Quickies: Globe struggles as new waves surge

Paris streets deserted

The streets of Paris and eight other French cities were deserted on Saturday night on the first day of the government-imposed 9 p.m. curfew that is scheduled to last for at least four weeks. The measure was announced by French President Emmanuel Macron to curb the resurgent coronavirus as new infections peaked to over 30,000 a day. Macron said the curfews were needed to stop local hospitals from becoming overrun.

In France, nearly 20 million people are covered by the curfew and eerily deserted scenes were observed in Marseille, Lyon, Lille and Toulouse as well. The curfew runs until 6 a.m. daily. The country is deploying 12,000 extra police officers to enforce the new rules. Many bar and restaurant owners have bristled at the order. An earlier months-long lockdown to combat the spread of coronavirus in the spring devastated the sector.

Italy’s pandemic sops

The Italian government has approved 40 billion Euros ($ 47 billion) in new spending to counter the pandemic’s economic blow. The stimulus package announced Sunday includes an additional 1 billion euros to the national health care system, plus funds to hire doctors and nurses to fill in during the emergency and money to pay for vaccines and other necessities to treat and combat the spread of COVID-19.

There is also money to extend short-term layoff schemes, to support families, to help the underdeveloped south and to make it cheaper to hire workers under 35 years of age. Premier Giuseppe Conte is expected to approve new restrictions on people’s movements later Sunday, after new infections are hitting 10,000 a day. That is well beyond the numbers confirmed during the peak of Italy’s outbreak in the spring, when only the most seriously ill people were being tested.

Reinfections warned

The UK government’s senior scientific advisers have warned that reinfections with COVID-19 are “to be expected” as the novel coronavirus spreads and that the timeframe between each infection may be relatively short. According to a paper by the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium, released with a batch of documents by the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) on Friday, it remains unclear at what point recovered people become vulnerable to re infection but the prospect of reinfections does exist based on human response to other kinds of coronaviruses, such as those behind flu and common cold.

It, therefore, throws the concept of any long-term immunity from COVID-19 without a viable vaccine into serious doubt. Based on knowledge of other coronaviruses, reinfection is to be expected, although at present the point at which an individual is likely to be susceptible to reinfection is not known, notes the paper.

Russians merry, virus spikes

It’s Friday night in Moscow, and popular bars and restaurants in the city center are packed. No one except the staff is wearing a mask or bothers to keep their distance. There is little indication at all that Russia is being swept by a resurgence of coronavirus infections. I believe that everyone will have the disease eventually, says Dr. Alexandra Yerofeyeva, an internal medicine specialist at an insurance company, while sipping a cocktail at The Bix bar in Moscow.

She adds cheerfully: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. The outbreak in Russia this month is breaking the records set in the spring when a lockdown to slow the spread of the virus was put in place. But, as governments across Europe move to reimpose restrictions to counter rising cases, authorities in Russia are resisting shutting down businesses again. On Friday, authorities reported over 15,000 new infections, the highest daily spike.

Virus in Pope’s hotel

The Vatican says someone who lives in the same Vatican hotel as Pope Francis has tested positive for coronavirus, adding to the 11 cases of COVID-19 among the Swiss Guards who protect him. The Vatican said Saturday that the resident of the Domus Sanctae Marthae has moved out temporarily and is in isolation, as are all the people who came into direct contact with him.

The hotel serves as a residence for Vatican-based priests as well as visiting clerics and lay people. Francis chose to live there permanently after his 2013 election, shunning the Apostolic Palace, because he said he needed to be around ordinary people. The hotel has a communal dining room and chapel where Francis celebrates Mass each morning. The Vatican, a tiny city state in the center of Rome, has beefed up its anti-COVID-19 measures amid a resurgence of the outbreak in Italy.

Merkel warns hard days

Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans to come together like they did in the spring to slow the spread of the coronavirus as the country posted another daily record of new cases Saturday. Difficult months are ahead of us, she said in her weekly video podcast. How winter will be, how our Christmas will be, that will all be decided in these coming days and weeks, and it will be decided by our behavior.

Like most countries, Germany has been grappling with how to keep schools and businesses open, while trying to prevent people from coming into close contact with one another. Germany has registered a total of 356,387 coronavirus cases, though a relatively low 9,767 deaths. With the numbers again rising, however, Merkel urged Germans to avoid unnecessary travel, cancel parties and remain at home whenever it is possible.

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