France, Germany impose new lockdowns to curb virus spread

BERLIN (AP) — France announced a full nationwide lockdown for the second time this year and German officials imposed a partial four-week lockdown Wednesday, as governments across Europe sought to stop a fast-rising tide of coronavirus cases.

The World Health Organization says the European region — which includes Russia, Turkey, Israel and Central Asia, according to its definition — accounted for almost half of the 2.8 million new coronavirus cases reported globally last week.

The U.N. health agency said virus-related deaths were also on the rise in Europe, with about a 35% spike since the previous week, as well as hospitalizations due to COVID-19.

“We are deep in the second wave,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters in Brussels. “I think that this year’s Christmas will be a different Christmas.”

The European Union, Britain, Norway, Switzerland and Iceland alone accounted for 1.1 million cases over the past seven days, she said, “and we expect this number to keep rising in the next two to three weeks, and rapidly.”

German officials have agreed to a four-week shutdown of restaurants, bars, cinemas, theaters and other leisure facilities in a bid to curb a sharp rise in coronavirus infections, Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

Merkel and the country’s 16 state governors, who are responsible for imposing and easing restrictions, agreed on the partial lockdown in a videoconference. It is set to take effect on Monday and last until the end of November.

Merkel said, “We must act, and now, to avoid an acute national health emergency.”

Restaurants will still be allowed to serve take-out food. Shops and schools are to remain open, unlike during Germany’s shutdown during the first phase of the pandemic.

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