Germany and France report record daily increases in coronavirus cases

Second wave takes hold across Europe and hospital beds fill up fast

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Germany and France reported record increases in coronavirus cases days after imposing tough restrictions to halt a second wave.

Germany reported 19,990 more cases and 118 deaths on Thursday.

The record case numbers were made public as doctors said there was a sixfold increase in the number of people treated in German intensive care units.

Hospital staff were working at full capacity, according to the Divi association for intensive and emergency medicine.

In defence of wave-breaker restrictions that took effect on Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel said the daily case rate was triple that of two weeks ago and five times more than in the middle of October.

She pleaded with Germans to make November a “turning point” in the country’s battle against the disease.

She said: “If we succeed, then we can have a bearable December with more freedom.”

The World Health OrganiSation's regional director for Europe Hans Kluge said there had been a Covid-19 "explosion" across Europe.

"We do see an explosion ... in the sense it only takes a couple of days to have over the European region an increase of one million cases," he said.

"We see little by little the mortality increasing as well."

In France, which locked down last week in the face of soaring infections, authorities in Paris ordered shops selling food and alcohol to shut their doors at 10pm each night to prevent "gatherings".

Reports of "clandestine parties, raves and private dinners" in the capital prompted authorities to introduce the new restrictions.

"When you get people who are not playing by the rules of the game, and are therefore putting at risk the health of a large number of people, that is when you need to put in place new restrictions," Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said

France reported another 40,558 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, compared with 36,330 on Tuesday and a record 52,518 on Monday.

France also reported a further 385 virus deaths on Wednesday.

In Italy, authorities imposed a partial lockdown of its richest and most populous region, Lombardy, warning that hospitals could be overwhelmed within weeks.

The region – hit hard by the virus early in the pandemic – accounts for more than a sixth of Italy’s total population.

Earlier, the government published new measures that toughen up nationwide curbs and divide the country into three zones – red, orange and yellow – according to the intensity of the epidemic.

BERLIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 03: Few tourists wearing protective face masks pose fora photo in front of Brandenburg Gate during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic on November 03, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. Germany has closed restaurants, bars, cinemas, museums, theatres, concert halls, gyms and nail salons throughout November in an effort to rein in daily coronavirus infections rates that have spiralled to record highs. The government has promised to compensate affected businesses of 50 employees or less with 75% of their November, 2019, income. Schools, child day care centers, shops and factories are remaining open. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

In the critically affected red zones people will be allowed to leave their homes only for work, health reasons or emergencies, and bars, restaurants and most shops will be closed.

However, unlike Italy's national lockdown in the spring, all factories will remain open.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said: "Our intensive care capacity could be exhausted in a matter of weeks, we have to intervene.”

However, there was growing anger at the new restrictions.

"It's a slap in the face for Lombardy," raged the northern region's president Attilio Fontana, a member of the far-right opposition League party.

Italy reported 352 Covid-related deaths and an additional 30,550 new cases on Wednesday.

In Sweden, which has famously refused the mandatory lockdowns seen elsewhere in Europe, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said he had gone into self-isolation after being in the "vicinity" of someone with Covid-19.

"More people are infected. More people are dying. It is a serious situation," he said as Sweden's total death toll passed 6,000.

Denmark announced it would cull its entire population of more than 15 million minks after a mutation of the new coronavirus was found to have spread to people from the otter-like mammals.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, whose nation is the world's largest exporter of mink fur, said the discovery could threaten the effectiveness of any future Covid-19 vaccine.

In Belgium – Europe’s worst Covid hotspot – record numbers of people in intensive care forced authorities to begin flying severely ill patients to neighbouring Germany for treatment.

The helicopter operator transports each coronavirus patient in a giant transparent plastic bag connected to medical devices.

German ambassador to Belgium Martin Kotthaus said hospitals in his country had spare beds – for now.

He said: "In the first wave, Germany had more than 230 patients from Italy, France and the Netherlands. Now we are extending our help to Belgium.

"But in the future, it might be Germans who would have to come to Belgium."

Most of the transferred patients are intubated and on ventilators.

In the Netherlands, Prime Minister Mark Rutte banned people meeting in groups of more than two.

He also urged people not to travel abroad for holidays until mid-January.

"The number of new cases is falling, but not quickly enough," Mr Rutte said.

In Norway, people were also told to avoid travelling.

The number of cases has risen in many parts of Norway, with last week's number setting a new record in cases in a country which long had one of Europe's lowest rates of infections.