France entered a new lockdown on Friday as the resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic forced more countries to consider doing the same, with Europe surpassing 10 million infections in total and the United States posting a daily record of 90,000 cases.
From midnight, the 65 million French people were largely confined to their homes, needing written statements to leave, in the latest drastic step to fight a disease that has infected more than 44.5 million people in the world and killed nearly 1.2 million.
Just days before the US presidential election, the country recorded 91,295 new cases in 24 hours, for the first time surpassing the 90,000 mark for a total of nearly 9 million.
President Donald Trump continued to downplay the dangers of the virus, telling an enthusiastic crowd at a rally in Tampa that lockdowns under Democratic rival Joe Biden would ban normal life.
“We’re never going to lock down again,” Trump said ahead of the Nov. 3 vote, telling supporters his recent fight with Covid-19 – for which he was hospitalized – proved he can be beaten.
Also in Tampa, Biden responded by saying, “I’m not going to shut down the economy, I’m not going to shut down the country. I’m going to stop the virus.”
Italy released its own daily infection toll on Friday, fueling debate over whether it should follow France in a nationwide lockdown.
“Over 31,000 cases and 199 deaths. I ask you a question: what are you waiting for?” virologist Roberto Burioni tweeted.
A new US government study has found that people infected with Covid-19 infect around half of their household members, with adults being slightly more likely than children to spread the virus.
‘I do not have a choice’
In Paris, the French capital, some doctors have expressed fears that regular traffic and a sizeable number of people on public transport shows the public not taking the lockdown so seriously a second time.
“Crossing Paris this morning was more like an ordinary day than the first day of a lockout,” tweeted Paris hospital director Martin Hirsch.
“We have no choice, we are forced to live, to go shopping and to behave as if it were normal even if there are security measures”, declared Fabrice Angélique, 18, buying headphones in a book and electronics store in Paris. .
According to a poll by Odoxa-Dentsu Consulting for France Info and Le Figaro, seven out of ten people in France are in favor of the new lockout, which is expected to last a month with bars and restaurants closed at least until December and travel between limited regions.
Factories and construction sites will remain open, as will nurseries and schools – although children aged six and older are required to wear masks in class.
President Emmanuel Macron warned that the second wave “will probably be more difficult and deadly than the first” in a country which has already suffered 36,000 deaths.
Europe has once again become the epicenter of the pandemic, recording 40% more cases this week than the previous seven days, according to an AFP count.
The continent now registers 241,000 new cases per day, against 15,000 in early July.
Nottingham became the latest in a swathe of towns in central and northern England to enter the highest level of local restrictions on Friday, with Leeds’ 2.4 million residents due to follow next week.
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel ordered a series of lighter shutdowns from Monday, closing bars, cafes and restaurants, as well as theaters, opera houses and cinemas.
Lawmakers in the Czech Republic have voted to extend the state of emergency until November 20, while Iceland has ordered bars and nightclubs closed and limited public gatherings to a maximum of 10 people.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he has no plans to introduce a radical lockdown even as the country has a record-breaking death toll with reports of ambulance queues at hospitals and medical shortages.
There were, however, small glimmers of hope – sometimes controversial – in some countries.
In Slovakia, a government program to screen its entire population of 5.4 million people for the coronavirus with antigen testing in what would be a world first, was due to start on Saturday.
And in Italy, pharmacists are facing a surge in demand for a niche product – of heretofore unproven effectiveness against Covid – typically marketed as an immune system booster for babies.
The demand for lactoferrin comes weeks after a viral video suggested it may help protect against the coronavirus.
There was also good news for football star Cristiano Ronaldo, who has tested negative for Covid-19 and will be released from isolation after testing positive on October 13.