By Stefan J. Bos
Some 46 million people were preparing to go into night lockdowns in France on Friday after authorities recorded nearly 42,000 coronavirus infections in a day. A week ago, authorities introduced curfews in the capital Paris and eight other French cities. Now 38 more areas will have curfews from 9:00 pm on to 06:00 am.
The curfews, which will last for six weeks, come as elsewhere, European governments race to contain the potentially deadly virus. In neighboring Belgium, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo stopped short on imposing another full lockdown, as the country did in March.
But he introduced a series of new restrictive measures on youth, cultural and sports events as the number of COVID-19-related hospital admissions and deaths continues to soar. "It will be difficult days, difficult weeks, and perhaps even difficult months," the prime minister said at a gloomy news conference.
"From Sunday are nights will become once again darker. But if you have enough strength, offer your shoulder on which the weak can lean. That can bring light in the dark days of October and November."
Dramatic situation in 9 out of 10 provinces
Authorities claim the health situation is dramatic in nine out of 10 provinces. They warn that intensive care units will hit their capacity by mid-November if new coronavirus cases increase in the same phase.
So far, 10,000 new people are infected daily by the virus, which officials say killed over 10,500 people in the small nation of just 11.5 million.
Further away, Portugal is imposing a lockdown on three northern districts affecting 150,000 people. And the whole country will have restrictions on movement for next week's holiday weekend. Greece has declared a night curfew in Athens and other areas, which will come into force Saturday.
The virus also impacts Eastern Europe: In the Czech Republic, Prime Minister Andrej Babis has urged Health Minister Roman Prymula to resign. His demand came after a tabloid newspaper published photos of the minister emerging late at night, without a mask, from a restaurant that was supposed to be shut.
Authorities imposed lockdown measures across the country where over 1,800 people reportedly died of COVID-19 on a population of more than 10 million. A parliament session was to approve a plan for NATO alliance military medical personnel to come to the Czech Republic to help with the outbreak.
Poland's "red zone"
In Poland, the government has declared the nation a "red zone" of strict anti-COVID-19 restrictions starting Saturday, just short of a lockdown. The measures include wearing masks at all times outdoors and switching all primary schools to remote learning.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki appealed Friday to Poles to strictly observe the restrictions to protect lives. The nation of 38 million hit another daily record of new registered infections — over 13,600, with 153 deaths.
Poland's government is also appealing to Poles to stay home and even refrain from observing the national tradition of visiting relatives' graves on All Saints' Day, November 1.
Here in Hungary, commemorations of the country's crushed 1956 Revolution against Soviet domination were scaled back, besides other restrictive measures.
In Hungary, about 1,300 coronavirus-related deaths were reported so far on a population of nearly 10 million people. Most of them were elderly with underlying health conditions.