Crossing more borders, the new coronavirus hit a milestone Friday, infecting more than 110,000+ people worldwide as it wove itself deeper into the daily lives of millions, infecting the powerful, the unprotected poor and the vast masses in between.
The virus, which has killed nearly 3,400 people, edged into more and more U.S. states, popped up in at least four new countries and even breached the halls of the Vatican. It forced mosques in Iran and beyond to halt weekly Muslim prayers. It brought Israeli and Palestinian authorities together to block pilgrims from Jesus’ birthplace in Bethlehem. And it upended Japan’s plans for the Olympic torch parade.
“Who is going to feed their families?” asked Elias al-Arja, head of a hotel owners’ union in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where tourists have been banned and the storied Church of the Nativity shuttered.
Questions swirled around whether Iran could control its outbreak, as the number of reported infections jumped beyond 4,700 on Friday, with 124 deaths. Iran planned to set up checkpoints to limit travel, urged people to stop using paper money and had firefighters spray disinfectant on an 18-kilometer (11-mile) length of Tehran’s most famous avenue.
“It would be great if they did it every day,” grocery store owner Reza Razaienejad said after firefighters sprayed outside his shop. “It should not be just a one-time thing.”
The 100,000 figure of global infections is largely symbolic but dwarfs other major outbreaks in recent decades. SARS, MERS and Ebola affected far fewer people but had higher mortality rates.
The economic impact grew along with the number of infected people. World stocks and the price of oil dropped sharply again Friday. A sharp drop in travel and a broader economic downturn linked to the outbreak threatened to hit already-struggling communities for months to come.
The head of the U.N.’s food agency, the World Food Program, warned of the potential for “absolute devastation” as the outbreak’s effects ripple through Africa and the Middle East.
India scrambled to stave off an epidemic that could overwhelm its under-funded and under-staffed health care system, with not nearly enough labs or hospitals for its 1.3 billion people.