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Coronavirus has broken out of Asia, now a very real threat to West

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  • The coronavirus outbreak is now no longer restricted to Asia.
  • Italy recorded a dramatic uptick in coronavirus cases this week, leaving authorities scrambling to contain the outbreak by locking down entire towns and closing fashion and sports events.
  • It’s totally upended many Europeans’ daily lives, with Italy’s neighbors closely monitoring their borders and other countries enforcing mass quarantines.
  • Whether Western countries are prepared to deal with this crisis as severely as China has is yet to be seen.
  • But US and British citizens being quarantined either at home or abroad have complained of unsatisfactory conditions.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The coronavirus has completely broken out of Asia, and is becoming a very real threat Western countries and their lifestyles.

Italy recorded a massive jump in infections this week, with the number of cases jumping from three on Friday to at least 229 on Tuesday. It is now the worst-hit country outside of Asia.

In response, the Italian government sealed off at least 12 towns, closed tourist landmarks, canceled the annual Venice carnival, and banned people from attending major sports matches, leaving soccer players to compete in empty stadiums.

Giorgio Armani, the fashion house, held its Milan Fashion Week runway show in an empty theater as a precaution.

Neighboring countries that maintain open borders with Italy, like France and Austria, are now monitoring people coming from the country in case they are carrying the virus.

Italy coronavirus

Military officers wearing face masks stand outside Duomo cathedral in Milan on Monday.

REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo


The UK government has told people traveling from Italy’s locked-down regions to self-quarantine, the same as travelers from South Korea, Iran, and China’s Hubei province, where the coronavirus first broke out.

A hotel in Tenerife, an island on Spain’s Canary Islands popular among European tourists, quarantined its 1,000 guests from Monday evening after an Italian from Lombardy, the center of Europe’s outbreak, tested positive for the coronavirus.

At least two schools in northern England — one in Cheshire, and the other in Middlesbrough — temporarily closed on Tuesday after students returning from ski trips to northern Italy — home to multiple tourist resorts — exhibited mild symptoms.

In other words, the coronavirus has totally upended the lifestyle Europeans have taken for granted, even as the virus ravaged China and its neighbors thousands of miles away.

Empty tables sit in St. Mark's square in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020.

Empty tables in St. Mark’s square in Venice, Italy, on Tuesday.

Renata Brito / AP


Life in China — where more than 70,000 people are infected — has already changed dramatically, with neighboring regions sealing many of their borders with the country and once-bustling cities turned into ghost towns.

Many residents have been stuck at home for weeks, and it has affected the Chinese economy so much that President Xi Jinping has personally called on citizens in less-affected regions to get back to work.

iPhone manufacturer Foxconn is offering its employees bonuses of more than twice their monthly salary to lure them back to work. Some Chinese cities are also chartering flights and buses to take people back to work, the Financial Times reported.

A recent survey by the Chinese Psychology Society also found thousands of Chinese citizens suffering from anxiety and depression due to the barrage of bad news and being quarantined at home.

A woman walks on an empty road on January 27, 2020 in Wuhan, China.

A woman walks on an empty road in Wuhan, China, on January 27, 2020.

Getty


Whether Western countries are prepared to deal with this crisis is yet to be seen.

The US — which has 53 confirmed cases — has designated six military bases to house citizens who have been flown out of China. Some of those Americans have described being evacuated in harrowing conditions and not being able to eat for hours on end.

British citizens who were on the Diamond Princess cruise ship — which found nearly 700 passengers infected, and recorded its fourth death from the virus Tuesday — have complained of cold food, faulty appliances, and staff shortages while under quarantine at Arrowe Park hospital in northern England, The Times of London reported.

h10 hotel coronavirus canaryislands tenerife spain

An aerial view of hotels including the Hotel H10 Costa Adeje Palace, marked with an arrow, on the Canary island of Tenerife.

Frank Fleischmann/Getty Images/Business Insider


Guests at the Tenerife hotel, H10 Costa Adeje Palace, also complained of a lack of warning before the mass quarantine and getting “no food or anything” in the lockdown, the UK’s Daily Mirror newspaper reported.

Meanwhile, people of Asian descent in Europe have reported an uptick in racist and xenophobic attacks. Italians of east Asian descent have been accused of “bringing us disease” and getting “awkward looks,” Al Jazeera reported.

Americans, Canadians, and Europeans of east Asian descent have also been the target of coronavirus-linked verbal and physical attacks in recent weeks.

Restaurants in the Chinatowns around the world — from London to San Francisco to Manhattan — have also suffered, despite many of them having no physical links to the virus.

The World Health Organization on Tuesday called on multiple countries to prepare for the virus as if it were a pandemic, and President Donald Trump on Tuesday asked Congress to authorize $2.5 billion to stockpile protective equipment and to develop vaccines. 

These measures suggest world leaders are starting to take the outbreak seriously, and that may give the world hope that it can stem the virus.

As WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last week: “If we do well, we can avert any serious crisis, but if we squander the opportunity then we will have a serious problem on our hands.”

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