France reported 1,695 new Covid-19 infections over 24 hours, the total staying above the 1,600 threshold for the second day running, health ministry data showed yesterday.
The Covid-19 respiratory disease is caused by the coronavirus.
In a statement, the ministry also said the number of patients in intensive care units for the disease was on the rise again, at 390 versus 384 on Wednesday.
Austria meanwhile announced that it would issue a travel warning for mainland Spain, becoming the latest country to do so amid a rise in new coronavirus cases in the fellow EU member.
Travellers from mainland Spain must show a negative coronavirus test from Monday, the foreign ministry said, or else undergo a 14-day mandatory quarantine.
Spain’s Balearic or Canary islands will be excluded, it added.
Switzerland had already said on Wednesday that it would add mainland Spain to its list of countries seen as having heightened risk of Covid-19 transmission and thus requiring travellers from there to undergo a quarantine.
Germany last week added three northern Spanish regions to its list of high-risk destinations, while France and Britain have also taken steps to limit travel from the country.
Austria already limits travel from numerous countries over virus fears, including fellow EU members Romania and Bulgaria, as well as several other Balkan states, including Serbia and Montenegro.
Yesterday Germany announced mandatory tests for travellers returning from high-risk regions after new coronavirus cases breached the 1,000-a-day threshold for the first time since May, fuelling fears of a return to an economically disruptive lockdown.
Health Minister Jens Spahn said yesterday that free compulsory testing would be in force from tomorrow after the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s public health agency, reported 1,045 new cases in a single day.
Part of the increase was due to more tests taking place, he said, but the impact of holidaymakers returning to Germany and of flagging social distancing discipline was also significant.
Germany classifies almost all the world outside the European Union as high risk, as well as some regions within the bloc, including Aragon, Catalonia and Navarre in Spain, and Belgium’s Antwerp province.
The compulsory tests mean travellers will not have to quarantine for two weeks.
Anyone who refuses to take the test could face a fine of up to €25,000 ($29,648).
“If anybody thinks they can be stubborn at the airport and deal with the fine when it comes later, no. They’re going into quarantine for two weeks,” Spahn added.
Germany’s approach is similar to that in neighbouring France, which requires travellers from some countries to take Covid-19 tests at airports and ports.
Some other European countries require travellers to take a test in the days before their trip.
The head of the German doctors’ union said earlier this week that Germany was already contending with a second wave of the coronavirus and risked squandering its early success by flouting social distancing rules.
Officials believe it will be harder to control the spread of new infections from autumn, making it all the more important to keep numbers down as the summer draws to a close.
The lockdown pushed the number of daily new cases down to as low as 159 in mid-July, but numbers have been rising since, fuelled by local outbreaks, including one centred on a slaughterhouse that had the entire city of Guetersloh placed under restrictions.
A poll for Der Spiegel magazine showed four-fifths of Germans expect further lockdowns to be imposed to control the pandemic, with half expecting future measures to be stricter than in the last one.
Meanwhile, the spread of the novel coronavirus is accelerating in Finland, health officials warned yesterday.
Belgium, the Netherlands and Andorra were removed from Finland’s green travel list, putting a stop to tourists arriving from those countries and imposing a 14-day quarantine on other returnees.
Further containment measures within Finland would be unveiled next week, officials said.
According to new estimates, the reproduction rate of the virus has now risen above 1, to between 1.1 and 1.4, the health ministry’s strategic director Liisa-Maria Voipio-Pulkki told a press conference.
“The situation is extremely delicate,” Voipio-Pulkki said, adding that “some sort of second stage has begun”.
“Whether we can expect a smaller wave or a larger wave depends on how we respond.”
Despite the upturn in cases, Finland still has Europe’s lowest incidence rate, reporting two new cases per 100,000 people in the last 14 days.
So far 7,532 Covid-19 infections and 331 deaths have been reported in the Nordic nation of 5.5mn people, and the number of new cases slowed to a trickle during June and early July.
Most of the springtime lockdown restrictions have been lifted, with large indoor and outdoor gatherings permitted, restaurants and bars open as normal and children due to return to in-classroom teaching next week after the summer holidays.
Officials said an “autumn roadmap” will be published next week, setting out the new measures to be introduced if the virus continues to spread.
These may include localised lockdown measures, and for the first time a recommendation to wear face masks.
Authorities have so far opposed face coverings, arguing that there is insufficient evidence of their effectiveness.
Although the rise in new cases is still comparatively small, the new phase of the virus appears to be affecting under-30s much more than in the spring, when it was most prevalent among older people, figures show.
This is partly due to younger people having spent more time socialising over the summer.
Nordic neighbours Norway and Denmark have also both seen an uptick in new cases in recent weeks – but like Finland from low levels – with local clusters detected.
Yesterday Sweden’s Public Health Agency said they had seen a small uptick in new cases in the last few days.
State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said they were not sure why they were seeing and uptick but added it was “clear that young adults that account for a large part of that increase”.
Sweden, which famously avoided a lockdown, has seen a reduction in new cases over the last few weeks, although both its caseload and death toll are far above those of any of its neighbours.
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