Millions wake up to tightening lockdowns as restrictions lift in pandemic's origin

LONDON – As millions of people around the world got used to tightened barriers on Tuesday, restrictions began to ease in China, where the coronavirus pandemic started.

The closure of the city of Wuhan, where COVID-19 was first discovered, is scheduled to end on April 8, the provincial Hubei Epidemic Control Task Force said. Residents are allowed to travel to work from the province on Wednesday as soon as they have passed a virus test.

Public transportation in Wuhan, Hubei Province began testing on Monday to anticipate a return to normal life.

According to Johns Hopkins University, it has been confirmed worldwide that more than 380,000 people suffer from the coronavirus, which is thought to have developed in Hubei late last year, resulting in more than 16,500 deaths.

In the UK, however, people became more restricted after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced late Monday that a comprehensive nationwide ban would ban meetings of more than two people and almost all social events such as weddings and baptisms.

“You have to stay home,” Johnson said during a television speech to the nation on Monday night. “The key is to stop the disease from spreading between households.”

People can exercise outdoors once a day, but at a safe distance from others. Shopping should be limited to the essentials. All shops selling unnecessary goods and other public gathering places such as libraries, places of worship and playgrounds were ordered closed. Johnson said the police would also be given the power to disperse assemblies and to pay fines for non-compliance.

“The road ahead is difficult and it is still true that many lives will unfortunately be lost,” he said.

But on Tuesday, photos of overcrowded undergrounds across London were circulating on social media.

The movement had an impact. A growing number of transit workers have reported sick and self-isolation, which further reduces services, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said in a tweet.

“If you have to work, please do not travel at rush hour,” Khan said to limit contact and congestion.

France introduced a two-month state of emergency on Tuesday with stricter measures than almost two weeks ago.

In his television address, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe banned open street markets and restricted his physical movement to within a half mile of people’s houses. All trips must be limited to an hour and documented, he said.

With restrictions on movement and activity of varying degrees in Europe, New Zealand, Canada and parts of Africa, South America, India and the United States, the lives of more than 1.4 billion people are affected.

An employee sprays disinfectants on Tuesday at Wuhan Station in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei ProvinceAFP – Getty Images

In the United States, Michigan, Indiana, Oregon and West Virginia were among the growing number of states that placed home stay orders as the virus cases continue to grow.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 21-day vesting period that will come into effect on Thursday at midnight. The measures were a reaction to the jump in confirmed cases of the virus on Monday from 128 to 402.

South Africa will be the third country in Africa to end all non-essential economic activities after Rwanda and Tunisia, and its measures will be enforced by the police and military, Ramaphosa said.

The government of the West African nation of Senegal declared a state of emergency on Monday evening after 79 people confirmed the virus. Travel between regions would be restricted, public spaces would be closed, meetings would be banned, and a curfew would be imposed, President Macky Sall said.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha also declared a state of emergency on Tuesday to take stricter measures that will take effect on Thursday.

Linda Givetash and Matthew Mulligan reported from London, Leou Chen from Beijing and Nancy Ing from Paris.

Associated Press contributed.

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