The spread of COVID-19 continues to see event cancellations and spooked investors.
Scientists are still grappling with tracking the virus and determining what its long-term impact could be, while the US continues to look very unprepared for what could soon be a global pandemic.
The economy (and everything else) is cancelled
For the sixth straight day, global stock markets fell. Analysts are warning we could be heading for economic turmoil to rival the global financial crisis. On top of that, big events are either being cancelled or are in trouble.
Sport has also been hit hard. Four Italian Serie A football matches were cancelled last weekend, and five of the next round of games will be played in front of empty stadiums.
Ireland’s Six Nations Rugby match against Italy, slated for March 7, has been postponed.
A-League club Perth Glory wants to suspend its Asian Champions League clash with South Korean side Ulsan Hyundai. Even the Tokyo Olympics, still months away, could be in trouble. IOC official Dick Pound said a decision would be made in late May.
Elsewhere, Saudi Arabia has announced it would suspend foreign pilgrims from entering the country, which is home to the two holiest sites in Islam — Mecca and Medina.
Will everyone get it?
“Everyone Will Get Coronavirus”, thundered the front page of the Oz today.
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That claim was based on statements from University of Queensland scientist Ian Mackay, who said COVID-19 would likely just become an endemic virus, or “one that’s with us for life”, much like a regular cold.
That said, the current outbreak is still causing a few difficulties for scientists trying to track and control its spread. Most people who have been infected so far have only reported mild symptoms, much like a standard cold, and tend to recover.
But the number of mild cases makes it harder to track and contain the spread of COVID-19.
To complicate matters further, a woman in Japan became the first person outside of China to be reinfected with the virus, weeks after initially recovering.
Another question puzzling experts is the extent of asymptomatic transmission — spread of the virus between people who don’t appear infected. Since people who don’t display symptoms are less likely to be tested, higher rates of asymptomatic transmission could mean the virus is spreading undetected, posing even greater problems for containment attempts.
Pope Francis has a cold
There’s also been feverish tabloid speculation that COVID-19 might have struck its most famous victim yet.
Yesterday, Pope Francis cancelled a series of events in Rome because of a “slight indisposition”. A day earlier, he’d been coughing and blowing his nose during an Ash Wednesday event.
The Vatican refused to comment on whether the pontiff has been tested. Italy currently has 528 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 17 deaths, the most outside of Asia.
Everything’s fine, says Trump
Once upon a time, countries might have looked to America for leadership during a global crisis of this magnitude. No more.
Yesterday, President Donald Trump gave a rambling press conference where he appeared to downplay the risks of the virus. That attitude seems to have seriously undermined the country’s response.
The New York Times reported that federal health employees interacted with quarantined people without adequate medical training or equipment. This week, the US also recorded its first community-transmitted case of COVID-19 — a patient in California tested positive despite no contact with hot zones or other people with the virus.
But for some of Trump’s most cultish supporters, the virus is a conspiracy by the Deep State to undermine the president. Yesterday, Trump agreed that the virus is being weaponised against him by political foes. Everything is extremely normal.