Spain emerges as new coronavirus hotspot

Country sees more than 1,500 new infections in 24 hours as more nations close borders

Updated - March 15, 2020 02:51 am IST

Published - March 14, 2020 10:07 pm IST - Paris

Back to normal: Passengers getting off from a boat after crossing the Yangtze river to Jiangzhou township in Jiujiang, Jiangxi province, China on Saturday.

Back to normal: Passengers getting off from a boat after crossing the Yangtze river to Jiangzhou township in Jiujiang, Jiangxi province, China on Saturday.

Governments around the world ramped up the battle against the SARS-CoV-2 virus on Saturday by shutting borders and promising cash injections, as Spain emerged as a global hotspot registering more than 1,500 new infections in just 24 hours.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency and announced a $50 billion package, with similar measures being taken by governments from Austria to Canada on Saturday. The President’s 30-day ban on travellers from Europe also came into effect on Saturday.

European nations, meanwhile, ramped up border controls on Saturday, with foreigners forbidden from crossing into Russia from Norway and Poland. Denmark and the Czech Republic also announced stringent restrictions.

Squares and streets from Milan to Madrid were deserted on Saturday as government calls to stay at home were heeded by most — some Italians took to singing to each other from their windows to beat the social isolation, others organised rounds of applause.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed Europe as the epicentre of the pandemic on Friday after a dramatic slump in new cases in China, where the virus first emerged in December last year. China registered just a handful of new infections on Saturday and most of the country’s more than 80,000 confirmed patients have already recovered. Attention instead has shifted to Spain, which has more than 5,750 cases, and Italy with more than 17,000.

Travel ban in U.K.

Britain had resisted imposing any wide restrictions, but the media reported on Saturday that a ban on large gatherings would come into force from next weekend. The legislation could see the cancellation of events such as the Wimbledon tennis tournament and the Glastonbury music festival.

On Saturday, the Philippines introduced a night-time curfew in Manila, Saudi Arabia became the latest country to ban international flights and New Zealand said international travellers would have to self-isolate on arrival.

South Africa, meanwhile, has become the first sub-Saharan country to repatriate citizens from China — 146 South Africans who were working and studying in Wuhan city arriving back in their homeland on Saturday.

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