London: England’s 56 million people joined much of western Europe in a second coronavirus lockdown Thursday, as the United States set a fresh daily record with close to 100,000 new infections.
European governments are struggling to contain a fresh wave of the pandemic, which has now infected more than 11 million across the continent.
The new stay-at-home orders from London came as Denmark said it would cull its entire population of more than 15 million minks after a mutation of the virus was found to have spread to people from the otter-like mammals.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced an England-wide shutdown as daily death tolls hit their worst levels since May and with warnings that hospitals could soon be overwhelmed.
It prompted crowds across the nation to queue outside soon-to-close shops, book a last-minute haircut or head to the pub for a final pint, as business owners fretted over the impact of the lockdown on their bottom line.
“We will be paying this off for years,” said Joe Curran, landlord of The Queen’s Head pub in central London. “This lockdown will cost us thousands on top of the thousands so far.”
The new restrictions run until December 2 and mandate a return to working from home where possible, along with the closure of all non-essential shops and services. Schools will stay open.
Britain is among the world’s hardest-hit countries with just over a million virus cases and nearly 48,000 deaths.
England’s lockdown follows similar measures in the other nations of the United Kingdom - Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - as well as France and Germany.
Parts of Italy will join that list from Friday, with shops selling non-essential goods to be shut in hard-hit areas and people largely confined to their homes except for work, health and emergency reasons.
Authorities have also announced a nationwide curfew between 10:00 pm and 5:00 am.
“We don’t have alternatives,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said during a televised press conference on Wednesday night.
Russian President Vladimir Putin recently said he had no plans for a lockdown but that resolve may be tested after the country set two new records Wednesday - for daily infections, at nearly 20,000, and daily death toll, at nearly 400.
Mass mink cull
Other drastic measures were planned for Denmark, where authorities said they would cull the country’s entire mink population “as soon as possible”.
The Scandinavian nation is the world’s largest exporter of mink fur but the creatures have been found to carry a mutated version of the virus that has spread to humans.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said that discovery could threaten the effectiveness of any future COVID-19 vaccine.
Two-thirds of Frederiksen’s government is currently in isolation after the justice minister tested positive for the virus.
Several animal species have also tested positive since the COVID-19 pandemic began and there have been reported cases at mink farms in the Netherlands and Spain.
“In a few instances, the minks that were infected by humans have transmitted the virus to other people,” the World Health Organization said in a statement.
Record US caseload
The United States recorded its worst ever daily caseload - 99,660, according to Johns Hopkins University - as the winner of the country’s presidential election was still being determined.
There were 1,112 deaths Wednesday, according to the same tally.
More than 9.4 million people have been infected and 233,000 have died in the United States since the disease was first detected in China late last year.
Infection rates have surged to record highs across the country since last month, especially in the north and the Midwest.