ALMERE, Netherlands (AP) — A bright yellow helicopter rose into a blue sky Friday carrying a COVID-19 patient from the Netherlands to a German intensive care unit, the first such international airlift since the pandemic first threatened to swamp Dutch hospitals in the spring.
The clatter of the helicopter’s rotors as it lifted off from a parking lot behind a hospital 30 kilometers (20 miles) east of Amsterdam was a noisy reminder of how the coronavirus is again gripping Europe and straining health care systems that struggled for equipment and staff during the pandemic’s first wave.
Elsewhere on the continent, an absence of noise will underscore the virus’ resurgence. More than two-thirds of the people living in France were to be subject to a nightly curfew starting at midnight Friday, hours after health authorities announced that the country had joined Spain in surpassing 1 million confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic.
“The epidemic is very strongly accelerating,” French President Emmanuel Macron said after visiting a hospital near Paris.
France became the second country in Western Europe and the seventh world-wide to reach that number of known infections after reporting 42,032 new daily cases. Of the 445,000 confirmed cases the World Health Organization had recorded in the past 24 hours, nearly half were in Europe, Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, said.
Experts say the real numbers of infections are probably much higher than the ones governments are reporting because of a lack of wide testing early on and the fact that some people don’t develop symptoms. The head of the World Health Organization warned Friday that countries in the Northern hemisphere were at a “critical juncture” as cases and deaths continue to rise.
“The next few months are going to be very tough and some countries are on a dangerous track,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a media briefing from Geneva.
Curfews to rein in nightlife and other opportunities for the virus to spread are some of the increasingly drastic measures European nations are enforcing to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The 9 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew taking effect for at least six weeks in 38 regions of France come on top of the government imposing the same restrictions in Paris and other French cities last week.
The extension means that 46 million of France’s 67 million people will be under curfews that prohibit them from being out and about during those hours except for limited reasons, such as walking a dog, traveling to and from work and catching a train or flight.
In Italy, where the governors of the three regions that include Rome, Milan and Naples declared overnight curfews early in the week, the capital moved to make “nightlife” hours even shorter for young people who tend to hang out in trendy piazzas, carousing for hours without masks as they sip cocktails and knock down beers.
Protesters in Naples, angry over the just-imposed 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. regional curfew and by the local governor’s vow to put the region under lockdown to try to tame surging COVID-19 infections, clashed with police on Friday night.
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