What’s Happening: Mounting disruptions, plunging markets

Mounting disruptions caused by the new coronavirus are prompting new travel restrictions and deepening economic worries. A majority of the world’s cases of the disease are considered recovered, but the continued spread of the virus is leading to case spikes in some places.

These are some of the latest developments on Monday:


Global stock markets and oil prices plunged, reflecting mounting alarm over closed factories, travel bans and unprecedented quarantines. An alarmingly sharp slide on Wall Street triggered the first automatic halt in trading in more than two decades. European markets entered a bear market, registering their heaviest losses since the darkest days of the 2008 meltdown. Oil prices suffered their worst losses since the start of the 1991 Gulf War.


A cruise ship with with at least 21 infected people aboard was finally allowed to dock in California. The U.S. State Department advised against going on cruises for the time being. In Detroit, residents who had their water shut off because of unpaid bills could have it restored so they can wash their hands under a plan to prevent the spread of new infections. All told, the U.S. had about 600 confirmed cases Monday.


Images from around the world illustrate the many ways the virus is altering life. In Hong Kong, customers dine at tables with clear dividers separating them. In New York, workers are sanitizing subways and buses more often. And face masks are becoming a familiar sight in more places including Iran, Italy and Nigeria. Event cancellations also continue, including St. Patrick’s Day parades in Ireland, an annual Holocaust remembrance event at Auschwitz and sporting events in Italy.


Confusion reigned across northern Italy after the government imposed strict limits on movements to contain the rapidly spreading virus in the epicenter of Europe’s outbreak. Travelers at Milan’s main train station had to sign police forms certifying that they were traveling for “proven work needs,” situations of necessity, health reasons or to return home. Police officers in masks checked tickets and documents. Tensions in Italy’s overcrowded prisons erupted over new containment measures, with protests in at least two-dozen lock-ups. Six prisoners died after breaking into an infirmary and overdosing on anti-psychotic medicine.


Mask-clad employees began returning to work in China, but their office routines were different. In Beijing, officials are requiring employees to wear protective face masks, not to face each other while eating and to be seated at least 1 meter (3.3 feet) apart. Offices also can’t have more than 50% of their usual staffing levels. Meanwhile, the country’s government is deploying its propaganda playbook to portray leader Xi Jinping as firmly steering a “people’s war” against the new coronavirus.


The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.


Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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