Tens of millions more people across Europe face tougher coronavirus restrictions going into the weekend as countries across the region battle to bring down rising infection rates.
A two-week “firebreak” lockdown comes into force at 6 p.m. local time Friday in Wales, under which everyone except critical workers is expected to stay at home. The restrictions are the toughest seen in Wales since the spring, when the United Kingdom was badly hit in the first wave of infections to sweep Europe. New restrictions also came into force Friday morning in northern England’s Greater Manchester region, following a protracted tussle between national and local leaders over financial support. Regions in Italy, France, Spain, Germany and elsewhere are also introducing curfews in a bid to stem the spike in cases. And Slovakia has announced strict new limits on people’s movement and activities from Saturday.
Ireland on Thursday became the first country in Europe to reimpose a national lockdown. The Irish measures, which prohibit social gatherings and require people to work from home unless they are providing an essential service, will remain in place for six weeks.
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford urged the country to pull together as he announced the two-week lockdown plan.
“A firebreak period is our best chance of regaining control of the virus and avoiding a much longer and much more damaging national lockdown,” Drakeford said Monday. “This is the moment to come together, to play our part in a common endeavor.” Drakeford called the lockdown “sharp and deep” and said all non-essential businesses such as shops, restaurants and bars must shut down from Friday evening until November 9. “The only exceptions will be critical workers and jobs where working from home is not possible,” he said.
Drakeford also said businesses affected by the lockdown would receive the necessary support but called on the UK government to make more funds available. The new restrictions in the Greater Manchester region mean that its 2.8 million residents are not allowed to socialize indoors with anyone they do not live with, nor meet in private gardens. Outdoor social events in places like parks are limited to groups of six.
All pubs, bars, gyms, and casinos that don’t serve food must close. However, people can continue to visit restaurants and pubs that remain open because they serve “substantial meals,” as long as they only eat there with people they live with. In addition, Mancunians have been told to avoid all but the most essential travel outside of the area.