What’s Happening: Beijing quarantine, Merkel issues warning


Police officers wearing masks patrol an empty St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 11, 2020. Pope Francis held his weekly general audience in the privacy of his library as the Vatican implemented Italy’s drastic coronavirus lockdown measures, barring the general public from St. Peter’s Square and taking precautions to limit the spread of infections in the tiny city state.For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

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New clusters of the novel coronavirus are expanding in the United Statesand Europe as Italy replaces China as the new epicenter of a worldwide outbreak.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

These are some of the latest developments on Wednesday:


Beijing’s city government ordered all passengers arriving in the city from overseas, regardless of their points of departure, to undergo a 14-day quarantine. The move was part of stepped-up measures to prevent the new virus first detected in China from re-entering the country following its spread across the world. The number of cases in China has been falling, with just 24 new confirmed cases reported Wednesday but five of those had arrived from Italy and one from the United States.


Poland and Ukraine have joined the countries deciding to close all schools, preschools and universities because of the coronavirus, even though the two eastern European nations have small numbers of confirmed cases. The nation of Georgia has 23 confirmed cases and similarly extended spring break for students until April 1. It comes as a growing number of U.S. colleges and universities, including Harvard and Yale, are extending spring breaks and moving classes online, as the U.S. registered more than 1,000 cases.


While cases have been waning in South Korea,a new cluster in Seoul raised alarms. The cluster was connected to a call center in one of the busiest areas of the capital. So far, 93 people have tested positive among the call center’s employees and their families, but the number could grow as hundreds more undergo testing. South Korea’s caseload of 7,755 infections and 54 deaths is the fourth highest in the world after China, Italy and Iran.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel is citing expert estimates that up to 60% to 70% of the population could be infected by the new coronavirus as she insists on the necessity of measures to slow its spread. She said the reason is because people do not yet have immunity to the virus and there are so far neither vaccines nor therapies to fight it. With some 1,300 infections and two deaths, Germany’s government has recommended the cancellation of all events with more than 1,000 people, among other measures. Merkel said such measures “are giving us time” and are invaluable.


A minister in Croatia, which holds the 27-member European Union’s rotating presidency, greeted many other EU ministers with a warm handshake or hugs at a meeting. The greetings by Oleg Butkovic, who is the minister of the sea, transport and infrastructure, ran counter to the basic health prevention measures being urged in light of the coronavirus outbreak. From Europe to Iran and beyond, a rising number of government and military officials have tested positive for the virus or forced to self-isolate due to suspected contacts with infected people. One government official with the virus is Nadine Dorries, a minister in Britain’s health department who attended an International Women’s Day reception with the U.K. prime minister.


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