Impact of pandemic stretches from schools to world's leaders

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Two women take a selfie with the Olympic rings in the background in the Odaiba section of Tokyo, Thursday, March 12, 2020. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike spoke Thursday after the World Health Organization labeled the spreading virus a "pandemic," a decision almost certain to affect the Tokyo Olympics. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

BANGKOK – Schools shut down across much of Europe. Gatherings were canceled or banned from California to Germany. And the coronavirus reached directly into the world’s centers of power Thursday, with politicians in Canada, Brazil, Spain and elsewhere either testing positive for the new virus or putting themselves in quarantine as fallout from the pandemic further upended daily life.

The crisis has wreaked havoc on businesses and financial markets, sending U.S. stocks to their worst losses since the Black Monday crash of 1987. European markets closed with one of the worst days in history.

“We are in a global panic," said Estelle Brack, an economist in Paris. “We are in the deep unknown.”

The European Union pushed back against President Donald Trump's sharp restrictions on travel from Europe to the United States, slamming Trump's "unilateral" decision and declaring the virus a "global crisis, not limited to any continent, and it requires cooperation."

Trump defended his decision to not notify all EU leaders ahead of the announcement. “When they raise taxes on us, they don’t consult us,” Trump said. “I think that’s probably one in the same.”

The vast majority of new cases of the COVID-19 illness are now linked to Europe. Deaths in Italy topped 1,000, with more than 15,000 testing positive.

The virus, first detected in December in China, has produced crippling outbreaks in Asia, Europe and the Middle East, ignited financial panic and in the last week has seen dizzying developments erupt by the hour. European soccer leagues, American basketball, hockey and baseball games, school terms for hundreds of millions of students, weddings, baptisms, funerals, nightlife, culture high and low — all fell by the wayside with a swiftness and scope that was becoming increasingly difficult to grasp.

Amid the fear, it can be easy to forget that more than half those infected with the virus have already recovered from COVID-19, the disease it causes. Most patients have only mild or moderate symptoms such as a fever or cold, though severe symptoms including pneumonia can occur, especially in older adults and people with existing health problems.