(Image: screenshot from AFP)

As stocks tumble and US President Donald Trump tries to diminish the seriousness of the virus, Crikey takes a look at what’s going on around the world.

Is this a pandemic?

The threat of coronavirus becoming a pandemic is now “very real“, ​representatives from the World Health Organisation (WHO) have warned. But they’ve avoided categorising it as one just yet, due to uncertainty about the disease’s impact.

CNN has decided to call the coronavirus a pandemic anyway, with hosts saying the virus has a “range and rate which clearly meets the definition”.

New risk factors 

New research has shown patients with underlying illnesses — including high blood pressure, blood clotting problems, diabetes or sepsis are more likely to slip into severe distress.

Out of a group of 170 patients who died in Wuhan in January, nearly half had hypertension.

Scientists have also confirmed it takes around five days for coronavirus symptoms to show. 

On the flip side, it seems coronavirus — like the regular flu — may spread slower in warm weather. The virus has a fatty protective coating which melts in warm weather. So, good news for the rest of the world, bad news for us in the southern hemisphere. 

Lord, have mercy 

A priest in Washington DC has tested positive for the virus after shaking hands and offering communion with more than 500 worshippers over the past two weekends. The church has cancelled all activities, shutting its doors for the first time since the 1800s. 

Italy — and its prisons — are in lockdown

A prison riot in Italy has turned deadly, with six people dead after clashes over the weekend. While autopsy results have not yet been released, prison administration sources told Al Jazeera that some inmates broke into the infirmary and overdosed. 

The entire country has gone into lockdown with restrictions on movement. People will not be able to travel out of areas where they live without meeting strict criteria. 

Cash splash? 

Despite Treasurer Josh Frydenberg saying there would be no “cash splash” for individuals in the stimulus package, it was revealed this morning pensioners, Newstart recipients and small business owners may be considered for one-off cash payments. The stimulus package is expected to be announced tomorrow.

French Smurfs ignore advice

More than 3500 people have gathered in France to break the world record for the largest-ever gathering of Smurfs, despite the fact the country has recently banned gatherings of more than 1000 people. 

“We’re going to smurferise the coronavirus!” one attendee said. 

In stark contrast, Ireland has cancelled all St Patrick’s Day parades to try to control the spread of the virus. 

Blooper reel

Following an announcement banning shaking hands in the Netherlands, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte immediately shook hands with the next man set to take the stage. He laughed it off, before bumping elbows.

A US health official also recently advised Americans to “start working on not touching your face, because one main way viruses spread is when you touch your own mouth, nose or eyes” before licking her finger to turn a page

Also, remember that US congressman who wore a gas mask to make fun of panicked voters? Well, he’s in quarantine now. 

Meanwhile, in Turkey, which does not yet have any coronavirus cases, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been heeding expert advice. While meeting with NATO leaders, Erdoğan avoided shaking hands, instead placing his hand on his chest in a traditional greeting.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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