Europe heads inexorably back to near total lockdown as Covid cases rise

Until recently, Italy had seemed to be fighting off the second wave better than most. Credit: AP

This morning many of the most heavily populated regions of Italy are waking up to life back under lockdown. 

On Saturday it will be the turn of the Greeks.

France has been under strict lockdown since the end of October. 

Spain is under nationwide curfew, with local authorities empowered to restrict movement where they think necessary.

It is all wearily reminiscent of last spring, and all driven by the same imperative - to prevent hospitals (in particular intensive care beds) being overwhelmed by the thousands of new cases.

Italy's six regions went into the highest level of lockdown this morning, including heavily populated Lombardy and Piedmont in the north, and Calabria and Sicily in the south. 

All movement between regions is banned, most movement from one local Comune to another is restricted to reasons of work or health. All school pupils over the age of 12 are to be taught remotely.  

Until recently the Italians had seemed to be fighting off the ‘second wave’ better than most, but it now seems clear that all they were doing was delaying the inevitable. 

Almost 30,000 new cases yesterday, 445 dead in a single day, and it all begins to look horribly like the worst days of March and April.

In the town of Erba, in Lombardy, a doctor who works at the main hospital told us that ambulances have been parked in front of the building, unable to discharge sick patients because every bed was full. 

There is literally nowhere to put new Covid cases. It is no wonder that the government, despite protests in many major cities last week, decided they had no option but to swing the lockdown hammer once again.

In the town of Erba, in Lombardy, ambulances were parked outside the hospital unable to discharge sick patients. 

Greeks are basically confined to their homes from Saturday morning without a valid reason. Most shops and all bars and restaurants are closed, though food delivery will be allowed.

Only nursery and primary schools will remain open, with half of all Greeks working from home.  

For Greece the second wave is likely to prove worse than the first. 

Widely praised in the spring for their response to the virus, they locked down early and hard and came through with fewer than 200 deaths in total.  

But the economic hit was brutal, and in the summer they were desperate to reopen tourism to as many Europeans as possible.

For Greece the second wave is likely to prove worse than the first. Credit: AP

Perhaps they had no choice, but the result now is that almost three times as many have died (still a very small figure by European standards), and new infections are running at more than a thousand a day.

What’s left of the tourist season will be killed stone dead by a new requirement that anyone entering Greece must now show a valid certificate of a negative Covid test, taken within the previous 48 hours.

Wherever new lockdowns have been imposed, they are expected to last into early December. 

There is an imperative everywhere to be able to relax restrictions in time for Christmas, but after that, if cases start to surge once again, this could easily be the story across Europe for most of the winter.