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.
Pandemic expert Dr. Christine Blackburn said this is dangerous behavior.
“[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.”
Spring Break concert on Monday in Pensacola, taking place as the governor of Florida issued a state of emergency. pic.twitter.com/SAXvOs1oo6— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) March 15, 2020
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.
Picture of Spring Break on South Padre last night. Time for a legally mandated, required shutdown of our country. pic.twitter.com/XW0aUwsjVO— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) March 15, 2020
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.
VIDEO: Thousands gathered in France at the weekend to break the world record for the largest-ever gathering of Smurfs.— AFP news agency (@AFP) March 9, 2020
Around 3500 people set aside fears of the #coronavirus to dress up as the characters, which come from a Belgian comic franchise pic.twitter.com/G3tMFoTE6A
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.
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.”
So Lebanese school shut down due to the fear of a possible #CoronaOutbreak in #Lebanon - and I won't even talk about the economy.. meanwhile parents (not all, but many) decide to take their kids on a Ski trip. The Lebanese logic and joie de vivre are currently killing me. pic.twitter.com/759dujjySX— Luna Safwan - لونا صفوان (@LunaSafwan) March 4, 2020
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.
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.