Wednesday, 27 January, 2021

Coronavirus: Spanish deaths surge close to 500

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Spanish police guard the border with France near the village of Dantxarinea

Deaths from coronavirus in Spain surged to 491 on Tuesday from 309 the day before, health officials have said.

The number of confirmed cases also soared by 2,000 to 11,178, as Spain closed its borders and maintained a partial lockdown on 47 million people.

Death tolls have increased elsewhere, with Iran reporting 135 more, taking its official total close to 1,000.

The EU is planning to ban all non-essential cross-border travel, as France started its own strict lockdown.

The EU ban, which applies across Europe’s Schengen free-travel zone, will be in place for at least 30 days. It will affect all but long-term residents, family members of EU nationals and diplomats, cross-border and healthcare workers, and people transporting goods.

EU leaders will discuss the measures via videoconference later on Tuesday.

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French citizens who leave home must now carry a document detailing the reasons why, with fines for transgressors.

The latest World Heath Organization (WHO) figures list 173,000 infections globally and 7,000 deaths.

What is the latest from Spain?

Before the latest figures were released, at midnight Spain began stopping cars crossing its borders from France and Portugal. Only Spanish nationals, residents and cross-border workers were being allowed in.

Train services are also affected and the interior ministry has not ruled out closing airspace and sea traffic.

Madrid remains the area with the highest number of cases – 4,871 – with Catalonia next on 1,394.

Some 1,028 people are listed as having recovered from the Covid-19 disease.

EL Pais reports that the the government of the Balearic Islands has asked the 25,000 tourists who are still on the islands to leave and return home.

What is France doing?

President Emmanuel Macron has ordered people to stay at home and only go out for essential trips.

The decree came into effect at 11:00 local time (12:00 GMT) on Tuesday. Mr Macron said the previous measures, including the closing of schools, cafes and non-essential shops, had proven insufficient.

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Media caption“We are at war,” says President Macron

His 20-minute televised address on Monday was watched by a record 35.3 million people, Le Monde reported, 96% of the people watching at the time.

“We are at war… we’re fighting neither another army nor our own nation. But the enemy is here, invisible, untouchable… and is advancing,” he said.

Citizens must carry a form spelling out their reasons for travel and the fine for transgressors will be set soon at €135 ($150; £123).

Some 100,000 civil servants and soldiers will be deployed nationwide to carry out checks.

On Tuesday, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire unveiled a €45bn ($50bn; £41bn) aid package to help businesses and affected employees. He said he was ready to use nationalisation if necessary.

France has so far registered more than 6,000 infections and 148 deaths.

What is the latest in Iran?

It remains the world’s third-worst-affected nation, after China and Italy.

More than 16,000 people are confirmed as infected and 988 have died, although some analysts believe the figures are far higher than officially reported.

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Media captionEverything you need to know about the coronavirus explained in one minute

A spokesman for the judiciary said on Tuesday that 85,000 prisoners, including political prisoners, had been temporarily released to try to combat the spread.

Gholamhossein Esmaili did not say when or how those freed would be returned to prison, but stressed that only prisoners serving five years or less had been released.

Most shops and restaurants remain open but the health ministry has urged people to stay at home.

The latest news elsewhere outside Europe:

  • Voting on Tuesday in the Democratic primary in the US state of Ohio has been postponed, although voting is set to go ahead in Arizona, Florida, and Illinois
  • President Donald Trump said the coronavirus emergency could last until the end of the summer or even longer, and that over the next 15 days Americans should not gather in groups of more than 10 and should avoid bars, restaurants, food courts, gyms and crowds
  • China reported just one new domestic infection on Tuesday – but 20 more from people arriving from abroad. It also said it “strongly opposed” Mr Trump’s reference in a tweet to the “Chinese virus”
  • The Philippines became the first nation to shut its stock exchange indefinitely
  • Malaysia is barring people crossing the border with Singapore from Wednesday, sparking a rush on food stores in the city state, which depends on Malaysia for supplies
  • India’s iconic Taj Mahal monument has shut down
  • Scientists in Australia say they have identified how the body’s immune system fights the Covid-19 virus
  • Germany has banned religious services and told people to cancel any domestic or foreign holiday travel. Venues including clubs, bars, leisure facilities, zoos and playgrounds will be closed. Schools already have been.

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Media captionTrump tells Americans to avoid public spaces
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  • How are lockdowns and other measures being enforced?

What else is happening in Europe?

  • Italy, the worst-affected nation outside China, where the virus originated, announced another surge in deaths on Monday, past the 2,000 mark to 2,150, with more than 20,000 cases. The government meanwhile is set to renationalise flag carrier airline Alitalia
  • Belgium doubled its death toll from five to 10 on on Tuesday
  • Sweden is to close all high schools and universities from Wednesday
  • Orthodox priests in Georgia have started blessing the streets of the capital Tbilisi with holy water

Last week, the WHO said Europe was now the “epicentre” of the virus, and urged governments to act aggressively to control the spread of Covid-19.

The head of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has told other countries to follow the containment strategies used in China and South Korea, saying they showed the pandemic was controllable.

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Media caption“Our key message is: test, test, test,” says WHO head

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