South Korean soldiers in protective gear on their way to disinfect buildings, following a rise in the number of coronavirus COVID-19 infections in Daegu, March 15, 2020. (Reuters)
PARIS – France and Spain joined Italy in imposing lockdowns on tens of millions of people, Australia ordered self-isolation of arriving foreigners and other countries extended entry bans as the world sought 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 156 000 people globally and killed more than 5 800.
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.
Austria’s chancellor urged people to self-isolate and announced bans on gatherings of more than five people and further limits on who can enter the country.
All of Pope Francis’ Easter services next month will be held without the faithful attending, the Vatican said on Sunday, 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 Sunday international travellers 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.
Australia’s latest restrictions mirror those announced by neighboring New Zealand on Saturday.
Travel restrictions and bans, and a plunge in global air travel, saw further airline cutbacks, with American Airlines Inc. planning to cut 75 per cent of international flights through May 6 and ground nearly all its widebody fleet.
China tightened checks on international travelers arriving at Beijing airport on Sunday, after the number of imported new coronavirus infections surpassed locally transmitted cases for a second day in a row.