Virus curbs rile Europeans as international deaths close to a million

Virus curbs rile Europeans as global deaths near one million

Madrid protesters complain that the regional government is not doing what is necessary for public health

New restrictions on infection control in Europe sparked anger and frustration on Sunday as the global number of coronaviruses rose to one million deaths worldwide.

Protesters in Madrid complained that new lockdowns to combat rising numbers of cases were discriminatory as they mainly affected poorer areas.

And in France, authorities tried to ease the pain of bars and restaurants closing in the Mediterranean city of Marseille, where the owners are in the arms.

A 10,000-strong anti-lockdown demonstration took place in central London on Saturday, which was broken up by police.

Worldwide, at least 999,301 people had died of Covid-19 by around 1930 GMT, according to an AFP tally from official sources.

Greek officials on Sunday reported the first death from the virus of a migrant who lived in one of Greece's overcrowded camps, a 61-year-old father of two from Afghanistan.

The poor conditions in the camps on the mainland and in the Greek Aegean Islands have raised fears that the virus could spread quickly.

More than 240 people who were moved to a makeshift camp in Lesbos after the notorious Moria camp burned down this month have contracted coronavirus.

People exercise at a park on the Yarra River in Melbourne a day before lockdown restrictions are relaxed
People exercise at a park on the Yarra River in Melbourne a day before lockdown restrictions are relaxed

But there was glimmer of positive news when residents of the Chinese city of Wuhan – where the virus emerged late last year – reported a reluctant return to normal as the French Open kicked off at Roland Garros in Paris.

In Australia, Victoria Prime Minister Daniel Andrews said Melbourne residents would be free from Monday to leave their homes to work, play sports, shop for essentials or provide care after the active cases in the state had fallen below 400 for the first time since June 30th.

Anti-lockdown protests

Protesters in the Spanish capital took to the streets a day before the partial lockdown to add to the 850,000 people already insured.

The 37 districts already affected are mainly low-income areas.

"There is no point in going to work in a more affluent area but not having a drink," 27-year-old electrician Marcos Ruiz Guijarro told AFP.

"Infections are increasing everywhere, the rules should be the same for everyone."

In Marseille, the authorities said that the closure of bars and restaurants by October 11 in the badly affected southern France would only affect the port city and nearby Aix-en-Provence and protect the surrounding region.

Police move into London's Trafalgar Square against protesters
Police move into London's Trafalgar Square against protesters

Still, landlords will respond with "physical and legal measures in the coming hours and days," said Bernard Marty of the local hotel association.

In France, new cases have risen sharply in recent weeks, again exceeding 16,000 on Thursday and Friday.

In the UK, thousands of protesters against infection control measures and potential coronavirus vaccines were evicted from Trafalgar Square in central London on Saturday by police officers with batons who said they had not taken precautions such as maintaining distance and arrested 10 people.

Faced with an increasing second wave, the UK has banned gatherings of more than six people and ordered pubs and restaurants to close at 10 p.m. to slow the spread of the virus, which has so far killed 42,000 – making it the worst hit Nation in Europe.

India received six million infections on Sunday when Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged people to continue wearing face masks in public.

"They are powerful tools to save the life of every citizen," he said.

Health Department figures showed the total number of cases had risen to 5,992,532.

India is expected to overtake the United States – which has reported more than seven million cases to date – as the hardest hit country in the next few weeks.

The players take part in a French Open warm-up with no spectators at Roland Garros
The players take part in a French Open warm-up with no spectators at Roland Garros

Back to normal?

In Paris, a limited number of spectators saw live tennis for the first time in months when the French Open began – four months later than planned.

It will be an incredibly unknown tournament as only 1,000 spectators are allowed to enter the grounds each day due to the recurrence of the virus.

"Having no fans stinks," complained the American John Isner, lamenting the loss of the normally "unbelievable" atmosphere of the tournament.

For residents of Wuhan, where the coronavirus first appeared late last year, life is already back to normal.

According to official figures, there have been 50,340 confirmed cases and 3,869 deaths in Wuhan – most of the toll on mainland China – but no new infections since May.

Families are packing amusement parks again and the shopping streets were full on weekends – although residents remained cautious.

"People have experienced tragedy and they know deeply that happy life is not easy to come by," said a woman named Wang.

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© 2020 AFP

Virus slows Europeans as global deaths close to a million (2020, September 27)
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