Covid: More lockdowns on the horizon as a third coronavirus wave sweeps through Europe

  • Video report by ITV News Europe Editor James Mates

Half of Italy's 20 regions have gone in to the strictest form of lockdown as a third wave of coronavirus has threatened to overrun hospitals across the country.

The cities of Rome, Milan and Venice are also covered by the tough restrictions as the number of new cases reached 21,304 with 317 deaths on Monday.

People are once again banned from leaving their homes except for work or medical reasons and all but essential shops are shut.

The decision comes little more than a year after the first wave brought panic and fear to the nation - when the world watched in horror as thousands of people lost their lives everyday in the north of the country.

But it's not the only European state tackling a third big spike in infections. Aggressive new variants - including the "Kent" mutation - are causing the disease to spread fast.

France, Germany and Poland are now set to impose strict new lockdowns as cases are rising exponentially.

Spain, Italy, France and Germany have also suspended the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine over fears about blood clots.

  • France

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday hinted at stricter coronavirus measures amid intense speculation Paris will be in lockdown from Saturday.

He said there was "no doubt" tighter restrictions were needed as patient numbers in intensive care wards in and around the French capital has skyrocketed in recent days.

President Macron. Credit: AP

Some hospitals are transferring patients outside the region as ward numbers reach critical levels.

Latest data on new cases show 26,343 were recorded on Sunday with 140 extra deaths reported, slightly higher than a week ago.

The government had attempted to put off another punishing nationwide lockdown in 2021, instead opting for a 6pm to 6am curfew.

  • Germany

The head of Germany's public health declared on Friday that the country was "now at the beginning of a third wave."

Professor Lothar Wieler, President of the Robert Koch Institute, added that the pandemic is not over even as restrictions are slowly being lifted.

At the same time, Germany's health minister warned the country to get ready for "several very challenging weeks" as cases continued to spiral.

A man wearing a mask at a deserted train station in Frankfurt. Credit: AP

The "Kent" variant is causing infections to double every 12 days and the seven day incidence of cases is expected to rise to 350 per 100,000 cases from 89 today by mid-April.

  • Poland

Another nationwide shutdown is expected in Poland where cases are running rampant.

10,896 new cases have been reported on Monday, a jump of more than three quarters compared to last week.

The country's health minister Adam Niedzielski says he will reimpose national restrictions if cases continued to rise.

The country are continuing to vaccinate people with them Oxford/AstraZeneca jab saying the benefits outweigh the risks.

Spain, Germany, Italy and France latest to pause AstraZeneca jab amid clotting concerns

Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine: Should I be concerned that several countries have suspended use of the jab?

Portugal to be removed from England's Covid travel ban red list - but other nations added

Elsewhere, high infection rates in Hungary have seen most shops shut and a shift to remote learning in primary schools. The Czech Republic are also seeing higher rates. Greece's intensive care units reached 72% capacity whereas high dependency wards in Athens are almost full (95%).