Mar 15, 2021 - World

New COVID-19 restrictions in Europe as countries battle variants

Photo of a tent set up for COVID testing and people standing outside socially distanced

Medical staff processes a COVID-19 test in Zeitz, Germany. PPhoto by Jens Schlueter via Getty Images

Europe continues to struggle with the rapidly evolving coronavirus as Germany's public health agency warns of a "third wave" of coronavirus infections and Italy prepares to enter another near-nationwide lockdown.

The big picture: Countries have attempted to lift restrictions as vaccination campaigns are deployed, but doing so too quickly could invite another wave of infections amid the spread of new variants.

  • Germany has gradually relaxed lockdown restrictions in recent weeks, but there are "clear signs" of a third wave that has already begun, Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases, told CNBC on Monday.
    • Germany has had over 2.5 million coronavirus cases and saw a spike in the number of daily cases in March, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
    • Noting that Germany was underprepared in vaccine distribution, Wieler added that "the virus is not going to disappear, but once we have a base level of immunity in the population, we can control it."
  • Italy's top officials are considering enforcing tougher health measures from March 15 through April 6, Italian news agency ANSA reports.
    • The government plans to place almost the entire country in its red zone, imposing the maximum level of restrictions from April 3 to April 5. This period includes Easter Sunday and Easter Monday.
    • Italy has topped 3.2 million coronavirus cases, with the number of daily cases rising steadily since February, per Johns Hopkins University.
    • The only region in Italy's white zone is Sardinia, an island in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • The new restrictions come after many European countries suspended AstraZeneca vaccinations amid reports of blood clots.
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