Londoners will be banned from mixing with other households indoors and Paris is set for a curfew, as European leaders struggle to cope with record new coronavirus cases around the region.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government mandated tighter restrictions in the UK capital starting this weekend, while French President Emmanuel Macron will confine residents of nine of the country’s biggest cities to their homes between 9 pm and 6 am for four weeks from Saturday. German Chancellor Angela Merkel implored citizens to abide by distancing rules and avoid groups.
The varied approaches around Europe to deal with the disease have caused confusion and stoked unrest amid the pandemic-weary public, especially amid low hospitalization and death rates — which keep rising steadily.
Leaders have little recourse but to tell people to knuckle down. Johnson was adamant he did not want a second lockdown but now the prospect of a so-called “circuit-breaker” with schools closed for two weeks is in the air.
From midnight on Friday, millions of residents in the UK capital won’t be able to socialise with other households behind closed doors, including in pubs and restaurants.
“I know these restrictions are difficult for people, I hate that we have to bring them in, but it is essential that we do bring them in both to keep people safe and to prevent greater economic damage in the future,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Parliament on Thursday.
Outside London, UK officials are also attempting to tame the virus with a regional “whack-a-mole” strategy that has created tensions with the poorer north where the number cases are rising rapidly.
The government has earmarked Manchester for the toughest restrictions, but is stuck in talks with local leaders in the northern English city over financial support.
This comes as Germany, Italy, Austria and the Czech Republic all reported record increases in cases, and London approached an average of 100 infections per 100,000 people.
European authorities are grappling with how to devise targeted strategies that slow the spread of the disease without resorting to the kind of broad national lockdowns which decimated economic activity in the second quarter.