Coronavirus brings countries close to standstill

  • Govts shut bars, cinemas, schools, others
  • EU, G7 countries to coordinate economic plans
  • U.S. Supreme Court closes for first time since 1918
  • China schools reopening after four weeks 

Bars, restaurants, cinemas and schools were shutting down from New York and Los Angeles to Paris and Dubai in a worldwide effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic, as financial markets tumbled despite emergency action by global central banks.

Coronavirus infections outside China also passed 87,000 yesterday.  China cases stand at 80,860 as Students in Guizhou province, south-west China, are returning to school after more than a month off, according to the country’s state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV).

Germany closed the border it shares with five other countries.

PM Boris Johnson announced plan to begin daily news conferences, as United Kingdom (UK) cases reached 1,543.

UK chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance echoes the PM, saying he recognised the social distancing measures laid out “are not easy”.

But, he said they are designed to delay transmission and keep people safe. “They will have the effect if we all do it.”

He added that “may be necessary” to think about school closures, but only “at the right stage” of the outbreak.

But the United States (U.S.) authorities have advised against gatherings of more than 50 people.

The U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates for the second time in less than two weeks, but Wall Street opened with a dizzying plunge that set off circuit breakers.

EU finance ministers were planning a coordinated economic response to the virus, which the European Commission said could push the union into recession.

Leaders of the G7 countries were due to hold a video conference yesterday to discuss a joint response.

European stocks fell yesterday to their lowest level since 2012, with investors still worried about the threat to the global economy. Wall Street’s S&P 500 index fell more than 9% as trading resumed after an initial automatic 15-minute cutout.

In Italy, hardest-hit country in Europe, there were 368 new deaths from the COVID-19 outbreak on Sunday, a daily toll more dire than even China was recording at the peak of the outbreak that first hit its central city Wuhan.

“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.”

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.

Just a month ago, financial markets were hitting record highs on the assumption that the outbreak would largely be contained in China. 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 theater 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.

Spain and France, where cases and fatalities have begun surging at a pace just days behind that of Italy, imposed severe lockdowns over the weekend.

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

United States (U.S.) Supreme Court – which had already closed its doors to the public due to the rapidly-spreading coronavirus – has announced that it will not hear legal arguments this month.

The suspension of trial arguments marks the first time since 1918 that the Supreme Court has taken such a drastic move.

In announcing the decision, the court cited previous closures during the Spanish flu in the early 1900s and the yellow fever outbreak in the 18th Century.

There were several major cases set to be argued before the top US court, including one regarding the battle over President Trump’s efforts to shield his tax returns and financial records.

Most Supreme Court justices are elderly, putting them among the population most at risk from Covid-19.

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

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.

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told daily Corriere della Sera that the outbreak was still getting worse, though the governor of Lombardy, the northern region that has suffered the worst, said he saw the first signs of a slowdown.

Britain has asked manufacturers including Ford (F.N), Honda (7267.T) and Rolls Royce (RR.L) 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.

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.

The three major airline alliances yesterday jointly called on governments and stakeholders to extend extraordinary support to airlines to alleviate pressure caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

“The human and financial impact that the COVID-19 outbreak is having on the aviation industry is unprecedented,” SkyTeam Chief Executive Kristin Colvile said in a joint statement.

The EU is considering banning all non-essential travel into the Schengen borderless travel zone by citizens of non-EU countries, according to a diplomatic note seen by the BBC.

But this ban would not apply to citizens from the handful of EU member states that are outside the Schengen area (such as Croatia, Ireland, Cyprus or the UK – which is treated as a member state during the Brexit transition period.)

Non-EU citizens who had residence rights in the EU would still be allowed entry. Trips deemed “essential” could include those involving healthcare workers, transit passengers or people travelling for important family reasons.

The British Film Institute’s LGBT film festival is the latest event to fall victim to the coronavirus outbreak.

Description: Coronavirus brings countries close to standstill - The Nation news


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