A woman walks past a placard depicting a nurse wearing a protective mask, thanking all professions that supported the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic on a street in Rennes, western France on November 2, 2020 as France A new general lock is in place to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus Covid-19.
Damien Meyer | AFP | Getty Images
Over a year after coronavirus first hit Europe, much of the continent spent Easter – usually a major holiday in the region – idle as it grappled with a third wave of viral infections.
“It’s just a big mess. Everyone is frustrated with the government,” Hannah Weiler, a medical student in Cologne, told CNBC.
The German government abandoned the plans for a national Easter lockdown just one day after it was announced at the end of March and instead left the measures to the country’s 16 federal states. But Chancellor Angela Merkel urged residents to stay at home over the long weekend.
“Germany is a prime example of absurdity,” said Weiler. “”All 16 federal states are doing their own thing and the government seems unable to come up with a clear strategy. ”
“The mood was really going downhill,” she said, “which the politicians interpreted as wanting loose restrictions so they started opening stores … surprise, surprise, cases are rising and we are now in the third wave.”
According to the Johns Hopkins University, Germany has registered a total of just over 2.9 million coronavirus cases and more than 77,000 deaths. The daily number of cases last month fluctuated between 9,000 and 20,000 per day and was still not near the high of 49,000 cases in a single day at the end of December. Germany’s high in the spring of last year, which triggered its initial lockdown, was just over 6,000.
A pedestrian wearing a protective face mask walks past a street art mural by French street artist JBC in tribute to health workers that shows a nurse wearing a protective face mask in relation to the coronavirus in Paris on March 24, 2021 Disease (COVID-19) carries, France.
Chesnot | Getty Images
France and Italy imposed nationwide lockdowns ahead of the Easter weekend as a plethora of cases related to the contagious variant, first spotted in the UK late last year, threatened to overwhelm intensive care units again.
Italy announced a strict three-day lockdown on the normally brisk vacation in the heavily Catholic country, which bans all non-essential travel but allows churches to stay open and allow people to have Easter meals at home with a maximum of two other adults.
Italy has recorded 3.6 million cases of the virus and more than 111,000 deaths, the highest death rate in Europe after the UK. According to Hopkins, the daily case rate is around 20,000. This is roughly half the number recorded during the peak in November, but from around 13,000 cases per day in February and well above the spring 2020 peak of around 6,000 cases per day.
France: Daily cases have tripled since February
The new Covid cases in France have increased every day. On Sunday alone, the country registered more than 66,000 new cases – three times the daily case rate in February. Local media reports that French hospitals are overwhelmed.
This is more than 1,000% more than during France’s first wave last spring, when new daily cases were highest in the 5,000s in early April 2020, according to the French government. Officials now fear a return to record infection rates in November, when the country registered nearly 90,000 new cases in one day.
The EU has been criticized for introducing vaccines that are lagging behind the UK and US
Spain now fears a similar fate to France, and Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias has urged regional health authorities to continue vaccinations throughout Easter week.
France has the most coronavirus cases in Europe and the fourth highest number in the world with a total of 4.8 million and more than 96,000 deaths.
“At this point, almost everyone has lost confidence in the French government’s handling of Covid,” Liz Warren, an American living in Paris, told CNBC.
“Nobody really understands what action has been taken – that is, places of worship have to stay open and unnecessary businesses have to close. It’s a big mess, and I don’t foresee this country catching up with the US or UK until at least they fall.”
Police in Paris deploy 6,600 officers to enforce lockdown rules. The curfew runs from 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. and gatherings of more than six people are prohibited. However, many French residents find the latest measures more relaxed than previous bans: unlike in the past, there is no time limit on how long people can stay outdoors, and residents, on the contrary, are allowed to travel within 10 kilometers of their homes only 1 kilometer in past locks.
However, after months of changing measures and inconsistent government news, many in France do not believe that lockdown rules will be largely respected.
“I had enough for me with the third detention,” said Romain Baudelet, a student in the coastal town of La Rochelle. “I don’t think it’s being followed very well here.”