Rabat – Breaking the second wave has become a new priority as governments across the EU implement more stringent COVID-19 measures. The EU bloc has now recorded over three million cases and a recent uptick in infections has governments worried. Large countries such as France, Spain, and the United Kingdom are seeing new daily case counts in the several thousands.
Amid an emerging second wave in the EU and growing resistance to restrictions, European leaders are apparently trying to depoliticize unpopular measures. Politicians are increasingly setting predetermined triggers for new measures on a regional basis.
Cases have risen significantly over the last weeks amid the EU’s growing second wave. On Monday French authorities reported 4,069 new cases. France has introduced a new alert system which ensures that regions where COVID-19 numbers rise above predetermined thresholds automatically qualify for certain preventative restrictions.
Paris remains a hotspot with COVID-19 patients now occupying 30% of all intensive care beds. On Monday, 254 out of every 100,000 citizens were infected by COVID-19, and the rate among the elderly is nearing the threshold of 100 per 100,000. These three factors could soon trigger the French government to implement the status of “maximum alert,” which could mean the implementation of new lockdowns.
The EU’s second wave is also hitting Germany. The country recorded 2,089 new cases on Monday as cases reach their highest levels since April. Social gatherings have received the brunt of the blame for the rapid rise as the government aims to keep education and economic actors open.
Germany is cracking down on parties after Chancellor Angela Merkel warned the country could surpass 19,000 cases per day by Christmas. Merkel met with regional leaders to settle on a policy on Tuesday. They agreed that parties will be limited to a maximum of 25 people in areas where infections exceed 35 per 100,000.
The Netherlands recorded 2,909 new cases on Monday. A striking rise in the rate of positive tests has alarmed the national health institute, which recorded a 43% increase in one week. The government has finally recognized the efficacy of masks after long maintaining they did not work.
Additionally, it has instituted new national measures to stem the spread, such as a curfew for restaurants and bars, and requiring customers to register their presence when going out. The country’s largest cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague will see tougher measures as they have the highest rate of infections.
Young people appear to be the main source for the new spread. Citizens between the age of 20-29 have seen the largest increase in infections.
The government in the UK is facing major criticism over its response to the EU’s second wave of COVID-19. The country recorded 7,143 new cases over the last 24 hours, prompting new restrictions on gatherings.
The UK announced new measures on Monday that restrict gathering in the country’s hotspots starting Wednesday. British citizens in those areas are not allowed to meet with members of other households. The government is likely to implement similar measures in the capital London as the majority of its boroughs reported problematic infection rates.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced embarrassment as he misinformed residents of the northeast of the country about the new measures, apparently unintentionally.
Spain has recorded infections higher than its peak in April. The EU’s second wave is in full swing in Spain with cases topping 10,000 daily for nearly two weeks. The country recorded 32,000 new infections over the weekend while the national government clashed with local authorities over implementing measures.
Lockdowns reappeared in Madrid. Over one million of the city’s residents are restricted to their neighborhoods, only allowed to leave for work and education. Parks are closed and hospitality has seen new restrictions. The national government is urging city officials to tighten these measures further.
Even as clear signs of a second wave have appeared in the EU, citizens appear increasingly skeptical and resistant to measures. The EU is clearly struggling with what the WHO calls an “infodemic” of misinformation online.
Such media content has led to large demonstrations of disgruntled Europeans. Over 30,000 protested COVID-19 restrictions in Berlin last month. Smaller demonstrations have occurred in The Hague, London, Madrid, and Paris. The common refrain of protesters is a fear that COVID-19 measures constitute a permanent threat to the freedoms they enjoy.
Dutch celebrities recently launched the #WijDoenNietMeerMee (We are not participating anymore) campaign against COVID-19 restrictions. In Berlin, protesters stormed the Reichstag on August 29.
Nationalists across the continent, which is already skewing far right in many places, are using the crisis to grow their membership and feed on public discontent. The rise of the far right could result in more problematic consequences for Europe’s future, evidenced in the controversial immigration policy the EU introduced on September 23.