France and Germany plunge back into lockdown as second COVID-19 wave sweeps Europe

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A man wearing a mask walks in the street in the center of Lyon, central France, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. France is bracing for a potential new lockdown as the president prepares a televised address Wednesday aimed at stopping a fast-rising tide of virus patients filling French hospitals and a growing daily death toll. (AP)
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This file photo taken on March 20, 2020 shows a closed Italian restaurant in Cuxhaven, northern Germany, as many activities slowed down or came to a halt to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus Covid-19. (AFP)
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Updated 28 October 2020

France and Germany plunge back into lockdown as second COVID-19 wave sweeps Europe

  • Germany faces ‘month of truth’ in November
  • Second wave likely to be deadlier than first, says Macron

BERLIN/PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel ordered their countries back into lockdown on Wednesday, as a massive second wave of coronavirus infections threatened to overwhelm Europe before the winter.
World stock markets went into a dive in response to the news that Europe’s biggest economies were imposing nationwide restrictions almost as severe as the ones that drove the global economy this year into its deepest recession in generations.
“The virus is circulating at a speed that not even the most pessimistic forecasts had anticipated,” Macron said in a televised address. “Like all our neighbors, we are submerged by the sudden acceleration of the virus.”
“We are all in the same position: overrun by a second wave which we know will be harder, more deadly than the first.”
Under the new French measures which come into force on Friday, people will be required to stay in their homes except to buy essential goods, seek medical attention, or exercise for up to one hour a day. They will be permitted to go to work if their employer deems it impossible for them to do the job from home. Schools will stay open.
Germany will shut bars, restaurants and theaters from Nov. 2-30 under measures agreed between Merkel and heads of regional governments. Schools will stay open, and shops will be allowed to operate with strict limits on access.
“We need to take action now,” Merkel said. “Our health system can still cope with this challenge today, but at this speed of infections it will reach the limits of its capacity within weeks.”
Her finance minister, Olaf Scholz, posted on Twitter: “November will be a month of truth. The increasing numbers of infections are forcing us to take tough countermeasures in order to break the second wave.”
France has surged above 36,000 new cases a day. Germany, which was less hard-hit than its European neighbors early this year, has seen an exponential rise in cases.
A new wave of infections has been setting records in the United States, with six days to go before Election Day. President Donald Trump has played down the virus and shows no sign of canceling public rallies where his supporters often refuse to wear masks.
European stock markets closed at their lowest levels since late May on Wednesday. In the United States, the S&P 500 was down 3%.


3 funeral workers fired over Maradona coffin photos

Updated 27 November 2020

3 funeral workers fired over Maradona coffin photos

  • The images distributed across social media have created outrage, even death threats, across a nation that venerated Maradona
  • Claudio Fernández confirmed that he’d lost his job at the Pinier funeral home, along with his son Ismael and Claudio Medina

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina: Three funeral workers have been fired for posing for photos alongside the body of soccer star Diego Maradona shortly before his funeral.
The images distributed across social media created outrage, even death threats, across a nation that venerated Maradona, who died Wednesday of a heart attack at age 60. Tens of thousands lined up for a chance to file past his body at the nation’s presidential palace on Thursday.
Claudio Fernández confirmed to Radio Diez on Friday that he’d lost his job at the Pinier funeral home, along with his son Ismael and Claudio Medina.
One of the images shows Fernández and his son — smiling and with thumb raised — alongside Maradona’s body in the coffin on Thursday. Medina appears in another in the same pose.
Fernández insisted that he hadn’t known they’d planned to take a photograph, much less distribute it. “It was something instantaneous. I’d just raised my head and my son did it like any kid of 18,” he told the radio station.
He said he had been receiving threats from others living in the El Paternal neighborhood where Maradona debuted as a professional in 1976 with the Argentinos Juniors team.
“They know me. I’m from the neighborhood,” Fernández said. “They say they are going to kill us, break our heads.”
The team issued a statement saying it was considering expelling Fernández from its membership rolls.