Czech hospitals are three weeks away from being overwhelmed by coronavirus cases, the government has said as Germany announced a new high of more than 11,000 infections today and Rome imposed a curfew to fight off the second wave.
The Czech Republic is seeing Europe’s biggest surge in infections with a new one-day record of 14,968 cases announced on Thursday morning.
Prime minister Andrej Babis say the health system will be unable to cope by November 11 unless the contagion slows, with new curbs on movement taking effect today along with shop closures and compulsory masks in cars.
The spike of 11,287 cases in Germany – demolishing the previous record of 7,830 – comes as Angela Merkel’s health minister Jens Spahn tested positive for Covid-19 in a fresh blow to a country generally praised for its handling of the pandemic.
Germany is also seeing sales of toilet paper and disinfectant rise again in a revival of last spring’s panic-buying, or ‘hamster buying’ as it is known in German.
Rome’s midnight curfew will take effect tomorrow while Spain last night became the first country in Western Europe to reach a million confirmed cases of Covid-19.
CZECH REPUBLIC CASES: The worst-hit country in Europe’s second wave suffered another record spike today with 14,969 new infections in 24 hours
CZECH REPUBLIC DEATHS: The death toll rose by 120 today, reaching 1,739, with the government warning that hospitals are on the brink of being overwhelmed
The Czech Republic has the highest infection rate in Europe and is imposing new curbs on movement in a bid to bring numbers down, while France, Spain and Italy are also seeing their numbers continue to rise
In the Czech Republic, prime minister Babis apologised for bringing back restrictions after saying repeatedly that the spring lockdown would not return.
‘I apologize even for the fact that I ruled out this option in the past because I was not able to imagine it might happen,’ he added.
‘Unfortunately, it has happened and now, above all, we have to protect the lives of our citizens.’
The Czechs acted quickly to close borders and shut down public life in the spring, emerging from the first wave with relatively few cases and deaths.
But no European country has been hit harder by the second wave, with more than 110,000 cases in the last two weeks in the country of 10.7million.
About 4,500 patients have filled up hospitals with the government expecting the health system will be overwhelmed in three weeks if the surge does not slow.
Babis warned that ‘our health system would collapse between November 7-11’ if new restrictions were not imposed.
The new measures include limits on free movement and the closure of many stores, shopping malls and hotels. They will remain in place until at least November 3.
As of Wednesday, it is mandatory to wear masks outdoors and in cars.
Health minister Roman Prymula said that 30 per cent of tests were now coming back positive, which he called ‘an immense burden within the population’.
‘In some regions, we have already seen up to 500 per cent growth in the number of infected senior citizens,’ he added.
CZECH REPUBLIC: Medical workers attend to a Covid-19 patient in an intensive care department at the General University hospital in Prague this week
In Germany, cases rose by 11,287 to reach 392,049 today while another 30 deaths took the country’s total to 9,905.
The record increase means Germany’s seven-day average of infections has nearly trebled from 2,600 to 7,200 in the space of just two weeks.
While the infection and death rates are still lower than in much of Europe, politicians have warned that the virus risks spinning out of control in Germany.
One Alpine district was put back in lockdown this week while masks are compulsory in parts of Berlin as city and state leaders take action to stem the rebound.
To add to Germany’s woes, health minister Jens Spahn – who has been praised for his calm handling of the crisis – himself tested positive for the virus on Wednesday.
Spahn, 40, is showing ‘cold symptoms’ and is isolating at home, the health ministry said.
Spahn attended a cabinet meeting earlier on Wednesday, but ministers meet in a large conference hall which means others may not have to quarantine.
German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier, 64, is also in isolation after a bodyguard tested positive, although he himself has tested negative.
Meanwhile, Germany’s statistics agency said sales of toilet paper were up by 89.9 per cent last week compared to pre-crisis levels, with disinfectants (up 72.5 per cent) and soap (up 62.3 per cent) also in high demand.
Toilet paper sales were 200 per cent higher than usual at the height of the crisis six months ago while disinfectant sales were up to 750 per cent higher.
‘Hamster purchases are up and running again,’ the office said, using a German expression for panic-buying.
GERMANY CASES: The country saw a record spike of 11,287 new confirmed cases today, demolishing the previous high of 7,830 which was set on Saturday
GERMANY DEATHS: These have continued to be lower than in much of Europe, but average daily deaths have risen to nearly 30 from only five a month ago
GERMANY: Empty supermarket shelves in Eisenach after customers bought up loo roll in a revival of the panic-buying which plagued many countries in the spring
GERMANY: Angela Merkel’s health minister Jens Spahn, pictured in Berlin on Wednesday, is isolating with ‘cold symptoms’ after testing positive for Covid-19
Italy also saw a record increase in cases yesterday with 15,199 infections added to the tally in 24 hours, bringing the total to 449,648.
The death toll rose by 127, the first three-figure increase since May 30, taking the total since the start of the pandemic to 36,832.
The Italian region of Lazio, which includes Rome, announced a midnight to 5am curfew on Wednesday which takes effect tomorrow.
Lazio accounts for more than 17,000 active cases and added more than 1,200 new infections on Wednesday.
Under the curfew, people will not be allowed to leave their homes except to travel to work or urgent reasons such as medical issues.
Italian PM Giuseppe Conte, briefing senators, appealed to Italians to limit ‘unnecessary’ movements as well as what he called ‘superfluous actions.’
In Lombardy, the northern region at the centre of the first wave, authorities yesterday ordered the re-opening of emergency ICU wards in Milan and Bergamo that were shut down after the first wave.
Meanwhile in Spain, cases rose by 16,973 on Wednesday to bring the total from 988,322 to 1,005,295.
It makes Spain the sixth country in the world to hit a million cases after the US, Brazil, India, Russia and Argentina, and the first in Western Europe.
More than half of the million cases have come since the start of September as Spain suffers one of the worst resurgences in Europe.
Daily deaths have been hovering around 100, a far cry from the peak of nearly 900 registered in late March.
However, hospital admissions have jumped 20 per cent nationwide in two weeks and 70 per cent in the region of Catalonia, which includes Barcelona.
ITALY CASES: These reached a new record of 15,199 on Wednesday as infections continue to mount months after Italy imposed one of the world’s toughest lockdowns
ITALY DEATHS: More than 100 new deaths were announced on Wednesday for the first time since the end of May, bringing the total to 36,832