France and Italy have reimposed lockdowns as European countries struggle to contain a growing number of COVID-19 infections, with millions across Europe set to mark Easter Sunday under the new restrictions.
The largely slow roll-out of vaccination in the European Union and the increase in infections are forcing some governments to reinstate full lockdowns.
Many people in Paris left the French capital before the restrictions as France enters its third national lockdown.
The government has closed all schools and imposed new rules that will take effect across the country on Sunday.
In Paris, police say they are deploying 6,600 officers to enforce the new restrictions, which include a ban on travel longer than 10 km (6 miles), a ban on outdoor gatherings of six or more people and a cover-up. Continuous fire nationwide from 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.
New daily infections in France have doubled since February to nearly 40,000. France on Friday reported its biggest increase in the number of intensive care patients, leaving hospitals overwhelmed.
France has recorded 4.8 million cases of COVID, the most in Europe and the fourth in the world. It has confirmed more than 96,000 deaths, the eighth highest number in the world.
Meanwhile, Italy has imposed a strict three-day lockdown over the Easter weekend, with all non-essential travel banned.
However, churches are allowed to open and people are allowed to share an Easter meal at home with two other adults.
Even though the health ministry says the infection rate is dropping, all regions have been placed in the strictest “red zone” lockdown until Monday as a precautionary measure.
Italy has recorded 3.6 million cases and more than 110,000 deaths from COVID-19, more deaths than any other European country except the UK.
Italy administered 10.8 million vaccines, although only 3.3 million of the country’s 60 million people received both doses.
‘Crisis of confidence’
The German president said the country was going through a “crisis of confidence” as it went through a second Easter under the restrictions of the pandemic amid dissatisfaction with the government’s response.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier conceded on Saturday “that there had been errors” regarding the tests, digital solutions and vaccinations. He urged Germans to come together and trust the approved vaccines.
Germany, like the EU as a whole, has lagged behind in some countries in the speed of its vaccination effort due to the slowdown in vaccine purchases due to supply and distribution problems from vaccine manufacturers .
He stressed that vaccine deliveries would increase sharply in the coming weeks and that citizens and government should unite and not “outdo each other in pessimism”.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel abandoned a plan for a five-day Easter shutdown to try to contain a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic after the hastily conceived proposal sparked a backlash.
Germany has reported nearly 2.9 million COVID-19 infections and more than 76,000 deaths.
Thousands of people marched through the German city of Stuttgart on Saturday to protest the continued coronavirus restrictions.
Protesters held signs stating “there is no pandemic” and “vaccination kills”.
Only a few of the attendees physically distanced themselves or wore face masks – as authorities demanded – but police allowed the rally to continue.
John Ryan, a visiting scholar at the London School of Economics and Political Science, told Al Jazeera that the pandemic will have a lasting ‘detrimental effect’ on European economies and that further restrictions will further hurt growth and productivity as that factories and supply chains will. be disturbed.
“All of this will have a negative economic impact, especially when it’s countries like Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria – all interconnected with each other.”
“The economic impact for France and Germany compared to the UK has been less so far, but there may be some catching up in this economic damage with these types of foreclosures and sadly the deaths that are going on. accompany the high rates of infection, “he said.
Vaccination campaigns in Europe and elsewhere have been affected due to concerns about the safety of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, after blood clots were reported after inoculation.
Earlier this week, Germany and the Netherlands said they will temporarily stop giving AstraZeneca jabs to people under the age of 60.
Ryan said that while countries like the UK and US were inoculating their populations regularly, and at a faster rate than the EU, the newer variants of COVID-19 meant boosters were likely needed.
“It is very difficult to make a prediction … but I would say that we are far from being out of this particular situation at the moment.”