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Coronavirus: Countries worldwide announce lockdowns, restrictions amid COVID-19 outbreak

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Authorities around the world turned to increasingly drastic measures Sunday to try to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, with lockdowns, curfews and travel restrictions spreading.

Soldiers and police sealed the densely populated Philippine capital from most domestic travellers in one of Southeast Asia’s most drastic containment measures. The move mirrored a lockdown Spain announced just hours earlier for its 46 million citizens.

France ordered the closing of just about everything the rest of the world loves about it — the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the cafes and restaurants — as governments took increasingly desperate measures to put more space between people and contain the virus.

At U.S. airports, travellers returning from Europe were greeted with hourslong waits for required medical screenings. While American citizens, green card holders and some others are allowed to return to the U.S. amid new European travel restrictions, they’re being funneled to 13 U.S. airports where they’re subject to health screenings and quarantine orders.

Videos and photos posted on social media showed packed, winding lines of returning travellers. On Twitter, airports like Dallas/Fort Worth and Chicago O’Hare acknowledged the delays and asked for patience.

President Donald Trump announced that the U.S., which days ago barred travellers from most of Europe, will extend the ban to Britain and Ireland. And more cities in the U.S. put in place curbs on gatherings of more than a few hundred people, with one New Jersey city even announcing an overnight curfew.

In China, where the virus was first detected in December, those arriving on overseas flights were routed to a converted exhibition centre for initial checks before being shuttled off to their homes or other quarantine locations.

It was clear, however, that the centre of gravity in the crisis had shifted westward toward Europe and North America. The virus has infected more than 150,000 people worldwide and killed over 5,600.

In a nationally televised address Saturday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez detailed the battery of exceptional measures put in place as part of a two-week state of emergency to fight the sharp rise in infections.

Later Saturday, Spain’s government said Sanchez’s wife had tested positive for the coronavirus. Begona Gomez and the prime minister are in good health, the government said.

In a lockdown similar to the one already imposed in Italy, people will be allowed to leave their homes only to buy food and medicine, commute to work, go to hospitals and banks, or take trips related to the care of the young and the elderly. All schools and universities were closed, along with restaurants, bars, hotels and other nonessential retail businesses.

“From now we enter into a new phase,” Sanchez said after a Cabinet meeting that lasted over seven hours. “We won’t hesitate in doing what we must to beat the virus. We are putting health first.”

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