France and Germany re-enter lockdown
Europe has tried for weeks to slow the spread of the virus with targeted restrictions instead of the unpopular nationwide lockdowns that were imposed in the spring. But as a furious second wave pushes hospitalizations, deaths and cases to levels not seen since the beginning of the pandemic, countries have begun to change course.
France today announced a nationwide lockdown until Dec. 1, with just schools and essential businesses allowed to stay open. Germany moved very close to one, closing restaurants, gyms and museums for one month, but exempting schools and shops — “lockdown lite,” as the Germans called it.
Elsewhere on the continent, people were already seeing their lives heavily restricted. Spain went into a state of emergency last week, while the Italian government moved on Sunday to shut restaurants by 6 p.m. Belgium, which currently has the highest infection rate in the region, recently shuttered restaurants, museums and gyms.
The moves are roiling business leaders, who say the lockdowns will undo any hope for an economic recovery. European stocks sank to their lowest levels in months.
But as hospitals fill at an alarming rate, doctors and medical experts say the closures are necessary. In Germany, the number of patients in hospitals has doubled in the past 10 days, and in France, the health care system was two weeks away from reaching the same number of hospitalizations as the peak of the first wave.
Frédéric Valletoux, president of the French Hospital Federation, said that hospitals were in a much more precarious situation than in the spring: staff members were exhausted from the first wave, there was less leeway to defer treatments or surgeries to make room for Covid-19 patients, and other epidemics like the flu would soon be arriving with the start of winter.
S.T.D. rates are falling. That’s probably bad news.
For the first time in years, rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, which had been on track in 2020 to hit record highs in the U.S., have abruptly dropped. Studies have shown that the pandemic has kept people from socializing in bars, nightclubs and large parties, which has reduced opportunities for unsafe sex.
Sounds like an unintended boon from the pandemic, right?
Unfortunately, experts in sexual health believe the drop may be a harbinger of bad news. They say that rather than a dip in sexually transmitted diseases, it’s more likely that S.T.D.s are going undetected. People in need of treatment may be avoiding clinics out of fear of the coronavirus, while some sexual health clinics have reduced hours or closed. Contact tracers for gonorrhea and syphilis have been diverted to Covid-19 cases.
In some regions, essential supplies to test for S.T.D.s are running low because manufacturers of swabs, tubes and reagents are redirecting their products for use in coronavirus tests. As a result, there is a growing shortage of tests for the diseases.
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For a 67 year old widower, the pandemic might seem the most unlikely time possible to fall in love. Yet by stepping outside the box where most seniors feel comfortable, online dating created unexpected opportunity. Discovering another widower on the same page regarding Covid led us to being tested. We shared negative results, building the kind of trust absent from typical fledging relationships. The spark revealed in our first face-to-face meeting kindled quickly into something much stronger. In weeks, relative social isolation led to bonds typically requiring months in a busier pre-Covid world. We look at each other and shake our heads, smiling. A new hashtag sums it up: #mypandemicmiracle.
— Mark Alberhasky, Atlanta
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