Comentários do leitor

A world in chaos: Global death toll from coronavirus nears 5,000

por Alethea Dollery (2020-05-08)

Coronavirus panic tightened its grip worldwide yesterday as scores of countries dramatically upped their response to the deadly pandemic.

EXPsa84UYAYS8JC.png%5CThere were 6,729 new cases recorded globally, bringing the total confirmed number to 134,317. The death toll also rose by 351 to 4,968.

It led to several countries being effectively put into lockdown as they closed schools, mass events and shops, while in the US, the mayor of New York declared a state of emergency in the city.

Thailand: Monkeys on the hunt for food in Lopburi, north of Bangkok, where tourists who normally feed the animals have stayed away as a result of the virus

The death toll in Italy - the hardest hit country after China - climbed from 827 to 1,016 and total infections soared by 21 per cent to 15,113. 

In an unprecedented move for modern times, Rome's more than 900 Catholic churches were ordered to shut. Previously, only Masses had been cancelled.

The decree by the Pope's vicar for the Rome archdiocese will remain in effect for at least three weeks and temporarily excuses Catholics in the area from their obligation to attend Mass.

The move follows a decision by the Italian government on Wednesday to close all shops apart from pharmacies, food shops and other essential stores.

Greece: Church in Thessaloniki is disinfected with a sterilising 'fog'

Italy: Workers in hazmat suits disinfect streets in Naples as the death toll in Italy - the hardest hit country after China - climbed from 827 to 1,016

In the north of the country, a couple who had been together for 60 years died from the coronavirus just two hours apart.

Severa Belotti, 82, and Luigi Carrara, 86, spent the last days of their lives in lockdown, in their hometown of Albino, in the province of Bergamo.

Their son, Luca Carrara, claimed they were confined to their home for eight days, without medical assistance, running a fever of 39C.

He told how he was unable to see his parents before they died and had to say his goodbyes to them on Facebook.

Five more countries - France, Ireland, Austria, Turkey and Norway - announced the closure of all schools, universities and nurseries.

Kuwait: People queue up at a medical testing centre in Hawalli as the Gulf state goes into lockdown

Kuwait: Patients waited at least 3ft apart from each other as they prepared to get their test results

French president Emmanuel Macron said the closures would come into force on Monday, as he unveiled a raft of emergency measures to help France deal with the crisis.

He warned the country, which yesterday had a total of 2,876 confirmed cases and 61 deaths, was facing 'its most serious health crisis in a century'.

Public transport would still run but people should keep travel to an absolute minimum, he said. People over 70 or with underlying health conditions were urged to limit their contact with the outside world.

Spain became Europe's second worst-affected country with 3,004 cases and 84 deaths. The government announced a £12billion injection into the economy.

Every Spanish cabinet member had to be tested after equality minister Irene Montero tested positive. Her partner, the deputy prime minister Pablo Iglesias, has been put in quarantine.

Spain: Couple remove their protective face masks to say their goodbyes at Barcelona airport as Spain became Europe's second worst-affected country with 3,004 cases and 84 deaths

France: Passengers at Charles de Gaulle in Paris after US flights were axed as President Emmanuel Macron unveiled a raft of emergency measures to help France deal with the crisis

Across the Atlantic in the US, the mayor of New York declared a state of emergency as the number of cases in the city doubled overnight to 95.

Bill de Blasio said the world had been 'turned upside down' and predicted there would be more than 1,000 cases by next week.

Although schools will remain open, many municipal workers are being urged to work from home. 

The state of emergency will allow the mayor to activate a range of extreme measures including a curfew, closing down public transport, prohibiting people from being on the streets, rationing and limiting alcohol use.

Theatres on Broadway also lay empty last night after New York State announced a ban on gatherings of more than 500 people.

Mr de Blasio warned: 'This is going to be a long, long battle. We are going to lose some of our fellow New Yorkers. That is inevitable.'

United States: Waiting area for a flight to Japan at JFK airport in New York was empty after the mayor declared a state of emergency in the city

In California, Disneyland closed its doors for only the fourth time in the park's history. The other closures followed the 9/11 attacks, JFK's assassination and a local earthquake in 1994.

California banned non-essential gatherings of more than 250 people until at least the end of March, with smaller events only allowed if organisers can implement social distancing of six feet per person.

