"It's okay to feel scared": countries across globe tighten steps against Coronavirus


  • Economy
  • Monday, 16 Mar 2020

Police officers wearing face masks patrolling at a down town street in Hong Kong on Monday (March 16). Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection reported on Monday seven additional confirmed cases of Covid-19 (coronavirus) and two preliminary positive cases, most of which are imported cases. - AP

NEW YORK/LONDON: Bars, restaurants, theatres and cinemas were shutting down in New York, Los Angeles and other global cities to combat the coronavirus pandemic as countries tightened borders and central banks acted aggressively to cushion the economic impact.

The U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates, for the second time in less than two weeks, to near zero and other central banks followed suit, but stock markets and the dollar continued to tumble.

European stocks fell on Monday to their lowest level since 2012, with investors still worried about the threat to the global economy, and Wall Street futures for the S&P 500 index hit their down limit, suggesting Wall Street was set to follow suit.

"Many children think it is scary," Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg told a news conference, at her office, dedicated to answering children's questions about the pandemic.

"It is okay to be scared when so many things happen at the same time."

Leaders of the G7 countries will hold a video conference at 1400 GMT on Monday to discuss a joint response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Several countries banned mass gatherings such as sports, cultural and religious events to combat the disease that has infected over 169,000 people globally and killed more than 6,500.

The virus was first identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December but there have now been more cases and more deaths outside mainland China than inside.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Sunday he was ordering restaurants, bars and cafes to sell food only on a take-out or delivery basis. He also said he would order nightclubs, movie theatres, small theatre houses and concert venues to close.

"These places are part of the heart and soul of our city," he said. "But our city is facing an unprecedented threat, and we must respond with a wartime mentality."

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued similar orders for restaurants, bars and cafes to sell food only via delivery or take-out, officials said.

The Middle East business and travel hub of Dubai said it was closing all bars and lounges until the end of March. Thailand, known for its raunchy nightlife, plans to close down schools, bars, movie theatres and popular cockfighting arenas.

"The worst is yet ahead for us," said Dr Anthony Fauci, the top infectious diseases expert in the United States.

GETTING WORSE IN ITALY

U.S. Surgeon General Dr Jerome Adams said it was important to react aggressively.

"Do we want to go the direction of South Korea and really be aggressive and lower our mortality rates or do we want to go the direction of Italy?" he told Fox News.

In Italy, the hardest-hit country in Europe, there were 368 new deaths from the COVID-19 outbreak on Sunday, the biggest daily toll recorded in any country, including China.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told daily Corriere della Sera that the outbreak was still getting worse.

But Lombardy, the northern region that has suffered the worst, was showing the first signs of a possible slowdown, its governor said, without giving statistics.

Britain has asked manufacturers including Ford, Honda and Rolls Royce to help make health equipment including ventilators to cope with the outbreak and will look at using hotels as hospitals.

The worldwide financial policy actions were reminiscent of the sweeping steps taken just over a decade ago to fight a meltdown of the global financial system, but the target now is forcing entire societies to effectively shut down.

"The issue for investors that still remains is that the virus's economic impact is still not known, if this is a one-month event or if this is a one-year event, and how deep the cutback in consumer spending is going to be," said Rick Meckler, partner at Cherry Lane Investments in New Vernon, New Jersey.

Airlines said they would make more drastic cuts to their flying schedules, shed jobs and seek government aid because of sweeping global travel restrictions.

France and Spain joined Italy in imposing lockdowns on tens of millions of people. Australia ordered self-isolation of arriving foreigners.

China said industrial output contracted at the sharpest pace in 30 years in the first two months of 2020.

The International Olympic Committee will hold talks with heads of international sports organisations on Tuesday, a source close to a federation briefed on the issue said, amid doubts the Tokyo 2020 Olympics starting on July 24 can proceed.

The Jewish faithful should avoid kissing the stones of the Western Wall, the chief rabbi of the Jerusalem site said.

And Starbucks has moved to a "to go" model in all its company-owned stores in the United States and Canada, the coffee chain said, temporarily abandoning reusable cups. - Reuters

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