Coronavirus Live Updates: As World Locks Down, Asia Markets Plummet

Coronavirus Live Updates: As World Locks Down, Asia Markets Plummet

Credit…Kimimasa Mayama/EPA, via Shutterstock

Asian markets opened sharply lower on Monday as investors digested the relentless global spread of the coronavirus and turmoil in the oil markets.

Tokyo was down 4.7 percent at midmorning on Monday, while Hong Kong was down 4.1 percent. Futures markets showed investors predicting sharp drops in Wall Street and Europe as well.

The coronavirus has unnerved investors as it spreads, clouding the prospects for global growth. Italy on Sunday put a broad swath of its industrial northern region under lockdown as the virus has spread, making it one of the biggest sources of confirmed infections outside China. France, Saudi Arabia, Iran and other countries also took further steps to stop the spread.

In the United States, the number of confirmed infections exceeded 500 cases. A top American expert said on Sunday that regional lockdowns could be necessary.

A clash over oil between Russia and Saudi Arabia, two major producers, further unnerved investors. As the coronavirus hits demand for fuel, Saudi Arabia slashed its export oil prices over the weekend, starting an apparent price war aimed at Russia. Lower oil prices could help consumers, but it could unsettle countries that depend on oil revenue to prop up their economies.

In futures markets, the benchmark price for American and Europe oil supplies tumbled $10, or about one-quarter.

Investors fled to the safety of the bond market, driving yields lower. In the market for U.S. Treasury bonds, yields broadly fell below the 1 percent level for both short term and long term holdings. The 10-year Treasury bond, which is closely watched, was yielding about 0.5 percent.

In other Asian markets, South Korea was down 3.6 percent. Shanghai was down 1.5 percent.

Italy reported a huge jump in deaths from the coronavirus on Sunday, a surge of more than 50 percent from the day before, as it ordered an unprecedented peacetime lockdown of its wealthiest region in a sweeping effort to fight the epidemic.

The extraordinary measure restricted movement for a quarter of the country’s population.

“We are facing an emergency, a national emergency,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in announcing the government decree in a news conference after 2 a.m.

The move is tantamount to sacrificing the Italian economy in the short term to save it from the ravages of the virus in the long term. The measures will turn stretches of Italy’s wealthy north — including the economic and cultural capital of Milan and landmark tourist destinations such as Venice — into quarantined red zones until at least April 3.

They will prevent the free movement of roughly 16 million people.

Funerals and cultural events are banned. The decree requires that people keep a distance of at least one meter from one another at sporting events, bars, churches and supermarkets.

The Italian outbreak — the worst outside Asia — has inflicted serious damage on one of Europe’s most fragile economies and prompted the closing of Italy’s schools. The country’s cases nearly tripled from about 2,500 infections on Wednesday to more than 7,375 on Sunday. Deaths rose to 366.

More and more countries have adopted or are considering stronger measures to try to keep infected people from entering and to contain outbreaks.

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia cut off access to Shiite Muslim towns and villages in the east of the kingdom, cordoning off an area in Qatif Governorate where all 11 of the country’s confirmed coronavirus cases have been identified. And local Saudi media reported that the country would temporarily close down all educational institutions and block travel to and from a number of countries in the region. The kingdom had already suspended pilgrimages to the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

In Iran, which has been hit the hardest in the Middle East, state media reported that all flights to Europe would be suspended indefinitely.

The health minister in France, one of Europe’s bigger trouble spots, announced a ban on gatherings of more than 1,000 people.

Israel, with 39 cases, is considering requiring all Israelis and foreign nationals arriving from abroad to go into self-quarantine, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday.

The U.S. has counted at least 539 cases across 34 states — Connecticut reported its first case and Washington announced another patient being treated for coronavirus had died on Sunday — and the District of Columbia, and logged 22 deaths. Washington State, New York, California and Oregon have declared emergencies. A growing number of schools are shutting down across the country, raising concerns about the closings will affect learning, burden families and upend communities.

The U.S. Army suspended travel to and from Italy and South Korea, now the world’s third largest hot spot, until May 6, an order that affects 4,500 soldiers and family members. And the Finnish armed forces announced that troop exercises planned for March 9-19 with Norway would be scrapped.

On Sunday, the leading U.S. expert on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, said that it was possible that regional lockdowns could become necessary and recommended that those at greatest risk — the elderly and those with underlying health conditions — abstain from travel.

Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the Trump administration was prepared to “take whatever action is appropriate” to contain the outbreak, including travel restrictions in areas with a high number of cases.

“I don’t think it would be as draconian as ‘nobody in and nobody out,’” Dr. Fauci said on “Fox News Sunday.” “But there’ll be, if we continue to get cases like this, particularly at the community level, there will be what we call mitigation.”

Even as the rate of new infections appeared to taper in China, the number of cases around the world continued to rise on Sunday, with some of the biggest clusters emerging in Europe.

Besides the sharp rise in Italy, Germany reported more than 930 cases; Switzerland’s total reached 281; and Britain’s health department said that three people with the virus had died and that the number of cases in the country had jumped to 273 by Sunday.

The smallest E.U. nation, Malta, reported its first confirmed case on Saturday: a 12-year-old girl recently returned from a vacation in northern Italy. Her condition was described as good.

The Spanish authorities announced on Sunday that three more people diagnosed with coronavirus had died in Madrid, raising the number of coronavirus fatalities in the country to 13. There are now over 500 cases, the authorities said.

