BBC News. Hello, I'm Gareth Barlow.
Millions across Europe are enduring increasing restrictions on movement as governments struggle to limit the spread of the corona virus. Spain, the worst hit European country after Italy, has imposed a near total lockdown with citizens only allowed to leave home for work, medical care or to buy food. Guy Hedgecoe is in Madrid. This has been a a big shock for people here not be able to leave their homes without good reason that is to go to work, to buy food or to buy medicines. They can't go to cafes, bars, restaurants. They can't go to any public place and gather anywhere with these new restrictions. As far as we know, they're gonna last for two weeks. But there is a feeling among many people this is a crisis which is kind of heading towards, perhaps towards Italian-type scenario. But at the moment they seem to be obeying this order to stay indoors for the most part at least.
Nearly 300 Spaniards have now died, and 2000 new cases have been reported in the last 24 hours alone. France, which has already announced the closure of restaurants, bars and cinemas, is now planning to restrict all but essential travel. But the country is going ahead with local elections as Hugh Schofield reports. There is a controversy about whether they should have gone ahead. The government was clearly minded at one point to cancel elections. Then it was talked out of it when Macron said they'll go ahead. But now clearly there are many voices out there wondering whether this is a central decision, especially as there are two round election next Sunday. There'll be a second round. It is perfectly possible that things would aggravate even more then. And they'll have to cancel the second round. And if they cancel the second round, in effect, they have to redo the first round too under the constitution.
In Germany, newspapers are reporting that the country will close its borders with France, Austria and Switzerland from Monday. Iran has announced another rise in deaths from corona virus. The official figure has now reached 724. There are now more than 13, 300 cases as Iran continues to confront one of the worst outbreaks in the world. Elsewhere in the Middle East, two of the most sacred sites in Islam have been closed until further notice.
The British Health Secretary Matt Hancock has given further details of plans to tackle the corona virus outbreak here in the UK. He confirmed that the government wanted engineering companies, including carmakers, to switch to the manufacture of ventilators. We've got high quality engineering in this country and we want anybody who has the manufacturing capability to turn to manufacture of ventilators. To do that, we're not saying that there's a maximum amount we want to do, because if we have enough ventilators for the UK, there's other places around the world that desperately need them too. Some health service activities, such as routine surgery would be stopped and staff redeployed. Operating theaters could be repurposed as wards and recently retired staff bought back into service. People over the age of 70 could be asked to stay at home for several months.