Caixin
Mar 17, 2020 04:52 AM
SOCIETY & CULTURE

Coronavirus Live Updates (Monday): U.S. Stock Plunge Again Triggers Circuit Breaker; Canada to Shut Border as France Imposes Lockdown

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Tuesday, March 17, 3 a.m.

The fast-spreading new coronavirus continues sending jitters through financial markets worldwide, forcing governments to act more aggressively to combat the virus and curtailing business activities and people’s mobility.

U.S. stock markets nosedive on virus fears

Wall Street was dismayed over deepening fears of the Covid-19 pandemic despite a bold move by the Federal Reserve during the weekend to slash the benchmark interest rate to near zero.

The S&P 500 Index plunged more than 7% at the opening, triggering a marketwide circuit-breaker halting trading for 15 minutes. It was the third such trading pause in a week, defying a series of policy moves to bolster the economy and market confidence.

Days of turbulence have dropped the Dow Jones Industrial Average by 30% from its record high, reflecting investors’ concerns over the outbreak and its economic fallout. The S&P 500 was down 8.7% as of 2 p.m. in New York, while the Dow was off 9.1%.

Fears are growing that the outbreak will force a broad lockdown of business activities in the U.S., dragging down the world’s biggest economy. Efforts to contain the disease have pushed down key economic indicators to a record low in China, indicating how the outbreak curtailed businesses in the world’s second-largest economy.

Canada closes border to most foreigners, France imposes lockdown

Canada is barring entry to all travelers who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents in its latest effort to contain the Covid-19 outbreak, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday.

Those covered by the ban exclude air crews, diplomats, immediate family members of citizens and, "at this time," U.S. citizens, Trudeau said.

People displaying symptoms of Covid-19 will not be permitted to board a flight to Canada, said the prime minister, who himself is in self-isolation after his wife was diagnosed with the illness. Canada has reported 375 presumptive and confirmed cases of Covid-19.

• France announced a 15-day lockdown to contain the new coronavirus. President Emmanuel Macron said people should leave their homes only for essential duties as of midday Tuesday. Violation of the rule would be punished, Macron said.

“We are in a health war,” he said. France had 5,397confirmed cases as of Monday.

• Hungary also moved to shut its border to all personal travel except for nationals returning home. The country also ordered the early closure of most businesses including shops and restaurants while banning public events.

In other coronavirus-related news:

• The International Monetary Fund is ready to mobilize its $1 trillion of lending capacity to help nations counter the coronavirus outbreak. The fund has $50 billion in flexible and rapid-disbursing emergency funds for developing nations, with as much as $10 billion available at zero interest rates, Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said in a blog.

• U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged the public to avoid all “nonessential” contact to contain the virus as the death toll in the country rose to 55. Mass gatherings should not take place starting Tuesday, and everyone should work from home who can, he said.

• Germany’s government also ordered the closure of nonessential shops across the country, including bars, clubs, theaters, cinemas, museums, trade fairs, fitness studios and swimming pools.

• LVMH, the owner of the Louis Vuitton brand, said Sunday that three of its cosmetic facilities would start producing hydroalcoholic gel sanitizer to be delivered to French health authorities for free starting Monday.

Compiled by Han Wei (weihan@caixin.com)

Monday, March 16, 6 p.m.

The number of total coronavirus infections outside of China has now surpassed the number inside. As of Monday 6 p.m. Beijing time, there were 88,367 confirmed cases in 147 countries outside China, exceeding the 81,020 cases inside the virus-stricken country, according to data compiled by a research collective at Johns Hopkins University in the U.S.

European countries step up restrictions

Europe has become the second epicenter of the pandemic, with a number of countries seeing record high daily death tolls on Sunday. Italy recorded 368 more deaths on Sunday, with Spain recording 93, France recording 36 and the U.K. recording 14. Many European governments stepped up efforts to restrict the movement of people, in a bid to contain the epidemic.

Germany’s interior minister announced (link in Chinese) Sunday that it would close the country’s borders with five of its nine neighbors — Austria, Denmark, France, Luxembourg and Switzerland. Portugal and Spain have also agreed to close their shared border to tourists starting Monday, Bloomberg reported.

