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Germany shuts shops and venues to fight virus

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Shops in Berlin have already been affected by falling numbers of customers Germany has announced stringent new restrictions to limit social contact, including the closure of most shops and entertainment venues, in an attempt to stem the spread of the coronavirus.Religious services have been banned and people told to cancel…

Piled chairs and tables are seen in front of a chocolate store in BerlinImage copyright
Reuters

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Shops in Berlin have already been affected by falling numbers of customers

Germany has announced stringent new restrictions to limit social contact, including the closure of most shops and entertainment venues, in an attempt to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Religious services have been banned and people told to cancel any domestic or foreign holiday travel. Germany had already announced border closures.

Spain too is shutting its borders while France is due to announce new measures.

Meanwhile, the UK prime minister has urged people to avoid pubs and clubs.

Boris Johnson said people should work from home where possible and refrain from non-essential travel or having contact with others, but did not announce any forced closures.

Earlier, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said governments were not doing enough to combat the pandemic, and urged them to step up their testing programmes.

“You can’t fight a fire blindfolded and we can’t stop this pandemic if we don’t know who is infected,” he said at a news conference in Geneva. “We have a simple message for all countries: test, test, test.”

There have been more than 174,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus globally and over 6,700 deaths, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.

What is Germany doing?

Speaking at a news conference in Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that most non-grocery stores would close, along with clubs, bars, leisure facilities and playgrounds.

Restaurants will have to enforce a minimum distance between tables and work under restricted hours. Mrs Merkel, however, said the government would try to minimise the economic impact of the outbreak.

Germany now has close to 5,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and 12 deaths. Schools across the country were closed on Monday and large gatherings nationwide had already been banned.

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Traffic crossing Germany’s borders with France, Austria, Switzerland and Luxembourg is now restricted to goods and people commuting for work. Only the borders with the Netherlands and Belgium are as yet unaffected.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas responded to reports that US President Donald Trump wanted to buy exclusive access to a potential vaccine developed by a German biotech firm, saying: “We cannot allow others to seek exclusive results.”

How are other Europe countries responding?

Spain will start controls at land borders at midnight on Monday (23:00 GMT) and only Spanish citizens, residents and special cases will be allowed in the country.

The Spanish government imposed a partial lockdown on its 47 million inhabitants on Saturday, as part of a 15-day state of emergency. People are barred from leaving home except buy essential supplies and medicines, or for work.

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Media captionPolice use drones to enforce movement restrictions in Spain’s fight against the coronavirus infection

Italy, the worst-affected nation outside China, where the virus originated, has more than 20,000 cases and has suffered more than 1,800 deaths.

Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte told the Corriere della Sera newspaper that damage from the virus would be “serious and widespread”, adding: “After the coronavirus, nothing will be as before, we will have to sit down and rewrite the rules of trade and the free market”.

France is considering following the lead of Italy and Spain and ordering people to remain in their houses. Cafes, restaurants, cinemas and most shops are already shut, and President Emmanuel Macron will address the nation at 19:00 GMT.

On Monday, the head of the country’s health service, Jerome Salomon, said the outbreak was “very worrying” and “deteriorating very fast”.

France so far has more than 5,000 infections and 127 deaths.

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Last week the WHO said Europe was now the “epicentre” of the virus and urged governments to act aggressively to control the spread of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Dr Tedros also told other countries to follow the containment strategies used in China and South Korea, saying they showed the pandemic was controllable.

In other European nations:

  • Greece is shutting all shops, bars, chemists and petrol stations and putting all arrivals from abroad into quarantine for 14 days
  • The Czech authorities sealed off an area in the east of the country – Unicov, Cervenka and Litovel
  • Poland suspended all domestic flights, following similar moves on international air and rail travel
  • Georgia banned all foreigners from entering the country
  • Serbia declared a state of emergency
  • Ukraine‘scapital Kyiv shut restaurants, cafes and bars from Tuesday and restricted movement to other towns
  • Poland, the Czech Republic and Denmark have already closed borders or introduced severe restrictions

On Monday, the European Commission has proposed a 30-day ban on non-essential travel to the EU. Long-term residents, family members of EU nationals and diplomats would be exempt as well as cross-border and healthcare workers and people transporting goods.

The restriction must be approved by the 26 states that make up the borderless Schengen area. Non-Schengen members – including the UK – would be invited to take part.

What is happening in countries outside Europe?

Iran, which has the third-highest number of confirmed cases globally, on Monday reported 129 more deaths, its highest tally in a single day. Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour urged people not to travel outside their province.

The fourth-most-affected nation, South Korea, again reported a slowdown in new infections, with President Moon Jae-in saying he was increasingly confident of overcoming the virus.

In the United States, New York closed all schools as of Monday, and will shut restaurants, bars and other venues from Tuesday. Overall 29 US states have announced that they are closing schools.

On the West Coast, Los Angeles has decided to shut down the city’s bars and restaurants.

There has been a sharp rise in coronavirus cases in Africa. Although there are fewer than in most other continents, the total count more than doubled in the past two days. Strict measures are being introduced in many of the 26 countries affected, with schools and borders closing in several parts of Africa.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths outside China has now surpassed the number inside. More than 87,000 people have been infected outside China, while just over 80,000 cases have been reported inside.


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