The coronavirus outbreak has led to travel bans around the world, walling off countries, closing businesses and keeping people inside their homes.
The situation collapsed financial markets. The New York Stock Exchange was forced to stop trading for a second time this week to avoid a crash.
Late Wednesday, American President Donald Trump announced strong measures to limit travelers from Europe. A 30-day ban will limit the entry to the U.S. for travelers coming from every European country except Britain and Ireland.
The head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Robert Redfield, noted that most of the new cases of the COVID-19 illness are linked to Europe. He called it “the new China.”
But Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said that the United States is behind other countries in testing for the virus to learn how widespread it really is.
The virus first appeared late last year in Wuhan, China. It has since spread to 114 countries. More than 127,000 people have been infected and 4,700 have died. Most of the infected are in just four countries: China, South Korea, Iran and Italy.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization officially called it a “pandemic.”
Later that day, organizations and businesses across the U.S. started taking stronger action. The National Basketball Association in the U.S. canceled its season after a player was confirmed to have the virus. The upcoming college-level basketball tournament will not be held. And, more American colleges and universities started sending students home and moving their classes online.
Television shows announced they would be taped without audiences. Crowds in New York City’s usually busy subway cars have disappeared. And huge St. Patrick’s Day celebrations across the country have been canceled.
Late on Wednesday, Hollywood actors Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, who are married, announced on social media that they had tested positive for the virus.
Dr. Jeff Duchin is a top public health official in Seattle, Washington. The area has one of the largest coronavirus outbreaks in the United States. He compared the effects of the new coronavirus to “a major earthquake that’s going to shake us for weeks and weeks.”
Around the world
In Italy, restaurants and cafes closed this week after the prime minister established a nationwide lockdown on personal movement. Only stores selling food, medicine and newspapers are permitted to open.
Store keeper Rosanna Farina said, “So few people are out and about. People are terrorized…I’d rather be home. I’m worried, even if I’m keeping a distance.”
Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Lithuania, Algeria and Slovakia joined a growing list of countries and closed their schools. The Czech government set border checks. It has also barred entry to people from 13 high-risk countries. Slovakia closed its international airports and ground transportation centers.
Real Madrid, Europe’s most successful football team, put its whole team into quarantine after one player tested positive for the virus. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was self-isolating at home after his wife showed flu-like signs after her return from Britain.
Signs of improvement in China
As the outbreak continues to spread in Europe and the United States, it appears to be slowing down in China.
China’s Hubei province only recorded eight new infections on Wednesday. The rest of mainland China had just seven new cases the same day.
“The peak of the epidemic has passed for China,” said Mi Feng, who is with the country’s National Health Commission.
The Chinese government’s senior medical adviser, Zhong Nanshan, said the worldwide crisis could be over by June. He is known for fighting the SARS outbreak in 2003.
“If all countries could get mobilized, it could be over by June,” he said. “But if some countries do not treat the infectiousness and harmfulness seriously, and intervene strongly, it would last longer.”
Most people infected by the new virus have only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. Older people may develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia. The WHO says recovery for more serious cases can take between two to six weeks.
I'm Dorothy Gundy.
Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on Associated Press and Reuters news reports. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
Words in This Story
tournament - n. a sport competition that involves many teams for several days
positive - n. showing the presence of a particular germ or virus
quarantine - n. the situation of being kept away from others to prevent a disease from spreading
isolate - v. to keep someone in a place that is separate from others
epidemic - n. an occurrence in which a disease spreads very quickly and affects a large number of people
mobilize - v. to come together for action
symptom - n. a change in the body which indicates that a disease is present
pneumonia - n. a serious disease that affects the lung and makes it difficult to breath