The head of the World Health Organization has gone into self-quarantine after someone he had been in contact with tested positive for Covid-19.
With the virus again spreading rapidly across Europe and elsewhere, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who is based in Geneva, made the announcement by Twitter late on Sunday night, but stressed he had no symptoms.
“I have been identified as a contact of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19,” Tedros said in his tweet.
“I am well and without symptoms but will self-quarantine over the coming days, in line with @WHO protocols, and work from home,” he added.
Tedros has been at the forefront of the UN health agency’s efforts to battle the pandemic, which has claimed the lives of 1.2 million and infected more than 46.6 million people worldwide since emerging in China late last year, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.
He stressed on Twitter that “it is critically important that we all comply with health guidance. This is how we will break chains of Covid-19 transmission, suppress the virus, and protect health systems.”
Countries across Europe reintroduced or strengthened existing lockdown measures on Monday.
Germany went into “lockdown light” mode, with bars, cinemas, theatres, museums, fitness studios and swimming pools closing and cafes and restaurants allowed to offer takeaway food only. Meetings in public have been restricted to two households or no more than 10 people. Unlike during the first lockdown in the spring, schools and nurseries will stay open.
The new “wave breaker” restrictions will for now only apply until the end of the month, but the government is not ruling out an extension. On Sunday, the health minister, Jens Spahn, called on the public to prepare for “months of restrictions and abstinence”.
The chancellor, Angela Merkel, told a news conference on Monday that Germany was still some way off an end to the pandemic but if people respected the restrictions over the next four weeks “then we will be able to have the conditions for a tolerable December.”
“Throughout the winter months, we will have to limit private contacts,” Merkel said. “The light at the end of the tunnel is still quite a long way off.”
Italy will tighten its restrictions but is holding back from reintroducing a nationwide lockdown, its prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, said, as infections, hospital admissions and deaths rise.
Conte told Italy’s parliament tougher measures, including curbing travel between the worst-hit regions and a night-time curfew, were now needed.
Italy’s daily tally of infections has increased tenfold over the last month and hovered around 30,000 in the last few days, while hospital admissions, intensive care occupancy and deaths have also risen steeply.
“Despite our efforts … the evolution of the epidemic in the last few days is very worrying,” Conte said, adding that intensive care units would be overwhelmed in 15 of Italy’s 20 regions by next month unless tougher action was taken.
“We must intervene with more stringent measures,” he told the Chamber of Deputies, saying the country would be divided into three areas depending on the risk level, with certain places facing tighter restrictions than others.
Meanwhile, Portugal’s prime minister, António Costa, asked the country’s president to declare a state of emergency as a preventive measure to fight the spread of the virus
The last Covid-19 state of emergency, which under Portuguese law is limited to 15 days but can be extended indefinitely in 15-day periods if necessary, was declared by President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa in March and lasted six weeks.
“It is a critical moment and declaring the … emergency will reinforce the civic awareness of the sanitary emergency we are facing,” Costa told reporters, adding the move was likely to last much longer than 15 days.
The president was expected to proclaim the emergency in a televised address on Monday evening and then parliament would then have to enact it – both are considered formalities.
The weekend was marked by street protests against further restrictions on daily life, including in Italy and Spain, where the prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, called for an end to “the violent and irrational behaviour” of a minority of people after demonstrations against the government’s decision to declare a six-month state of emergency.
On Sunday night more than 300 people gathered in the centre of São Paulo, Brazil to protest state governor João Doria’s support for mandatory Covid-19 immunisation and testing the potential vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac. The country’s health minister, Eduardo Pazuello, who is ill with Covid-19, remained in hospital on Sunday night after having been discharged from a civilian facility earlier in the day.
Anti-science sentiment was also on display in the US, where supporters of Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Florida on Sunday night began chanting “Fire Fauci” – and the president hinted that he may do so after the election.
The hostility towards Dr Anthony Fauci, the US government’s leading expert on infectious diseases, comes after he angered the White House by warning that the coming winter would see the virus continue to spread. Two weeks ago, Trump suggested that Fauci was an “idiot”.
Reuters contributed to this report