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 coronavirus are expanding in the United Statesand Europe, with Europe replacing China as the new epicenter of the disease.

These are some of the latest developments on Wednesday:

BEIJING ORDERS QUARANTINE FOR ALL FOREIGN ARRIVALS

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 virus that was first detected in China from re-entering the country. 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.

NEW CLUSTER EMERGES IN SOUTH KOREA

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.

A STRONG WARNING FROM GERMANY’S LEADER

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.

SHAKING HANDS AND HUGGING OFF THE TABLE

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 coronavirus outbreak. A rising number of government and military officials from Europe to Iran and beyond have been infected or forced to self-isolate due to suspect contacts with sick people. The latest infections include Nadine Dorries, a minister in Britain’s health department who just attended an International Women’s Day reception with the U.K. prime minister.

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