World closes borders to contain coronavirus spread

People wearing face masks amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak are pictured at the premises of Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu
People wearing face masks amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak are pictured at the premises of Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal March 14, 2020. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

Countries around the world on Saturday continued to close borders, impose strict entry and quarantine requirements and restrict large gatherings in efforts to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

Apple Inc said it will close all its retail stores outside Greater China until March 27. Apple reopened all 42 of its branded stores in China on Friday as the spread of the virus on mainland China slowed dramatically.

Countries have shuttered museums, tourist attractions and sporting events to minimise the risk of transmission.

In a bid to limit the economic damage from a pandemic that has infected more than 138,000 people worldwide and left more than 5,000 dead, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an aid package that would provide free testing and paid sick leave.

Colombia said it will close its borders with Venezuela and stop visitors who have been in Europe or Asia, while a U.S. ban on entry for most people from continental Europe was due to start midnight Friday.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says Europe has become the pandemic’s current epicentre after reporting more cases and deaths than the rest of world combined, apart from China where the coronavirus originated last December.

Saudi Arabia will suspend all international flights for two weeks, starting Sunday, state news agency SPA said, Taiwan will require travellers from mainland Europe, Britain and Ireland to self-isolate for 14 days, while New Zealand implemented a similar measure for all those entering the country.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also called on cruise ships, a major source of infections in some countries, not to come to New Zealand until June 30.

“Alongside Israel, and a small number of Pacific Islands who have effectively closed their border, this decision will mean New Zealand will have the widest-ranging and toughest border restrictions of any country in the world,” she said.

The country has just six confirmed cases and has had no deaths, but Ardern said that number inevitably would arise.

“That is why ultimately, we must go hard and we must go early,” she told reporters.

The U.S. military also said it will halt most domestic travel, extending earlier restrictions on international travel for its more than a million active-duty troops around the world.

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