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Coronavirus: Beijing backtracks, Paris locks up and Spain locks down

How nations have responded to the changing threat this weekend•Coronavirus – latest updatesSee all our coronavirus coverage

Coronavirus: Beijing backtracks, Paris locks up and Spain locks down
A woman wearing a protective mask passes a portrait of the Chinese president, Xi Jinping. Photograph: Aly Song/Reuters

France

The French prime minister announced the closure of cafes, restaurants and all public places “non-essential” to public life, including cinemas and discos, from midnight on Saturday . Edouard Philippe said: “We must absolutely limit movement, meetings and contacts.” But he allowed food shops, tobacconists, banks and public transport to remain open.

French authorities also warned that widely used over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs may worsen the coronavirus, as the number of cases across the country jumped to 4,480. There have been 91 deaths, and France is one of several countries across Europe that have gone into lockdown.

Schools closed after final lessons last week, meaning 12.4 million students will remain at home, where the education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, has warned they will be expected to follow the national curriculum syllabus online. Authorities have banned gatherings of more than 100 people and shut down attractions including the Eiffel Tower, the palace of Versailles, the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay. In the Paris region, there will be no Sunday masses.

The health minister, Olivier Véran, said the evolution and spread of the virus was “rapid and real”, but added that about 98% of those who test positive for the virus do recover.

Health officials point out that anti-inflammatory drugs are known to be a risk for those with infectious illnesses because they tend to diminish the response of the body’s immune system. The health ministry added that patients should choose paracetamol because “it will reduce the fever without counter-attacking the inflammation”. Kim Willsher

China

The number of imported coronavirus cases now exceeds locally transmitted new infections for the first time, data from China’s national health commission shows. On Friday it had 11 new cases, but seven were brought in by travellers from the US, Italy and Saudi Arabia, and only four were transmitted inside the country. At least one of these was a US-based Chinese citizen, who reportedly returned home in search of medical treatment after requests for a test were turned down in Massachusetts, where she lived.

Beijing has been providing free treatment as part of its effort to halt the spread of the virus. But apparently in anticipation of more people arriving from abroad with the disease, it has drawn up a policy that will require most to pay for their own care. Emma Graham-Harrison

Spain

The Spanish government declared a state of emergency on Saturday, placing the country in lockdown and ordering people to leave their homes only if they needed to buy food, medicine, or go to work or hospital.

The lockdown, which will begin on Monday, comes after schools across the country were closed for a fortnight and the regional governments of Madrid, Murcia, Galicia, Cantabria and Asturias ordered the closure of all non-essential shops. The only businesses permitted to remain open are supermarkets, bakeries, butchers, fishmongers, greengrocers, petrol stations, pharmacies, tobacconists and newspaper kiosks.

Madrid’s city council announced the closure of all public parks and gardens to prevent large concentrations of people, while Seville, Granada and Córdoba cancelled their Holy Week celebrations. The Catalan president, Quim Torra, announced plans to close off the north-eastern region and called on the central government to assist by authorising the closure of ports, airports and railways.

After Italy, Spain is the European country most affected by the coronavirus, and has confirmed 6,391 cases and 196 deaths.

Jet2, which flies from nine UK airports to destinations including Alicante, Málaga and Lanzarote, said it was cancelling all flights to mainland Spain, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands.

The socialist-led government of prime minister Pedro Sánchez, whose wife tested positive for Covid-19 last night, has been fiercely criticised for its delay in rolling out robust measures to fight the virus and for allowing huge rallies across the country last Sunday to mark International Women’s Day. A state of emergency has not been declared since 2010, when it was enacted in response to an air traffic controllers’ strike. It will initially apply for two weeks. Sam Jones

India

Fears are growing about the spread of the virus in the world’s second-most populous country after it recorded its second death.

India has an impressive record in tackling infectious diseases, including defeating polio, and in 2009 curbing the swine flu pandemic. But it also has a stretched and uneven public health system.

The latest victim, a 68-year-old woman, caught the virus from her son after he travelled to Italy and Switzerland. He works at a large plant and may have been in contact with up to 1,500 people.

With 102 cases confirmed, the New Delhi government has invoked the Epidemic Act, which allows authorities to force people into isolation, and has brought in laws to prevent hoarding of hand sanitisers.

In many states, social life is being curbed, with gyms, pools, cinemas and theatres closed, and weddings, engagements and birthday parties banned in southern Karnataka. Emma Graham-Harrison

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