Europe warns of need for vigilance as Covid-19 cases rise sharply
Spanish health officials have warned the country could already be experiencing a “second wave” of coronavirus, as France, Germany and Belgium all reported steep rises in their number of cases.
Countries across Europe have reminded people of the need for vigilance amid rising cases as the summer holiday season continues.
Spain’s health ministry logged 971 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday – the highest daily toll since the state of emergency was lifted at the end of June – and said there were 281 active outbreaks across the country.
María José Sierra, the deputy head of Spain’s centre for health emergencies, said that while the curve had been flattened, “community transmission” was being seen in north-eastern areasy.
“It could already be a second wave, but that’s not the most important thing,” Sierra told reporters. “The most important thing is that we keep following what’s going on, see what measures are necessary, and take them early.”
She also said people needed to remember the incidence of the virus has tripled in just two weeks, from 8.76 cases per 100,000 people on 3 July to 27.39 cases per 100,000. “Obviously, the curve is going up, but let’s wait to see what kind of situation we’re in,” she added.
Nearly 8,000 cases have been diagnosed in Catalonia over the past 14 days - accounting for almost half of the 16,410 detected across Spain.
France’s national health authority, Santé Publique, reported 1,062 new cases of Covid-19 on Thursday and said that while there had been an increase among the over-75s and people in care homes, a rise had also been reported in cases among “young adults”.
The authority said there had been “a slackening of the application of barrier gestures” and reminded people that physical distancing needed to be maintained.
“During the summer and holidays, it may seem artificial to greet each other at a distance, talk from a distance, wash hands regularly and wear masks in enclosed spaces, but this individual and collective effort is crucial to prevent the virus from encroaching on our freedom and the epidemic from rebounding,” it said.
On Friday, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, held a meeting of the country’s defence council to discuss the increase in number of cases and consider fresh measures including whether to tighten controls on the borders with Belgium and Spain and possible quarantine measures for international passengers at airports.
Germany’s Robert Koch Institute reported 815 new cases on Friday, compared with 583 a week ago and 395 the week before.
Excluding recent outbreaks at meat processing plants, the rise was the biggest since mid-May. Figures tend to be higher on Fridays, due to reported cases stacking up during the week.
More than 40% of current cases are in the western state of North Rhine Westphalia, but other states are also showing above-average rises.
Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit from the Bernhard-Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg said the figures appeared to indicate an increase across the population rather than in specific locations such as around meat processing plants. If that was the case, it would make the virus more difficult to contain, he told Der Spiegel.
“We need to see whether this is to do with large gatherings, that are now allowed, the reopening of kindergartens and schools, or is it to do with people returning from their holidays?” he said.