France’s daily coronavirus cases have topped 10,000 for the first time while Spain’s have rocketed to 12,000.
The countries’ soaring case numbers have led to fears that the UK, which has seen its daily case figures steadily rise since August, could be heading in the same direction.
On Friday, the UK announced 3,539 new daily coronavirus cases – the highest toll in four months.
France reported 10,561 new infections on Saturday – it’s highest daily number since launching wide-scale testing.
And Spain announced a whopping 12,183 cases on Friday, bringing the total to above 566,300 just four months after the country’s low of 132 new cases on May 25.
France’s daily coronavirus cases have topped 10,000 for the first time and the Prime Minister has ruled out a second lockdown
Although the number of coronavirus deaths in the two countries does not seem to be rising as steeply, this may be because people could be suffering with the disease for a while before succumbing to the illness.
An increase in infections could also be explained by a steep rise in the number of people being tested.
Health bosses said most of the new infections in the UK were young people, many who only had mild or no symptoms.
Not since May 17, when there were 3,562 infections, have cases been higher. At that point the country was in full lockdown.
But comparing current infections to the first wave is not an accurate barometer of the epidemic’s severity because there was no widespread testing months ago.
Friends have a drink together at a bar in Marseille, southern France, on Saturday
It’s thought more than 100,000 people per day were catching the illness at the end of March but not getting tested.
However, concerns have been raised over the rates of positive tests continuing to increase. The positivity rate over the past week is now 11.8 per cent.
The World Health Organization says a country does not have the pandemic under control until the positivity rate is below 5 per cent. Only one Spanish region – Asturias – has managed to keep it below that threshold.
Intensive care units in Murcia now have more Covid-19 patients than ever before and three of six of the region’s hospitals are almost at maximum capacity.
At a White House briefing on Thursday, US President Donald Trump said Spain was struggling more with the coronavirus crisis than the US.
On Friday, Spain’s Health Minister Salvador Illa fired back to his claims.
‘I don’t think anyone is in a position to teach lessons on this subject. With all due respect to the American nation, especially not its current president,’ he said on Spanish Television.
France’s milestone came a day after Prime Minister Jean Castex, who recently had to isolate after testing negative twice for the virus, declined to announce any new major restrictions despite a ‘clear worsening’ in the country’s outbreak.
‘We have to succeed in living with this virus, without returning to the idea of a generalised lockdown,’ Castex said.
Fears were briefly raised after the prime minister spent part of last weekend with the boss of the Tour de France Christian Prudhomme, who tested positive for Covid-19.
It comes after the country announced on Thursday it will pay parents to stay home if schools are forced to lock down due to a surge in coronavirus cases.
Paris revealed yesterday it will pay 84 per cent of the wages of one parent in each household with a child under the age of 16 if their school is forced to close down due to the virus.
The announcement comes after infection clusters emerged across the country since schools were reopened on September 1. The clusters have already lead to the closure of 34 schools and the cancellation of 500 separate classes.
The milestone came a day after Prime Minister Jean Castex (pictured), who recently had to isolate after testing negative twice for the virus, declined to announce any new major restrictions despite a ‘clear worsening’ in the country’s outbreak
Payments will be backdated to 1 September, The Times reports, adding that the French government has also announced an extension of their furlough scheme for struggling businesses.
The series of measures come after French health authorities reported 9,843 new confirmed coronavirus cases, beating by almost 900 the previous record of 8,975, set six days earlier.
After reaching a low of 4,530 on 28 August, the number of people hospitalised with Covid-19 is again trending upward.
However, hospitalisations for the disease are still more than six times below the April 14 peak of 32,292 and the number of patients in ICUs is far below the April 8 record of 7,148.
Doctors and nurses wearing protective gear take care of a patient suffering from the coronavirus disease at the resuscitation intensive care unit (ICU) of the Hopital Europeen hospital in Marseille, France
The rise in infections has mainly affected young people who are less likely to develop complications from the virus. There has so far been less strain on French hospitals, which were almost overwhelmed at the end of March.
Hospital figures are still very far from peaks reached in April but create renewed strain on the hospital system that might lead authorities to take action.
France’s decision to put the country under one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns between March 17 and May 11 was dictated by the need to keep the hospital system from being overwhelmed.
France’s chief scientific advisor on the virus Dr Jean-Francois Delfraissy said the low hospitalisation and death rates were giving the French people a false sense of security.
‘France is now at a worrying level which is not far behind Spain, with a lag of maybe two weeks, and much more severe than that of Italy,’ Dr Delfraissy said.
According to The Times, Macron added that lockdown measures would be implemented on a regional basis, not national.
France has the seventh-highest COVID-19 death toll in the world.
The Government is currently preparing to impose its new ‘rule of six’ social gathering restriction from Monday which outlaws groups of seven or more people from meeting up indoors and outdoors. Mr Hancock said today: ‘The pandemic is not over, and everyone has a role to play.
‘It’s so important that everyone abides by the law and socialise in groups up to six, make space between you and those outside your household, get a test and self-isolate if you develop symptoms and wash your hands regularly.’
Boris Johnson is hoping the rule will help to get the virus back under control but there is a growing Tory backlash because while children will be exempted in Scotland and Wales, they will be subject to the restriction in England in a move which critics argue will make many family reunions impossible.
Senior Conservatives have labelled the rule ‘absolutely grotesque’, accusing the Government of an unacceptable assault on personal freedom and liberty. They have also criticised ministers for imposing the measure without any debate or vote in Parliament.
The rule was agreed at a meeting of the Government’s coronavirus strategy committee earlier this week but a string of senior ministers were opposed to it.
A Cabinet source claimed Matt Hancock had driven the decision to adopt the restriction but allies of the Health Secretary said it was wrong to characterise the meeting in such a way.
Despite the surge in cases, the overall prevalence of the virus is still much lower now than it was back in March – about 3,000 people were estimated to be getting infected every day this week compared to 100,000 a day six months ago.
Although similar numbers of cases were seen during May when the country was still in lockdown, the Government wasn’t doing enough testing to find the hundreds of thousands of other people who were thought to be infected at the time, meaning the figures for then and now aren’t comparable.
Another country to hit a daily milestone on Saturday was the United Arab Emirates, which recorded more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases on Saturday for the first time.
In Spain, which this week became the first EU country to pass half a million infections, an infection was detected among Princess Leonor’s classmates.
The 14-year-old heiress to the Spanish throne, who only returned to school in Madrid on Wednesday, will now have to observe a two-week quarantine.
The uncle of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, businessman Mohamad Makhlouf, died from Covid-19 on Saturday, two close sources told AFP.
And in Latin America, which this week passed the milestone of eight million virus cases, worst-hit Brazil charted more than 131,000 deaths from Covid-19 as of Saturday, the second-highest in the world behind the US.
Latvia meanwhile reinstated a compulsory 14-day quarantine for arrivals from neighbouring Estonia due to an upsurge in cases there.