The French prime minister announced the closure of cafes, restaurants and all public places “non-essential” to public life, including cinemas and discos, from midnight on Saturday. Edouard Philippe said: “We must absolutely limit movement, meetings and contacts.” But he allowed food shops, tobacconists, banks and public transport to remain open.
French authorities also warned that widely used over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs may worsen the coronavirus, as the number of cases across the country jumped to 4,480. There have been 91 deaths, and France is one of several countries across Europe that have gone into lockdown.
Schools closed after final lessons last week, meaning 12.4 million students will remain at home, where the education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, has warned they will be expected to follow the national curriculum syllabus online. Authorities have banned gatherings of more than 100 people and shut down attractions including the Eiffel Tower, the palace of Versailles, the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay. In the Paris region, there will be no Sunday masses.
Health officials point out that anti-inflammatory drugs are known to be a risk for those with infectious illnesses because they tend to diminish the response of the body’s immune system. The health ministry added that patients should choose paracetamol because “it will reduce the fever without counter-attacking the inflammation”.
The Spanish government declared a state of emergency on Saturday, placing the country in lockdown and ordering people to leave their homes only if they needed to buy food, medicine, or go to work or hospital.
The lockdown comes after schools across the country were closed for a fortnight and the regional governments of Madrid, Murcia, Galicia, Cantabria and Asturias ordered the closure of all non-essential shops. The only businesses permitted to remain open are supermarkets, bakeries, butchers, fishmongers, greengrocers, petrol stations, pharmacies, tobacconists and newspaper kiosks.
Madrid’s city council announced the closure of all public parks and gardens to prevent large concentrations of people, while Seville, Granada and Córdoba cancelled their Holy Week celebrations. The Catalan president, Quim Torra, announced plans to close off the north-eastern region and called on the central government to assist by authorising the closure of ports, airports and railways.
Jet2 said it was cancelling all flights to mainland Spain, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands.
The socialist-led government of prime minister Pedro Sánchez, whose wife tested positive for Covid-19, has been fiercely criticised for its delay in rolling out robust measures to fight the virus and for allowing huge rallies across the country to mark International Women’s Day. A state of emergency has not been declared since 2010, when it was enacted in response to an air traffic controllers’ strike. It will initially apply for two weeks.
With 102 cases confirmed, the New Delhi government has invoked the Epidemic Act, which allows authorities to force people into isolation, and has brought in laws to prevent hoarding of hand sanitisers.