Nations Seek to Ease Economic Hit; Deaths at 3,800: Virus Update

Nations Seek to Ease Economic Hit; Deaths at 3,800: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) — Global fatalities from the coronavirus reached 3,800 as infections spread to about half of the world’s countries.

The Trump administration is drafting measures to blunt the economic fallout and help slow the disease’s spread in the U.S., according to people familiar with the matter. Countries from Germany to New Zealand also announced financial plans to counter the impact of the virus.

Italy introduced far-reaching measures to contain the disease’s spread, while officials in South Korea said the outbreak there is showing signs of slowing. Financial markets saw wild moves as a price war in crude added to fears over the coronavirus.

Key Developments:

  • Trump aides drafting economic measures to combat virus fallout
  • Cases surpass 108,000 worldwide; deaths exceed 3,800
  • Oil prices crash, equities plunge and currencies and bonds see wild moves
  • Germany boosts investments to bolster economy
  • U.S. warns against cruises as medical team boards ship
  • Two U.S. lawmakers will self-quarantine after contact with a person who tested positive
  • Mask or No Mask? What the experts say: QuickTake

Click VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus and here for maps and charts. For analysis of the impact from Bloomberg Economics, click here.

Trump Aides Drafting Economic Measures (11:56 a.m. HK)

The Trump administration is drafting measures to blunt the economic fallout from coronavirus and help slow its spread in the U.S., including a temporary expansion of paid sick leave and possible help for companies facing disruption from the outbreak, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The economic package is still being debated and hasn’t yet been presented to President Donald Trump. Some of its components could change, while others, such as a sick leave plan, may require congressional action.

The timing of any of the economic measures is unclear, but they would likely be rolled out on a step-by-step basis, beginning with aid to individual Americans who are infected, then expanding to companies and workers affected by lost business.

Pressure is growing on Trump to take more decisive action in response to the virus outbreak, as the number of cases in the U.S. and worldwide continues to grow.

Germany Boosts Investments to Bolster Economy (11:29 a.m. HK)

The government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel has taken its first steps to help companies and workers affected by the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak and will invest an additional 12.4 billion euros ($14.1 billion) between 2021 and 2024.

After more than seven hours of talks on Sunday night, Merkel’s coalition loosened rules for short-term work compensation, making it easier for big companies heavily affected by the virus like Deutsche Lufthansa (DE:) AG to apply for aid to offset wages when they are forced to temporarily halt work.

Pressure for Germany to act intensified in the days before leaders of Merkel’s Christian Democratic-led bloc and the Social Democrats met in the chancellery in Berlin. The death of the first German from the coronavirus, a 60-year-old man who vacationed in Egypt, added to the pressure. While short of the full-blown stimulus package that many economists and investors urged, Germany’s government sought to walk a fine line between reassuring business and avoiding public panic.

China 2020 Car Sales Seen Falling 8% (11:20 a.m. HK)

China’s car sales are set to fall 8% this year, the head of a Chinese auto-industry group said, slashing his forecast for a second time as the coronavirus keeps buyers away. The prediction is preliminary and the China Passenger Car Association will confirm its new forecast later Monday, Cui Dongshu, the group’s secretary general, said in an interview. The PCA last month predicted a 5% decline after initially forecasting 1% growth at the end of last year.

Shanghai Disney Resumes Some Operations (11:07 a.m. HK)

Shanghai Disney Resort will partly resume operations on Monday, with a limited number of shopping, dining and recreational facilities available in Disneytown, Wishing Star Park and Shanghai Disneyland Hotel, according to an official statement. Shanghai Disneyland remains closed as the company continues to monitor health and safety conditions.

BNP Paribas (PA:) Open Tennis Tournament Canceled (10:34 a.m. HK)

The BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament in Indian Wells, California, has been canceled because of coronavirus concerns, the tournament said in a statement. Indian Wells, while not a major event in the sport, is a landmark tournament that was to have featured top stars including Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

South Korea Outbreak May Be Slowing: Officials (10:23 a.m. HK)

The coronavirus outbreak in South Korea is showing signs of slowing as the rate of new daily infections falls and health authorities almost finished testing members of a religious sect at the center of the epidemic, the country’s health minister said.

Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said late Sunday the virus spread — once the biggest globally outside of China — appeared to be “a little bit stagnant.”

