Countries across Europe are battling soaring rates of coronavirus, with new lockdowns, curfews, face mask requests and virus-tracking smartphone apps.
In a small sign of success, the Spanish government said it will not extend the state of emergency in the Madrid region when it expires on Saturday, but will consider more domestic measures.
But with the re-emergence of the global pandemic sweeping the continent, local and national governments also face stiff opposition to the new measures. The British government said on Tuesday it would impose tough new measures on Greater Manchester, angering the mayor of the region.
In The Hague, owners of bars and restaurants failed to legally challenge an order to close their doors for at least four weeks. Protests in Portugal forced authorities to backtrack on a plan to make tracking enforcement mandatory across the country.
Amid public frustration, some countries are showing a festive carrot to the virus-exhausted population, saying that strict measures now could pave the way to relax measures before Christmas.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called up the recess over the weekend, and other countries followed suit. Merkel said to her country: “How will winter be, and what will be Christmas, will be decided in the coming days and weeks.”
Health Minister Salvador Illa said on Tuesday that the government will not extend the state of emergency in the Madrid region when it expires on Saturday, but it may start imposing curfews at COVID-19 hotspots across the country.
Illa said the partial lockdown in the Madrid area in recent weeks has helped put a lid on the community transmission that has made it one of the most important corona virus groups in Europe.
But he indicated that the number of cases in Madrid is still high. The region reported more than 29,000 cases during the past two weeks, although Tuesday’s toll was 354 new cases within 24 hours – the fourth highest in Spain.
Hala said he is evaluating with regional governments in Spain the possibility of agreeing on a targeted curfew, as the country nears the one million officially registered cases.
“I want to be very clear,” said Ella. “Some tough weeks are coming.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed strict restrictions on England’s second-largest city, after talks with officials in Greater Manchester failed to agree on financial support for people whose livelihoods would be affected by the new measures.
The Johnson government is resisting a recommendation from its science advisory committee to close a “circuit breaker” to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Instead, it adopted a three-tiered system for England, with the regions classified as medium, high and high risk. In the upper class, bars should be closed and people forbidden from mixing with other family members.
Greater Manchester joins the Liverpool and Lancashire regions in northwest England which have been placed in Tier 3, the highest level.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, a member of the opposition Labor Party, was seeking more financial support for workers and businesses affected by the restrictions in his region of around 3 million people. He blamed Johnson for turning away from the negotiations.
Other countries in the UK control their own health policies and take slightly different approaches.
Prime Minister Michel Martin announced a new, strict lockdown. Starting at midnight on Wednesday, non-essential stores should be closed, restaurants will be restricted to eating outside, and people should stay five kilometers (three miles) from their homes and ban visits to other homes.
It is almost a return to severe restrictions imposed by the government in March, although schools, construction sites and manufacturing industries will remain open. Martin said that if people comply with the restrictions, which will be in place until December 1, the country will be able to celebrate Christmas in a “meaningful way”.
Ireland, with a population of nearly 5 million, has recorded 1,852 deaths from the Coronavirus.
Uppsala, the university city north of Stockholm, on Tuesday became the first place in Sweden to impose local restrictions as residents were urged to avoid physical contact and parties and to stay away from public transport.
“In Uppsala, you now need to be extra careful,” said Anders Tegnell, who is credited with being behind the much-discussed Swedish approach to COVID-19 in keeping large parts of society open.
He added that the restrictions would last for two weeks and could be extended and introduced elsewhere in Sweden. Restaurants and schools in Uppsala were not affected.
A judge in The Hague rejected an appeal by more than 60 Dutch restaurants and bars to overturn the government’s four-week lockdown order.
Attorney Simon van Zell, who represents bars and restaurants, warned in court that the Dutch hospitality industry was facing a “tidal wave of bankruptcy” due to the closure order, which he described as “random and disproportionate”.
The Netherlands has one of the highest infection rates in Europe when it comes to re-emergence of the virus.
The national government wanted to make the application of COVID-19 tracking mandatory, but widespread protest forced it to backtrack on the plan that was widely criticized as impractical and unconstitutional.
Prime Minister Antonio Costa said in a televised interview late Monday that the controversial move, which was due to come to a vote later this week in Parliament, required further discussion.
Parliament is expected to impose on Friday the wearing of face masks in the open air.
The country recorded the highest number of coronavirus deaths on Tuesday as 38 patients died of the disease, bringing the total number of confirmed coronavirus deaths to 1,211.
The central government in Budapest canceled most of the events planned for the October 23 national holiday and has called on local municipalities to do the same. The festive period in Hungary was a hit – and the Christmas fair in the capital, one of the largest and most visited places in Central and Eastern Europe, has also been canceled.
Associated Press journalists across Europe contributed to this report.
Copyright 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.