Salvador Illa, Spain’s health minister, said at a news conference in Madrid that several cases in Spain were linked to people who recently traveled to Italy.

“Italy has taken very drastic measures and the most immediate impact is to halt the influx of people from northern Italy,” Mr. Illa added.

Iraq reported 62 confirmed cases and four deaths.

Among Iran’s more than 6,000 cases number a vice president, 23 members of Parliament, the deputy health minister and several other senior officials. The country raised its death toll to 149 from 100 a day earlier, which includes a senior adviser to the country’s supreme leader and Fatemeh Rahbar, a member of Parliament.

Meanwhile, China’s new infections from the coronavirus continue to fall. The government on Sunday confirmed 40 new cases of infection from the virus, and another 22 deaths. Of the new infections, 36 were in Hubei, the central Chinese province where the outbreak began. The remaining four were people confirmed with the virus after arriving from abroad, meaning that for two successive days — at least according to the official data — China has recorded no new locally borne infections from the coronavirus outside of Hubei.

But overall China remains by far the worst hit country from the epidemic. In total, 80,735 people in China have been infected with the virus, and 3,119 have died from it, according to the official data, which may undercount both figures.

The Grand Princess cruise ship that has been held off the coast of California after 21 people onboard tested positive for the coronavirus was on its way to dock on Monday at the Port of Oakland, the vessel’s operator said.

More than 3,500 passengers and crew members are aboard, and 19 crew members and two passengers have tested positive.

After the ship docks, those aboard will be taken to military facilities around the country to be tested and quarantined for 14 days, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

According to a statement from the department, about 1,000 passengers who are California residents are to go to the Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif., or the Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego. Residents of other states will be taken to the Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas or Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta, Ga.

The Department of State is working with other countries to repatriate “several hundred passengers,” according to the statement.

Princess Cruises initially said on Saturday that the ship would dock on Sunday. It later amended that statement after what it called a change in planning by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo criticized the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday for delays in allowing private laboratories in New York State to test for the coronavirus. The number of cases in the state has risen to 106, but more testing is needed for officials to know the true extent of the spread of the virus, the governor said.

“C.D.C., wake up, let the states test, let private labs test, let’s increase as quickly as possible our testing capacity so we can identify the positive people,” Mr. Cuomo said.

On Sunday evening, the governor announced that Northwell Health Labs at the Center for Advanced Medicine, a private laboratory on Long Island, had been approved to test under an emergency authorization that would allow 75 to 80 samples a day to be evaluated.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday that there are now 13 cases of the coronavirus, with “hundreds” expected in the weeks to come. He said the city will offer no-interest loans to small businesses with fewer than 100 employees that could show a 25 percent reduction in sales since the coronavirus outbreak and grants of up to $6,000 for businesses with fewer than five employees.

The mayor urged New Yorkers to avoid crowded subway cars and to use alternative forms of transportation, like biking, if possible.

In Scarsdale, in Westchester County, schools will be closed from Monday through March 18 after a faculty member at the district’s middle school tested positive for the virus.

Columbia University and Barnard College in New York canceled classes Monday and Tuesday and will shift to remote classes the rest of the week after a member of its community was quarantined as a result of exposure to the coronavirus.

Two members of Congress said they would enter a period of self-quarantine after interacting last month with a person who attended a conservative conference outside and later tested positive for the virus.

Senator Ted Cruz interacted with the attendee at the conference, he said in a statement on Sunday. The interaction was less than a minute and consisted of a brief conversation and a handshake, he said. However, he will self-quarantine at his home in Texas this week “out of an abundance of caution.”

Representative Paul Gosar, Republican of Arizona, also said he would isolate himself out of an abundance of caution.

“I was with the individual for an extended period of time, and we shook hands several times,” Mr. Gosar said in a statement.

The American Conservative Union, which hosts the annual Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington, said the attendee was exposed to the virus before the four-day event and tested positive for it on Saturday.

Medical authorities said people who have interacted with Sen. Cruz in the past 10 days should not be concerned about potential transmission.

The attendee did not interact with the president or the vice president and never attended the events in the main hall, the union said in a statement. The attendee was quarantined in New Jersey.

But many of the thousands of people who attended the conference took to social media to vent their frustrations about a lack of information after it appeared that at least some lawmakers and the White House were briefed about the ill attendee.

Others who spoke at the conference included Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia. Also in attendance were Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and adviser, and Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son.

On Saturday, President Trump, an admitted germophobe, said he was not worried about the outbreak getting closer to the White House.

“I’m not concerned at all,” the president said.

Mr. Trump also said that he had no plans to curtail his campaign rallies even though other large gatherings of people are being canceled across the country.

“We’re going to have tremendous rallies,” he told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, where he was spending the weekend.

Nearby, the Palm Beach Convention Center was being disinfected after officials learned that a man who had staffed a vendor booth for the biotech company Biogen on Feb. 28 had tested positive in Pennsylvania.

The center has since hosted a rally for Michael Bloomberg, who subsequently dropped out of the presidential race. It was also a pickup point for hundreds of Trump donors who were bused to Mar-a-Lago for an event with the president on Sunday.

Reporting was contributed by Carlos Tejada, Jason Horowitz, Emma Bubola, Ellen Tumposky, Neil Vigdor and Russell Goldman.

Latest Category Posts

You May Also Read