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How hard is the coronavirus second wave hitting in Europe?

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Medical staff and nurses wearing face masks gather during a protest demanding an improvement in wages and labour conditions at La Paz hospital in Madrid, Spain
Medical staff and nurses wearing face masks gather during a protest demanding an improvement in wages and labour conditions at La Paz hospital in Madrid, Spain   -   Copyright  AP Photos
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Hospitals in Europe are filling up amid a resurgent tide of coronavirus infections and deaths flooding the continent's emergency wards.

Several countries are in second partial or national lockdowns, with many hoping that restrictions will begin to have an effect as intensive care units fill up.

Here is a recap of the key developments in countries across the continent.

Czech Republic: one of Europe's worst-hit sees some promising signs

Infections in the Czech Republic have started to decline after a two-month rise to record-high levels.

But crematoriums in the country reported they were overburdened as the coronavirus death toll soared, placing the country at the top end of Europe's grim statistics.

For weeks, the Czech Republic has been the hardest-hit country in Europe in terms of new deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Since late October, daily coronavirus deaths in the EU member of 10.7 million people have been hovering around 200, compared with the usual average of 300 deaths from all causes.

The government has shut hospitality businesses, schools and limited public gatherings to two people. The army has set up a 500-bed field hospital in Prague.

If cases continue to fall, the government has said that some children could return to school.

Meanwhile, volunteers are being trained to take the pressure off a health service under huge pressure.

Belgium: virologists believe it has passed its peak

Belgian health authorities said on November 9 they're confident that the country has now passed the peak of hospital admissions in its second wave. It reinstated lockdown measures at the end of October.

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said the new measures would stay in force for "at least a month and a half", at a press conference prior to the lockdown.

Belgium, a nation of 11 million people, has reported a daily average of 185 deaths, a slight decrease from its previous seven-day average.

Virologist Steven Van Gucht says this represents a 5% decrease, as well as urging citizens to adhere to the government coronavirus advice and respect the rules of the partial lockdown in place across the nation.

The daily average of hospital admissions was 406 patients per day, a decrease of 24%.

Despite this, Belgium leads the world with 129 deaths per 100,000 people, according to data by Johns Hopkins University.

It has reported more than 504,000 total cases and 14,839 confirmed deaths in total.

France: second lockdown is working, experts say

French Prime Minister Jean Castex warned on 12 November that French intensive care units are nearing saturation with 95% of them currently treating COVID-19 patients.

Experts are now saying that current lockdown restrictions in the country are having a positive effect with the virus spread slowing down, but the battle to contain it rages on.

France, which entered a second national lockdown in October, will likely stay restricted past December 1, with bars and restaurants unlikely to reopen in early December.

All non-essential shops have been closed but some may be able to reopen in December, the prime minister said. People currently need to fill in a form to justify getting out of their houses but schools, factories and building works will continue.

With more than 1.8 million infections since the start of the health crisis, France has Europe's highest cumulative total of recorded cases.

Germany: protests over COVID measures

Germany this week saw protests over coronavirus restrictions, with police firing water cannons Wednesday at demonstrators in Berlin's government district, after crowds ignored calls to wear masks and keep their distance from one another in line with pandemic regulations.

Overall, the country has reported about 833,000 coronavirus cases and more than 13,000 virus-related deaths in the pandemic, a death toll one-fourth the size of Britain’s.

Health Minister Jens Spahn defended the measures in parliament and also praised the efforts of German pharmaceutical company BioNTech, which together with Pfizer says it is leading the race to develop a vaccine against COVID-19. The health minister denied that vaccinations would be compulsory.

The country was seen as a role model in the spring for its fast and aggressive testing and contact-tracing method, which was credited with keeping the country's death toll down.

However, rising cases pushed the government to announce a partial lockdown from 2 November. Bars, cafes and restaurants are among the businesses that have closed nationwide.

Meanwhile, German Health Minister Jens Spahn came under fire for saying that nurses who test positive for COVID-19 could continue working with the proper protective measures in place.

More than 751,095 cases have so far been confirmed in Germany, with a death toll currently standing at 12,200.

Italy: highest daily coronavirus death toll of 2nd wave

Italy on Tuesday recorded its highest daily coronavirus death toll of the second wave, reporting 731 deaths in 24 hours.

The first western country hit by the coronavirus, it has tallied 46,464 deaths in total.

Italy has recorded more than one million cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, a grim record already present in France, Spain and the United Kingdom.

The country recently instituted local lockdowns in four regions and a nationwide curfew in an attempt to stop the virus from spreading.

Amid a "worrying" surge in infections, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte had imposed measures including nighttime curfews and the closure of cinemas, theatres, gyms and swimming pools.

The governor of an autonomous Italian Alpine province famed for its ski resorts has declared it a “red zone,” shutting down as of Monday most non-essential shops, bars, cafes and restaurants from serving meals and forbidding citizens to leave their towns except for essential reasons like work.

The southern country was the first in Europe to impose local and then a national lockdown in early March to stem the quick spread of the virus.

The new restrictions were met with anger with protests breaking out in Rome and other cities.

The country has recorded more than 30,000 new daily cases on three occasions in the last few days, and currently has a total of 790,377. Its death toll is the second highest in Europe after the UK at 39,764.

