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Global Covid-19 cases pass 40 million as Europe tightens restrictions

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide passed 40 million on Monday, as fresh measures t..

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide passed 40 million on Monday, as fresh measures to combat the spread of the virus came into effect in several European countries.

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Belgium imposes a nationwide overnight curfew from Monday and Switzerland has made wearing face masks compulsory in indoor public spaces, the latest measures by European governments to fight a powerful second coronavirus wave.

The latest surge in cases sent the total registered worldwide past 40 million Monday morning, according to an AFP tally based on official sources. More than half the caseload is in the three hardest-hit countries: the US, India and Brazil.

In Europe, more than 250,000 people have died, but the deepening crisis there stands in contrast to Australia where Melbourne, the second-largest city, has begun easing a lockdown that kept millions of people largely confined to their homes for months.

Cafés and restaurants across Belgium were shuttered for four weeks as the country tackled its own infection spike, part of a continent-wide surge that has seen a 44 percent increase in cases across Europe in the past week.

"The situation is serious. It is worse than on March 18 when the lockdown was decided," Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told Belgian television RTL Info.

The overnight curfew in Belgium came days after France imposed a nighttime curfew in nine cities, including the Paris metropolitan area. The curfew came as France hit a record 32,400 new infections on Saturday.

Reporting from Brussels, FRANCE 24's Dave Keating said the restrictions in Belgium "are similar to that in France. But they’re more severe in some areas, less severe in other areas. The curfew is nationwide here, not just in the bigger cities, but it’s only from midnight to 5am, not from 9pm to 6pm as it is in France".

Some businesses have protested despite authorities warning the country was in the middle of an exponential increase in cases.

"We don't feel considered, and it hurts my heart," said Angelo Bussi, a restaurant manager in Brussels. "Everyone is in pain. It's horrible."

Europe tightens restrictions as continent faces rise in Covid-19 cases

'Second wave is here'

Switzerland was largely spared when the coronavirus emerged in China late last year and swept the world.

But infections have doubled in the wealthy Alpine nation in the last seven days, prompting new restrictions including compulsory mask-wearing in public spaces indoors and limits on public gatherings.

"The second wave is here, earlier and stronger than we expected, but we are prepared," Health Minister Alain Berset told journalists.

The canton of Bern also banned public events of more than a thousand people, which will hit professional football and hockey matches.

Meanwhile Italy announced fresh curbs on Sunday night in response to its own snowballing second wave of contagion, after enduring Europe's first major outbreak earlier this year.

"We cannot waste time," said Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, flagging bans on amateur team sports, and earlier closures for bars and restaurants.

The new measures were intended to avoid harsher measures that could "seriously endanger" continental Europe's third-largest economy, already reeling from a two-month nationwide lockdown only lifted in May.

'I am doing what is safe'

An even longer lockdown began coming to an end in Australia on Monday, where the five million inhabitants of Melbourne were allowed to leave their homes for more than tRead More – Source

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Covid: Thousands protest in France against proposed new vaccine pass

A new draft law would in effect ban unvaccinated people from public life.

Demonstrators in the capital, Paris, held placards emblazoned with phrases like “no to vaccine passes”.

Interior Ministry officials said 34 people were arrested and some 10 police officers were injured after the protests turned violent in some places.

The bill, which passed its first reading in the lower house of France’s parliament on Thursday, would remove the option of showing a negative Covid-19 test to gain access to a host of public venues.

Instead, people would have to be fully vaccinated to visit a range of spaces, including bars and restaurants.

The government says it expects the new rules to come into force on 15 January, although the opposition-dominated Senate could delay the process.

But demonstrators on Saturday accused the government of trampling on their freedoms and treating citizens unequally.

Others targeted their anger at the president, Emmanuel Macron, over comments he made earlier this week in relation to unvaccinated citizens, telling Le Parisian newspaper that he wanted to “piss them off”.

