Health & Fitness

Germany and France announce new Covid restrictions as outbreaks improve throughout Europe

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Germany and France announced tough new restrictions on businesses on Wednesday to help contain the spread of the coronavirus as countries respond to worsening outbreaks.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday the country would introduce a four-week closure of restaurants, bars, cinemas, theaters and a few other facilities from November 2 in an attempt to bring the virus under control.

Merkel told reporters that the number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care units across the country has doubled in the past 10 days. She added that German hospitals will reach capacity in the coming weeks if this pace continues.

"These are tough measures," she said. "We must act now to avoid an acute national health emergency."

Shops, schools and day-care centers will remain open but face new capacity constraints. Restaurants will remain open to take away, said Merkel. She pleaded with citizens to avoid unnecessary travel.

"We can say that our health system can meet the challenge today," said Merkel. "But if the pace of infections continues, we'll be pushing the limits of what the healthcare system can handle in a matter of weeks."

According to its disease control authority, Germany reported a record increase of 14,964 new cases on Wednesday. According to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the country has reported an average of 11,100 new cases of the virus per day over the past week, up more than 61% from a week ago.

Amid growing fears that the surge in cases and the government's response to it could destroy an already volatile economy, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said November would be a critical month.

"November will be a month of truth," said Scholz. "The increasing number of infections is forcing us to take tough countermeasures in order to break the second wave with targeted and temporary measures, including effective financial support for the affected companies."

French President Emmanuel Macron later announced on Wednesday that he would impose a second national lockdown that would require people to stay in their homes except when heading out to buy essential goods, seek medical help or exercise to drift.

The lockdown means residents will no longer be able to travel between regions of the country and shut down businesses like restaurants and bars. However, the country's schools remain open and retirement homes can still accept visitors.

The restrictions will start on Friday and last through December 1, he said. The country has reported an average of more than 38,700 new cases of the virus per day for the past week, up over 54% from a week ago, data from Johns Hopkins shows. Macron said he would ease the lockdown once the country is able to pull the daily number of cases down to around 5,000 a day.

The virus is soaring in much of the northern hemisphere as colder weather sets in, forcing people indoors and spreading it more easily. European officials have also attributed the surge to "pandemic fatigue," meaning people are tired of strictly adhering to public health measures.

Italy reported a record increase of 24,991 new cases on Wednesday, the Ministry of Health said. The country has reported an average of more than 18,600 new cases of the virus per day for the past week, up over 88% from a week ago, data from Johns Hopkins shows.

"We are now deep in the second wave," said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, at a press conference on Wednesday.

– CNBC's Reuters, The Associated Press and Nate Rattner contributed to this report.

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Katherine Clark