News briefs: A world that is walled off

Associated Press

BANGKOK (AP) — People around the world became increasingly closed off from one another Thursday as sweeping travel bans accelerated, walling regions apart as a viral pandemic unfolds and financial markets plunge.

It was an outbreak moving, at once, both glacially and explosively, with a virus first detected three months ago in China creeping across borders and producing eruptive outbreaks that have crippled areas.

Even for a crisis that has brought no shortage of headlines, dizzying developments were flashing across screens: An official designation of "pandemic" from the World Health Organization, a dramatic halt to much travel between the United States and 26 European countries, and infections among beloved Hollywood stars, sports luminaries and political leaders. All of it came against a backdrop of plunging world economies that left not only Wall Street investors but people from all walks of life hurting.

"We will see more cases and things will get worse than they are right now," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

President Donald Trump, who had downplayed the virus for days, suddenly struck a different tone, delivering a somber Oval Office address announcing strict rules on travel from much of Europe to begin this weekend. The State Department followed with an extraordinary warning to Americans to "reconsider travel abroad" too. Local leaders warned things would only get worse.

Americans snap to attention on virus as big events canceled

A basketball tournament, with no fans. A St. Patrick's Day, with no parades. College campuses, with no students. Corporate headquarters, with barren cubicles.

The nation snapped to attention on Wednesday as the new coronavirus was declared a pandemic, stocks slid into bear market territory and the American public finally began to come to grips with the outbreak. The NBA said it would suspend its season until further notice. President Donald Trump held a rare prime-time address from the Oval Office to calm the public.

Health and government officials have been sounding the alarm about the virus for nearly two months as it infected and killed thousands of people, pinballing from China to Iran to Italy and beyond before striking Seattle in the first deadly outbreak in the U.S.

But Wednesday was the moment that the larger American public came to the dawning realization that the toll of the virus would be unavoidable for months to come, perhaps longer.

In the matter of hours Wednesday afternoon, the signs were everywhere. The NCAA announced that the rite of spring for so many Americans — its college basketball tournament — would be played before largely empty arenas. Around the same time, the White House scheduled a nationally televised address. News feeds lit up with cancellations of St. Patrick's Day parades, major university systems in California, New York and elsewhere ending classes for the term and late night comedians making plans to film without live studio audiences.

In battle against virus, Trump restricts travel from Europe

WASHINGTON (AP) — Taking dramatic action, President Donald Trump sharply restricted passenger travel from 26 European nations to the U.S. and moved to ease the economic cost of a viral pandemic that is roiling global financial markets and disrupting the daily lives of Americans. 

Trump, in a rare Oval Office address to the nation Wednesday night, said the monthlong restriction on travel would begin late Friday, at midnight. After days of playing down the coronavirus threat, he blamed Europe for not acting quickly enough to address the "foreign virus" and claimed that U.S. clusters were "seeded" by European travelers.

"We made a lifesaving move with early action on China," Trump said. "Now we must take the same action with Europe."

Trump said the restrictions won't apply to the United Kingdom, and there would be exemptions for "Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings." He said the U.S. would monitor the situation to determine if travel could be reopened earlier.

The State Department followed Trump's remarks by issuing an extraordinary global health advisory cautioning U.S. citizens to "reconsider travel abroad" due to the virus and associated quarantines and restrictions. 

Global shares sink on pandemic news, waning hopes for fix

TOKYO (AP) — Global shares plunged Thursday after the World Health Organization declared a coronavirus pandemic and indexes sank on Wall Street. 

France's CAC 40 slipped 6.6% to 4,307.17, while Germany's DAX lost 6.8% to 9,732.75. Britain's FTSE 100 plunged 5.7% to 5,542.17. 

The future contract for the Dow Jones Industrial Average slumped 5.2 percent while the S&P 500's lost 5 percent. 

On Wall Street overnight, the Dow fell into bear market territory, with a loss that dragged it 20 percent below the record set last month. The broader S&P 500, which professional investors watch more closely, is a single percentage point away from falling into its own bear market, which would end the longest bull market in Wall Street history.

There was no sign of a revival of confidence in Asia. 

Most coronavirus patients recover, still anxiety, fear loom

SEATTLE (AP) — Amid all the fears, quarantines and stockpiling of food, it has been easy to ignore the fact that more than 60,000 people have recovered from the coronavirus spreading around the globe.

The disease can cause varying degrees of illness and is especially troublesome for older adults and people with existing health problems, who are at risk of severe effects, including pneumonia. But for most of those affected, coronavirus creates only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, with the vast majority recovering from the virus. 

According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe ailments may take three to six weeks to rebound. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed, but more than 58,000 already have recovered.

Because the difference in impact can be so great, global health authorities have the difficult task of alerting the public to the virus' dangers without creating panic.

