Monday, 09 March, 2020

Coronavirus infects more than 100,000 worldwide, wreaking financial havoc

The number of people infected with the new coronavirus surpassed 100,000 across the world on Friday, as the outbreak reached more countries and economic damage intensified, with business districts beginning to empty and stock markets tumbling.

In many affected countries, people were being asked to stay home from work, schools were closed, large gatherings and sports and music events were cancelled, stores were cleared of staples like toiletries and water, and face masks became a common sight.

The outbreak has killed more than 3,400 people and spread across more than 90 nations, with seven countries reporting their first cases on Friday.

More than 100,300 people have been infected globally, according to a Reuters tally based on statements from health ministries and government officials. Mainland China has seen more than 3,000 deaths, but the epidemic is now spreading faster elsewhere.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said every country should make containing the epidemic its top priority, pointing to Iran’s national action plan to combat one of the worst outbreaks after a slow start.

Iran’s death toll from the virus jumped to 124, as more than 1,000 new cases were diagnosed over 24 hours.

About 3.4 percent of confirmed cases of COVID-19 have died, far above seasonal flu’s fatality rate of under 1 percent, the WHO said this week.

A bill signed by U.S. President Donald Trump will provide $8.3 billion to bolster the country’s capacity to test for coronavirus and fund other measures to stem the outbreak that has spread to 22 states, with Pennsylvania, Indiana and Minnesota reporting their first cases. The death toll in the world’s economic powerhouse was 15, with more than 230 cases.

A cruise ship has been barred from docking in San Francisco after at least 35 people developed flu-like symptoms while on board. The ship has been linked to two confirmed cases COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus.

The Vatican reported its first case, a patient in its health services. The discovery worsened the prospects of the virus having already spread further in the Italian capital, since most employees in the walled city-state live in Rome, and those who live in the Vatican frequently go in and out into the city that surrounds it.

Italy is the worst-hit European country, with a death toll as of Friday of 197.

Moves by some major economies, including the United States, to cut interest rates and pledge funds to fight the epidemic have done little to allay fears about the spread of the disease and the economic fallout. Supply chains have been crippled around the world, especially in China, the world’s second largest economy, where the outbreak began.

“There’s concern that while there has been a response from the Fed, given the nature of the problem, is this something the central bank can really help with?” said John Davies, G10 rates strategist at Standard Chartered Bank in London.

In New York, JPMorgan divided its team between central locations and a secondary site in New Jersey, while Goldman Sachs sent some traders to nearby secondary offices in Greenwich, Connecticut, and Jersey City.

Bank of America Corp is splitting its trading force from Monday and sending 100 New York-based staff to nearby Stamford, Connecticut, sources familiar with the matter said.

In London, Europe’s financial capital, the Canary Wharf district was unusually quiet. S&P Global’s large office stood empty after the company sent its 1,200 staff home, while HSBC asked around 100 people to work from home after a worker tested positive for the illness.

Starbucks Corp said it had stopped accepting reusable cups and thermos flasks from customers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, though it will still honor the promised discount for anyone carrying one.

France’s prime minister said nurseries and schools will close for 15 days from Monday in the two areas most hit by coronavirus infections, one north of Paris and the other in the northeastern part of the country.

In Florida, Miami officials cancelled two music festivals on Friday because of potential risk that coronavirus could spread at events that bring large crowds into close proximity, while the NCAA Division III men’s basketball tournament will go ahead at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore this weekend without spectators.

Saudi Arabia will suspend public attendance at all sports events starting Saturday, the ministry of sports said.

Yields on US Treasuries plunged to historic lows on fears the outbreak will slam the global economy, and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed 3.10 percent.

US stocks fell but ended well above their session lows.

Airline and travel stocks have been among the worst affected as people cancelled non-essential travel. Norwegian Air Shuttle, the hardest-hit stock among European carriers, lost more than quarter of its market value on Friday and has fallen almost 70 percent since the start of February.

“If this really ramps up, we could see a lot more kitchen-sinking updates from the travel industry and airlines,” said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG.

South Korea confirms 174 new coronavirus cases, total to 6,767

South Korea on Saturday reported 174 additional coronavirus cases as of late Friday, taking the national tally to 6,767, the Korea Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.

The death toll remained unchanged at 44 from late Friday, the KCDC added.

China reports 28 virus deaths, rise in new cases outside epicenter

China on Saturday reported 28 new deaths from the coronavirus outbreak, bringing the nationwide toll to 3,070.

There were 99 fresh cases of infection, according to the National Health Commission, with a rise in new cases outside the virus epicenter of Hubei province for a third consecutive day.

There were 25 new cases reported outside the central province, which remains under lockdown in a bid to control the spread of the virus.

New infections reported from Hubei have been on a downward trend for several weeks and at 74, the number of new cases is the lowest since quarantine measures were placed on the province in late January.

But health officials also reported 24 confirmed imported cases — fuelling fears in China that infections could swell again as people get infected overseas.

World Economic Forum postpones event in Brazil as coronavirus cases rise

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has postponed a Latin America conference set to be held in Brazil at the end of April as a precautionary measure, with the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country rising on Friday to 13.

Public events are being called off around the world as the coronavirus spreads and people seek to avoid gatherings that could provide a venue to spread the disease.

“Given the dynamic situation surrounding the coronavirus globally and after careful consideration of what it means for our stakeholders, the World Economic Forum and its partners in Brazil have agreed to reschedule this meeting to a later date,” a WEF spokeswoman said in a statement.

Earlier on Friday, Brazil’s Health Ministry confirmed 13 coronavirus cases in the country, up from 8 on Thursday. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said in a televised address that the country will reinforce efforts to counter the virus at hospitals and ports of entry, while urging people to follow the advice of medical professionals.

“Although the situation could get worse, there is no reason for panic,” he said in brief pre-recorded remarks.

Financial services company Mastercard said on Friday it would close its office in Sao Paulo after one of its employees was diagnosed with coronavirus. The firm said it would continue to operate normally and asked staff to work from home.

Cases are still mostly concentrated in the country’s financial capital of Sao Paulo, but vacation hotspot Rio de Janeiro and the coastal state of Espirito Santo have also recorded single cases.

Friday also marked the first confirmed case in northeast Brazil, in Bahia state, according to the ministry.

(Source: Agencies)

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