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Seven in 10 people back city lockdowns to contain coronavirus

by Sonia Elks | @SoniaElks | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 4 March 2020 18:39 GMT

A policeman wearing a face mask warns a driver on the road between Codogno and Casalpusterlengo, which has been closed by the Italian government due to a coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy, February 23, 2020. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane/File Photo

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While most people support lockdowns to slow the spread of infection, rights advocates express alarm over intrusive surveillance

By Sonia Elks

LONDON, March 4 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Seven in 10 people worldwide would support sealing off entire cities or towns affected by coronavirus to slow the spread of infection, according to a poll of citizens in 10 countries.

As health authorities battle to stop a worldwide pandemic, a clear majority backed lockdowns to prevent anyone entering or leaving urban areas that have seen large numbers of coronavirus cases, found the survey by polling firm Ipsos.

"This underscores the seriousness with which citizens are taking this issue and their willingness to support strong government measures to control the spread of COVID-19," said Darrell Bricker, head of Ipsos Public Affairs.

"Even in Italy, where this is already happening, 60% support the total quarantine of affected towns and cities."

More than 90,000 people have been infected with COVID-19 across dozens of countries as the virus rapidly spreads, with the World Health Organization warning there is a "very high" risk from the disease worldwide.

In depth: Coronavirus and its impact on people, cities, and economy

China has imposed lockdown policies that restrict the movement of hundreds of millions of citizens in an effort to prevent new infections, while Italy has also put a string of towns into quarantine.

Rights advocates have expressed alarm over intrusive surveillance measures used by countries including China and Russia to enforce quarantine rules.

But most citizens said they were in favour of lockdowns in areas where the virus had taken hold, found the poll of 10,000 adults in 10 nations - Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, Britain, the United States and Vietnam.

Italian residents were the most cautious, with six in 10 backing the policy, while in Vietnam more than 90% were in favour of mandatory lockdowns.

The data reflected the fact that anxious citizens are keen to see "tangible and clear" policies to curb the spread of the virus, said David Alexander, an expert in risk and disaster reduction at University College London in Britain.

However, he said it was unclear whether quarantine would be effective, while it was likely to be "impossible" in practical terms to isolate major cities such as London.

"It just isn't really possible that we all go into hibernation for a period," he said. (Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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