Germany’s lockdown measures could continue into spring, as long as there continued to be more than 50 infections per 100,000 people, a minister said
COVID-19 deaths yesterday topped 400,000 in Europe, the world’s second-worst-hit region, as Germany, once a beacon of hope in Europe’s coronavirus nightmare, logged more than 1 million cases on Friday.
Although the virus spread is slowing thanks to weeks of tough restrictions, Europe remains at the heart of the pandemic, crossing a grim barrier with 400,649 deaths, according to an Agence France-Presse tally.
Britain accounted for almost two-thirds of the fatalities at 57,551, followed by Italy with 53,677, France at 51,914 and Spain with 44,668.
Germany’s relative success in containing the virus had offered some sense of hope, with authorities putting in place some precautions that still allowed life to carry on almost as normal.
However, its measured approach has failed during the second wave, endangering the health of Europe’s biggest economy and weighing on the mood as the northern hemisphere heads into the winter holidays.
The Robert Koch Institute recorded more than 22,000 new daily cases on Friday, pushing the overall total beyond 1 million.
More worrying, the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care has soared from around 360 early last month to more than 3,500 last week.
The nation’s partial lockdown measures could be extended until early spring if infections are not brought under control, German Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Peter Altmaier told Die Welt in an interview published yesterday.
Altmaier said it was not possible to give the all-clear while there were incidences of more than 50 infections per 100,000 inhabitants in large parts of Germany.
Stores were yesterday to lift their shutters in France on, while Poland’s shopping centers would also reopen.
Belgium would allow shops to reopen from Tuesday next week, but keep the semi-lockdown in place possibly until mid-January. The move mirrors similar easing in Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
Ireland has also announced a staggered easing of restrictions to allow some businesses to reopen and for families to gather ahead of Christmas.
Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the upcoming festive period “cannot and will not be the kind of Christmas we are used to.”
However, the easing of restrictions would offer “some respite from the hardships of 2020 and in particular, the last six weeks,” he added
In Russia, one of the developers of the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine announced that India-based drugmaker Hetero would produce more than 100 million doses of the jab.
Russia was the first country to approve a vaccine in August, long before the candidate had undergone large-scale clinical trials.
Moscow this week said that interim results showed that Sputnik V — named after the pioneering Soviet satellite — was 95 percent effective, although crucial Phase III trials are still underway.
The US on Friday surpassed 13 million total cases — the world’s highest figure — and officials were concerned whether gatherings on Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday would further worsen the situation.
The pandemic is spreading fastest in Asia and Latin America, and is up by a worrying 113 percent over the week in Mexico.
Globally, more than 1.4 million deaths and 61 million infections have been officially recorded, although the real numbers are unknown since testing and reporting methods vary greatly.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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