Fearing all of its intensive care beds could be full by mid-November, France implemented nationwide restrictions at the end of October — as did Belgium and Ireland. Germany’s softer, so-called “lockdown light,” restrictions began on Monday, and Austria is following suite on Tuesday.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for a second lockdown to begin in England later this week, while daily record increases of coronavirus infections in Italy appear to foreshadow another round of severe restrictions.
As countries attempt to beat back the virus before the Christmas holiday season, experts are calling on European governments to rethink their pandemic approach, fix its blind spots, and prevent another spiraling rise in illness next year, further derailing economies in the process.
“We have gone so far down the track with our very indirect measures like lockdowns and we haven’t even sorted out the two basics: We’re not finding all the cases, and when we do, people are not fully complying with self-isolation and quarantines,” Mark Woolhouse, a professor of infectious disease at the University of Edinburgh, told CNN.
“I do think we’ve jumped several steps ahead of ourselves in solving the immediate problem in the UK and the rest of Europe,” Woolhouse added.
Harris says reinforcement is key: “So for instance, in a place like Hong Kong, you would be called every day, or the police come to your house,” she told the Guardian.
BERLIN — When Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the latest round of restrictions on public life, she named bars, restaurants, theaters, concert halls, gyms and tattoo parlors as institutions that would be forced to close. But missing from the list released on Wednesday were schools and day care centers — among the first to be shuttered in the spring lockdown.
In France, President Emmanuel Macron also said on Wednesday that schools would be exempt from wide-reaching nationwide restrictions that are to take effect beginning Friday. Ireland also allowed schools to remain open despite a nationwide lockdown that went into effect earlier this month.
Not everyone is happy with the decisions, but policymakers are taking extra precautions to reduce the risk in schools, from mask requirements for teachers and pupils, to regular airing of classrooms, to split use of schoolyards during breaks. They say they are applying hard-learned lessons from months of fighting the pandemic, and are prepared to change directions if things take a turn for the worse.
Why keep schools open?
Micheal Martin, the Irish prime minister, said that while his country could no longer avoid restrictions, despite the detrimental impact on the economy, it was vital that schools remained open.
“We cannot and will not allow our children and young people’s futures to be another victim of this disease,” Mr. Martin said in a national address. “They need their education.”
Around the world, there is mounting concern that the pandemic is doing lasting harm to the academic and emotional development of an entire generation of children.
Earlier this month, the German conference of ministers of culture, who are responsible for coordinating education policy, stressed children’s right to an education, which they said is best served among peers, in classrooms. “This must take highest priority in making all decisions about restrictive measures that need to be taken,” the minister said.
In making her announcement, Ms. Merkel cited another reason that maintaining access to schools was important, pointing to the “dramatic social consequences” that closing schools and day care centers had on families during the lockdown in March and April.
“To name it clearly: Violent assaults against women and children increased dramatically,” Ms. Merkel said, justifying her government’s decision to halt sports, cultural events and close restaurants instead. “It is important to bear in mind the social consequences if we have to intervene in these issues.”
Keeping children at home often made it hard for parents — especially mothers — to devote their divided attention to work.
What are medical experts saying?
Medical experts point to many things they now know that were unknown back in the spring: with proper precautions, the rate of coronavirus transmission in schools is relatively low, especially among the youngest students; children who do get infected tend to have mild symptoms; and measures like mask-wearing, social distancing and air circulation are more effective than they had predicted.
But that does not mean open schools are risk-free. While schools are not known to have been a major
Opioid deaths are spiking in places across the U.S. as states remain locked down during the ongoing battle against the coronavirus, state and county health officials reported this month.
While national data isn’t available for most of 2020, several individual states are reporting an increase in opioid overdose deaths amid the coronavirus pandemic.
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Health officials and experts have cited increased isolation and job loss due to statewide shutdowns as possible factors for the surge in drug-related deaths.
“The pandemic has really increased risk factors for substance abuse disorder,” Rebecca Shultz, director of community health at the Onondaga County Health Department, told Syracuse.com.
Opioid deaths in Onondaga County, N.Y., jumped to 86 in the first six months of 2020, according to the county health department. This number was nearly double the reported 44 fatalities in the first half of 2019, the outlet reported, citing the county medical examiner’s office.
Oregon saw a 70% increase in opioid overdose deaths in April and May 2020 compared to the same time last year, the Oregon Health Authority said.
While the department called the rise an “alarming spike,” it also said it was “premature to say how much of the spike in overdose deaths is attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“However, the realization that we will be dealing with COVID-19 for some time, and other stressors related to jobs, school, and social isolation, may increase feelings of anxiety and depression, and that can lead to a harmful level of alcohol or other drug use,” said Tom Jeanne, deputy state health officer and deputy state epidemiologist.
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In Maine, which saw 258 overdose deaths from January through June, there was a 27% increase over the second half of 2019. Officials cited increased isolation as a partial factor for the rise.
