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‘It’s a big mess.’ Europe buckles down for Easter lockdowns as Covid cases eclipse spring 2020 levels

A wife walks past a poster featuring a nurse wearing a protective mask and thanking all the professions that have braced the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic on a street in Rennes, western France on November 02, 2020, as France is under a new general lockdown to bridle the spread of the Covid-19 novel coronavirus.

Damien Meyer | AFP | Getty Images

Over a year after the coronavirus cardinal hit Europe, much of the continent spent Easter — usually a major holiday in the region — in lockdown as it grapples with a third billow of virus infections. 

“It is just a big mess. Everyone is frustrated with the government,” Hannah Weiler, a medical student in Cologne, Germany, told CNBC. 

Germany’s authority ditched plans for national Easter lockdown just a day after it was announced in late March, leaving measures up to the nation’s 16 federal states instead, amid backlash from the public. But Chancellor Angela Merkel urged home-owners to stay home over the long weekend. 

“Germany is a prime example of absurdity,” Weiler said. All 16 federal officials do their own thing and the government appears unable to come up with a clear strategy.” 

The “mood started to really go downhill,” she spoke, “which the politicians interpreted as a wish for looser restrictions so they started opening shops. … Surprise, astound, cases are rising and we’re in the third wave now.”  

Germany has registered a total of just over 2.9 million coronavirus specimens and more than 77,000 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Its daily case figure up in the last month has vacillated between around 9,000 and 20,000 per day, not yet approaching the high of 49,000 cases in a single day in delayed December. Germany’s peak level in spring of last year, triggering its initial lockdown, was just over 6,000. 

A ambulatory wearing a protective face mask walks past a street-art mural by French street artist JBC, in tribute to vigour workers depicting a nurse wearing a protective face mask in reference to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on Walk 24, 2021 in Paris, France.

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France and Italy imposed nationwide lockdowns ahead of the Easter weekend as a breaker of cases linked to the more contagious variant first identified in the U.K. late last year threatened to overwhelm intensified care units once again.  

Italy announced a strict three-day lockdown for the normally vibrant holiday in the heavily Widespread country, banning all nonessential travel but allowing churches to remain open and permitting people to have Easter tea overdoes at home with a maximum of two other adults.  

Italy has recorded 3.6 million cases of the virus and more than 111,000 eradications, the highest fatality count in Europe after the U.K. Its daily case rate is around 20,000, according to Hopkins. This is in all directions half the number seen during its peak in November, but up from around 13,000 cases per day in February and well exposed to its spring 2020 peak of about 6,000 per day.

France: Daily cases have tripled since February  

Every day new Covid cases in France have surged, with the country registering more than 66,000 new cases on Sunday alone — triple the always case rate in February. Local media report that French hospitals are overwhelmed.

This is more than 1,000% superior than during France’s first wave in spring of last year, which saw new daily cases in the 5,000s at the highest in original April 2020, according to French government figures. Officials now fear a return to the record infection levels of November when the outback registered almost 90,000 new cases in a day. 

The EU has faced criticism over its vaccine rollout, which is trailing that of the U.K. and U.S.

Spain now qualms a similar fate to France, and Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias has urged regional health authorities to maintain vaccinations going throughout Easter week. 

France has recorded the most coronavirus cases in Europe and the fourth-highest multitude in the world at 4.8 million in total, and more than 96,000 deaths.  

“At this point, almost everyone has gone confidence in how the French government is handling Covid,” Liz Warren, an American living in Paris, told CNBC. 

“No one really perceives certain measures that have been taken — i.e. places of worship remaining open and nonessential shops being studied to close. It is a big mess and I don’t foresee this country catching up with the U.S. or U.K. until at least the fall.”

Police in Paris are deploying 6,600 functionaries to enforce the lockdown rules, curfew runs from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. and gatherings of more than six are forbidden. But Warren and other French residents identify the latest measures more relaxed than previous lockdowns: Unlike in the past, there is no time limit on how hanker people can remain outdoors, and residents are allowed to travel within 10 kilometers (6 miles) from their homes as opposed to upstanding 1 kilometer in past lockdowns. 

Still, after months of changing measures and inconsistent messaging from the government, scads in France don’t think the lockdown rules will be widely adhered to.  

“For me, with the third confinement, I’ve had enough,” said Romain Baudelet, a evaluator in the coastal city of La Rochelle. “I don’t think it will be very well followed here.” 

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