World

More countries tighten curbs as coronavirus infections surge

PARIS: More countries tightened coronavirus restrictions on Saturday, with France extending a curfew and Belgium bringing forward its own curbs as new infections surged in many parts of the world.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned of an "exponential" rise in infections threatening health systems' ability to cope with a second wave of cases, testing many nations that appeared to have the virus under control earlier this year.

Governments are now struggling to balance new restrictions against the need to revive economies already battered by earlier draconian lockdowns after the virus first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

But populations weary of social isolation and economic hardship have bristled at new restrictions.

Europe has seen a spike in new infections and taken a raft of new measures, mostly trying to avoid new nation-wide lockdowns - from night-time curfews to more restrictions on social gatherings.

After Germany recorded its 10,000th coronavirus death, Chancellor Angela Merkel said: "The order of the day is to reduce contacts, (and) to meet as few people as possible."

Spain became the first western European country last week to officially record a million cases since the start of the pandemic. People across the country were bracing for a national state of emergency, overnight curfews and other new containment measures.

"They probably should have done this a long time ago or taken other steps, like restricting the number of people taking public transport or going to work," 22-year-old student Patricia Vazquez said in the capital Madrid.

France recorded a 24-hour record of more than 45,000 infections a day.

The French government extended an overnight curfew to cover areas home to around 46 million people - two out of every three residents in France.

On Friday, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that "too many countries are seeing an exponential increase in Covid-19 cases and that is now leading to hospitals and intensive care units running close to or above capacity".

He said: "We urge leaders to take immediate action to prevent further unnecessary deaths."

In South-east Asia, Indonesia reported 3,732 cases yesterday taking its total to 389,712. It had 94 deaths taking the total number of fatalities to 13,299.

Malaysia recorded 823 infections yesterday, taking its total to 26,565.

There were eight deaths, taking the toll to 229. - AFP, REUTERS

WORLD