New York: The coronavirus outbreak began to look more like a worldwide economic crisis on Friday as anxiety about the infection emptied shops and amusement parks, canceled events, cut trade and travel and dragged already slumping financial markets even lower.
The rooftop of restaurant is empty at night in the Huamdong district of Seoul, South Korea.Credit:Bloomberg
More employers told their workers to stay home, and officials locked down neighborhoods and closed schools. The wide-ranging efforts to halt the spread of the illness threatened jobs, paychecks and profits.
"This is a case where in economic terms the cure is almost worse than the disease," said Jacob Kirkegaard, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. "When you quarantine cities … you lose economic activity that you're not going to get back.'
The list of countries touched by the illness climbed to nearly 60 as Mexico, Belarus, Lithuania, New Zealand, Nigeria, Azerbaijan, Iceland and the Netherlands reported their first cases. More than 83,000 people worldwide have contracted the illness, with deaths topping 2800.
China, where the outbreak began in December, has seen a slowdown in new infections and on Saturday morning reported 427 new cases over the past 24 hours along with 47 additional deaths. The city at the epicentre of the outbreak, Wuhan, accounted for the bulk of both.
The stadium’s seats are empty during the Korean Basketball League between Incheon Electroland Elephants and Anyang KGC clubs in Incheon, South Korea.Credit:AP
New cases in mainland China have held steady at under 500 for past four days, with almost all of them in Wuhan and its surrounding Hubei province.
With the number of discharged patients now greatly exceeding those of new arrivals, Wuhan now has more than 5000 spare beds in 16 temporary treatment centers, Ma Xiaowei, director of the National Health Commission, told a news conference in Wuhan on Friday.
South Korea, the second hardest hit country, on Saturday morning reported 594 new cases, the highest daily jump since confirming its first patient in late January. Emerging clusters in Italy and in Iran, which has had 34 deaths and 388 cases, have led to infections of people in other countries. France and Germany were also seeing increases, with dozens of infections.
The head of the World Health Organisation on Friday announced that the risk of the virus spreading worldwide was "very high," citing the "continued increase in the number of cases and the number of affected countries."
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged all governments to "do everything possible to contain the disease."
"We know containment is possible, but the window of opportunity is narrowing," the UN chief told reporters in New York.
The economic ripples have already reached around the globe.
Stock markets around the world plunged again Friday. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones index took yet another hit, closing down nearly 360 points. The index has dropped more than 14 per cent from a recent high, making this the market's worst week since 2008, during the global financial crisis.
The effects were just as evident in the hush that settled in over places where throngs of people ordinarily work and play and buy and sell.
"There's almost no one coming here," said Kim Yun-ok, who sells doughnuts and seaweed rolls at Seoul's Gwangjang Market, where crowds were thin. "I am just hoping that the outbreak will come under control soon."
In Asia, Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan announced they would close, and events that were expected to attract tens of thousands of people were called off, including a concert series by the K-pop group BTS.
The state-run Export-Import Bank of Korea shut down its headquarters in Seoul after a worker tested positive for the virus, telling 800 others to work from home. Japanese officials prepared to shutter all schools until early April.
In Italy – which has reported 888 cases, the most of any country outside of Asia – hotel bookings are falling, and Premier Giuseppe Conte raised the specter of recession.
The Swiss government banned events with more than 1000 people, while at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany, basins of holy water were emptied for fear of spreading germs.
In a report published Friday in the New England Journal of Medicine, Chinese health officials said the death rate from the illness known as COVID-19 was 1.4 per cent, based on 1099 patients at more than 500 hospitals throughout China.
Assuming there are many more cases with no or very mild symptoms, the rate "may be considerably less than 1 per cent," US health officials wrote in an editorial in the journal. That would make the virus more like a severe seasonal flu than a disease similar to its genetic cousins SARS, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or MERS, Middle East respiratory syndrome.
Given the ease of spread, however, the virus could gain footholds around the world and many could die.
"It's not cholera or the black plague," said Simone Venturini, the city councilor for economic development in Venice, Italy, where tourism already hurt by historic flooding last year has sunk with news of virus cases. "The damage that worries us even more is the damage to the economy."
Europe's economy is already teetering on the edge of recession. A measure of business sentiment in Germany fell sharply last week, suggesting that some companies could postpone investment and expansion plans. China is a huge export market for German manufacturers.
Source: Read Full Article