A senior health official warned that the US's coronavirus testing system is failing. At least 11,079 people have been tested since January, with more than 1,100 confirmed cases and 40 deaths.

'The system is not really geared to what we need right now… let's admit it,' Dr Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said.

The US has carried out far fewer tests for the virus than many other affected countries.

Italy: Victims Severa Belotti, 82, and Luigi Carrara, 86, spent the last days of their lives in lockdown, in their hometown of Albino, in the province of Bergamo

In contrast, more than 29,700 people have been tested so far in the UK and more than 210,000 in South Korea, which is doing almost 20,000 tests per day.

Meanwhile, the Indian government took the drastic move of suspending visas for visitors from all other countries for a minimum of a month in a huge blow to the country's tourism industry.

Tourism has also taken a massive hit in other countries across Asia.

In Thailand, a striking photo showed hundreds of hungry monkeys swarm a deserted square to battle over a single banana in the absence of tourists to feed them in the city of Lopburi.

In China, where the outbreak originated, the peak appears to have passed with just eight new cases in Hubei province, once the virus epicentre, on Thursday.

The country recorded only 18 new cases yesterday, suggesting its extreme quarantine measures were working. It has now had a total of 80,796 cases, with 62,826 of those recovered.


How the world is responding to coronavirus: Towns on lockdown, mass-gatherings banned and increased border checks to battle pandemic... but Boris Johnson declines to stop UK sporting events and says closing schools could make the crisis WORSE
As the world remains in the grip of a deadly coronavirus pandemic, officials are questioning why Britain has failed to implement similar draconian measures seen in other countries. 

While Italy is in total lockdown, America shuts its doors to travellers from Europe and the streets of China are desolate, the UK appears to be carrying on as normal. 

Donald Trump dramatically escalated the US response to the pandemic, slapping a travel ban on continental Europe. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson today chaired an emergency Cobra committee where he declared the UK's tactics will shift from 'containing' the killer disease to merely 'delaying' its inevitable spread.

Mr Johnson branded the coronavirus as the 'worst public health crisis in a generation' and warned that 'many more' will die.

But he said that the government would still not impose bans on sporting events and added that closing schools 'could do more harm than good'.

With the NHS under mounting pressure, the UK's chief medical officers and officials from the General Medical Council and NHS England have written to doctors saying they may need to work outside their usual area of expertise in the peak of an epidemic.   

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, meanwhile, warned mass gatherings must be cancelled and said she was reviewing school closures. 

Here, we look at how 13 countries around the world have responded to the virus.  

While Italy is in total lockdown, America shuts its doors to travellers from Europe and the streets of China are desolate, the UK appears to be carrying on as normal

On another day of frantic activity by politicians and health experts around the globe: 

The PM chaired emergency Cobra committee with the UK's tactics shifting from 'containing' the killer disease to merely 'delaying' its inevitable spread 

No10 has dismissed suggestions they will emulate Ireland, which announced this morning that it will close all schools and colleges

Boris Johnson has so far refused to ban mass gatherings, or close schools

Mr Johnson asked those with a cold to self-quarantine, and urged vulnerable elderly people to stay indoors 

To fight what is now officially a global pandemic, the Budget handed hospitals a £5billion fighting fund 

Thousands of firms in the UK will be given a business rates holiday to help avert the risk of bankruptcy



596 cases, ten deaths

Mounting pressure has built on the Government to move quickly to impose similar rules because it is feared the UK is heading the same direction as Italy, where 15,113 cases and 1,016 deaths have been confirmed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson today held an emergency meeting where he declared the UK's tactics will shift from 'containing' the killer disease to merely 'delaying' its inevitable spread.

He branded the coronavirus as the 'worst public health crisis in a generation' and warned that 'many more' people are going to die - but still held off implementing drastic measures. 

He said: 'At all stages we have been guided by the science. We will do the right thing at the right time.

'This is more dangerous [than seasonal flu] and it's going to spread further. And I must level with you and the British public: more families, many more families, are going to lose loved ones before their time.'   

A total of 596 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 9am on Thursday, up from 456 at the same point on Wednesday, the Department of Health said.

And two more patients have died in UK hospitals after testing positive for coronavirus, taking the total to 10, NHS England said.