Already, the widespread consequences of the virus have been staggering, sending shock waves through the world's financial markets. Global oil prices sustained their worst percentage losses since the the Gulf War in 1991, and new restrictions were imposed in Italy and in Israel as the Holy Week approached.

The new mask: Wave of global revolt replaced by virus fear

BEIRUT (AP) — As 2019 gave way to 2020 in a cloud of tear gas, and in some cases a hail of bullets, from Hong Kong to Baghdad, from Beirut to Barcelona and Santiago, it seemed civil disobedience and government crackdowns on protests would dominate the international landscape. 

Then came the coronavirus. 

Protests, by their very nature driven by large gatherings, have been doused. Streets crammed with tens of thousands of chanting protesters are largely deserted. Masks worn to protect against tear gas are now worn to protect against the virus. A very different kind of fear has set in around protest camps and around the world.

The global unrest spanned three continents last year, fueled by local grievances but reflecting worldwide frustration at growing inequality, corrupt elites and broken promises. In Hong Kong, Beirut and Barcelona, images of euphoric protesters captured people's imaginations around the world even as they were beaten back, and in some cases, shot dead by police.

In most of these places, the protests had waned even before the outbreak — a combination of fear and fatigue giving way to resignation or apathy. The spreading new coronavirus has in some cases given authorities a means to further suppress the protests.

Analysis: Sanders may have learned wrong lessons from 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) — Bernie Sanders pledged to harness the energy from his first campaign to turn out more voters in 2020. He would build a coalition of black, young and working-class voters who were energized by his transformative vision for America to build a broad coalition that would make him an unstoppable force against Democratic rivals and President Donald Trump.

He was wrong.

Virtually every expectation that the Vermont senator carried into his second White House bid has been overturned by Joe Biden's dramatic comeback. The former vice president has emerged as the candidate preferred by African Americans from South Carolina to Mississippi and Michigan. Biden has also won voters without college degrees and made striking inroads in the suburbs that could be critical to control of the White House in November. 

"Last night, obviously, was not a good night for our campaign, from a delegate point of view," Sanders said Wednesday in his first public comments since he lost Michigan, the state that solidified his insurgent campaign four years ago.

Sanders isn't going anywhere immediately. He will be in Arizona on Sunday for a one-on-one debate against Biden. Arizona, which votes next Tuesday, is one of the few remaining bright spots on the primary calendar for Sanders. Having demonstrated new strength with Latinos this year, he hopes similar support in Arizona could at least momentarily blunt Biden.

Shot 9 times during mosque massacre, survivor overcomes fear

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — When the gunman walked into the Al Noor mosque, Temel Atacocugu was kneeling for Friday prayers. He looked up into the man's face, thinking he was a police officer because of his paramilitary outfit. Time slowed. Atacocugu saw a puff of smoke come from the raised gun, felt a bullet smash into his teeth, and thought, "Oh, my God, I'm dying."

But despite being shot nine times, Atacocugu survived the attack at Al Noor, one of two mosques in the city of Christchurch that were attacked on March 15 last year, in New Zealand's deadliest modern-day mass shooting.

On Sunday, New Zealand will commemorate the 51 people who were killed in the attacks. Atacocugu, 45, is slowly overcoming his own physical and psychological injuries from that day. And he's even found himself ready to face a childhood fear: sharks.

On the day of the attacks, Atacocugu was in a buoyant mood when he walked into the mosque. An active man who loves soccer, fishing and running, he'd just finished his last acupuncture session for a sports injury and was feeling in great shape. 

Growing up in Turkey, he'd been through compulsory military training, so he quickly realized what was happening. Medical staff would later tell him he was incredibly fortunate that the bullet, which struck his upper jaw, deflected downward rather than continuing into his brain or an artery.

Locked out: Europeans grapple with new US travel ban

PARIS (AP) — They had spent months planning their route, a 3,500-kilometer (2,200-mile) trans-America road trip, a voyage of a lifetime.

Just when it was within touching distance, with a flight into New Orleans booked for March 24, Jean-Michel and Christiane Deaux's dream trip evaporated, falling victim to the new anti-virus travel ban announced Wednesday by U.S. President Donald Trump.

The French retirees were among legions of Europeans scrambling Thursday to adjust to the idea that the United States is now suddenly off-limits to them.

"We've been preparing this trip for years," Jean-Michel Deaux said. "It was going to be a pilgrimage."

Their March-May voyage would have taken them through multiple states, on a giant south-north loop. They planned to follow in the footsteps of the Marquis de Lafayette, the French aristocrat who fought with American colonists against the British. They wanted to see Amish communities in Pennsylvania, take in music in Memphis and ride a boat on the Mississippi. They even bought extra suitcases to carry gifts and souvenirs back to France. 

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