What’s Happening: Italians awake to new reality, skies empty

International News
Xi Jinping

In this photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping talks by video with patients and medical workers at the Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei Province, Tuesday, March 10, 2020. China’s president visited the center of the global virus outbreak Tuesday as Italy began a sweeping nationwide travel ban and people worldwide braced for the possibility of recession. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. (Xie Huanchi/Xinhua via AP)

Italians awoke to the new reality of a national lockdown on Tuesday and Chinese President Xi Jinping made his first trip to the city where the global epidemic first emerged.

These are some of the latest developments on Tuesday:

ITALY’S NEW REALITY

The streets of Rome were quiet as Italy began its first day under a national lockdown. Soldiers patrolled cafes to ensure customers were staying a safe distance apart. Police checked paperwork at train stations to ensure commuters had legitimate reasons for leaving their neighborhoods. After the sweeping restrictions on movement sparked panic buying overnight, officials clarified that supermarkets would remain open and stocked. Meanwhile, the man thought to be the first Italian to have contracted the disease – Patient No. 1— was moved out of intensive care for the first time since testing positive Feb. 21. The vast majority of people infected with COVID-19 recover.

COSTS OF TESTING — AND NOT

Limited testing capacity in the U.S. remains an issue, but another worry is that people won’t get tested because of the potential costs. Major insurers pledged to cover tests, but the assurances may not ease concerns that there could be bills for related diagnosing and treatment. Then there are the gaping holes in insurance coverage. About 69% of private industry workers in the U.S. have access to healthcare benefits. For service workers, it’s 43%. Another worry is that waiters, cashiers and countless others who routinely come into contact with the public have spotty sick leave policies,making it financially difficult to stay home when they’re not feeling well.

EMPTYING SKIES

Airlines are slashing flights and freezing hiring as bookings decline and cancellations rise. Delta said it expects a third of seats to be empty on flights within the U.S. this month. Discounted fares aren’t expected to fill the seats either in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. “If you are scared of flying, you are probably scared at any price,” said Delta President Glen Hauenstein. The airline plans to reduce U.S. flyingby 10% to 15% and international flights by 20% to 25%, roughly matching measures previously announced by United Airlines.

IRAN’S NEW “MARTYRS”

Doctors and nurses in Iran who die combating the new coronavirus will be considered “ martyrs ” like slain soldiers. The decision by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei comes amid a propaganda campaign trying to liken the fight against the virus to Iran’s long, bloody 1980s war with Iraq. Iran’s death toll from the virus has pushed past 290. It has had more than 8,000 cases, including several officials. Among the military and political leaders affected elsewhere are Poland’s top army commander and several French lawmakers.

CHINA’S EPICENTER GETS A VISIT

With parts of China appearing to return to normal, President Xi Jinping made his first visit to Wuhan since the outbreak began in the city. It was one of several signs of the diminishing threat the virus presents in China as the illness spreads west. In mainland China, where the outbreak emerged in December, almost three quarters of the more than 80,000 patients who contracted the virus have recovered. Employees have been returning to work, but with new routines that include workers wearing protective face masks and not facing each other while eating.

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