Defending the UK's approach to the pandemic, Mr Johnson added: 'The measures that I have discussed today... staying at home if you think you have the symptoms, your whole household staying at home, looking after the elderly - making sure the elderly and vulnerable stay at home - these are the three most powerful defensive lines.'

'We think it's very important to maintain public trust and confidence in what we are doing, throughout this challenging time, always to be guided by the best possible scientific advice.'

He said that schools would remain open and added: 'The scientific advice is that this could do more harm than good.

'But we are keeping this under review and this could change as the disease spreads. Schools should only close if they are specifically advised to do so.' 

Commuters on the London Underground are continuing to go about their daily lives amid warnings Britain is on the same trajectory as Italy 

The government will also still allow all sports matches to go ahead as the PM stressed that the most 'draconian' measures must not be triggered too early.

'You need to make sure that you move that period where we're asking older people, vulnerable people, to go through a pretty difficult period of isolation and we time it so as to coincide with the moment when they are at most risk of exposure to the illness.

'That's one of the reasons why we are not triggering that draconian measure now.' 

In Northern Ireland, Stormont ministers will meet in Belfast later to discuss the coronavirus crisis. First Minister Arlene Foster, Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill, health minister Robin Swann and chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride are all anticipated to be involved in the discussions. 

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today said large gatherings are to be cancelled in a bid to delay the outbreak of coronavirus. 

At First Minister's Questions, she said it was 'inappropriate that we continue as normal' and will recommend the cancellation of gatherings of more than 500 people to protect front-line services.

Ms Sturgeon said she would be advising the cancellations start from Monday.

The chief medical officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty, said - in agreement with counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - the risk rating from coronavirus had been raised to high.

Explaining the advice to self-isolate for seven days if people have a cough or temperature, Prof Whitty acknowledged it was 'something which will interfere with their lives and interfere with their work and their social life in quite significant ways'.

But he said 'it helps to protect older and more vulnerable people' they might come into contact with and would also reduce, and possibly delay, the peak of the epidemic, making it easier for the NHS to cope.

Prof Whitty said the virus appeared to have its maximum transmission at the time the first symptoms emerge and for two or three days afterwards before then rapidly declining.

'By seven days the great majority of people are not infectious and it is fine for them to go back into society,' he said.

Prof Whitty said the UK would not be introducing social distancing measures yet as it was not the right moment within the pandemic.

But he warned that advice would be coming for elderly and vulnerable people to isolate themselves from social gatherings.

He said: 'The next stage along we are going to want to do a package of things that are about putting social distancing around the people who are older and those with severe health conditions.

'But we do not think it is appropriate to make a national recommendation for that at the moment because it is too early in the course of the epidemic.

'If you think about what would happen if you prematurely put elderly or vulnerable in a situation where you're saying, we really want to cut down on your social interactions, to cut back on your contact with others, it has big practical implications for them and may lead to loneliness and other issues which are clearly very undesirable for them.

'While we will need to move to that stage, we do not think this is the right moment along the pandemic to do so. But that point will come.' 



80,793 cases - 3,169 deaths

China's totalitarian regime has managed to rapidly de-escalate the threat of COVID-19 within its borders. 

China was quick to implement 14-day quarantine for people arriving from overseas, with the most stringent restrictions placed on those coming from countries with severe outbreaks, including Italy, Iran, South Korea and Japan.

Its response to the virus included strict social distancing and more than one month of city-wide lockdowns of Wuhan and surrounding areas.

On January 23, the People's Party imposed movement restrictions on provinces of over 930 million people.

In early February, at least 48 cities and four provinces in China went further, issuing official notices for lockdown policies, with measures ranging from 'closed-off management', where residents of a community have to be registered before they are allowed in or out, to restrictions that shut down highways, railways and public transport systems.

Measures included checking the movement of people and vehicles with an exit-entrance permit, checking body temperatures upon entrance to a community, the disinfection of vehicles, food delivery, and permits for only one person per household to leave the property. 

Medical staff disinfect equipment at a ward used to be an isolation ward for patients infected by the COVID-19 coronavirus at a hospital in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province

South Korea

7,869 cases - 67 deaths

South Korea, where the number of new cases has been on the decline, has 50 drive-through screening clinics where people can get a medical exam and have a sample taken in just 10 minutes. 

Health workers understood to be processing up to 15,000 tests every day. 