“It is clear from the data that the increase in deaths from the opioid epidemic can be partially attributed to the increased isolation of living through the pandemic,” Attorney General Aaron Frey said in a report on the state’s drug deaths for the second quarter.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra told FOX40 Sacramento that “in some of our counties, there are more deaths from overdoses than there are from COVID-19.”
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Becerra said that in San Diego there was a 50% increase in overdose deaths in July and August compared to the months leading to the pandemic. He said “the effects of these plagues are exacerbating” due to the pandemic.
Meanwhile, preliminary overdose death counts were up in Connecticut more than 19% through the end of July, compared with the same period last year. They were up 9% in Washington through the end of August, 28% in Colorado, and 30% in Kentucky during that same time.
After a one-year drop in 2018, U.S. opioid overdose deaths increased again in
The rollback came after the city reported zero new coronavirus cases on Monday and Tuesday, a dramatic drop from the hundreds logged each day during the outbreak’s peak in late July and early August.
“I’m pretty proud of what we have achieved here,” Sharon Lewin, the director of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne, told the BBC. “The outcome has been extraordinary — not without its pain, though.”
While the 111-day lockdown helped stop the spread of the virus, it has also taken a devastating toll on the local economy and mental health of residents.
Victoria, the state where Melbourne is located, lost an average of 1,200 jobs a day as most businesses were forced to stay closed, according to Bloomberg News. Demand for mental health services grew by 31 percent in September and October as a lockdown, which began in July and was initially supposed to last only six weeks, dragged on. Meanwhile, alcohol consumption increased, as did domestic violence.
Enduring the prolonged shutdown may have been made even more challenging by the fact that Melbourne had only recently exited a nationwide lockdown that was in place from March to May, giving residents a brief taste of normal life before their daily activities were curtailed again.
Melbourne residents stuck at home this summer watched travel and part of ordinary life resume in much of Europe while the virus surged across the United States. After stringent lockdowns in countries including Italy and Spain, Europe appeared to have largely contained its major outbreaks for a time, and began reopening borders.
This too came at a cost. Europe is now facing a surge of infections.
European leaders have said their goal is to avoid hard lockdowns like those imposed in the spring, which, as in Melbourne, had painful repercussions for economies and communities. Nonetheless, as hospitals warn of increasing strain, both Italy and Spain have tightened restrictions in recent days, while France is reportedly considering a month-long lockdown and Germany is expected to announce new, tougher rules this week.
France extended its anti-Covid curfew to cover two-thirds of the population and Ireland locked down again on Thursday as governments warned of a dire situation in Europe where countries are registering record cases.
Most European governments have been reluctant to reimpose national stay-at-home orders after previous restrictions led to deep recessions and widespread bitterness.
But Ireland became the first country on the continent to re-impose a full-on lockdown on Thursday, with its five-million-strong weary population ordered to stay home for six weeks, and non-essential businesses told to shut up shop.
“The infection rates, hospital occupancy rates but also death rates are rising all over Europe,” warned Andrea Ammon, head of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, in an interview with the BBC.
In Dublin, resident Jo Finn told AFP a lot of friends were struggling with mental health issues.
“Because of this second lockdown we can’t socialise, we can’t meet up,” Finn said during a muted morning rush hour.
In France, meanwhile, a nighttime curfew that had already been in place in Paris and eight other cities was extended to wide swathes of the country, more than doubling the number of people affected to 46 million.
“The health situation of our country continues to deteriorate,” Prime Minister Jean Castex warned as France registered a record 41,622 new cases over 24 hours on Thursday, and 165 deaths.
– Curfews galore –
Germany, Denmark, Portugal and Italy all registered their highest one-day tallies since the pandemic began, and a slew of other European countries are voicing alarm at rapidly rising infections.
Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute disease control centre, said “the overall situation has become very serious”.
German health experts said it was still possible to combat the outbreak by observing recently-toughened rules on distancing and gatherings.
For its part, Italy ordered curfews in regions that cover the capital Rome and business hub Milan.
And Portugal has banned people from travelling between cities for five days starting October 30, which includes a bank holiday.
Greece meanwhile declared a night curfew in Athens, Thessaloniki in the north and other areas.
As Europe suffers, China — where the virus first emerged at the end of last year — continues to make strides back to normality, announcing it would allow 10,000 fans to watch the final of its Super League football competition.
The virus has killed more than 1.1 million people and prompted a catastrophic economic downturn, with the International Monetary Fund predicting a 4.4 percent drop in global output for 2020.
– ‘Irresponsible behaviour’ –
Politicians meanwhile continued to be hit by the virus.
Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn — widely praised for his calm stewardship during the pandemic — tested positive and went into home isolation.
In Belgium, which has one of the worst rates of infections per person, Foreign Minister and former prime minister Sophie Wilmes is being treated in intensive care after testing positive.
“She is conscious and she can communicate,” her spokeswoman said.