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Italy tightens lockdown as millions of Indians self-isolate

Italy will close almost all non-essential business activities for 15 days in a bid to arrest the spread of the coronavirus and allow the economy to restart as soon as possible. Prime minister Giuseppe Conte said in a televised news conference that supermarkets and pharmacies would remain open along with banks and post offices.

Italy had a record 793 new deaths, raising the total to 4,825 on Saturday. In Lombardy, where Italy is hardest-hit, authorities clamped down further, even going so far as to ban jogging.

Spain

The Spanish government said on Saturday it would do whatever was needed to combat the coronavirus pandemic and warned that “the worst is yet to come” after the national toll surpassed 1,300 deaths and reached close to 25,000 cases. The second-worst outbreak in Europe showed no sign of slowing as the death toll jumped by more than 300 from the previous day. Intensive care units are filling up in some hospitals.

Prime minister Pedro Sanchez’s leftist government a week ago declared a 15-day state of emergency nationwide barring people from all but essential outings. Mr Sanchez praised the “exemplary” response and said he had no plans to strengthen the restrictions, which he called the toughest in Europe. The prime minister also made no mention of extending the state of emergency, though he warned of tough weeks ahead. Spain’s death toll jumped to 1,326 from 1,002 the day before, according to Health Ministry data released on Saturday.

UK

In the UK, the confirmed death toll has risen by 56 in the space of a day to 233, the National Health Service said on Saturday. Some 72,818 people had been tested as of 9am Saturday morning, with 5,018 positive, up from 3,983 the previous day. The UK has been stepping up measures to fight the virus that have so far been less stringent than elsewhere in Europe. People identified as belonging to one or more of the at-risk groups include those who have received organ transplants, those living with severe respiratory conditions or specific cancers, and some receiving certain types of drug treatments. They will be contacted by their doctor strongly advising them to stay at home for a period of at least 12 weeks. “If you receive a letter it is vitally important that you act on it for your own protection, don’t attend any gatherings of friends or families and don’t go out for shopping, leisure or travel,” said Paul Johnson, director at Public Health England.

India

Hundreds of millions of Indians stayed indoors on Sunday, heeding prime minister Narendra Modi’s appeal to citizens to self-isolate as authorities battled to contain the fast-spreading epidemic. At least 324 people have so far contracted the disease and four deaths were reported in India due to coronavirus, according to official data on Sunday. While the curfew is voluntary and is not an outright ban on the movement of people, Mr Modi’s national appeal for social distancing has helped dramatically reduce the number of people taking to India’s densely crowded streets.

Experts have warned that the country’s cases are growing at rates seen during the early stages of the outbreak in other countries, which subsequently reported exponential increases in infections. With over 1.3 billion people, India is trying to battle a pandemic with limited resources.

The country suspended passenger train services across the country until March 31st as the government tries to curb the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. The railways ministry said passenger rail will stop with immediate effect though freight services will continue, according to a statement on Sunday.

Traffic police personnel hold placards on a deserted road during a one-day nationwide Janata (civil) curfew imposed as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Hyderabad on Sunday. Photograph: Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images
Traffic police personnel hold placards on a deserted road during a one-day nationwide Janata (civil) curfew imposed as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Hyderabad on Sunday. Photograph: Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images

US

US president Donald Trump said negotiators in Congress and his administration are “very close” to agreement on a coronavirus economic-relief plan that his economic adviser said will aim to boost the US economy by about $2 trillion (€1.85 tr). The economic measure is intended to to “keep companies together, keep workers paid, so they can live and sustain,” Mr Trump said at a White House briefing. “We’re asking people not to work because we have to stay away from each other,” he said, adding that the hope is to “win with as few lives lost as possible.”

China

The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the global pandemic was first detected, went a fourth consecutive day on Sunday without reporting any new or suspected cases of the virus.

Elsewhere, the country reported 46 new cases over the previous 24 hours, 45 of them coming from overseas. The health ministry did not say where the domestic case was found.

Another six deaths were also reported, one in Wuhan, four in the surrounding province of Hubei and one elsewhere.

China has now recorded a total of 81,054 cases and 3,261 deaths. A total of 72,244 people have been declared cured and released from hospital.

Wuhan must go 14 straight days without a new case in order for draconian travel restrictions to be lifted and the city remains isolated from the rest of the province, which is itself closed off to the rest of the country. Even while social distancing and quarantines for new arrivals remain the norm, China is striving to restore activity in the world’s second-largest economy.

Wuhan is a centre of China’s crucial auto industry and a special train carrying more than 1,000 employees of Dongfeng Motor Corporation arrived in the city on Saturday for the first time since the outbreak. All were sent directly by bus to factories or residential communities.

Singapore

Singapore said it will fully shut its borders from Tuesday after recording its first two deaths.

The city-state has banned visitors from several countries and requires all short-term visitors to observe a 14-day home quarantine. But the government said that from Tuesday all short-term visitors will be barred from entering or transiting through the country. The city-state of nearly 6 million people has recorded 432 cases so far. On Saturday, it reported that a 75-year-old Singaporean woman and an Indonesian visitor, 64, have succumbed to the virus.

Shoppers cross the road near a deserted shopping district in Beijing on Sunday. Photograph: Ng Han Guan/AP
Shoppers cross the road near a deserted shopping district in Beijing on Sunday. Photograph: Ng Han Guan/AP

Australia

Australia has unveiled a 66.4 billion Australian dollar (€30bn) stimulus package in a bid to ward off a recession and safeguard employment from the coronavirus pandemic.

The package includes cash payments for eligible small businesses and welfare recipients. The total economic assistance packages so far total almost 10 per cent of the country’s GDP.

Australia has recorded more than 1,000 cases of the virus as fears grow that it is heading for its first recession in nearly three decades.

Prime minister Scott Morrison said more draconian social distancing measures would be considered during a Cabinet meeting on Sunday.

Sydney’s famous Bondi Beach was closed on Saturday after thousands of people flouted regulations that prohibit more than 500 people gathering.

South Korea

South Korea reported 98 more cases of the new coronavirus on Sunday, taking the total to 8,897.

Deaths increased by two to 104, according to the state-run Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

First cases and first deaths

The Palestinian Health Ministry has announced the first two cases of the coronavirus in the Gaza Strip. The ministry said early on Sunday that the cases were two people who returned recently from Pakistan.

Colombia has reported its first death from the new coronavirus. Officials said he was a 58-year-old taxi driver who had driven tourists from Italy, one of the countries worst hit by the virus.

The Romanian government confirmed on Sunday the first death in the country due to coronavirus. The deceased was a 67-year-old man who had been suffering from terminal cancer. –Reuters, PA, Bloomberg

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