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Coronavirus — Global Brief: My Apartment Gets Smaller As The Virus Gets Closer

In Mexico City
In Mexico City

The insidious path of COVID-19 across the planet is a blunt reminder of how small the world has become. For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on this crisis from the best, most trusted international news sources — regardless of language or geography. To receive the daily Coronavirus global brief in your inbox, sign up here.


Mexican authorities just announced tighter restrictions, including a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people. But many here are continuing with business as usual, even as I've been doing all I can do is limit my time outdoors. But that led to an equally frightening prospect: my neighbors. Noise too is contagious, and unlike a virus, it penetrates walls and windows.

Some nights ago my neighbor had a girlfriend over, which later led to music. I was hoping it would mean I'd hear nothing more from that flat but he likes to regale his guests with loud television or soft-rock karaoke from the 1990s. I try to understand my rage toward him: is it his refusal to respect confinement, the very sound of his voice, or Phil Collins? As Jean-Paul Sartre reflects through a character in his play No Exit— on three people stuck together forever in a hotel room: hell is other people.

Noise has always been an issue in apartment blocks in Mexico City. Of course, understanding what noises disturb is not a science. I am indifferent for example to the construction noise that has been going on outside our building for over a year, to neighbors' dogs, or to traffic. I am however intolerant of anything suggesting a celebration inside the building, as I see it as brazen indifference to others. (I do not believe people are blissfully unaware of their neighbors. No noise is innocent). For now, in the battle against the tyranny of modern cheerfulness, I have a pandemic on my side.

Alidad Vassigh


  • Toll: Cases worldwide passes 800,000 mark. Record one-day toll in Spain with 849 deaths, while the US overall death toll rises past 3,000. Italy sees glimmer of hope as number of new infection cases declines, from 1,648 from 3,815 the previous day.

  • Free fall: With two million flights cancelled, the International Air Transport Association estimates the industry will lose $252 billion, an "unprecedented shock".

  • Ugly video: Migrant workers, including women and children, are seen sprayed with disinfectant in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh in a new video that sparks nationwide controversy.

  • Amazon workers walk: Strikes in New York to protest the e-commerce giant's handling of COVID-19 safety.

  • Red Bull: Helmut Marko, chief of Red Bull motorsport, wanted the team's drivers to become infected with coronavirus so they could be immune for next season. The idea was dropped.

  • Congo"s ex-president Jacques Joaquim Yhombi-Opango dies at 81 after contracting the virus.
  • Missing Van Gogh: A painting by Vincent Van Gogh was stolen in a museum near Amsterdam that was shuttered because of COVID-19.

With New York City as the epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S., The New Yorkercaptures the mood.

YOUNG PEOPLE AT RISK: So far, the message seemed clear: the older you are, the more at risk you are from coronavirus. According to WHO experts, between 10% and 15% of patients under the age of 50 suffer moderate to severe infection, calling this group a "significant minority." But in the last days, new data has sparked concern of an increasing number of young people infected around the world, as several deaths of teenagers made headlines in France and the UK. So what do we know about the "age factor" for COVID-19?

  • In Moscow, 56% of new coronavirus cases are younger than 40 years old, reported The Moscow Times. According to the city's coronavirus crisis center, 45% of Moscow's patients in serious condition are younger than 60 years old and nearly 40% of patients younger than 40 years old are on respirators.

  • In Australia, people in their 20s have more confirmed cases of COVID-19 than any other age group. The highest share, 11,3% of cases are among people aged 25 to 29, followed by those aged 60 to 65 who make up 9,5% of positive cases, reports The Guardian. Australian experts believe the data might be skewed because people in their 20s are more likely to travel or meet returned travellers. Both testing and infection is therefore more concentrated among this group.

  • In Chicago, a nine-month-old became the first infant in the U.S. to die of the disease.

  • A 16-year old became France"s youngest coronavirus victim last week. According to her family members, she did not have serious underlying health problems. "People need to stop thinking that the virus only affects the elderly. No one is invincible in the face of this virus," her sister told Le Parisien.

  • Statistically, those over 60 are still at highest risk of developing a severe case or dying from the disease. But as Anthony Fauci of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told BBC, the virus "isn't a mathematical formula", so there are reasons for people in every age group to be cautious.

This should also be an opportunity for the male gender to value, recognize and understand that family life is built by two, not one.

