Merkel warns of lies amid drastic German, French moves

Top News | AGENCIES 30 Oct 2020

German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended tough new shutdown measures her government has announced against the coronavirus, warning that propaganda and conspiracy theories undermine the fight against the pandemic.

Merkel's warning comes after French President Emmanuel Macron announced a new lockdown until at least December 1, hoping to bring under control an outbreak that is poised to overwhelm hospitals in a matter of days.

Starting today in France, bars, restaurants and nonessential businesses are forced to close and written statements will be required for people to leave their homes.

But the British government vowed to persist with localized restrictions, despite fresh data showing surging numbers of cases and deaths across the country.

The Republic of Ireland shut down again last week as did Wales, following in the footsteps of Northern Ireland which went into a four-week partial lockdown this month.

Britain is already the hardest hit country in Europe, with more than 45,000 fatalities.

The popular Merkel called on Germans to rally behind her in respecting the restrictions and to reject those who refused to follow the established science in combatting the spread of the disease. "Let me be clear: lies and disinformation, conspiracy and hate damage not only democratic debate but also the fight against the coronavirus," she said.

Merkel had agreed with Germany's 16 state leaders to shutter restaurants, bars, cinemas, theaters, gyms and public pools among other leisure facilities for the month of November in a bid to halt a surge in new infections.

Schools, nurseries, shops and other essential businesses will remain open and there will be no restrictions on people leaving their homes. "The winter will be hard - four long difficult months - but it will come to an end," Merkel said.

Macron, meanwhile, admitted that a curfew for Paris and other major cities imposed two weeks ago had failed to stop a second wave of cases that has sent the death toll in France to nearly 35,000.

"The virus is spreading across France at a speed that even the most pessimistic did not predict," Macron said in a television address.

"If we did nothing within a few months we would have at least 400,000 additional deaths."

But unlike during the two-month lockdown imposed last spring, students up to high-school level will continue to go to school. Universities, which have been the source of several virus clusters since September, will have online classes only.

Factories and farms will also be allowed to operate and some public services will function to limit the economic damage that would come from shutting down the country completely.

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