Coronavirus: Officials fear ‘second wave’ hitting Europe as cases rise

England reopens indoor gyms and swimming pools on Saturday in latest easing of lockdown

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European officials have warned that their countries could be experiencing a “second wave” of coronavirus, as Belgium, France and Germany reported surges in infection numbers last week.

"The second wave of coronavirus is already here. It is happening every day," Michael Kretschmer, the centre-right leader of the eastern German state of Saxony, told the Rheinische Post.

"We have new outbreaks of infection every day, which could turn into very high numbers."

But Mr Kretschmer said it was possible German health authorities could help to effectively battle the wave because of the country’s federal system.

Centrally governed countries, such as France or Poland, do not have the state resources to deal with local outbreaks as effectively as countries such as Germany, he said.

Covid-19 has claimed more than 9,000 lives in Germany, but Mr Kretschmer said the pandemic had unified its people.

Germany was divided into four occupation zones after the Second World War and the Berlin Wall came down in 1990.

"The coronavirus pandemic is the first shared crisis experience in Germany," Mr Kretschmer said.

"The best part is that people in the east and west are acting the same way in this crisis.

"The coronavirus is the best proof that this country has grown together."

Germany’s reproduction rate for the coronavirus has risen from below 1 back up to 1.16, meaning that on average on infected person is likely to infect one or two people.

A rate of one or higher means the virus is spreading exponentially.

Last week, Spanish officials warned the country could be experiencing another surge in infections after about 8,000 cases were confirmed in Catalonia over the past fortnight.

And on Sunday, the popular Austrian resort town of Saint Wolfgang, east of Salzburg, ordered restaurants to close early after at least 44 people tested positive.

France reported on Friday that it had found a significant surge in Covid-19 infections, with 1,062 new cases – nearly double the 584 on Tuesday.

The French Health Ministry said there had been a 66 per cent increase in cases over three weeks.

Researcher found sewage water in parts of Paris had begun to test positive for coronavirus since the end of June, despite having tested negative earlier.

Some scientists believe that sampling sewage for signs of the virus could help to estimate infection numbers without having to test each person.

TOPSHOT - French President Emmanuel  Macron (R) applauds as Paris Saint-Germain's French forward Kylian Mbappe walks  with crutches  onto a platform for the trophy ceremony after winning the  French Cup final football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Saint-Etienne (ASSE) on July 24, 2020, at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, outside Paris. / AFP / FRANCK FIFE

In Belgium, where the number of cases has risen by 89 per cent from the previous week, a three-year-old girl died from Covid-19, health authorities said on Friday.

In England, indoor gyms, swimming pools and sports centres started to reopen on Saturday in the latest easing of the coronavirus lockdown.

But a third of these centres are expected to remain shut and the sector is reeling from the financial fallout of the pandemic.

Gyms must follow strict hygiene and social distancing measures by limiting customer numbers and cleaning and spacing equipment.

Indoor gyms remain closed in Scotland and Wales but they opened in Northern Ireland earlier in July.

Britain is yet to see a significant second wave of infections, but it is struggling to keep daily case numbers below 500 a day.