Countries on three continents reported their first cases of the coronavirus on Friday as the world prepared for a pandemic and investors dumped equities in expectation of a global recession.
Coronavirus panic sent world share markets crashing again, compounding their worst week since the 2008 global financial crisis and bringing the wipeout to $5 trillion. The Asia Insiders reports.
Hopes that the epidemic that started in China late last year would be over in months, and that economic activity would quickly return to normal, have been shattered as the number of international cases have spiraled.
“Investors are trying to price in the worst-case scenario and the biggest risk is what happens now in the United States and other major countries outside of Asia,” said SEI Investments Head of Asian Equities John Lau.
“These are highly uncertain times, no one really knows the answer and the markets are really panicking.”
Mainland China reported 327 new cases, the lowest since Jan. 23, taking its tally to more than 78,800 cases with almost 2,800 deaths.
But as the outbreak eases in China it is surging elsewhere.
Four more countries reported their first cases, taking the number of countries and territories outside China with infections to 55, with more than 4,200 cases killing about 70 people.
Countries other than China now account for about three-quarters of new infections.
An Italian man who arrived in Nigeria was confirmed as the first coronavirus case in Africa’s most populous country. And a person who returned on a flight from Iran became the first in New Zealand.
In eastern Europe, Belarus and Lithuania reported their first cases.
World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said all nations should prepare.
“This virus has pandemic potential,” Tedros said in Geneva on Thursday. “This is not a time for fear. This is a time for taking action to prevent infection and save lives now.”
Ratings agency Moody’s said a pandemic – usually taken to mean a disease spreading quickly in different places – would trigger global and U.S. recessions in the first half of the year. Reuters reports.
CDC removes Vietnam from list of global epidemic zones
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on February 27 decided to remove Vietnam from the list of destinations vulnerable to community transmission of SARS-CoV-2.
The decision was made during a teleconference between the Vietnamese Embassy in the US and the US Department of State, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the CDC. Vietnam News Agency reports.
Representatives of the CDC and the HHS praised the Vietnamese Government’s efforts in the fight against the acute respiratory disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, saying monitoring, quarantine and treatment have been carried out comprehensively in the country.
The CDC said it plans to dispatch a delegation to Vietnam in the second half of March in order to enhance medical cooperation between the two countries and accelerate the establishment of a CDC office in the Southeast Asian nat
South Korea has the most cases outside China. It reported 571 new infections on Friday, bringing the total to 2,337. The outbreak, which has killed 13 people in South Korea, has also dented President Moon Jae-in’s popularity, a poll showed.
The head of the WHO’s emergency program, Dr Mike Ryan, said Iran’s outbreak may be worse than realized. It has suffered the most deaths outside China – 26 from 245 reported cases.
According to Reuters, the U.S. intelligence agencies are monitoring the spread of coronavirus in Iran as well as India, where only a handful of cases of have been reported, sources said.
Japan is scheduled to host the 2020 Olympics in July but Ryan said discussions were being held about whether to go ahead.
Organizers will decide next week on the ceremonial torch relay. It is due to arrive on March 20 for a 121-day journey past landmarks including Mount Fuji and Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park.
As of Friday, confirmed cases in Japan topped 200, with four deaths, excluding more than 700 cases and five more deaths from a quarantined cruise liner, Diamond Princess.
The hard-hit northern prefecture of Hokkaido declared a state of emergency and Tokyo Disneyland closed until March 15.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had called for schools to close and vowed to prevent a severe blow to an economy already teetering on the brink of recession.
The Asia Insiders/ Reuters