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Illustration by Security Management

Countries Impose Lockdowns, Domestic Restrictions as COVID-19 Death Toll Rises

Nations worldwide are imposing increasingly strict quarantine and travel restrictions as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads.

Italy reported 368 new deaths on Sunday from the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak; the country’s death toll hit 1,809, with 24,747 positive cases. The weekend marked a 20 percent spike in the number of cases reported in Italy.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the pandemic has killed nearly 5,800 people worldwide, with more than 153,000 infections. Outside the pandemic’s origins in China, Italy has been the hardest hit country.

Other European nations are escalating their responses to the virus— Denmark closed its borders Saturday to everyone except Danes, Danish residents, and green card holders until 14 April. Germany partially closed its borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg, and Denmark.

Spain announced a nationwide lockdown after 2,000 new cases were confirmed, making it the fourth most infected nation in the world with 8,744 cases. People are only allowed to leave their homes to go to work, the pharmacy, or a hospital, according to NBC News.

France closed all nonessential businesses, including cafes, restaurants, and movie theaters, The Washington Post reports.

According to Reuters, French authorities are considering a partial lockdown. As of Sunday, 15 March, 127 people have died of COVID-19 in France, and more than 5,400 have been infected.

Despite official advice to stay home, many Parisians ventured out in large numbers on Sunday. “A lot of people have not understood that they need to stay at home, and this low level at which people have adhered means that we are not succeeding in curbing the outbreak of the epidemic,” France’s Director General of Health Jerome Salomon told France Inter radio. “This morning, I appeal to all French people to mobilize in the fight.”

Fines have been issued to hundreds of people in Spain and thousands in Italy for breaking quarantine rules.

Meanwhile, in the United States, people crowded into bars and restaurants this weekend for informal St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, despite health officials’ warnings and cancellations of parades and other festivities.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order that limits restaurants, bars, and cafes to takeout and delivery only; closes nightclubs, movie theaters, small theaters, and concert venues; orders city hospitals to cancel all elective surgery; suspends visits to Rikers Island jail; and closes city senior centers, The New York Times reports.

“This is not a decision I make lightly,” de Blasio said. “These places are part of the heart and soul of our city. They are part of what it means to be a New Yorker. But our city is facing an unprecedented threat, and we must respond with a wartime mentality.”

The NYC Department of Health urged New Yorkers to act as if they had personally been exposed to the virus, and residents were asked to self-quarantine—only leaving home for essential tasks such as work, getting groceries, or essential medical care.

As of 16 March, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut jointly banned gatherings of 50 or more people, following U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance issued over the weekend.