Germany Enforces New Lockdown as Merkel Says 'We No Longer Have Control of the Spread of the Virus'
European citizens are bracing for varying degrees of shutdowns as leaders aim to mitigate recent spikes in COVID-19 cases.
According to data compiled by The New York Times, places like Britain, France, Italy and Germany have reported significantly increased death tolls and tallies of confirmed coronavirus infections this fall. On Tuesday alone, for example, Britain had 367 COVID-related deaths, with 523 fatalities in France, their highest total since April, the Times reports.
In response to Germany's second wave of cases, Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a news conference on Wednesday that, starting Monday, restaurants and bars will shutter, according to the Washington Post. Public gatherings will also be limited to 10 people maximum.
"We no longer have control of the spread of the virus,” Merkel said. "... If the tempo of infections stays the same, we will reach the capacity of our health care system within weeks. That’s why it’s completely clear that we need to act and act now."
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, per the Associated Press, that Europe has "two enemies at this time."
"We’re dealing with the coronavirus; the virus itself and also corona fatigue. That is, people are becoming more and more fed up with the preventive measures," she said.
France and Belgium are weighing options for another lockdown to ensure hospitals don't become overbooked, the AP reports, adding that European Council President Charles Michel said in a recent radio interview: "We are in a storm. We are all in the same boat. And in this storm, we must keep cool heads."
The response overseas comes as the United States continues to be in conflict over the public health crisis. In the U.S., new daily case counts continue to be at all-time highs in certain states, even though President Donald Trump, on his re-election campaign trail, insists the nation is "rounding the corner" on handling the pandemic.
Admiral Brett Giroir, the Trump administration’s own head of COVID-19 testing, said the record-breaking numbers of new infections in the U.S. are “real,” and not because of an increase in testing, counter to what Trump, 74, has claimed.
“Testing may be identifying some more cases, I think that's clearly true, but what we're seeing is a real increase in the numbers,” he told the Washington Post.
Giroir pointed out that not only are cases going up (the country saw 74,410 new infections on Tuesday and a record-breaking 85,085 on Friday), but hospitalizations for the virus are as well.
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“Compared to the post-Memorial Day surge, even though testing is up, this is a real increase in cases,” he added. “We know that not only because the case numbers are up and we can calculate that, but we know that hospitalizations are going up.”
Giroir’s statements are in opposition to Trump’s claims that the rise in cases is due to an increase in testing, and that the focus on COVID-19 is a “fake news media conspiracy.”
Giroir urged Americans to keep up hygiene practices, wear masks and social distance as the crisis could get worse. “So, you know, we really have a mixed picture but we are tenuous now,” he said. “We really have to reengage the public health measures that we know work or those hospitalizations can go up substantially.”
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