France Widens City Curbs With Virus Menacing Europe Again

France will place more cities on maximum alert after daily coronavirus cases rose above 18,000 for a second straight day, while new infections in Spain and Italy hit a six-month high as the pandemic threatens to spiral out of control in Europe again.

The number of new cases and intensive care patients prompted authorities to tighten curbs beyond just Paris and Marseille, adding Lyon, France’s third-biggest city, as well as Lille, Saint-Etienne and Grenoble from Saturday, Health Minister Olivier Veran said at a briefing Thursday. Bars, casinos and exhibitions will close in the affected cities, while restaurants, cinemas and museums face stricter controls.

President Emmanuel Macron’s government has repeatedly opposed a new general lockdown, and is counting on measures such as limits on late-night activity to curb the virus. A number of European countries, including Austria and the Netherlands, posted record daily increases in new infections on Thursday, and governments across the region are grappling with the dilemma of how to control the virus without killing their economies.

“The health situation continues to deteriorate in France,” Veran said. “The health situation and the economic situation are two sides of the same coin.”

France reported 18,129 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, with the weekly pace of infections picking up for a sixth day. Italy recorded 4,458 new cases, the most since April 11.

Spain recorded 5,585 coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours, also the most for a single day since April, with the Madrid region accounting for about half of the new infections.

Governments across Europe are battling to contain new outbreaks. In Italy, the government extended emergency powers to Jan. 31 and made wearing face masks outdoors compulsory nationwide. Poland made wearing masks in public compulsory and will limit the number of visitors in restaurants and pubs from Saturday.

Like Paris, Berlin is fighting against a surge in infections and will close bars at 11 p.m., starting on Saturday. Ireland has already closed most of its pubs, and told Dubliners not to leave their city.

Madrid Setback

In a setback for Spain’s efforts to contain the surge, a Madrid court on Thursday blocked the regional government from applying curbs on movement. Regional president Isabel Diaz Ayuso called for immediate talks with Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s administration to help draft a new order by Friday.

After the court order was published, Ayuso pleaded with Madrid residents not to leave the city.

Back in France, the alert level in two more cities, Toulouse and Montpellier, may be raised by Monday if virus figures don’t improve, according to Veran.

The number of ICU patients in Paris linked to the virus has tripled since the start of September. Covid patients in intensive care have also tripled in regions including Marseille and Toulouse.

“The health pressure is becoming greater and greater in Paris hospitals,” Veran said.

— With assistance by William Horobin, Charlie Devereux, and Marco Bertacche

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