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A second wave of coronavirus plowed relentlessly across Europe, reporting more than 12 million cases and 300,000 deaths as parts of Italy were re-locked and the UK city of Liverpool tested city-wide tests on Friday.
The continent has become the new epicenter of the pandemic. A total of 300,688 deaths have been reported in Europe since the COVID-19 virus first appeared, according to an AFP study by health authorities.
Two thirds of these deaths were recorded in the United Kingdom, Italy, France, Spain and Russia.
As countries tried to contain their spike cases, they imposed new lockdowns despite signs of growing unrest. Several Italian regions have been closed and Greeks faced new home stay orders from Saturday.
The United States is also struggling to contain the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University, with over 1,200 deaths and more than 120,000 infections between Wednesday and Thursday evenings.
The numbers came as US President Donald Trump, who survived a battle with COVID-19 in October and insists the virus will “go away”, battled for his political life and Tuesday’s presidential election vote was still going on.
“I’m tired of saying the same things”
In Italy, a lockdown has been ordered for wealthy Lombardy, the northern regions of Piedmont and Val d’Aosta, and a southern region, Calabria.
Giorgio Gori, the mayor of the northern city of Bergamo – the epicenter of the Italian coronavirus crisis earlier this year – said “there is more fatigue and suspicion” than during the first lockdown after people protested outside his home.
The head of the infectious diseases department at Milan’s prestigious Luigi Sacco Hospital, Massimo Galli, told reporters he was “alarmed” by the situation and since the end of Italy’s first lockdown in May.
“I have always confirmed that you need to remain on high alert to avoid problems returning,” said Galli.
“I’m tired of saying the same things as the voice that screams in the desert without recognition.”
Governments are desperate to find alternatives to lockdowns that weigh on the economy.
In England, which has also closed, the north-western city of Liverpool launched the country’s first city-wide coronavirus testing program on Friday.
All 500,000 residents are offered retests, even if they are asymptomatic, as part of a pilot project that could be rolled out nationwide if successful.
“It is a big step to save our loved ones, friends, colleagues and everyone. I really hope that as many people as possible take advantage of the opportunity,” said Jürgen Klopp, manager of the Liverpool football team.
Denmark, meanwhile, defended the strict measures it has imposed on the country’s northwest after a mutant version of the new coronavirus linked to mink farming was found in humans.
Copenhagen has warned that the mutation could jeopardize the effectiveness of a future vaccine and ordered the slaughter of all of the country’s mink, which is estimated at up to 17 million.
“These are timely and necessary measures,” Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said in a “worrying” development.
Last minute haircuts
Meanwhile, Greece’s second nationwide shutdown drew the ire of teachers when secondary schools and universities closed.
Theodoros Tsouchlos, president of the secondary school teachers’ union, said many students fell behind during the first wave.
The second lockdown could further increase inequalities as some students do not have access to wifi or a laptop or it is used by parents for teleworking, he added.
“These are issues the government should have been preparing for over the summer, but instead pretended that everything was under control.”
People rushed to get their haircut before closing on Saturday, although hairdressers and nail salons are still allowed to open for two days.
Athens barber Apostolos Gelbas said he was struggling to find the time to serve all of his clients.
“It seems that this was one of the most important things people missed out on when they first locked down.”
The coronavirus has also mercilessly hit Switzerland and especially the French-speaking region, where hospitals are quickly overwhelmed.
In a small hospital, patients with severe COVID-19 infections filled all 10 closed beds.
“This morning I was asked to admit another patient … so I had to move the most stable patient I had to another hospital to make room,” said Herve Zender, the chief physician at La-Chaux’s intensive care unit -de-funds, said AFP.
The pandemic has killed at least 1,235,000 people since it first occurred in China late last year, out of more than 48.7 million confirmed infections.
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