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Since the first outbreak in Wuhan, China in late December, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has escalated into a global pandemic with Europe now declared as the epicentre. Cases globally have exceeded more than 200,000, while the death toll has risen to over 8,600 causing a number of countries to take drastic measures by means of lockdowns, quarantines and travel restrictions as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Here’s what has been happening around the world:
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- One-third of globally reported cases are now in the European region making it the new epicentre of the pandemic. To deal with the impending crisis the EU is sealing it’s borders ending the ability for EU citizens to move freely between countries and banning tourists from outside the bloc for 30 days.
- The ban came as deaths continued to soar in Italy and Spain, and France began a strict lockdown. Italy has suffered its deadliest day yet in the coronavirus outbreak and is poised to overtake China as the world’s worst affected country. To date, there have been over 35,000 cases and over 2,900 deaths. The entire country remains in strict lockdown conditions with residents now required to fill out a police-issued self-declaration form before going outside.
- Spain is also in lockdown after recording the second highest number of cases (over 13,700) in the EU. Anyone who disobeys lockdown rules will be faced with fines or worst case, imprisonment.
- Germany has become another high-risk country with over 8000 cases. The country has made the call to close all non-essential businesses, ban public gatherings, place curfews on restaurant opening times and regulate visitors entering hospitals, rehabilitation facilities and nursing homes.
- France follows Germany with the number of cases (over 7,600) and is following similar lockdowns to Italy and Spain by allowing residents to only leave their homes for essential reasons that must be approved with signed papers to avoid fines.
- Countries including Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark and Greece have closed all non-essential shops and entertainment facilities to attempt to ban public gatherings.
- Other countries including Malta, Ukraine, Turkey, Slovakia, Portugal, Poland, Norway, Hungary and Czech Republic have either shut or tightened restrictions on their borders to prevent travel.
- The UK, who are facing over 2000 cases, has decided to close all schools immediately across the board to further enforce social distancing. As well as this, major annual events including Glastonbury Festival and the Eurovision Song Contest have been cancelled and cultural and entertainment hubs have been closed.
- Since the first detection in Wuhan, the number of cases in China have reached more than 80,000 with over 3,000 deaths caused by the virus. However strict quarantine measures appear to have significantly contained the spread outside of Hubei province, where Wuhan is located.
- For the first time since the outbreak began, there are now more reported cases outside of mainland China than inside. China has now sent some of its experts and supplies to Italy, the country with the second highest number of coronavirus cases.
- South Korea was another country in trouble as case soared over 8000 however their extensive testing has meant that infected people were quarantined immediately and daily case counts are beginning to decrease.
- Fears are now growing for the South-East Asia region as confirmed cases surpass 480 and the disease claims nine lives. Thailand, Indonesia and India have respectively been the hardest hit, with all three places having over 100 cases. WHO is recommending governments in the region to urgently scale up aggressive measures to limit the spread further.
- Thailand has closed all schools until further notice and will only accept travellers from Iran, Italy, China, Korea, Hong Kong and Macao who submit proof at airline check-in that they tested negative for coronavirus. They must also show proof of a health insurance policy with coverage of at least $100,000.
- Most other countries are now either temporarily banning travellers arriving from disease-affected areas or forcing them into self-quarantine for 14-days either at home or in a designated place.
- The number of cases in regions of the Americas has reached over 4900 with a death toll of 68, recorded on 17 March.
- The US has now reported cases in every state with the total number reaching over 3500 along with 110 confirmed coronavirus deaths. Seattle, New York City and Los Angeles have been among the hardest-hit cities.
- The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended canceling or postponing events involving more than 50 people for eight weeks and several states and cities have announced widespread mandatory closures as part of attempts to curb the spread of the virus.
- Public health officials are now concerned that if residents don’t limit their interactions with others hospitals will reach tipping point.
- All foreign nationals from China, Iran and certain European countries are currently barred from entering the United States. As well as those who visited these countries within the 14 days prior to entering the US. Citizens of the US who want to come home must fly into 3 designated airports and undergo “enhanced entry screening.”
- Canada has reached over 400 cases and has closed its borders to all noncitizens bar Americans. However they are recommending against all non-essential travel.
- Brazil and Chile have been the hardest-hit countries with over 100 cases each. This has sparked collective governments to tighten restrictions on public life to help slow down the spread.
- However despite having the largest number of cases (over 200) Brazil is yet to close its borders or enforce strict quarantines but schools and universities have been closed in major cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo and public events have been cancelled.
- Venezuela and Peru have announced a nation-wide quarantine; Colombia, Argentina, Costa Rica and Chile have closed their borders to arriving foreigners; Paraguay, Uruguay and Bolivia have suspended flights to and from Europe.
The Middle East
- Iran continues to be the epicentre for the new COVID-19 coronavirus in the Middle East, reporting nearly 1,000 deaths and more than 16,000 cases. The Iranian government has been accused of a series of missteps in handling the outbreak leading some experts to believe that the situation is far more severe than officials are reporting.
- Iran’s deputy health minister and a number of other politicians and officials have been infected by the virus. Yet authorities have been slow to adopt quarantine strategies or close their borders, creating fear that the pandemic could quickly overwhelm health facilities. And the American sanctions on Iran aren’t helping.
- Other countries across the Middle East including Qatar, Algeria, Bahrain, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Lebanon, have imposed sweeping travel restrictions, closed non-essential businesses and cancelled public events including the Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina.
- Lebanon has gone into a two-week lockdown after cases reach 120. The country has closed its airport, borders and ports from 18-29 March. People are obliged to remain at home except for matters of “extreme necessity”.
Australia & New Zealand
- New Zealand has 20 confirmed cases while Australia has over 450 cases and five deaths.
- For the first time in history Australians have been banned from all international travel. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has raised the travel alert to level 4: ‘Do not travel’ for the entire world. Those already overseas are being urged to come home as soon as they can.
- All indoor gatherings of more than 100, and outdoor gatherings of more than 500, are banned and social distancing guidelines are in place. However schools are yet to be shut.
- Anyone arriving in Australia or New Zealand must self-quarantine for 14-days no matter which country they have travelled to. Those who do not comply may face fines or be deported as has recently happened in New Zealand.
- Citizens still overseas are being urged to return home as soon as possible.
- For the 54 countries in Africa, there have been 228 confirmed cases, with Egypt being the most affected, followed by South Africa.
- Egypt will be closing its airports and restricting air travel starting March 19 as part of efforts to slow the spread of the virus. Similarly, South Africa has strict travel bans on people who recently visited the US, the UK, China, Spain, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Germany, France and Switzerland.
- In Lagos, Nigeria, people should expect temperature screenings and mandatory hand sanitiser before entering a public area. Signs will also be on display informing the public on the best practices to avoid contracting coronavirus.
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