Spotlight: European countries set record COVID-19 daily numbers as Spain's total cases top 1 mln


MADRID/BRUSSELS, Oct. 21 (Xinhua) -- Countries in Europe saw their daily coronavirus infection numbers set new records yet again on Wednesday as Spain's total cases reached 1,005,295, becoming the first country in the European Union (EU) whose COVID-19 cases have topped one million.

In the past weeks, daily records of COVID-19 cases in many European countries have been smashed repeatedly as the continent took the brunt of surges in the second wave of the pandemic.

Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga said late Tuesday that she tested positive for COVID-19. On Wednesday, German Health Minister Jens Spahn was reported to have tested positive.

Britain, Poland, the Netherlands, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia and Lithuania all reported on Wednesday their new records of daily cases since the novel coronavirus outbreak, while Germany has registered more than 50 coronavirus infections per 100,000 inhabitants over a one-week period, the first time the country has breached its own critical limit for tackling the pandemic.

RECORDS SHATTERED

UK reported 26,688 daily coronavirus cases on Wednesday, its highest ever, taking the country's total cases to 789,229. Meanwhile, coronavirus-related deaths in Britain rose by 191 to 44,158, according to official figures.

England's South Yorkshire, where the case rates of COVID-19 infections are among the highest in the country, from 285 to 402 people per 100,000 inhabitants, will move its local COVID-19 alert level to the top restriction level from Saturday, the British Department of Health and Social Care announced Wednesday.

Poland's daily number of confirmed coronavirus cases broke the 10,000 mark for the first time on Wednesday, standing at 10,040, with 130 deaths. The tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country has risen to 202,579, while 3,851 people have died since the start of the pandemic.

COVID-19 infections in the Netherlands kept climbing and reached a new daily record of 8,764 cases in a 24-hour span, bringing the country's total to 253,134, official data showed on Wednesday. Fifty-nine patients had died in the 24 hours, taking the country's toll to 6,873.

Another 105 COVID-19 patients were admitted to hospital for treatment in the 24 hours, raising the number of COVID-19 patients currently in hospital to 2,013. Of those hospitalized, 465 patients were in intensive care.

Austria reported its biggest daily increase of COVID-19 cases as a further 1,958 people tested positive in the past 24 hours. There are currently 960 people in hospital for coronavirus treatment, 147 of them in intensive care units.

Croatia and Slovenia also reported their new high of 1,424 and 1,504 new cases respectively in the past 24 hours.

"The virus is spreading dynamically throughout Europe," the Hungarian government's coronavirus information website stated while releasing the new figure of 1,423 COVID-19 cases in a 24-hour span, adding that the goal of the Hungarian government was to keep the country functioning and not let the virus paralyze everyday life.

MORE RESTRICTIONS

The Lithuanian government decided on Wednesday to put 12 municipalities under a two-week lockdown as of Oct. 26 due to COVID-19 spikes. Lithuania reported 311 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, the biggest daily spike since the country confirmed its first case on Feb. 28

The Czech government on Wednesday decided to close most shops and services in the country and strictly restrict the movement of residents as of Thursday to curb one of the world's fastest growing COVID-19 infection rates. On Tuesday, the country reported 11,984 new COVID-19 cases, the highest daily number since the pandemic outbreak.

As part of the new measures, which will remain in force until Nov. 3, gatherings of more than two people who are not in the same household or work together will be banned. The measures -- which resemble those in force during the first lockdown this spring -- allow people to visit shops to buy essential items, make necessary family visits and travel to parks and the countryside.

To curb the spread of coronavirus and prevent a second lockdown, the Austrian government introduced tightened measures including a limit on indoor gatherings to six people and allowing states to impose regional restrictions such as curfews. These measures will come into effect from Friday and apply for at least four weeks.

In Belgium, where an average of 8,975 new cases per day were reported from Oct. 11 to Oct. 17, a new testing strategy came into effect on Wednesday. People with COVID-19 symptoms will be tested more to allow the testing to be more precise in order to break the chains of coronavirus transmission. The strategy applies to people returning from the red zones abroad. Those at low risk or who are asymptomatic will be tested less, according to spokesman Yves Van Laethem.

To ease the burden on its health system, the Polish government is building a temporary hospital containing 500 beds, with a possible expansion to 1,000, in the National Stadium. Poland is also making efforts to contain the pandemic. One candidate medicine, developed from blood plasma of recovered patients, is now undergoing testing in the eastern Polish town of Lublin.

As the world is caught in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries including France, Italy, China, Russia, Britain and the United States are racing to find a vaccine. According to the website of the World Health Organization, as of Oct. 19, there were 198 COVID-19 candidate vaccines being developed worldwide, and 44 of them were in clinical trials.

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