Several European countries have tightened measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus in the face of a worrying increase in infections which is putting additional pressure on health systems.
In France, the government on Saturday called the situation “critical” because it added three additional departments to the 16 already subject to strict restrictions.
About 20 million people, including those in the Paris region, are classified as living in areas with high infection. They are not allowed to travel more than 10 km (six miles) from their home unless they have a basic reason.
Agents at stations, airports and toll freeways began enforcing travel restrictions on Saturday. Only food stores and book and music stores are open, and high school classrooms are only half functioning.
Daily cases in France have almost doubled since early March, with more than 200,000 new infections recorded each week. It reported another 42,619 daily cases on Saturday, up from 41,869 on Friday.
The number of patients in intensive care units rose on Saturday to reach their highest level this year, according to data from the Ministry of Health.
Belgium, meanwhile, has shut down all businesses involving non-medical physical contact such as hairdressers for four weeks from Saturday.
Stores offering “non-essential” services can only receive customers by appointment.
For its part, Poland has closed nurseries, playgrounds, furniture stores, as well as beauty salons and hairdressing salons. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki urged people to spend the next Easter holiday at home with their immediate families, but stopped before announcing movement restrictions and a full lockdown.
And in Hungary, a record rise in infections and deaths has kept it from easing lockdown measures, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said.
Hospitals are under “extraordinary” pressure in Hungary, a hot spot as the pandemic hits central Europe particularly hard.
Health officials have deployed more than 510 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine globally, but with large variations between countries.
The World Health Organization on Friday called on the richest countries to donate vaccines to help the poorest start vaccinations.
But the rich countries of the European Union are still struggling to blow up their vaccinations. However, the bloc expects to be the world leader in vaccine production by the end of the year, with 52 factories participating in the process across the continent, according to statements by EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry. Breton.
Breton said Europe should have vaccinated enough people during the European summer, perhaps around mid-July, to reach a level of “global immunity”.
By the end of the year, Europe should have the capacity to produce between two and three billion doses, the commissioner said on Friday, at the Barcelona plant of pharmaceutical company Reig Jofre which will produce the vaccine against the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus in the second quarter of the year.