Global virus infections top 200,000 as nations tighten clampdowns
Global death toll crosses 9,000, with more in Europe than in Asia
PARIS : The number of global infections shot past 200,000 on Wednesday, as governments across Europe, North America and Asia rolled out tough measures to put the brakes on the ferocious spread of the deadly disease.
Worldwide fatalities topped 9,000 with more deaths recorded in Europe, the new epicentre of the pandemic, than in Asia since the outbreak began in China late last year.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) called the disease an "enemy against humanity", urging a collective response to fight it. "This coronavirus is presenting us with an unprecedented threat," said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Various governments have imposed tough containment measures, forcing unprecedented social change.
The European Union sealed its borders on Wednesday, barring travellers from outside the bloc for 30 days to try to slow the rapid spread of the virus.
Europe has now recorded more than 4,000 deaths - including at least 3,000 in Italy, which recorded its highest single day toll on Wednesday - leapfrogging Asia's more than 3,380 fatalities, according to an AFP tally.
There are more than 90,000 cases across Europe, with Italy, Spain and France leading infections and fatalities.
Britain has unveiled a loan package for businesses struggling in the sudden economic paralysis caused by mass self-quarantine, following similar moves by France and Germany.
London also announced all schools would close from today, along with new sweeping emergency powers including proposals allowing police to detain potentially infected people for tests. Yesterday, several stations on the London Tube were also closed to reduce movement.
Some supermarkets announced purchase quotas and special shopping hours for seniors after shelves were stripped bare following a bout of panic-buying.
The EU warned of long-term ripples from the virus as it imposed new travel restrictions, the most significant emergency measure from Brussels, which has struggled to develop a unified response.
EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen told Germany's Bild newspaper that politicians had initially underestimated the virus threat.
"But now it is clear that this is a virus that will keep us busy for a long time yet," she said.
"We understand that measures that seemed drastic two or three weeks ago, need to be taken now."
Within the bloc some countries have sealed borders, while bars, restaurants and most shops have closed their doors until further notice, grinding life in Europe's normally bustling cities to a halt.
Some 850 million youngsters have been kept home globally - about half the world's student population - according to Unesco.
"The scale and speed of the school and university closures represents an unprecedented challenge for the education sector," the UN body said.- AFP