The northern Indian state of Bihar, which has a population of 125 million, has been ordered into a new 15-day lockdown to combat coronavirus, joining states and cities around the globe that have reintroduced restrictions in recent days to counter fresh resurgences of the disease.
As the World Health Organization warned there were “no shortcuts out of the pandemic”, Sushil Kumar Modi, Bihar’s deputy chief minister, said on Tuesday: “[The] Bihar government has decided on a 15-day lockdown from 16 July to 31 July.
“All city municipalities, district headquarters, block headquarters will stay under lockdown. The guidelines are being finalised.”
The announcement came a few hours before the southern city and IT hub Bangalore was due to go into a week-long lockdown.
On Tuesday, Bihar recorded 1,432 cases, the third consecutive day it posted more than 1,000 new infections, taking the impoverished state’s total to almost 19,000 with 134 deaths, according to the local health authorities. Other states and cities have imposed restrictions as India’s caseload nears 1 million.
After imposing one of the world’s strictest lockdowns in late March, India had been steadily easing rules to lessen the economic impact, particularly on hundreds of millions of poor Indians who lost their jobs, bringing in new measures to ward off or respond to resurgences of the coronavirus pandemic.
Amid escalating numbers of global cases, which have passed 13 million, and fresh outbreaks around the world, countries are increasingly either applying new restrictions or preparing their citizens for the inevitability of new waves of the disease.
Catalonia imposed a strict 15 days’ home lockdown in the city of Lleida and seven nearby towns, after a judge earlier ruled that such a measure was unlawful.
The restrictions – which still need to be approved by another judge after the conflicting orders provoked confusion among residents – would come into force in the city of Lleida and seven surrounding towns on Wednesday and last for 15 days, the Catalan government spokeswoman Meritxell Budo said.
The regional government was confident the judge would approve the new decree as it gave Catalan authorities a stronger legal footing in tackling outbreaks, she said.
France has also announced it will insist on the wearing of face masks in enclosed public spaces “within weeks”, joining a rapidly growing number of countries.
Masks would be compulsory in all enclosed public spaces in the next weeks in France, President Emmanuel Macron said in a television interview on Bastille Day, adding that he hoped to have Covid-19 testing available for everyone.
In the US, which has reported recent daily record numbers of infections, the governor of California ordered all bars to close statewide and all restaurants, movie theatres and museums to halt indoor operations, in a dramatic rolling back of reopening efforts as coronavirus cases continue to surge.
The 30 counties on the state’s monitoring list must also shut down indoor operations at places of worship, fitness centres, hair salons, barbershops and malls.
Brazil 67,964 deaths, 1,713,160 cases
President Jair Bolsonaro dismissed the disease as a “little flu” as it rampaged through his country and mocked measures such as wearing masks. Two health ministers have quit and Brazil's outbreak is the second-deadliest in the world.
India 21,129 deaths, 767,296 cases
India brought in a strict nationwide lockdown in March that slowed the spread of the virus but did not bring it under control. As the country began easing controls, cases surged and it now has the third highest number. Mortality rates are low, but it is unclear if this reflects reporting problems or a relatively resilient population.
Iran 250,458 cases, 12,305 deaths
Iran had one of the first major outbreaks outside China. A lockdown slowed its spread but after that was eased in April, cases rebounded. Several senior officials have tested positive, and the government has strengthened controls, including making masks obligatory in public places.
Israel 33,947 cases, 346 deaths
Israel had an early travel ban and strict lockdowns, and in April the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, declared the country an example to the world in controlling Covid-19. But cases that in May were down to just 20 a day, skyrocketed after the country started opening up. Partial controls have been brought back with warnings more could follow.
Mexico 275,003 cases, 32,796 deaths
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador joined other populists from across the political spectrum in dismissing the threat from coronavirus; when schools closed in March he shared a video of himself hugging fans and kissing a baby. The outbreak is now one of the worst on the continent.
Philippines 51,754 cases, 1,314 deaths
A strict lockdown from March to June kept the disease under control but shrank the economy for the first time in 20 years. Cases have climbed steadily since the country started coming out of lockdown, and President Rodrigo Duterte has said the country cannot afford to fully reopen because it would be overwhelmed by another spike.
Russia 706,179 cases, 10,825 deaths
Coronavirus was slow to arrive in Russia, and travel bans and a lockdown initially slowed its spread, but controls were lifted twice for political reasons – a military parade and a referendum on allowing Putin to stay in power longer. Despite having the fourth biggest outbreak in the world controls are now being eased nationwide.
Serbia 17,342 cases, 352 deaths
Cases are rising rapidly, hospitals are full and doctors exhausted. But the government has rowed back from plans to bring back lockdown controls, after two days of violent protests. Critics blame the sharp rise in cases on authorities who allowed mass gatherings in May and elections in June. Officials say it is due to a lack of sanitary discipline, especially in nightclubs.
South Africa 224,664 cases, 3,602 deaths
South Africa has by far the largest outbreak on the African continent, despite one of the strictest lockdowns in the world. Sales of alcohol and cigarettes were even banned. But it began reopening in May, apparently fuelling the recent rise in cases which have more than doubled over the last two weeks.
US 132,310 deaths, 3,055,491 cases
The US ban on travellers from overseas came too late, and though most states had lockdowns of some form in spring, they varied in length and strictness. Some places that were among the earliest to lift them are now battling fast-rising outbreaks, and the country has the highest number of confirmed cases and deaths. Opposition to lockdowns and mask-wearing remains widespread.
Source: Johns Hopkins CSSE, 9 July
Hong Kong has announced it will begin imposing strict new social distancing measures from midnight on Tuesday, the most stringent there since the start of the pandemic, as authorities warned the risk of a large-scale outbreak was extremely high.
The measures dictate that face masks will be mandatory for people using public transport, and restaurants will no longer provide dine-in services and offer only takeaway after 6pm.
Both are new rules that were not implemented during the city’s first and second coronavirus waves earlier this year. If a person does not wear a mask on public transport, they face a fine of HK$5,000 ($645).
The restrictions have led to Hong Kong Disneyland being closed again, after it reopened in June.
The restrictions were being introduced as the the European Union appeared set to remove Serbia and Montenegro from its safe list of countries from which non-essential travel is allowed. The US was not even discussed given its sharp rise in cases, EU officials said.
The decision was proposed by Germany, which holds the EU presidency, at a meeting late on Monday and was supported by several states, including France, Spain and the Netherlands, officials told Reuters.