Australia has ordered self isolation of arriving foreigners, France and Spain have joined Italy in imposing lockdowns on tens of millions of people, the US has declared a state of emergency and Argentina and El Salvador extended entry bans as the world seeks to contain the spreading coronavirus.
Panic buying in Australia, the United States and Britain saw leaders appeal for calm over the virus that has infected over 138,000 people globally and killed more than 5,000.
Several countries imposed bans on mass gathering, shuttered sporting, cultural and religious events, while medical experts urged people to practice “social distancing” to curb the spread.
All of Pope Francis’ Easter services next month will be held without the faithful attending, the Vatican said today, in a step believed to be unprecedented in modern times.
The services, four days of major events from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday, usually draw tens of thousands of people to sites in Rome and in the Vatican.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said from midnight tonight international travelers arriving in the country would need to isolate themselves for 14 days, and foreign cruise ships would be banned for 30 days, given a rise in imported cases.
“What we’ve seen in recent weeks, is more countries having issues with the virus and that means the source of some of those transmissions are coming from more and more countries,” Morrison told a news conference.
Australia’s latest restrictions mirror those announced by neighbouring New Zealand. Australia has recorded more than 250 coronavirus cases and three deaths.
US President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on Friday. The United States has recorded more than 2,000 cases and 50 deaths, but has been criticized for slow testing.
Travel bans and a plunge in global air travel saw further airline cut backs, with American Airlines planning to cut 75% of international flights through May 6 and ground nearly all its widebody fleet.
The dramatic announcement by the largest US airline came hours after the White House said the United States would widen new travel restrictions on Europeans to include travellers Ireland and the United Kingdom starting tomorrow night.
China tightened checks on international travelers arriving at Beijing airport today, after the number of imported new coronavirus infections surpassed locally transmitted cases for a second day in a row.
Anyone arriving to Beijing from abroad will be transferred directly to a central quarantine facility for 14 days for observation starting March 16, a city government official said.
China, where the epidemic began in December, appears to now face a greater threat of new infections from outside its borders as it continues to slow the spread of the virus domestically.
It has reported 80,984 cases and 3,203 deaths, according to a Reuters tally, of which 66,911 have recovered in mainland China, which has imposed draconian containment policies, locking down several major cities.
Spain put its 47 million inhabitants under partial lockdown yesterday as part of a 15-day state of emergency to combat the epidemic in Europe’s second worst-affected country after Italy.
France is shuting shops, restaurants and entertainment facilities from today with its 67 million people were told to stay home after confirmed infections doubled in 72 hours.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the government had no other option after the public health authority said 91 people had died in France and almost 4,500 were now infected.
“We must absolutely limit our movements,” he said.
Britain is preparing to ban mass gatherings, while isolating people aged over 70 for up to four months is part of its action plan to tackle coronavirus which will be implemented in the coming weeks, Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
Argentina banned entry to non-residents who have traveled to a country highly affected by coronavirus in the last 14 days, the government officially announced late on Saturday.
The ban will last 30 days. Argentina has 45 cases of coronavirus, the health ministry said, up from 21 on March 12.
Panama said flights arriving from Europe and Asia would be temporarily suspended, with the exception of flights that transport doctors, medical equipment or other humanitarian aid.
Colombia will expel four Europeans for violating compulsory quarantine protocols, just hours after it closed its border with Venezuela, the government said.
Israel will use anti-terrorism tracking technology and partially shutdown its economy to minimize transmission risks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday.
Cyber tech monitoring would be deployed to locate people who have been in contact with those carrying the virus, subject to cabinet approval, Netanyahu told a news conference in Jerusalem.
From today, South Korea began to subject visitors from France, Germany, Britain, Spain and the Netherlands to stricter border checks, after imposing similar rules for China, Italy and Iran which have major outbreaks.
Visitors from those countries now need to download an app which will report whether they have symptoms. South Korea has been testing hundreds of thousands of people and tracking potential carriers using cell phone and satellite technology.