Nearly one billion people confined to homes globally to curb virus | The Daily Star
08:48 PM, March 21, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 08:54 PM, March 21, 2020

Nearly one billion people confined to homes globally to curb virus

Close to one billion people worldwide were confined to their homes on Saturday as the global coronavirus death toll shot past 11,000, with 4,000 alone in worst-hit Italy where the daily number of fatalities has shot up relentlessly over the past week.

An estimated 900 million people are now confined to their homes in 35 countries around the world -- including 600 million hemmed in by obligatory government lockdown orders -- according to an AFP tally.

China on Saturday reported no new local infections for a third straight day, and the WHO said the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus emerged late last year, offered a glimmer of "hope for the rest of the world".

But there are growing concerns of a new wave of "imported" infections in the region, with Hong Kong reporting 48 suspected cases on Friday –- its biggest daily jump since the crisis began. Many of them have a recent history of travel to or from Europe.

Italy reported its worst single day death toll Friday, adding another 627 fatalities and taking its reported total to 4,032 despite efforts to stem the spread. The nation of 60 million now accounts for 36 percent of the world's coronavirus deaths and its death rate of 8.6 percent among confirmed infections is significantly higher than in most other countries.

France, Italy, Spain and other European countries have ordered people to stay at home, threatening fines in some cases, while Bavaria became the first region in Germany to order a lockdown.

Britain, falling in line with its EU neighbours, also announced tougher restrictions, telling pubs, restaurants and theatres to close and promising to help cover the wages of affected workers.

Australia's famed Bondi beach was also ordered shut after sunbathers crowded the hotspot in defiance of government orders to avoid non-essential outdoor gatherings.

US 'hotbeds'

With virus fears gripping the United States, the restrictions so far imposed in seven states cover around 100 million people and includes the country's three most populous cities -- New York, Los Angeles and Chicago -- under lockdown.

Trump also announced Friday that the US and Mexico have agreed to restrict non-essential travel across their border.

And US lawmakers on Friday evening missed a deadline to reach an agreement on a $1 trillion emergency package, amid fears of widespread economic fallout because of the pandemic.

China help

Strict confinement measures across Europe follow the template set by China.

Europe now accounts for more than half of the world's fatalities linked to COVID-19.

In a sign of the shifting centre of the crisis, China has sent medical supplies to European nations struggling to cope with the pandemic, including Greece which received 500,000 medical masks from Beijing Saturday.

Cases stand at over 1,000 across Africa, where health care systems are fragile and social distancing is not possible in many crowded cities.

In Iran, which reported 123 new deaths Saturday, both supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani promised the country would overcome the outbreak -- but still refused to join the rest of the world in imposing heavy restrictions. The country has more than 1,500 deaths and some 20,000 infections.

In Latin America, Cuba and Bolivia both announced they were closing their borders, and Colombia said it would begin mandatory isolation from Tuesday.

Rio de Janeiro's beaches will be off-limits to sunseekers from Saturday, leaving street vendors worried how they will survive with limited government support.

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