March 16 ------ France and Spain joined Italy in imposing lockdowns on tens of millions of people, Australia ordered self-isolation of arriving foreigners and other countries extended entry bans as the world sought to contain the spreading coronavirus. Panic buying in Australia, the United States and Britain saw leaders appeal for calm over the virus that has infected over 156,000 people globally and killed more than 5,800. Several countries imposed bans on mass gathering, shuttered sporting, cultural and religious events, while medical experts urged people to practice “social distancing” to curb the spread.
Austria’s chancellor urged people to self-isolate and announced bans on gatherings of more than five people and further limits on who can enter the country. All of Pope Francis’ Easter services next month will be held without the faithful attending, the Vatican said on Sunday, in a step believed to be unprecedented in modern times. The services, four days of major events from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday, usually draw tens of thousands of people to sites in Rome and in the Vatican. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said from midnight Sunday international travelers arriving in the country would need to isolate themselves for 14 days, and foreign cruise ships would be banned for 30 days, given a rise in imported cases. Australia’s latest restrictions mirror those announced by neighboring New Zealand on Saturday.
Donald Trump tested negative for the coronavirus, his doctor said on Saturday, as the U.S. president extended his country’s travel ban to Britain and Ireland. Last week, Trump had met a Brazilian delegation in which at least one member has since been tested positive. Travel restrictions and bans, and a plunge in global air travel, saw further airline cutbacks, with American Airlines Inc planning to cut 75% of international flights through May 6 and ground nearly all its widebody fleet.
China tightened checks on international travelers arriving at Beijing airport on Sunday, after the number of imported new coronavirus infections surpassed locally transmitted cases for a second day in a row. Anyone arriving to Beijing from abroad will be transferred directly to a central quarantine facility for 14 days for observation starting March 16, a city government official said. China, where the epidemic began in December, appears to now face a greater threat of new infections from outside its borders as it continues to slow the spread of the virus domestically. China has reported 80,984 cases and 3,203 deaths. The country imposed draconian containment policies from January, locking down several major cities.