Please note: The current Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic is fast moving, and reactions to it seem to update not just day-by-day but minute-by-minute. Obviously, this site was not designed to bring you the very latest developments in a ‘breaking news’ story such as this. Instead, this site will continue to include news and opinions relating to major events, policy changes, and so on.
America, and by that I mean the United States, is sadly having to catch up with Europe as the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic hits home, continuing to extend and develop its steely grip.
At the time of writing, several states have ordered lockdowns. The first three were California, New York, and Illinois, but others are already doing the same.
California was the very first to act. It issued a “stay at home” order to residents on Thursday (March 19) in its effort to protect citizen from the virus which has already infected people in all 50 states of the union.
Of course, while the requirements of such orders do place a burden on the wider community, for many of us with multiple sclerosis – or the like – it is nothing unusual to be trapped in our own homes. People living with MS are included in the ‘vulnerable’ classification by many countries, such as the UK, but not in others.
The official UK government list of those considered as vulnerable because of being at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus, which includes people with multiple sclerosis, can be found here.
Back the US, state governor Gavin Newsom has told Californians they should only leave their homes when necessary during the pandemic. And it means that the reality of widespread lockdowns has now travelled across the Atlantic. In Europe, nationwide lockdowns are in force in Italy, Spain, and France – with closed borders, limitations on travel, and other restrictions in effect throughout the continent.
In California, the governor’s order allows residents to leave their homes to buy groceries or medicine, walk a dog or take exercise.
It requires non-essential businesses to close but allows ‘essential’ ones to remain open. These include grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, and petrol (gasoline) stations.
Announcing the lockdown, Mr Newsom said: “This is a moment we need to make tough decisions. We need to recognise reality.
Newsom’s order followed one from Nevada state but that only said that non-essential businesses should close for 30 days.
Now, let’s look at Europe
Across the Atlantic, the UK government is into lockdown mode, at least partially. It has taken decisive action, ‘at last’ some may say, that prime minister Boris Johnson says will be enforced. Cafes, pubs and restaurants were ordered to close on Friday night and not reopen on Saturday – except for take-away food.
Additionally, all the country’s nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres have also been told to close “as soon as they reasonably can”. Just how long is reasonable? I wonder.
Mr Johnson said the situation would be reviewed each month.
In an attempt to save jobs and prevent workers being laid-off, the government has said it will pay 80% of wages for employees who are not able to work. That’s up to £2,500 a month each.
While all schools closed on Friday ‘until further notice’, shops remain open and there are no mandatory restrictions on travel. It is likely that schools won’t reopen until the new school year begins in September.
Calls to stay at home, and maintain social distancing remain strongly advised but are not enforced, not yet anyway.
UK scientists say social distancing will be needed for “at least half of the year” to stop intensive care units being overwhelmed.
Official advice from SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) recommended alternating between more and less strict measures for most of a year.
Strict measures include school closures and social distancing for everyone, while less restrictive measures include isolating cases and households.
On mainland Europe, Italy is the world’s hardest hit country having overtaken China. It has emergency coronavirus measures including travel restrictions and a ban on public gatherings.
Prime minister Giuseppe Conte ordered people to stay home and seek permission for essential travel.
No more time
He said the measures were designed to protect the most vulnerable. “There is no more time,” he said in a TV address. Cases of the virus have been confirmed in all 20 Italian regions.
Spain is Europe’s second hardest hit country and just extended its ‘state of alarm’ to April 12, though the government is certain to be lengthen this further – as it deems necessary.
Under the lockdown, Spanish citizens and residents may not leave their homes unless they need to buy medicines, food, attend health centres, care for dependents, or go to the bank.
A royal decree states that you can only be on public roads in certain scenarios: to buy food, pharmaceuticals and basic necessities, to attend health centres, travel to work, to return home, assist the elderly, minors or other vulnerable people, go to the bank or any other justifiable necessity.
Private vehicles are allowed to travel on public roads to refuel at petrol stations, but all commercial establishments are closed, as well as cultural, sports and leisure centres.
Religious ceremonies are continuing but crowds must be avoided, and people have to stay at least one metre apart.
There is nothing advisory about these restrictions, they are set in law and are being proactively enforced by police. For example, cars are being stopped and drivers questioned about their reasons for being on the road.
The first person in Spain to be arrested for flouting the new emergency coronavirus rulings is a woman caught sunbathing on grass near the seafront.
The woman, a resident, was detained in Palma, the capital of island of Mallorca. This, like the Spanish mainland, is under strict coronavirus curfew conditions that include a ban on the of all outdoor spaces and parks, as well as many beaches.
Spain: Fines doubled and jail sentences the risk
Committing serious offences was first punishable by fines ranging from €600 to €30,000, but fines for minor infractions starting from €100.
Now, though, police are tightening both fixed and mobile checkpoints, with fines being DOUBLED for those that break the restrictions. The maximum fine is now €60,000.
Police in Alicante, a port city on Spain’s southeastern Costa Blanca, say that they stopped 236 people on just one day – with 53 being found to be drivers who were ignoring the lockdown restrictions.
Anyone leaving their home must be able to justify their journey with documentation, and the driver must be alone.
But it is not just fines. Spanish law states that those who seriously resist or disobey the authority of the government, or its agents in the exercise of their functions, risk being sentenced to a minimum of three months up to one year in prison. You have been warned.
In France, cafes, restaurants, cinemas and most shops are now shut. The Eiffel Tower in Paris is closed indefinitely. All parts of the Musée du Louvre, renowned home of the Mona Lisa, had first been allowed to remain open with strict rules for visitors. However, that is also now closed until further notice.
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Please note that being born in the UK, all my posts, are written using British English spelling.
Centre not center (except in names, Centers of Disease Control) Colour not color Diarrhoea not diarrhea Haematology not hematology Haematopoietic not hematopoietic
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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. More recently, he was a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.
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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. Ian is not a doctor, so cannot and does not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely his own unless otherwise stated.