France and Germany Thursday recorded their worst daily coronavirus infection rates in months.
This has caused concerns that the pandemic could spike in Europe just as holidaymakers return home and children go back to school.
COVID-19 Situation in France
France is one of Europe’s worst-hit countries. It has recorded new COVID-19 cases at the fastest daily rate since May.
Around 4,777 infections were confirmed in the past 24 hours, the French public health body said Thursday.
Another 3,800 infections were announced a day earlier. “All indicators continue to climb and transmission of the virus is intensifying,” the DGS said in a statement Wednesday.
Toulouse on Wednesday became the first French city to declare face masks compulsory outdoors.
Masks are already mandatory on public transport in the country and indoors in public places.
There are fears that a mass movement of people as the summer break draws to a close will lead to a spike in infections.
Earlier this week, the French government announced that masks would also be required in workplaces, including meeting rooms, corridors and open spaces.
Coronavirus Situation in Germany
Germany on Thursday reported 1,707 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, the highest daily toll since the peak of pandemic in April.
Germany has fared better than many European neighbors in suppressing the pandemic so far but like elsewhere, the number of cases has jumped significantly over the summer holidays.
Much of the rise has been blamed on returning holidaymakers as well as parties and family gatherings. Schools already resumed last week in parts of Germany.
Faced with the surge in cases, Germany earlier this month introduced free, mandatory tests for anyone returning from areas deemed at high risk for infections.
Chancellor Angela Merkel warned this week there could be no further relaxation of coronavirus restrictions.
COVID-19 Situation in Spain and Finland
Spain Wednesday recorded 6,700 new infections in 24 hours, bringing the country’s total to over 370,000, the highest caseload in western Europe.
In Finland, the government Wednesday removed most EU countries from its “green travel list”, meaning that only people arriving from a few states will be able to enter the country without coronavirus restrictions from Monday.
The coronavirus pandemic has so far killed more than 780,000 people and infected over 22 million across the globe.
An ethics and safety debate is raging around the world as the race to develop a vaccine gathers pace.
Pope Francis said Wednesday that the pandemic is exacerbating inequalities between rich and poor, and called for universal vaccines not reserved just for the wealthiest.
Some governments have struck deals with companies, hoping to secure exclusive supplies of the vaccines when developed.
In the United States, the country’s top infectious diseases official, Anthony Fauci, said the government would not make any future Covid-19 vaccine obligatory for the general public.
But local jurisdictions could make it mandatory for some groups, like children, said Fauci, who is a member of the White House coronavirus task force.
“You don’t want to mandate and try and force anyone to take a vaccine. We’ve never done that,” he said during a video talk Wednesday organised by George Washington University.
The comments of the US official came hours after Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that coronavirus vaccines, once approved, would be mandatory for everyone in his country barring medical exemptions.