By Democracy Now
HAVANA TIMES – There are now over 196,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus worldwide, with over 7,900 reported deaths. The European Union is preparing to vote on a proposal to shut all external borders and impose a 30-day continent-wide foreign travel ban.
In France, President Emmanuel Macron warned that French people were not heeding government directives and continuing to gather in public spaces.
President Emmanuel Macron: “These efforts that I am asking of you, I know that they are novel, but the circumstances oblige us to do so. We are at war, in a health war, surely. We’re fighting neither another army nor our own nation. But the enemy is here, invisible, untouchable, which is advancing, and this requires our general mobilization.”
France is planning to deploy 100,000 police to enforce the coronavirus lockdown and impose penalties for those who don’t respect the new rules. The ongoing anti-government “Yellow Vest” protests have continued in the face of new restrictions. Thousands of French security forces confronted hundreds of demonstrators Saturday in Paris. Macron did allow municipal elections to go ahead Sunday despite concerns over crowds.
Meanwhile, the pandemic continues to grip Spain — now the fourth most infected country worldwide, with over 9,000 cases and 300 deaths. Two thousand new cases were confirmed over the past day. The Spanish government announced it was nationalizing hospitals and private healthcare companies to better manage the pandemic. We’ll have more from on the ground in Spain, after headlines.
In Italy, reports emerged that overrun hospitals may have to start refusing intensive care treatment to patients over 80 years of age, according to a draft of plans on how to cope with the crisis.
Fiat Chrysler, PSA Group and Renault announced they were closing 35 manufacturing facilities across Europe. Video circulated on social media of Mercedes-Benz workers in Spain striking after they were asked to keep working during the pandemic.
Canada has announced it is shutting its borders to foreign nationals, though the order has some exceptions, including, for now, U.S. citizens.
Cuba has given permission for cruise ships to dock on the island if they are carrying COVID-19 patients — saying this is a time for solidarity and that health is a human right. A British cruise ship carrying five people who tested positive for coronavirus is set to dock in Cuba after days stranded in the ocean, being turned away by other countries.
Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte has put the entire island of Luzon, which includes the capital Manila, on lockdown, affecting 57 million people. There are 142 confirmed cases and 12 deaths in the Philippines. Critics say the quarantine presents a near-impossible dilemma for the island’s many hourly workers who must choose between survival and their health. This is a Manila resident.
Clemente Naseba: “It’s hard for the workers because they will get hungry, their children will get hungry. What about the people who can’t work? Because they are quarantined at home, they can’t go out. They have no money for food.”
South Africa has declared a national disaster, imposing massive travel bans. Sudan has sealed off all seaports, land crossings and airports. Egypt, which has the highest number of coronavirus cases in Africa with at least 160 infections, announced it will suspend all flights starting Thursday. Twenty-seven African countries have confirmed nearly 350 coronavirus cases.
As coronavirus cases mount in the Middle East, there is growing concern Syria might face a major outbreak that could be “catastrophic” to civilians already dealing with the ongoing war and massive displacement.
According to Iranian officials the country has temporarily released 85,000 prisoners, including political prisoners, in response to the pandemic. The death toll in Iran has topped 850, and nearly 15,000 people have been confirmed infected.
In Latin America, Chile is closing its borders Wednesday and imposing isolation as the nation has the highest number of coronavirus cases in South America. Venezuela and Peru have also ordered all citizens to stay home. Colombia and Costa Rica are also closing their borders and imposing curfews.
Meanwhile, China marked a major milestone Tuesday as it announced it had just one new case over the past day.