Authorities are testing hundreds of thousands of people for infections and tracking potential carriers like detectives, using cell phone and satellite technology. It has smartphone alerts about the movements of people who have tested positive.

In addition to helping work out who to test, South Korea's data-driven system helps hospitals manage their pipeline of cases. 

People found positive are placed in self-quarantine and monitored remotely through a smartphone app, or checked regularly in telephone calls, until a hospital bed becomes available. When a bed is available, an ambulance picks the person up and takes the patient to a hospital with air-sealed isolation rooms. All of this, including hospitalization, is free of charge. 

The country also is subsidizing small- and medium-sized business owners so they can provide flexible work hours to employees who have children home from school, ABC News reports.

Kindergartens and elementary schools are operating 'emergency child care' for those whose parents are working.

South Korea's government opted against localised lockdowns, concentrating instead on testing large numbers of people in an attempt to identify infection 'hotspots'

It also encouraged social distancing, while troops were sent to disinfect the streets.

South Korean soldiers disinfect the street as a precaution against coronavirus in Seoul, South Korea


639 cases - 16 deaths

On Monday, Japan put into place tougher border control measures that essentially ban travelers from China and South Korea until the end of the month.

Visas for people who haven't yet arrived in Japan are invalidated; people who have already arrived from those countries, whether they are Japanese or foreign nationals, are asked to undergo a 14-day quarantine.

Japan has not yet imposed similar restrictions on travelers from Italy - but health authorities are warning local governments to prepare for a surge in cases.

The health minister says the epidemic in Japan is entering a new phase, which suggests that the country will need to take tougher measures.

Today, Japan's lower house of parliament endorsed a legislation that will allow Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to declare state of emergency due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The legislation, a revision to add the coronavirus to an existing law enacted for earlier influenza outbreaks, is a controversial one that opponents say could severely limit civil rights, including the right to gather.

The bill, passed by the lower house, is expected to be enacted as early as Saturday after an expected approval by the upper house Friday.

Government officials say there are no immediate plans to declare state of emergency, but if declared, Abe can issue compulsory nationwide school closures and confiscate private property to build hospitals in case there's a shortage of beds for severely affected patients.

People wearing face masks walk along the Takeshita shopping street in Tokyo, Japan


1,312 cases - 38 deaths 

President Donald Trump has banned all flights from Europe - excluding Britain and Ireland - making it the centre piece of his battle again coronavirus.

He addressed the nation from the Oval Office last night but made no mention of measures being adopted by other countries to stop the spread of the virus within their borders - like closing schools, banning public gatherings and restricting travel between cities.

Instead he said he was ordering an immediate shut-down of all travel from Europe to the United States.

Speaking hours after world health officials declared the coronavirus a pandemic, Trump repeatedly defended his own actions and vowed the nation would prevail in countering the virus and getting treatment on the market.

The ban will apply to travelers who have visited 26 countries in the EU's Schengen border-free area in the last 14 days but not travelers from the UK or Ireland, or to US citizens, American permanent residents and their immediate family members.

There has been action at state level in the US.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced gatherings should be postponed or canceled across the state until at least the end of March. Non-essential gatherings must be limited to no more than 250 people, while smaller events can proceed only if the organizers can implement social distancing of 6 feet per person.

Gatherings of individuals who are at higher risk for severe illness from the virus should be limited to no more than 10 people, while also following social distancing guidelines.

Other states have issued similar advice.

Santa Clara County, in California, has 48 cases and one death and has banned all gatherings of more than 1,000 people. Violators could face a shutdown by police, as well as possible fines or arrest.

A growing number of colleges and universities across the U.S. have cancelled classes.

Coachella was set to take place next month in the California desert but organiser Goldenvoice has now postponed it until October, at the request of local health authorities. Stagecoch, a country music festival organised by the same company, has also been moved from April to October.

New guidelines also warn residents to postpone or cancel gatherings of more than 250 people, until the end of March.

They warn against gatherings in smaller venues that do not allow for 6 feet of distance between people while groups of high-risk people should be limited to no more than 10 people.

The U.S. Army has also decided to reduce the number of troops taking part in massive war games that have been planned across Europe over the next six months due to the new coronavirus. 

President Donald Trump has banned all flights from Europe - excluding Britain and Ireland - making it the centre piece of his battle again coronavirus



314 cases - three deaths

In Belgium, citizens have been told they should stay home if they develop mild symptoms, with only those considered severe cases to be admitted to hospital. 

