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Countries enforce mass closures to stem virus

Video credit: Reuters Studio
Published on March 13, 2020 - Duration: 02:06s

Countries enforce mass closures to stem virus

Schools in France are closing down and large gatherings all over Europe have been canceled.

But in Britain, the government's response to the coronavirus outbreak hasn't been quite as dramatic.

Francesca Lynagh reports.

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Countries enforce mass closures to stem virus

(SOUNDBITE) (English) EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT, URSULA VON DER LEYEN, SAYING: "This is not only an unprecedented challenge to our healthcare systems but also a major shock to our economies.

I am convinced that the European Union can withstand this shock but each member state needs up to its full responsibility, and the European Union as a whole needs to be determined, coordinated and united." European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Friday (March 13) the launch of a 37 billion euro investment initiative to cushion the bloc's economies from the impact of the coronavirus.

Governments and central banks are readying more emergency measures to tackle the economic impact of the outbreak, which has swept across borders, throwing daily life into question.

In France, it's the last day of class for school children, after President Emmanuel Macron called for the closure of all nurseries, school and universities -- until further notice.

Orchestras played to empty concert halls in Germany and Czech pubs are turning off the beer taps at the start of a 30-day state of emergency.

European leaders have warned that things will get worse before they get better.

In Italy, where the death toll passed 1,000 in Europe's deadliest outbreak, the government has imposed a blanket closure of restaurants, bars and almost all shops except food stores and pharmacies.

Not such drastic measures over in the UK, though - where cases reached almost 800 on Friday (March 12).

(SOUNDBITE) (English) BRITISH PRIME MINISTER, BORIS JOHNSON, SAYING: "More families, many more families, are going to lose loved ones before their time.'' Prime Minister Boris Johnson said a day earlier that the priority is to "delay the peak and to push the peak down" in order to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed.

Experts say they are adopting a "staged" approach, not bringing in more stringent measures until the infection rate increases "significantly", which may not happen until a "few weeks" from now.

It's thought the United Kingdom is about four weeks behind Italy and other European countries.

While the government has faced some criticism for appearing complacent, for now, the message - in Britain at least - remains: "Keep calm and carry on."

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