The World Health Organization announced on Saturday, March 7, that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide has now exceeded 100,000, describing the milestone as a “sombre moment”. In response to the outbreak, a range of measures designed to isolate carriers of the virus have been imposed in numerous locations across the globe, with full-on mass quarantines now affecting millions of people.
The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the first and largest COVID-19 outbreak occurred, has essentially been on lockdown since January 23, when all transport links in and out of the city were closed. Similar measures were put in place in numerous other towns and cities throughout Hubei province over the following days and weeks, meaning the number of people currently affected by the quarantine now stands at close to 60 million.
While roughly 80 percent of coronavirus cases have occurred in China, Italy has seen a jump in infections over the past few weeks, with 7,375 people now confirmed to have contracted the virus across the country. The majority of cases have been in the north, where authorities have now imposed a lockdown affecting 16 million people in 15 provinces.
Among these is Lombardy, where Milan is located. No one is allowed to enter or leave the affected provinces until April 3, unless in an emergency or if special permission is granted – which may be the case for those who can prove they need to travel for work. Weddings and funerals are banned under the quarantine rules, while cinemas, swimming pools, and other public facilities have been ordered to close. Bars, restaurants, and shops are allowed to remain until 6pm, although all customers must be at least 1 meter (3 feet) apart at all times.
A combined 76 million people in China and Italy are therefore living under government-imposed quarantine, and while no other countries have yet gone as far in their attempts to contain the virus, restrictions continue to affect a large number of people around the world.
Tourists onboard the Grand Princess cruise ship, for example, were left stranded off the coast of California after 21 passengers tested positive for coronavirus. The vessel is expected to be allowed to dock in Oakland today, although everyone suspected to be infected with COVID-19 will be held in quarantine for 14 days.
Elsewhere, guests who were recently released from a quarantine hotel in Tenerife have now been ordered to go into self-isolation for a further week, after another woman who had been staying at the hotel tested positive for coronavirus.
Meanwhile, UNESCO has reported that 290 million children are currently being affected by school closures in 13 different countries, including Italy, where all schools and universities are currently shut.
A number of high-profile events around the world have been canceled, including the Indian Wells tennis tournament in California, the SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas, and the Formula One Grand Prix in Bahrain.
An unknown number of people have also gone into voluntary self-isolation, including Portuguese president Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and United States Senator Ted Cruz. The Pope even decided to live-stream his Sunday prayer in order to avoid attracting a large crowd in the Vatican.
Outside of China, South Korea has seen the largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases, prompting the mayor of Seoul to encourage the city’s 10 million residents to work from home rather than traveling to their offices. With numerous companies worldwide instructing employees to do the same, concerns have been raised that domestic broadband may not be able to cope as data “bottlenecks” form.