Spain implements nationwide lockdown as coronavirus cases spike

Spain and France are among the governments taking increasingly desperate measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has used a national address to detail the exceptional measures that will be put in place as part of a two-week state of emergency to fight the country’s sharp rise in infections.

It comes as the World Health Organisation warned Europe is now the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak, with Italy also in lockdown.

On Saturday, Spain's government said Mr Sanchez's wife Begona Gomez tested positive for Covid-19. Both are in good health, the government said.

Two ministers of Mr Sanchez's Cabinet tested positive for the virus earlier this week.

France has ordered the closure of non-essential shops. Credit: AP

Spain has now implemented a national lockdown similar to the one already imposed in Italy.

People are only allowed to leave their homes to buy food and medicine, commute to work, go to hospitals and banks, or take trips to care for the young and elderly.

All schools and universities are closed, along with restaurants, bars, hotels and other non-essential retail businesses.

The coronavirus first broke out in Wuhan, China at the end of 2019. Credit: PA Graphics

"From now we enter into a new phase," Mr Sanchez said.

"We won’t hesitate in doing what we must to beat the virus. We are putting health first."

Spanish authorities said the number of infections had climbed past 5,700, half of them in Madrid alone.

That represents a national increase of more than 1,500 in 24 hours. The country had 136 deaths, up from 120.

Spain has the fifth-highest number of cases, behind China, Italy, Iran and South Korea.

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The Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona has closed its doors to visitors and suspended contruction. Credit: AP

Some flights bound for Spain turned around as word spread of the lockdown.

In the Philippines, new restrictions for metropolitan Manila went into effect on Sunday suspending domestic travel by land, air and sea to and from the capital region.

Large gatherings are prohibited and most government work in executive department offices will be suspended in the metropolis for a month.

School closures at all levels were extended and a curfew was in the works.

  • European countries react to life in lockdown with applause for medical workers and entertainment from balconies:

Countries around the world have been moving to prevent their health systems from collapsing under the load of all the virus cases.

Paris followed other cities in shuttering major tourist attractions and France announced the closing of all restaurants, cafes, theatres and non-essential shops starting Sunday.

France has recorded at least 3,600 infections.It has banned all gatherings of more than 100 people, ordered all schools closed and asked companies to allow workers to stay home.

Volunteers wearing masks and gloves wait for voters in a polling station during local elections in Lyon, central France. Credit: AP

The country pressed ahead with plans for nationwide municipal elections on Sunday but ordered special measures to keep people at a safe distance and to sanitise surfaces.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said all travellers arriving in the country from midnight Monday will have to self-isolate for 14 days.

In Italy, the worst-hit European country, the number of deaths climbed past 1,400 and infections surged roughly 20% overnight to more than 21,000.

Premier Giuseppe Conte has said production — particularly of food and health supplies — must not stop.

In Britain, the death toll nearly doubled from the day before to 21 while the number of people infected rose to more than 1,100.

A pharmacist wears a mask as she speaks to a man keeping his distance, outside a pharmacy in Milan, Italy. Credit: AP

Ireland had 90 confirmed cases and one death as of Friday.

Greece's infection total approached 230 with three deaths as police arrested 45 shopkeepers on Saturday for violating a ban on operations.

The US has seen 59 deaths and more than 2,100 cases.

President Donald Trump has tested negative for the new coronavirus, the president’s personal physician said on Saturday.

Mr Trump had faced pressure to get tested for Covid-19 after a picture emerged of him standing next to a Brazilian official who tested positive for the disease.

Donald Trump had faced pressure to get tested for Covid-19. Credit: AP

Meanwhile European countries took steps to isolate themselves from their neighbours.

Denmark closed its borders and halted passenger traffic to and from the country.

Poland planned to close is 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. 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 from Sunday.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has implemented strict travel restrictions. Credit: AP

In the Middle East, Iran’s death toll reached 611, with nearly 13,000 infections, including senior government officials.

In the Pacific, New Zealand announced that incoming passengers, including citizens, will be required to isolate themselves for 14 days, with few exceptions.

The measures increasingly mirror those taken by China, which in January quarantined more than 60 million people.

The spread of Covid-19 in China has slowed dramatically since, according to the National Health Commission.

Chinese President Xi Jinping visits coronavirus epicentre Wuhan for the first time since its lockdown. Credit: AP

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.

Wuhan- where the virus originated- is now the only city in the province of Hubei still designated high-risk.

Several Hubei municipalities are gradually resuming public transportation and reopening businesses.