— Aylin Joo in AmericaEconomia (in EN via Worldcrunch) Coronavirus And A Call For Gender Equality In Confinement

HOW IT LOOKS IN GAZA: You may have seen the meme that reads, "Dear world, how is the lockdown? — Gaza." While the territory's seclusion from the outside world has kept it somewhat protected from COVID-19, Gaza's uniquely desolate predicament risks the disease spreading like wildfire if it indeed begins to propagate in one of the world's most densely populated areas. Last week, the first cases crept in. Tarek Loubani, an emergency-room doctor interviewed by Cairo-based Mada Masr, states that Gaza has none of the three pillars needed to fight the virus: tests, protecting health care workers, and treatment. Loubani has started an initiative to provide Gaza with face masks via 3D printing. But with dilapidated hospitals, a lack of doctors and little clean water, Gaza will need all the international help it can get.

CLEARING OUT IRAN: Iran's deputy-health minister, Iraj Harirchi, announced via an online press conference that he plans to "clear" the small towns where infections affect between one and five local residents, the daily Hamshahri reports.

  • More than 30 million Iranians live outside of major cities, and the government believes infections are low and declining in many provincial districts. "We had 100 new patients daily, this has dropped to 60."

  • The minister praised Iranians for self-isolating, citing the 80% decline in the number of Iranian tourists who travel to the southern province of Fars for the new year, thanks to citizens' "higher culture" for abiding by government calls to stay at home.

  • Yet Tehran-based analyst Sadeq Zibakalam estimates 3 to 5 million Iranians are still vacationing this year, and attributed their indifference to the "distrust" many feel toward the regime, and its "lack of credibility among a part of the population." The head of Tehran's coronavirus task force added: "Half the people are not taking coronavirus seriously."

GROSS RICH PEOPLE I: King Maha Vajiralongkorn of Thailand had a special permit granted to keep the Grand Hotel Sonnenbich in Germany open for him to rent, asBildreports. Luxurious social distancing? Not really, since he self-isolated with his harem of 20 women and numerous servants. At least, they should all have their own rooms…

GROSS RICH PEOPLE II: U.S. Media mogul David Geffen shared an Instagram post he wanted reassuring but only got him the backlash of a lifetime. Surprisingly, his 7 million followers didn't really appreciate him showing how he self-isolated on his $590 million superyacht Rising Sun cruising in the Grenadines. Not only the Internet wrath made him delete his post, screenshot by Bloomberg, but he deleted his account altogether. Taking social distancing to the digital level.

GROSS RICH PEOPLE III: Gwyneth Paltrow who played in the now truer-than-fiction movie Contagion has failed at the stay at home challenge after sharing her relief of having her "local farmers market" still open for her to shop some vital vegs (in plastic bags, but with a face mask and gloves). The actress and lifestyle guru had already disappointed her audience after promoting a $1,000 outfit as the global economy hangs on the verge of collapse.

France's national orchestra takes Ravel's Boléro to the next level on Youtube.

• From delivering a message to your crush via a drone to a virtual dinner, here's how to date in a time of social distancing.

• A Lego Mondrian? A Dutch Instagram account set a new trend: recreating famous paintings with… anything you can find at home.

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Parenthood And The Pressure Of Always Having To Be Doing Better

As a father myself, I'm now better able to understand the pressures my own dad faced. It's helped me face my own internal demands to constantly be more productive and do better.

Photo of a father with a son on his shoulders

Father and son in the streets of Madrid, Spain

Ignacio Pereyra*


When I was a child — I must have been around eight or so — whenever we headed with my mom and grandma to my aunt's country house in Don Torcuato, outside of Buenos Aires, there was the joy of summer plans. Spending the day outdoors, playing soccer in the field, being in the swimming pool and eating delicious food.

But when I focus on the moment, something like a painful thorn appears in the background: from the back window of the car I see my dad standing on the sidewalk waving us goodbye. Sometimes he would stay at home. “I have to work” was the line he used.

Maybe one of my older siblings would also stay behind with him, but I'm sure there were no children left around because we were all enthusiastic about going to my aunt’s. For a long time in his life, for my old man, those summer days must have been the closest he came to being alone, in silence (which he liked so much) and in calm, considering that he was the father of seven. But I can only see this and say it out loud today.

Over the years, the scene repeated itself: the destination changed — it could be a birthday or a family reunion. The thorn was no longer invisible but began to be uncomfortable as, being older, my interpretation of the events changed. When words were absent, I started to guess what might be happening — and we know how random guessing can be.

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