Coronavirus prompts school closures in US states, France, Portugal


The Atlantic Council’s Coronavirus Alert is a regular summary of policy, economic, and business events around the emergency. To stay updated, sign up to the Coronavirus Alert here.


Authorities from the United States to France and Portugal closed schools in efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus, while sports games from hockey to soccer were canceled in the United States and Europe. Politicians or their spouses tested positive for the virus in Canada and Australia, even as new cases slowed in China and South Korea.


 There are more than 125,000 cases worldwide in almost 120 countries and territories; more than 4,600 people have died.  

QUOTE: “It’s going to spread further,” UK Prime Boris Johnson told a news conference, Reuters reported. “I must level with you, level with the British public—more families, many more families, are going to lose loved ones before their time.”


  • Coronavirus has been confirmed in almost all US states, The Washington Post reported. There are 1,663 cases confirmed and forty-one deaths, the newspaper said.
  • At least six states including Oregon, Ohio, Michigan, Maryland, Kentucky, and New Mexico will close schools for at least two weeks starting from next week in the hopes of stemming the spread of coronavirus, The New York Times reported. The closures will affect everyday life for 6 million schoolchildren and their families, the paper said.
  • New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo declared a state of emergency and said the impact of coronavirus “could easily” extend “for a half-year or more,” The New York Times also reported. Gatherings of more than 500 people are limited, hitting the city’s theatre industry hard, the newspaper said.
  • The US government granted Roche Holding AG emergency approval for an automated coronavirus test that has the potential to speed up testing by a factor of ten, Bloomberg reported. Those with coronavirus symptoms are frustrated at the difficulties getting tested, CNN reported.
  • “Does disinfecting surfaces really prevent the spread of coronavirus?” runs the headline of an article in Science Magazine.
  • Wuhan, the Chinese city where the coronavirus outbreak began, reported five new cases today, the second day in a row that the figure has been less than ten, Reuters reported. There were no locally reported infections in the rest of China, the newswire said. South Korea said those recovering from the virus outnumbered new cases for the first time, Reuters also said.
  • France will close all crèches, schools, and universities from next week, CNBC reported. French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking in a televised address, called coronavirus the “greatest health crisis in a century,” Forbes reported. Belgian schools will shut until Easter, with partial closures in Germany too, the BBC said.
  • Portugal will close all schools and nightclubs from next week until April 9, Reuters reported. “This is a fight for our very survival,” Reuters cited Prime Minister Antonio Costa as saying in a televised address.
  • The UK’s chief scientific adviser defended Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision not to shut down schools right away or halt large-scale events, the Financial Times reported. The UK “stuck to a notably restrained set of measures,” The New York Times said.
  • “Boris Johnson’s U.K. Virus Strategy Needs People to Catch the Disease” runs a Bloomberg headline, as UK authorities aim to foster “herd immunity” to contend with coronavirus.
  • Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, and his wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau are self-isolating after she tested positive for coronavirus following a trip to London, the BBC said.
  • Peter Dutton, the Australian minister for home affairs, has tested positive for coronavirus days after he met US Attorney General William P. Barr and Ivanka Trump, The New York Times said.
  • The White House said President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence “do not require” a test for coronavirus in spite of close proximity to the Brazilian president’s press secretary, who tested positive, CBS News reported.
  • “Just because outbreaks of influenza wilt with seasonal changes doesn’t mean a different respiratory virus will behave in the same way,” Bloomberg says in an article that explores the possible impact of warmer weather.

QUOTE: “While scientists are trying to share facts about the epidemic, the administration either blocks those facts or restates them with contradictions,” H. Holden Thorp writes in Science Magazine“[D]o us a favor, Mr. President. If you want something, start treating science and its principles with respect.”


  • Congress is close to an agreement with the Trump administration on a plan to mitigate the economic effects of coronavirus, Bloomberg reported. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters she hopes to make an announcement on March 13.
  • There’s an increasing risk of worldwide recession prompted by coronavirus as large swathes of activity are shut down, stock markets suffer, and oil producers are hurt by a drop in the price of crude, The Wall Street Journal cited economists as saying.
  • US layoffs have begun because of coronavirus, from ports to travel agencies and bakeries, The Washington Post reported. Ships from China stopped arriving at the Port of Los Angeles, where 145 drivers have been laid off, the newspaper said.
  • Germany said it will spend whatever is needed to help companies there weather the impact of coronavirus, Bloomberg reported, citing the finance and economy ministries.

QUOTE: “The system is not really geared to what we need right now, what you are asking for. That is a failing,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, who leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, The New York Times reported. ““It is a failing. I mean, let’s admit it.”


  • Top European officials expressed dismay at President Trump’s travel ban imposed on travellers from twenty-six European nations starting April 13. Coronavirus “is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action,” CNBC quoted European Council and European Commission Presidents Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen as saying. “The European Union disapproves of the fact that the U.S. decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation.”
  • Sports leagues from basketball to baseball and hockey have been canceled in the United States, The New York Times reported.
  • In European soccer, all UEFA competitions including Champions League and Europa League matches due to be played next week have been called off because of coronavirus, the BBC said.
  • The squads of UK soccer teams Arsenal, Chelsea, and Everton are in self-isolation, radio station talkSPORT said.
  • Formula 1 canceled this week’s Australian Grand Prix, Quartz reported.
  • “Once the obsession of fringe survivalists, disaster preparedness is now a national pastime—and supply can’t keep up with demand,” says a Wired article.
  • As stores including Costco limit the amount of toilet paper customers can buy to avoid bulk purchasing amid the coronavirus outbreak, sales of bidets, an alternative cleansing method in the bathroom, have tripled in the past week for a company that sells bidets that can be attached to toilets, Crunchbase News reported. 

QUOTE: “We will definitely see an effect on jobs from the coronavirus, and it could be pretty large in leisure and hospitality,” said Julia Pollak, labor economist at ZipRecruiter, The Washington Post reported. “The first thing we’ll see is a reduction in hours. We hear many reports of employers canceling staff everywhere except in health care.”


From the Atlantic Council: