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Germany Shuts Down as Covid Crisis Deepens in Europe, Merkel Urges People to Heed Curbs for Virus 'Turnaround'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel wears a face mask during a press conference on the current situation amid the COVID-19 pandemic, following a meeting with the German government's so-called Corona-Cabinet, on November 2, 2020 in Berlin. (Image: AFP)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel wears a face mask during a press conference on the current situation amid the COVID-19 pandemic, following a meeting with the German government's so-called Corona-Cabinet, on November 2, 2020 in Berlin. (Image: AFP)

Looking ahead to the festive season, Merkel ruled out any 'lavish New Year's Eve parties' but held out hope that families would be allowed to celebrate Christmas together.

Germany on Monday led a tightening of coronavirus curbs in many parts of Europe while the Covid-19 crisis deepened in the United States on election eve. The virus has infected over 46 million people worldwide, with more than 1.2 million deaths, and the acute outbreaks in Europe and America are sparking further alarm about the state of the already devastated global economy.

To curb the spike in Germany, Europe's biggest economy, Chancellor Angela Merkel appealed to citizens to help achieve a "turnaround" by respecting a new round of shutdowns from Monday until the end of the month.

Germans will not be confined to their homes, but bars, cafes and restaurants must close, as well as theatres, operas and cinemas.

Looking ahead to the festive season, Merkel ruled out any "lavish New Year's Eve parties" but held out hope that families would be allowed to celebrate Christmas together.

In Italy, the first country in Europe to impose a lockdown during the first wave, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resisted pressure for new national stay-at-home orders in favour of an approach targeting the hardest-hit regions.

And two days before most of Portugal enters a second lockdown, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said his government intended to declare a health emergency enabling stricter curbs to fight the virus spike.

Austria has announced a full lockdown to start this week, while France imposed its second shutdown last week and is preparing to tighten it further.

Hospital warning

Authorities in the Swiss canton of Geneva said they would close bars, restaurants and non-essential businesses from Monday night. And hospitals there warned that surging emergency cases may force them to decide to admit one Covid-19 patient over another if his or her chances of survival are better.

Greece announced a two-week lockdown on its second largest city of Thessaloniki that will include a suspension of flights to and from the city.

Now in its second wave in Europe after emerging in China in December last year, the pandemic has hit some countries harder than others.

In Britain, media reports said that Prince William, second-in-line to the British throne, contracted coronavirus in April but kept his diagnosis secret, with one tabloid saying "he didn't want to alarm the nation".

The head of the World Health Organization said he was self-quarantining after someone he had been in contact with tested positive.

"I am well and without symptoms but will self-quarantine over the coming days, in line with @WHO protocols, and work from home," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted, stressing the importance of complying with coronavirus guidance.

Vandalism and looting

But Nigel Farage, the driving force behind Brexit, was set to relaunch his political party as "Reform UK", with a main focus to oppose the government's coronavirus lockdowns.

England is preparing for fresh stay-at-home orders to come into force from Thursday, following warnings that hospitals could be overwhelmed within weeks.

The frustration over the economic and social cost of lockdowns has led to protests in many parts of the world, especially Europe, with some leading to violent skirmishes.

Protesters in several Spanish cities clashed with security forces for a third night Sunday, with vandalism and looting breaking out in some parts.

Spain has already imposed a nighttime curfew, and almost all its regions have implemented border closures to prevent long-distance travel.

Violence has also erupted in several Italian cities as well as the Czech capital Prague.

'Devastating' to UK business

A second coronavirus lockdown in England will deliver a "devastating" blow to British businesses, the country's biggest employers organisation said on Monday.

In Dublin, Irish no-frills airline Ryanair said it sank into the red in the first half of its financial year due to the virus fallout.

The health situation is also deteriorating in the United States, which is gearing up for the election showdown between President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden on Tuesday.

It is the worst-affected country in the world with 9.2 million infections and nearly 231,000 deaths, and the pandemic has been front and centre during the bitter election campaign.

With cases surging again, experts have warned of more devastation.

In Mexico, parades were cancelled and cemeteries closed on Sunday during the Day of the Dead festival, in which people normally deck their homes, streets and relatives' graves with flowers, candles and colourful skulls.

Many remembered those who have passed in the privacy of their homes, as authorities urged people to avoid gatherings.


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