Britain resists COVID lockdown as Europe counts cost

By Kate Holton and Madeline Chambers LONDON/BERLIN (Reuters) - Europe began counting the cost of the sweeping restrictions on social life imposed to contain a surge in coronavirus infections while Britain continued to hold out against following Germany and France in ordering a second lockdown. As the pandemic raced ahead across the continent, Europe has moved back to the centre of the global pandemic, facing the prospect of a prolonged economic slump alongside a public health crisis which has so far seen more than 44 million infections and 1.1 million deaths worldwide.

Reuters October 30, 2020 00:11:05 IST
Britain resists COVID lockdown as Europe counts cost

Britain resists COVID lockdown as Europe counts cost

By Kate Holton and Madeline Chambers

LONDON/BERLIN (Reuters) - Europe began counting the cost of the sweeping restrictions on social life imposed to contain a surge in coronavirus infections while Britain continued to hold out against following Germany and France in ordering a second lockdown.

As the pandemic raced ahead across the continent, Europe has moved back to the centre of the global pandemic, facing the prospect of a prolonged economic slump alongside a public health crisis which has so far seen more than 44 million infections and 1.1 million deaths worldwide.

France and Germany have imposed controls almost as strict as the lockdowns of the first phase of the crisis in March and April, shutting bars and restaurants and restricting movement, while allowing schools and most businesses to remain open.

But Britain, the country with the largest number of coronavirus deaths in Europe, said it would stick with a system of local lockdowns despite a new study which showed cases in England doubling every nine days.

"The judgement of the government today is that a blanket national lockdown is not appropriate, would do more harm than good," Housing Minister Robert Jenrick told Times Radio.

Germany has set aside some 10 billion euros ($11.82 billion) to help small businesses hit by the new measures but Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said the economy was not experiencing an industrial collapse as it did in the initial phase of the pandemic.

"(The economy) is so strong that we can avoid sliding into a long period of recession," he said. However he added output would not return to pre-pandemic levels until at least 2022.

Separately, Bank of France Governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau also said the drop in gross domestic product (GDP) expected at the end of the year should be less severe than in first half of the year after the initial lockdown.

Financial markets steadied somewhat on Thursday following a brutal selloff a day before as the latest restrictions snuffed out faint signs of recovery seen over the summer and pointed to further economic pain at the end of the year.

The European Central Bank, which has been propping up the economy through its 1.35 trillion euro ($1.60 trillion) Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme, said it was ready to offer additional support.

Governments have been desperate to avoid a repeat of the spring lockdowns but have been forced to move by the speed of new infections and a steadily increasing mortality rate across the continent as winter approaches.

Even the well-equipped health systems of countries like France, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland have been pushed close to their limits by the exponential surge in cases recorded this month.

On Thursday, Sweden, which alone among European countries never imposed a lockdown, reported its third record increase in cases in a matter of days.

"We're beginning to approach the ceiling for what the healthcare system can handle," Chief Epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told a news conference, calling for a joint effort to curb the spread of the virus.

'WINTER WILL BE HARD'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her government had moved quickly to prevent intensive care facilities being overwhelmed and called for a joint effort to face the crisis.

"We are in a dramatic situation at the start of the cold season. It affects us all, without exception," Merkel told the Bundestag lower house of parliament, adding new restrictions to reduce social contact were "necessary and proportionate".

However she warned of difficult months ahead and said: "The winter will be hard."

While Paris and Berlin hope that the month-long lockdowns will be enough to slow the spread of the disease, there was little certainty about whether they would be enough for a return to even near-normality.

"We want to do everything so that French people can be with their families and their friends for the festivities at the end of the year," French Health Minister Olivier Veran said. "Will it be the same? Possibly not."

While the latest restrictions have put a spotlight on Europe, the United States has also seen a surge in new coronavirus cases in the run-up to next week's presidential election, with more than 80,000 new cases and 1,000 deaths reported on Wednesday.

"We are on a very difficult trajectory. We're going in the wrong direction," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, task force member and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

By contrast, many Asian countries have begun to relax controls as the disease has been brought under control, with Singapore announcing it would ease restrictions for visitors from mainland China and the Australian state of Victoria.

(Reporting by Reuters bureaux; writing by James Mackenzie; editing by Nick Macfie)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.