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story.lead_photo.caption A shop sells face masks on Oxford Street in London, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. Unemployment across the U.K. rose sharply higher in August which is a clear indication that the jobless rate is set to spike higher when a government salary-support scheme ends this month and new restrictions are imposed on local areas to suppress a resurgence of the coronavirus.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

GENEVA (AP) — Governments across Europe are ratcheting up restrictions to try to beat back a resurgence of the coronavirus that has sent new confirmed infections on the continent to their highest weekly level since the start of the pandemic.

The World Health Organization said Tuesday there were more than 700,000 new COVID-19 cases reported in Europe last week, a jump of 34 percent from the previous week. Britain, France, Russia and Spain accounted for more than half of the new infections.

The increasing caseload is partly the result of more testing, but the U.N. health agency noted deaths were also up 16 percent last week from the week before. Doctors are warning while many of the new cases are in younger people, who tend to have milder symptoms, the virus could again start spreading widely among older people, resulting in more serious illnesses.

Italy and France are restricting parties and putting limits on restaurants and bars. The Netherlands went further and ordered the closing of all bars and restaurants. And to discourage partying at home, it banned the sale of alcohol after 8 p.m.

The Czech Republic is closing all schools until Nov. 2, while Latvia is ordering teenagers to switch to distance learning for a week. And Britain unveiled a three-tiered system for deciding what restrictions to impose, based on how severe the outbreak is in certain areas.

Those moves reflect a new approach to containing the virus among governments wary of hurting already fragile economies. Officials are eager to avoid the total lockdowns they imposed in the spring that resulted in heavy job losses. Instead, they are relying on a patchwork of regional or targeted restrictions that have sometimes caused confusion and frustration by those affected.

The U.N. health agency appeared to support the new approach, with WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic saying lockdowns should be a "last resort."

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a European Union advisory body Tuesday that she is watching the rising infection figures "with great concern."

"We must not squander now what we achieved through restrictions in recent months," Merkel said in a video address.

"None of us found it easy to impose those restrictions," she added. "Many people lost their lives, and so it is all the more important that we ensure now that a further lockdown won't be necessary, that our health system isn't overstrained again."

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte ordered bars and restaurants to close at midnight and banned pickup sports games among friends and parties in enclosed spaces. Private gatherings at homes with more than six people who don't live together are also discouraged.

"Our objective is clear: We must prevent our country from plunging back into a generalized lockdown," Conte said.

Italy reported more than 5,900 people tested positive over the past day and 41 people died, bringing the country's official COVID-19 death toll to more than 36,200, the second-highest in Europe after Britain.

The outbreak has spread to the annual Giro d'Italia, which was thrown into chaos after several top riders withdrew from the cycling race following positive tests for the coronavirus.

Italy made masks mandatory outdoors last week, a requirement already in place in Spain, Turkey, India and a few other Asian countries. Elsewhere in Europe, such mandates are in effect in many places in Poland and hotspot cities like Paris and Brussels, and are being introduced in several German cities.

In France, which has seen a rapid increase in infections, Paris, Marseille and seven other large cities have been placed under maximum alert, resulting in the closing of bars, gyms and swimming pools. Public parties are banned, and restaurants have to maintain at least 3 feet between tables, with groups of diners limited to six people.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki urged the country's citizens to observe social distancing and wear masks as he himself went into quarantine following contact with someone who later tested positive for COVID-19. He said in a video message that his government was working as usual and that he had no symptoms.

Poland, a nation of about 38 million, has seen a sharp spike in newly recorded infections, with close to 5,100 cases and 63 deaths reported Tuesday. Over the summer, new daily cases were around 600.

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