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What's Happening: People separated, entertainment disrupted

Mar 12, 2020 12:50PM 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:


A day after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, people across the world were facing the prospect of being stuck where they are for the foreseeable future. Strict bans 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.


In Italy, one of the world's hardest hit countries, people woke up to yet further virus-containment restrictions. Premier Giuseppe Conte ordered restaurants, cafes and retail shops closed after imposing a nationwide lockdown on personal movement. Jewelry and clothing shops that on Tuesday and Wednesday had posted signs urging customers to queue up out the door a meter (3.3 feet) apart were closed until further notice. Supermarkets, pharmacies and outdoor markets, however, were still open and supermarkets in particular had hours-long lines of customers queued up waiting to go inside a few at a time.


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 nearly 2,000 points, or over 8% and the S&P 500 was down 7.5%. NO TIME FOR FUN The coronavirus deepened its disruption of the global entertainment industry, triggering more cancellations of concert tours and 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 band “haven't reached this decision easily." The film “A Quiet Place 2,” written and directed by John Krasinski and set for release on March 20, is also being postponed. Krasinski said in a message on social media that “one of the things I'm most proud of is that people have said our movie is one you have to see together,” and ”now is clearly not the right time to do that.” Canada's top music awards, the Juno Awards, which had been scheduled for Sunday in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan,, were also canceled.


Expedition operators on Mount Everest said Chinese mountaineering officials will not allow spring climbs from their side of the mountain due to fears of the coronavirus. On the other side of the mountain in Nepal, operators said the mountain is open for business but cancellations have been pouring in. As the virus is coming under control in China, officials there are taking steps to prevent new infections coming from abroad, including by putting overseas travelers arriving in Beijing into a 14-day quarantine.


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.


Members of the Trump administration — on the defensive about how they have handled the outbreak — are seeking to remind Americans that the coronavirus originated in China. They have repeatedly reminded people that the virus started in Wuhan, a city in China’s Hubei province, and they have faulted China's initial handling of the outbreak. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called it the “Wuhan coronavirus.” China stresses that it is trying to help the international community battle the virus, sending medical teams to countries that need help now that the crisis at home is waning. ___ The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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