World under lockdown: 1.7 bn people confine to their homes over virus

PARIS/RIYADH/MUMBAI/LONDON: several countries of the world have imposed mandatory lockdown measures, while others have issued stay-at-home recommendations to stem the spread of the virus. The coronavirus is affecting 195 countries and territories around the world. Total cases are 375,035, number of deaths reached 16,359 while 101,554 recovered from virus across the world on Monday.

Some 1.7 billion people have been asked to stay home in over 50 countries and territories around the world as governments battle the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe, according to an AFP tally Monday.

Lockdowns in parts of India alone have kept some 700 million people hemmed in, in the world’s second most populated nation. At least 34 more countries and territories have also established mandatory lockdown measures ordering people to stay in their homes, accounting for some 659 million people.

France, Italy, Argentina, the US state of California, Iraq and Rwanda have also rolled out enforced lockdowns.

Greece is the most recent country to impose mandatory confinement measures, which came into effect on Monday morning.

Colombia will enforce an obligatory lockdown on Tuesday and New Zealand will follow suit Wednesday.

In most cases it is still possible for people to leave the house to go to work, buy essentials or seek medical care.

At least four countries with a collective population of more than 228 million people, including Iran, Germany and Britain, have urged their populations to stay indoors and limit contact with other people as much as possible. But the impact of these non-mandatory recommendations has been limited.

At least 10 countries and territories with a total population of 117 million people have issued curfews and barred overnight travel.

These measures are in place in Burkina Faso, Chile, the Philippines´ capital Manila, Serbia and Mauritania, while in Saudi Arabia a curfew will be imposed from Monday evening.

Elsewhere, some countries have imposed isolation measures in main cities, with measures barring people from entering or exiting. These measures have been seen in Almaty, Bulgaria, Nur-Sultan in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan´s Baku.

Combined, these cities have an estimated 10 million inhabitants.

Saudi Arabia´s King Salman has announced a nationwide dusk-to-dawn curfew from Monday in a bid to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, the latest in a series of restrictions.

The curfew — from 7 pm until 6 am — will be imposed for 21 days, the official Saudi Press Agency reported, citing a royal order.

The move comes after Saudi Arabia on Sunday said the number of Covid-19 cases had jumped to 511, the highest in the Gulf. The kingdom has reported no deaths so far. Health sector employees as well as security and military officials will be exempt from the curfew restrictions, the royal order said.

Saudi Arabia has also suspended prayers inside all its mosques except the holiest two sites in Islam in Makkah and Medina, a sensitive move in the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom.

Meanwhile, India will ground all domestic passenger flights from Wednesday to combat the spread of the coronavirus, the government said, as more states ordered lockdowns in the world´s second most populous nation.

The move to halt domestic flights — which ferried 144 million passengers across the vast country last year — apart from cargo services came as other forms of transport were suspended.

The pandemic “is crippling the global economy and aviation, including India´s once-booming aviation sector”, said Devesh Agarwal, editor of the Bangalore Aviation website. “This is not a short-term pandemic and the outlook for Indian aviation looks tragic,” he said.

Indian Railways — one of the world´s biggest networks which carries more than 20 million passengers daily — cancelled all services except suburban and goods trains. Other inter-state and metro services were also halted.

Despite the lockdowns — including in the capital New Delhi where borders were sealed, shops and offices closed and local public transport stopped — some residents still moved around.

In Delhi during the evening rush hour, a steady stream of vehicles plied some roads. The closures have hit poor, rural migrants who have lost their jobs amid the crisis and are trying to return to villages from cities where they were working.

Meanwhile, In Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) the authorities have ordered shutdown of all establishments except those providing essential services and commodities across Jammu and Kashmir till March 31.

Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam in a letter to all 20 deputy commissioners of Jammu and Kashmir said, “The shutdown will come into effect from 8 pm on Sunday till 6 pm on March 31. He said the shutdown was necessary to prevent the spread of Covid-19 pandemic and break the transmission chain of the virus.

Meanwhile the latest move by the IOK authorities may take a sizeable bite off the indebted apple industry in Kashmir. According to owners of cold storages based at Lasipora and Aglar in South Kashmir 80 percent of the apple stock is still lying with them amid the lockdown imposed in the name of coronavirus.

