People around the world have become increasingly isolated from each other due to a mounting number of travel bans, school closures and canceled public events.
These are some of the latest developments on Thursday:
PEOPLE KEPT APART
A day after the World Health Organization declared the new coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, people across the world were facing the prospect of being stuck where they are for the foreseeable future. Restrictions on travel from much of Europe to the United States are to begin this weekend, while the U.S. State Department warned Americans to reconsider foreign travel. Austria’s 25,000 police officers were told they were not allowed to take any vacation at least until the end of April, a measure aimed at having enough officers to ensure order.
The massive sell-off that caused markets to plunge in response to the outbreak got even worse. European stocks tumbled 10%, despite moves by the European Central Bank to boost the economy. In Asia, stocks in Thailand and the Philippines fell so fast that trading was temporarily halted. And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down more than 2,300 points, or 10%, and the S&P 500 was off 9.5%.
TRUMP’S BRUSH WITH VIRUS
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s communications director tested positive for the new virus, days after traveling with Bolsonaro to a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Florida. Fábio Wajngarten posted a photo of himself posing beside Trump at the Mar-a-Lago resort. The meeting included Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner. The White House said the president does not plan to be tested or go into self-quarantine.
EU CONDEMNS US DECISION
The European Union condemned President Donald Trump’s decision to restrict travel from Europe to the United States “unilaterally and without consultation.” But top U.S. health officials stood by the decision. Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health and Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said move was a response to the changing nature of the pandemic. Fauci, considered the country’s preeminent infectious disease expert, said 70% of new infections in the pandemic are coming from Europe and that officials needed to “turn off the source from that region.” The U.S. previously imposed a similar restriction on travel from China.
ITALIANS SEE MORE RESTRICTIONS, CHINA AID
In Italy, people woke up to further virus-containment restrictions. Premier Giuseppe Conte ordered restaurants, cafes and retail shops closed after imposing a nationwide lock-down on personal movement. Supermarkets, pharmacies and outdoor markets, however, were still open. Supermarkets had hours-long lines of customers waiting to go inside a few at a time. Meanwhile, a Chinese medical team and surplus ventilators, protective masks and other medial equipment are heading to Italy in a remarkable exchange from the source of the coronavirus outbreak to its current epicenter.
In the U.S., the NCAA canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments less than a month before champions were to be crowned in a college hoops extravaganza known as March Madness. The NCAA men’s tournament has been played every year since 1939 and has become one of the biggest, most watched events in American sports. The professional National Basketball Association stopped its current season, and Major League Baseball is delaying its by at least two weeks.
NO TIME FOR FUN
The coronavirus deepened its disruption of the global entertainment industry, triggering more cancellations of concert tours, film premieres and other events. Rock band The Who canceled its U.K. and Ireland tour four days before its scheduled start, with guitarist Pete Townshend saying the members “haven’t reached this decision easily.” Canada’s top music awards, the Juno Awards, which had been scheduled for Sunday in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan,, were also canceled.
TENS OF THOUSANDS HAVE RECOVERED
Amid the fears and the quarantines, it’s been easy to ignore that tens of thousands of people have recovered from the coronavirus spreading around the world. A few patients with the virus who were interviewed by The Associated Press described symptoms no worse than a regular cold or flu, while some had no symptoms at all. COVID-19 disease is especially problematic for older adults and people with existing health problems. But most of those infected experience mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, and the vast majority get over their illness. According to the latest count, 126,000 people have been infected worldwide, 68,000 have recovered and 4,600 have died.