School trips have been banned, while people have been advised to work from home.  

Belgium's government on Thursday ordered schools, cafes and restaurants to close and tighter business hours for shops due to the coronavirus, following decisions by France and other European countries to limit all but essential activities.

The measures take effect from Friday at midnight central European time and run until April 3, although schools are set to be shut for five weeks, including the Easter holidays, Belgium's caretaker prime minister, Sophie Wilmes, told a news conference.

'There is no lockdown,' Wilmes said, emphasising that supermarkets and pharmacies would remain open and other shops would be required to close only on weekends. 'We want to avoid the Italian situation and avoid lockdowns.'

The number of people infected with the virus in Belgium is 399, putting the spread of the disease at an earlier stage than in other parts of Europe. Three people have died so far.

Belgium's government was torn between keeping schools open, as in the Netherlands, or closing them, as in France, and opted for closure, arguing that such steps would avoid a bigger crisis.

As in neighbouring the Netherlands, all sporting and cultural activities, such as Brussels' famed Atomium and Magritte museums, will be closed from Saturday morning for the next three weeks.

Denmark's Prime Minister announced today that the country will close all kindergartens, schools and universities for two weeks to slow the spread of coronavirus, according to the LocalDk.

All public sector employees who do not perform critical functions will also be sent home on paid leave. Employees in the health sector, the elderly care sector and the police must, however, stay at their posts.

Events involving more than 1,000 people have been cancelled, while there is staggered travel to avoid public transport during rush hour.

All students in higher education are expected to return home as early as Thursday and remain home for two weeks. 

All indoor cultural institutions, libraries and leisure facilities including bars will close from Friday for two weeks while the government is urging churches, mosques and other religious institutions and associations to stay closed.

Shaking hands or kissing is also not advised across Belgium. 

The elderly home La Cambre - Ter Kameren in Watermaal-Bosvoorde - Watermael-Boitsfort, where 34 residents are reported infected by the novel coronavirus, according to the Belgian Ministry of Public Health

Biologist Jerome De Marchin talks to a patient while he sits in his car at a drive-in testing site for coronavirus (COVID-19) at the Regional Hospital Center in Liege, Belgium



43 cases - one death 

Schools, colleges, childcare facilities and cultural institutions in Ireland are to close for two weeks due to the Coronavirus outbreak, the country's premier has announced today. 

Ireland is closing all schools and cultural institutions until March 29, in a major escalation of its response to the new coronavirus.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar announced the measures would take effect at 6pm tonight.  

All indoor gatherings of more than 100 people and outdoor events with more than 500 are also cancelled.

The Prime Minister made a live statement to the nation from Washington DC, where he is due to meet President Donald Trump later as part of the annual St Patrick's Day programme of events. 

He said the measures would mean major disruptions but 'acting together as one nation we can save many lives.'

He said the Government had a duty to protect those at risk categories of people, such as older people and those with underlying conditions. 

The Taoiseach said many more people in Ireland would get the virus and would get sick.

'Unfortunately we must face the tragic reality that some people will die,' he said.

Mr Varadkar said he was acting on fresh advice from the country's National Public Health Emergency Team.

'The virus is all over the world, it will continue to spread but it can be slowed,' he said. 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Blair House, 쿠팡 파트너스 Washington DC, during a press conference today where he announced that all schools, colleges and childcare facilities in Ireland will close until March 29 as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak



2,078 cases - three deaths

Berlin city authorities have banned all events with more than 1,000 participants until the end of the Easter holidays.

The government has recommended that events with more than 1,000 participants are cancelled. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) have postponed a conference scheduled for April 25 in Berlin to choose a new party leader due to the coronavirus and said it would reschedule as soon as the epidemic allowed.  

Merkel's governing coalition also agreed to make it easier for companies to claim subsidies to support workers on reduced working hours until the end of the year.

That would make it possible for firms to cut the hours and wages they offered their workers with the government making up nearly two-thirds of the shortfall, sparing workers from layoffs which might otherwise become necessary. 

Public health efforts are now focused on slowing its spread to minimise the peak burden on the healthcare system. 

Social affairs minister Franziska Giffey said the elderly and their families should refrain from hugging or taking public transport.

