Spain, France Announce Major Coronavirus Lockdowns
The French government has ordered the closing of cafes, restaurants and cinemas as Spanish officials planned to lock down their 46 million citizens.
It comes as authorities around the world take increasingly desperate measures to contain the coronavirus.
More borders snapped shut around the globe, with the US announcing it will extend its European travel ban to Britain and Ireland.
China, meanwhile, where the scourge first appeared late last year, continued to relax its drastic restrictions, illustrating the way the centre of gravity in the crisis has shifted westward toward Europe.
The virus has infected more than 150,000 people worldwide and killed over 5,600.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has announced that a decree for a two-week state of emergency has been issued and the "drastic measures" will enter into force early on Monday.
The state of alert over the coronavirus was declared for the longest possible period, 15 days, said the Socialist politician, with an extension requiring the approval of the parliament in Madrid.
Spaniards will only be able to leave the house under exceptional circumstances. Trips to work, to the doctor and to buy food and medicine are still permitted, as is leaving the house to look after children, the elderly and those who are in need of help.
A man in a protective suit and face mask in Spain, after the government declared a state of alarm. Image: AAP
Spain is second only to Italy in the severity of its coronavirus outbreak, with the number of cases rising sharply for days.
According to the Health Ministry on Saturday evening, there are currently more than 6000 cases and over 190 deaths.
In addition to restrictions on citizens' movements, the state of alarm also allows the government to ration food and other important goods, as well as have them confiscated, and to mobilise all security forces, as well as the army, in order to implement the measures.
In an echo of the far-reaching measures already imposed in Italy, people will from Monday morning only be allowed to leave their homes 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.
Spain also planned to close all schools, universities, restaurants, bars and hotels along with non-essential stores, a step some regions have already taken.
Spanish authorities said the number of infections climbed past 5,700, half of them in the capital Madrid -- an increase of more than 1500 in 24 hours.
The country -- which also recorded 136 deaths, up from 120 -- has the fifth-highest number of cases, behind China, Italy, Iran and South Korea.
In Italy, the worst-hit European country, the number of deaths climbed past 1400 and infections surged roughly 20 per cent overnight to more than 21,000 because of what authorities characterised as irresponsible behaviour by people still socialising despite the country-wide lockdown.
Many Italian cities including Rome and Milan decided to close playgrounds and parks, too.
Premier Giuseppe Conte has said production -- particularly of food and health supplies -- must not stop and, on Saturday, union and industrial leaders reached an agreement to keep factories running.
But luxury sports car maker Ferrari said it was suspending production at two plants, citing concern for its employees and serious disruptions in the flow of supplies.
Paris followed other cities in shuttering major tourist attractions, and France announced it was closing all restaurants, cafes, theatres and non-essential shops starting on Sunday.
France has recorded at least 3600 infections and banned all gatherings of more than 100 people, ordered all schools closed and asked companies to allow workers to stay home.
France pressed ahead with plans for municipal elections on Sunday but ordered special measures to keep people at a safe distance and to sanitise surfaces.
Voters were advised to bring their own pen to sign the voting register.
In Britain, the death toll nearly doubled from the day before to 21, and the number of people infected rose to over 1100.
Ireland had 90 confirmed cases and one death as of Friday.
Greece's infection total approached 230 with three deaths, and police there arrested 45 shopkeepers on Saturday for violating a ban on operations.
Israel will shut malls, hotels and restaurants in a partial shutdown of its economy from Sunday and use anti-terrorism tracking technology to minimise the risk of coronavirus transmission.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said subject to cabinet approval, anti-terrorism monitoring tools would be deployed to locate people who have been in contact with those carrying the virus.
"We will very soon begin using technology ... digital means that we have been using in order to fight terrorism," Netanyahu told a news conference in Jerusalem on Saturday.
"The enemy is invisible but we must locate it," Netanyahu said.
To minimise infection, malls, hotels, cafes, restaurants and theatres will shut down, employees should not go to their workplaces if not necessary, while vital services, pharmacies, supermarkets and banks will continue to operate.
A total of 193 people have tested positive for the virus so far in Israel with no reported fatalities, according to the Israeli Health Ministry.
The latest coronavirus measure follows a series of tightening restrictions imposed by Israel to contain the virus, including the closure of most schools, a 14-day self-isolation for anyone arriving from abroad and limiting gatherings to 100 people. Tens of thousands of Israelis are presently quarantined.
The US reported 51 deaths -- including the first in New York -- and more than 2100 cases.
Europeans countries moved to isolate themselves from their neighbours.
Denmark closed its frontiers and halted passenger traffic to and from the country, with travellers to be turned away at the border if they are unable to show that they have "a legitimate reason" to enter -- for example, if they are Danish citizens or residents.
"I know that the overall list of measures is very extreme and will be seen as very extreme, but I am convinced that it's worth it," Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said.
Poland planned to close its borders at midnight and deny all foreigners entry unless they lived in Poland or had personal ties there.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia took similar action while Lithuania said it was introducing border checks at the frontiers with Poland and Latvia.
Russia said its borders with Norway and Poland will be closed to most foreigners beginning on Sunday.
In the Middle East, Iran's death toll reached 611, with nearly 13,000 infections, including senior government officials.
The spread of COVID-19 in China has slowed dramatically, according to the National Health Commission.
After reporting thousands of new cases per day only a month ago, the commission said on Saturday that there were 13 new deaths and just 11 new cases, including people who recently arrived in China from other affected countries like Italy.