Crossing more borders, the new coronavirus hit a milestone, infecting more than 100,000 people worldwide as it wove itself deeper into the daily lives of millions, infecting the powerful, the unprotected poor and vast masses in between.
The virus, which has killed more than 3,400 people and emerged in more than 90 countries, edged into more U.S. states on Friday and even breached the halls of the Vatican. It forced mosques in Iran and beyond to halt weekly Muslim prayers, blocked pilgrims from Jesus' birthplace in Bethlehem and upended Japan's plans for the Olympic torch parade.
As financial markets dived again, repercussions from the virus also rattled livelihoods in the real economy.
“Who is going to feed their families?” asked Elias al-Arja, head of a hotel owners' union in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where tourists have been banned and the storied Church of the Nativity was shuttered.
At the White House, President Donald Trump signed an $8.3 billion bill to fight the coronavirus a day after Italy said it would double its own spending to 7.5 billion euros ($8.5 billion).
In Geneva, the U.N. health agency said it had received applications for 40 possible virus tests, had 20 vaccine candidates in development and reported that numerous clinical trials of experimental drugs for the new coronavirus were under way.
“We're all in this together. We all have a role to play,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, chief of the World Health Organization, urging more global cooperation from the business world and solidarity with the poorest.
New cases down in China
The news wasn't all bad: more than half of those who contracted the virus have now recovered. It's retreating in China, where it first emerged, and in nearby South Korea.
China on Saturday morning reported just 99 new cases, the first time it has had only a double digit increase since Jan. 20. It also reported another 28 deaths. Overall, China now counts 22,177 patients currently in treatment, while it has released 55,404. South Korea on Saturday morning reported 174 new cases.
The virus continued popping up in new places, however, with countries like Colombia and Togo reporting their first confirmed cases.
Questions swirled around whether Iran could control its outbreak, as the number of reported infections jumped beyond 4,700 on Friday, with 124 deaths. Iran set up checkpoints to limit travel and had firefighters spray disinfectant on an 18-kilometer (11-mile) stretch of Tehran's most famous avenue.
“It would be great if they did it every day,” grocery store owner Reza Razaienejad said. “It should not be just a one-time thing.”
The 100,000 figure of global infections is largely symbolic, but dwarfs other major outbreaks in recent decades, such as SARS, MERS and Ebola. The virus is still much less widespread than annual flu epidemics, which result in up to 5 million annual severe cases around the world and from 290,000 to 650,000 deaths annually, according to WHO.
Economic impact snowballs
But the epidemic's economic impact snowballed, with world stocks and the price of oil dropping sharply again Friday.
The travel decline and a broader economic downturn linked to the outbreak threatened to hit already-struggling communities for months. In response to plummeting demand, German airline Lufthansa announced a reduction of its capacity in coming weeks to as much as 50% of pre-coronavirus outbreak levels. Slovakia banned all flights to and from Italy.
The head of the U.N.s food agency, the World Food Program, warned of potential for “absolute devastation” as the outbreaks effects ripple through Africa and the Middle East. India scrambled to stave off an epidemic that could overwhelm its under-funded, under-staffed health care system, which lacks enough labs or hospitals for its 1.3 billion people.
“Were seeing more countries affected with lower incomes, with weaker health systems and that's more concerning,” WHO chief Ghebreyesus said.
Inconsistent health insurance and sick leave policies put the earnings of millions of workers' who can't work from home — waiters, drivers, delivery workers and more — at risk. In the U.S. the AFL-CIO labor federation urged the government to issue emergency regulations outlining employers' responsibilities to protect workers from infectious diseases.
'Following some of China's playbook'
The fear and the crackdowns that swept through China are now shifting westward, as workers in Europe and the U.S. stay home, authorities vigorously sanitize public places and consumers flock to stores for household staples.
Nation after nation put some travel restrictions into place, blocking visitors from hard-hit areas like China, South Korea, Italy and Iran. The United Nations top climate change official said her agency wont hold any physical meetings at its headquarters in Germany or elsewhere until the end of April.
French Health Minister Olivier Veran said children would be banned from visiting patients in hospitals and other health facilities across the country and that patients would be limited to one adult visit at a time. Spanish officials announced a month-long closure of 200 centers in and around Madrid where the elderly go for daytime care and activities.
“The Western world is now following some of Chinas playbook,” Chris Beauchamp, a market analyst at the financial firm IG, said of the reaction to flu-like illness that for most people causes mild or moderate symptomRead More – Source