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European governments weigh stricter measures amid rising COVID-19 cases

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Boris Johnson flanked by his bodyguard leaves 10 Downing Street for the House of Commons.
Boris Johnson flanked by his bodyguard leaves 10 Downing Street for the House of Commons.   -   Copyright  Alastair Grant/AP Photo
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Many European leaders are now weighing stricter measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 as cases rise and experts speculate about a second wave of the epidemic.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he "will not hesitate" to take stricter measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 but emphasised that he wanted to avoid a national lockdown.

"No matter how impatient we may be, how fed up we may become, there is only one way of doing this," Johnson said, explaining that there needed to be a collective "willingness to make sacrifices for the safety of others".

Watch Johnson's press conference on COVID-19 in the video player above.

He said new measures would be more costly than what is currently in place but said that by following local restrictions now, they could avoid that outcome.

The latest results from a regular study by Imperial College London suggested on Thursday that the rise in cases had slowed since new social restrictions were introduced.

But the UK's chief scientific advisor Patrick Vallance warned hospitalisations, intensive care admissions and deaths were still going up.

Many have criticised the UK government's messaging on the crisis, however, with Labour leader Keir Starmer stating earlier during PMQs that there was "widespread confusion" about restrictions, which change frequently.

"If the Prime Minister doesn't understand the rules and his own council leaders are complaining about mixed messages, how does the Prime Minister expect the rest of the country to understand and follow the rules?" Starmer asked, referring to an error Johnson made about socialising outside the household.

The UK government on Wednesday issued new guidelines in Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, and Sunderland, where cases are increasing more rapidly.

There, people are no longer allowed to socialise with others outside their own household and many hospitality businesses are subject to a 10:00 pm curfew.

Johnson said he thought people were overwhelmingly following the rules during PMQs.

New restrictions in Madrid amid 'worrying' situations

Spain's health ministry said restrictions would be extended in Madrid where the situation has become "worrying" despite pushback from the regional government.

The health ministry has been encouraging Madrid's government to implement new measures, extending restrictions beyond the most impacted neighbourhoods.

But the regional government in Madrid has pushed back with regional president Isabel Diaz Ayuso tweeting: "We are looking for a consensual text based on technical parameters, not on three generic ones. We are talking about restricting the fundamental rights of millions of people. Let's get it right."

It comes as the ministry agreed with regions on new guidelines for when social distancing restrictions would need to be put into place locally.

The health ministry said that when a local population has 500 new cases per 100,000 people, a two week positive test rate of 10%, and COVID-19 patients representing 35% of intensive care occupancy, the government will limit gatherings to six people, limit services to 50% capacity, and introduce a curfew.

French prime minister to meet with mayors

New measures are expected in France as Prime Minister Jean Castex is set to meet with several mayors in cities heavily impacted by COVID-19.

Castex plans to meet with city leaders from Paris, Lyon, Lille and Grenoble on Thursday morning. Several cities in France are close to a maximum alert level for COVID-19, according to AFP.

French health minister Olivier Véran could then announce new measures Thursday evening, French media report.

It comes as France recorded 13,000 new cases of COVID-19 in 24 hours, and as hospitalisations rise in multiple cities.

Meanwhile, a court in Marseille rejected an appeal to the closure of bars and restaurants in the city for two weeks amid rising cases.

Czech Republic issues new state of emergency

The Czech Republic, also facing increasing cases, issued a new state of emergency order that will take effect on October 5.

The government will cap indoor gatherings at 10 people and cap outdoor gatherings at 20. It comes after the country recorded nearly 2,000 cases on Tuesday.