One protester, hospital administrator Virginie Houget, told the Reuters news agency that Mr Macron’s remarks were “the last straw”.

And in Paris, where some 18,000 people marched against the new law, demonstrators responded to his coarse language by chanting: “We’ll piss you off”.

TV images showed altercations between protesters and police turning violent in some places. In Montpellier officers used teargas during clashes with the demonstrators.

Turnout for the protests was estimated to be about four times higher than the last major demonstrations on 18 December, when some 25,500 people marched across the country.

But despite the vocal protests, opposition to the new measures is not widespread and recent polling suggests the vast majority of people back the vaccine pass.

France is one of the most highly vaccinated countries in Europe, with more than 90% of over-12s eligible for the shot fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, new coronavirus infections are rising rapidly across France as the new Omicron variant takes hold.

The country recorded more than 300,000 new cases for the second time in a week on Friday and admissions to intensive care wards are rising steadily, putting healthcare systems under strain.

Some hospitals have reported that some 85% of ICU patients are not vaccinated against Covid-19.

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Covid-19: ‘There is no choice between lives and livelihoods,’ OECD chief Gurría says

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:26

As European countries move into their second Covid-19 lockdowns of t..

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:26

As European countries move into their second Covid-19 lockdowns of the year, the head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development backs measures seen by many as tough. Ángel Gurría tells FRANCE 24: "If you win the battle against the virus first, you will have less economic consequences." He adds that "there is no choice between lives and livelihoods; it's a false dilemma".

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Mexican economist Ángel Gurría has been Secretary-General of the OECD since 2006 – throughout the global financial crash and subsequent recovery.

With hopes now high for viable vaccines against Covid-19, he's telling world leaders that the solutions to health and economic crises must carry the elements of our solutions to the environmental crisis too: "The single most important inter-generational responsibility is with the planet. That means the recovery, where we are going to make investments that have an impact for the next 30, 40 years, must absolutely have the sustainability of the planet in mind".

On the recently announced Pfizer vaccine, Gurría says: "It is a game changer […] The possibility of a vaccine being close is of enormous consequence. We still have to wait for it to be finalised, approved and distributed in sufficient amounts that it can get everywhere, so we are calculating that we are going to spend most of 2021 still living with the virus. But it changes expectations; the whole mood has improved considerably since the announcement."

On the refusal of Donald Trump, leader of the OECD's biggest single funder, to concede defeat in the US presidential election, Gurría sounds an upbeat note: "I believe that we will have an orderly transition of power in the United States come 20th January 2021. I believe in the institutions in the United States, I believe that the political forces in the United States will eventually align."

Finally, as talks drag on over a new Brexit deal on the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom, Gurría says he still expects a deal to be struck: "I believe that the common interest will lead to a deal […] The impact in Europe is going to be limited to the trade with the UK. The impact in the UK is going to be very serious, not only because of the flows of trade and flows of investment, but also because the overall business mood will be affected. So I am still counting on a deal."

Produced by Mathilde Bénézet

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Attacks in France and Austria: Europe’s response to extremism

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:40Modified: 13/11/2020 – 17:42

TALKING EUROPE © FRANCE 24
This Friday..

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:40Modified: 13/11/2020 – 17:42

TALKING EUROPE
TALKING EUROPE © FRANCE 24

This Friday marks the fifth anniversary of the Paris terror attacks, in which 130 people were killed. The last few weeks have seen more bloodshed, with attacks in the Paris region, in Nice and in the Austrian capital Vienna. European leaders are looking for solutions: ways to stop hate being preached, broadcast and acted upon, while defending individual freedoms of speech and of conscience. In our debate we ask two leading members of the European Parliament, from France and from Austria, what they believe should be done.

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Produced by Yi Song and Perrine Desplats

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Our guests

  • Andreas SCHIEDER, Austrian MEP, Socialists & Democrats
  • Nathalie LOISEAU, French MEP, Renew Europe

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