France’s prime minister has told his citizens to ‘pull themselves together’ amid a fresh surge in coronavirus cases.
Jean Castex said the public was becoming careless and raised the spectre of a second lockdown after a rise of more than 10,000 cases in the last week.
France’s seven-day average now stands at 1,691 new cases per day, up from 542 a month ago and 1,056 at the end of July.
‘If we don’t act collectively, we expose ourselves to the heightened risk that the rebound in the epidemic becomes hard to control,’ Castex said on a visit to an intensive care ward in the South of France.
Some parts of France have tightened their mask rules despite the summer heatwave, while neighbouring Belgium has today made masks compulsory in all public spaces including outdoors.
Fears are growing that France could be added to Britain’s quarantine list within days after UK ministers said they would ‘not hesitate’ to close down travel corridors if cases rise.
French health officials have reported 10,143 new cases in the last seven days, up from 8,833 in the previous week – making it five straight weeks of increase
France’s daily death toll remains low, with the total now at 30,354 fatalities linked to Covid-19 including 19,849 in hospital
France’s tally of coronavirus cases rose by 1,397 in the latest update on Tuesday, taking the total from 202,775 to 204,172.
Health officials have reported 10,143 new cases in the last seven days, up from 8,833 in the previous week – making it five straight weeks of increase.
On Monday, France reported the first significant rise in the number of coronavirus patients in hospital since the lockdown was lifted, although it fell again on Tuesday.
Some 227 clusters have been identified across France, a rise of 25 in the last 24 hours, as summer holidays resume and people gradually return to work.
The increase has led to fears that France will be the next country struck off Britain’s approved travel list, as Spain and Belgium have already been.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday that Britain will ‘not hesitate’ to re-impose the quarantine requirement for more countries if needed, after previously doing so for Spain and Belgium among others.
Castex said the situation had been going the ‘wrong way’ for two weeks and called on French people to ‘pull themselves together’, French media said.
The PM said testing was ‘more than satisfactory’, with more than 600,000 tests being conducted weekly, but said more could still be done to target those with symptoms.
Talking of the risk of another lockdown, Castex said: ‘Nobody wants to live through that again.’
Castex said he would ask local authorities ‘to extend as far as possible the obligation to wear masks in public spaces’.
Some cities including Paris, Lille, Toulouse and Biarritz have already imposed a mandatory face mask order in crowded outdoor spaces despite the hot weather.
Masks are already compulsory in shops and banks across France.
Today the government said it will ramp up police checks to ensure people wear masks, saying France is ‘at a tipping point’.
‘We’re going to mobilize polices forces to make checks,’ spokesman Gabriel Attal told reporters. ‘But it’s not the police people should be afraid of… they should fear the virus, that lurks and contaminates.’
France’s prime minister Jean Castex (pictured at a hospital in Montpellier yesterday) has told his citizens to ‘pull themselves together’ amid a fresh surge in coronavirus cases in France
People wear masks in Montmartre in Paris yesterday after face covering rules were tightened
Earlier on Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron held a video conference with top ministers from his Riviera summer retreat.
Ministers resolved to draw up new restrictions for the 20 largest cities to curb the infection rate and extend a ban on gatherings of 5,000 or more until October 31.
France’s daily death toll remains low, with the total now at 30,354 fatalities linked to Covid-19 including 19,849 in hospital.
Meanwhile in Belgium, masks are now compulsory in public places in Brussels as the country battles its own worrying virus outbreak.
The new measure has been imposed in all 19 municipalities of the Brussels region after the threshold of 50 daily cases per 100,000 people was reached.
Residents of the city of 1.2million now have to wear masks when in parks, on streets or in any other public sites, as well as in private spaces accessible to the public.
There are a handful of exceptions to the ruling in Brussels, such as when playing sports or for people with certain disabilities.
Until now masks had been compulsory only in crowded public spaces and enclosed sites, such as shopping malls. Children aged 11 or under are exempt.
The mask-wearing regulation is one of the strictest currently applied in European capitals and follows a similar decision by authorities in Madrid in July.
Belgium has one of the highest per-capita death rates in the world and infections are rising along with those in much of western Europe.
The measure does not apply to Belgium’s two other regions, Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia.
People wearing masks visit Montmartre and look over the Paris skyline after the French capital imposed new face covering rules
Elsewhere, Germany saw its worst daily spike in coronavirus cases for three months today as a ‘very concerning’ rebound in infections continues to gather pace.
Health officials announced 1,226 new cases this morning, the highest figure since May 9 – bringing the total from 217,293 to 218,519.
The seven-day average of new cases is now above 900, having been as low as 350 a month ago.
Angela Merkel’s health minister said today there were outbreaks happening in almost all of Germany and warned that every new case was making track-and-trace procedures harder.
He added that the rise was partly being driven by parties and family gatherings – warning that the virus can spread quickly ‘when there’s alcohol involved’.
Having not seen 1,000 cases in a day from for nearly three months, Germany has now crossed that threshold four times in the last week.
The last seven days have seen nearly 6,500 new infections, up from 5,096 the week before and fewer than 3,000 per week as recently as mid-July.
Germany’s R rate has been above the 1.0 threshold for most of the last month, although it fell to 0.97 in the latest update on Tuesday.
Health officials say the ongoing rise is ‘very concerning’ and have linked it to travellers returning from summer holidays elsewhere in Europe.
Germany yesterday extended its travel warning for Spain to cover Madrid and the Basque country, having previously curtailed travel to Catalonia and nearby areas.
Germany today suffered its worst daily spike in coronavirus cases since May 9 as 1,226 new infections were added to the tally
Spain has seen a worrying rise in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, with nearly 26,000 cases recorded in the last seven days – up from fewer than 3,000 a week in June
Spain has already been struck off Britain’s approved list and cases have continued to mount since then, with the seven-day average now at 3,357 cases per day compared to 480 a month ago.
Spain’s rolling average is now 3,357 cases per day, up from 2,300 at the end of July and only 480 this time last month.
The total number of infections has now risen above that in Britain to become the highest in Western Europe, prompting criticism of the Spanish government.
There are currently more than 500 outbreak clusters in Spain, according to the health ministry.
The ministry’s emergencies coordinator Fernando Simon said on Monday that there are cases of community transmission in some places that are ‘not perfectly controlled’ but he said they had ‘gradually subsided’ in recent days.
Spain’s government defended its response to the coronavirus pandemic on Monday, saying ‘appropriate measures’ were being taken in co-ordination with the regions.
‘The data shows that we are being very active in tracking and detecting the virus,’ the government said in a statement.
Authorities also said they had tested nearly 7.5million people since the start of the pandemic, with over 400,000 tested in the past week alone.
Spain imposed one of the world’s strictest lockdowns after the death toll surged in March and April, but the state of emergency has since been lifted.
In a letter published in medical journal The Lancet, a group of Spanish health experts called for an independent probe into of the government’s handling of the crisis.
More than 50,000 health workers have been infected, and nearly 20,000 deaths were in nursing homes, the authors said.
The health experts pointed the finger at a range of errors including poor co-ordination between Madrid and regional governments.