Europe braces for tighter coronavirus curbs amid 'tipping point' fears

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) – European leaders are preparing tougher measures to contain the coronavirus as surging infections across the region stoke fears of a “tipping point” in the fight against the pandemic.

The continent has again emerged as a global hot spot, with countries from Spain to Ukraine posting record increases in recent days. Authorities are struggling to devise restrictions that slow the spread while not decimating the economy and sparking public unrest.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will host a cabinet-level meeting on Monday (Oct 12) to discuss new rules, such as testing in nursing homes and isolating travelers from risk areas. She warned on Friday that the country is reaching a watershed moment that will determine whether it regains or loses control of the disease.

Like other countries, Germany is focusing on local restrictions rather than a national lockdown. Merkel met with the mayors of Germany’s 11 biggest cities last week and agreed on common thresholds that would trigger stiffer curbs. She’ll discuss next steps with state leaders on Wednesday.

Leaders are urging pandemic-weary citizens to tow the line. French Prime Minister Jean Castex implored people to adhere to hygiene and distancing rules to avoid another general lockdown.

“I’m not asking anything revolutionary,” he said on France Info radio, warning of a “very strong” resurgence of Covid-19.

France added Toulouse and Montpellier to a list of cities placed on maximum alert, meaning bars, casinos and exhibitions will close while restaurants, cinemas and museums have to abide by stricter health rules. Infections in the country surged by nearly 27,000 on Saturday.

ITALIAN, CZECH MEASURES

In Italy, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is expected to order new measures targeting nightlife, social events and amateur sports, as well as urging companies to boost remote working.

Under a decree that could be issued as early as Monday evening, bars and restaurants may have to close by midnight, and people would be prohibited from gathering outside between 9pm and 6am.

In the Czech Republic – the European country with the worst outbreak per-capita – the government plans to approve more stringent distancing rules. The steps under consideration include further curbs on outdoor gatherings, more limits on opening hours for restaurants and restrictions on alcohol sales.

Finance Minister Alena Schillerova said the measures will be an “improved version” of the quarantine regime from March, but not quite a lockdown.

In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to announce a new system of alert levels that would see millions of Britons subject to more stringent curbs on their everyday lives. Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van Tam on Saturday warned the nation has reached a “tipping point” similar to the situation before the countrywide lockdown began in March.

Poland is considering whether to introduce a state of emergency if cases start to clog the healthcare system, Dziennik Gazeta Prawna newspaper reported, citing unidentified people from the government. The move would allow authorities to allocate healthcare workers in hospitals where they’re needed most amid concerns about under-staffing.

In Portugal, the spread got close to the highest circles of power after Science Minister Manuel Heitor tested positive for Covid-19. Prime Minister Antonio Costa and other members of government who were tested last night had negative results.

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