The United Kingdom and France logged record daily jumps in coronavirus cases on Thursday, with hospitals in Paris, planning for fewer surgeries in “a race against the clock” amid mounting fears over a possible influx of COVID-19 patients.
Meanwhile, health authorities Spain warned of “tough weeks ahead” for the residents of Madrid as the country’s COVID-19 infections topped 700,000 following a surge in cases in the capital region.
The resurgence of cases in the UK, France and Spain come as Europe braces for a second wave of coronavirus infections, partly due to the relaxing of virus-related curbs during the summer.
In the UK, health authorities recorded 6,632 infections on Thursday – the country’s highest in a single day since the beginning of the pandemic. The figure took the UK’s total to more than 418,000 cases.
Yvonne Doyle, medical director of Public Health England, said the new cases were a “stark warning for us all” and urged the public to download the government’s contact-tracing app and follow new restrictions to control the spread of the virus.
“The signals are clear. Positivity rates are rising across all age groups and we’re continuing to see spikes in rates of admission to hospital and critical care.”
Under the new rules, pubs in the UK have to shut by 10pm and offer table service only. Britain has the highest death toll in Europe with nearly 42,000 confirmed dead.
In France, the national health agency reported 16,096 cases, up from 13,072 the day before, as Health Minister Oliver Veran announced tougher restrictions for cities including Paris, Lille and Rennes. They include closing bars and restaurants early and limiting public gatherings to 10 people.
“Our battle is to implement the measures that will avoid an influx at hospitals – it’s a race against the clock,” warned Veran.
“We have to take these decisions at the right time; not too early because they are restrictions, but not too late either.”
Meanwhile, Paris hospital authority AP-HP said on Thursday that an influx of coronavirus patients was forcing it to start cancelling non-emergency surgery starting this weekend. Francois Cremieux, the deputy director of AP-HP, told the AFP news agency that the number of COVID-19 patients had more than doubled in three weeks, from 150 to 330 and would probably reach 600 by the month’s end.
In Spain, the extended region around Madrid, comprising a population of 6.6 million, was struggling to control outbreaks that have hit harder in high-density working-class areas.
Health authorities on Thursday reported 10,600 new infections on Thursday, a figure in line with the country’s average for the past week, bringing its total tally to 704,209. There were also 84 new confirmed fatalities, raising the overall death toll to 31,118.
“Tough weeks are coming for Madrid,” Health Minister Salvador Illa told a press conference. “We have to act with determination to bring the pandemic under control.”
The region’s government is set to announce new restrictions in the capital on Friday, where gatherings are limited to a maximum of six people and more than 850,000 residents have been confined this week to their neighbourhoods unless they have a valid reason to go elsewhere.
Hundreds of protesters gathered on Thursday evening at the gates of several health centres in those areas to demand more resources for primary care medical personnel, who are struggling to test and follow up those suspected of having the virus.
The protesters also criticised the restrictions because they consider that poor people are being penalised for not having the means to work from home or live in bigger apartments that allow them to quarantine properly.
A sign held by a group of protesters read: “More resources, less segregation.”