Europe is tightening some restrictions on public life again as summer partying risks reigniting the spread of the coronavirus.
Wary of returning vacationers spreading COVID-19 at workplaces and schools, European officials are caught between fostering an economic recovery and the threat of a widespread outbreak.
The concerns prompted Spain and Italy to shut discos and Greece to restrict hours for bars and restaurants in hopes of avoiding more stringent measures after the holiday season winds down.
“We cannot waste the sacrifices made in the past months,” Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza said in a Facebook post. The government also made wearing face masks compulsory from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. in public venues and in outdoor spaces, including squares and streets, where crowds can gather.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed the sentiment, telling a meeting of her CDU party in Berlin that rising infections are of concern and there is no scope currently for loosening restrictions.
Spain has again emerged as a hot spot, with a 1,833 new infections in the last 24 hours, according to Health Ministry data published Monday.
By comparison, Italy — the original epicenter of the outbreak on the continent — reported 320 new coronavirus cases on Monday, the lowest increase in a week. Even so, the number of active Italian patients continued to climb to 14,867.
Irish authorities are considering new measures to curb the pandemic.
In addition to outbreaks at food-processing plants, concern is mounting around potential contagion in bars following a weekend video of a Dublin barman standing on a counter to pour shots into customers’ mouths. Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer Ronan Glynn described such scenes as “reckless.”
“The next three weeks are incredibly important,” Irish Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said on RTE radio.
From Ibiza to the crowded urban nightspots of Madrid, some 25,000 discos and clubs in Spain will be required to suspend operations as part of a package of 11 measures to curb the fastest virus growth rate among Europe’s major economies.
Spain’s Health Ministry blamed nighttime socializing for fueling new outbreaks, punching a hole in the government’s seven-week experiment to restore the country’s $175 billion tourism industry.
“This will devastate us,” said Antonio Gomez of the SpainTOP travel agency in Madrid. “People don’t travel to Spain any more just for sun and beaches.”
In the fallout from the travel chaos, Ryanair Holdings cut flight capacity for September and October, and TUI, the world’s biggest tourism operator, suspended trips to Spain from both the U.K. and Germany.
Greece reported 150 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing the total to 7,222 — nearly 40% of those have come in August.
The government is requiring bars and restaurants to close between midnight and 7 a.m. in the greater Athens region and introduced an upper limit of 50 people at social events such as weddings in regions particularly affected by the virus. Authorities are preparing protocols to help people safely return to work from vacations.
In France, an increase of new cases over the past week — near the alert level in areas such as Paris and Marseille — has prompted authorities to seal some public areas such as beaches to prevent parties with nightclubs closed since mid-March. A ban on gatherings of more than 5,000 people was extended until the end of October.
Austrians rushed back from Croatia before a midnight deadline. A travel warning that kicked in Monday means returnees from the country now have to provide a negative coronavirus test at the border or go into a two-week quarantine.
The Balkan country last week prohibited bars from operating past midnight. It reported 85 new cases on Monday after a record-breaking Friday.
Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg warned that more travel warnings for other European regions could come at short notice.
Romania, the eastern European nation with the highest virus-linked death toll, extended a state of alert for another 30 days last week with restrictions in crowded public spaces in the capital Bucharest and most-affected counties. Estonia imposed stricter alcohol sales requirements in the region around the southern city of Tartu after a jump in infections was traced to nightclubs there.