European countries are reporting record numbers of Covid-19 cases as the continent prepares for the pandemic to intensify through winter.
Those affected include Europe’s political class. Polish President Andrzej Duda tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday, according to a tweet from Presidential Minister Blazej Spychalski Saturday. Duda’s diagnosis comes as the country reported 13,632 new cases Friday, the highest daily tally since the pandemic began. The case tally was more than 50% higher than Monday’s 7,482 cases.
“The second wave has hit the entire Europe equally,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Friday.
The five countries with the highest rate of infection worldwide are all in Europe, according to Johns Hopkins University’s latest moving averages, as analyzed by CNN.
The worst-hit nations are the Czech Republic, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and France.
In all five countries, the number of new infections has surged since the beginning of October.
French President Emmanuel Macron warned Friday that his country needs to live with the virus in the longterm.
“When I listen to the scientists, and the Scientific Council, we foresee [living with the virus] at best until next summer,” Macron said, speaking during a visit to a health center.
Macron added that his government aims to impose new coronavirus restrictions in a targeted way.
On the same day France reported 42,032 new cases in 24 hours, a new record, according to the French Health Agency. Around 46 million people in the country are subject to a night-time coronavirus curfew in France.
The picture in neighboring Spain is less dramatic but the country’s daily average remains high, remaining at 299 per million on October 19.
Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez pleaded with the public to limit their mobility and help fight a second wave, during a speech on Friday.
“The next few weeks, months will be tough, very tough,” Sanchez said, adding that while Spain has officially recorded more than 1 million cases, he estimates the real number is more than 3 million.
The Spanish regions of Castilla and Leon and Valencia have announced they are planning to impose a night curfew over the coming days. The region of Andalusia has also requested a curfew for the city of Granada.
A daily case record was also set in the Czech Republic which surpassed 15,000 new cases in 24 hours for the first time since the beginning of pandemic. Deaths in the country rose by 126, to reach a total of 1,971. The nation is the worst-hit country in Europe, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
Meanwhile, the country’s health minister Roman Prymula is in the grip of political scandal after being photographed leaving a restaurant in Prague late Wednesday night, just days after he announced a strict lockdown.
Restaurants in the Czech Republic have been closed for sit-down service since Wednesday, October 14, so the minister’s actions were in breach of the rules.
Prymula said Friday that he knew the restaurant’s owner, who allowed him to sit in in a private lounge to have coffee.
He has refused to resign, despite pressure from the country’s prime minister to do so. Prime Minister Andrej Babis said earlier that he would fire Prymula if he did not resign.
The EU has sent the Czech Republic 30 ventilators as officials act to control the second wave.
“Czechia is going through hard times. The number of coronavirus cases is rising. Hospitals need medical equipment. The EU is here to help,” the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said Thursday.
In Italy, local governors are calling for harsher coronavirus restrictions, with some fearing a repeat of the spring wave. Italy was one of the worst-hit countries in Europe in March.
On Friday, the country reported a daily record of infections, with 16,079 new cases reported in the preceding 24 hours.
The Italian Health Ministry also reported 136 Covid-related deaths and 66 more patients in intensive care, bringing the national total to 992.
The Governor of Campania, Vincenzo De Luca, has called for a national lockdown and has announced he will close the region “for 30 to 40 days” to mitigate the spread of the virus.
“Said in a brutally clear way, I don’t want to find ourselves in front of military trucks that carry hundreds of coffins,” De Luca said in a video message Friday.
“The current data on the infection makes any type of partial measure ineffective.”
The Governor of Lombardy, Attilio Fontana, said the autumn wave a “dramatic situation.”
Italy’s government has so far resisted a national lockdown. “A lockdown can be avoided if quick, urgent and strong measures are taken now,” Minister of Health Roberto Speranza said Thursday.