Italy has reported a record number of new coronavirus cases, with over 31,000 people testing positive in a 24-hour period.

The latest health ministry figures fuelled a national debate over whether Italy should further tighten measures to slow down the virus, despite bringing in new rules just days ago.

The situation "is getting worse across the country", the chief of the Superior Health Institute Silvio Brusaferro told a news conference, flagging in particular "a rise in the number of people ending up in intensive care".

Italy, the first European country to be hit hard by the pandemic in March, reported 31,084 new cases today, raising the total to over 325,000.

More than 38,000 people have died from Covid-19, according to official figures.

Elsewhere, France entered a new lockdown today as the resurgent coronavirus pandemic increasingly forced other countries to consider following suit.

The country's 65 million people were largely confined to their homes, needing written statements to leave, in the latest drastic measure to curb a disease that has infected more than 44.5 million people worldwide and killed nearly 1.2 million.

In Paris, some medics voiced fears that steady traffic and appreciable numbers of people on public transport showed the public was not taking the lockdown as seriously a second time round.

Commuters wait for a train with their luggage at Gare de Lyon train station in Paris

"Crossing Paris this morning looked more like an ordinary day than the first day of a lockdown," the director of Paris hospitals Martin Hirsch tweeted. 

According to a poll by Odoxa-Dentsu Consulting for France Info and Le Figaro, seven out of 10 people in France are in favour of the new lockdown, which is scheduled to last a month with bars and restaurants closed until at least December and travel between regions limited.

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Factories and building sites will remain open, as will creches and schools, although children aged six and up must wear masks in class.

French President Emmanuel Macron has warned that the second wave "will probably be more difficult and deadly than the first" in a country that has already seen 36,000 deaths.

Europe has again become the epicentre of the pandemic, recording 40% more cases this week than the previous seven days, according to an AFP tally. 

The continent is now recording 241,000 new cases a day, against 15,000 at the start of July.

Nottingham became the latest of a swathe of cities across central and northern England to enter the highest tier of local restrictions, with the 2.4 million residents of Leeds set to follow next week.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel has ordered a lighter round of shutdowns from Monday, closing bars, cafes and restaurants, as well as theatres, operas and cinemas.

Czech Republic politicians voted to extend a state of emergency until 20 November, while Iceland ordered bars and nightclubs closed and limited public gatherings to no more than ten people.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he had no plans to introduce a sweeping lockdown, even as the country saw record tolls with reports of ambulance queues at hospitals and medical shortages.

There were, however, small glimmers of hope, sometimes controversial, in some countries.

In Slovakia, a government programme to screen its entire population of 5.4 million people for coronavirus with antigen tests in what would be a global first, was due to begin tomorrow.