BY JOSEPH WILSON AND GEIR MOULSON / AP MARCH 14, 2020 11:34 AM EDT
(BARCELONA, Spain) — Spain was set to follow Italy on Saturday in declaring a nationwide lockdown as European countries took ever more sweeping measures to reduce contact among people and slow the accelerating spread of the coronavirus.
China, meanwhile, where the virus first emerged late last year, continued to relax lockdown measures in its hardest-hit region.
According to a draft of the government order seen by The Associated Press, Spain’s government planned to announce tight restrictions on movement for the nation of 46 million people while declaring a two-week state of emergency. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez was due to address the nation in the afternoon.
People will be allowed to leave their homes only to buy food and medicine, commute to work, go to hospitals and banks, or take trips related to the care of the young and the elderly. Those rules will take effect at 8 a.m. (0700 GMT) Monday.
Effectively immediately, Spain is also closing all schools, universities, restaurants, bars and hotels nationwide along with non-essential stores, a step some regions have already taken.
Health authorities in Spain said the number of coronavirus infections climbed past 5,700, half of them in the capital, Madrid. That represents a national increase of over 1,500 in 24 hours. The country had 136 deaths, up from 120.
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