Tighter restrictions aimed at reining in surging coronavirus cases have been implemented in much of Italy and parts of Poland.
Meanwhile in France, Paris risks being slapped with a weekend lockdown as intensive care units (ICU) edge close to saturation point with Covid-19 patients.
In line with an Italian government decision late last week, 80% of school children, from nursery to high schools, were locked out of the classroom from Monday.
Ever-mounting numbers of ICU beds occupied by Covid-19 patients, steadily rising daily caseloads and infection transmission predominantly driven by a virus variant first discovered in the UK have combined to make Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s new government apply “red zone” designation on more regions, including, for the first time since the colour-tiered system was created last autumn, on Lazio, the region including Rome.
In red-zone regions, restaurants and cafes can only do takeaway or delivery, non-essential shops are closed and residents must stick close to home, except for work, health or shopping for necessities.
Over the weekend, many hair salons extended hours to handle last-minute customers, and crowds filled shopping streets, parks and seaside promenades before the crackdown took effect.
Mr Draghi has promised a quick infusion of pandemic aid to closed businesses.
Beyond the commercial aspects, parents have voiced concern for children shut out of classrooms.
In Poland, amid a sharp spike in the number of new infections and of new Covid-19 hospital patients, restrictions were tightened in two more regions, including the capital, Warsaw, and a western province that borders Germany. Two other provinces were already under restrictions.
Under the heightened measures, hotels and shopping centres have to remain closed, as do theatres, cinemas, fitness clubs and sports facilities. School children aged six to nine will have a combination of in-class and remote teaching.
An inexorable climb in the numbers of patients being treated in French hospital ICUs, particularly in the Paris region, is increasing pressure on the government of President Emmanuel Macron.
As is the case elsewhere in Europe, virus variants are suspected of fuelling increases in serious cases in France. Mr Macron’s government has been trying to stave off another punishing nationwide lockdown in 2021 by opting for a 6pm to 6am nationwide curfew instead.
A decision on whether the Paris region and its 12 million inhabitants will be locked down on weekends is expected in a few days.
Last week, countries in the Western Balkans announced a tightening of measures amid a surge in cases in Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro.
As they received first vaccines on Wednesday, doctors in Bosnia’s capital, Sarajevo, warned that the virus has exploded in the past several days. Bars, restaurants and non-essential shops in the Sarajevo territory will be shut for the upcoming weekend.
In Serbia, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic criticised the holding in past days of two concerts by a popular band at a Belgrade hall. The country of seven 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 is emerging from a two-month lockdown, with the country gradually reopening over the next seven weeks, barring setbacks.
Primary and nursery schools, hair salons and bookshops are among the places reopening. Prime Minister Antonio Costa said in a tweet that the process must be “very prudent, gradual and piecemeal”.
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