A man wears a mask as a precaution against the spread of the new coronavirus COVID-19 after his plane landed at the Sao Paulo International Airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

What’s happening: Coronavirus forges on, as world hunts solutions

Japan closes all elementary, middle and high schools until spring holidays in late March

One by one, more and more countries are reporting cases of the new coronavirus. Governments and doctors on the front lines are scrambling for solutions and everyday life around the globe is being disrupted in a manner that’s not been seen in recent times.

The spread of the virus is having an impact around the world. Here are some of the latest developments:

—-

LOOKING FOR CONNECTIONS

From California to Italy, France, Germany, Spain and beyond, more cases are popping up in which the source of the virus remains a mystery. People who weren’t exposed through travel or contact with someone previously infected are testing positive. Health authorities in all these places are working hard to find the original source of infection using what’s called contact tracing, or finding all the people the latest patients were in contact with. In a highly mobile world, that’s increasingly difficult.

—-

MARKETS DIVE DEEPER

U.S. President Donald Trump had reason to worry as stocks tanked further on fears about the virus’ global spread. And not only Trump: all gains built up this year have been wiped out – and more. No region is immune. Standout losers Thursday were Britain’s FTSE 100 index, which slid 3.5% and Japan’s Nikkei, which ended 2% lower. It’s not looking much better on Wall Street, where both the Dow Jones industrial average and the broader S&P 500 index are down. A global pandemic that leads to barriers and restrictions has the potential to seriously disrupt the global economy by draining confidence and stalling activity. A more protracted panic on stock markets could perpetuate the downturn — and that’s bad news in an election year.

—-

STAY AWAY, FOREIGN PILGRIMS

Saudi Arabia has responded to the fears by banning foreign pilgrims from visiting Islam’s holiest shrines. That will change the face of this year’s annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, and disrupt plans for millions of faithful from around the world who come to the kingdom to pray together. The decision illustrates how tense the situation is across the Gulf region and the wider Middle East as a whole largely as a result of the spike in deaths and infections in Iran. Iran has now seen more virus deaths than anywhere except China, where it first emerged at the end of 2019.

—-

JAPAN SKIPS SCHOOL

Japan, too, is increasingly worried, and made a decision Thursday that’s sure to have its 12.8 million schoolchildren secretly celebrating. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he wants all elementary, middle and high schools nationwide to remain closed until spring holidays in late March. Japan now has more than 900 cases, including hundreds from a quarantined cruise ship. France, Germany, Monaco and other countries near Italy are telling parents to keep their kids home from school if they’ve been anywhere near the growing number of zones worldwide hit by virus outbreaks. One reason for the school warnings: growing concern about the rise in the number of untraceable cases of the virus.

—-

BEEFING UP BORDERS

Germany is thinking ahead. To retroactively track down everyone who may have been exposed to an infected individual, the German government is introducing airport landing cards for passengers arriving from the countries hit hardest by the virus. The procedure started with China but has been expanded to include South Korea, Iran, Japan and Italy. Elsewhere, authorities are struggling to keep the virus away. Pakistan halted flights to and from neighbouring Iran. Slovakia is checking cars coming from Austria and everyone on flights into its three airports. Cyprus has a special problem: the Mediterranean island nation is ethnically divided, with an internationally recognized state in the south and a self-declared Turkish Cypriot state in the north. Authorities in the south are deploying police and health officials at the dividing line.

READ MORE: Canada’s 13th coronavirus case confirmed as husband of 12th patient

___

WHO’S PAYING FOR IT

France, like many countries, has seen years of funding cuts to its once-renowned public health care system – and the virus is exposing personnel and equipment shortages. So when French President Emmanuel Macron visited a Paris hospital Thursday to vaunt how his government’s preparations for an outbreak, staff members seized the moment to beg for money. “We’re at the end of our rope,” a leading neurologist pleaded. “Give us the means to do our jobs.” In the United States, the Trump administration and congressional leaders are scrambling for money to bolster virus preparedness after the Centers for Disease Control previously had its budget cut. Trump’s proposal: $2.5 billion. The Senate’s Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, wants $8.5 billion instead.

—-

CHINA’S GROWING CONFIDENCE

Now that there are more cases being reported outside China than inside, Chinese authorities are eager to shed the virus stigma and questions about its early handling of the epidemic. President Xi Jinping said Thursday: “We have the confidence, the ability and the certainty to win this war against the epidemic.” And famed Chinese respiratory disease specialist Zhong Nanshan predicted China’s outbreak should be “basically under control” by the end of April. He credited strong measures taken by the government and the work of medical workers for helping curb the spread.

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘Overwhelming, incredible’ support for foreign workers following West Kelowna COVID-19 outbreak

‘…Our team seems to be recovering well — symptoms are resolving’

RCMP call on kids to name latest foal recruits

The baby horses names are to start with the letter ‘S’

North Okanagan bands together in support against COVID-19

New group launches website with tools to help endure crisis

VIDEO: KLO middle school teachers shoot video to show support for students at home

KLO teachers Kayla Rose and Tonia Macgregor were the minds behind the gesture

COVID-19: Kelowna MLA to host virtual town hall on physical, mental health

Norm Letnick will be hosting the town hall with doctors from the Canadian Mental Health Association

WATCH: Salmon Arm artist hosts virtual art show amid COVID-19

Roxi Hermsen’s show “Into the Cosmos” is a tribute to her father Bill Sim

HERGOTT: COVID-19 and ICBC

Paul Hergott is a personal injury lawyer based in West Kelowna

COVID-19: Armstrong gym fined $345 after failure to close

The fitness centre was issued a ticket a day after province ordered all gyms to close

Bus rider who travelled to Golden tests positive for COVID-19

The passenger travelled from Calgary to Golden on March 15

Armed robbery of legal grow-op in Sicamous ends in arrest near Enderby

Residents alarmed over increased police presence Tuesday morning

Wildfire burns out-of-control on Adams Lake band land in the Shuswap

BC Wildfire Service reports Shuswap two-hectare fire is not threatening structures

COVID-19: Vernon homeless shelters combine in curling club

Gateway and Our Place shelter sites housed under one roof amid pandemic

COVID-19: Don’t get away for Easter weekend, Dr. Bonnie Henry warns

John Horgan, Adrian Dix call 130 faith leaders as holidays approach

COVID-19: Trudeau says 30K ventilators on the way; 3.6M Canadians claim benefits

Canada has seen more than 17,000 cases and at least 345 deaths due to COVID-19

Most Read