An invisible foe has swept the globe, catching countries by surprise with its deadly virulence. Travellers who spent time in countries where the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, was present, unwittingly took it with them far and wide.
Many countries, some faster than others, threw a shield around their travel points when the transmission of the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease became clear. The U.S., most European countries, Canada and Japan, among others, imposed various levels of curbs on the entry of foreigners and non-essential travel. The frantic effort was to halt the virus in its tracks. South Korea, Italy, Iran, Spain, Germany, France and the U.S. were engulfed by the scourge that was first reported in China. On another continent, Kenya, Ghana and South Africa imposed travel restrictions.
As the virus rages on, the challenge of containing the pandemic within national borders looms. Public places such as train stations, bus termini and markets must be sanitised, and people stopped from gathering in large numbers. There is uncertainty over the number of people who may contract the virus and start showing symptoms, and the medical community is focussed on preparing for the worst-case scenario — especially for older patients needing intensive care.
Cities everywhere are powerhouses of the economy, but they have become focal points of risk overnight, and administrators are making the difficult decision to shut down public events. Schools have been closed. Iconic destinations such as Venice, Rome, Madrid and Paris are eerily silent. In the U.S. and elsewhere, people emptied store shelves of food and staples. Gyms, pubs and music events have been shut down.
The Vatican said Pope Francis would not have public participation in his events.
The world grapples with a new enemy and a question to which no one knows the answer: how much longer?
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