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European nations opt for milder actions in face of grimmer infections

(Xinhua)    09:27, October 20, 2020

BRUSSELS, Oct. 19 (Xinhua) -- Despite much grimmer figures of coronavirus infections in recent weeks than in the first wave in spring, most European governments have opted for milder and targeted approaches, apparently in a bid to balance public health with the prospect of an extended recession.

GRIMMER FIGURES

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) COVID-19 dashboard, as of 2:01 p.m. CEST on Monday, Europe has reported 8,027,954 confirmed cases -- including 927,433 infections in the past week (Oct. 12-18), the highest among the WHO's six regions.

The dashboard also showed that Europe registered a total of 256,540 deaths from the coronavirus since the outbreak of the pandemic -- including 8,386 fatalities during last week, only second to the Americas.

In Europe, coronavirus infections are mounting at an alarming speed in Britain, France, Spain, Italy, and Belgium, among others, prompting warnings that the health services will be overwhelmed.

In Britain, where the latest official figures confirmed another 18,804 infections, a Downing Street spokesman said Monday that coronavirus cases in the Greater Manchester area tripled over a two-week period and the entire intensive care unit (ICU) capacity in the region will be filled up with coronavirus patients in less than a month "if nothing changes."

In France, authorities reported 13,243 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, down sharply from 29,837 registered a day before, as fewer people are usually tested on Sundays.

According to state-run France Info radio, French First Lady Brigitte Macron would self-isolate for seven days after coming into contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Spanish health authorities said Monday that the past three days have recorded 37,889 new cases. The continued increase means that Spain is likely to reach the mark of one million infections within the next two or three days.

In Belgium, the daily average number of new COVID-19 cases was 7,876 from Oct. 9 to Oct. 15, the Sciensano public health institute said. This is an increase of 79 percent compared with the previous week. The daily average number of hospitalizations was 251.9, a 100 percent week-on-week increase.

In the Netherlands, an average of 7,827 confirmed cases per day was reported for the past seven days, compared with 5,861 one week earlier, according to the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM).

In Italy, the infection rate has been on the rise, with the seven-day average steadily climbing for six straight weeks. The Monday figure of 9,338 new infections was the first decline in a week, down from the 11,705 record registered on Sunday.

In Austria, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz on Monday described the current pandemic situation in his country as "very serious," warning that if the trend continues, "we will have up to 6,000 new infections per day in December."

MILDER APPROACHES

Governments across the region are moving gingerly to strike a balance between public health and the economies, which are still reeling from the lockdown in the spring. Most of them opt for milder and targeted -- usually localized, rather than nationwide -- approaches to deal with the new wave of coronavirus.

Last week, Britain's Lancashire joined Liverpool in moving into Tier Three -- the "Very High" alert level -- restrictions from Saturday. It means pub closures and bans on household mixing indoors, in private gardens and most outdoor venues.

Meanwhile, the Welsh government announced that the region will enter a circuit-breaker lockdown for 17 days from Friday.

In Belgium, where a lockdown was put in place in spring, a set of new measures for COVID-19 prevention and control entered into force on Monday. Under the new rules, cafes, bars and restaurants will have to remain closed for four weeks from Monday. Last week, the Dutch government had announced a similar "partial lockdown."

In Austria, Chancellor Kurz said on Monday that a maximum of six people will be allowed for private indoor gatherings and 12 adults for outdoor ones starting from Friday midnight -- barring professional events, which allowed up to 1,500 mask-wearing visitors outdoors.

Romania's capital city Bucharest decided on Monday to close schools and cinemas, and make mask-wearing in public spaces compulsory from Tuesday. The move came as the city entered the "red" scenario of COVID-19 after the 14-day incidence exceeded the threshold of three infections per 1,000 inhabitants.

In Italy, the new restrictions put into place during the weekend by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte include limits on activities at pubs, bars, and restaurants up until midnight (or 6 p.m. if customers must stand).

Italian Health experts said the latest round of coronavirus restrictions in the country focused on the areas where they'll be most effective, while news outlets and commentators have said they were milder than expected.

Riccardo Puglisi, an economist in the Department of Political Science at the University of Pavia, said the government's biggest challenge is to strike the right balance in confronting the health risks without putting too much of a drag on the economy.

As the world is struggling to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, countries including Italy, France, China, Russia, Britain and the U.S. are racing to find a vaccine.

According to the website of WHO, as of Oct. 19, there were 198 COVID-19 candidate vaccines being developed worldwide, and 44 of them were in clinical trials.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Wen Ying, Bianji)

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