Europe’s resurgent coronavirus pandemic is threatening to shut down Paris’s culinary institutions and spurring record cases in the continent’s east.
The disease is spreading at such a pace in Paris that positive tests and the number of intensive-care patients have climbed past the “maximum alert” level, French Health Minister Olivier Veran told reporters.
If the trend continues, “we have no choice” but to declare the capital and its nearby suburbs a high-risk area as soon as Monday, which would trigger the closing of bars and restaurants, he said on Thursday. Representatives of France’s hospitality industry are trying to thwart the move and plan to present proposals to authorities as soon as Friday.
The move comes amid a spate of tighter restrictions across Europe, threatening a stumbling recovery after national lockdowns hammered economies in the second quarter.
New covid-19 cases hit daily records in Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic — the second-worst outbreak in Europe, which declared a state of emergency this week. Ukraine had its third record increase in a row on Friday.
Trends are worrying across Europe. London residents are being told to take immediate action to avoid catching and spreading the disease amid warnings that the U.K. capital is at a “tipping point.”
Germany had the most new daily infections since April, as did Italy, where Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is seeking to extend his emergency powers to Jan. 31.
New cases in Germany are “predominantly due to transmission at family and other private events,” the country’s Robert Koch Institute said in its latest situation report. To counter the risk, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government this week recommended limits on public and private gatherings in hard-hit areas.
In France, President Emmanuel Macron is seeking to avoid a second nationwide lockdown, but targeted measures have shown little impact. The country’s virus cases increased the most in Europe over the past two months and monthly Covid-related deaths tripled in September.
“For several weeks now, we’ve been in a phase of a worsening of virus circulation, which is putting pressure on our health-care system,” Veran said.
Unlike the initial phase of the pandemic, there is greater opposition to containment efforts, which has spurred protests across Europe, including an effort to break into the German parliament in Berlin. In Spain — again the epicenter of the pandemic on the continent — the virus fight has been bogged down by infighting.
Madrid is considering challenging coronavirus restrictions ordered by the national government to “defend the interests” of its people, Isabel Diaz Ayuso, the region’s president, said in the local parliament on Thursday.
The resistance to measures, such as reducing capacity and operating hours of shops and public services in cities, has political undertones. The Madrid region is controlled by the main opposition party to Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s government.
In France, local lawmakers are pushing back against government measures, which mark the first significant tightening of restrictions on movement since the lockdown ended in May. While an administrative court in Marseille on Wednesday upheld an order to close restaurants and bars for 15 days, a court in Rennes suspended a decree to shut sports halls and gyms.
After “lively” reactions to the temporary shutdown in Marseille, “we have to take the opportunity to discuss with restaurant owners,” Gabriel Attal, French government spokesman, said in an interview with LCI television on Friday. “We will look at how things develop.”
There are hopeful developments. Marseille, France’s second-biggest city, is showing signs of improvement after being placed on maximum virus alert a week ago, Veran said. Indicators tracked by health authorities are also better in Nice and Bordeaux, while deteriorating in five major cities including Lyon and Toulouse, he said.
Macron said France will have to adapt decisions locally to keep the virus in check in regions facing a resurgence.
Marseille “made mistakes” when it allowed large parties over the summer, especially on rooftops, Mayor Michele Rubirola said in an interview with Le Monde published on Thursday. “We may not have realized what was going on, because we observed a decrease in viral spread.”