ROME • Spain and Italy have ordered the shuttering of discos and Greece has restricted hours for bars and restaurants amid concerns that Europe’s summer partying is reigniting the spread of the coronavirus.
As the holiday season gradually winds down, European officials are wary about returning vacationers spreading Covid-19 at workplaces and schools. Spain has again emerged as a hot spot, triggering new travel warnings in another blow to the country’s US$175 billion (S$239.6 billion) tourism industry. In the past 14 days, Spain reported 116 new cases per 100,000 people, according to data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
That compares with 41 in France, 19 in the UK, 16 in Germany and nine in Italy, the original epicentre of the outbreak on the continent.
Across the region, officials are caught between trying to foster an economic recovery after activity collapsed in the second quarter, and preventing a surge in infections that could stretch health systems and force even tighter restrictions. “We cannot waste the sacrifices made in the past months,” Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza wrote in a Facebook post late on Sunday.
Chancellor Angela Merkel told a meeting of her Christian Democratic Union party yesterday in Berlin that rising infections in Germany are of concern, but still manageable. There is no scope currently for loosening restrictions, she said.
The Irish emergency health authorities were set to meet in Dublin yesterday to consider new measures to curb the pandemic after reporting the most daily infections since May on Saturday.
From Ibiza to the crowded urban nightspots of Madrid, some 25,000 discos and clubs in Spain were struggling to emerge from one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns, which ended in June.
Suspending operations again was part of a package of 11 measures the country’s regional governments agreed to take to curb the fastest virus growth rate among Europe’s major economies. The Health Ministry blamed night-time socialising for fuelling new outbreaks, casting a shadow over the government’s seven-week experiment to restore Spain’s famed nightlife. Total cases surged by over 27,000 last week.
Over the weekend, the Netherlands raised its travel advisory level to orange for three Spanish regions, including Madrid and the popular Balearic Islands. The advisory discourages non-essential travel and requires self-quarantine upon return.
In France, an increase in new cases over the past week – near the alert level in areas such as Paris and Marseille – has prompted a push for new measures. The local authorities have sealed some public areas such as beaches to prevent wild parties, with nightclubs closed since mid-March.
The ban on gatherings of more than 5,000 people has been extended until the end of October.
The trends are not getting worse everywhere. Belgium is seeing a fall in the daily number of infections for the first time since the epidemic started regaining strength in the middle of last month, and the UK continues to open up an economy that has been hit more than any major European nation during the lockdowns.