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Europeans urged to take responsibility to overcome virus

Published : 21 Oct 2020, 03:23

  DF News Desk

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People wearing face masks walk in a park in Rome, Italy, Oct. 13, 2020. File Photo Xinhua.

Leaders and experts in Europe are calling on citizens to take responsibility and make sacrifice so as to help contain a record increase of new coronavirus cases in many European countries, reported Xinhua.

As coronavirus continues sweeping across the world, the human cost keeps mounting. Globally, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has topped 40 million, with more than 1.1 million people known to have died of the disease, according to Tuesday's figures from the World Health Organization (WHO).

GOV'T CANNOT STOP IT ON ITS OWN

"Families, individuals and front line workers have sacrificed so much," Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said in a televised speech on Monday night, when he declared that his country will move to the highest Level-5 response to COVID-19 resurgence.

"As I have said before, the government cannot stop it on its own. There are no laws or powers that can change the nature of this virus," he said.

"Many people have done everything that has been asked of them. But some have not. As Taoiseach (prime minister), I am asking everyone again to take this threat seriously," Martin said.

Level 5 is the highest level under the Irish government's medium-term COVID-19 plan introduced in mid-September.

"If we pull hard together over the next six weeks, we will have the opportunity to celebrate Christmas in a meaningful way," he said.

The Level-5 measures will last for six weeks, starting from midnight on Wednesday, Martin said, describing these measures as "probably Europe's strictest regime."

Ireland's decision came one week after Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced that his country will return to a "partial lockdown", starting on Oct. 14.

"The facts don't lie," Rutte said last Tuesday at a press conference in The Hague, which was broadcast live on TV. "Be realistic, and take responsibility."

"We have to be stricter on ourselves and our own behavior. In order to control the virus, the number of contact moments must be drastically reduced. That is why we have come to this partial lockdown," he said.

There were media reports of failure among European citizens to abide by governments' anti-virus measures, such as keeping distance and mandatory use of face masks.

According to a report by the Guardian newspaper, at least three-quarters of people in Britain who have COVID-19 or are a contact of somebody who has tested positive have failed to fully self-isolate.

On Oct. 15, WHO Regional Director for Europe, Dr. Hans Kluge, has voiced concern that a prolonged relaxation of personal protective measures or of coronavirus safety policies "could propel -- by January 2021 -- daily mortality at levels 4 to 5 times higher than what we recorded in April" according to projections provided by epidemiological models.

Kluge said simple measures -- such as mask wearing at a rate of 95 percent from now, instead of the less than 60 percent today, together with the strict control of social gatherings -- may save up to 281,000 lives by Feb. 1 across WHO Europe's 53 member states.

"These projections do nothing but confirm what we have always said: the pandemic won't reverse its course on its own. We will," Kluge said.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreaks in early 2020, wearing masks in public has been widely accepted in Asian countries like China, South Korea, and Japan to limit the spread of the disease.

RESURGENCE CONTINUES IN EUROPE

On Monday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also called for responsibility and discipline from individuals, saying "We all have a part to play."

"Physical distancing, mask wearing, hand hygiene, coughing safely into your arm, avoiding crowds and meeting people outside where possible and when you have to be inside with others -- open windows and ensure good ventilation with non-recirculating air," Tedros said at a virtual press conference.

The COVID-19 pandemic has entered a "worrying" phase. The world was seeing cases accelerate, particularly in Europe and North America, as the northern hemisphere enters winter, Tedros said.

According to a WHO dashboard, as of 3:05 p.m. CEST on Tuesday, Europe has reported 8.16 million confirmed cases -- including 938,800 infections in the week between Oct. 12 and Oct. 18, the highest among the WHO's six regions.

On Tuesday, Greece and Albania both registered a new daily record of confirmed cases, at 667 and 301, respectively.

Many European countries have in recent weeks recorded spikes in new COVID-19 cases, with some breaking their daily records recorded during the peak of the pandemic earlier this year, including Spain, France, Britain, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and the Czech Republic.

On Tuesday evening, Spain reported 13,873 new coronavirus cases and 218 deaths in a 24-hour span, taking the total number of infections to 988,322 and the death toll to 34,210. The continued increase means that Spain is likely to reach the mark of one million infections as early as Wednesday.

Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa, at Tuesday's press conference after a weekly cabinet meeting, once again warned that "very tough weeks are coming." The government is considering introducing a nighttime curfew across Spain, in a bid to bring down soaring infections, he said.

In France, 20,468 new COVID-19 cases were registered in a 24-hour span, while the COVID-19-related fatalities rose sharply by 262 in one day, said health authorities. Since the beginning of the epidemic, 930,745 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in France, placing it the eighth highest now in the world.

In Britain, official data showed that COVID-19 deaths rose by 241 to 43,967, the highest daily tally since June. Another 21,331 people have tested positive, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases to 762,542 in the country.

Also on Tuesday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced to move Greater Manchester into Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions -- the top alert level -- from Friday.

"I know that these restrictions are tough, both on businesses and individuals. Believe me, no one wants to be putting these things into effect," Johnson noted.