Coronavirus: Despite warnings, spring breakers, skiers, Smurfs gather

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The world has begun shutting itself down and individuals are practicing social distancing as the number of coronavirus cases continues to climb globally. Yet, some have not heeded the public health warnings.

In the United States, spring breakers flocked to beaches. In France, Smurfs rallied. In Lebanon, ski slopes were packed the day after classes were canceled.

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Pandemic expert Dr. Christine Blackburn said this is dangerous behavior.

Read more: What history teaches us about the coronavirus pandemic

“[This is] giving the disease more opportunities to spread,” said Blackburn who is the Deputy Director, Pandemic & Biosecurity Policy Program at Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs at Texas A&M University. “You might have one sick person, and on average one person infects 2-3. So if you have 100 people come together, and even half of them, or a quarter of them, get infected. Everyone they contact then, and especially the elderly are at risk.”

In Florida, college students on spring break were seen on crowded beaches the day after US President Donald Trump rolled out new recommendations that included avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people and not eating at bars and restaurants. And yet spring breakers in swimwear were partaking in the annual celebration.

On March 9, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order, declaring a state of emergency in the state because of coronavirus.

On South Padre Island in Texas, another popular spring break destination, similar scenes emerged on March 15, just one day after the World Health Organization declared coronavirus a global pandemic.

"Mass gatherings can be particularly harmful to efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. The Centers Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have advised people to avoid mass gatherings, maintain a safe distance (six feet or two meters) from others wherever possible. These steps not only help to protect individuals, but their families and people they come into contact with," Dr. Mohamad Mooty, Department Chair, Infectious Diseases, Medical Subspecialty Institute, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi told Al Arabiya English.

In France, more than 3,500 people in blue body paint gathered in the village of Landerneau for a Smurf rally a week ago. Days prior, neighboring Italy went on lockdown to prevent the virus from continuing to spread. On Tuesday, France announced it would deploy 100,000 police to enforce a lockdown previously ordered by French President Emmanuel Macron.

Read more: Coronavirus lockdown in France: Deployment of 100,000 police, checkpoints set up

Al Arabiya English reached out to a hospital in Landerneau, and a spokesman said that they have not yet seen a spike in the number of cases, but because of the two-week incubation period, it is too soon to tell if there would be a spike in cases due to the Smurf rally.

“There’s no risk, we’re Smurfs,” one attendee told AFP. “Yes, we’re going to Smurferize the coronavirus.”

Because it has become so widespread, experts now warn that wiping out coronavirus completely is unlikely and it is likely to remain, circulating among the population.

“I don't think we're going to be able to wipe it out,” Blackburn said. “I think it is probably going I think it's probably going to become endemic.”

In Lebanon, the day after officials closed schools, the country’s ski slopes were flooded with families taking advantage of the day off. Now Lebanon is on lockdown as the country with a fragile healthcare system is attempting to combat further spread of coronavirus.

Read more: Coronavirus: Lebanon declares state of emergency, orders two-week lockdown

Countries are increasingly implementing new lockdown measures and asking people to stay home to help stem the spread of the virus as social distancing only works as long as people adhere to the recommendations.

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