The increasing case numbers are partly the result of more testing, but the U.N. health agency noted that deaths were also up 16% in the region last week compared to the previous week. Doctors are also warning that while many new cases are currently in younger people, who tend to have milder symptoms, the virus could again start spreading widely in older populations, likely resulting in more serious illnesses.
In response to the latest numbers, Italy and France are restricting parties and putting limits on restaurants and bars, measures that Slovenia is also considering.
The Czech Republic is closing all schools until Nov. 2, while Latvia is ordering teenagers to switch to distance learning for a week.
Britain unveiled a new three-tiered system for deciding what restrictions to impose based on how severe the outbreak is in certain areas.
Those moves reflect a new approach to containing the virus among governments wary of hurting already fragile economies. Even as infections surge, officials are eager to avoid the total lockdowns they imposed in the spring that resulted in massive job losses. Instead, they are relying on a patchwork of regional or targeted restrictions that have sometimes caused confusion and frustration by those affected.
The U.N. health agency appeared to support the new approach, with WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic telling reporters Tuesday in Geneva that lockdowns should be a “last resort.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told an EU advisory body Tuesday that she was watching “with great concern” the rising infection figures.
“We must not squander now what we achieved through restrictions in recent months,” Merkel said in a video address to the European Committee of the Regions.
“None of us found it easy to impose those restrictions,” she added. “Many people lost their lives, and so it is all the more important that we ensure now that a further lockdown won’t be necessary, that our health system isn’t overstrained again.”
Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte ordered bans on pickup sports games among friends and parties in closed spaces. Private gatherings at homes with more than six people who don’t live together are also discouraged.
Like other European countries, Italy is also limiting nightlife, with bars and restaurants having to close at midnight, and drinking while standing at a bar banned after 9 p.m.
The annual Giro d’Italia was thrown into chaos Tuesday after several top riders withdrew from the cycling race following a series of positive tests for the coronavirus.