A man wearing face mask walks at the Yaba Mainland hospital where an Italian citizen who entered Nigeria on Tuesday from Milan on a business trip, the first case of the COVID-19 virus is being treated in Lagos Nigeria Friday, Feb. 28, 2020. Nigeria's health authorities have reported the country's first case of a new coronavirus in Lagos, the first confirmed appearance of the disease in sub-Saharan Africa. (AP Photo/ Sunday Alamba)

What's happening: Virus fears hit Africa, markets, churches

February 28, 2020 - 11:13 am

PARIS (AP) — Amusement parks, sports events, religious gatherings, even school. More and more things in a growing swath of the world are now affected by the new virus. And that's messing with global financial markets as basic business, trade and tourism suffers from the disruptions.

Here are some of the latest developments:


The virus has now officially reached sub-Saharan Africa, as Nigeria reported its first case. The patient is an Italian traveler who recently arrived in Lagos, Africa's largest city — home to 20 million people. Isolated cases of the virus were confirmed in Egypt and Algeria in north Africa in recent days, but there is growing concern that cases around Africa are going unreported. When the World Health Organization declared this virus a global health emergency last month, it was precisely because of worry that it could hit countries with weak health systems. And that's increasingly what's happening, from Africa to Afghanistan and beyond.


Cologne Cathedral, one of Germany's main religious sites, is emptying its basins of “holy water” to prevent the spread of infection. Priests will also stop placing communion wafers in believers' mouths. The exceptional move comes as religious leaders struggle around the world to welcome the faithful while protecting against disease. Iranian authorities canceled Friday prayers in the capital Tehran and the city of Qom, the epicenter of Iran's outbreak. Some Italian churches shut their doors for Ash Wednesday this week. And in the U.S., the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is postponing a key April meeting of its top global leaders.


Down, down, down. From Tokyo to Frankfurt and New York, markets just kept dropping and were heading toward their worst week since the financial crisis in 2008. A growing number of major companies are issuing profit warnings and say factory shutdowns in China are disrupting supply chains. Germany's DAX skidded more than 5%, Tokyo and Shanghai closed 3.7% lower and New York markets looked set for more losses Friday. With the virus confirmed in nearly 60 countries and travel and trade curtailed, companies are facing tough decisions. British Airways warned of a hit to its earnings as people put off or postpone trips. Philippine Airlines is laying off 300 ground personnel as part of an ongoing restructuring that was aggravated by travel restrictions caused by the virus. Some airlines in Europe canceled flights due to reduced demand.


While parts of China had already banned fun events, the damage to the rest of the entertainment world is spreading as fast as the virus. Disney closed its parks in Tokyo for two weeks, after doing the same in Shanghai and Hong Kong. South Korea exports entertainment worldwide but is shutting down its own shows, as K-pop superstars BTS called off an upcoming concert series in Seoul. Green Day did the same. The Emirates Bicycle Tour was canceled. And the Swiss government is now banning any events involving more than 1,000 people. The biggest victim: the annual Geneva International Motor Show, one of the car industry's showcase events.


A Chinese couple was charged in court on Friday with allegedly providing false information to Singapore’s government and obstructing efforts to trace the spread of the virus. According to court documents seen by the AP, the man is accused of lying to a Health Ministry officer about their movements and whereabouts from Jan. 22-29. They now face up to $10,000 in fines each if convicted under the country's Infectious Diseases Act. Health officials depend heavily on information provided by infected patients to prevent further spread of the virus. The couple sat emotionless during Friday's hearing, and left wearing sunglasses and masks.


The panic-driven shopping that first cleared shelves in Asia last month has made it to Europe as uncertain consumers stock up. Czech online supermarket Kosik.cz is starting to limit the maximum weight and number of items per delivery. While the Czech Republic hasn't reported a single case of the virus, some individual shoppers recently bought a half ton — or more — worth of merchandise. Suppliers can't keep up with the spike in demand, which is even higher than during the Christmas shopping season. So Kosik.cz is now imposing a 50-kilogram (110-pound) limit per delivery, arguing that's plenty for a single household.


More than anything else, shoppers want to buy masks. Good luck trying to find one. Demand has exploded — even though experts say most people don't need to cover their faces. Compounding the shortage, supplies also are down because as many as a half of all surgical masks are made in China. As false rumors ignite social networks, shoppers have emptied store shelves around Asia of toilet paper and napkins in the belief they could be used as improvised masks. Even the fashion-conscious are caught up in the mask madness. Some attendees donned them for ready-to-wear fashion shows in Paris this week. One designer sent models down the runway wearing masks matching their clothes. Doctors say washing your hands offers more sensible protection.


Follow AP coverage of the new virus at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak.

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