Many traders in media interviews said they were apprehensive about the stored fruit. The restrictions are being intensified day by day and a large chunk of our fruit is lying in stores Imtiyaz Ahmad who has stored his apples at Lasipora cold storage in Pulwama district said.

Meanwhile, two more doctors have died after contracting the coronavirus in France, officials said on Monday, a day after the country reported the first death of a doctor treating Covid-19 patients.

One of the doctors, a 66-year-old gynaecologist in Mulhouse near the border with Switzerland and Germany, was infected by a patient during a consultation, according to his clinic. The other was a 60-year-old general practitioner at a hospital in Saint-Avold near Metz, further north along the German frontier, according to the town´s mayor.

Both died on Sunday when officials announced the death of a 67-year-old doctor who was among the first to treat coronavirus cases in the northern Oise department, which has been badly hit by the outbreak.

Health experts warn that many French hospitals are already overflowing with coronavirus cases even as the government races to set up military field hospitals to help cope with a shortage of beds.

Meanwhile, Britain sent in the army to deliver protective equipment to hospitals on Monday and told people to stay at home and heed warnings over social distancing or the government would bring in more extreme measures to stop the coronavirus spread.

With some doctors saying they felt like “cannon fodder”, the government said the military would help ship millions of items of personal protective equipment (PPE) including masks to healthcare workers who have complained of shortages.

So far, 281 Britons have died from coronavirus and, in the last few days, British authorities have rapidly stepped up action to try to limit the spread of the disease and prevent a repeat of the death toll seen in other countries where thousands have died.

However, there have been complaints from frontline medical staff about shortages of kit, saying they did not feel safe at work. In a letter pleading with Prime Minister Boris Johnson to increase PPE supplies, more than 6,000 frontline doctors said they were being asked to put their lives at risk with out-of-date masks, and low stocks of equipment.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted there had been issues but promised action was being taken. He said the army would drive trucks throughout the day and night to get supplies to medical staff. “It’s like a war effort, it is a war against this virus and so the army have been incredibly helpful in getting those logistics so we can get the supplies to protect people on the front line,” he told the BBC, saying the health service now had 12,000 ventilators, 7,000 more than at the start of the crisis.

But advice to stay at home and avoid social gatherings went unheeded by millions at the weekend who took advantage of sunny weather to flocked to parks and beauty spots over the weekend, ignoring instructions to stay 2 meters (6 feet) apart.

Emyr Williams, chief executive of the Snowdonia National Park Authority in Wales, said the past 24 hours had been unprecedented. “We have experienced the busiest visitor day in living memory. The area has been overwhelmed with visitors,” he said.

The government warned that Britain would face a shutdown with curfews and travel restrictions if people continued to flout the advice.

Iran on Monday announced 127 new deaths from the novel coronavirus, raising the official toll to 1,812 in one of the worst hit countries along with Italy, Spain and China.

Health ministry spokesman Kianouche Jahanpour said 1,411 new cases had been recorded in Iran over the past 24 hours, bringing the total of those infected to 23,049.

Jahanpour, who was speaking during his daily news conference devoted to the pandemic, said he would no longer give a breakdown of cases by province. This was necessary, he said, to avoid sparking undue concern among residents of the most stricken areas and ensure that those in less affected zones remained cautious.

Meanwhile, thirty-one French nationals from the same tour group in Cambodia tested positive for the coronavirus over the weekend and have been put under quarantine in a hotel.

The tourists, ranging in age from late 40s to 80, were part of a group of 36 that arrived on March 11 in Siem Reap, home to the famed Angkor Wat temple complex. The patients are currently receiving treatment in isolation in the southern coastal city of Sihanoukville.

Two local guides also tested positive for the virus, while the remaining five tourists tested negative, the health ministry said Sunday.

Including the tour group cluster, Cambodia has reported 87 COVID-19 cases, as the pandemic that has killed more than 15,000 sends the world into chaos.

Cambodian authorities have shuttered entertainment venues like karaoke bars, and schools were requested to close, but there has been no official order for people to stay home. Last week Cambodia issued a blanket ban on foreigners entering the country from France, the US, Italy, Spain, Germany and Iran.

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