Europe is bracing for a second wave of coronavirus as continuing outbreaks raise the prospect of reimposed restrictions at a time when millions of people are travelling across the continent for their summer holidays.
The Belgian government has warned that country could be put into a second “complete lockdown” following a significant spike in infections, while the Spanish region of Catalonia may also have to reintroduce lockdown measures if outbreaks are not brought under control within 10 days.
In France, the health minister has called for greater vigilance after a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases in young people, and Germany’s public health advisory body has said it is “deeply concerned” about the rise in cases over the past few weeks.
On Monday, Belgium’s prime minister, Sophie Wilmès, announced a series of further restrictive measures but said a second lockdown may be inevitable.
“If we cannot reduce the coronavirus, it will be a collective failure,” Wilmès said at a press conference following a meeting of the country’s national security council.
“Experts say it is possible to avoid another lockdown. But it must be remembered that the world’s leading scientists are incapable of knowing how the situation will develop. We must not frighten people, but neither should we abuse them by pretending to know everything.”
There was a 71% increase in the seven-day average number of infections in Belgium between 17 July and 23 July in Belgium, up from 163 new cases a day to 279. At the height of the pandemic in April, Belgium had more than 1,000 cases a day.
The prime minister said the start of the school year could be undermined without a drastic intervention and said she “very strongly recommended” the return of home working for those who are able to do so. For four weeks from Wednesday, each household may only have social contact with a further five people.
People must go shopping alone and they will need to restrict themselves to 30 minutes in a shop.
On Monday, the regional president of Catalonia – one of the areas of Spain hardest hit by the virus’s resurgence – said the situation was similar to that before the national lockdown was introduced in March.
“We’re in the 10 most important days of the summer and during that time, we’ll see whether we’re capable of sorting out the situation through solidarity, cooperation and a collective effort,” said Quim Torra.
“But the situation is critical and if we don’t manage to, then we will have to go backwards.”