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Millions Locked Down as Coronavirus Spreads

Millions of people in Europe, the United States and other countries are locked down at home in an effort to stop the spread of the new coronavirus. The number of cases is now higher outside of China, where the virus first appeared, than inside.

Speaking from the White House, American President Donald Trump asked older Americans to stay home. He urged everyone to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people for the next 15 days. He also said people should limit travel and social visits and stop going out to eat at restaurants.

In New York City, officials closed the public school system serving more than 1 million students. The city’s restaurants and drinking establishments are closed except for food delivery and take-out service.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would order movie theaters and nightclubs to close. He called them “the heart and soul” of the city. But, he said the city was facing an “unprecedented threat” that must be answered with “a wartime mentality.”

A man walks through an empty underground passage in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Monday, March 16, 2020.

Across the United States, local governments in California, Ohio, Illinois, Massachusetts and other states ordered similar measures in order to slow the spread of the virus.

Lockdown in Europe

A nationwide lockdown continues in Italy where 368 more people died of COVID-19 on Sunday. It was the biggest single-day number of deaths recorded in any country, including China.

With nearly 25,000 infections and more than 1,800 deaths, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte warned that the outbreak was worsening.

Spain was under lockdown as the government declared a two-week state of emergency. Spain’s Health Ministry said the number of infections rose to 7,753 from 5,700. The country has recorded 288 deaths, up from 136 on Saturday.

“From now, we enter into a new phase,” said Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. He said the country would do all that was necessary to defeat the virus. “We are putting health first,” he added. Sanchez’s wife is among Spain’s infected citizens.

Ireland ordered all bars to close and cancelled the St. Patrick’s Day parade on March 17 in Dublin over fears of the coronavirus. The parade usually draws as many as 500,000 people to the city.

European Union nations, including Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Cyprus have ordered border crossing restrictions. E-U leaders are set to meet Tuesday to discuss measures to contain the spread of the virus.

In the Middle East

Iran has one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the world. Officials there reported 14,991 infections. The number of deaths rose by 129 bringing the total to 853. Some have questioned the government’s reporting and suggested the numbers may be even higher. Restaurants have remained open but few people are out on the streets.

In Lebanon, where the government ordered a lockdown, some streets were completely empty on Monday. Restaurants, cafes and bars have been closed since last week.

Iraq started a weeklong curfew Sunday night, including the suspension of all flights from Baghdad’s international airport. And Egypt, with more than 120 confirmed cases and two deaths, suspended all flights in and out of the country until the end of the month.

Israel is planning to follow the movements of infected people to stop the spread of the virus using mobile tracking technology. Knowing that the measure is a violation of privacy, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it “an effective tool for locating the virus.”

Slowdown in Asia

Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering is reporting COVID-19 up-to-the-minute information on cases around the world. Its Coronavirus map reports that China now has less than half of the world’s 169,000 cases. And its number of deaths, at 3000, is less than half reported in the rest of the world, at 6,500.

The official Xinhua News Agency reported Monday that cities just outside Wuhan were sending people who had returned home for the Lunar New Year in late January back to work. China, however, is still checking people for signs of infection. And many eating places still only offer takeout.

China’s National Health Commission reported 16 new cases in the previous 24 hours. Twelve of those patients were infected outside of China, however. Chinese officials say they are ordering 14-day quarantines for all who enter the country.

Other Asian countries like South Korea and Japan also have become increasingly worried about importing cases of the virus.

South Korea on Monday reported 74 more cases of infection over the past 24 hours. That is much lower than the more than 900 new cases reported on one day in late February. Prime Minister Chung Se-kyun said the decrease is a “hopeful sign.” But he warned the country to watch the widening outbreaks across Europe and the United States.

In Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is permitted to declare a state of emergency. Abe said, however, the country has yet to reach that point.

Concern over the economy

With fears that the COVID-19 pandemic will severely reduce economic growth, the U.S. central bank cut loan interest rates to American banks to almost zero. The agency also decided to buy $700 billion in Treasury and mortgage bonds.

The measures failed to lift financial markets. The New York Stock Exchange stopped trading for the third time in two weeks to avoid a crash. Markets also went down in Europe and Asia.

With more travel restrictions around the world, airline companies have cut flights and dismissed workers. China said the country’s industrial output decreased sharply in the first two months of the year.

Rick Meckler is an investment advisor in New Jersey. He told Reuters, “The issue for investors that still remains is that the virus’s economic impact is still not known, if this is a one-month event or if this is a one-year event, and how deep the cutback in consumer spending is going to be.”

I'm Caty Weaver.

Words in This Story

delivery - n. the act of taking something to a person or place

nightclub - n. a place that is open at night, has music, dancing and usually serve food and drink

unprecedented - adj. not done or experienced before

phase - n. a step in the process

locate - v. to find the place or position of

pandemic - n. an occurrence in which a disease spreads very quickly and affects a large number of people throughout the world

impact - n. a major influence or effect

consumer - n. a person who buys goods and services

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