As German authorities reported more than 10,000 daily cases for the first time, Berlin issued travel warnings for Switzerland, Ireland, Poland, most of Austria and many Italian regions, including the capital Rome.
“The situation overall has become very serious,” Lothar Wieler, of the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s infectious diseases agency, said in Berlin, adding: “We still have a chance to slow a further spread of the virus.”
After Europe appeared to have gained a measure of control over the epidemic following the dramatic lockdowns of March and April, a surge in cases over recent weeks has put the continent back at the heart of the crisis.
Hospitalisations and deaths across most of Europe have not yet reached the levels of the initial wave early this year, but authorities in many countries worry the situation could rapidly get worse.
More than 5.3 million people in Europe have contracted the disease and over 204,000 have died, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
India has had more than 7.7 million cases - the world’s highest tally after the United States with 8.3 million. But elsewhere in Asia, from China to South Korea or New Zealand, draconian lockdowns and rigorous contact tracing have helped contain the disease.
Grappling with the enormous costs of the coronavirus, Europe’s leaders are desperate to avoid a repeat of the blanket lockdowns that shut down their economies in the spring.
But as cases have surged, and health services have come under increasing pressure, they have been forced to impose and expand local restrictions aimed at reducing public gatherings to ever wider areas.
Underlining the reach of the disease, Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes went into intensive care on Thursday. German Health Minister Jens Spahn tested positive a day earlier.
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