The southern state of Bavaria has already banned events of more than 1,000 people, and recommended pulling the plug on events with more than 500.

The city of Berlin has called off performances at all opera houses, state theatres and concert halls.

Germany's top football league, the Bundesliga, announced that for the first time ever, a number of its matches will take place with no fans in attendance.  

German Health Minister Jens Spahn and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a press conference on the coronavirus spread on March 11 in Berlin




15,113 cases - 1,016 deaths 

Italy put full-scale lockdowns nationwide in place on Monday, with court action and fines threatened for people breaking imposed curfews.

Schools, cafes, hairdressers and restaurants have been closed as 60million residents are told to stay in their homes in 'social distancing' measures in order to curb the escalating crisis there.

All domestic sporting events in the country have been suspended until April 3, while schools and universities are closed.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the closure of schools, gyms, museums, nightclubs and other venues across the country.

Bars and restaurants must close by 6pm each day, and malls and supermarkets are closed on weekends.

Moving from one town to another requires signing a police form self-certifying that a person is traveling for work, health or emergency purposes.

Swiss customs authorities have shut down nine border crossings with Italy, the epicentre of Europe's coronavirus outbreak, to channel border traffic through seven other sites. 

The iconic Trevi Fountain appears completely deserted in Rome, Italy. Many of the country's world-famous landmarks are deserted as the lockdown continues 



9,000 cases  - 429 deaths

Iran is now the worst infected country in the Middle East and the third worldwide, following China and Italy. 

Public gatherings, including Friday prayers in Tehran and other major cities, have been cancelled.

Schools have been closed and crews of cleaners have been dispatched to disinfect trains, buses and gathering places. 

Authorities have temporarily released around 70,000 prisoners to contain the spread of the illness, according to Middle East Eye, which has now spread to all Iranian cities.

Those released do not include political prisoners.

Members of Iranian government wearing face masks during the cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran yesterday



2,968 cases - 84 deaths

Authorities in regions with the most cases — Madrid, Basque Country and La Rioja — have ordered the closure of all schools, universities and daycare centers for two weeks.

Flights between Spain and Italy have been suspended and large gatherings cancelled in the three regions.

All soccer matches in Spain's top division, La Liga, have been suspended for two weeks over fears of the spread of the coronavirus Thursday.

Real Madrid have sent all of the members of their soccer and basketball teams home into quarantine after one of the sports club's basketball players tested positive for the coronavirus, the Spanish club said in a statement today.

The announcement led to all matches in Spain's top two divisions being postponed for at least two weeks and will almost certainly lead to Real's Champions League last-16 second leg at Manchester City next Tuesday being postponed too.

Organiser UEFA is yet to make an announcement on the status of the match, while Manchester City and Real did not comment on whether or not the match would take place.

Thursday's Europa League matches between Sevilla and AS Roma and Inter Milan and Getafe have already been postponed.

Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa encouraged companies to reduce working hours and travel and to support remote work.

Workers cleaning a train to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, at Madrid Metro Train Depot in Madrid



2,284 cases - 48 deaths

The country announced a nationwide ban on gatherings of more than 1,000 people, with exemptions for things like public transit.

And President Emmanuel Macron has since announced that they will close all schools and universities from Monday in response to the pandemic. 

Speaking in a televised address on Thursday evening, he said: 'It is one of the most serious health crises France has ever faced.'

He also called on people over the age of 70 and those most vulnerable to avoid contact with other people as much as possible. 

France has requisitioned all of the country's surgical masks for distribution to those who need them, and the government also has capped the price of hand sanitizer.

The Paris Marathon and a Six Nations rugby match against Ireland have both been postponed until October.

The Local France reports: 'The government has placed additional restrictions on four zones with clusters of coronavirus cases: 'Morbihan in Brittany, Haute-Savoie in eastern France near the Swiss border and the départements of Oise and Haut-Rhin in north east France. In these places there is a ban on all public gatherings including markets, community groups and church services.'

President Emmanuel Macron has advised citizens nationwide against visiting older people, to avoid spreading the disease to those most vulnerable.

Schools are closed in the zones Oise and Haut-Rhin. Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said last week that France doesn't want to take a blanket approach to closing schools.

'We don't think it's the appropriate strategy in France's case,' Blanquer said. 'If you're a nurse with children and you have to stay at home to watch your children who aren't in school, well then you're not at the hospital helping those who need it.' 

