Life across Europe is coming to a standstill as governments order border closures, worship services are canceled and bars and cafes are shuttered. Chaos erupted at some airports in the U.S. as citizens raced to come home as travel restrictions from Europe are imposed. The new coronavirus has infected more than 156,000 people and killed more than 5,800. The disease for most people causes only mild or moderate symptoms but for some, especially the elderly or people with underlying health conditions, it can cause more severe illness.
Some of the latest developments Sunday:
CHAOS AT SOME U.S. AIRPORTS
Large crowds descendedon some of the 13 airports where travelers from Europe were required to pass through for required medical screenings. The crowds formed even as public health officials called for “social distancing” to stem the spread of COVID-19. American citizens, green card holders and some others are allowed to return to the U.S. amid new European travel restrictions. The lines led Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker to tweet at President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, noting that the customs process is under federal jurisdiction and demanding they take action to address the crowds. Acting Secretary Chad Wolf says the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is trying to add additional screening capacity and work with airlines to expedite the process.
GERMANY TO PARTIALLY SHUT BORDERS
Germany will partially close its borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg and Denmark as it steps up efforts to stem the spread of the new coronavirus. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said that new checks will take effect at 8 a.m. Monday. He said that people who commute across the border to work will still be able to cross, as will goods, but travelers without a valid reason to travel will no longer be allowed to enter and leave” Germany. He added that German citizens in the neighboring countries will be allowed back in.
HARD-HIT ITALY CONTINUES TO RACK UP INFECTIONS, DEATHS
The number Italy’s cases of COVID-19 infection surged higher again, with 3,590 more cases in a 24-hour period, nearly 100 more than the increase as the day before. Italy’s Civil Protection chief Angelo Borrelli announced the latest number of cases on Sunday, totaling nearly 25,000 in the country. Deaths also jumped ahead, with 368 additional fatal cases registered, bringing the overall death toll to 1,809. Pope Frances ventured out of the Vatican to visit two churches in Rome to pray for the sick, a spokesman said. Some churches in Italy are being allowed to stay open for individual prayer, but all public Masses are forbidden during Italy’s lockdown to discourage crowding.
MOVIE TICKET SALES PLUNGE
Ticket sales have plunged to their lowest levels in at least 20 years at North American movie theaters amid the coronavirus pandemic. According to studio estimates Sunday, receipts totaled about $56 million in U.S. and Canada theaters. Data firm Comscore says that weekend box office revenue hasn’t been so low since September 2000. Pixar’s “Onward” remained the top film by earning $10.5 million in its second weekend. The Christian romance “I Still Believe” brought in $9.5 million. “Bloodshot,” with Vin Diesel, grossed an estimated $9.3 million. Those totals are notably below expectations. Most of Europe’s cinemas have shuttered in recent days, along with closures in China, India, Lebanon and Kuwait. Those closures have already slashed international grosses.
CAFES IN PARIS, PUBS IN IRELAND ARE SHUTTERED
French government ordered all restaurants and cafes closed to better contain the spreading coronavirus. On Sunday, stacks of chairs filled cafe fronts instead of customers. Cafes and eateries have been an essential part of the fabric of social life in France since 17th-century Paris. In Ireland, all pubs and bars were ordered to shut down for 2 weeks.
AMSTERDAM SHUTS ITS WEED-SELLING COFFEE SHOPS
The Netherlands has ordered Amsterdam’s famed weed-selling coffee shops to close, along with all other restaurants and bars. Queues quickly formed outside coffee shops in the Dutch capital and elsewhere as customers — some facing three weeks of no school or work — decided to buy some pot while they still could. The closures are set to last until at least April 6.
COUNTRY MUSIC AWARDS POSTPONED
The Academy of Country Music Awards is the latest entertainment event to be shelved because of the spreading coronavirus epidemic. The awards show had been scheduled for April 5 in Las Vegas, to be televised live on CBS. The academy said it would be rescheduled for September, at a date and venue to be announced later.
KEN BURNS OFFERING BASEBALL DOCUMENTARY
Ken Burns is stepping up to the plate for deprived sports fans. The filmmaker said Sunday he’s asked PBS to make his sprawling 1994 documentary “Baseball” available to stream for anyone who’s missing games because the coronavirus has put the sport on hold. The series on the sport’s history unfolded over nine two-hour episodes, or innings, when it was initially released.
FRENCH PERFUME COMPANIES TO MAKE MAKE SANITIZING GEL
French luxury conglomerate LVMH will use its facilities to produce large quantities of hydroalcoholic hand sanitizing gel to be provided for free to French authorities to help face the virus crisis. The group that owns Dior, Guerlain and Givenchy said all the production sites of its perfumes and cosmetics in France will take part in the effort “as long as necessary.”
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