Borders tightened as coronavirus curfew fury spills over

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Border restrictions were being tightened around the world yesterday in the face of an unrelenting coronavirus threat, after a weekend in which anger at social distancing rules bubbled over into fiery clashes in the Netherlands.

The United States (US) was set to join France, Israel and Sweden in pulling up the drawbridge to certain arrivals, with special concern about new strains of the pathogen that originated in Britain and South Africa.

“When I arrive in a country, the idea is not to contaminate it,” Antoine, an 18-year-old Belgian, told AFP at Paris’ main international airport after new rules on tests for European Untion (EU) arrivals came into force. “It’s up to us to show that we are civic-minded,” said Spaniard Claudio Barraza.

The stipulations came as Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador became the latest public figure to test positive for the disease, and New Zealand reported its first community case for more than two months.

In Washington, President Joe Biden yesterday reimposed a ban on most non-US citizens who have been in Britain, Brazil, Ireland and much on Europe, as well as adding South Africa to the list, a senior White House official said.

Emergency medical technician pushes a gurney into an emergency room to drop off a COVID-19 patient in Placentia, California. PHOTO: AP

Biden last week tightened mask-wearing rules and ordered quarantine for people flying into the country, which on Sunday topped 25 million cases.

Since it emerged in late 2019, Covid-19 has killed more than 2.1 million people, with almost 99 million cases registered, according to an AFP tally from official figures.

On Sunday, France started demanding a negative PCR test for arrivals by sea and air from EU neighbours. Sweden said it would prohibit entry from neighbouring Norway for three weeks, after cases of the more infectious British strain were detected in Oslo.

Protests against a coronavirus curfew in the Netherlands degenerated into clashes with police in cities across the country on Sunday, a day after a Covid-19 testing centre was set on fire in the northern village of Urk.