PARIS: Several European countries introduced new lockdown measures on Saturday as they battled surging coronavirus infections, while Tokyo Olympics organisers were forced to announce an “unavoidable” ban on overseas fans to keep the Games safe.
Residents in Poland, parts of France and Ukraine’s capital Ukraine all woke up to new restrictions, with most shops shut and people urged to work from home.
Elsewhere in Europe, frustrations with Covid-19 curbs were spilling over, with scuffles breaking out at a large anti-restrictions protest in the German city of Kassel, and thousands joining a similar demonstration in Liestal, Switzerland.
“End the lockdown” and “Corona rebels”, read signs held by demonstrators at the protest in Kassel, which was organised by a group that has drawn in activists from both the far-left and far-right as well as anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists.
The pandemic is still speeding up worldwide, with the number of new Covid-19 infections rising globally by 14 percent over the past week, according to data. More than a third of France’s population is now under a renewed lockdown as the country, along with several European neighbours, battles a third wave of the virus.
But the curbs are lighter than those enforced at the height of the pandemic last year, with schools remaining open and hairdressers, cobblers and chocolate shops added to an expanded list of businesses allowed to accept customers.
The government has also scrapped the forms once required to justify all trips outside the home, which were widely derided as an example of excessive French bureaucracy.