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France, Germany Impose New Lockdown Measures as COVID-19 Cases Soar

People wearing face masks walk past a carousel and the Old Opera in Frankfurt, Germany, Oct. 28, 2020.

A rising tide of new coronavirus cases has prompted the leaders of France and Germany to impose a new round of lockdowns to stop the spread of the virus.

During a televised speech Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a nationwide monthlong lockdown that will take effect Friday. Macron said restaurants, bars, cafes and other nonessential businesses will be closed, while residents will only be allowed to leave their homes for work, shopping and doctor’s appointments.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a set of similar measures in her own monthlong lockdown order Wednesday after a meeting with leaders of the nation’s 16 federal states. In addition to restaurants and bars, all gyms, theaters and opera houses will be shut down under Merkel’s order, which takes effect Monday, while the majority of businesses, shops and hair salons will be allowed to remain open.

Schools in both nations will remain open during their respective lockdowns.

The restrictions were announced by Macron and Merkel as both nations struggle with a record number of new COVID-19 cases practically every day -- with Germany posting nearly 15,000 new cases Wednesday -- creating a situation that has pushed their respective health care systems to their limits.

France and Germany are joining several other European nations that have been forced to impose a new set of restrictions to deal with a second and growing wave of the virus as the cold weather season approaches in the Northern Hemisphere.

As of early Thursday, there are more than 44.4 million total COVID-19 cases worldwide, including over 1.1 million deaths. India has reached the milestone of over 8 million total novel coronavirus cases, second only to the United States, with 8.8 million total confirmed cases.

As the effort to develop a safe and effective vaccine continues, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration says it will ensure that everyone in the United States will be able to be inoculated free of charge.

Seema Verma, the head of the federal government’s Medicare and Medicaid health insurance programs, announced Wednesday the agency will cover the cost of any vaccine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Verma also said that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will cover a larger portion of the cost of any new COVID-19 treatments. Private health plans will also be banned from charging their customers anything for administering the vaccine.