What’s Happening: Beijing quarantine, Merkel issues warning

An official sprays disinfectant in a kindergarten to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in Miercurea Ciuc, or Csikszereda in Hungarian, central Romania, Wednesday, March 11, 2020. The Romanian National Emergency Committee has ordered the nationwide closure of every pre-school and educational institution between 11 and 22 March to allow ample time for the thorough disinfection of such facilities during this period.

New clusters of the coronavirus are expanding in the United States and 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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