Ireland will enter a partial lockdown from 6pm on Thursday, with schools shut and public events cancelled in a bid to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced similar measures to those imposed in Italy over the weekend, with museums, galleries and other public facilities also closed.
Trump limits all travel from Schengen area for 30 days
President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday he is sharply restricting passenger travel from 26 European nations in the Schengen area to the United States.
In a rare Oval Office address, he said the month-long restriction on travel would begin at midnight on Friday. After days of playing down the coronavirus threat, he blamed Europe for not acting quickly enough to address the “foreign virus” and claimed that U.S. clusters were “seeded” by European travellers.
In other latest coronavirus developments:
- Poland and Austria announced their first deaths from COVID-19
- 75 more people died in Iran, raising the death toll to 429. More than 10,000 have been diagnosed there, and Iran has asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a multi-billion dollar loan
- Spain has become the secon worst-hit European country following a surge in cases
- Germany’s Angela Merkel said up to 70% of the German population could be infected
- Hungary announced a state of emergency
- France’s Macron will make a ‘short’ TV address on Thursday evening
- UK health minister Nadine Dorries diagnosed with the virus
Italy issues fines for breaking lockdown rules
Italy has tightened its lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic and has started to fine and arrest citizens who violate the restriction of movement.
Euronews spoke to Lea Quartapelle (Democratic party), a member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies. She said the government suggests people go on leave or take vacation days off, or switch to working from home.
“We’ve seen too many people still going around,” she pointed out. “People have to stay at home. This message has been made clear,” Qartapelle notes.
“It is difficult in a democratic country to stop doing whatever you are doing to renounce your freedom.”
She added that the closure of non-essential shops should make it easier for people to determine, which of their outdoor activities are indeed essential.
Italy has ordered all shops to close except for newsstands, pharmacies and grocery stories.
Quartapelle admitted that it is “complicated” to enforce the rules, and said people have been arrested, citing the example of two friends from Rome and Milan who had met up in Sicily. Moreover, people have been arrested on their way to the airport in a red zone. They had intended to go on a vacation in Spain.
Euronews reporter Alession Dell’Anna is on lockdown in Milan. He said it is a “proper quarantine.” “We can’t go out for walks. We cannot go out for a run in the park,” he said.
Citizens who are out on the streets have to carry a document that states why and where they are going.
WHO declares COVID-19 a pandemic
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared the COVID-19 virus a pandemic and urged countries across the world to find, isolate, test and treat every case.
“We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear,” he said, noting that there were now more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries, with 4,291 deaths reported.
“Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It’s a word that if misused can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over,” Dr Tedros said on Wednesday at a press conference in Switzerland.
The declaration “doesn’t change what countries should do” to aggressively contain the virus, he said, adding that the UN health agency was “deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity”.
The WHO’s declaration of the coronavirus as a pandemic sent markets tumbling. As US stocks plunged, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by over 1,000 points or 4.7% by early afternoon in New York.
However, another reason for wild swings on Wall Street this week is the lack of a formal plan from the Trump administration to shore up the economy in the face of the threat from the virus.
US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told a Congressional subcommittee on Wednesday that the administration was looking to help business including airlines and others in the travel industry.