Coronavirus: Countries enforce mass closures to stem spread

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A woman rides a bicycle past the closed Imperial Theatre in Times Square. 12 March 2020 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Theatres in New York are among the venues to close as part of a ban on large public gatherings

Schools have been closed, sports events cancelled and cultural institutions shut around the world as countries try to stem the coronavirus outbreak.

In the US, all major sport has been suspended and Broadway performances are off for a month.

And France is one of the latest countries to announce closure of all schools, universities and nurseries.

President Emmanuel Macron described the outbreak as France’s most serious health crisis for a century.

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has begun 14-day self-isolation after his wife Sophie tested positive for coronavirus. He is not showing symptoms.

And Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has been admitted to hospital after testing positive.

More than 125,000 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 in 118 countries around the world, according to the World Health Organization. The total number of deaths is more than 4,600.

Share prices around the world continue to plunge. On Friday, Asian markets slumped, with Japan’s Nikkei 225 falling 10% but recovering to end down 6.1%. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong fell by 6.9% but ended the day just 1.6% down.

This follows losses in Europe and the US, where Wall Street stocks plummeted about 10% on their worst day since the 1987 Black Monday crash, a fall mirrored on London’s FTSE.

How is the cultural sector being affected?

Some of the world’s top museums and galleries have now shut their doors:

  • The Van Gogh museum and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam are closing until the end of March
  • In the US, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the largest art museum in the world, said it was temporarily closing all three of its locations in the city. All Smithsonian museums in Washington DC and New York City will close from Saturday

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  • New York State’s Governor Andrew Cuomo banned all gatherings of more than 500, prompting Broadway to suspend all its performances for a month
  • Belgium has announced a raft of restrictions, cancelling all cultural and recreational events from Friday night but stopping short of a lockdown

Disney announced it would shut its theme parks in Florida and Paris until the end of the month. It earlier said it was closing its California park from Saturday amid a wave of Covid-19 infections in the state.

In the world of film, the release of the latest Fast and Furious instalment was pushed back by 11 months, one of a number of movies to postpone opening dates. And the Tribeca Film Festival was postponed in the US.

Also on Thursday, Qatar announced the closure of all cinemas, theatres, gyms, play areas and museums.

And what sporting events are off?

It has been hard to keep up with all the developments, but here are some of the key moves:

Several clubs in the English premiership have been hit. Chelsea football club has gone into lockdown after player Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive. All Chelsea personnel who have been in contact with him, including the entire senior men’s team, will have to self-isolate for 14 days.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta tested positive and Saturday’s match against Brighton has been postponed. Leicester and Manchester City also have players in self-isolation.

The news follows a host of postponements and suspensions in European football, including all French football matches.

The NHL, NBA and MLS have all suspended their seasons in North America, and the ATP tour shut down for six weeks “to protect the health and safety of our players, staff, the wider tennis community and general public health”.

This weekend’s Formula One season-opening Australian Grand Prix has been called off.

The Nepalese government has cancelled all climbing permits for Mount Everest, following China’s decision not to allow any expeditions on the northern side of the mountain.

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Media captionBoris Johnson: “More families will lose loved ones before their time”

Ski areas in western Austria’s Tyrol province are also to close down from Sunday, regional officials said Thursday.

Read more: How the virus has impacted sporting events around the world

What is the latest on quarantines?

Four towns in Spain’s Catalonia region were put under lockdown on Thursday, in a first in the country. The measures, affecting some 70,000 people, came as Spain’s death toll rose to 84 – up from 47 the day before.

In Italy the government imposed a blanket closure of restaurants, bars and almost all shops except food stores and pharmacies. The death toll there has passed 1,000 but Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio says the measures imposed in the first area of the outbreak have been proving effective.

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Media captionItalian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio: “There is a way to defeat this virus”

Also on Thursday, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced a ban on domestic travel to and from Manila, in what he called a “lockdown” of the capital.

A number of key figures have also revealed they are self-isolating amid concerns they may have caught the virus.

What about school closures?

The Republic of Ireland, Belgium, Spain, France, the Philippines, Portugal and Bolivia were among the countries to announce school closures on Thursday. French schools will be closed from Monday for at least 15 days.

In the UK, the government said such measures were being considered but that the scientific advice was that “this could do more harm than good” at this stage.

All school trips abroad were banned, however, and anyone with a cough or high temperature was advised to self-isolate for seven days.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this was “the worst public health crisis for a generation” and warned many families they would “lose loved ones before their time”.

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