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More countries crack down on travel to slow coronavirus spread

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The death toll from COVID-19 rose rapidly Saturday even as governments worldwide increasingly tightened restrictions on movement in an attempt to contain the raging virus.
The number of cases worldwide swelled to more than 621,000 early Saturday, with 28,794 deaths and just 135,799 recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University’s virus tracker.
Spain, among the hardest-hit countries in the world, reported its deadliest day of the pandemic, with 832 deaths for a total of 5,690.
With the nation’s medical system pushed to its limits, infections increased by more than 8,000 in 24 hours to reach a national total of 72,248, even as the country neared two weeks of stay-at-home restrictions and store closings.
In the hotspots of Madrid and northeast Catalonia, doctors, nurses and ambulance drivers are falling ill at an alarming rate. Pablo Rojo, an ambulance medic at Barcelona’s Dos de Maig hospital, also said the average age of patients is decreasing.
“They’re not 80 years old anymore, they are now 30 and 40 years old.”
Switzerland’s death toll also shot up, to 235 people on Saturday, with the number of cases also increasing to 13,213 in the country of 8.6 million.
Army medical units are deploying at hospitals to help in crisis regions like Ticino, which borders hard-hit Italy. The country is also tapping its strategic drug stockpile to cover rising demand.

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A priest blesses the coffins of deceased people inside the church of San Giuseppe in Seriate, Italy.
A priest blesses the coffins of deceased people inside the church of San Giuseppe in Seriate, Italy.AFP via Getty Images

Other countries are

resorting to draconian measures to stop the spread.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau barred residents showing coronavirus symptoms from boarding planes or trains. Moscow ordered its country’s borders fully closed by Monday.
Finland deployed police, military and border guards to enforce a blockade of a key southern region that includes the Nordic nation’s capital, Helsinki.
The exceptional order by Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s government blocks the movement of citizens into and out of the Uusimaa region, which is home to 1.7 million people including Helsinki’s 650,000 residents. Finland has 1,167 confirmed cases, with eight deaths.
Police have set up roadblocks at main entry and exit points in Uusimaa and are checking each arriving or departing vehicle for a legitimate reason for movement. Finnish soldiers are patrolling on local trains for possible regulation dodgers.
The Albanian government also put stricter regulations in place, announcing people will have to apply for a permit to go out for necessities.
Police and military forces are patrolling the streets enforcing rules that allow only one person per family out of their homes between 5 a.m. and 1 p.m. from Monday to Saturday. No movement or business activity will be allowed from Saturday at 1 p.m. to Monday at 5 a.m. in the nation, which has 197 confirmed cases and 10 deaths.
Police in Sri Lanka arrested thousands, including many who were praying in a mosque, for violating a countrywide curfew as the country recorded its first death from the virus.

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Workers in Sri Lanka board buses to go home during a government-imposed lockdown.
Workers in Sri Lanka board buses to go home during a government-imposed lockdown.AFP via Getty Images

On a tip that a group of people was praying in a mosque in the town of Horowpathana, about 124 miles north of the capital, Colombo, police and health officials went to the mosque and arrested 18 while several dozens fled.
The number of positive cases reached 113 and the government has ordered police to strictly impose the curfew to ensure social distancing across the country. At least 4,600 people have been arrested and 1,125 vehicles seized for violating curfew in the past week.
Harsh enforcement of lockdown measures was also reported in South Africa, where Johannesburg police resorted to rubber bullets to enforce social distancing on a crowd lining up for supplies outside a  supermarket.
The World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa warned the continent faced a “dramatic evolution” of the pandemic, with nearly every country on the continent how reporting the virus has arrived. South Africa has the most cases, with 1,170, and so far just one death.

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A South African policeman points a rifle to disperse a crowd of shoppers in Johannesburg.
A South African policeman points a rifle to disperse a crowd of shoppers in Johannesburg.AFP via Getty Images

In the Mideast,  Iran’s death toll from the coronavirus outbreak rose to 2,517 on Saturday, with 139 fatalities in the past 24 hours, according to Health Ministry Spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour. An additional 3,206 victims were in critical condition.
President Hassan Rouhani said Saturday on state TV that Iran’s health infrastructure is strong and ready to cope with a possible escalation in coronavirus cases. The country has so far reported 35,408, though many question whether the country is fully reporting the impact of the virus.
A flight carrying medical personnel and supplies to aid Pakistan in the fight against the virus landed in Pakistan Saturday. Pakistan currently has 1,415 confirmed cases, and 12 deaths. Most of the infected people returned from Iran.

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