South Korea was averaging more than 500 new virus infections a day last week, but the daily tally has fallen below that for the last three days, said Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun. The trend continued on Monday, as the country reported 248 new cases for a total of 7,382 thus far, and now ranks behind Italy in the size of its outbreak.

South Korea has borne its virus outbreak relatively well despite the scale of the spread. The country has been testing people for the virus at the fastest pace in the world, which appears to have allowed early detection of cases and kept its mortality rate lower than average. Infections have also been largely contained to the city of Daegu and surrounding areas, although the government has not imposed restrictions over people’s movements like in China and Italy.

Columbia, Scarsdale Schools Suspend Classes (9:33 a.m. HK)

Columbia University and Scarsdale, New York, one of the most affluent towns in America, suspended classes amid coronavirus concerns.

Columbia said it will suspend classes on Monday and Tuesday, and hold them remotely for the rest of the week, after a person affiliated with the school was exposed to the disease.

The individual hasn’t been diagnosed with the Covid-19 virus so far, university president Lee C. Bollinger said in an email to students.

“Please understand that the decision to suspend classes does not mean that the University is shutting down,” Bollinger said. “This action is intended to prevent the virus from spreading.”

The school had already planned to be closed the following week for spring break, which would cover the typical 14-day quarantine period for the virus.

Scarsdale, meanwhile, is shutting its schools after a faculty member tested positive for coronavirus. All Scarsdale schools will close through March 18 for cleaning, progress monitoring and social distancing, the district said in a statement.

Scarsdale, a Westchester commuter suburb that is a 55-minute train ride to Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan, ranks second on the Bloomberg 2020 Richest Places list.

Duterte Declares Emergency in Philippines (9:17 a.m. HK)

President Rodrigo Duterte has declared a state of public health emergency as the Philippines reported additional coronavirus cases.

The declaration empowers government to cap prices of basic goods and scrap public bidding for medical supplies, Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo said in an interview with DZBB radio on Monday. Health Secretary Francisco Duque earlier said the order will also pave the way for easier access to funds to control the spread of the virus.

At least four cities in the Philippine capital region and a couple of nearby areas have suspended classes after the health department reported four new cases on Sunday, bringing the total to 10.

China Reports 40 New Cases, 22 Deaths (8:23 a.m. HK)

China reported 40 additional coronavirus cases for the end of March 8, with 36 of them from Hubei province, according to statement from China’s National Health Commission. The other four are imported cases.

China now has 80,735 total confirmed coronavirus cases. The death toll on the mainland rose by 22 to 3,119, as Hubei reported 21 fatalities. Discharged patients rose by 1,535 to 58,600.

Ted Cruz Begins 14-Day Quarantine (7:45 a.m. HK)

Two Republican lawmakers will self-quarantine in their houses after contact at a recent political conference with a person who later tested positive for coronavirus.

Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz said he will quarantine himself for 14 days after learning he briefly interacted with someone at the Conservative Political Action Conference who has tested positive for Covid-19.

Cruz said he had a brief conversation and a handshake at the meeting held in Maryland in late February.

“I’m not experiencing any symptoms, and I feel fine and healthy,” Cruz said in a statement. “Given that the interaction was 10 days ago, that the average incubation period is 5-6 days, that the interaction was for less than a minute, and that I have no current symptoms, the medical authorities have advised me that the odds of transmission from the other individual to me were extremely low.”

Republican Representative Paul Gosar, a dentist by trade from Arizona who had extended contact with the person at CPAC, said in a statement that he will close his Washington office for a week. Gosar and three senior staff members will self-quarantine this week, with Gosar staying at home in Arizona.

NYC Urges Disrupting Routines (7:15 a.m. HK)

New Yorkers should avoid the subway at rush hour by cycling or walking to work, or stay home and telecommute, as Mayor Bill De Blasio outlined plans to fight the coronavirus. International travel has been canceled for city workers and school students.

New York City has 13 confirmed cases. The state has 105 cases, mostly in the city and the suburbs.

At a briefing, de Blasio prepared the city for a surge of cases as more people are tested: “I think we could well be at hundred cases or hundreds of cases over next two or three weeks,” he said.

