EUROPE RESORTS TO UNPRECEDENTED RESTRICTIONS ON PUBLIC LIFE

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Europe hunkered down Tuesday, with borders, schools, and businesses closed across the region and a police lockdown underway in the worst-hit countries.  

Governments have drastically curtailed movement and social contact as the number of cases continues to surge. France ordered a nationwide lockdown Monday, joining Italy, Spain, and Greece. In the UK, the most vulnerable were told self-isolate for 12 weeks.

Switzerland and Germany stopped short of mandating citizens to stay home. The Swiss Federal Council on Monday expanded business closures to include shops, restaurants, sports facilities, museums, cinemas, and hairdressers. Grocery stores, banks, gas stations, and pharmacies remain open. Germany also clamped down on public life.

Schools and gatherings of more than 100 people had already been banned since Friday.

President Simonetta Sommaruga appealed to people to strictly adhere to the new rules on gatherings and closures. Failure to do so could imperil country’s health care system and prevent the sick from getting urgently needed medical attention, she said.

Borders slam shut across Europe 

Europe as a whole moved to restrict entry, while individual countries also tightened borders. Aside from trucks in transit or carrying goods, Switzerland is open only to citizens, residents, and commuters.

The government mobilized as many as 8,000 members of the military to provide medical services, transport the ill, and assist with border checks. They may also be used to construct “improvised infrastructure,” the government said without elaborating.

With tens of millions of people confined to their homes, the list of large manufacturers shutting down is growing. Volkswagen said Tuesday that it would close most of its European plants for two weeks because of uncertainty over demand for cars and supplies of parts.

The aircraft manufacturer Airbus also suspended production in France and Spain this week as a precaution against the spread of the virus.

More and more economists are predicting the pandemic will cause a global recession. The Swiss economy will also slump during the first half of the year, with export industries hardest hit, before slowly returning to growth, the Swiss Economic Institute KOF said Tuesday.

Roche rolls out COVID-19 tests 

Roche has started shipping the first 400,000 COVID-19 tests to laboratories across the U.S. to begin patient testing under an Emergency Use Authorization, the Swiss drugmaker said Tuesday.

CEO Severin Schwan told CNNMoney Switzerland on Monday that the company is in talks with regulators to make its drug Actemra available to treat the secondary effects of the coronavirus infection.

Stocks in Europe struggled for direction. The FTSE 100, the DAX and the CAC 40 were all down about 1 percent in afternoon trading. The three major U.S. indexes opened higher but quickly slipped into the red in choppy trading a day after Wall Street recorded historic declines.

Switzerland has recorded 2,269 confirmed cases of the virus, including 14 deaths. Globally, more than 185,000 people have contracted the disease and more than 7,400 have died.

“We know things will get worse before they get better,” Home Affairs Minister Alain Berset said at a news conference late Monday. “But they will get better.”

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