Europe is now the “epicentre” of the global coronavirus pandemic, the head of the World Health Organization says.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged countries to use aggressive measures, community mobilisation and social distancing to save lives. His comments came as several European countries reported steep rises in infections and deaths. Italy has recorded its highest daily toll yet.
There were 250 deaths recorded over the past 24 hours, taking the total to 1,266, with 17,660 infections overall.
Spain, the worst-affected European country after Italy, reported a 50% jump in fatalities to 120. Infections increased to 4,231. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez says a state of alert will come into effect there on Saturday for two weeks.
More cases and deaths are reported in Europe other than the rest of the world combined, apart from China,” he said.
“More cases are now being reported every day than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic.”
Germany has seen 3,062 cases and five deaths. There have been 798 confirmed infections in the UK and 11 deaths.
Meanwhile, at least 10 other countries in Europe are enforcing border closures, including:
- Denmark: Closes borders to foreign visitors from Saturday
- Czech Republic: Bans all foreigners from entering the country, except those with residence permits. Bans most of its own nationals from leaving
- Slovakia: Closes borders to all foreigners except those with a residence permit.
- Austria: Closes three land border crossings with Italy to all foreigners, except those with a medical certificate issued within four days. No restriction on Austrian nationals
- Ukraine: Closes border crossings to foreigners (except diplomats) for two weeks
- Hungary: Closes land borders with Austria and Slovenia
- Poland: From Sunday will close borders to foreign visitors
Belgium, France, Switzerland and parts of Germany are among the latest countries to close schools.
There are also widespread curbs on large gatherings and measures to close theatres, restaurants and bars.
Germany’s Bundesliga, the only one of the big five European football leagues still being played, is to suspend games in the top two divisions.
Paris’s Louvre – the largest art museum in the world – announced it would close, as will the Eiffel Tower.
While there are hotspots in Europe, this is an outbreak across a continent and different countries are adopting very different strategies for dealing with coronavirus.
All these figures are based on cases that have been detected, but scientists fear there could be large outbreaks going on unnoticed in countries that don’t have the tools to spot them.