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France shuts bars, nightclubs, cinemas and restaurants to help combat coronavirus

A number of countries have imposed sweeping restrictions to help fight the illness.

The closed Louvre Museum in Paris, France
The closed Louvre Museum in Paris, France
Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

FRANCE AND SPAIN have become the latest European countries to impose sweeping restrictions to fight the spread of Covid-19.

Last night, Spain joined Italy in imposing a near-total nationwide lockdown, banning people from leaving home except to go to work, get medical care and buy food.

The disease has claimed 196 lives in the country so far, making it the worst-hit European nation after Italy. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s wife is among those infected.

France meanwhile ordered the closure of restaurants, bars, cinemas and nightclubs but said food shops, pharmacies, banks and tobacconists would remain open.

Polls have also opened for local elections, despite the risk that the coronavirus outbreak will keep many voters at home.

President Emmanuel Macron, for whom the two-round election is a crucial mid-term test, insisted the polls to choose mayors and municipal councils go ahead to assure democratic continuity in the country.

More governments across the world announced restrictions in their countries yesterday, at the end of a week that saw schools and businesses in many countries shut down and millions banned from crossing borders.

Australia has announced all arrivals in the country will face mandatory 14-day self-isolation.

“We are going to have to get used to some changes in the way we live our lives,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, adding the measure will come into effect from midnight tonight (1pm GMT).

Chile has quarantined more than 1,300 people aboard two cruise ships after an elderly Briton aboard one of them tested positive for the coronavirus.

On Sunday, the Philippines closed off its capital Manila, Saudi Arabia banned international flights, and New Zealand said international travellers would have to self-isolate on arrival.

However, British officials have instead argued for trying to manage the outbreak to push the peak of the crisis to summer when hospitals will be able to cope better.

They have said this will help create “herd immunity”, though experts are divided over whether there is evidence to support the theory.

“We don’t know enough about the science of this virus, it hasn’t been in our population for long enough,” said Margaret Harris of the World Health Organisation. 

- Public health dilemmas -

The pandemic is also coming with an economic cost. Financial markets have endured big hits  all week with spectacular losses triggered by fears of a global recession.

Tech giant Apple closed all of its stores outside China until 27 March, while British Airways became the latest global firm to hint at drastic action to come, with CEO Alex Cruz telling staff to expect job losses.

Airlines have cancelled thousands of flights worldwide and some airports have shut terminals.

Ferrari has also announced it is suspending production for two weeks at two of its factories because of the lockdown.

- © AFP 2020

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