The latest wave of the coronavirus has inundated Europe after a summer in which many of its countries appeared to have brought the pandemic under control more effectively than the Americas did.
The tide in Europe appears to have crested in recent days, but not before setting records that prompted another series of shutdowns and, for the first time since the spring, stretching hospitals to their limits. And the struggle there against the virus is far from over.
From late September to early November, the rate of new cases reported across the continent quintupled, to about 300,000 a day, accounting for about half the global total, before declining a bit, according to data compiled by The New York Times and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Deaths have shot up from about 700 a day to almost 5,000, and a clear pattern of receding has yet to emerge. Hospitalization numbers have begun to flatten, but at a level that is nearly as high as the spring peak.
As recently as late August, Austria and the Czech Republic each had fewer than 30 Covid-19 patients in intensive care units. Earlier this month, they reported record highs — 599 in Austria and 1,244 in the Czech Republic. Belgium had fewer than 60 Covid-19 intensive-care patients in early September; that figure peaked two months later at 1,474. Those numbers are now receding in all three countries.
When the first wave peaked in April, it was concentrated in a few western European countries, but the latest crisis has struck nearly every part of Europe, including countries that were largely spared in the spring.
While some countries are showing progress, many — including Italy, Poland, Portugal, Switzerland and Austria — are recording new cases and Covid-19 deaths faster than the United States, relative to their populations. Many others, including France, Britain, Spain, Romania and Belgium, have lower case rates but higher fatality rates.
Montenegro is leading the world with the highest daily average of cases per person, according to Times data, which shows a global top 10 of entirely European countries. Montenegro is under a two-week curfew, with citizens barred from leaving their homes from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. except for essential work and needs.
On Friday, Patriarch Irinej, the leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church, died of Covid-19, the church confirmed, after he attended a funeral in neighboring Montenegro for the country’s senior bishop. Thousands were in attendance, many of whom are shown unmasked in a video.
Almost a third of Portugal’s total cases have come in the last two weeks, the number rising to more than 250,000 from just over 170,000 on Nov. 7.
On Saturday, Prime Minister António Costa of Portugal said the country would restrict domestic travel around two upcoming national holidays, on Dec. 1 and Dec. 8, Reuters reported. Travel between municipalities will be banned from 11 p.m. on Nov. 27 to 5 a.m. on Dec. 2, and from 11 p.m. on Dec. 4 to 5 a.m. on Dec. 9. Schools will also be closed the Mondays before both holidays, and businesses will be required to close early.
In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has continued to quarantine after coming into contact last week with a lawmaker who had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Mr. Johnson, who had the virus in March, announced on Oct. 31 that tough measures would be ordered in England, including shutting down pubs and retail shops while allowing restaurants to serve only takeout food. The measures are set to expire on Dec. 2 and will be replaced with a tiered regional system, in which each tier carries a different set of restrictions. Mr. Johnson is set to announce details of a “Covid winter plan” on Monday.
But speaking at the Group of 20 summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, European leaders stressed the need for a global response to the pandemic, not one that focuses just on the needs of wealthier countries like theirs.
President Emmanuel Macron of France warned against “a two-speed world where only the richer can protect themselves against the virus and restart normal lives.”
As more countries return to shutdowns, governments are straining to find ways to support furloughed and unemployed workers, and to keep restaurants and other businesses from going bankrupt. This week, in an extraordinary move, the European Central Bank all but promised to unleash new relief measures by December at the latest.
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