Self-quarantine cut to seven days in bid to spur compliance
French health official sees ‘exponential’ spread in some parts
France reported more than 9,000 new Covid-19 infections for the second consecutive day and said hospitalizations are on the rise, signaling another worrisome turn in Europe’s pandemic.
Prime Minister Jean Castex said there’s a “clear degradation” in France as the virus spreads mostly among young people, which also is causing more cases among the most vulnerable. Daily virus-related deaths rose by 80, the most since mid-July, according to official data on Friday.
“The percentage of positive cases won’t stop increasing.” Castex said in a speech in Paris. “For the first time in many weeks, we’re seeing a significant increase in hospitalizations.”
In a bid to win compliance from a virus-weary public, France will reduce the self-quarantine period for people who test positive to seven days from 14, Castex said.
Western Europe surpassed the U.S. in daily new infections this week, re-emerging as a global hot spot after governments squeezed by historic economic slumps lifted severe lockdowns and Europeans traveled during the summer vacation season. Castex said France remains committed to avoiding another national lockdown, so people will have to live with the virus and observe precautions.
In the U.K., the coronavirus is spreading rapidly for the first time since March, driven by a surge in cases among younger people. Government figures showed that the so-called reproduction rate was again above 1, indicating that spread is increasing.
“We’ve seen all across the world how a rise in cases, initially among younger people, leads to hospitalizations and fatalities,” U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said. “The pandemic is not over.”
Spain, the country with the most confirmed cases in Europe, reported 4,708 new infections over the latest 24-hour period, the most since mid-April. With older cases included in the latest count, cumulative infections rose to 566,326, according to government data. An additional 241 patients died over the past week.
While the government in Madrid suggested this week that the surge is leveling off, officials have signaled increasing concern about the high numbers as children return to schools.
In France, the curve of infections has steepened and the positive-test rate has increased since early August. Another 9,406 cases were reported on Friday after an increase of 9,843 a day earlier, according to the public health agency.
Europe’s woes are seeping into the U.S. election campaign, with President Donald Trump contrasting the surge with what he portrayed as progress in combating the U.S. outbreak.
“They’re having a very big spike over there,” Trump said at the White House on Thursday. “We’re hopefully beyond our spike, and we’ll see, but we’re doing very well all over our country.”
Cases in the U.S., a country with almost five times the population of France, have increased by a daily average of almost 30,000 over the past week, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg.
Germany on Friday recorded 1,716 new infections, according to Johns Hopkins data. That was close to Tuesday’s increase of almost 1,900, the most since mid-April.
Many of the new infections have been linked to vacationers bringing the virus home, as well as young people socializing without respecting distancing and hygiene rules. While the death rate remains relatively low, the upturn in cases has alarmed policy makers just as students return to school and companies try to bring back employees who have been working from home.