Pandemic teleworking is straining families: EU study

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The COVID-19 pandemic is placing unprecedented strain on families and working life, an EU study showed on Friday, with more than a fifth of people who now work at home in households with younger children struggling to concentrate on their jobs.

The study by EU agency Eurofound, which seeks to improve living and working conditions, found that over a third of people working in the 27-nation European Union had started teleworking as a result of the pandemic.

Of those, 26% live in households with children under 12 and a further 10% with children aged from 12 to 17. Of those living with younger children, 22% reported difficulties in concentrating on their jobs all or most of the time.

That compared with 5% of households with no children and 7% with older children.

Mary McCaughey, Eurofound head of unit for information and communication, said the health and economic implication of the pandemic were understandably dominating the thoughts of the public and policymakers.

“However, the toll this pandemic has taken on family life cannot be ignored. Parents are facing unprecedented challenges, particularly now that most cannot avail of childcare services, and many are required to supervise schooling at home,” she said.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Mark Potter)

‘Fear of the unknown’: U.S. pregnant women worried by lack of virus research

By Gabriella Borter

(Reuters) – After the first two cases of the novel coronavirus in the state of Georgia were confirmed this week, Leigh Creel, who is 20 weeks pregnant and lives outside Atlanta, made a nervous phone call to her doctor to ask about the risk to her and her fetus.

The response she got was not comforting. Health experts do not know if pregnant women are more susceptible to the virus or if contracting it will increase the likelihood of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as pre-term labor or transmission of the virus in utero.

They are racing to learn more about the sometimes fatal respiratory disease that has rapidly spread worldwide from China, including how it might uniquely affect pregnant women.

For expectant mothers, the mystery surrounding the virus is worrying.

“It’s concerning to me when I feel like I know as much as the healthcare professionals,” said Creel, who works in sales and lives with her husband and toddler.

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 now stands at 14, most of them in Washington state, where 12 people have died in a cluster of at least 50 infections in the Seattle area. More than 3,400 people have died worldwide.

Public health officials in Washington’s Seattle and King Counties have advised that people at “higher risk of severe illness,” including pregnant women, should avoid physical contact and going out in public.

Dr. Laura Sienas, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the University of Washington Medical Center, said most of her pregnant patients have asked what they can do to protect themselves.

Sienas said her hospital has stopped short of urging pregnant women to quarantine themselves, contrary to local public health official guidelines.

Instead, she has emphasized diligent hygiene and avoiding close contact with others, the same guidance the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has offered on its website.

To that end, Sienas has tried to arrange check-ups via telephone, aiming to limit the number of in-person visits pregnant patients make to the hospital.

“There’s definitely that fear of the unknown, and pregnancy is a time when there are a lot of things that you don’t know and can’t control,” Sienas told Reuters. “Trying to give people small steps that they are able to control, like handwashing, has been a bit reassuring to patients.”


Scientists have not yet developed a vaccine against the virus, and research on its transmission and effects on pregnant women has been limited.

A narrow study of nine coronavirus-positive pregnant women in the Wuhan region of China, all in their third trimester, found no evidence that COVID-19 was transferred in utero. The women showed symptoms similar to non-pregnant adult patients.

The World Health Organization published an analysis of 147 pregnant women (64 of whom were confirmed to have COVID-19, 82 who were suspected and 1 who was asymptomatic) and found that 8% had a severe condition and 1% were critically ill.

“There’s some suggestion from other coronaviruses such as SARS that pregnant women may have a more severe disease, but we really don’t know,” said Dr. Denise Jamieson, chief of gynecology and obstetrics at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta and a former epidemic intelligence officer at the CDC.

Normal immunologic and physiologic changes in pregnant women might make them more susceptible to viral infections, including COVID-19, according to the CDC.

“There doesn’t seem to be any great answers out there for anyone, so your mind can really run wild with the possibilities,” said Rachel Storniolo, 36, who lives in Philadelphia and is due to give birth in May.

The study of the Chinese women, published in the scientific magazine The Lancet, found no traces of the virus in breast milk. Still, Jamieson said she would warn coronavirus-positive mothers that they risk transmitting the virus to their infants through respiratory droplets if they choose to breastfeed.

“If a woman has confirmed coronavirus, the safest thing in terms of ensuring that the infant does not get infected from the mother is to separate the mom and baby,” she said, adding that separation might be necessary for several days until the mother is asymptomatic.

Officials have not reported any cases of pregnant women with coronavirus in the United States, and they believe pregnant women – and the rest of the general public – who live outside the outbreak areas are at low risk.

But some women, like Brandi Cornelius, 36, of Portland, Oregon, who is 23 weeks pregnant, are not taking any chances.

“I went to the bank and I used hand sanitizer three times while I was there,” she said. “It helps my body to go to prenatal yoga, for example, but do I want to be in a room full of people?”

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty and Dan Grebler)

Target says shoppers stocking up on essentials over coronavirus fears

Target says shoppers stocking up on essentials over coronavirus fears
(Reuters) – Target Corp said on Tuesday it was seeing a surge in U.S. store traffic as people stockpile disinfectants and food amid fears of the coronavirus outbreak.

“We’ve certainly seen a U.S. consumer that’s starting to stock up on household essentials, disinfectants, food and beverage items, all those staple items that the CDC has recommended…,” Chief Executive Brian Cornell said on a post-earnings call with analysts.

“We’ve seen aggressive shopping across the country in our stores.”