Democrat Sanders Calls for Free Vaccine (7 a.m. HK)

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders says any eventual vaccine for the new coronavirus should be available free of charge once developed and approved. Democrats have increasingly called for affordability guarantees for medicines developed in part through taxpayer-funded research.

Saudi Arabia Blocks Some Travel (6:55 a.m. HK)

Saudi Arabia temporarily banned travel to nine countries, state-run SPA reported, citing a statement issued by the Interior Ministry. The decision applies to citizens as well as residents; entry of citizens from the nine countries is also banned. The countries include the U.A.E, Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, South Korea, Egypt, Italy and Iraq.

Some Elderly Warned Against Cruises (6 a.m. HK)

The U.S. State Department warned Americans with underlying health conditions against travel on cruise ships, citing the higher risk of contracting the coronavirus and complications when infections occur.

The warning, on the department’s travel advice website, said some ships with ill passengers have been denied by local officials the right to dock at ports, which prevents passengers from disembarking.

“Older adults and travelers with underlying health issues should avoid situations that put them at increased risk for more severe disease,” the agency said. “This entails avoiding crowded places, avoiding non-essential travel such as long plane trips, and especially avoiding embarking on cruise ships.”

The Grand Princess liner, off the California coast with more than 20 ill passengers and crew, is scheduled to dock on Monday after being denied entry in San Francisco. In Asia, Malaysia banned cruise ships. Carnival (NYSE:) Corp. had hundreds of infected passengers aboard its Diamond Princess ship, which docked off Yokohama last month.

U.S. Advised on Daily Disruptions (5 p.m. NY)

U.S. officials went on Sunday talk shows to brace Americans for more changes to their daily routines as a result of Covid-19, from reduced travel to cancellations of large events.

Elderly people with health issues should immediately reconsider travel and large gatherings, said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“You should start to distance yourself from the risk, crowds, getting on a plane, on a long plane trip, and, above all, don’t get on a cruise ship,” Fauci advised people with underlying health risks on “Fox News Sunday.”

France Bans Some Large Gatherings (4 p.m. NY)

France has banned gatherings with more than 1,000 people, down from 5,000 previously, Health Minister Olivier Veran said in Paris. There will be some exceptions in cases that are in the interest of the nation, he said.

Total coronavirus cases rose to 1,126, with 19 fatalities.

Seattle Nursing Home Deaths Mount (3:55 p.m. NY)

The number of reported virus cases in King County, home to Seattle and its suburbs, jumped to 83, public health officials said in a statement. Among 12 new cases reported, two additional people have died — one a woman in her 80s and the other a man in his 90s.

King County has been an epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S., with 17 deaths. All but one of those has been linked to an elder care facility in Kirkland, Washington. The total state death toll is 18.

Washington state officials reported 21 new cases, raising the total to 123 from 102.

Apple (NASDAQ:) Workers Can Work at Home (3 p.m. NY)

Apple employees at most offices have been offered the ability to work from home by Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook, who called the virus outbreak an “unprecedented event” and a “challenging moment.”

Cook told workers that if their jobs allow it, they can work remotely March 9-13, according to a memo obtained by Bloomberg News. That extends the company’s move on Friday to encourage employees in California and Seattle to work remotely.

This policy covers areas with the greatest density of infections, Cook said: the Santa Clara Valley and Elk Grove areas in California, Seattle, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland and the U.K.

Saudi Arabia Closes Schools: SPA (2:45 p.m. NY)

The Saudi Higher Education Ministry temporarily shut all schools and colleges until further notice to avoid the spread of the coronavirus, the state-run SPA reported.The education ministry said it would begin remote visual schooling during the suspension, according to the report.

Italy’s Rules Spark Enforcement Doubts (1:45 p.m. NY)

Italy introduced far-reaching measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak, yet hours after the dramatic early Sunday morning announcement, it was far from clear how strictly they would be enforced.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte presented the new rules, including a near-complete travel ban for about a quarter of Italians, following hours of uncontrolled leaks and signs of public panic. On Sunday morning, life seemed to continue as normal even in the regions most affected by the epidemic, with people crowding cafes and boarding trains to go north and south. Airports, including those in the affected areas, also remained open.

The lack of clarity about the real scope of the measures only deepens confusion around Italy’s response to Europe’s largest coronavirus outbreak. Doctors have warned that hospitals are close to collapse as they flood with patients needing intensive care.

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