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Coronavirus: European lockdowns could be extended past December

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By Euronews
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People dine outside on a street in central London, Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020.
People dine outside on a street in central London, Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020.   -   Copyright  Alberto Pezzali/AP Photo

As multiple European countries enter their second lockdowns -- some with more partial restrictions this time around -- officials are warning that the month-long restrictions could be extended as COVID-19 cases rise.

A UK government minister said on Sunday, just one day after a second national lockdown was announced, that it may need to be expanded past December 2.

"We want to have an approach where if we bring down the rate of infection sufficiently we can reduce measures nationally and also reduce measures regionally," Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, told Sky News on Sunday.

He confirmed that the government could extend the lockdown, due to start from Thursday and last until the beginning of December.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the second national lockdown on Saturday as the UK's total number of COVID-19 cases passed one million.

Johnson said the virus was spreading even faster than the "reasonable worst-case scenario" scientific advisers provided.

France, Germany, Austria, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Belgium and Greece have all issued new restrictions to curb rising cases of COVID-19 as hospitalisations rise quickly.

Boris Johnson's comments echoed similar ones last week from French President Emmanuel Macron who also issued a national lockdown and said that the virus was spreading more quickly than what scientists had predicted.

Olivier Véran, France's health minister, said the better the lockdown is respected, the fewer weeks it will last in a Sunday newspaper interview, adding that Christmas would not be a normal holiday this year.

"We are trying to create the conditions for a Christmas that is as unconstrained as possible...our goal is for the pressure of the epidemic to fall so that we can do errands on time, prepare with joy, so that the conditions are such that families can reunite," Véran said in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche.

Prime Minister Jean Castex took to social media to encourage young people to follow the rules of lockdown. French citizens are required to have permission to leave the house, but many will be allowed to continue working.

Meanwhile, small businesses in the country were concerned about large retailers who are allowed to stay open, prompting the country's PM to state that retailers are now only allowed to sell essential items.

Book aisles will be closed in large supermarkets, for instance.

Some worried that the partial lockdowns could impact businesses but also might be less effective than measures taken in the spring.

Italy, which recorded more than 30,000 cases for two days in a row, is likely to issue new measures next week, similar to lockdowns in other EU countries, after closing cinemas, pools and gyms and issuing a curfew.

But the country has also seen protests against the new measures, such as the curfew that forced bars and restaurants to close early.

School holidays have been extended in Belgium but many countries are attempting to keep schools open this time.

Many French students will return to school on Monday with stricter measures in place to curb the virus spread.