The insidious path of COVID-19 across the planet is a 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.
SPOTLIGHT: QUARANTINE BLUES AND THE POWER OF A JIGSAW PUZZLE
A sudden rush of stress, trouble sleeping or eating, overwhelming feelings of helplessness, general fatigue. Does it sound familiar? With approximately half the world still forced to live in lockdown, old and new psychological disorders are a widely diffused side-effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent study led by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 45% of Americans feel the current health crisis had impacted their mental health. In France, Le Figaro reported this week that 74% of adults in a recent survey developed sleeping disorders and 34% showed signs of psychological distress.
Humans are social animals — Aristotle taught us that 2,300 years before Mark Zuckerberg cashed in on the concept. And while we can acknowledge that our modern digital tools are providing instant links in the face of our respective quarantines, we are also seeing how crucial in-person interaction and stimuli are to the human experience. Those living alone or forced to put their professional activity on hold are particularly vulnerable to this enforced isolation.
Alongside the more severe threats to our emotional state is a seemingly less menacing effect: boredom. There is a fine line between enjoying some spare time to do nothing and repeatedly having nothing to do, especially when we yearn for distraction from the current uncertainty of the outside world. Board games that were piling up dust in the basement are seeing the light of day again and solo players indeed are able to play across the computer screen with friends and strangers.
Similarly, the lockdown has created one of the highest recorded demand for jigsaw puzzles, a pasttime whose time had seemed to have passed two or three generations ago. The American Puzzle Warehouse reported a jump of 2,000% in business compared to the same period last year. When the world seems to fall apart, putting back pieces together could be the ultimate satisfaction.
— Laure Gautherin
THE SITUATION: 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
Toll: Japan urges citizens to stay home today as new predictions warn that death toll that could reach 400,000 without tighter restrictions. Meanwhile the number killed by COVID-19 in the United States edges close to 30,000, and tops 15,000 in France.
WHO funding cut: President Donald Trump cut U.S. funding to the World Health Organization (WHO), blaming the organisation for mismanaging the outbreak of the global pandemic. Experts warn of risks in undermining the sole global coordinator of health contagions.
Markets: Stocks dip amid new forecasts that global economic crisis could be worst since the 1930s.
Oil Forecast: Oil demand is expected to take a sharp dive in April to a record low not seen in the last 25 years, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Beijing embassy backlash: The Chinese ambassador was summoned by France, following a stream of controversial comments made by Beijing's embassy in Paris on what they perceived as the government's slow response to the coronavirus.
The Quarantine King: Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who'd been quarantining in a German hotel as the coronavirus ravages his country, finally left his ‘harem" lockdown and traveled 20,000 miles home for a national holiday.
Spanish daily ABC warns of economic storm coming.
COVID-19, THE GLOBAL CRIME REPORT: As about half of the world's population is forced to stay at home, local communities and entire nations are recording steep drops in overall crime rates. Burglars are generally less likely to prey on a home that's occupied, and most theft and assault hotspots such as sporting venues and pubs are shuttered. Still it's not all a pretty picture, as the unique dynamic of national lockdowns puts new pressure on law enforcement and spurs more cases of certain crimes. Here's a quick rapid tour of the world of crime in the time of coronavirus:
Murder in Mexico: Homicide rates, already high, are rising further in Mexico, reaching a new record in March, as the state reshuffled more resources into containing the health crisis and keeping alive its already sluggish economy.
Plague of domestic abuse: Reports from China to France to Argentina confirm fears that confining families to their homes will increase domestic violence. In Israel, the daily Haaretzreported that the number of cases opened by the police involving sex crimes within the family jumped by 41% this March compared to last year.
Crimes go digital: Since a big part of our lives went online, crimes are bound to follow. Swedish newspaper ETC has reported on an increase in online paedophile activity and cyberbullying, Europol warns about cyber-attacks exploiting the global chaos – including fraudulent online sale of COVID-19 tests, face masks or sanitisers.
Mob stories: In Italy, some fear that cash-strapped small and medium entrepreneurs will turn to the mafia to save their businesses. This way, mafia money enters in competition with the social and business support programs set up by the government, reported Radio France Internationale. According to Mario Vaudano, the former anti-mafia magistrate, other European countries with important mafia infiltration like Slovakia, Poland or Malta are in a high risk to see organized crime capitalize on the pandemic.
Police brutality: In some countries, authorities have been accused of excessive violence and abuse when enforcing the curfew, reported Le Monde. In the first days of lockdown in Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Senegal and elsewhere, social media were flooded with images showing the military and police beating people in the streets, forcing them to do push-ups or even dancing in front of the camera while reciting curfew restrictions.
Crimes of contagion: Some brand new, coronavirus-related offenses are emerging, too. "Malicious coughing" is now a crime and has already sent a man in the UK to jail for six months. In the Czech Republic, a man posted on social media that he has coronavirus and licks bread in supermarkets for fun, reported the Czech new site iDNES.cz. The suspect is now facing up to eight years in prison for scaremongering during a state of emergency.
IMAGE OF THE DAY:
—The Boston Globe reports on the story of 88-year-old Nick Avtges who had been shut out by COVID-19 restrictions from visiting his 85-year-old wife, Marion, at the nursing home in Waltham, Massachusetts where she's been living for the last year. The couple's son arranged to have the father hoisted up by a truck with a bucket lift to at least be able to see his wife through the window.
"How did the Western world allow itself to fall so far? Did they not believe the medical experts? Did they trust the regime in Beijing too much?"
— Laura Lin, France-based Taiwanese writer, in her Rue Amelot essay: Taiwan To France, Witness To The Global Contagion Of Chinese Lies
THOSE WHO CAN'T STAY INSIDE: In the French capital's Bastille neighborhood, Libérationreports on Roma families sitting on rotten mattresses and wrapped up in blankets. Normally, they wait for street market vendors to offer leftover food. But now those markets are closed. And with France's strict closing of public spaces, Roma communities also don't have access to the parks where they collect water from fountains. Another issue is the trouble that authorities have communicating with about anti-epidemic measures, and tracking infections and illnesses. What will happen to their longtime presence in Parisian neighborhoods, Liberation asks, facing "the phobias that will emerge tomorrow from the anxieties born in quarantine?"
With creativity abounding and plenty of time to exercise it, the Internet is full of fun and safe challenges to help us keep in touch while not keeping in actual touch:
Missing that noisy and nosey colleague and the sound of the copy machine? Tune in on that Open Space Simulator and you'll feel just like at the office!
British street artist creates 72-page "Emergency Art Book" filled with artworks, games and puzzles to help people keep busy.
IN OTHER NEWS
Former US President Barack Obama endorses Joe Biden for 2020 presidential race.
After more than 20 years on the run, alleged drug baron and one of Brazil's most wanted criminals, known as Fuminho, was arrested in Mozambique.
- It's been one year since a fire partly destroyed Notre Dame de Paris and its restoration is far from completed.
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