, but the U.K. takes another step in the easing of its lockdown on Monday.
Germany has already extended its lockdown until April 18, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on German states to do more to curb infections, and suggested that the federal government could wrest some control from the regions (which have been largely free to decide their own measures) to better contain the crisis. This comes despite Merkel performing a U-turn over plans to implement a strict Easter lockdown.
“We have to break this third wave,” Merkel told broadcaster ARD on Sunday. ”We are obliged by law to contain the spread, and at the moment, that’s not happening.”
She added that additional restrictions, such as curfews, could be needed to prevent “exponential growth” of the virus, Deutsche Welle reported. Germany reported 9,872 new cases on Monday, data from the Robert Koch Institute showed, bringing its total tally of infections to over 2.7 million. Almost 76,000 people have died from the virus, to date.
On Saturday, intensive care doctors in the country called for a two-week hard lockdown in order to avoid overwhelming the health care system, and similar calls were made in France on Sunday, where cases continue to surge to worrying levels.
The French government has already placed more than a dozen regions, including Paris, under a partial lockdown, but cases are rising and hospitals are struggling.
On Sunday, critical care doctors in Paris warned in Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper that soaring infections could soon overwhelm the capital’s hospitals and could force them to choose which patients they have the resources to treat.
France reported 37,014 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, health ministry data showed, bringing its total number of infections to over 4.5 million. Over 94,000 people have died from the virus in the country, to date.
Strategists at Deutsche Bank noted Monday that “investors are becoming increasingly worried at the rising number of cases in multiple regions, which in turn is raising the prospect of further restrictions and limits on economic activity.”
While mainland Europe struggles with a rise in cases, the U.K is easing lockdown measures further from today, following its roadmap to lift all restrictions on social contact on June 21.
Dubbed “Happy Monday” in the British media, Brits can now gather in groups of up to six people outdoors and team sports can begin again. The “stay at home” rule has also come to an end, but the government is advising caution and says people should continue to work from home if possible.
Travel abroad remains prohibited unless for essential reasons and a £5,000 ($6,887) fine has been introduced for anyone attempting to holiday abroad. The government plans to announce later this week — earlier than planned — how it expects international travel to resume.
On April 12, non-essential shops, hairdressers, beauty salons and outdoor drinking and dining at pubs and restaurants will be allowed, giving Brits much-needed relief after a year of lockdowns and coronavirus losses. The country has reported over 4.3 million coronavirus cases and over 126,000 deaths.
One bright spot in the country’s pandemic experience has been its vaccination rollout that began in earnest in December, making it the first country to rollout coronavirus vaccines en masse. To date, 57% of the nation’s adults having had a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, meaning that 30 million adults have now had a first shot.
The U.K.’s bold immunization program has been lauded for its speed and agility but has attracted criticism on the continent, where the rollout of shots has been more sluggish.
Drugmaker AstraZeneca has been in the line of fire for delaying vaccine supplies to the bloc. So far, the EU has stopped short of preventing vaccine exports to the U.K., however, and both sides have pledged to work together to resolve a dispute over vaccine supplies.