China has said it will relax many restrictions on travel to and from Hubei, the province where the coronavirus outbreak began, today, as the United Kingdom announced strict controls on movement to slow the spread of Covid-19.

The UK move came after the country reportred 52 more deaths and followed the imposition of strict lockdowns in France, Spain and Italy, as Europe reels from a pandemic that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned is accelerating.

In Africa, Senegal, South African and the Cote d’Ivoire were among the countries to also announce sweeping movement restrictions.

More than 16 500 people have died from Covid-19 about the world, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. 

Nearly 102 000 of the 382 000 people who have been diagnosed with the disease have recovered.

Calls to protect the economy rather than slow the spread of the coronavirus are “cynical and ill-considered,” German Finance Minster Olaf Scholz told Bild newspaper.

“You can see that countries which were pursuing that objective, as Britain appears to have been doing, have now changed course,” he said in an online video interview.

Asked about suggestions from some US politicians that older people might be sacrificed for the sake of the economy their grandchildren would inherit, he was even more forthright.

“That makes me shudder,” he said. “It’s utterly cynical and indefensible and I am very glad to live in a country where such opinions have no relevance.”

Four Nato service members in Afghanistan tested positive for coronavirus shortly after entering the country, the first confirmed cases in the mission, Nato said in a statement.

“The service members were newly arrived in country, and were in a precautionary screening facility when they became symptomatic, were moved to isolation and were tested,” the statement said, adding that the nationalities of the people would not be released.

Around 1 500 Nato service members, most who had recently arrived in Afghanistan, were in screening facilities as a precautionary measure, Nato said. 

Australia banned people from eating in shopping centre food courts and limited the number of people at weddings, funerals and social gatherings in a tightening of measures to curb the spread of coronavirus. “This will be a significant sacrifice, I know,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra after an emergency meeting of state and territory leaders.

Morrison said businesses involved in beauty therapy, tattoo parlors, physio therapists and other allied health services could no longer operate. Real estate open houses and auctions were also banned, he said.

Weddings could go ahead only with five people present, including the celebrant, while funerals could proceed with 10 people at most and outdoor social gatherings should also be limited to 10, Morrison added.

Austria will start using more rapid tests to be able to test hundreds of thousands of people as quickly as possible, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said.

US President Donald Trump yesterday acknowledged the difficulty in procuring crucial healthcare supplies amid the coronavirus pandemic, saying the “world market . . . is crazy” and that it “is not easy” for the federal government help US states obtain face masks and ventilators.

Egypt has announced a two-week, 7pm to 6am curfew for its over 100 million people starting today in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus. 

The Nigerian president’s chief of staff has tested positive for coronavirus, a source with direct knowledge and several diplomats was reported as saying by Reuters news agency. 

The illness of Abba Kyari, who is in his 70s, brings the disease into the immediate  circle of 77-year-old President Muhammadu Buhari.

Spain’s health ministry has reported 6 600 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of infections to 39 673. Al Jazeera