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Virus at ‘turning point’ in Europe

A traffic policeman talks on the phone at the Vittorio Emanuele II arcade, in Milan, Italy, on Friday. Italian health officials have declared the country in an "acute phase" after the country set records for new daily COVID-19 cases higher than even during the March-April peak. The Associated Press

MILAN — Doctors are warning that Europe is at a turning point as the coronavirus surges back across the continent, including among vulnerable people, and governments try to impose restrictions without locking whole economies down.

With newly confirmed cases reaching records, the World Health Organization warned Friday that intensive care units in a number of European cities could reach maximum capacity in the coming weeks.

In response to the surge, the Czech Republic has shut schools and is building a field hospital, Poland has limited restaurant hours and closed gyms and schools, and France is planning a 9 p.m. curfew in Paris and other big cities. In Britain, authorities are closing pubs and bars in areas in the country’s north, while putting limits on socializing in London and other parts of the country.

Europe is not alone in seeing a resurgence. In the United States, new cases per day are on the rise in 44 states, and deaths per day are climbing in 30.

“If we don’t get a handle on this, we run the risk of getting into a situation that’s harder to control,” Bertrand Levrat, the head of Switzerland’s biggest hospital complex, told The Associated Press. “We are really at a turning point — things can go both ways.”

But while officials are sounding the alarm on rising cases, they are also wary of imposing the stricter nationwide lockdowns that devastated their economies this spring. Instead, they are trying more targeted restrictions.

France is deploying 12,000 extra police to enforce its new curfew; Saturday night will be the first time establishments will be forced to close at 9 p.m. Restaurants, cinemas and theaters are trying to figure out how can survive the forced early closures.

One movie theater chain will start opening at 8 a.m. in hopes of making up evening losses. Since Paris restaurants generally open at 7 or 7:30 p.m. for dinner, some might close altogether because it no longer makes financial sense to stay open for such a short shift.

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