Much of Europe tightens restrictions as coronavirus rises

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Stricter restrictions aimed at curbing the spike in coronavirus infections were imposed across much of Italy and parts of Poland on Monday, while in France Paris is at risk of being stranded on weekends so that intensive care is almost saturated with COVID-19 patients.

According to a decision by the Italian government at the end of last week, 80% of schoolchildren, from kindergarten to secondary school, were excluded from the classroom as of Monday. An ever-increasing number of intensive care beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, a steady increase in the number of daily cases and transmission of infection mainly due to a variant of the virus first discovered in Britain have combined to force the new government of Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi to apply the “red zone” designation to more regions, including, for the first time since the multi-level color scheme was created last fall, on the Lazio, the region comprising Rome.

In the red zone areas, restaurants and cafes can only do take-out or deliveries, non-essential stores are closed and residents are required to stay close to home except for work, health or hospitality. essential purchases. Over the weekend, many barber shops extended their opening hours to deal with last-minute customers, and crowds thronged shopping streets, parks and seaside walks before the crackdown does not take effect.

On Monday, reality flew away.

In a country where coffee is taken, neatly, at a counter or cafe table, and not in a take-out paper cup, Alessandra Lorisa took off her mask and sipped hers in a square in Rome. “Now it’s part of our routine,” she said. “It’s much more American, if we can put it that way”, she added, expressing the hope that after Easter “we will be able to see improvements, to return to the routines to which we were accustomed”.

Draghi on Friday promised a rapid injection of pandemic aid to closed businesses.

Beyond the commercial aspects, parents expressed their concern for children excluded from classrooms. “They have little interaction now with their friends, they have to celebrate their birthdays alone,” said Marco Pacciani as he strolled through a park in Rome with his young son.

In Poland, amid a sharp rise in the number of new infections and COVID-19 hospital patients, restrictions have been tightened in two other regions, including the capital, Warsaw, and a western province that borders Germany. Two other provinces were already subject to restrictions.

Under the strengthened measures, hotels and shopping centers are to remain closed, as are theaters, cinemas, fitness clubs and sports facilities. Schoolchildren aged 6 to 9 will have a combination of classroom and distance education.

The inexorable rise in the number of patients treated in the intensive care units of French hospitals, especially in the Paris region, is increasing the pressure on the government of President Emmanuel Macron. As elsewhere in Europe, viral variants are suspected of fueling the increase in severe cases in France. Macron’s government attempted to avoid another punitive national lockdown in 2021, opting instead for a nationwide curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

It should be decided in a few days whether the Paris region and its 12 million inhabitants will be confined over the weekend.

Last week, the countries of the Western Balkans announced a tightening of measures amid rising cases in Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro.

As they received their first vaccines on Wednesday, doctors in Bosnia’s capital Sarajevo warned that the virus had exploded in recent days. Bars, restaurants and non-essential shops in Sarajevo Canton will be closed for the coming weekend.

In Serbia, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic criticized the holding in recent days of two concerts by a popular group in a hall in Belgrade. The country of 7 million people has vaccinated more than 1.5 million people, one of the highest rates in Europe.

At the western end of the continent, Portugal has established itself as an outlier. It was emerging from a two-month pandemic lockdown on Monday, with the country gradually reopening over the next seven weeks, barring a setback.

Primary and preschools, hair salons and bookstores were among the places that reopened on Monday. Prime Minister António Costa said in a tweet on Monday that the process must be “very careful, gradual and piecemeal”.

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