What’s Happening: Virus moves west, ‘Big Brother’ gets real

International

Ukrainians wearing face masks look at the latest news on a phone in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 17, 2020. Ukrainian authorities ruled to close public places except food markets, pharmacies and gas stations starting from Tuesday in Kyiv and other regions, and restrict the use of public transport from Kyiv to other Ukrainian cities. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness, especially in older adults and people with existing health problems. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

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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:

VIRUS KEEPS MOVING WEST

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. Countries from Canada to Switzerland, Russia and Malaysia announced sharp new restrictions on the movement of people across their borders. The border closures stopped not only people but also needed goods.

MAJOR EVENTS POSTPONED OR DISRUPTED

The coronavirus pandemic is forcing the postponement and disruption of events big and small — and very big. The European Championship soccer tournamenthas been postponed for one year, upending a tradition that dominates European life for a full month every four years. The tournament was set to begin June 12 but has been rescheduled for June 2021. In the United States, the virus created uncertainty for the Democratic presidential primary after leaders in the state of Ohio called off a Tuesday election hours before polls were expected to open. Officials in Florida, Arizona and Illinois said voting would take place, but people had difficulty getting to the polls in the morning.

VIRUS REALITY TO HIT GERMAN “BIG BROTHER” PARTICIPANTS

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 IMPACT ON AIR POLLUTION

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.

DAYS OF DENIAL IN IRAN ALLOWED VIRUS TO SPREAD

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 TRUMP ADOPTS MORE SOMBER TONE

President Donald Trumphas 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.

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