Part of China in December, the Covid-19 disease has already killed more than 8,000 people around the world, and since Wednesday has caused more deaths in Europe than in Asia, while the stock market plunges, despite billions of economic aid announced.
With more than 200,000 cases identified, a growing part of the world is at a standstill, learning to live at home to protect themselves from the virus, described by the boss of the WHO as “enemy of humanity”.
After many countries, notably European, it was Wednesday that Belgium confined itself, with exceptions for going to the doctor or in some essential shops, and for physical activity in the open air.
Portugal has confined a first city and could quickly extend the measure to the rest of the country, and several cities are now in Kazakhstan.
The center of Paris, with its Grands Boulevards usually teeming with life, looks like a dead city, with the exception of a few passers-by here and there, sometimes taking out their dogs. Car traffic is almost zero.
More than 850 million young people around the world, nearly half the population of schoolchildren and students, must stay at home and no longer have access to their educational establishments, according to Unesco.
On Wednesday at 12:00 GMT, 8,092 deaths were recorded, the majority in Europe (3,422) and Asia (3,384), the initial focus of the contagion. With 684 new deaths in the past 24 hours for 78,766 cases, Europe is the continent where the pandemic is progressing most rapidly.
In particular, it continues to increase dramatically in Spain, which now has more than 13,700 cases and nearly 600 deaths. The 100 death mark has been crossed in the United Kingdom, where schools will be closed from Friday.
The planet is watching for the “peak” of the pandemic in Italy, which records the highest number of daily deaths – 475 on Wednesday, a record – and imposed containment a week ago, but experts remain very cautious in their forecasts.
The coronavirus also caused the first death in sub-Saharan Africa, in Burkina Faso.
Despite the billions pledged to relieve the world economy, the main European stock markets swept their opening rebound from the previous day, before sinking further.
An “underestimated” danger
In the United States, the breath of fresh air given the day before by announcements from the Fed and the government was short-lived, with the Dow Jones sinking 3.94%.
Many central banks have cut their key rates, several large countries have announced broad budget support – the latest to date, Canada with a new economic assistance plan -, but as long as the virus remains present, the markets seem to doubt the effectiveness of these measures.
The pandemic threatens up to 25 million jobs worldwide, in the absence of an internationally coordinated response, warned the International Labor Organization (ILO).
US President Donald Trump – whose majority of fellow citizens believe he has downplayed the risks of the virus – compared himself at a press conference to a “wartime president” on Wednesday, citing a war against the “Chinese virus”, a controversial term he uses over and over.
Chancellor Angela Merkel will address the Germans on television for the first time on Wednesday evening, asking them to comply with health regulations. No further action is expected, however, as schools are closed and most “non-essential” stores are to be phased out.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has admitted that politicians have all “underestimated” the danger posed by the epidemic.
Many cultural events have already been canceled. Latest: the Eurovision song contest, scheduled for May in the Netherlands.
But no decision has yet been made on the Tokyo Olympics, the world’s most anticipated sporting event, with huge financial stakes, scheduled from July 24 to August 9.
“Gestures of tenderness”
In Britain and Norway, governments are trying to get extraordinary powers to deal with the virus, while others are trying to deal with the influx of sick people into hospitals.
Germany to double the number of respiratory support beds and transform hotels and halls into hospitals in order to reduce pressure on intensive care services, while Donald Trump will send a hospital ship with 1,000 rooms and operating rooms.
More original, the largest stadium in Ireland, Croke Park, will serve as a “drive-in” laboratory where the Irish can be tested without leaving their car.
If it is recommended to avoid physical contact as much as possible, Pope Francis reminded confined families of the importance of “gestures of tenderness”, such as “a hot dish, a caress, a hug, a phone call”.
While Europe is hiding, China is cautiously emerging from its viral hibernation: the number of new infections is getting closer to zero every day and the country is starting to reconnect with a semblance of life.
Outside the province of Hubei, the cradle of the Covid-19 disease, still in quarantine, shops, closed for more than two months, are gradually reopening and taichi lovers are practicing again in public space.
“I was very scared,” said Zhang Min, a 50-year-old entrepreneur who met in Shanghai. “Now everything is fine. Not like abroad, where people rob the supermarkets. ”
But the wearing of the mask remains appropriate and taking the temperature is essential at the entrance of the smallest supermarket.