As COVID-19 cases hit record levels across Europe, Germany and France announced new lockdown measures on Wednesday, in an eerie reprise of the first outbreak back in March.
Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, called for restaurants, bars, theaters and other entertainment venues to close their doors for the next four weeks. Schools, shops, and places of worship, meanwhile, will remain open, and restaurants will be allowed to provide takeout service. Additionally, she asked the German people to avoid unnecessary travel and to hold off on social gatherings.
“If the tempo of infections stays the same,” Merkel said in a news conference, “we will reach the capacity of our healthcare system within weeks. That’s why it’s completely clear that we need to act—and act now.” The Chancellor said she made all such decisions in consult with the country’s governors.
On Tuesday, Germany reported 14,964 new cases, which is the largest number of new cases since the pandemic began. Of that load, Germany’s federal public health agency reported 85 deaths. For comparison, Germany’s springtime peak of new daily cases was 6,294, which occurred in March. Altogether, the nation has confirmed 464,000 cases of the coronavirus, with 10,183 deaths.
With her signature candor, Merkel conceded to press that “we no longer have control of the spread of the virus.”
Meanwhile, in neighboring France, President Emmanuel Macron announced similarly intense measures to curb the country’s outbreak. On Wednesday, he took to television to announce new stay-at-home orders.
Beginning Friday, the French government will only allow people to leave their homes for work, school, medical appointments, assisting loved ones, essential shopping or isolated exercise. Still, the order encourages those who can work or attend school from home to do so.
Moreover, travel between regions will be off limits, while bars, restaurants, and non-essential businesses must remain closed. Additionally, the country will close its border to most international travel, though the ban will not apply to migration within the European Union.
Macron says that the lockdown will last until December 1, but in two weeks, officials will reevaluate the situation and adapt accordingly.
“We were all surprised by the acceleration of the epidemic,” Macron said. “We must remain united and in solidarity and not give in to the poison of division. This is a difficult time, but it is a sign of who we are, women and men who are bound together.”
On Sunday, France hit a record with 52,000 new daily cases. Back in March, new daily cases peaked at around 7,500.
Still, the pandemic has struck France much worse than Germany, with more than 1.2 million cases and 33,417 deaths since the start of the crisis.