The fast-spreading new coronavirus is hurting the world’s economies, lowering production and limiting travel.
On Monday, the New York Stock Exchange stopped trading five minutes after opening, as the Standard and Poor financial index fell 7 percent. The automatic 15-minute halt took place to avoid a market crash. Financial markets in Japan, Hong Kong and Europe also ended the day lower than they opened.
Late Sunday, the price of oil dropped nearly 20 percent, after oil producers Russia and Saudi Arabia fought over production limits and oil prices.
Johns Hopkins University in the state of Maryland is reporting the spread of the coronavirus in real time. By Monday, it had counted more than 111,000 cases of infections around the world, including more than 3,800 deaths.
Italy has reported more than 7,300 cases of the coronavirus disease, called COVID-19. At least 460 people there have died of the disease. On Monday, the Italian government expanded travel restrictions to include the whole country of 60 million people. Experts fear the limits on travel in and out of the country could lead to a nationwide recession.
Across Italy, schools are closed. People are urged to keep a one-meter distance from each other. In overcrowded Italian prisons, prisoners rioted over new measures to contain the spread of the disease. Six people died in the violence.
In the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institutes of Health’s infectious diseases chief, said Sunday that locking down an area or city in the U.S. is “possible.”
The United States has more than 560 confirmed infections and at least 21 deaths. Most of the deaths have happened at a nursing home near Seattle, Washington.
In Washington, D.C., four members of Congress say they are voluntarily isolating themselves after learning they came in contact with an infected person late last month.
A cruise ship off the coast of California has at least 21 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The Grand Princess ship is expected to arrive in the city of Oakland. From there, more than 2,000 passengers will be sent to military bases or their home countries for a 14-day quarantine period. More than 1,000 crew members will be treated and quarantined on the ship.
Iranian state television reports that the disease has killed up to 237 people. The country has more than 7,000 confirmed cases. But many fear the actual numbers of cases there could be much higher.
Saudi Arabia cut off all travel to and from Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Lebanon, South Korea, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. All Saudi schools and universities closed beginning Monday. And Qatar announced it would shut down schools and universities beginning Tuesday.
Albania and Brunei both announced their first cases of COVID-19 Monday. And the president of the Philippines declared a public health emergency.
Turning the corner?
In mainland China -- where the coronavirus started -- more than 80,000 people have been infected and over 3,000 have died. On Monday, however, government officials reported just 40 new cases of the virus. Last month, the number of new daily cases was often in the thousands.
After an extended Lunar New Year holiday, people across China slowly returned to work. Beijing’s city government is operating with only about half of its usual workers in the office. Face masks are required, and workers must sit at least one meter apart.
Chinese factories that make many of the world’s smartphones, toys and other goods are not expected to reach normal production until at least April. Travel limits are still in place in many areas, making it difficult for employees to get back to work.
South Korea has more than 7,400 cases of infections, the highest number after China. The country has reported 53 deaths. The country's health minister told CNN Monday, "We are hoping that we have passed the peak, taking the numbers into consideration..."
What about a vaccine?
As the number of infections continue to rise, researchers around the world are racing to create a vaccine.
They are experimenting with different kinds of vaccines. Some researchers are even aiming for a temporary vaccine that might protect a person’s health for a short period of time until a long-term vaccination is developed.
Judith O’Donnell is the infectious disease chief at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She said, “having a lot of different vaccines -- with a lot of different theories behind the science of generating immunity” offers the best chance of finding a successful solution.
She added, however, “Until we test them in humans we have absolutely no idea what the immune response will be.”
I'm Caty Weaver.
And I'm Ashley Thompson.
Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on news repoirts from the associated Press and Reuters. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.
Words in This Story
index - n. a number that indicates changes in the level of something (such as a stock market) when it rises or falls
automatic - adj. always happening because of a rule, law, previous agreement, etc.
lock - v. to hold (someone or something) in a fixed position
nursing home - n. a place where people who are old or who are unable to take care of themselves can live and be taken care of
immunity - n. the power to keep yourself from being affected by a disease
response - n. something that is done as a reaction to something else
isolate - v. to put or keep (someone or something) in a place or situation that is separate from others
cruise - n. a journey on a boat or ship to a number of places as a vacation
quarantine - n. the situation of being kept away from others to prevent a disease from spreading
actual - adj. known to be correct or precise : not false or apparent
mask - n. a covering used over the mouth and nose to stop the spread of infection from one person to another
toy - n. something a child plays with
peak - v. the highest level or degree of something
generate - v. to produce (something) or cause (something) to be produced
absolutely - adv. completely or totally