The coronavirus pandemic has lent a surreal quality to the lives of millions of people around the globe. It has disrupted daily routines, overwhelmed hospitals, shuttered schools and offices and halted many sporting and entertainment events. If that weren’t enough, many are also forced to grapple with fears about the financial toll, from lost jobs and businesses to shrinking retirement accounts.
These are some of the latest developments on Friday:
PEOPLE CONFRONT DISRUPTED ROUTINES
The intensifying spread of COVID-19 beyond Asia has dashed hopes for a quick containment, even with travel and social events curbed drastically. People fretted over the health risks to the elderly, threatened jobs and dwindling savings, while caring for children staying home from shuttered schools. China, where the outbreak emerged late last year, still accounts for more than 60% of global infections. But on Friday it reported just eight new cases and seven deaths. With China’s caseload slowing, its government was helping other countries with its expertise, sending a medical crew to Italy and surplus supplies to Iran.
COUNTRIES CLOSED OFF, STATES OF EMERGENCY
Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez declared that a state of emergency would take effect Saturday and last two weeks, allowing him to mobilize the military and other resources as the number of infections rose fast to 4,200 with 120 deaths. Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Ukraine were among countries imposing new restrictions at their borders. The Czech Republic, where a 30-day state of emergency has been declared, barred entry to people coming from 15 high-risk countries. Meanwhile, travelers struggled with a U.S. ban on the entry of many foreign travelers about to take effect while the European Union contemplated checks at the union’s internal borders. Greece’s Culture Ministry shut all museums and archaeological sites in the country.
LEADERS AND CELEBRITIES INFECTED
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau is in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19, leaving the prime minister to go into isolation for 14 days as well even though he has no symptoms. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s communications director, Fábio Wajngarten, tested positive just days after traveling with Bolsonaro to a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump and senior aides in Florida. The White House said Trump had almost no interaction with Wajngarten and does not plan to be tested or go into self-quarantine. Meanwhile, actor Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson remain isolated in a hospital in Australia after testing positive for the new coronavirus. Hanks said they are taking the situation “one day at a time” and that they are staying isolated so as not to spread it to others. The virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, for most people but can be severe in some cases, especially older adults and people with existing health problems.
A DOWNER FOR AMSTERDAM’S MARIJUANA SMOKERS
The coronavirus could be a downer for those wanting to get high in one of Amsterdam’s world-famous “coffee shops.” A marijuana-selling cafe in the Dutch capital has stationed a scanner at the door that checks visitors’ temperatures and turns away anyone with a fever. On Friday morning, trade was still brisk at the Prix d’Ami coffee shop in the tourist center of Amsterdam. The scanner went off once while an AP photographer visited, but a second reading for the female visitor was all clear and she was allowed in. Manager Youri Florijn said the numbers of tourists is declining due to COVID-19, but that customers keep coming.
AMERICAN LIFE UPENDED
After first striking Asia, and then Europe, now America, too, is upending routines as the coronavirus affects just about every facet of American life. Most big tech companies in San Francisco and Seattle have told employees to work from home, emptying out the downtown neighborhoods that are a hub for tech and venture capital firms. The change came on suddenly and many feel unprepared. In Las Vegas, where so much of the economy is tied to big crowds from concerts, tournaments, conventions and tourists, many suddenly found themselves out of work. Across the nation, parents struggled to take care of children kept home from schools while families worried about dwindling retirement savings and the health of elderly parents.
ASIAN COUNTRIES SEEK TO STOP VIRUS’ RETURN
Just as the spread of the disease is stabilizing in much of Asia, following a major outbreak in China and sizable ones in South Korea and Japan, it’s popping up in new hotspots around the world. That has prompted those three nations to take measures to prevent the new coronavirus from coming back to where it first broke out. The South Korean government, which recently was complaining about global efforts to stop people arriving from the country, is now introducing new screening and border controls on people arriving from abroad, to prevent the reintroduction of the virus.
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