Waiting for spring? Europe extends and strengthens blockade By Reuters

© Reuters. Germany in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) in the days of the closure

By Claudia Cristoferi and Sabine Siebold ROME / BERLIN (Reuters) – Governments in Europe announced longer and stricter coronavirus lockdowns on Wednesday over fears about a fast-spreading variant first detected in Britain, and it is not expected Vaccines are very helpful for another two to three months. . Italy will extend its state of emergency for COVID-19 until the end of April, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said, as infections currently show no signs of abating. Germany will likely have to extend COVID-19 restrictions until February, Health Minister Jens Spahn said, emphasizing the need to further reduce contacts to defend against the most infectious variant first identified in Britain. The German cabinet passed stricter entry controls to require that people arriving from countries with high numbers of cases or where the most virulent variant circulates undergo a coronavirus test. Chancellor Angela Merkel told a meeting of lawmakers on Tuesday that the next eight to 10 weeks would be very difficult if the most infectious variant spread to Germany, according to a meeting participant. Spahn told Deutschlandfunk radio that it would be another two to three months before the vaccination campaign really started helping. The Dutch government said late Tuesday that it will extend the closure measures, including the closure of schools and shops, for at least three weeks until February 9. “This decision is not a surprise, but it is an incredible disappointment,” Prime said. Minister Mark Rutte told a news conference, adding that the threat posed by the new variant is “very, very worrying.” He said the government was considering imposing a curfew but was reluctant and had sought outside advice before deciding on such severe restrictions. In France, President Emmanuel Macron met with senior ministers to discuss possible new measures. The nationwide curfew could be brought forward to 6 pm starting at 8 pm, as has already happened in some parts of the country, French media reported. There is no need to close schools, but new restrictions are needed in light of the variant first detected in Britain, the government’s top scientific adviser said, adding that if vaccines were more widely accepted, the crisis could end in September. In Switzerland, officials in Bern canceled the Lauberhorn World Cup downhill race, fearing that the new variant, brought by what health authorities said was a single British tourist, was now spreading among the local. At least 60 people tested positive at the Wengen Alpine Station in the past four weeks. The Swiss government is expected to announce Wednesday that it will extend its closure restrictions for five weeks until the end of February, including the closure of all restaurants, cultural and recreational sites. There was more optimistic news from Poland, where the number of COVID-19 cases has stabilized after rising in the fall. “I hope that in two or three weeks the restrictions will be a little less, the vaccine will work,” Polish Finance Minister Tadeusz Koscinski said in an interview for Money.pl. “Some restrictions will be in place for quite some time, but I think that 80% of these restrictions will start to disappear around the first and second quarters,” he said.