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French New Virus Cases Top 13,000 as Europe Lockdown Risk Rises

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(Bloomberg) — France’s daily coronavirus cases surged the most since the end of lockdown in May and Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the U.K. is experiencing “a second wave,” as Europe’s infections raise the specter of the kind of large-scale curbs that crippled the economy in the second quarter.

The Madrid regional government said Friday it will test 1 million people — about every seventh resident of the Spanish capital region — for Covid-19 over the next week to stem the surge in cases. U.K. cabinet members declined to rule out a short national lockdown.

The jump in French infections by more than 13,000 on Friday was the most eye-catching figure among increases in Europe. Deaths in France increased by 123, the most for any day since May 18. Cases in Germany rose by 2,000, the most since late April. Spain’s new infections slowed, but still rose by more than 4,500.

From Ireland to Greece, Europeans headed into the weekend facing new curbs on public life, including the cancellation of much of Vienna’s fall ball season. The Travel and Leisure Stoxx 600 Index closed 3.5% lower on Friday with airlines as the big losers.

In Spain, which has the most cases in Europe, Regional President Isabel Diaz Ayuso banned non-essential movement in 37 hot spots in and around Madrid, the epicenter of the country’s outbreak.

“Another lockdown would be an economic disaster,” Ayuso, who also announced the testing blitz, told reporters. “We need to use all means at our disposal to avoid it.”

Health officials blame the surge on social gatherings, especially among younger people, and on travelers bringing the virus back from vacation. The upward trend threatens to derail Europe’s tentative revival if the pandemic forces governments generally averse to lockdowns to change course.

“Obviously, we’re looking very carefully at the spread of the pandemic as it evolves over the last few days,” Johnson told reporters. He said “there’s no question” that the U.K. is “now seeing a second wave coming in.

“We want to try and keep all parts of the economy open as far as we possibly can — I don’t think anybody wants to go into a second lockdown,” the prime minister told reporters on Friday. “But clearly, when you look at what is happening, you have got to wonder whether we need to go further.”

As the U.K. government extended coronavirus restrictions across northern England and the Midlands, London Mayor Sadiq Khan warned that restrictions could be imposed if infections aren’t slowed in the capital.

Estimates from the Office for National Statistics published Friday suggested there were 6,000 new infections per day in the community in England in the week ending Sept. 10, compared with 3,200 a week earlier.

Ireland’s government banned indoor dining in bars and restaurants in the Dublin region, restricted travel in and out the region and told Dubliners to avoid international travel. Bars in Amsterdam were ordered to close by 1 a.m. as part of measures announced by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte late Friday.

Greece further tightened anti-pandemic measures in the greater Athens area. Public and private gatherings were limited to nine people, concerts suspended and indoor cinemas closed. Businesses must have 40% of employees work from home starting Monday until Oct. 4.

“The pandemic is back in most of our countries,” German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said Friday. “We have to make sure that the trend toward recovery in Europe isn’t impeded and threatened by the rising infection numbers.”

The pace of coronavirus infections in France has climbed steadily for a month. There were 13,215 new cases on Friday after an increase of 10,593 on Thursday, which prompted Health Minister Olivier Veran to warn that the disease “is again very active.”

The French government wants to avoid a new nationwide lockdown. President Emmanuel Macron said this week that citizens need to learn to live with the disease.

(Updates with comments by Spanish official in sixth paragraph, Boris Johnson in eighth.)

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