Several European countries imposed new restrictions on gatherings and entertainment. The Dutch government on Sunday ordered (link in Dutch) schools, gyms, restaurants and sex clubs to close until April 6. Austria also announced (link in German) it was closing restaurants and sports facilities, as well as banning gatherings of more than five persons.

In the U.S., authorities in New York City and Los Angeles on Sunday decided to temporarily shut down clubs and limit restaurants to takeout and delivery. The moves followed New York City closing its public schools until April 20. The governors of Ohio and Illinois also imposed similar restrictions on restaurants and bars.

In Southeast Asia, Malaysia on Sunday reported an additional 190 cases, with most of the new infections diagnosed after a religious event (link in Chinese) at a mosque that was attended by around 16,000 people. The new cases brought Malaysia’s total infections to 428. Singapore and Brunei also reported cases linked to the event.

• Many Chinese nationals living abroad are returning to the country as cases overseas continue to grow rapidly. Some Chinese who live in Milan, one of the worst-hit places outside China, on Monday returned (link in Chinese) to their hometown of Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, via chartered plane after all flights between the two countries were canceled.

In other related coronavirus news

• The People’s Bank of China announced (link in Chinese) Monday that it will inject 100 billion yuan ($14.2 billion) of liquidity into financial system through its medium-term loans for banks. The move comes as China’s key economic indicators plunged by double-digit percentages in the first two months of 2020 for the first time on record, as the coronavirus outbreak sharply curtailed business activity.

BioNTech SE on Monday announced (link in Chinese) a tie-up with Chinese firm Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical (Group) Co. Ltd. over the German biotech company’s experimental coronavirus vaccine. Fosun will pay BioNTech up to $135 million in upfront and potential future investment as well as milestone payments based on development progress, and the two companies will share future gross profits from the sale of the vaccine in China. Fosun will also make an additional equity investment of $50 million in BioNTech.

Fosun will market the vaccine in China after the country’s regulator approves it, and BioNTech will retain full rights for the rest of the world, the companies said.

Jack Ma, co-founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., joined Twitter on Monday and used his first tweet to post photos of boxes donated of masks and coronavirus test kits that are going to be shipped to the U.S. from Shanghai. “All the best to our friends in America,” he wrote.

Compiled by Tang Ziyi

Caixin’s coverage of the new coronavirus

Monday, March 16, 10 a.m.

Global outbreak continues to grow

• As of Monday morning, at least 13 countries outside China had reported caseloads of more than 1,000 infections, including a combined total of more than 3,200 deaths, according to government data and media reports compiled by Caixin.

Italy recorded 3,590 new cases on Sunday, bringing its total infections to 24,747, according to (link in Italian) the country’s health ministry. The country’s total deaths rose to 1,809, with total deaths up by 368 in one day.

• The U.K. reported a total of 1,372 confirmed cases and 35 deaths as of Sunday, according to a government website. The number of infections jumped by 232 in just one day with an additional 14 deaths.

• The U.S. reported at least 3,782 confirmed cases as of Monday morning. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday recommended that people cancel or postpone in-person events with 50 or more attendees for the next eight weeks.

• The U.S. Federal Reserve announced Sunday it would slash its benchmark rate by a full percentage point to near zero and would buy another $700 billion worth of government and mortgage-related bonds. The bold emergency move is aimed at protecting the country’s economy from the impact of the outbreak.

China faces rising threat from imported cases

• On Sunday, China reported 29 new confirmed cases, bringing its total to 81,077, according to the latest data (link in Chinese) from China’s top health body.

The new infections included 16 on the Chinese mainland, seven in Hong Kong and six in Taiwan.

On the mainland, Central China’s Hubei province, the epicenter of outbreak, reported four new cases. The other 12 were imported cases. That means no new local cases were reported in regions on the mainland outside Hubei on Sunday, marking the fourth day in a row that happened.

• The 12 imported cases included three from Spain, three from Italy, two from the Phillipines, one each from Thailand, Switzerland, the U.K and Egypt, according to local health commissions.

• On Sunday, China reported an additional 14 deaths, all in Hubei province.

Compiled by Tang Ziyi

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Coronavirus Live Updates (Sunday): All Overseas Travelers to Beijing Face 14-Day Quarantine, Criminal Charges for China’s First Imported Case

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