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Tighter restrictions as virus deaths soar


Nations are introducing tighter personal restrictions and scrambling to set up more hospital beds and McDonald’s is closing all UK outlets, as global coronavirus infections hit more than 316,000, with more than 13,000 dead.

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Deaths from COVID-19 in Italy have jumped by more than 650 or 13.5 per cent in one day and the toll has now passed 5000, authorities say, while there are more than 59,000 confirmed cases.

But the latest figures represented an improvement on Saturday, when the death toll rose by 793 and new cases increased by 6557.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte announced he is tightening the country’s lockdown and shutting down all production facilities except those providing essential goods and services.

“We are facing the most serious crisis that the country has experienced since World War II,” Conte told Italians during a broadcast at midnight local time.

“We are at war”: Spain

The Spanish government is seeking to extend a state of emergency until April 11 as it tries to control Europe’s second-worst outbreak of coronavirus.

The death toll has jumped to more than 1700, and more than 28,000 have been infected.

“We are at war,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told a news briefing on Sunday, a day after warning that the worst was yet to come in the coronavirus outbreak.

He said the military would have a larger role in the pandemic’s response and called for more economic help from the EU.

Spanish opera singer Placido Domingo says he is infected with the coronavirus.

In France, more than 16,000 are infected and 674 people have died, the Health Ministry said on Sunday – up from 14,459 infections and 562 deaths the day before.

An emergency doctor died in a town 80km north of Paris which is in an area hard-hit by the outbreak.

Iran says it has 1685 deaths and 21,638 confirmed cases of the virus – a toll that experts from the World Health Organisation say is almost certainly under-reported.

Iran’s supreme leader has refused US assistance to fight the virus, citing an unfounded conspiracy theory that the illness could be made by America.

Germany is banning public meetings of more than two people outside of work, while Chancellor Angela Merkel is in quarantine after a doctor treating her tested positive to the virus.

Calls for US military to mobilise

The US has overtaken Germany as the country with the fourth-highest number of cases at nearly 27,000, with 374 deaths.

The US government’s top infectious disease expert said on Sunday he remains hopeful his country is not on the same trajectory as Italy.

But the New York City mayor told people at the epicenter of the US pandemic that it’s only going to get worse.

Mayor Bill de Blasio told NBC his city is in desperate need of ventilators and other medical supplies and staff, and lambasted the White House as non-responsive.

He said he asked “repeatedly” for the US military to mobilise, and heard nothing back.

McDonald’s shuts UK outlets

McDonalds today announced it was closing all outlets in the UK and Ireland, as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned residents to stay two metres apart to curb the coronavirus or face curfews as the UK’s virus death toll hit 281.

Pubs, clubs and gyms have already closed, but social media on Sunday was awash with pictures of people congregating in parks and food markets, apparently ignoring advice to stay two metres apart.

“Stay two metres apart. It’s not such a difficult thing. Do it,” Johnson said at a news briefing on Sunday.

“Otherwise … there is going to be no doubt that we will have to bring forward further measures and we are certainly keeping that under constant review.”

Parks in London are already closing down as authorities struggle to slow the advance of coronavirus through the population, the biggest public health crisis since the influenza pandemic of 1918.

Almost 4000 British medical workers signed a letter warning that doctors and nurses in the National Health Service would die if they did not receive better protective equipment.

China has reported 46 new coronavirus cases in one day, while the city of Wuhan is loosening a two-month lockdown by gradually resuming public transport and allowing healthy people to go to work.

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