Schengen deal crumbles: Nine EU countries close borders as 170million citizens on lockdown

Nearly 170 million people have been ordered to remain in their homes as France and Spain joined Italy in enforcing strict quarantine rules amid the deadly viral outbreak. No fewer than nine EU countries have introduced drastic measures in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus over the coming weeks. Spain issued a state of emergency, leaving many British tourists trapped in their hotel rooms, with prime minister Pedro Sanchez announcing on Saturday evening that people could only leave their homes to buy groceries and pharmaceutical products, go to the bank or hospital, or take care of relatives.

It is only the second such time the special powers have been used since the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

Its government announced yesterday the death toll had risen by more than 150 to 292, and more than 2,000 new cases were registered, bringing the total to 7,844.

Mr Sanchez warned: “From now on we enter into a new phase. We won’t hesitate in doing what we need to beat the virus. We are putting health first.”

France is also planning on tougher sanctions after senior politicians were infuriated by citizens ignoring their calls to cut out socialising and unnecessary trips.

Prime minister Edouard Philippe said: “The first measures that we took, curbing public gatherings were imperfectly applied.

“The best way to slow the epidemic is staying away from people. We must absolutely limit our movements.”

The country had already shut bars, restaurants, museums and non-essential shops over the weekend in order to curb the spread of coronavirus.

But President Emmanuel Macron flirted with danger after allowing nationwide municipal elections to go ahead. He insisted the virus must not harm democracy.

Measures were put in place to keep voters at a safe distance from one another and sanitise surfaces.

There are 5,437 cases in France, with some 300 in a serious condition and 127 deaths.

Education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer claimed between 50 and 70 percent of the country would contract coronavirus.

He said: “It is precisely that which will put an end to the virus since it will create a sort of majority immunity so the virus will die out by itself.”

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Fears continue to grow for Italy, the worst affected country outside China, where the virus originated.

Doctors said hospitals were at the “point of no return” as cases continue to rise.

The death toll had reached 1,809 by yesterday, increasing some 368 in a day, the largest daily rise to date.

The total number of cases continued to rise, reaching 24,747 after a jump of 3,590 in 24 hours.

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Lombardy, which is at the centre of Italy’s coronavirus outbreak, is running out of intensive care beds after shouldering more than half of the country’s cases.

Germany, a country famed for keeping its borders, open has decided to partially shut its frontiers with Austria, France, Denmark, Luxembourg and Switzerland.

The border will remain open to cross-border commuters and goods, but interior minister Horst Seehofer warned citizens “not to undertake non-compulsory trips”.

He said: “The situation is very serious.

“As long as there’s no European solution, you must act in the interest of your own population… those who don’t act are guilty.”

Mr Seehofer said the virus was advancing “quickly and aggressively”, claiming the outbreak’s “peak” was yet to come.

Germany saw a rise in 402 new cases, increasing the total to 6,215 with 13 deaths.

Austria’s Sebastian Kurz has ordered citizens to remain in their homes unless they need to buy essential supplies, or supply healthcare to those in need.

Belgium and the Netherlands have ordered all bars and restaurants to close their doors, and all non-essential shops, excluding supermarkets and pharmacies, must close at weekends.

Schools and universities have both been closed for at least three weeks as part of the coronavirus crackdown.

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