Europe steps up Covid-19 fight

Pretoria News - - PROTEST -

EURO­PEAN na­tions have en­acted sweep­ing re­stric­tions on cit­i­zens’ free­dom to move around and so­cialise to com­bat the coro­n­avirus out­break, leav­ing shops shut­tered, travel plans scrapped and streets empty.

France on Satur­day be­came the lat­est Euro­pean coun­try to shut down all non-es­sen­tial busi­nesses that serve the pub­lic un­til fur­ther no­tice to slow the spread of the Covid-19.

The or­der ap­plies to cafés, restau­rants, cin­e­mas and al­most all shops, ex­cept food stores, phar­ma­cies and to­bac­conists.

French Prime Min­is­ter Edouard Philippe warned that the virus was spread­ing faster, with “a large rise in the num­ber of peo­ple in in­ten­sive care” in some areas.

“We are head­ing to­wards a na­tion­wide epi­demic in the com­ing days,” gen­eral di­rec­tor of health Jerome Salomon said, warn­ing that the pub­lic was “not yet suf­fi­ciently aware of its role” in stop­ping the spread of the virus.

France has now con­firmed 4 500 in­fec­tions, a fig­ure that has dou­bled in 72 hours, and 91 deaths. There are more than 300 pa­tients in in­ten­sive care and more than half of them are aged un­der 60.

Restau­rants and stores of­fer­ing non-es­sen­tial goods in the Czech Repub­lic were also locked up for the next 10 days from Satur­day, while Bel­gium fol­lowed suit to close all restau­rants, cafés and bars.

Latvia and Nor­way fol­lowed oth­ers in clos­ing their bor­ders to all for­eign­ers from early next week, with Latvia also plac­ing an im­me­di­ate ban on gath­er­ings of more than 50 peo­ple.

The Czech Repub­lic also banned en­try to for­eign­ers from high-risk states, while the gov­ern­ment now for­bids most Czech cit­i­zens from vis­it­ing neigh­bour­ing Ger­many and Aus­tria.

Den­mark’s bor­ders closed at noon on Satur­day, although de­liv­er­ies of medicine, food and other im­por­tant goods would be granted en­try.

Poland slapped a ban on en­try to for­eign­ers from yes­ter­day, and in­ter­na­tional air and train con­nec­tions would be sus­pended. Cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents are al­lowed in but will be sub­ject to a two-week quar­an­tine upon re-en­try.

The strin­gent re­stric­tions came af­ter the head of the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion an­nounced on Fri­day that Europe was now the epi­cen­tre of the Covid-19 pan­demic, sur­pass­ing China as the world’s coro­n­avirus hot spot.

In Italy, the worst-af­fected coun­try in the world out­side of China, num­bers soared to 21 157 in­fec­tions and 1 441 deaths.

Amid a na­tional lock­down that has been go­ing on since last Tues­day, peo­ple were try­ing to keep their spir­its up with bal­cony sin­ga­longs and other flash mob events.

Spain ap­peared set to fol­low Italy’s lead. The coun­try was to of­fi­cially de­clare a state of emer­gency on Satur­day af­ter 70 000 peo­ple were placed un­der quar­an­tine.

Coun­tries across Europe have banned large gath­er­ings, or strongly ad­vised against them. Mu­se­ums, land­marks and theme parks have been closed.

Travel by planes and trains has also been cur­tailed as op­er­a­tors slash routes and gov­ern­ments ban ar­rivals from se­lected coun­tries.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s 30-day travel ban on flights from the 26-na­tion pass­port-free Schen­gen area, and Bri­tain and Ire­land, has gone into force. The ad­min­is­tra­tion was part­ner­ing with pri­vate labs and cut­ting red tape for the rapid mass pro­duc­tion of Covid-19 tests amid fears that con­tain­ment was no longer at­tain­able in some of the na­tion’s largest pop­u­la­tion areas.

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