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VOL. 44 | NO. 9 | Friday, February 28, 2020

What's Happening: Virus hurts handshakes, elections, Louvre

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PARIS (AP) — The new virus is entering new territories, from megacities to seaside villages, and casting a fast-growing shadow over the world economy.

Here's a look at some of the latest developments:

MERKEL SNUBBED

Fear of the coronavirus is changing habits in Germany, where it's common for people to shake hands at every meeting. Arriving for a meeting with migrant groups Monday morning, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was rebuffed by her interior minister, Horst Seehofer, when she stretched out her hand to greet him. France's government is telling people to scale back on handshakes – and even on the ubiquitous cheek kiss. In Italy, Europe's epicentre of the virus, authorities are conflicted about curtailing a cheek-kissing ritual that's rooted in Italy's Mediterranean culture as well as its strong family and social structure.

HIGH-TECH MASKS

Japanese electronics maker Sharp is now turning its expertise to mask making. Amid worldwide shortages of surgical and other masks because of the virus, Sharp Corp. will start making 150,000 masks a day at a plant that usually makes electronics displays. Other companies are changing their practices to adapt too. Nike temporarily shut down its European headquarters in the Netherlands after an employee tested positive for the new coronavirus, It is carrying out a deep clean of the campus, "out of an abundance of caution."

LONELY MONA LISA

The Louvre is a magnet for tens of thousands of visitors every day from around the planet — and workers fear it's a potential magnet for the new virus. So they voted to keep the world's most-visited museum closed Monday for the second day running, and they're holding a string of meetings with management to find a solution. Frustrated tourists stood outside in line for hours, and had to find another way to spend a rainy Monday in the French capital. Workers who guard Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" and other treasures of world art want masks or health checks for visitors.

VOTING AMID THE VIRUS

Democracy, too, is being disrupted by the virus. As Israelis vote Monday to decide the fate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, authorities had to set up 15 special balloting stations for hundreds of Israelis who have been ordered to remain in home-quarantine after possible exposure to the virus. Fears of virus spreading may hinder turnout, already threatened by voter fatigue as they face their third election in less than a year. And in France, two mayors have come down with the virus as campaigning heats up for nationwide municipal elections this month.

PANIC IN THE BALTICS

A Lithuanian man locked his wife in a bathroom out of fears she had the coronavirus, after she met with a Chinese woman who had arrived from Italy. The man's wife called police, who rushed to the apartment in the capital Vilnius. The man said he had locked her up after "consulting on the phone with doctors" on how to avoid infection, according to local police. He wasn't arrested though, and the woman didn't press charges. She did get tested, just in case, and came out negative. So far Lithuania has only reported one case.

CHINA SEES LIGHT AT TUNNEL'S END

Remember those temporary hospitals China set up in Wuhan? The biggest one may wrap up operations by the end of the month. That's according to the director of the hospital, set up in an exhibition center in the Chinese city that's been the epicenter of the virus. Dr. Zhang Junjian told The Associated Press that the workload for its staff of 1,260 remains heavy, but they could discharge all patients by the end of March and complete its "historical mission."

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

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