Countries around the world announce more virus restrictionsPTI | Barcelona | Updated: 15-03-2020 13:29 IST | Created: 15-03-2020 13:20 IST
Authorities around the world turned to increasingly drastic measures to try to slow the spread of the new coronavirus on Sunday, with lockdowns, curfews and travel restrictions spreading. Soldiers and police sealed the densely populated Philippine capital from most domestic travelers in one of Southeast Asia's most drastic containment moves. The move mirrored a lockdown Spain announced just hours earlier for its 46 million citizens.
President Donald Trump announced that the US, which days ago barred travelers from most of Europe, will extend the ban to Britain and Ireland. And more cities in the US put in place curbs on gatherings of more than a few hundred people, with one New Jersey city even announcing an overnight curfew. In China, where the virus was first detected in December, those arriving on overseas flights were routed to a converted exhibition center for initial checks before being shuttled off to their homes or other quarantine locations.
It was clear, however, the way the center of gravity in the crisis has shifted westward toward Europe and North America. The virus has infected more than 150,000 people worldwide and killed over 5,600. In a nationally televised address on Saturday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez detailed the battery of exceptional measures put in place as part of a two-week state of emergency to fight the sharp rise in infections.
Later Saturday, Spain's government said Sanchez's wife has tested positive for coronavirus. Begona Gomez and the prime minister are in good health, the government said. Two ministers of Sanchez's Cabinet, the minister of equality and the minister of regional affairs, had already tested positive earlier this week. The other member of the Cabinet has tested negative.
In a lockdown similar to the one already imposed in Italy, people will be allowed to leave their homes only to buy food and medicine, commute to work, go to hospitals and banks, or take trips related to the care of the young and the elderly. All schools and universities were closed, along with restaurants, bars, hotels, and other non-essential retail businesses. Spanish authorities said the number of infections climbed past 5,700, half of them in the capital, Madrid. That represents a national increase of over 1,500 in 24 hours. The country had 136 deaths, up from 120. Spain has the fifth-highest number of cases, behind China, Italy, Iran, and South Korea.
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover in a matter of weeks. In the Philippines, new restrictions for metropolitan Manila - home to more than 12 million people - that went into effect Sunday mean the suspension of domestic travel by land, air, and sea to and from the capital region.
Large gatherings like concerts, movies, and cockfighting are prohibited and most government work in executive department offices will be suspended in the metropolis for a month. School closures at all levels were extended and the curfew was also announced. Countries around the world have been moving to prevent their health systems from collapsing under a load of all the virus cases.
Paris followed other cities in shuttering major tourist attractions, and France announced the closing of all restaurants, cafes, theaters and nonessential shops starting Sunday. France has recorded at least 3,600 infections. It has banned all gatherings of more than 100 people, ordered all schools closed and asked companies to allow workers to stay home. In Italy, the worst-hit European country, the number of deaths climbed past 1,400 and infections surged roughly 20 percent overnight to more than 21,000 because of what authorities characterized as irresponsible behavior by people still socializing despite the nationwide lockdown. Many Italian cities, including Rome and Milan, decided to close playgrounds and parks, too.
In Britain, the death toll nearly doubled from the day before to 21, and the number of people infected rose to over 1,100. Ireland had 90 confirmed cases and one death as of Friday. Greece's infection total approached 230 with three deaths. The US has seen 60 deaths and more than 2,100 cases. In hard-hit Washington state, where 40 have died and more than 550 have been infected, officials said the disease is straining the supply of protective gear available to medical providers despite shipments from the federal government.
European countries took steps to isolate themselves from their neighbors. Denmark closed its borders and halted passenger traffic to and from the country. Travelers will be turned away at the border if they are unable to show that they have "a legitimate reason" to enter — for example, if they are Danish citizens or residents.
Poland planned to close its borders at midnight and deny all foreigners entry unless they lived in Poland or had personal ties there. The Czech Republic and Slovakia took similar action. Lithuania said it was introducing border checks at the frontiers with Poland and Latvia. Russia said its borders with Norway and Poland will be closed to most foreigners beginning Sunday.
In the Middle East, Iran's death toll reached 611, with nearly 13,000 infections, including senior officials. In the Pacific, Australia and New Zealand announced that incoming travelers will be required to isolate themselves for 14 days, with few exceptions.