These are some of the latest developments on Thursday: LONG ROAD AHEAD Around the world, people are preparing for months of potential disruptions as the virus continues spreading and upending daily life. The World Health Organization said there are about 17 times as many new cases outside China as in it, with South Korea, Italy and Iran accounting for the majority of fresh infections. The WHO's director-general appealed to world governments to take decisive steps and to keep up efforts to contain the virus. "Your actions now will determine the course of the outbreak in your country.”
CRUISE SHIP HELD, MOTEL PURCHASED In the United States, a cruise ship was being held off the California coast to await testing of passengers after a traveler from an earlier voyage died and at least two others tested positive for the new virus. Princess Cruises says fewer than 100 of those aboard were identified for testing. In Washington state, Seattle-area officials agreed to pay $4 million for a motel to quarantine patients. Officials in King County, who are dealing with the country's worst COVID-19 outbreak, say the EconoLodge's hard surfaces and easy-to-clean floor 's work well for a quarantine facility. And around the country, officials sought to clear up confusion about insurance coverage for coronavirus testing.
DOG TEST RESULTS Pet cats and dogs can test positive for low levels of the pathogen if they catch it from their owner, according to Hong Kong agricultural officials and other experts. But they said the animals cannot pass the virus to humans. And there's no evidence pets were a source of infection or could get sick themselves with COVID-19, they said. The findings come after a dog tested weakly positive for the virus in samples from its nose and mouth. But it suggested pets from a household of an infected person be quarantined.
NATIVITY CHURCH IN BETHLEHEM TO CLOSE Palestinian authorities said the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, built atop the spot where Christians believe Jesus was born, will close indefinitely due to coronavirus concerns. The church was expected to draw tens of thousands of visitors and worshippers during the Easter holiday next month. The Palestinian Health Ministry meanwhile said it was preventing all tourists from entering the West Bank, where Bethlehem is located. In the United States, a rising number of churches are taking preventative steps, such as suspending the serving of wine during Communion.
IRAN DISCOURAGES PAPER MONEY To fight the country's outbreak, Iran is urging people to limit the use of paper money, and officials plan to limit travel between major cities with checkpoints. The Islamic Republic is one of the hardest-hit countries outside China, with more 3,500 cases and at least 107 deaths. A U.S. envoy says the United States offered humanitarian assistance to Iran to help deal with the outbreak but that “the regime rejected the offer.”
ITALY'S MIXED SIGNALS FOR "NONNI" School closures in Italy are putting grandparents in a tough spot. With children unexpectedly home from school, grandparents were out in full force at playgrounds and parks this week as they stepped in as last-minute care givers. That's even though the elderly are being urged to stay at home, since they're the most vulnerable to getting sick from COVID-19. “They tell us to stay home. How can we help our kids and grandkids at the same time?" said Mauro Benedetti, a 73-year-old retiree who was called in to look after his grandson Thursday.
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