European governments have warned of an alarming rise in the number of coronavirus infections across the continent from west to east, an autumnal second wave that threatens to overwhelm hospitals and will sharply increase the death toll in the weeks ahead.
“The situation is grave,” Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s prime minister, said on Friday, a day after the country recorded a new daily record of almost 21,000 infections.
His words echoed those of Jean Castex, his French counterpart, who extended a night-time curfew that will cover 46m people, or two-thirds of the population, from midnight on Friday.
“The weeks ahead will be hard. Our hospital services will be put to the test and the number of deaths will rise,” said Mr Castex, shortly before France announced a record 41,622 cases in the previous 24 hours.
Overburdened hospitals in Roubaix and Tourcoing in northern France have begun transferring Covid-19 patients to other hospitals, but officials have warned that a transfer system that saved lives in the stricken eastern region in the pandemic’s first wave in the spring will not be much use if every part of the country and its neighbours are also badly hit.