The Press

Early soft­en­ing de­fies warn­ings

- European Politics · Politics · France · United Kingdom · Emmanuel Macron · Boris Johnson · Spain · Germany · Angela Merkel · European Union

Lead­ers in France and Bri­tain have an­nounced a ten­ta­tive eas­ing of lock­down re­stric­tions head­ing into the Christ­mas hol­i­day sea­son, while ad­mit­ting that the coro­n­avirus is far from un­der con­trol.

The de­ci­sion to re­open shops, re­sume in­door en­ter­tain­ment and per­mit lim­ited hol­i­day gath­er­ings ap­pears to defy a sci­en­tific con­sen­sus that has un­der­scored the risks of in­door so­cial­is­ing, and urged against lift­ing re­stric­tions too rapidly.

But many Euro­pean lead­ers seem re­luc­tant to keep their economies shut­tered or stand in the way of fam­ily mem­bers see­ing each other af­ter a year marked by long pe­ri­ods of strict con­fine­ment mea­sures and so­cial iso­la­tion.

French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron yes­ter­day out­lined a three-step plan that could see non-es­sen­tial shops re­open from Sun­day, and cin­e­mas and the­atres wel­come back au­di­ences in mid-De­cem­ber. Restau­rants would need to re­main closed into Jan­uary, and an evening cur­few would re­main in place.

How­ever, ex­cep­tions would be granted for Christ­mas Eve and New Year’s Eve so that peo­ple could ‘‘share these mo­ments to­gether among fam­ily’’, Macron said.

In Bri­tain, Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son an­nounced plans for a na­tional lock­down to end on De­cem­ber 2, to be re­placed by a re­gion-by-re­gion tiered sys­tem of re­stric­tions.

The gov­ern­ment also agreed to an eas­ing of re­stric­tions that would al­low loved ones to meet dur­ing the Christ­mas pe­riod. From De­cem­ber 23 to 27, up to three house­holds can form a ‘‘Christ­mas bub­ble’’ and mix in­doors. Peo­ple will be able to travel across the coun­try and move be­tween tiers.

In Spain, the gov­ern­ment is re­port­edly con­sid­er­ing lim­it­ing so­cial gath­er­ings over the hol­i­days to just six peo­ple, in

ad­di­tion to im­pos­ing a 1am cur­few on Christ­mas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

Ger­many could soon fol­low suit. Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel is to meet with lead­ers of the coun­try’s 16 fed­eral states to de­ter­mine whether to ex­tend amonth-long Novem­ber lock­down, which shut­tered bars and eat-in din­ing but kept schools and stores open.

But be­hind the eas­ing of re­stric­tions are con­tin­ued con­cerns over case num­bers, hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tions and death tolls, which sug­gest that Europe is barely past the peak of the sec­ond wave.

France’s hos­pi­tals are fuller than they were in the north­ern spring.

In Bri­tain, the gov­ern­ment said the lat­est daily death toll yes­ter­day was 608, the high­est to­tal recorded since May. And un­like in May, when John­son an­nounced the first eas­ing of re­stric­tions af­ter four weeks of emp­ty­ing hos­pi­tals, num­bers are still ris­ing.

There were 13,767 Covid-19 pa­tients in English hos­pi­tals on Tues­day, the most since April 22, and dou­ble what they were a month ago. ICU oc­cu­pancy is also still ris­ing.

 ?? AP ?? Soft toy pan­das and bot­tles of Corona beer dec­o­rate the ta­bles of a closed restau­rant in Frankfurt. Ger­many is con­sid­er­ing whether to ex­tend a month-long Novem­ber lock­down.
AP Soft toy pan­das and bot­tles of Corona beer dec­o­rate the ta­bles of a closed restau­rant in Frankfurt. Ger­many is con­sid­er­ing whether to ex­tend a month-long Novem­ber lock­down.

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