London has recorded zero daily deaths from Covid-19 in a single day for the first time in over six months, official data indicates.
Public Health England (PHE) statistics from Sunday showed no fatalities within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test in the UK capital, while the country as a whole recorded 19 deaths.
The last daily record of zero deaths in the capital was on September 14 before a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic struck Britain.
The data for Covid-19 deaths is usually lower on Mondays due to a lag in authorities reporting numbers over the weekend but the latest stats will be seen as a positive sign given the region was recording more than 200 daily deaths in January.
The news comes as England’s “stay at home” order was lifted Monday and Covid-19 restrictions were eased, allowing two households or groups of up to six people to meet outdoors.
The country has been in full national lockdown since January 4, after a new, more transmissible variant of coronavirus was discovered in southeast England.
Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis courts, swimming pools and golf courses have been permitted to reopen, and organized outdoor sports with an unlimited number of people have been given the thumbs up. Weddings are no longer limited to exceptional circumstances but are only allowed a maximum of six attendees.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged caution amid growing cases elsewhere in Europe.
“I know how much people have missed the camaraderie and competition of organized sport, and how difficult it has been to restrict physical activities – especially for children,” Johnson said. “I know many will welcome the increased social contact, with groups of 6 or two households now also able to meet outdoors.”
The UK has the highest Covid-19 death toll in Europe, with more than 126,000 fatalities, according to a Johns Hopkins University (JHU) tally.
While Monday marks the most significant easing in England since schools returned on March 8, many businesses remain shuttered, people are still being encouraged to work from home where possible, and travel abroad is still prohibited.
The rules are set to be relaxed further in coming weeks provided the UK vaccination program continues unhindered and infection rates don’t surge.
More than 30 million people across the UK have now received the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and the country’s National Health Service is preparing to administer millions of second doses in the coming weeks, according to the UK Department of Health.
The next stage of lockdown easing is due to take place no sooner than April 12 when non-essential retail will be allowed to reopen. At the same time, restaurants and pubs will be able to serve people outdoors.
Germany considers new measures
Elsewhere in Europe, infection rates are soaring amid a third pandemic wave.
On Sunday German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested additional measures may be needed in the country to halt the ongoing spread of Covid-19.
The number of coronavirus cases in Germany now stands at 2,782,273 after an additional 9,872 instances were identified, the German agency for disease control and prevention said Monday.
The Robert Koch Institute said the country’s death toll stands at 75,913 – including 43 new cases in the last 24 hours. Meanwhile the seven-day incidence rate now stands at 134.4 per 100,000 inhabitants.
In a rare interview with public broadcaster ARD on Sunday night, Merkel stood by her apology over proposing and then scrapping Easter restrictions, admitting mistakes had been made.
Last week, the longtime leader walked back on her plan to impose a new hard five-day lockdown over Easter. Although there are restrictions on social contact and gatherings, businesses will now only be closed as usual on the public holidays of Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday.
As Covid-19 cases rise across Germany, however, Merkel said that in addition to testing, further measures were being considered and could be introduced soon.
“For me, contact restrictions, restrictions to go out, are very important means to stop the exponential growth of the virus. Plus to increase testing in schools twice a week and the industry, where I am not yet content with the current enthusiasm, where I have said clearly that we then need to legislate, and soon,” Merkel said.
Merkel deflected a question over whether she’d send Germany into another hard lockdown, instead suggesting that more people needed to work from home and that more testing for those going into work was needed.
She added: “We have to ensure that schools can only open if they can test twice a week, although even twice is not a lot.”
More than 75,000 people have died in Germany from Covid-19, according to JHU data.
Doctors sound alarm in Paris
France is now entering a decisive week, with the country under pressure from a rising number of patients in intensive care. Doctors warned Sunday that hospitals in Paris face being overwhelmed and are preparing to triage patients in the next two weeks as a result of the critical conditions.
In an op-ed, published in the Journal du Dimanche newspaper, 41 intensive care (ICU) and emergency doctors wrote that in the next two weeks “we are almost certain about the number of ICU beds that will be needed and we already know that our capacities will be exceeded at the end of this period.”
The doctors pointed out a “glaring mismatch between needs and available resources” in what they call a “disaster medicine” situation.
“We will be forced to select which patients get access to the ICUs and which do not in order to save as many lives as possible. This triage will involve all patients, Covid and non-Covid, especially regarding access to critical care for adult patients,” they wrote.
The Parisian doctors wrote in their op-ed they had “never experienced such a situation, even during the worst terrorist attacks in recent years,” referring to the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and wounded 494.
There were 1,429 patients in ICU in the Ile-de-France region (where Paris is located) as of Saturday night, which accounts for more than 124% of the number of ICU beds in the region, according to data published by the French health authority, Santé Publique France.
The pandemic has killed more than 94,000 people in France, according to JHU.
The French coronavirus strategy led by President Emmanuel Macron, who is up for re-election next year, has so far resisted a third nationwide lockdown – against the advice of his Scientific Council – because of the impact it would have on mental health and the economy, Macron has said.
Instead, the government has favored a 7 p.m. curfew, as well as regional “reinforced health restrictions,” in place in 19 areas. While schools remain open in these vicinities, non-essential stores have closed and the movement of people has been limited to a 10-kilometer (six-mile) radius unless they have compelling business or health reasons to travel further.
Medical workers have urged the French government in recent weeks to impose stronger national restrictions, in light of the more contagious B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant, which was first identified in the UK and is now dominant in France.
At the end of a tense EU summit on Thursday night, the French president denied any failure in his decision not to implement a lockdown at the end of January. “We didn’t have the explosion of cases that every model predicted,” he said in a press conference. “There won’t be a mea culpa from me. I don’t have remorse and won’t acknowledge failure,” Macron added.
A defense council is expected to decide on a possible tightening of measures on Wednesday.