The Netherlands has introduced stricter measures to combat rising coronavirus cases, banning spectators at professional sports matches and ordering bars and restaurants to close at 10pm for the next three weeks.
Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said “we’re doing our best, but the virus is doing better”, warning that tougher measures could follow if the numbers don’t stop going up.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte also advised people to wear face masks when shopping in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague, the three cities with the highest rates of infections.
He also said people should work from home, no more than three visitors should be allowed in homes, and no more than four people should go out together.
The new measures come into force on Tuesday evening, and follow similar tightening of restrictions amongst the Netherlands’ neighbours, as European countries battle back against a surging second wave of COVID-19 cases.
The country's coronavirus dashboard registered 2,921 new infections in the last 24 hours, down slightly from the 2,996 registered Sunday by the country's public health institute.
Ernst Kuipers, of the national acute care network, said there are now 660 COVID-19 patients in Dutch hospitals, including 142 in intensive care units and that the numbers are rising fast.
Germany considers new measures
In Germany, a country that has fared relatively well so far compared to its neighbours, cases are also on the rise, prompting Chancellor Angela Merkel to consider bringing in new measures.
At a meeting with the leaders of the 16 regional states on Tuesday, the idea of limiting the number of people allowed at private parties to 25, and 50 in public, was discussed.
“Due to falling temperatures, extended stays in closed spaces during the autumn and winter, and the threat of the flu season, we must now be particularly vigilant, especially in the organisation of leisure activities and private parties,” the politicians said, according to a draft text obtained by AFP.
Other measures under discussion include fines for those giving false contact information, and the restriction of the sale of alcohol in areas particularly affected.
“We mustn’t allow the virus to spread exponentially again in individual locations,” Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said on Monday. “We can sadly see where that leads with some of our European friends.”
Infection rates in Munich and some other cities have recently hovered around the mark of 50 new cases per 100,000 residents a week, a level that requires authorities to take action.
Infection spikes are cropping up elsewhere, such as in the western town of Hamm, where a persistent outbreak has been linked to a wedding party.
Germany has recorded more than 288,000 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, with over 9,400 deaths — a toll one-fourth of Britain's or Italy's virus deaths.
Bars and restaurants shut in parts of France
In the French city of Marseille and nearby Aix en Provence, bars and restaurants were closed to halt the spread of the virus. The measures are expected to last at least two weeks.
France's central government also ordered new softer restrictions for ten other cities including Paris, where infections and hospitalisations are on the rise.
The country has reported 31,511 virus-related deaths, among the highest tolls in Europe.
Spain’s health minister calls for stricter measures
Salvador Illa, Spain’s health minister, has called for tougher measures to be introduced in the capital Madrid, which is seeing a huge wave of new infections.
The national government wants to see existing restrictions against the spread of the virus extended to all the city, but regional governments want to see how current measures affect the numbers.
Parts of Madrid have already been under strict measures to stop the spread, but now an additional 160,000 people in the city are also under further social restrictions.
The country's coronavirus tally on Monday reached 748,266 infections since the onset of the pandemic, 31,785 more since Friday, Monday's official data showed.
There were 179 new fatalities for COVID-19, bringing the total death toll to 31,411, although experts think that many more deaths have not been recorded due to limited testing.
With 290 cases per 100,000 people in two weeks, Spain is by far leading in Europe's infection rate during this second wave.