The temporary victory Europe gained in mitigating COVID-19 in the summer has turned into a disaster with the coronavirus' second wave inundating the content with record numbers of daily new cases. Lockdowns are now being implemented in more countries.
Europe's two largest economies, Germany and France, are being especially hard hit by the winter surge in new daily cases and deaths. The World Health Organization last week said Europe is seeing an "explosion" of COVID-19 cases. It warned Europe faces a "tough time" ahead as mortality rates keep soaring.
WHO regional director Hans Kluge called for "proportionate targeted measures" that can be scaled up. The explosion has since worsened, however.
On Saturday, Europe reported 11.8 million total cases and 290,500 deaths since the pandemic began in December 2019, said the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Five countries accounted for some 60% of total confirmed cases: Russia (1.73 million); France (1.66 million); Spain (1.33 million); the United Kingdom (1.15 million) and Italy (860,000).
The five countries reporting the most number of deaths are the UK (48,475), Italy (40,638), France (39,865), Spain (38,833) and Russia (29,887).
Germany reported a record high of 21,506 new infections on Friday, a clear indication of the pain being inflicted by the second wave. Surprisingly, the surge in new cases is occurring despite Germany being a week into lockdown lite, or "locklite" mode, imposed October 28 and lasting for a month.
The Robert Koch Institute, Germany's center for disease control, said Friday's total brings Germany's total coronavirus cases to 619,089. The death toll rose by 166 to 11,096.
France has also announced stricter mitigation measures as it reported 58,046 new cases Thursday and a record 60,486 new confirmed cases Friday, according to the French health ministry.
It has Europe's largest case number, at 1.6 million infections. As part of the new restrictions, France on Friday banned food delivery, takeout and alcohol sales in Paris between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.
"The second wave is already upon us, and it is brutal," said French health minister Olivier Véran.
If the virus keeps spreading at this rate, he said "the second wave could be worse and longer" than the first and could take "until mid-December" to stabilize.
Véran asked the French to respect the national lockdown or face "a high risk of saturation" of hospitals by mid-November.
In contrast to Germany, France's lockdown will end on December 1. French President Emmanuel Macron on October 28 said the country will go back into a national lockdown to keep the outbreak from spiraling out of control.
Macron warned the virus is circulating faster than the most pessimistic projections. He reminded his countrymen the second wave will probably be deadlier than the first.