Cities going back into lockdown as global coronavirus cases pass 35 million

New York, Paris and Madrid are reintroducing Covid-19 movement restrictions

FILE PHOTO: A health worker, wearing a protective suit and a face mask, prepares to administer a nasal swab to a patient at a testing site for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) installed in front of the city hall in Paris, France, September 2, 2020.  REUTERS/Christian Hartmann/File Photo

New York and Paris are among several major cities reimposing lockdown measures amid a sharp increase in daily coronavirus cases as the global toll tops 35 million.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Sunday he planned to reimpose restrictions on nine neighbourhoods as new infections increase in parts of the city, which had largely controlled the virus after a catastrophic outbreak.

The proposal, which must be approved by state Governor Andrew Cuomo, marks a major setback for America's largest city since it was hit hard by the coronavirus in March. The city has lost almost 24,000 people to the virus.

"Today, unfortunately, is not a day for celebration," Mr de Blasio said, announcing that he would ask to close non-essential businesses and all schools in nine neighbourhoods of Brooklyn and Queens.

If approved, the new restrictions would be the first step back towards lockdown in the city.

Paris has been placed on maximum coronavirus alert in the face of alarming Covid-19 infection numbers, the prime minister's office announced on Sunday. While restaurants will be allowed to stay open, bars and cafes are likely to close under new measures being announced on Monday that are set to last 15 days.

Health Minister Olivier Veran announced last week that only improved Covid-19 infection rates could prevent "total closures" of the city's trademark cafes and bars.

France reported nearly 17,000 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, the highest daily number since the country began widespread testing.

Figures from the regional health agency ARS show new coronavirus cases remaining above 250 per 100,000 people in Paris, crossing the threshold that triggers the maximum alert protocol.

Coronavirus patients are now taking up more than 30 per cent of the intensive care beds in the Paris region.

"There is no justification for denial," said Paris region health director Aurelien Rousseau on Sunday. "The numbers are what they are, and they are weighing heavily."

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin acknowledged that the closure of bars and cafes would be "tough" for everyone concerned.

In Madrid, police are conducting random checks amid a partial lockdown that came into force on Friday as the region battles a soaring infection rate of 730 cases per 100,000 people, compared with just 300 per 100,000 in the rest of Spain – in itself the highest rate in the European Union.

Residents of the capital and nine nearby towns, will not be able to leave the city limits except for work, school or medical reasons for 14 days.

Spanish experts warned the measures were too little, too late and would be very difficult to implement.

"For all epidemiologists, these restrictions are coming very late, they should have been put in place much earlier, by the start of September," Salvador Peiro of Fisabio, a healthcare research organisation in the Valencia area said last week.

Closing off the perimeter was a measure which was "very easy to implement in certain towns but very hard in large cities" such as Madrid, he said, pointing out that hundreds of thousands of people travel every day, often on public transport, to work in nearby towns.

In Ireland, health chiefs recommended to the government on Sunday that the country enter a second nationwide lockdown for four weeks in a move that the Cabinet will discuss on Monday. Ireland's National Public Health Emergency Team recommended a leap to the highest level of Covid-19 restrictions, Level 5, from current Level 2 controls in 24 of Ireland's 26 counties and stricter Level 3 measures in Dublin and Donegal.

The UK has also reported a surge in infections, with confirmed coronavirus cases passing 500,000 after a technical glitch added figures missed from the last week of September, pushing Sunday’s cases to 22,961, a rise of more than 10,000 on Saturday's figures.

In an interview with the BBC on Sunday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the country faced a "very tough winter" in the battle against the disease, but said there was "hope" the situation could improve by Christmas.

Reports of a new three-tier lockdown planned for the country were published on Sunday by The Guardian newspaper, citing leaked government documents which revealed tougher measures that could be implemented locally or nationally if the government fails to get Covid-19 cases under control.