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Europe locks down as coronavirus deaths rise

SPAIN awoke to the first day of a two-week nationwide state of emergency yesterday after the death toll doubled in 24 hours to 288.

Meanwhile, the toll in France increased to 120 yesterday from 91 on Saturday as President Emmanuel Macron ordered a lockdown on shops, bars, cafes and restaurants and closed the country’s ski resorts.

And in Italy 3,590 more cases of coronavirus were reported in a 24-hour period — the biggest day-to-day increase. It brought the death toll to 1,809 amid 24,747 cases of infection. For a second weekend, Pope Francis made his blessing over an eerily empty St Peter’s Square in Rome.

Slipping away: Empty ski lifts in Les Crosets, Switzerland PICTURE: REUTERS

Spain is facing the second-worst coronavirus outbreak in Europe after Italy and has confirmed 5,753 cases.

The country’s prime minister Pedro Sanchez imposed tight restrictions on its 47million citizens, closing all schools, universities, restaurants, bars, hotels and non-essential stores. The government has announced that Mr Sanchez’s wife Begona Gomez has tested positive for the virus, but said she and the prime minister were both in good health.

Yesterday Spanish police blasted out loudspeaker messages on the streets to respect restrictions of movement and officers told people in parks to go home unless they were walking a dog.

Border patrol: A car is stopped at the entry to Denmark after travel ban PICTURE: REX

Despite the deepening crisis in France, Mr Macron defended his decision to keep polling open for local elections. Strict hygiene measures were in place with organisers told to keep a 3ft gap between people in queues and provide soap or hand sanitiser and disinfectant wipes for voting machines.

Voters were told to bring their own pens to sign the register. ‘I am the guarantor of the health of our citizens and also the democratic life of our country,’ Mr Macron said after casting his vote.

Schools and universities have been shut but food shops, tobacconists, banks and public transport remain open. French ski resorts emptied yesterday after they were shut down by government order.

Empty streets: Pope Francis gives his blessing despite a lack of audience PICTURE: EPA

In Switzerland, which has more than 1,500 confirmed cases, a ban on gatherings of more than 100 people also ended the ski season. In Austria, a ban on gatherings of more than five people was announced after the number of cases passed 800 and the southern Tyrol province was put in lockdown.

Denmark also closed its borders and halted passenger traffic to and from the country. Travellers had to show they had ‘legitimate reason’ to enter.

■ SPANISH police broke up a street party held by British tourists in Benidorm after the nation went into lockdown.

Bars and restaurants were ordered to close after a state of emergency was declared on Friday.

Father-of-five Martin Kilgallon, from Mirfield, Yorkshire, said some tourists got around this by buying alcohol at a supermarket and holding a street party. However, police broke up the gathering, with one officer waving his baton and shouting ‘go’ at revellers.

Footage shows the officer being met with boos.

‘They’re taking it really seriously,’ said Mr Kilgallon, who has now been flown home.