: Europe tightens restrictions in desperate race against second wave of COVID-19

: Europe tightens restrictions in desperate race against second wave of COVID-19

Employees close a restaurant terrace under curfew in Cannes, France, on October 25, 2020.

Getty Images

France became on Sunday the European country worst hit by the coronavirus second spike, which hit the continent and the U.K. over the summer with unexpected intensity. The local and regional lockdowns proliferating in most countries now threaten the region with another devastating economic blow.

  • French authorities said on Sunday that more than 52,000 cases had been registered in the previous 24 hours, doubling from the previous week’s daily average. France now has the largest number of persons infected in Europe, and the fifth-largest in the world behind the U.S., India, Brazil, and Russia.

  • Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced on Sunday that all bars and restaurants in the country would close from 6 p.m., starting today. Theaters, cinemas, gyms, and swimming pools will be shut as well. The measures will remain in place for one month. “We cannot lower our guard,” Conte warned.

  • A new state of emergency was announced on Sunday in Spain by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, which would allow the central government to impose nighttime curfews or even the banning of inter-regional travel. “We are living in an extreme situation,” Sánchez said.

  • AstraZeneca, the U.K. pharmaceuticals company, said that the COVID-19 vaccine it is currently developing with the University of Oxford produces a similar immune response in younger and elder adults, and that adverse responses were lower among the elderly. A spokesman for the group deemed the result “encouraging.”

The outlook: Lockdown fatigue is triggering protests throughout Europe against the severity of the new measures, as the second spike of the virus is about to end the swift summer economic rebound. But the task of governments will become even harder if they cannot show rapidly results for the new restrictions — in the form of a major pandemic slowdown.

In any case, they will have to devote even more resources to counter the economic impact of the potent second wave, even though they have barely begun to make up for the massive lost output in the first half of the year. Avoiding a new devastating recession next year will come at the price of more fiscal spending, and a rising debt load.

Read: Second COVID wave brings the European economic recovery to an end