France shuts down Marseille nightlife as Europe battles virus spread
French Health Minister Olivier Veran addresses media representatives during a press conference about the situation of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic in France, at the Health Ministry in Paris, on September 23, 2020.
AFP/Eliot BLONDET/Pool
France shuts down Marseille nightlife as Europe battles virus spread
Mariette Le Roux (Agence France-Presse) - September 24, 2020 - 7:43am

PARIS, France — Bars and restaurants in France's second-biggest city Marseille were ordered closed Wednesday as Europe surged past five million coronavirus cases, with France and its neighbours hoping tighter restrictions can slow the spread.

Worldwide nearly 32 million people have been infected and more than 971,000 have died since the virus emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019 and spread across the globe.

After appearing to bring cases mostly under control with economically devastating lockdowns, Europe now faces a resurgence, forcing governments to consider reintroducing tough measures.

More than half of Europe's infections have been recorded in Russia, followed by Spain, France and the United Kingdom.

The 380,000 cases reported in the past week represent the highest number in the region since the start of the pandemic.

'Be vigilant'

As infection data worsen in France — with more than 13,000 new cases reported and almost 800 hospital admissions on Thursday alone — French Health Minister Olivier Veran said bars and restaurants must close in Mediterranean port city Marseille, now the only part of mainland France at "maximum alert".

One level down on a new sliding scale of infection control measures, at "elevated alert", eight major cities including Paris will see new restrictions, including limitations on public gatherings to 10 people and earlier closing hours for bars.

The data is "continuing to worsen" but there is "still time to act", Veran said.

The Madrid region, the heart of an explosion of infections in Spain, has already locked down roughly 850,000 people and plans to extend the measures on Friday.

Britain has also announced fresh steps to try to allay the rising toll.

"To help contain the virus, office workers who can work effectively from home should do so," the government said on Tuesday, despite fears of a devastating economic impact.

British new cases mounted to more than 6,000 in 24 hours on Wednesday, with almost 42,000 dead since the pandemic began.

New rules come into force for pubs and other hospitality venues on Thursday, forcing them to close early, and plans to allow fans back into sporting events have been ditched.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the new restrictions could last up to six months and called for a collective effort to "get through this winter together". 

His scientific advisors had said the United Kingdom could see a devastating 50,000 coronavirus cases a day by mid-October if no action is taken.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday that the virus is "not just a public health emergency, it is a communications emergency too", urging the media and social media platforms to do more to battle harmful misinformation.

Trump says deaths 'a shame'

The World Health Organization reported late on Monday that almost two million infections were recorded around the globe in the week to September 20.

The United States has passed 200,000 deaths, the world's highest toll, with Brazil, India and Mexico the next most severely affected countries.

The world's most powerful nation hit the figure just 41 days before a presidential election.

US President Donald Trump — who faces a tough re-election fight and is trailing Democrat Joe Biden in the polls — said the 200,000 milestone was "a shame" and deflected blame on to China.

Trump used a Tuesday video address to the annual United Nations General Assembly to attack Beijing for not stopping the spread of what he called the "China virus".

"We must hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague onto the world — China," he told the UN's diplomatic showcase event, which is being held almost entirely online because of the pandemic.

Trump has repeatedly played down the seriousness of the coronavirus crisis.

The pandemic is taking a heavier toll on employment than previously feared, the United Nations said on Wednesday, with hundreds of millions of jobs lost and workers suffering a "massive" drop in earnings.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) found that by mid-year, global working hours had declined 17.3 percent compared with last December -- equivalent to nearly 500 million full-time jobs. 

"The impact has been catastrophic," ILO chief Guy Ryder told reporters in a virtual briefing.

German finance minister Olaf Scholz said Wednesday that the pandemic response would see Berlin breach its self-imposed no-new-debts rule for the second year running in 2021, as it forks out vast sums to keep Europe's top economy afloat.

"We are acting decisively, even if it costs a lot of money — doing nothing would be much more expensive for our country," Scholz said.

But with German output expected to fall less steeply than many neighbours this year, Berlin hopes to return to balanced budgets from 2022.

FRANCE NOVEL CORONAVIRUS
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: October 25, 2020 - 11:08am

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

October 25, 2020 - 11:08am

The United States saw a record high number of new daily COVID-19 cases for the second day in a row on Saturday, figures from Johns Hopkins University showed, as warnings grew over its spread.

The country reported 88,973 new infections between 8:30 pm Friday and 8:30 pm Saturday, the figures showed, substantially above the previous day's 79,963.

A total of 8,568,625 cases have been reported in the United States with 224,751 deaths, the highest in the world in absolute terms. — AFP

October 24, 2020 - 4:04pm

The Department of Health reports 2,057 additional cases of the coronavirus disease, bringing the national tally to 367,819.

To date, there are 47,773 active cases. The DOH registers 19 new deaths and 442 additional recoveries.

October 24, 2020 - 2:32pm

Poland's president tests positive for COVID-19, an official says.

October 24, 2020 - 1:24pm

A record of nearly 80,000 new Covid-19 infections over the course of a day were reported in the United States, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

Between 8:30 pm Thursday and the same time Friday, 79,963 infections were recorded, bringing the total number since the start of the pandemic to nearly 8.5 million in the country.

The United States had already approached the bar of 80,000 daily cases in July, largely due to new infections in southern states such as Texas and Florida, where the virus was then spreading out of control. — AFP

October 24, 2020 - 10:40am

The northern hemisphere is facing a crucial moment in fighting the COID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization says, with too many countries witnessing an exponential increase in coronavirus cases.

"The next few months are going to be very tough and some countries are on a dangerous track," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tells a virtual press conference.

"Too many countries are seeing an exponential increase in COVID-19 cases and that is now leading to hospitals and intensive care units running close to or above capacity -- and we're still only in October. — AFP

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