Coronavirus digest: Europe tightens restrictions to control spread of COVID-19

Europe

The prime minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, said that the country was returning to a “partial lockdown” on Wednesday.

The Netherlands will close bars and restaurants, ban alcohol sales, restrict opening hours of retail stores and prohibit gatherings of more than four people.

Wearing of cloth masks has been made mandatory for people 13 years and older in indoor spaces, and indoor gatherings are restricted to 30 people. Schools and public transport will stay open.

Rutte said that emergency legislation could be passed to make face masks mandatory.

Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said that the partial lockdown was expected to last for at least four weeks, with a review of the impact after two weeks. Jonge said tougher restrictions could follow if the lockdown is ineffective. 

The strict measures come at a time when coronavirus cases have surged in the country. The Netherlands has one of the highest per capita infection rates worldwide.

Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, signed a decree on Tuesday to impose new restrictions on public gatherings, restaurants, sports and school activities.

Conte said that the measures were being taken to prevent a nationwide lockdown. The new restrictions follow a surge in coronavirus cases. On Saturday, Italy recorded 6,000 new infections.

The UK’s opposition leader, Keir Starmer, has called for a “circuit break” lockdown to slow down coronavirus infection rates.

Starmer said that the Boris Johnson-led government had “lost control” of the outbreak, after ignoring the advice of a scientific panel, which had called for tougher restrictions to curb infections.

Johnson has announced a three-tier system to categorize areas by rates of infection to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The city of Liverpool, which is under the highest category, faces a closure of pubs and a ban on household mixing from Wednesday for at least a month.

EU member states reached an agreement on common criteria to coordinate coronavirus travel rules, to provide clarity and predictability on measures that restrict movement due to the pandemic. 

The agreement requires EU countries to provide “clear and timely information about what they must do, and which restrictions are in force,” including any accompanying requirements such as COVID-19 negative tests or passenger locator forms.

Ministers from 27 EU member states also created a common color-coded mapping system based on common criteria from the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) to define risk areas in the bloc.

Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, has tested negative for the coronavirus, after coming into contact with a positive patient last week.

The government’s spokesman, Piotr Müller, said that Morawiecki had no symptoms of the coronavirus and he would continue to stay in quarantine “until appropriate”.

Portugal’s soccer federation announced on Tuesday that Cristiano Ronaldo had tested positive for the coronavirus.

The federation said that the soccer star had tested positive while he was with Portugal’s national team and he was doing well.

A day before his diagnosis, Ronaldo had posted a photo with the Portuguese soccer team in which they were having a meal together.

Americas

Facebook has announced that it will ban paid advertisements on its platform that discourage vaccinations. The company said that the only exceptions to this rule would be ads for government vaccination policies.

Facebook already had a policy in place that banned ads about vaccine hoaxes, but the new policy is a blanket ban on all paid ads that discourage vaccines or vaccination.

However, Facebook said that ads that “advocate for or against legislation or government policies around vaccines,” including a vaccine for the coronavirus, would be allowed on its platform. Unpaid posts discouraging vaccination will also be allowed on its platform.

Drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co has paused the clinical trial of its antibody treatment for the coronavirus, because of a “safety concern.” 

Eli Lilly’s antibody treatment is similar to the one of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals taken by US President Donald Trump after he was diagnosed with the virus.

Trump had touted Eli Lilly’s drug, along with the one from Regeneron, as “virtual cures” last week. Eli Lilly’s announcement follows a similar move by Johnson and Johnson on Monday. J&J temporarily halted the clinical trials of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, after an “unexplained illness in a study participant.”

am/dr (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

The post Coronavirus digest: Europe tightens restrictions to control spread of COVID-19 appeared first on Deutsche Welle.

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