In Italy and be­yond, coro­n­avirus out­break re­shapes work and play

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - NEWS - By Ni­cole Win­field and Lori Hinnant

ROME » Italy closed all schools and uni­ver­si­ties and barred fans from all sport­ing events for the next few weeks, as gov­ern­ments try­ing to curb the spread of the coro­n­avirus around the world re­sorted to in­creas­ingly sweep­ing mea­sures that trans­formed the way peo­ple work, shop, pray and amuse them­selves.

With the virus present in more than 80 coun­tries, Saudi Ara­bia barred citizens from mak­ing the Mus­lim pil­grim­age to Mecca, Iran can­celed Fri­day prayers for a sec­ond week, and leader af­ter leader pleaded with citizens to put an end to that tra­di­tional sym­bol of mu­tual trust, the hand­shake.

The Ital­ian gov­ern­ment de­creed that soc­cer games and other sport­ing events will take place with­out spec­ta­tors un­til at least April 3. Italy is is the epi­cen­ter of Europe’s coro­n­avirus out­break. More than 3,000 have been in­fected and at least 107 have died, the most of any coun­try out­side China, where the ill­ness be­gan.

Italy also closed schools for 8.4 mil­lion stu­dents through March 15, af­ter at least four other coun­tries — Ja­pan, the United Arab Emi­rates, Le­banon and Iraq — took sim­i­lar ac­tion.

“I know it’s a de­ci­sion with an im­pact. As ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter, I ob­vi­ously want my stu­dents back in school as soon as pos­si­ble,” said Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Lu­cia Az­zolina.

Italy, Iran and South Korea con­fronted fast-grow­ing clus­ters of the dis­ease that ac­counted for about 80% of new cases out­side China, ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion. In all, more than 95,000 peo­ple have con­tracted the virus world­wide, with more than 3,200 deaths.

In the United States, the death toll reached 11.

Iran re­ported 92 deaths among its more than 2,900 cases, though many fear the out­break is far big­ger. Among the ill are dozens of mem­bers of the gov­ern­ment. The Is­lamic repub­lic can­celed Fri­day prayers to avoid pub­lic gath­er­ings.

“The virus has no wings to fly,” said Health Min­istry spokesman Kianoush Ja­han­pour. “We are the ones who trans­fer it to each other.”

WHO said about 3.4% of peo­ple in­fected with the COVID-19 virus glob­ally have died, mak­ing it more lethal than the com­mon flu. But that fig­ure was met with skep­ti­cism, with sci­en­tists not­ing that large num­bers of mild cases have prob­a­bly gone un­de­tected or un­re­ported. A study last week in the New Eng­land Jour­nal of Medicine of data from more than 30 Chi­nese prov­inces es­ti­mated the death rate at 1.4%.

In Daegu, the South Korean city at the cen­ter of that coun­try’s out­break, a short­age of hos­pi­tal space meant about 2,300 pa­tients were be­ing cared for in other fa­cil­i­ties while they awaited a hos­pi­tal bed. Prime Min­is­ter Chung SeKyun sought to as­sure peo­ple in the south­east­ern city, say­ing, “We will win the war against COVID-19.”

South Korea re­ported 145 new in­fec­tions Thurs­day, rais­ing its to­tal to 5,766, sec­ond-high­est in the world.

In Europe, of­fi­cials told French soc­cer play­ers to sim­ply dis­perse — with­out shak­ing hands — af­ter lin­ing up, and ref­er­ees and coaches will no longer shake hands ei­ther. In Paris, the Lou­vre fi­nally re­opened af­ter clos­ing be­cause of fears among work­ers about catch­ing the virus from vis­i­tors, but it will no longer ac­cept cash, be­cause of the dan­ger of germs.

A news con­fer­ence at Mi­lan’s Tri­en­nale con­tem­po­rary art and de­sign mu­seum looked like an ex­hibit it­self, with jour­nal­ists’ chairs spaced more than a yard (me­ter) apart.

In Is­rael, the coun­try’s chief rabbi urged ob­ser­vant Jews to re­frain from kiss­ing the mezuza, the small box con­tain­ing a prayer scroll that is posted by Jews on their door­posts. Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu also urged peo­ple to adopt the In­dian greet­ing of “na­maste,” with hands to­gether, rather than a hand­shake.

Busi­nesses of all types suf­fered a down­turn as travel and tourism plum­meted and wor­ried con­sumers changed their habits.

“Peo­ple are afraid to touch any­thing or take any­thing from us,” said Maedeh Ja­hangiri, a per­fume seller at a mall in Tehran.

China re­ported 139 new cases Thurs­day and 31 deaths, rais­ing its to­tals to 80,409 cases and 3,012 deaths. The num­ber of cases was higher than Wed­nes­day’s fig­ure, but new deaths were lower, as the ill­ness con­tin­ues to de­cline in the coun­try. While hard­est-hit Hubei prov­ince had most of the new cases and deaths, hos­pi­tals there re­leased an­other 1,923 pa­tients who were de­clared cured.

Doc­tors work­ing in Wuhan, Hubei’s cap­i­tal where the ill­ness emerged in De­cem­ber, said hos­pi­tals there have an in­creas­ing num­ber of empty beds but cau­tioned a new spike of in­fec­tions was al­ways pos­si­ble. “The war is not over,” said Dr. Cao Bin, who spe­cial­izes in res­pi­ra­tory re­search.

SUH MY­OUNG-GEON — YON­HAP

Work­ers wear­ing pro­tec­tive gear spray dis­in­fec­tant in­side a plane for New York as a pre­cau­tion against the new coro­n­avirus at In­cheon In­ter­na­tional Air­port in In­cheon, South Korea, Wed­nes­day.

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