Europe Backpedals as Virus Lockdowns Return to Ireland, Wales

This content was published on October 20, 2020 – 09:25

(Bloomberg) — Ireland and Wales imposed stringent lockdowns and Italy’s financial center is planning a curfew, as Europe steps up efforts to regain control of the coronavirus pandemic.

In Germany, tensions rose with parliamentary leaders sparring with Chancellor ’s administration over efforts to contain the spread of the disease. New cases in Europe’s largest economy rose to a record on Tuesday, and the first German region imposed stringent constraints.

After leaders vowed to steer away from harsh lockdowns to protect the economy, Europe is reviving the measures in some areas. Piecemeal curbs have made little impact in slowing the disease, which has infected 4.9 million people and caused more than 200,000 fatalities.

Ireland imposed some of the most severe restrictions in Europe, with non-essential stores, bars and restaurants forced to close for at least six weeks. Travel will be further restricted, with people told to stay within 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) of their home. Wales is following suit for two-weeks, and Milan is headed toward restrictions on movement.

“The evidence of a potentially grave situation arriving in the weeks ahead is too strong,” Prime Minister Micheal Martin said late Monday in a televised address from Dublin. “Further action is now required.”

In the U.K., -eople in Wales will be required to stay at home between Oct. 23 and Nov. 9, and all pubs, restaurants and non-essential retail outlets will be closed. Prime Minister insisted he doesn’t want similar measures across the border in England.

The British government is pushing leaders in Manchester, northwest England, to agree to tighter restrictions or face new rules being imposed against their will, the latest sign of Europe’s fraying political unity.

The Italian region of Lombardy, which includes Milan, is due to impose a curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Other regions are also considering such a move, according to Italian media reports.

In Belgium — the hardest-hit country in Europe behind the Czech Republic — all restaurants, bars and cafes in the country will remain closed for four weeks, starting on Monday. A curfew from midnight to 5 a.m. will also take effect.

Madrid authorities are studying whether to ask the Spanish government to impose a curfew for when the state of emergency currently enforced by order of the central government is lifted, according to Spanish media.

“It wouldn’t be a decision to be applied only in Madrid,” Enrique Ruiz Escudero, the regional administration’s senior health official, told newspaper El Pais. “It wouldn’t be bad for us, as long as we can determine opening times for economic activities.”

In eastern Europe, the Czech government ordered wearing face masks in public and in cars if passengers aren’t related. Bulgarian authorities will consider introducing compulsory mask-wearing outdoors. Until now, the government has ruled out introducing new nationwide restrictions.

Aside from national measures, the European Union plans to remove Canada, Tunisia and Georgia from its list of countries whose residents should be allowed to visit, according to EU officials familiar with the matter. The U.S. will remain blacklisted along with most other countries in the world, according to the proposal, which is still subject to approval by diplomats meeting in Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday.

German Bickering

Even with Germany losing grip on the virus, authorities bickered over who has the power to take control.

Germany’s lower house of parliament should participate more in the decision-making process to “prevent the impression that the fight against a pandemic is exclusively left to the executive and judiciary,” according to a proposal from Wolfgang Schaeuble, president of Germany’s Bundestag and a member of Merkel’s Christian Democratic party.

Claudia Roth, a Bundestag vice president and member of the Green party, took particular issue with Health Minister Jens Spahn’s push to extend special rights to make policy with limited lawmaker input to beyond March 2021.

“It can’t be that a minister insatiably wants more authority,” Roth said on Deutschlandfunk radio. Spahn pushed back, saying lawmakers will continue to have a role to play.

The spread caused the alpine district of Berchtesgadener Land near the Austrian border to impose sweeping restrictions on movement. The popular tourism destination with about 106,000 people will close schools, shutter sports and leisure activities and confine people to their homes unless they have a “solid” reason to leave.

“If we stand up to the pandemic, we can come out of this stronger,” said Bernhard Kern, the district’s administrator, adding that a further increase in infections “is to be feared.”

(Updates with EU travel restrictions, details from eastern Europe)

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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