Coronavirus: Europeans forced to order new local lockdowns

The relaxation of virus restrictions across Europe has fuelled fears of a second wave of the outbreak

A health staff team member wearing a protective suit to protect against coronavirus enters a home in A Marina, near Lugo, northwest Spain, Sunday, July 5, 2020. Authorities in northwestern Spain have ordered the lockdown of a county with a population of 71,000 for fears of a coronavirus outbreak. Regional authorities in Galicia announced Sunday that movement to and from A Marina county located on Spain’s northern Atlantic coast will be prohibited starting at midnight and will run through Friday. (Carlos Castro/Europa Press via AP)
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European nations have been forced to apply new local coronavirus lockdown measures to suppress outbreaks in specific areas, amid fears of a second wave of the disease.

After weeks of gradually relaxing the unprecedented lockdown measures introduced in March to deal with Covid-19, Spain, Germany and Britain have ordered local lockdowns while Italy has witnessed a spike in cases in Lombardy, already one of the hardest-hit regions on the continent.

In Spain, the government has been forced to confine to their homes 71,000 residents in Galicia in the north-west of the country and 200,000 in Catalonia in the north-east.

The Galician regional government on Sunday confined locals in La Marina in Lugo after the number of coronavirus infections in the area exceeded 100.

El Pais reported that the outbreak in Galicia was linked to half a dozen local bars where members of staff became ill as well as protests over the closure of a local aluminium plant. The lockdown in La Marina is expected to last less than a week.

A member of the Catalan regional police force Mossos d'Esquadra controls a checkpoint on the road leading to Lleida on July 4, 2020. Spain's northeastern Catalonia region locked down an area with around 200,000 residents around the town of Lerida following a surge in cases of the new coronavirus. / AFP / Pau BARRENA

Catalan authorities have said the lockdown of the Segria region, including the city of Lleida and 38 municipalities, could last around 15 days.

The regional government ordered the new restrictions after local cases rose by more than 180 infections in two days. It was the first time such measures had been imposed in the country since Spain lifted its Covid-19 state of emergency on June 21.

Catalan health chief Alba Verges called for locals to follow social distancing measures, wash their hands and use face masks to stop the spread of the disease. She also called on people to reduce family meetings “as much as possible”. Rules have also been put in place to limit gatherings to 10 people.

In Italy fears rose at the weekend after the number of Covid-19 cases spiked, particularly in the northern region of Lombardy. Italy's industrial heartland became the first area badly affected by the disease at the start of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe in March.

The Italian Ministry of Health reported the number of cases rose by 235 infections on Saturday and by 223 cases the day before. Forty per cent of cases were recorded in Lombardy. On Sunday the number of new infections fell to 192, but rose in Lombardy.

Following rises in the Veneto region also, the Italian government is looking into more stringent laws to punish those who break social distancing rules and do not isolate after contracting coronavirus, ANSA news agency reported.

FILE PHOTO: An NHS alert message is seen on a street, following a local lockdown imposed amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Leicester, Britain, July 1, 2020. REUTERS/Phil Noble/File Photo

In Britain and Germany, local outbreaks have been linked to particular factories or industries.

While the rest of the England was allowed to return to pubs, restaurants and some other businesses under social distancing rules on Saturday, the central city of Leicester has been forced to remain in lockdown over a rise in coronavirus cases that has been tied to its food and clothing producers.

Leicester's clothes factories in particular, which have gained a reputation for low pay and cramped conditions, have been the focus of media reports after an investigation by The Sunday Times revealed workers in one factory were being paid as little as £3.50 an hour and operating without social distancing.

The findings prompted an investigation by the National Crime Agency.

In Germany a similar local lockdown was ordered in June after an outbreak flared up around a meat-processing plant in the country's north-west. About 360,000 people in Guetersloh were placed under strict measures after more than 1,000 workers contracted coronavirus. The rules were lifted at the end of the month.