WHO warns of coronavirus summer spike as Europe lifts blockade

LONDON ⁠— Temperatures are rising in Europe, and health officials fear that coronavirus cases will soon, too.

“Last week, Europe saw an increase in weekly cases for the first time in months,” Hans Kluge, regional director of the World Health Organization for Europe, said Thursday in a video conference.

“For weeks I have talked about the risk of resurgence as countries adjust measures. In several countries in Europe, this risk has become a reality,” he added.

Kluge cited 30 countries, including Poland and Germany, which had seen an increase in cases in the past two weeks, after declining due to strict closure measures, which are now being eased across the continent.

Meanwhile, 11 countries, including Sweden and Armenia, were at risk of a “very significant resurgence,” he warned, “if left unchecked, healthcare systems will once again be on the brink in Europe.”

In some places, residents are abandoning any attempt at social estrangement and adopting the atmosphere of sun and vacation.

In Britain, which is gradually relaxing its coronavirus blocking rules, police have had to disperse a series of “illegal” night parties in the capital, London Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said on Friday.

Partygoers violated the maximum number of people currently allowed to gather, six, and ignored social distancing rules to keep 6 feet away.

The United Kingdom has the third highest number of deaths from coronavirus in the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, with more than 43,000 deaths as of Friday.

Authorities declared a “major incident” after thousands of sun seekers flocked to Britain’s south coast during hot weather this week, particularly the popular seaside town of Bournemouth.

Images of crowded beaches were quickly shared on social media, as the government said the behavior was irresponsible and ignored the rules of social distancing.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Talk Radio on Friday that the government could close the beaches, if necessary.

“We have that power. I am reluctant to use it because people have had a pretty tough block, and I want everyone to be able to enjoy sunlight,” he said.

The enthusiasm for sunbathing and socializing is ahead of a further relaxation of the closure measures planned for July 4, when the formal reopening of restaurants and hairdressers in England will be allowed. Many have called the date “Independence Day”.

Also in the north of England, thousands of football fans gathered outside the Liverpool football club grounds to celebrate the team’s first victory of the coveted Premier League title on Thursday night, after many sports leagues will restart in England earlier this month.

Fans spontaneously surrounded the stadium, creating a red sea, singing songs and lighting colored flares. Some criticized the crowds for totally ignoring the precautions.

In Germany, which has been praised for its handling of the virus, the country had to re-impose restrictions after an outbreak at a slaughterhouse in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, near the Dutch border.

More than 1,000 employees at a German meatpacking factory tested positive last week, leading to a localized blockade of around 7,000 people, a setback to Germany’s reopening strategy.

On Friday, the death toll from the German coronavirus had risen by 21 people to 8,948, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases.

The German government also announced Thursday that it will contribute a record € 500 million in funding to WHO this year, to help it deal with the pandemic.

The agency has been criticized by the United States, its largest financial donor, for falling behind in the fight against the pandemic and “focused on China,” according to President Trump, who promised to cut ties with the UN body.

Customers in a tapas bar in Barcelona, ​​Spain.Emilio Morenatti / AP

In Italy, about 700 crop pickers have been locked in apartments in Mondragone, near Naples, for at least 15 days, Campani Governor Vincenzo De Luca said on Facebook on Thursday. The crackdown follows an increase of at least 50 cases, he said, with the armed forces on the way to maintain the blockade.

In the French capital, Paris, the Eiffel Tower welcomed visitors again on Thursday, with strict hygiene and safety measures.

Visitors can access the 1,062-foot tower via stairs only through early July, with elevators out of bounds and those 11 and older wearing protective masks.

While members of the European Union discuss how to form so-called air bridges to allow travel across the continent safely, the EU could block incoming travelers from the US because the number of coronavirus cases there remains high, EU diplomats said this week.

Reuters contributed to this report.