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Virus forces Spain into lockdown

A DOG walks past a closed resteraunt in Le Touquet, northern France. The country is battling the coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease.

A DOG walks past a closed resteraunt in Le Touquet, northern France. The country is battling the coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease. (AFP)

MADRID, Spain (AFP) – Spain and France have imposed sweeping restrictions to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus-2019 that has infected more than 150,000 people worldwide.

Spain on Saturday followed Italy and imposed a near total nationwide lockdown, banning people from leaving home except to go to work, get medical care, or buy food.

The disease has so far claimed 196 lives in Spain, making it the worst hit European country after Italy. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s wife is among those infected.

France, meanwhile, ordered the closure of restaurants, bars, cinemas, and nightclubs but said food shops, pharmacies, banks, and tobacconists would remain open and local elections will go ahead on Sunday.

The number of COVID-19 cases worldwide has reached more than 156,000 worldwide with more than 5,800 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

A week that saw schools and businesses shut down indefinitely, millions of travelers barred from crossing borders, celebrities and politicians become infected, and the whole of Italy locked down ended with a flurry of government announcements.

President Donald Trump declared a national emergency and announced a $50-billion package, with similar measures being taken by governments from Austria to Canada on Saturday.

European nations ramped up border controls, with foreigners barred from crossing into Russia from Norway and Poland. Denmark and the Czech Republic also announced stringent restrictions and Morocco closed its borders despite having only eight cases.

Jordan suspended all flights, closed its borders, and shut down schools, while Chile has quarantined more than 1,300 people aboard two cruise ships after an elderly Briton aboard one of them tested positive for the coronavirus.

Squares and streets from Milan to Madrid were deserted on Saturday as government calls to stay at home were heeded by most.

Some Italians took to singing to each other from their windows to beat the isolation.

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