Around one in five people around the globe are under lockdown, ordered to stay home as the world enters a critical week in responding to the accelerating coronavirus pandemic.
As of Tuesday there have been at least 378,679 confirmed cases of people with the virus across the world. More than 16,500 people have died while almost 101,000 have recovered.
The first 100,000 cases took 67 days to appear, while the most recent 100,000 just four days, noted the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. But “we are not helpless bystanders”, he said.
An estimated 1.7 billion people have been ordered to remain at home as governments take extreme measures to protect their populations.
Britain has become the latest country to enter lockdown, after bans on movement came into force at midnight on Monday. The measures also include strict limits on gatherings and even exercise – all enforced by police. Non-essential shops, playgrounds, libraries and other venues were closed, said the prime minister, Boris Johnson, in a televised address to the nation.
Johnson warned people would only be allowed outside to buy food or medication, exercise alone once a day, or to travel to work if absolutely necessary. “You must stay at home,” he said.
Hours after the UK lockdown began, Chinese authorities announced travel restrictions in Hubei province, the centre of the outbreak, would be lifted on Wednesday, except for Wuhan city where they would be lifted on 8 April. Wuhan has been under lockdown since 23 January.
In the US, where about 40% of the population are under restrictions, laws were enacted making it a crime to stockpile medical supplies. There have been 557 deaths and nearly 44,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the US, but President Donald Trump told a televised press conference he was not open to the idea of restrictive public health measures going on for months.
Trump said that he wanted the US economy to reopen within weeks, and refused to say if he would follow the advice of public health authorities if they said restrictions had to stay in place whether or not they damaged the economy.
“Our country was not built to be shut down,” Trump said. “This is not a country that was built for this.”
He also urged people not to blame or target Asian Americans over the virus. “It’s very important that we protect our Asian American community in the US and all around the world. They’re amazing people and the spreading of the virus is not their fault in any way, shape or form.”
The day before, he had referred to the “Chinese virus” twice in a press conference.
New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, reported 5,707 new cases in the state on Monday, bringing the total to 20,875. New York City, which is home to 8.4 million people, is becoming one of the world’s biggest hotspots with more than 12,000 people testing positive. Almost 100 have died.
In Australia the fallout has continued after authorities on Thursday allowed a cruise ship with sick passengers to dock and all 2,700 passengers to disembark. More than 130 have since been diagnosed with Covid-19, including one who died on Tuesday.
New Zealand, which recorded 40 new cases, was readying for a total national lockdown on Wednesday and warned its citizens overseas that they should probably shelter in place where they are
In a sliver of good news, Italian authorities reported a second successive drop in daily deaths and infections from Covid-19. On Monday there were 601 deaths, compared with 651 on Sunday and 651 on Saturday. New cases on Monday were 4,789, down from 6,557 reported on Saturday.
“We cannot declare victory just yet,” said Giulio Gallera, chief medical officer for the northern region of Lombardy.
“But there is light at the end of the tunnel.”