Much of Europe tightens pandemic rules as virus rises


ROME (AP) – Tighter restrictions aimed at curbing the rise in coronavirus infections were imposed across much of Italy and parts of Poland on Monday, while in France, Paris is at risk of a weekend shutdown. as ICUs are near saturation of COVID-19 patients.

According to a decision by the Italian government at the end of last week, 80% of school-age children, from kindergarten to secondary schools, were excluded from the classroom since Monday. The increasing number of ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, the constantly increasing number of daily cases, and the transmission of infections primarily driven by a variant of the virus first discovered in Britain have combined to make The new government of Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi enforces the “red zone” designation in more regions, including, for the first time since the color tier system was created last fall, in Lazio, the region that includes Rome.

In red-light district regions, restaurants and cafes can only do take-out or home delivery, non-essential stores are closed, and residents must stay close to home except for work, health, or shopping for necessities. . Over the weekend, many hair salons extended their hours to serve last-minute customers, and crowds filled shopping streets, parks and boardwalks before the crackdown went into effect.

On Monday, reality sank.

In a country where coffee is taken, properly, at a cafe counter or table, and not in a paper cup to go, Alessandra Lorisa removed her mask and drank hers in a square in Rome. “By now, it has become part of our routine,” he said. “It’s much more American, if we can say so,” he added, expressing hope that after Easter “we can see some improvement, to get back to the routines we were used to.”

Draghi promised a quick injection of pandemic aid to closed companies on Friday.

Beyond the commercial aspects, parents expressed concern about children excluded from classrooms. “They have little interaction now with their friends, they have to celebrate their birthdays alone,” Marco Pacciani said while walking through a park in Rome with his young son.

In Poland, amid a sharp increase in the number of new infections and hospitalized patients with COVID-19, restrictions were tightened in two more regions, including the capital Warsaw and a western province bordering Germany. Two other provinces were already under restrictions.

Under the reinforced measures, hotels and shopping centers must remain closed, as must theaters, cinemas, gyms and sports facilities. Schoolchildren ages 6-9 will have a combination of classroom and remote instruction.

An inexorable increase in the number of patients treated in the ICUs of French hospitals, particularly in the Paris region, is increasing pressure on the government of President Emmanuel Macron. As is the case in other parts of Europe, variants of the virus are suspected of fueling the rise in severe cases in France. The Macron government has been trying to avoid another nationwide lockdown punishment in 2021, rather than opting for a nationwide curfew from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.

It is expected that in a few days it will be decided whether the Paris region and its 12 million inhabitants will be blocked on weekends.

Last week, the Western Balkan countries announced a tightening of measures amid an increase in cases in Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro.

When they received the first vaccinations on Wednesday, doctors in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo warned that the virus had exploded in recent days. Non-essential bars, restaurants and shops in Sarajevo Canton will be closed for the next weekend.

In Serbia, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic criticized the holding in recent days of two concerts by a popular band in a Belgrade hall. The country of 7 million has vaccinated more than 1.5 million people, which is among the highest rates in Europe.

On the western edge of the continent, Portugal stood out as an outlier. It was emerging from a two-month pandemic lockdown on Monday, and the country gradually reopened over the next seven weeks, barring setbacks.

Elementary and nursery schools, hair salons and bookstores were among the places that reopened on Monday. Prime Minister António Costa said in a tweet on Monday that the process must be “very prudent, gradual and fragmented.”

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AP reporters from across Europe contributed to this report.

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