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Passengers at Barcelona's international airport Passengers at Barcelona's international airport 

Europe on edge amid rise of Coronavirus infections

Spain and several other European nations are taking new measures to halt an increase in reported coronavirus cases. The decisions come amid fresh warnings by authorities of a widespread "second wave" of infections.

By Stefan J. Bos  

There's bad news for at least some youngsters and the young at heart in Spain. The region of Catalonia has closed its nightlife for two weeks after a new wave of reported coronavirus infections.

Authorities outside the north-eastern area are also announcing a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Amid the uncertainty nightclubs, bars, and beaches — some of Spain's most beloved summer venues — are facing new restrictions after reportedly turning into coronavirus hot spots.

Besides Catalonia, authorities in Barcelona and an interior agricultural area around Lleida are to tighten rules. Those restrictions were relaxed only a month ago when Spain had its outbreak in check.

News of new measures in a nation that saw one Europe's strictest government-enforced lockdowns in recent months comes amid warnings in other European countries. Britain said all returning from Spain must self-isolate.

Upset travellers

Overnight Manchester Airport saw one of the last flights from Spain before a two-week obligatory quarantine was put in place.

"It was crazy. It happened so quickly," two arriving young women said.  
"Nobody knows what is going to happen there," one of them said. "Yeah, we were supposed to get back Monday, but we just got the next flight home," added her friend.
 
But British authorities have defended the decision. Among them, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, a top medical advisor of the British government. "Whenever a decision is made, there will always be people who have just left the UK. There are always people behind and in front of the line," he said.

"So there is no magic time as to when to do this [quarantine measures]  
The thing that we have to do it to do as soon as we are certain about the data and feel certain that it is time to act," the professor stressed.

"And we take the advise from the joint biosecurity center very seriously indeed. And we don't delay when those signals come in," he added.

Similar rules

Norway has similar rules for people returning from areas that saw a rise in coronavirus cases such as Spain, while France has a travel warning.
France and Germany have both seen an increase in infections. It comes while European states grapple between staving off fresh outbreaks and reopening economies.

Belgium has slowed down its reopening claiming a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases. In neighboring liberal coronavirus-hit Netherlands, a political debate is still underway. At issue is whether to extend the obligation to wear masks in public transport to, for instance, shops and even churches.

Elsewhere in Europe, Italy is isolating arrivals from Romania and Bulgaria for two weeks after several imported cases from the Balkan region.
The European rises are echoed in far more significant increases across the rest of the globe. Authorities report record daily new-infection figures of around 280,000 in both of the past two days.

Critics argue that reported higher infection rates are at least partly due to more testing in several nations. However, government advisers warn that reopening economies have also impacted the number of infections.

Some experts caution that not reopening economies could eventually lead to higher death tolls worldwide, especially in impoverished nations that already struggle with hunger and disease.

Johns Hopkins University reports more than 15.7 million coronavirus cases globally and over 640,000 related deaths on a world population of roughly 7.8 billion people.

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos
26 July 2020, 17:39