Coronavirus: key developments over the weekend
Governments around the world are stepping up attempts to contain the spread of the coronavirus, following Italy’s emergency decision to quarantine about 16m people in the north of the country.
Here are highlights of the key developments on Sunday, which can be found posted in full on the FT’s live blog:
• Italy has imposed a lockdown restricting the movement of citizens in the prosperous north of the country, with prime minister Giuseppe Conte saying the country faces a national emergency as the number of confirmed cases exceeded 7,300.
• Health officials in Italy’s Lombardy region have warned of the intense strain that the spread of the virus is placing on the healthcare system, with one official saying the system “is a step away from collapse”.
• Alitalia, Italy’s flagship airline, said it would slash the numbers of flights operated from airports in Milan and Venice from Monday, with its services on international routes rerouted via Rome’s Fiumicino airport.
• Elsewhere in Europe, officials in Germany and Austria are considering restricting gatherings of more than 1,000 people, with Germany’s health minister calling for sports matches, concerts and trade fairs to be cancelled to contain the spread of the virus.
• Ten people have been confirmed dead and 23 remain trapped following the collapse of a hotel in China that was being used as a quarantine site for patients suspected of having the virus.
• Hospitals in northern Iran are reported to be struggling to cope, with a member of parliament for Gilan, the worst-affected Iranian region, claiming: “Many people are buried every day with the symptoms of corona, but their number is not included in the official figures”. Confirmed cases in Iran have surpassed 6,500, but officials in Tehran deny any cover-up.
• Saudi Arabia has locked down the oil-rich eastern region of Qatif, where all 11 Saudi cases of the virus have been recorded. To prevent transmission, barring basic services, all government-owned and private businesses will be closed.
• In London, chancellor Rishi Sunak pledged extra funds to help businesses, particularly small businesses, fight the effects of the coronavirus at the Budget next week.
• The Japanese and German governments have also pledged special measures to give greater state support to small businesses affected by the crisis
Reporting by Claer Barrett in London, Davide Ghiglione in Rome, Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran, Simeon Kerr in Dubai, Sue-Lin Wong in Hong Kong, Olaf Storbeck in Frankfurt and Sam Jones in Zurich