BERLIN — Multiple European countries continued to tighten restrictions on Wednesday, as a long-anticipated fall surge in coronavirus infections added pressure on health systems, schools and businesses.
In the Netherlands, new shutdown orders and contact restrictions are set to take effect Wednesday night. Bars and restaurants across the country will close, only four people will be able to meet at a time, and anyone entering public indoor spaces or public transport will have to wear a mask.
The Netherlands reported almost 44,000 new cases over the past week, compared with around 27,500 one week prior. Few other countries worldwide have recently seen higher per capita infection rates.
Despite the surge in cases, the Netherlands is seeking to keep most businesses and schools open.
But in some of the worst-hit nations and regions, further restrictions have become inevitable. The Czech Republic ordered the closure of schools, bars and other venues starting Wednesday, despite the government appearing determined this summer to avoid such a scenario. Northern Ireland announced Wednesday that pubs and restaurants would be limited to delivery and takeaway services from Friday and that schools would close next week.
In England, the government has resisted calls from the opposition and from scientists to impose a temporary lockdown, known as a circuit breaker, over concerns that such measures would have devastating economic repercussions less than three months before Britain may lose access to the European Union’s single market.
“I do not believe that the prime minister wants to set off on a national lockdown, but as ever he is advised by scientists — he takes that decision,” British Work and Pensions Minister Thérèse Coffey told Sky News on Wednesday. To prevent a lockdown, the British government on Monday announced a three-tiered restrictions system for England that is similar to models in place in New Zealand and other countries.
Meanwhile, other parts of Europe are bracing for more restrictions on Wednesday. In France, President Emmanuel Macron is expected to give an evening speech in which he may announce new rules such as local lockdowns or curfews. Restaurants and bars could also be forced to close in Spain’s Catalonia region.