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Europe Announces Return Of Resrictions Amid Coronavirus Surge


Europe, like the U.S., is again reeling under a coronavirus resurgence. But unlike the U.S., most European countries introduced lockdowns and other tight restrictions after the pandemic picked up speed in October. The World Health Organization says that the region faces a tough six months ahead, but experts say the restrictions are beginning to produce some results. Joining us now to talk about the situation in Europe is NPR correspondent Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.



GARCIA-NAVARRO: How bad is it?

BEARDSLEY: Lulu, it's bad - you know, huge rise in cases and deaths. Health systems are being pushed to the limit. In France, ICU beds are at 95% capacity for the last two weeks. And even Germany is showing signs of strain. Here is Hans Kluge - he's the head of the World Health Organization Europe - speaking on Thursday.


HANS KLUGE: Last week, Europe registered over 29,000 new COVID-19 deaths. That is one person dying every 17 seconds in the European region from COVID-19.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's a shocking statistic. But tell us what's being done. I mean, there is a lockdown in France. What's the situation?

BEARDSLEY: For a long time, the French government said they would not institute a second lockdown. But then French President Emmanuel Macron went on television in - at the end of October, and he laid out different possible scenarios to curb the virus. And he said, actually, a full lockdown was the only way to keep the country's health system from collapse.

But I will say it's not as strenuous as last time. Bars, restaurants and nonessential businesses are closed. But this time, schools are in session. You still have to fill out a form every time you want to go out stating the reason. You know, you have one on your phone. And I was actually stopped by police today. I usually go out twice a day, once for my walk and to the grocery store.

Elsewhere - you know, Spain has a national curfew and is in a health state of emergency. Italy has a nationwide curfew and regions are classified one, two or three according to the gravity of the situation. If you're in Naples, a red zone, you can't leave your region, and you're supposed to stay home except for, you know, necessary outings. And even Germany has a federal lockdown through the end of November.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And is it producing results?

BEARDSLEY: It is producing results - slight results. French health officials have talked about it and the WHO. So they don't want to let up too soon. But it does seem to be working.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And is anyone protesting the measures?

BEARDSLEY: You know, Lulu, we don't see anything like we see in the U.S. We did see, you know, the police in Berlin break up thousands of anti-lockdown protesters this week. But, you know, the majority of Germans support the restrictions. Even a poll recently in Spain showed that people are ready to go into a national lockdown if it will help, despite, you know, devastation to the economy.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So let's talk about that. Why is there not more fear of economic devastation in the EU?

BEARDSLEY: There is fear of it. Every day you hear about businesses closing. But European governments are spending billions to keep companies going, you know, from major companies like Air France to mom and pop stores. And it keeps the unemployment down and people from losing their skills. Listen here to what the French economy minister said this week.


BRUNO LE MAIRE: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: So basically, he said, our goal is to reassure French citizens we're going to get through this. We're going to protect companies and people through the duration of this virus. But still, stores and businesses have lost so much. And they're clamoring to reopen in the holiday season. And the French and other Europeans have a lot of hope in the vaccines coming up. And frankly, they're just hoping to get this under control enough to be able to salvage some sort of Christmas this


GARCIA-NAVARRO: NPR correspondent Eleanor Beardsley in Paris, thank you very much.

BEARDSLEY: Thank you, Lulu. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.