Spain death toll surpasses China’s; India enters 3-week lockdown

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March 25 (UPI) — Spain has now recorded more deaths from the coronavirus outbreak than any other nation except for Italy, health officials said Wednesday.

More than 700 new deaths were reported in Spain, bringing the nation’s total to more than 3,400. The spike pushed the Spanish toll ahead of the number of dead in China, where nearly 3,300 have died so far. Italy has reported more deaths than any nation, with more than 6,800 so far.

As of early Wednesday, there are more than 435,000 cases worldwide and more than 19,600 deaths, according to statistics from Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 112,000 cases have recovered.

In India, more than 1.3 billion have begun a 21-day lockdown to clamp down on the spread of the cirus. Modi ordered the lockdown on Tuesday and it took effect at midnight. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said there will be a “total ban” on Indian citizens venturing out from their homes during the period.

In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the defense ministry has declared a state of national emergency ahead of a lockdown to halt the spread of the coronavirus disease.

Ardern’s message came as New Zealand’s health ministry reported 50 new and probable cases, increasing its total to more than 200 ahead of a lockdown scheduled for Wednesday night

“From midnight tonight, we bunker down for four weeks to try and stop the virus in its tracks, to break the chain,” Ardern said before New Zealand Parliament. “Make no mistake, this will get worse before it gets better.”

Of all infections nationwide, only five have so far been hospitalized and there have been no deaths, but Ardern said the state of emergency was declared to hit “a window of opportunity” to stop the virus before it gets worse and save lives.

Scenes from a pandemic: World copes with COVID-19

Mohamed abu Daga (L) and his bride Israa wear face masks during a photo shoot at a studio before their wedding ceremony in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza on March 23. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo

“It’s that simple,” she said. “In this fight against a virus, we have some things on our side.”

The prime minister announced the lockdown on Monday when New Zealand cases surpassed 100 and ordered 4.7 million people to prepare to stay at home and not interact with others for at least a month.

Ardern said the declaration allows the director of Civil Defense Emergency Management to coordinate and use resources made available and gives it power to oversee the supply of food, fuel and other essential supplies; regulate land, water and air traffic; close roads and public places; evacuate premises including public spaces; and prohibit people from any place deemed necessary.

“This declaration helps us limit our exposure, and the exposure of the most vulnerable members of our community, to COVID-19,” she added. “In short, it will help save lives.”

The police and military will remind New Zealanders to follow the lockdown and can escalate the measure, if required.

“They can arrest if needed,” Ardern said.

This is the second time an emergency has been declared in New Zealand, following an earthquake in Christchurch in 2011.

In Malaysia, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin extended the national movement control order until April 14, the Malay Mail reported.

The order, essentially a shutdown of all non-essential businesses and closing of its borders, began March 18 and was originally to expire March 31, but Muhyiddin extended it by two weeks on Wednesday as Malaysia’s number of cases rose.

The prime minister said the extension was called in response to an uptick in cases.

“I know you feel burdened but I don’t have a choice,” he said. “I have to extend the [order] for your own safety.”

Health officials said there are about 1,800 cases in Malaysia and 17 deaths.

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