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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Coronavirus UPDATE: China stabilises, Asian markets recover slightly, Italy goes into ‘lockdown’



PHOTO: Quarantine inspections at all Italian borders from yesterday - Al Jazeera

More than 4,000 people have now succumbed to the Covid-19 coronavirus as it continues spreading around the globe. As of 12pm today, 4,027 have died from the virus, there are 114,422 cases confirmed around the world and 64,081 people have fully recovered. Whilst most of the cases and deaths are still in mainland China but the numbers of new cases have dropped dramatically – only 19 in the past 24 hours. Compare this to the middle of January when there were around 2,000 new cases each day.

But the outbreak is reaching a critical phase in other parts of the world – Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Iran, South Korea and the US continue to show concerning growth in recent cases.

• This morning most of the markets around the Asia Pacific have edged higher after novel coronavirus fears and an oil price war sparked a market panic yesterday. Starting downunder, the Australia’s benchmark S&P/ASX 200 is up 1.6%. It’s now trading nearly 19% below its most recent high, just under the 20% that defines a bear market. China’s Shanghai Composite was flat, remaining in negative territory.

South Korea’s Kospi Index was up 0.3%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was 0.6% higher.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 has been the region’s worst performer today, though was last only down 0.5%. Japanese companies report they are also feeling financial pain. Nissan’s vehicle sales in China dropped 80% in February, year on year.

In the US, after initially falling after hours, Dow futures shot up 550 points, or 2.4%. The Dow ended yesterday with its biggest point drop in history, or 7.8%, its worst day since the 2008 financial crisis.

Around the world….

• The Singaporean government is now charging visitors for any coronavirus treatment, the city-state has confirmed three new imported infections, two of which were Indonesians. Indonesia reported its first virus case in early March and officially has only 19 infections compared to 160 in Singapore. Medical experts continue to question how many cases have gone undiagnosed in Indonesia, a country which has also benefitted from a lot of Chinese tourism.

Singapore’s new measures, official came into effect on March 7, when authorities said 2 “symptomatic Indonesian travellers” arrived in Singapore.

• Japan reports 26 additional coronavirus cases. Japan’s Health Ministry announced an additional 26 cases of the coronavirus. The additional cases bring the country’s total to over 1,210 confirmed cases.

• Vietnam confirms one new coronavirus case, bringing the country-wide total to 31. The new case is a 49 year old UK citizen who was on the same Vietnam Airlines’ flight with a previously confirmed patient flying from the UK to Vietnam on March 2. He is the eighth British national and the 10th foreign patient confirmed in Vietnam who was on board the same flight. Of the 31 patients in Vietnam, 16 have now been discharged.

• China has only reported 19 new cases in the past 24 hours, a drastic drop from the peak just a month or two ago. Yesterday was also the third straight day where there were no locally transmitted cases outside of Hubei province, the provincial origins of the virus at the end of December last year.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to visit healthcare workers, soldiers, police officers, health officials, volunteers, patients and residents in Wuhan today. It will be Xi’s first visit to the city since the coronavirus outbreak began. The visit will likely provide important propaganda value for the Chinese government.

• In South Korea the number of new cases per day continues to drop. The country’s health minister says he was “cautiously expecting we have passed the peak”.

• Europe is now facing a worsening outbreak. All of Italy’s 60 million residents are under a “viral quarantine” protocol meaning restricted movement, school closures, a ban on all public events, and suspended religious services including weddings and funerals. But flights and most public transport are still operating.

The drastic measure of a country-wide lockdown was taken in response to the Italian  healthcare system overwhelmed by the flood of patients. Today Italy reports a total of 9,172 cases, overtaking South Korea and becoming the worst outbreak outside of China.

France Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium and Norway all have over 200 cases.

• The US now has at least 728 cases and 27 deaths, creating panic as the surge hits many states unprepared for the rise in new cases. Many states are declaring states of emergency, and even congressmen are self-quarantining after coming in contact with an infected patient in the past two weeks.

Schools across the US are beginning to close and moving to online classes. Large employers like Amazon are pushing workers out of their offices in virus-hit areas and asking them to work from home.


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