However, the company said the epidemic has not so far impacted its business.

(Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

Second coronavirus case confirmed in New York state, U.S. cases top 100

By Maria Caspani

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A man who lives in a New York suburb and works in Manhattan tested positive for the novel coronavirus, bringing the total confirmed cases in the state to two, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday.

The 50-year-old man had an underlying respiratory illness and is hospitalized, Cuomo said at a news conference. He added that the patient had not traveled to countries considered the epicenter of the outbreak but had visited Miami recently.

Cuomo disclosed the second case after an Orthodox Jewish school in New York City canceled classes on Tuesday to allow for precautionary measures after a suspected case of coronavirus turned up within its community.

The SAR Academy and SAR High School in the Riverdale section of the Bronx borough said it was in touch with the city’s Department of Health and following its guidelines.

“At this time it important to remain calm,” a statement from school officials said.

The co-educational school, which describes itself as “modern Orthodox,” urged people to follow steps to prevent and minimize the spread of the infection, which had led to the reported deaths of six people in the United States as of Monday evening, all of them in Washington state.

About 100 people nationwide have tested positive for the virus, including the two people in New York, according to health officials.

There are more than 90,000 cases of the new coronavirus globally, with more than 80,000 of them in China. China’s death toll is 2,943, with more than 75 deaths elsewhere as 77 other countries and territories have reported the respiratory disease.

The man who tested positive remains hospitalized in serious condition, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement, adding that the confirmation was made by the New York City Public Health Laboratory on its first day of testing.

“With the results confirmed within a number of hours, we were immediately able to take next steps to stop the spread of this virus,” de Blasio said. “We have said from the beginning that it is likely we will see more positive cases of the coronavirus.”

Previously all testing was conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a process that created in a delay of several days before the result was known.

The U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates on Tuesday in an emergency move designed to shield the world’s largest economy from the impact of the coronavirus. The Fed said it was cutting rates by a half percentage point to a target range of 1.00% to 1.25%.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani in New York; writing by Frank McGurty; Editing by David Gregorio and Grant McCool)

World scrambles to curb fast-spreading coronavirus

By Colin Packham and Parisa Hafezi

SYDNEY/DUBAI (Reuters) – The coronavirus’ rapid spread in Iran, Italy, South Korea and elsewhere left alarmed governments and people across the globe rushing on Thursday to implement emergency measures.

For the first time, new infections around the world in the past 24 hours surpassed those in mainland China, where the flu-like disease emerged two months ago but is on the decline after an aggressive containment campaign.

In Japan, where cases rose to 200, there was particular concern after a female tour bus guide tested positive for a second time – one of very few worldwide to do so.

Tokyo has halted big gatherings and sports events for two weeks, and is closing schools early for the spring break. But it still plans to go ahead with the 2020 Olympics, whose cancellation or relocation would be a massive blow for Japan.

The coronavirus has mainly battered China, causing 78,596 cases and 2,746 deaths. But it has spread to another 44 countries with 3,246 cases and 51 deaths reported.

Though meeting the dictionary definition of a pandemic – widespread contagion across a large region – the World Health Organization (WHO) has so far held back from using that term.

“There is every indication that the world will soon enter a pandemic phase of the coronavirus,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said as he ordered hospitals to ensure sufficient medical supplies, protective gear and staff.

U.S. President Donald Trump put his vice president, Mike Pence, in charge of America’s response, while France’s President Emmanuel Macron rallied the nation.

“We have a crisis before us. An epidemic is on its way,” Macron said at a Paris hospital where a 60-year-old Frenchman this week became the second person to die from the coronavirus in France.

(Live blog: Online site for coronavirus news –


Spooked by the impact on China, the world’s second-biggest economy and the heart of corporate supply chains, and the increasing effect on other countries, stock markets sank deeper into the red and oil prices fell

Global markets have dropped for six straight days, wiping out more than $3.6 trillion in value.

A rash of countries have had their first cases in recent days, the latest being Denmark with a man back from a ski holiday in Italy, and Estonia with someone returning from Iran.

There is no cure for the virus that can lead to pneumonia, and a vaccine may take up to 18 months to develop.

New cases in South Korea took its total to 1,261 with 12 deaths, while Europe’s hotspot Italy had 453 infections and 12 deaths, and Iran reported 245 cases and 26 fatalities.

Urging people to avoid unnecessary travel, Tehran extended its closure of cinemas, cultural events and conferences for another week. Iran’s outbreak has added to the isolation of a nation already under U.S. sanctions.

The coronavirus has played havoc with global aviation and tourism as airlines cancel flights, countries ban visitors from hot spots and nervous passengers put off travel.

News that a Korean Air flight attendant who worked on flights between Seoul and Los Angeles later tested positive was likely to unnerve passengers further.

The United States is managing 59 cases – most of them Americans repatriated from a cruise ship quarantined in Japan where almost 700 cases developed. But Trump said the risk was “very low” in the United States which was “very, very ready”.

Chinese authorities said the number of new deaths stood at 29 on Thursday, its lowest daily tally since Jan. 28. There were just 433 new cases in mainland China in the last 24 hours, compared to 586 in nations and territories elsewhere.

Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open in an external browser)

(Reporting by Ryan Woo, Yilei Sun and Lusha Zhang in Beijing, Daniel Leussink in Tokyo, Parisa Hafez in Dubai, Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Sudip Kar-Gupta and Michel Rose in Paris; Writing by Robert Birsel and Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Nick Macfie)