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What you need to know today about the virus outbreak

March 24, 2020 GMT
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A man crosses an empty street in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Monday, March 23, 2020. The government has ordered a lock down until the end of the month to help contain the spread of the new coronavirus. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
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A man crosses an empty street in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Monday, March 23, 2020. The government has ordered a lock down until the end of the month to help contain the spread of the new coronavirus. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

The head of the World Health Organization says the coronavirus outbreak is accelerating but insists “we can change the trajectory of this pandemic.” More than 1.5 billion people — one-fifth of the world’s population — were urged or ordered to stay home Monday to try to blunt the spread of coronavirus. The death toll from the pandemic has surpassed 16,000 people worldwide, and the virus has sickened more than 370,000.

Partisan divisions stalled efforts to pass a colossal aid package in Congress, and stocks fell again on Wall Street even after the Federal Reserve said it will lend to small and large businesses and local governments to help them through the crisis. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost more than 580 points, or 3%.

In Italy, both new cases and deaths declined for a second consecutive day, providing a faint glimmer of hope, though it is too soon to say whether the crisis is leveling off.

A surge in infections has caused a critical shortage of medical supplies in many places. The hunt for ventilators and other critical items is consuming Europe and the U.S.

Here are some of AP’s top stories Monday on the world’s coronavirus pandemic. Follow APNews.com/VirusOutbreak for updates through the day and APNews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak for stories explaining some of its complexities.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY:

—More than 1.5 billion people have been urged or ordered to stay home to try to blunt the spread of coronavirus.

— Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, ordered citizens to stay at home and banned gatherings of more than two people who do not live together.

—The coronavirus has arrived in the Gaza Strip and Syria, raising fears that the pandemic may now prey on some of the most vulnerable populations in the world.

—The International Olympic Committee announced it was considering a postponement and would make a final decision within four weeks. Major Olympic nations like Canada and Australia have added pressure by saying they will not send teams if the games are staged this year.

—Stocks fell about 3% on Wall Street as Congress hit another roadblock in talks to inject nearly $2 trillion into the economy.

—Those defying social distancing and lockdown restrictions from France to Florida to carry on as normal are coming under fire. One French minister was furious: “Some consider they’re little heroes when they break the rules. Well, no. You’re an imbecile, and especially a threat to yourself.”

—The virus was stirring calls for sanctions that have been levied against Venezuela and Iran to be eased. Those countries were urging the Trump administration to ease crippling economic sanctions they contend are contributing to the growing death toll caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

—Grieving has become even more upsetting for families in the time of coronavirus. An untold number of burials around the globe now go forward with nothing more than a cleric, a funeral home employee and a single loved one. Others receive what would have once been called pauper’s funerals, buried in the clothes they died in.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.

Here are the symptoms of the virus compared with the common flu.

One of the best ways to prevent spread of the virus is washing your hands with soap and water. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends first washing with warm or cold water and then lathering soap for 20 seconds to get it on the backs of hands, between fingers and under fingernails before rinsing off.

You should wash your phone, too. Here’s how.

Misinformation overload: How to separate fact from fiction and rumor from deliberate efforts to mislead.

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ONE NUMBER:

$300 BILLION: In a series of sweeping steps, the Fed will lend to small and large businesses and local governments as well as extend its bond-buying programs. It’s all part of the Fed’s ongoing efforts to support the flow of credit through an economy ravaged by the viral outbreak.

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IN OTHER NEWS:

AP’S MARCH MADNESS: The virus may have canceled March Madness, but the AP is counting down the top 10 men’s basketball games in the history of the NCAA Tournament. We’re counting them down through April 5, along with a host of memorable moments through the eyes of players who were there.

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The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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