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France, Belgium and Poland tightened the curbs on Saturday as the number of coronavirus cases spiked in Europe as the Philippines prepared for a huge lockdown and Chile imprisoned over 80 percent of its population.
France has admitted the situation is “critical” and added three more departments to the 16 already severely restricted.
In France, around 20 million people, including those in the greater Paris area, live in areas with high levels of infection.
They are not allowed to travel further than 10 kilometers from their home unless they have a substantial reason.
Checks at train stations, airports and toll highways began on Saturday to enforce travel restrictions.
“About 10 police teams were deployed against two in normal times,” a police officer told AFP in the busy Montparnasse station in Paris, adding that those numbers would increase during peak hours.
Only grocery stores, book and music stores are open, and high school classrooms are only half as full.
The daily cases in France have almost doubled since the beginning of the month, and there were more than 200,000 new cases each week.
In the meantime, Belgium has closed all shops in which there is non-medical contact for four weeks from Saturday, e.g. B. Hairdressers.
Shops that offer “non-essential” services can only receive customers with appointments.
Poland closed cribs, playgrounds, furniture and hardware stores, as well as beauty salons and barber shops.
“The virus is the enemy”
Social distancing in churches in the predominantly Catholic nation has also been tightened, with one person being allowed in per 20 square meters instead of 200 square meters earlier.
The Philippines announced on Saturday that more than 24 million people will be locked in and around Manila next week.
“The virus is the enemy, not the government,” said President’s spokesman Harry Roque.
“While we are at home, we expect the infection rates to slow down.”
As of Monday, people will have to work from home unless they are considered an essential labor and public transport will stop.
All mass gatherings are banned, night curfews from 6:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. are enforced, and non-essential businesses are closed.
Chile has also introduced a new and strict lockdown for more than 80 percent of its population, with shopping tours for even basic products banned on weekends.
According to an AFP tally on Saturday, the pandemic has killed over 2.7 million people since December 2019.
The United States is the worst hit country with 548,089 deaths, followed by Brazil with 307,112 deaths, Mexico with 200,862 deaths, India with 161,240 deaths and the UK with 126,515 deaths.
Health officials have introduced more than 510 million coronavirus vaccine doses worldwide, but with large gaps between countries.
The World Health Organization on Friday appealed to richer nations to donate vaccines to help the poorest start vaccinating.
Vaccine use has been strikingly uneven, with the United States accounting for more than a quarter of the world’s total and poorer nations lagging far behind the richer.
While rich EU countries are still struggling to get their vaccinations running at full speed, France has made it clear that vaccine policy feeds not only European but also global competition for influence.
“We are seeing a new kind of world war,” said President Emmanuel Macron after an EU summit.
“We are particularly looking at Russian and Chinese attacks and attempts to gain influence through the vaccine.”
However, Moscow, whose Sputnik-V shot is being introduced in numerous countries around the world, hit back quickly and Kremlin officials said they “absolutely disagree” with Macron’s comments.
However, Berlin said it would be happy to use Sputnik V if approved by EU regulators.
Germany has also classified all of France as a high-risk zone, which means travelers must present a negative COVID test and quarantine upon arrival.
Kenya was the youngest African country to order a partial lockdown on Friday, closing schools and bars in and around the capital, Nairobi.
“I believe the cost of not acting now would be much higher,” said President Uhuru Kenyatta.
New measures are also being taken in India amid a sharp surge in infections, with the worst-hit state of Maharashtra, including its mega-city Mumbai, going under curfew from Sunday.
In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro got politically heated on Friday when his predecessor accused him of directing the “greatest genocide” in the country’s history.
“We have to save Brazil from COVID-19,” said former chairman Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, adding: “Brazil will not stand if this man continues to rule this way.”
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