As more and more Europeans lock themselves behind doors to protect themselves from the spread of the coronavirus, those who do venture outdoors are finding it harder to get anywhere as flight routes shut down and public events are cancelled.
Bosnia-Herzgovina was the latest European country to announce its first case and Switzerland was the latest country on the continent to record its first death from Covid-19, the disease brought on by the virus.
It only added to the general fear gripping the country, put most visibly on display in Italy, where the country’s residents were working through the start of a nearly two-week spell of schools closed to try to keep the disease from spreading any further in Europe’s worst hotspot.
The Italian move only echoed decisions made in Japan and New Delhi and had other European countries wondering how long it would be until the face similar measures.
It’s only been days since France and Switzerland announced size restrictions on events to stop the disease.
In London, a top health official said he expected the country to “gradually move into a phase where there are many more cases” of the new coronavirus, with half of them likely in a three-week peak and 95 per cent of them over nine weeks.
Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, told a parliamentary health committee that current community transmission of the virus in Britain was “highly likely”.
Whitty said he was “expecting more [cases] today, and expecting more over the next few weeks” in Britain, which had confirmed 90 infections early yesterday.
Such statements sparked fears of panic-buying and price-gouging, and not just in Britain.
Customers across the continent met empty shelves as they faced the prospect of trying to make sure they had enough at home in case they were stuck there for days on end.
Britain’s competition watchdog warned businesses against “charging excessive prices or making misleading claims about the efficacy of protective equipment”, vowing to take “direct enforcement action in appropriate cases”.
“We will do whatever we can to act against rip-offs and misleading claims, using any or all of our tools,” said Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the Competition and Markets Authority.
The virus began its spread out of China late last year and has since shown up on every continent.
The coronavirus can cause the disease Covid-19.
Some people get the virus and never show signs of illness, but the elderly and people with pre-existing breathing problems seem to be at an elevated risk of death.
The economic effects of the disease also continued to ripple.
A new slew of cancelled events was announced, including the Tomorrowland Winter electronic music festival, which had been set for March 14-21 in the French Alps.
“Today, it is with a heavy heart that we have to inform you that the French government has decided to cancel this year’s edition,” organisers of the festival, an offshoot of the major Belgian festival Tomorrowland, announced in a statement on their website.
And as more events were axed, it became more clear to airlines that they were going to have to cut capacity if they were going to make ends meet.
The world’s airlines will suffer revenue losses of at least $63bn this year because of the coronavirus outbreak, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) says, doubling its previous estimate of $29.3bn.
While the $63bn estimate is based on the assumption that Covid-19 can be contained, losses could balloon to $113bn if the viral disease spreads further, the industry group warns, adding that global passenger demand will drop by 19% this year in this scenario.
“In little over two months, the industry’s prospects in much of the world have taken a dramatic turn for the worse,” IATA chief Alexandre de Juniac says in a statement.
Highlighting the risks, low-cost airline Norwegian Air said it is suspending 22 long-haul flights between Europe and the United States, citing lower demand amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Similarly, Poland’s flagship airline carrier LOT decided to prolong its suspension of flights to Beijing until April 25 and suspended flights from Budapest to Seoul until April 8, the company’s spokesperson said late on Wednesday.
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