Coronavirus today: Borders shut; Big Brother gets a dose of reality

Published 7:46 am Tuesday, March 17, 2020

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Borders have slammed shut, schools and businesses have closed and increasingly draconian restrictions on movement have been enforced to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
Here are some of the latest developments on Tuesday:
Tens of millions of people are hunkered down, so gripped by fear that they are heeding government calls to isolate themselves and slow the spread of the coronavirus. Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the virus was first detected late last year and which has been under lockdown for weeks, reported just one new case Tuesday. The fronts in the battle have clearly shifted outside China, with its caseload now outnumbered by those outside its borders. Spain is now the fourth-most infected country, surpassing South Korea, where new cases have been subsiding. Countries from Canada to Switzerland, Russia and Malaysia announced sharp new restrictions on the movement of people across their borders.
Germany’s Big Brother reality show participants are living in oblivion of the coronavirus outbreak — but not for much longer. On Tuesday evening they will be informed about the pandemic that has brought many countries around the globe to a standstill. In a special show airing Tuesday at 7 p.m. (1800 GMT), contestants living in isolation near the western German city of Cologne will be informed about the virus pandemic by a physician and the show’s host. The participants have been cut off from the outside world since Feb. 6.
The European Union’s space agency says its earth-observation satellites have detected a significant reduction in the pollutant nitrogen dioxide, a byproduct of the use of diesel motors and other human activities, in northern Italy as the advance of COVID-19 has led to drastic measures curtailing ordinary life. The agency’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service said that with the “abrupt changes in activity levels” in northern Italy, it has tracked a weekly “reduction trend” of nitrogen dioxide, or NO2, for the last four to five weeks. Similar drops in pollutants were detected in China a fter the government there implemented widespread shutdowns to try and slow the spread of COVID-19.
Iran, which now has the third-highest number of deaths worldwide, provides an example of the importance of imposing measures early. Days of denials at the outset of the coronavirus outbreak gave the disease time to spread. Officials ignored the problem as Iran marked the 41st anniversary of its 1979 Islamic Revolution with mass demonstrations and then held a parliamentary election in which they sought to boost turnout. Even now, they seem unwilling to stop travel between cities as affected towns threaten to set up their own checkpoints to turn away outsiders. By contrast, Iraq and Lebanon have restricted movement and have a fraction of the reported infections.
President Donald Trump has struck a more urgent tone when speaking of the coronavirus pandemic after weeks of trying to play down its risk. In a somber message, Trump made a direct appeal to all Americans to do their part to halt the pandemic’s spread. The shift was informed in part by a growing realization that the coronavirus crisis is an existential threat to Trump’s presidency, endangering his reelection and his legacy.
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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