The new coronavirus screening unit of the CHU-Pellegrin University Hospital in Bordeaux, France, today


617 cases, 0 deaths 

Denmark's royal palace said Crown Prince Frederik and his wife will return from Switzerland 'to be with the Danes' at this time.

Denmark, which has more than 600 confirmed cases of the virus, today entered a virtual lockdown.

All schools - public and private - and daycare facilities will be closed from Monday, but many students are staying home already. Schools offered to take care of children but said there would be little teaching.

All public servants who do not perform critical functions have been ordered to stay home for the next two weeks. Hospitals and nursing homes have been urged to impose tighter restrictions on visits. All indoor cultural institutions, libraries and leisure facilities are closed.

The restrictions are to continue for two weeks.

Minutes after this was announced late Wednesday by Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, people rushed to supermarkets to buy toilet paper and other necessities.

Two of the Danish virus cases are in serious condition and 10 people were hospitalized. 

Denmark's royal palace said Crown Prince Frederik and his wife will return from Switzerland 'to be with the Danes' at this time



Elsewhere in Europe, Norway and Lithuania are shutting down kindergartens, schools and universities for at least two weeks and the Norwegian government says employees at work must be at least one meter apart.

In Oslo, the Norwegian capital, gatherings of more than 50 people were banned. Norway's royal palace said all official arrangements till early April will either be cancelled or postponed. King Harald V said it's 'crucial' that everyone 'avoid exposing ourselves or others to infection.'

Lithuania suspended gatherings of more than 100 people and closed museums, cinemas and sports clubs. In the capital of Vilnius, the lockdown was for five weeks.

In Finland, the government recommended banning all events with more than 500 people until end of May. 

The Czech Republic will close its borders to travellers crossing from Germany and Austria and also ban the entry of foreigners coming from other risky countries to contain the coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Andrej Babis said today.

Czechs will also be barred from travelling to those countries, and to and from and other countries deemed risky, effective from Saturday.

Poland closed all schools, museums and cinemas, while Ukraine's capital city Kiev will shut all educational buildings due to fears of the virus spreading. 

Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa announced that cruise ships will be barred from disembarking foreign passengers at the country's ports.

The move will affect more than 1.6 million children and teenagers and remain in force until April 9.

Costa also announced a slew of 'temporary' measures, including the closure of nightclubs and limiting visitors to retirement homes.

Portugal has so far registered 78 cases of COVID-19 and has ordered the cancellation of events grouping more than 1,000 people in enclosed places and more than 5,000 in open areas.

Russia is building a new infectious diseases hospital in Moscow to cope with any mass coronavirus outbreak 

Engineers are working around the clock to build the unit which may be needed shortly 

Dozens of schools and various universities across Portugal have been shut for several days after tests revealed the virus in pupils or teachers.

'The pandemic has not reached its peak. It is evolving and it is highly likely that in the coming weeks more people will be infected ... and it could be a more lasting outbreak than initially imagined,' Costa added.

He did not announce any specific measures to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis, which has already hit the hotel industry in the tourism-dependent Atlantic coastal country, but said the government would seek to support workers and incomes of those who will stay at home due to the shutdowns.

Earlier on Thursday, Portugal's AHP hotels association said the hotel sector could lose 30% to 50% of its revenues, or up to 800 million euros ($892 million), between March and June.

Portugal attracts millions of foreign visitors annually, and the tourism sector, accounting for nearly 15% of gross domestic product, helped it recover from the 2010-14 debt crisis.

The Greek Olympic Committee confirmed on Monday that the ceremony would be held without spectators after dozens of people tested positive for COVID-19 across the western Peloponnese. 

In Russia, a new infectious diseases hospital is being built in Moscow.

Similarly, Bulgaria plans to declare a state of emergency to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The Balkan country confirmed its first death of a patient with the virus on Wednesday with Prime Minister Boyko Borissov announcing that the number of cases had risen sharply to 23.

Mr Borissov added: 'The government will ask the Parliament to declare a state of emergency which will allow the closing of schools, kindergartens and universities.'

Middle East  

Qatar has announced the closure of cinemas, theatres, gyms and children's areas starting on Friday until further notice while Saudi Arabia has suspended social gatherings in wedding halls and hotels.