The global march of the new virus has sparked a strong appeal from the World Health Organization for governments to pull out “all the stops” to slow the epidemic, while it has dried up the color of India’s spring holidays, has closed the Church of the Nativity of Bethlehem and prevented Italians from visiting elderly relatives in nursing homes.
While China, after many difficult weeks, seemed to be winning its epic and costly battle against the new virus, the struggle was spreading to the newly affected areas of the world, sparking disruptions that profoundly affected billions of people.
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The United Nations health agency has urged all countries to “repel this virus”, a call for action reinforced by figures showing that there are now about 17 times more new infections outside of China than in it. To date, the virus has infected about 97,000 people and killed over 3,300.
“This is not a drill. This is not the time to give up. This is not an apology. This is the time to pull out all the stops,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during a daily briefing. in Geneva.
“Countries have been planning scenarios like this for decades. Now is the time to act on those plans. “As Chinese manufacturers gradually reopened their factories, anti-virus barriers rose elsewhere.
In Italy, the epicenter of the European epidemic, workers in latex gloves have stuck “closed” notices on school gates, imposing a 10-day shutdown of the education system. Even fans crazy for sports in Italy are excluded from the stadiums until April 3.
A government decree that came into effect on Thursday urged the demonstrative citizens of the country to stay at least 1 meter apart, placed restrictions on visiting nursing homes and urged the elderly not to leave unless in case of absolute necessity.
This directive seemed to be largely ignored, as school closings at national level left many Italian children in the care of their grandparents. The parks of Rome overflowed with young and old, underestimating the government’s efforts to protect Italian elderly people from the virus that affects the elderly more severely than others. Italy has the oldest population in the world after Japan. The death toll in Italy rose to 148, and cases confirmed to 3858.
Lorenzo Romano, preparing lunch for his grandchildren, saw a positive side. “Overall, it makes me happy, because then I have them around me more,” he said.
Iran, which experienced 107 virus deaths, also closed schools and universities. Now it has introduced checkpoints to limit travel between major cities.
The Iranians have been urged to cut back on their use of paper money. In a series of bad news, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urged state television to offer “happier” programs to entertain those stranded at home. “I urge all artists, scientists, psychologists and anyone who can make people smile, enter social media,” he said.
Brian Hook, United States Special Representative for Iran, said the United States offered humanitarian assistance to help Iran manage its outbreak, but “the regime has rejected the offer.” He said the offer would remain valid.
Fears of viruses have also influenced the joyful Indian celebration of Holi, where Hindu revelers celebrate the arrival of spring with explosions of color, including bright powders smeared on the faces. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other leaders said they would not attend Holi events and the Holi Moo Festival in New Delhi was canceled.
In the United States, where 11 died of the virus, hundreds of people have been placed in auto-quarantine due to cases in a suburb of New York.
A school district north of Seattle with 22,000 students has announced that it will close for up to two weeks due to worries about the coronavirus.
Financial markets have remained volatile as investors continue to weigh the scale of the epidemic on the global economy.
The US stock market fell early on Thursday. Analysts say that more yo-yo shifts in global markets are likely as long as the number of new infections continues to accelerate.
The OPEC oil cartel has called for a deep cut in production to prevent crude oil prices from falling further as the global business disruption due to coronavirus reduces demand for air travel and industry.
Oil ministers from the 14 OPEC countries decided at a meeting Thursday to push for a cut of 1.5 million barrels per day, equivalent to about 1.5 percent of the total world supply.
Across the world, travelers have faced increasing disruptions as countries have tried to keep the virus out.
But South Africa confirmed its first case on Thursday, becoming the seventh African nation to report infections.
Great Britain and Switzerland reported their first coronavirus deaths.
“The virus does not care about race, beliefs or color. It is attacking us all equally,” said Ian MacKay, who studies viruses at the University of Queensland in Australia.
The outlook for the travel industry was increasingly gloomy. The International Air Transport Association said the outbreak could cost airlines $ 113 billion in lost revenue. Troubled British airline Flybe collapsed Thursday due to sinking demand.
Australia has banned travelers from South Korea who are not Australian citizens or permanent residents, following similar bans on China and Iran. Indonesia has announced restrictions on travelers from parts of Iran, Italy and South Korea after previously banning the entry of people from China.
The United Arab Emirates have warned its people not to travel abroad.
Germany’s Lufthansa and its affiliates Austrian Airlines and Swiss have said they will cancel all flights to and from Israel for three weeks starting Sunday after the Israeli authorities announced severe restrictions on travelers from different countries due to the new virus.
Palestinian officials closed the Church of the Nativity indefinitely in the biblical city of Bethlehem weeks before the upcoming Easter holiday. Japan said that visitors from China and South Korea will face a two-week quarantine in a government facility and be excluded from public transportation. Sri Lankans arriving from Italy, South Korea and Iran will be quarantined in a hospital once used for leprosy patients.
In South Korea, with the highest number of infections outside of China, mask exports will be banned starting on Friday and people will be limited to purchasing two masks per week.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent a letter to South Korean President Moon Jae-in to express his condolences for the health crisis.
In China, where hospitals were releasing hundreds of recovered patients, officials reported 139 new cases of infection and 31 more deaths. Overall, China reported 80,409 cases and 3,012 deaths, and authorities say around 6,000 people were hospitalized in serious conditions.
A state visit to Japan by Chinese President Xi Jinping has been postponed. It would have been the first for a Chinese leader since 2008.