MADRID – Portugal has introduced new measures and Austria has put cities on high alert amid an increasing rate of COVID-19 infections in Europe.
The coronavirus pandemic has also hit the industry in Germany, which has seen a significant drop in workers, hours and wages.
Authorities have introduced a series of new measures including capping meetings at 10 people and limits on business hours and alcohol sales.
The country has entered a state of contingency as it seeks to tackle fresh outbreaks during the new normality.
Health officials have warned people to be extra vigilant as school children resumed their classes and many adults returned to their workplaces.
Remote working will continue to be promoted in big cities such as Lisbon and Porto whenever possible.
There has been an increase in the number of daily infections with more than 600 detected in 24 hours last week, a rate not seen since April when Portugal was in a state of emergency.
Portugal has reported more than 1,800 deaths and 64,500 infections since the pandemic began.
Seven cities, including Vienna and Innsbruck, have been put on an orange level of alert in the country’s four-color traffic light COVID warning system.
This will have little effect on prevention measures and mainly seeks to warn people to be more careful about the risk of contagion.
It was the first time that locations have been put in the color category since the traffic light system was implemented by authorities on Sept. 4.
The health minister said this color indicates there is a high-risk situation due to an increase in cases not confined to localized outbreaks.
The level of alert is based on the number of infections, whether they are concentrated in localized outbreaks or if the spread of the virus appears to be out of control and the origin of new cases cannot be determined.
Austria recorded 709 new infections on Monday, around the same level as at the end of March, and currently has 5,774 cases, more than half of them in Vienna.
The government said on Sunday that the country has been hit by a second wave of contagion and reinstated restrictions, including mandatory masks in confirmed public spaces.
The number of workers in German industry fell to its lowest level in 10 years in July due to the coronavirus crisis, the country’s Federal Statistical Office reported on Tuesday.
Around 5.5 million people were employed in the industrial sector of Europe’s largest economy, a drop of almost three percent or 164,000 people compared to last year.
This represented the largest year-on-year decline in percentage terms of employment since May 2010, officials warned.
The statistics department blamed the decline on the contraction of global demand due to the recession induced by the pandemic.
German health minister Jens Spahn has ruled out a return to the lockdowns seen in March, April and May that had such a damaging economic impact, saying public officials were much better prepared and able to tackle the pandemic than they were in the spring.
At a press conference in Berlin, Spahn and Education Minister Anja Karliczek also dampened expectations that a vaccine would be ready for mass distribution before the middle of next year, emphasizing that the safety of the vaccine is the top priority.
“Even if the world is waiting for a vaccine, we will not take risky shortcuts,” said Karliczek, while agreeing that a vaccine is “the decisive key to overcoming the pandemic.”