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What's Happening: Life feels surreal; emergency measures


The coronavirus pandemic has spurred leaders to take emergency action and lent a surreal quality to the lives of millions of people around the globe. It has disrupted daily routines, overwhelmed hospitals, shuttered schools and offices and halted many sporting and entertainment events. If that weren't enough, many are also forced to grapple with fears about the financial toll, from lost jobs and businesses to shrinking retirement accounts.

These are some of the latest developments on Friday:


The intensifying spread of COVID-19 beyond Asia has dashed hopes for a quick containment, even with travel and social events curbed drastically. People fretted over the health risks to the elderly, threatened jobs and dwindling savings, while caring for children staying home from shuttered schools. China, where the outbreak emerged late last year, still accounts for more than 60% of global infections. But on Friday it reported just eight new cases and seven deaths. Most infected people experience mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, and the vast majority get over their illness.


U.S. President Donald Trump invoked emergency powers that he said it would free up as much as $50 billion for state and local governments to respond to the new virus. Addressing a criticism of his administration's response to coronavirus, he announced a public-private partnership to increase national testing capabilities. Meanwhile, French president Emmanuel Macron said leaders of the world's largest democracies, the G-7, would hold a video-conference summit Monday to discuss co-ordinating research on a vaccine and treatments, plus an economic response. And Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez declared that a state of emergency would take effect Saturday and last two weeks, allowing him to mobilize military resources as infections rose fast to 4,200 with 120 deaths.


Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Ukraine were among countries imposing new restrictions at their borders. Meanwhile, travellers struggled with a U.S. ban on the entry of many foreign travellers about to take effect while the European Union contemplated checks at the union's internal borders. Greece’s Culture Ministry shut all museums and archaeological sites in the country.


Stocks clawed back some of their losses on Wall Street and in Europe a day after the market's worst session in over three decades. An early surge in buying subsided around midday Friday, then regained momentum in the afternoon, leaving major indexes up about 9%.


Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau is in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19, leaving the prime minister to go into isolation for 14 days as well even though he has no symptoms. Francis Suarez, the mayor of the U.S. city in Florida tested positive. He had met with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s communications director, Fábio Wajngarten, who tested positive just days after travelling with Bolsonaro to a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump and senior aides in Florida. Others infected include a trusted adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Australia's home affairs minister who had recently met in Washington, D.C., with U.S. Attorney-General William Barr and Trump's daughter, Ivanka.

MIDEAST PRAYER LIMITED Religious authorities cancelled or limited weekly prayer gatherings across the Middle East to help prevent the spread of the new virus as they encouraged the faithful to pray for those afflicted by the global pandemic. Iran, with the worst outbreak in the region, announced another 85 deaths, pushing its total to 514 amid 11,364 confirmed cases.


After first striking Asia, and then Europe, now America, too, is upending routines as the coronavirus affects just about every facet of life. Most big tech companies in San Francisco and Seattle have told employees to work from home, emptying out the downtown neighbourhoods that are a hub for tech and venture capital firms. The change came on suddenly and many feel unprepared. Across the nation, parents struggled to take care of children kept home from schools while families worried about dwindling retirement savings and the health of elderly parents. Even the Boston Marathon was postponed from April 20 until Sept. 14, and the Masters golf tournament, scheduled for April 9-12, was postponed by Augusta National.


Just as the spread of the disease is stabilizing in much of Asia, following a major outbreak in China and sizable ones in South Korea and Japan, it's popping up in new hotspots around the world. That has prompted those three nations to take measures to prevent the new virus from coming back to where it first broke out. The South Korean government is introducing new screening and border controls on people arriving from abroad.


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.


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