Daily US Times, Paris: France and Spain, two of the EU’s biggest states followed Italy’s step in announcing sweeping restrictions to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
The Spanish government banned all the citizens from leaving home except for work or for buying essential supplies and medicines.
The country became Europe’s second worst-hit country after Italy, where 191 deaths have been reported.
Restaurants, cafes, cinemas, and most shops are now shut in France, where 91 people have died.
Italy, the worst affected country after China, has been on a national lockdown since Monday and has recorded more than 1,440 deaths.
World Health Organization (WHO) said Europe becomes the “epicenter” of the pandemic.
The chief of the organization Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has urged countries to use aggressive measures, community mobilization and social distancing to save lives.
What measures has Spain taken?
The country has a population of 46.7 million, has recorded more than 6,300 infections.
Spanish government confirmed later on Saturday that Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s wife Begoña Gómez tested positive for the virus.
The government said the couple remained in the prime minister’s residence at La Moncloa in Madrid and were doing fine.
Spain has faced a sharp rise in confirmed cases, about 1,800 more cases have been recorded since Friday evening – many in the capital. This lead the government to implement sweeping restrictions.
The country is in state of emergency right now and Mr Sánchez has banned all citizens from leaving home, except for buying essential supplies and medicines, or for work.
All cultural centers, museums, and sports venues will be closed. Restaurants and cafes may only do home deliveries.
Schools are already closed in the country and essential services like banks and petrol stations will remain open.
On Saturday, the Prime Minister urged for unity, calling on all regions to put ideological differences aside and put citizens first.
Meanwhile, British travel company Jet2 planes turned around mid-air as the airline canceled all flights to mainland Spain, the Balearic Islands, and the Canary Islands in a response to local measures introduced by the Spanish government.
The decision came after at least five Jet2 planes heading to Spain have been turned around mid-air.
A Jet2 spokesman confirmed it in a statement. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez declared a 15-day state of emergency over the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday.
The company said the health and safety of its customers was its number-one priority.
He said, “I want to tell the workers, the self-employed and businesses that the government of Spain is going to do everything in its power to cushion the effects of this crisis.”
The state of emergency will last for two weeks and it will be extended if necessary and parliament approves.
This is the second state of emergency in the country since the transition to democracy began in 1975, the first being a 2010 air traffic controllers’ strike.
What about France?
France is way ahead of Spain in confirmed cases. The 63.5 million people nation has more than 4,400 confirmed cases. In order to prevent the virus from further spreading, the country also announced sweeping restrictions.
French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe said the number of people in France in intensive care was growing and earlier guidelines for the public were being ignored.
The government closed down all cafes, restaurants, nightclubs, cinemas as well as non-essential business, which went into force 23:00 GMT on Saturday.
Essential businesses like food shops, chemists, banks, tobacco shops, and petrol stations will not come under the ban.
Mr Philippe also asked people to reduce their travel, especially between towns.
He said, “The best way to slow down the epidemic is social distancing”.
“I say this gravely – we must all together show greater discipline in the application of these measures,” Mr Philippe added.
Religious buildings will remain open but gatherings and ceremonies should be postponed and local elections due on Sunday will still go ahead, he said.
Schools in France will be closed from Monday until further notice.
France reported a sharp rise in cases on Saturday, from 3,661 to 4,499 and the death toll reached 91.
Japan sees largest daily spike of coronavirus cases
Japan’s health ministry confirmed 64 new coronavirus cases, bringing the nationwide tally to 1,477, which the largest single-day increase the country has seen.
Among the infected people, 697 are associated with the Diamond Princess cruise ship, and the remaining 780 are land cases.
One 70-year-old Japanese who was a Diamond Princess passenger tested positive after having seemingly recovered from the virus. He was tested positive on February 14, then was released from hospital after testing negative on March 2. Yesterday, he had a high temperature, was re-tested, and diagnosed positive again.