Coronavirus Deaths Outside China Exceed Those Inside

Date: Monday, March 16, 2020
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Center of pandemic shifts to Europe and U.S., where new travel and gathering restrictions are emerging; Canada to ban entry of nonresidents into country

Countries around the world took more drastic measures to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, closing borders, schools and businesses as the center of the pandemic shifts to Europe and the U.S.

Coronavirus deaths outside China surpassed those inside for the first time on Monday. More than 3,800 people from countries including Italy, Iran and Spain had died from the virus as of early Monday, compared with around 3,200 in China, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Similarly, the 81,000 total cases of infection in China have been surpassed by the almost 98,000 outside the country. The first cases of coronavirus infection were reported in the central Chinese province of Hubei in December.

After initially being caught off guard by the virus’s rapid spread, countries have enacted blanket bans or severe restrictions on visitors, and reordered local life with limits on movement.

The European Commission proposed an unprecedented 30-day restriction on nonessential travel to the European Union. The World Health Organization has called Europe the new epicenter of the pandemic, as the continent experiences a surge in new cases and deaths.

The U.S. had already imposed travel bans on foreigners coming from much of Europe, the U.K. and Ireland. Germany partially shut its borders and announced new wide-raging restrictions on public life including the closure of all nonessential businesses and a ban of religious services. Spain and Italy, home to the continent’s biggest outbreaks, have both imposed nationwide lockdowns. France has closed down restaurants, bars and all nonessential shops.

Canada said it was closing its borders to most nonresidents, though visitors from the U.S. would be exempted. The ban wouldn’t apply to trade and commerce.

“It is time to take every precaution to keep people safe,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who spoke outside of his Ottawa residence where he is in self-isolation, after his wife tested positive late last week for Covid-19.

Despite more aggressive emergency measures by governments and central banks, stocks once again fell sharply globally Monday as investors remained concerned that the measures won’t be enough to ward off a recession caused by the pandemic.

In China, economic data from the first two months of the year painted a bleak picture of the impact that government lockdowns have had, with business activity turning broadly negative for the first time on record.

Some of Europe’s biggest manufacturers initiated widespread factory closures after weeks of holding out, and U.S. executives are now starting to think about how to adjust production schedules.

The U.S. Senate on Monday began consideration of a House coronavirus response bill that would make testing free and provide paid sick leave to many of those affected by the outbreak, as the first National Institutes of Health-funded novel coronavirus vaccine trialbegan in Seattle earlier than expected.

The first stage of Moderna Inc.’s experimental vaccine will involve examining whether the experimental vaccine induces an immune response in the patients and whether it is safe. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that additional testing will be necessary and that it could be a year to 18 months before a vaccine is ready.

As the virus spreads across America, daily life has become more disrupted as the days go on. More than 4,100 confirmed cases of the coronavirus have been reported across the country Monday and at least 71 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins.

Once bustling streets have quieted as hundreds of schools close, businesses enforce new work-from-home rules, and more state and local governments enact strong restrictions on large public gatherings, restaurants, bars and entertainment venues.

“Everyone needs to stay in and be safe,” said New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. “Just because you aren’t sick doesn’t mean you aren’t carrying the virus.” New Jersey, New York and Connecticut are also instituting a recommended curfew to discourage travel between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Washington state, the site of one of the largest outbreaks in the country, said it would close restaurants and bars, except for pickup and delivery, and limit large gatherings to just 50 people.

“The reason is quite clear, we represent about 2% of the population of the United States but we represent over 20% of infections,” said Gov. Jay Inslee.

Over the weekend, as confirmed cases across the country ticked higher and much of Europe seized up under new restrictions, U.S. officials warned that much more needs to be done to slow the spread of the virus and help the economy cope. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that gatherings of more than 50 people be canceled or postponed for the next eight weeks.

Restrictions are being put in place in even the highest offices in the land. The Supreme Court on Monday canceled its March hearing schedule, putting off indefinitely arguments over President Trump’s financial records and other major cases as the nation’s judiciary went into isolation to help contain transmission of the coronavirus.

The announcement showed how seriously the justices view the pandemic; the court takes pride in continuing its operations during severe snowstorms and other disruptions that throw Congress, the executive branch and other institutions off track.

Still, the court said in its statement that there is precedent for halting operations in response to infectious diseases.

“The court postponed scheduled arguments for October 1918 in response to the Spanish flu epidemic. The court also shortened its argument calendars in August 1793 and August 1798 in response to yellow fever outbreaks,” it said.

While public argument sessions have been suspended, the court said it would continue its other functions.

The World Health Organization has called on countries to use aggressive measures to limit gatherings and save lives in what it now considers a global pandemic.

The outbreak has now infected more than 179,000 people in 155 countries and territories.

“You cannot fight a fire blindfolded. And we cannot stop this pandemic if we don’t know who is infected,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday.

“We have a simple message for all countries. Test. Test. Test. Test every suspected case,” Dr. Tedros said.

G-7 leaders said they are committed to working together to address the health and the fiscal impact of the virus, pledging to coordinate on issues including public health, job protection and global trade, according to a statement issued by the White House.

While infections rose in the West, in Asia it was a mixed picture. New confirmed cases in the Philippines and Taiwan grew, leading authorities to impose more sweeping travel restrictions. The Malaysian government said schools, businesses and mosques across the country would be closed.

But infections in the former epicenters of China and South Korea have been declining. China reported 16 new confirmed cases in the country on March 15. Of those, 12 were imported from abroad, bringing the total number of imported cases to 123, health authorities said.

Concerned about the rise in imported cases, Beijing will require visitors from overseas to isolate themselves for 14 days in government-run quarantine facilities. They will need to pay their own room and board.

Authorities in South Korea said the number of discharged coronavirus patients outstripped the number of new infections for the fourth consecutive day. There were 74 new cases confirmed on March 16, compared with more than 300 discharged from hospitals. That was down from a peak of more than 900 new cases on Feb. 29.

 

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