New York(ANN)-The COVID-19 pandemic, with well over 11,000 deaths globally as of Saturday, has resulted in many countries across the planet enforcing restrictions on the movement of people, shutting down schools, and forcing millions to work from home.
Nearly 900 million people are now confined to their homes in 35 countries around the world, including 600 million hemmed in by obligatory government lockdown orders, according to an AFP tally.
Although the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions are the most severely affected by the virus, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that young people are also vulnerable.
“Today I have a message for young people: you are not invincible. This virus could put you in hospital for weeks — or even kill you,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “Even if you don’t get sick, the choices you make about where you go could be the difference between life and death for someone else.”
As China reported no new local infections for a third straight day, the WHO said the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus was first detected late last year, offered a glimmer of “hope for the rest of the world.”
Concerns over a new wave of imported infections in the region have escalated, with Hong Kong reporting 48 suspected cases on Friday — its biggest daily jump to date. Many of the afflicted people have a recent history of travel to or from Europe.
Despite efforts by Italian authorities to stem the spread of the virus, the death of a staggering 793 people on Saturday — the most it has suffered in a single day — marked the worst single day, with a total of 4,825 deaths since the outbreak began.
France, Italy, Spain, and other European countries have told people to stay at home, threatening fines in some cases, while Bavaria became the first region in Germany to order a lockdown.
Britain, finally falling in line with its EU neighbors, also announced tougher restrictions, telling pubs, restaurants, and theatres to close and promising to help cover the wages of affected workers.
The world-famous Bondi beach was also ordered shut after sunbathers crowded the hotspot in defiance of government orders to avoid non-essential outdoor gatherings.
California, the largest US state, with over 1,000 cases and 19 deaths, told its 40 million residents to stay at home.
The state of New York, with over 7,000 reported cases and 39 deaths, followed suit on Friday, ordering its nearly 20 million residents to stay home from Sunday evening.
President Donald Trump, while applauding the decisions by California and New York, went on to reiterate his opinion that a nationwide lockdown was unnecessary.
“Those are really two hotbeds,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll ever find (a US-wide lockdown) necessary.”
The governor of Illinois, however, disagreed with this assessment and, shortly after Trump’s speech, ordered residents of the state to stay at home. Connecticut’s governor followed suit quickly afterwards.
The restrictions so far imposed in seven US states cover around 100 million people, with the country’s three most populous cities — New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago — under lockdown.
Trump also announced Friday that the US and Mexico had agreed to restrict non-essential travel across their border.
US lawmakers also missed a deadline to reach an agreement on a $1 trillion emergency package on Friday evening, amid fears of widespread economic fallout because of the pandemic.
Strict confinement measures across Europe, which now accounts for more than half of the world’s fatalities linked to COVID-19, follow the template set by China, where the lockdown imposed in Hubei Province — of which Wuhan is the capital — appears to have paid off.
China has sent medical supplies to European nations struggling to cope with the pandemic, including Greece, which received 500,000 medical masks from Beijing on Saturday.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo reported its first death on Saturday, while Burkina Faso reported two new deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities in sub-Saharan Africa to five.
Cases stand at over 1,000 across Africa, where health care systems
are fragile and social distancing is not possible in many crowded
Iran reported 123 new deaths on Saturday. The country has more than 1,500 deaths and some 20,000 infections.
In Latin America, Cuba and Bolivia announced they were closing their borders, and Colombia said it would begin mandatory isolation from Tuesday.
Rio de Janeiro’s beaches will be off-limits to sunbathers from Saturday, leaving street vendors worried how they will survive with limited government support.