Coronavirus Turning Life Upside Down for Billions

There are more than 134,000 coronavirus cases in 114 countries — a tiny number out of a global population of 7 billion.

But the pandemic is turning life upside down and inside out for nearly every man, woman, and child.

Few in the United States have avoided being affected by the coronavirus outbreak in some way, including the president.

Brazilian communication secretary Fabio Wajngarten tested positive for the virus, days after he met with U.S. President Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago estate. The White House said the president has not been tested, and Trump said Thursday he is “not concerned” even though he sat next to Wajngarten for some time.

Brazilian officials say doctors there have tested and are keeping a close watch on President Jair Bolsonaro.

The wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has tested positive for the virus, Canada announced late Thursday. The couple went into isolation Wednesday after she showed mild symptoms of the virus after returning from a speaking engagement in London.

The largest city in the United States declared a state of emergency Thursday over what its mayor calls “striking and troubling” developments in the coronavirus pandemic.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said there were 95 confirmed cases in the city Thursday but there could be up to 1,000 next week.

“Going to this level is not done lightly, but it has reached the point where it is necessary,” de Blasio said. He warned New Yorkers to be prepared for major job losses, evictions, business closings, and food shortages. Broadway theaters and Lincoln Center have already announced closures, some extending into April.

The mayor said the state of emergency gives city authorities the power to close subways and buses, tell people to get off the streets, set curfews, and ration supplies.

But de Blasio was annoyed by rumors flying around on social media that he was planning to shut down New York City and order a quarantine.

“If it’s not coming from my mouth, don’t believe it,” he stressed.

Maryland and Ohio are the first states to close all public schools, forcing parents to scramble to find day care or a way to work from home.

California’s Disneyland calls itself “The Happiest Place on Earth.” It will soon look like the loneliest place on Earth. The theme park will be closed for the rest of the month starting Saturday. Disney World in Florida is also closing through March.

Congress is closing the Capitol and all House and Senate offices to the public, at least until April.

The acting secretary of Homeland Security praised two cruise lines late Thursday for ceasing operations for several weeks in the wake of the virus outbreak.

“I commend Princess Cruises and Viking Cruises for initiating a voluntary pause in their operations to protect the health and safety of their passengers, crew and countries they visit,” Chad Wolf said in a statement. “I encourage others in the industry to follow their lead until appropriate safety measure are put in place.”

Viking has suspended operations until May 1, while Princess is pausing until May 10.

Major league basketball, soccer and hockey seasons are halted indefinitely, frustrating millions of fans with tickets to the big games. Baseball is postponing its March 26 opening day for two weeks. The remainder of the spring training schedule has been called off.

College basketball’s highly anticipated annual tournament has also been canceled with many campuses shutting down and students taking classes remotely.

Belgium, France, Honduras, Ireland, Portugal and Canada’s Ontario province are the latest federal governments to shut down all schools.

India has ordered some of the toughest travel restrictions so far, suspending visas for all tourists and foreigners for one month starting Friday.

El Salvador has banned entry to all foreigners, while neighboring Guatemala issued its own ban on those traveling from Europe, Iran, China and the Koreas.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday that Americans returning from Europe must self-quarantine for 14 days to help prevent more cases.

Iran is asking for a $5 billion emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund. Officials report more than 10,000 confirmed cases with 429 deaths Thursday.

Iranian global health scholar Kamair Alaei tells VOA Persian he believes the actual number is 40,000.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has appealed to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres to demand international support for an end to U.S. sanctions, saying they are hurting Iranian efforts to fight the disease.

Zarif calls the sanctions “economic terrorism.”

“We are stymied in our efforts to identify and treat our [patients in combating the spread of the virus and ultimately in defeating it,” Zarif wrote in a letter to Guterres. He called, Iranian doctors and nurses “among the very finest in the world.”

As of late Thursday, there were 134,520 confirmed coronavirus cases in 114 countries. The death toll is close to 5,000.

Margaret Bsheer in New York and VOA Persian’s Farhad Pouladi and Arian Risbaf contributed to this report.

Source: Voice of America

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