Europe has recorded its highest weekly number of new Covid-19 cases as the virus again spreads rapidly across the continent.
And the World Health Organisation has warned that daily deaths in Europe could reach four or five times their April peak within months without effective restrictions being put in place.
Across the world, Europe appears to be the hardest-hit continent. Figures from the European statistical agency show the Czech Republic and Belgium have the highest infection rates. If Northern Ireland’s infection rate was counted alone, it would come third followed by the Netherlands.
Coronavirus infection rates in the last fortnight (cases per 100k people in the last 14 days)
In contrast, the best performing European countries are Germany with 75.6 cases for every 100k people in the last fortnight, Greece with 49.6 and Norway with 37.3.
For context, the county borough in Wales with the fewest cases over the last fortnight is Pembrokeshire with 66.8 cases for every 100,000 people – suggesting that Greece and Norway are both more successful at containing the spread of coronavirus across their entire country than a largely rural Welsh council with Germany not far behind.
If Wales’ figures were counted as a whole, the nation would have 262.2 cases for every 100k people in the last fortnight. Scotland would have had 256, England 303 and Northern Ireland 615.
Dr Hans Kluge, the WHO’s regional director for Europe, said this week: “The evolving epidemiological situation in Europe raises great concern: daily cases are up, hospital admissions are up and Covid is now the fifth leading cause of deaths in the region, killing more than 1,000 people a day.”
But Kluge said there was cause for optimism because the situation was not the same as during the first wave of the pandemic, and tighter controls introduced by many European countries this week could save hundreds of thousands of lives.
“We are recording two to three times more cases per day compared with April, but five times fewer deaths, and hospital admissions are taking two to three times longer to double,” he said. “The pandemic today is not the pandemic yesterday – not only in terms of its transmission dynamic, but in the ways we are now equipped to face it.”
Cases in your area:
Worldwide, more than 39 million cases have been confirmed globally with more than 1.1 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
India has had the highest number of cases in the past two weeks with 821,095 cases and 10,379 deaths, compared to 666,524 cases and 9,191 deaths in America and the third highest was Brazil with 293,467 cases and 7,227.
The highest country in Europe was France with 241,504 cases in the past two weeks and 1,102 deaths, followed by the UK with 209,240 cases and 1,112 deaths.
This is how different countries are dealing with the virus.
The Spanish capital Madrid is in the middle of a 15-day state of emergency to bring down Covid-19 infection rates in the capital, after a court overturned a partial lockdown.
Madrid and nearby cities are seeing restrictions enforced by 7,000 police.
The capital has been at the centre of a political row, with the centre-right city authorities challenging the Socialist-led government’s demands.
Cases are down and a state of emergency is unjustified, say city officials.
Madrid health minister Enrique Ruiz Escudero insisted that measures already in place were working and that the national government order was “a measure no Madrileño will understand”.
French restaurants, cinemas and theatres are trying to figure out how to survive a new curfew aimed at stemming the flow of record new virus infections.
France registered more than 30,000 virus cases on Thursday, its highest single-day jump since the pandemic began, and nearly 200 cases per 100,000 people over the past week.
Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot told Le Parisien newspaper she is negotiating for exceptions to a month-long curfew between 9pm and 6am across the Paris region and eight other metropolitan areas.
The curfew comes into effect Friday at midnight, and France is deploying 12,000 extra police to enforce it.
“The French culture world isn’t invincible, it needs help,” author and filmmaker Yoann Sfar, who has a new movie coming out, said on Friday on RTL radio.
One cinema chain will start opening at 8am in hopes of making up evening losses.
Since Paris restaurants generally open at 7 or 7.30pm for dinner, some might close altogether because it no longer makes financial sense to stay open for such a short shift.
Survey: Are you following Wales’ lockdown rules
Germany has confirmed more than 7,000 new coronavirus infections for the first time, its second consecutive daily record.
The Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s national disease control centre, said early on Friday that 7,334 new cases were confirmed in the previous 24 hours.
That compares with 6,638 a day earlier.
Until this week, Germany’s highest recorded figure was nearly 6,300 in late March, though testing has expanded vastly since then.
Figures tend to peak around the end of the week, but the latest reading underlines a sharp upward trend in recent weeks.
Earlier this week, the federal and state governments agreed to toughen mask-wearing rules and make bars close early in areas where infections are high.
Germany has confirmed more than 348,000 cases in total since the pandemic began, including 9,734 deaths – an increase of 24 compared with Thursday.
“There can be no question any more now that this is the start of a very big second wave,” Angela Merkel’s chief of staff said. “It is up to us to stop the infections.”
A map of cases in Europe:
This week, travellers returning to the UK from Italy, Vatican City and San Marino from 4am on Sunday (October 18) must self-isolate for two weeks.
Italy, which is visited by large numbers of UK residents, was one of the last major countries in Europe on the safe list.
It had its highest daily count of Covid cases on Thursday, with 8,804.
The country has recorded a seven-day rate of 64 cases per 100,000 people.
A rate of 20 cases per 100,000 is the threshold above which the government considers imposing quarantine conditions.
The Campania region, which includes Naples, has closed schools until the end of the month as the number of infections there surged above 1,000.
Italian health officials have declared the country in an “acute phase” after the country set records for new daily cases higher than even during the March-April peak, when the death toll surged well over 900 in one 24-hour period.
The death toll on Thursday rose to 83, one-third of those in Lombardy, after days hovering at half that nationally.
Australia and New Zealand
Australia’s largest city has lifted quarantine restrictions on travellers from New Zealand, with more than 350 passengers taking three flights from Auckland on Friday not having to undergo hotel quarantine on arrival in Sydney.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said: “This is great news for tourism. It’s also great news for family reunification and grateful businesses.”
New Zealand will continue to insist that travellers from Australia quarantine in hotels for 14 days on arrival.
Meanwhile, Australia’s second largest city, Melbourne, marked the 100th day of one of the world’s longest pandemic lockdowns.
The Victoria state government has resisted pressure from businesses and the federal government to relax a second lockdown imposed in Melbourne on July 9.