The European Union's disease control agency has joined frantic health workers to sound the alarm over a coronavirus surge across the continent, as the World Health Organization warned of a rapid rise in infections.

Even countries that avoided severe outbreaks during Europe's first wave of contagion in the spring have watched their case numbers surge, with Germany's death toll passing 10,000.

A total of 10,003 deaths have been recorded by the Robert Koch Institute, a federal government agency, with 418,005 infections recorded nationwide.

Of those, 14,714 were diagnosed in the last 24 hours - a daily record.

Robert Koch Institute president Lothar Wieler said Germany was facing a "very serious" situation and asked the population to adhere to social distancing measures.

Governments have reintroduced containment measures to slow the renewed spread of the virus in nations that only weeks earlier believed they had triumphed over the crisis.

But populations weary of social isolation and economic hardship have pushed back against fresh restrictions, including overnight clashes in hard-hit Naples between Italian police and hundreds of protesters.

The continent was facing a major threat to public health and a "highly concerning epidemiological situation", said Andrea Ammon, director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

The agency said all EU countries except Cyprus, Estonia, Finland and Greece fell into a "serious concern" category, as did the United Kingdom, up from just seven a month ago.

After Spain became the first European country to officially record a million Covid-19 cases earlier in the week, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said yesterday the real number of infections was likely more than triple that number.

Urgent new restrictions on daily life have come into effect in several nations, with France extending a curfew to cover 46 million people. The country followed Spain past the million-case milestone yesterday,  


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Parts of Italy including the capital Rome went under curfew late yesterday, prompting a call to protest on social media that saw hundreds of demonstrators in Naples throw objects at police and set rubbish bins on fire.

The country is reeling from its worst post-war recession after a gruelling two-month national lockdown prompted by one of Europe's worst outbreaks, and authorities have so far been reluctant to repeat the drastic quarantine restrictions seen then.

Wales entered a full lockdown yesterday evening, while Poland adopted a nationwide "red zone" lockdown mandating the partial closure of primary schools and restaurants.

Only Sweden, which famously refused to lock down earlier this year, continued to stick to its guns despite a rise in cases.

Across the planet, Covid-19 has now claimed the lives of 1.1 million people and infected close to 42 million, with the WHO warning the northern hemisphere was at a critical juncture.

The United States reported a record 80,000 new Covid-19 infections yesterday, according to figures from John Hopkins University. 

It brings the total number since the start of the pandemic to nearly 8.5 million in the country.

The worst current outbreaks are in the north and midwest, and some 35 of the 50 states are seeing an increase in case numbers. 

The number of deaths over 24 hours has remained broadly stable since the beginning of autumn, with between 700 and 800. Overall, more than 223,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the country.

Nurses gather information from people lining up for Covid-19 tests in El Paso, Texas

"Too many countries are seeing an exponential increase in Covid-19 cases and that is now leading to hospitals and intensive care units running close to or above capacity," said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Belgium has seen one of Europe's deadliest per capita outbreaks and has found itself suffering some of the highest second-wave infection rates in Europe.

"We're losing. We're overwhelmed. We're bitter," said Benoit Misset, head of the intensive care unit at the University Hospital in the city of Liege, where several of his staff are having to work despite being positive - if asymptomatic - themselves.

US presidential hopeful Joe Biden said that if elected he would mandate free coronavirus vaccines for all Americans.

"Once we have a safe and effective vaccine, it has to be free to everyone - whether or not you're insured," Mr Biden said in a speech laying out his pandemic response plan just 11 days before the 3 November election.