Austria: record spike in cases

Among European countries, WHO has said the sharpest rise in coronavirus cases was in Austria, which saw a 30% increase compared to the previous week.

The country has imposed new restrictions amid the big spike in cases.

While schools and nurseries remain open, people are not allowed out between 8pm and 6am and private meetings are limited to a maximum of two homes.

Additionally, museums, theatres and other cultural and sporting venues are closed, events are cancelled, and even Christmas markets have been shut.

Poland: national stadium turned into a field hospital

The number of daily coronavirus deaths on November 18 broke a grim record in Poland, totalling 603 people and bringing the country's overall death toll to 11,451.

The total number of confirmed infections is now up to 772,823 with the death toll standing at 11,451.

Soldiers are being mobilised to conduct COVID-19 testing, so medical professionals can focus on helping patients while other spaces, including Warsaw's National Stadium, are being transformed into field hospitals.

Bars and restaurants have been closed and gatherings of more than five people have been banned.

The authorities are partly blaming the rise in cases on protests against a ruling from the constitutional court wich further restricted abortions in the country.

Spain: curfews and confinements amid a state of emergency

Spain is second to Belgium in the world ranking of deaths per 100,000 people at 89, according to data by Johns Hopkins University.

Along with Italy, it recorded its highest daily coronavirus death toll of the second wave at 435 deaths in 24 hours.

Authorities declared a national state of emergency with nighttime curfews imposed across the country and travel between regions is strongly discouraged.

Spain was hit hard and fast by the first wave and imposed one of the strictest lockdowns.

More than 1.5 million people have been infected with COVID-19 in Spain since the beginning of the outbreak while over 41,000 have succumbed to the disease.

Sweden: tightening measures after light-touch approach

Sweden, which drew criticism during the first wave for eschewing a strict lockdown, has cut its limit on attendance at public gatherings to eight people

Its light-touch approach to the coronavirus pandemic continues to be tested by a surge in new infections and hospitalisations.

The country of 10 million people now has 196,446 reported cases and over 6,321 deaths.

"We are going in the wrong direction. The situation is very serious," Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said. "Now, every citizen needs to take responsibility. We know how dangerous this is."

As well as new measures like limits on capacity in restaurants and cafés, the prime minister will also attempt to ban the sale of alcohol after 10 pm from November 20.

The country also announced local restrictions in three more counties which are home to Sweden's largest cities. Restrictions on nightclubs have also been introduced.

UK: tentative signs lockdown is working

The United Kingdom, which became the first European country to pass 50,000 deaths from COVID-19, has started to show some tentative signs to suggest its resurgence is levelling off after wide-ranging restrictions were imposed.

In its weekly survey of new infections, Britain's statistics agency said the rate of growth of the virus in England appeared to start slowing around the time a new four-week lockdown took effect on November 5.

The British government's main scientific advisory group said the virus' reproduction rate dipped even before the latest lockdown.

It comes after England entered a full national lockdown on 5 November in an effort to curb the spread and prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed.

All non-essential shops, pubs, restaurants and cafes have been closed and people have been told to work from home where they can. Schools remain open throughout the lockdown.

Coronavirus restrictions vary between UK countries and Wales has now emerged from a "firebreak" lockdown which was imposed earlier than the one in England.

The government has been criticised for its handling of the pandemic and opposition leaders have said the country should have been locked down sooner.

UK PM Boris Johnson went into isolation after coming into contact with someone infected with COVID-19, a Downing Street spokesperson said on Sunday evening.

But the leader said Monday morning on Twitter that he is in good health and has no symptoms.

Portugal: intensive care beds packed with COVID patients

Authorities in Portugal say 85% of intensive care beds set aside for COVID-19 patients are occupied.

Health Minister Marta Temido says 432 COVID-19 patients are in intensive care units, where a total of 506 beds are earmarked for pandemic patients.

She says the public health service can expand the number of intensive care beds for coronavirus patients to 960 beds, but it will impact treatment for other illnesses.

Portuguese hospital admissions have been climbing since the end of September.

The country’s 14-day cumulative number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 of population is 785, close to the numbers for Italy and France, according to the European Centre for Disease Control.

Hungary: lacking qualified medical staff to treat COVID patients

Doctors in Hungary are warning that a lack of medical staff qualified to treat coronavirus patients in intensive care units could soon lead to soaring deaths and a breakdown in the country’s fragile health care system despite the government’s expensive medical equipment purchases.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban last week announced the country's strictest pandemic restrictions to date to combat rapidly rising coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths, predicting that without the measures Hungary’s health care system had only a “50% chance” of coping with the pandemic.

The government has ordered hospitals to expand ICUs to accommodate the rapid rise in COVID-19 patients and earlier this year purchased 16,000 ventilators at a cost of 842 million euros for the expected surge this fall.

But Hungarian Chamber of Doctors has warned that the number of ICU beds and ventilators are overshadowed by a lack of qualified doctors and nurses to treat ICU patients.

Every weekday at 1900 CET, Uncovering Europe brings you a European story that goes beyond the headlines. Download the Euronews app to get an alert for this and other breaking news. It's available on Apple and Android devices.