Global coronavirus report: Italian police use tear gas to disperse lockdown protests

By Martin Farrer

Police in Italy have fired tear gas to disperse angry crowds in the northern cities of Turin and Milan after protests against the latest round of anti-coronavirus restrictions flared into violence.

As the head of the World Health Organization urged countries “not to give up” in their fight to contain the virus, luxury goods shops, including a Gucci fashion shop, were ransacked in the centre of Turin as crowds of youths took to the streets after nightfall, letting off firecrackers and lighting coloured flares.

Police responded with volleys of tear gas as they tried to disperse the crowds and there were also clashes in Milan, the capital of the neighbouring Lombardy region, an area that has borne the brunt of the Covid-19 epidemic in Italy.

“Freedom, freedom, freedom,” crowds chanted as they confronted police in the city centre.

The unrest followed more peaceful demonstrations across Italy on Monday – including in Treviso, Trieste, Rome, Naples, Salerno and Palermo – after the Italian government ordered bars and restaurants to close by 6pm and shut public gyms, cinemas and swimming pools to try to slow a second wave of coronavirus infections that is battering much of the country.

There were also street clashes in Spain where hundreds of people gathered in the centre of Barcelona on Monday evening to protest both the Spanish and Catalan governments’ latest Covid-19 restrictions, including a 10 pm to 6 am curfew in place in Catalonia since Sunday.

Youths form a barricade on Passeig de Picasso in Barcelona to demand a better response to the economic crisis produced by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Youths form a barricade on Passeig de Picasso in Barcelona to demand a better response to the economic crisis produced by the Covid-19 pandemic. Photograph: Paco Freire/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

The WHO chief, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned on Monday that abandoning efforts to control the coronavirus pandemic, as suggested by Donald Trump’s chief of staff, would be “dangerous” and said countries had to keep trying to beat the spread.

He acknowledged that after months of battling Covid , which has claimed more than 1.1 million lives globally and infected 43 million, a certain level of “pandemic fatigue” had set in.

“It’s tough and the fatigue is real,” Tedros said. “But we cannot give up,” he added, urging leaders to “balance the disruption to lives and livelihoods”.

The battle against Covid-19 has been especially acute in Europe where the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said on Monday that her country was on the verge of losing control of it. She told members of her Christian Democratic Union party that “the situation is threatening” and “every day counts”.

In the Czech Republic, the government on Monday imposed an overnight curfew for the next week as the country continued to record the worst coronavirus figures across the European Union. Exceptions would allow people to travel to work or walk their dogs.

The country has registered more than 260,000 cases and over 2,300 deaths since the March outbreak and now leads the EU in terms of new deaths and cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

Hopes that countries might be able to build greater herd immunity have been dented by data in England showing that the number of people with Covid antibodies is falling.

The figures were based on home finger-prick antibody test results from random participants. When the results were first analysed in August, about 6% of the population of England had the antibodies. But the most recent data gathered in September reveals that just 4.4% of those tested had detectable coronavirus antibodies.

Across the Atlantic, the average deaths per day in the United States has risen 10% in the past two weeks, from 721 to nearly 794 as of Sunday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Newly confirmed infections per day are rising in 47 states, and deaths are up in 34.

Deaths are still well below the peak of over 2,200 per day in late April. But experts are warning of a grim winter, with a widely cited model from the University of Washington projecting about 386,000 dead by 1 February.

The US has recorded more than 225,000 fatalities from Covid-19 so far out of a global total of 1.158 million. It has seen 8.7 million cases compared with a global total now standing at 43.4 million.

In China, officials on Tuesday reported 16 new confirmed Covid-19 cases, down from 20 a day earlier. The number of new asymptomatic cases also fell to 50, from 161 reported a day earlier amid a fresh wave of symptomless infections being reported in the northwestern Xinjiang region.

Fears that the resurgence of the virus will cause greater damage to the global economy have infected stock markets around the world with heavy losses in New York, London and Frankfurt on Monday.

Asia Pacific shares followed suit on Tuesday. In Sydney, the ASX200 was down 1.5% by lunchtime and the markets in Tokyo, Seoul and Hong Kong were also off.

However, there was some better news in Australia where the worst-hit state, Victoria, recorded no cases for the second day running. Daniel Andrews, the state’s premier, announced a further easing of restrictions in Melbourne, the state capital, which has been under one of the world’s most severe and long-lasting lockdowns.

In other coronavirus developments:

  • The Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday he would favour a government-to-government deal for the purchase of coronavirus vaccines to prevent the risk of corruption.

  • Pope Francis will have to forego meeting Catholics at the annual Advent and Christmas masses in the Vatican owing to the resurgent coronavirus pandemic, the specialist Catholic News Agency reported on Monday.

  • Belgium’s intensive care units will be overrun in a fortnight if the rate of infection continues, a spokesman for country’s Covid-19 crisis centre has said.

  • France alone may be experiencing 100,000 new coronavirus cases per day – double the latest official figures – Prof Jean-François Delfraissy, who heads the scientific council that advises the government on the pandemic, has said.