New flareups of COVID-19 are disrupting the peak summer vacation season across much of Europe, where authorities in some countries are reimposing restrictions on travelers, closing nightclubs again, banning fireworks displays and expanding mask orders even in chic resort areas.
“Unfortunately, this virus doesn't play ball,” British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News.
The surges have spread alarm across Europe, which suffered mightily during the spring but appeared in recent months to have largely tamed the coronavirus in ways that the U.S., with its vaunted scientific prowess and the extra time to prepare, cannot seem to manage. The continent''s hardest-hit countries, Britain, Italy, France and Spain, have recorded about 140,000 deaths in all.
In addition to clubs and alcohol-fueled street parties, large family gatherings – usually abounding with hugs and kisses -- have been cited as a source of new outbreaks in several European countries.
A new public awareness campaign by Spain's Canary Islands depicts a family gathering for a grandfather's birthday, with people taking off masks and embracing. The grandfather ends up in a hospital bed with COVID-19.
In France, thousands of vacationing Britons scrambled to return home Friday to avoid having to self-quarantine for 14 days following Britain's decision to reimpose restrictions on France because of a resurgence of infections there. Ferries added extra trips back to England, and trains were running out of space.
Some of the toughest new measures were announced in Spain, which has recorded almost 50,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past 14 days.
Health Minister Salvador Illa, after an emergency meeting with regional leaders, said nightclubs nationwide were being ordered to close. Visits to nursing homes will be limited to one person a day for each resident for only one hour.
“We can't be undisciplined,” Illa said.
In Italy, also faced with a surge of cases, seaside towns announced new restrictions, including bans on fireworks at beaches. The moves came just ahead of Italy's biggest summer holiday, Ferragosto, which millions of Italians celebrate at beaches, in the mountains or on trips abroad.
The mayor of Anzio banned all overnight access to the beach, while San Felice Circeo, a popular weekend getaway for Romans, ordered masks worn outdoors. On the chic island of Capri, an order requiring masks outdoors from evening to nearly dawn was expanded by the mayor to the entire day.