Caixin
Mar 18, 2020 07:27 AM
SOCIETY & CULTURE

Coronavirus Live Updates (Tuesday): Countries Step Up Virus Aid; Global Recession Warning Sounded; EU Closes External Border

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Wednesday, March 18, 4 a.m.

Governments around the world are stepping up stimulus efforts to help cushion economies against the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to massive business closures and quarantines in many countries.

In the United States, the Federal Reserve said it will provide as much as $1 trillion in short-term funding to companies that are hit hard by the outbreak. The central bank will purchase commercial paper from issuers to ease financial strains. The special credit facility was last used during the 2008 financial crisis.

In addition, the White House is mulling a plan to send direct payments of $1,000 or more to Americans within two weeks to aid people during the outbreak.

“We’re looking at sending checks to Americans immediately,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday at a briefing. He said President Donald Trump wants checks to go out “in the next two weeks.” The infection count in the U.S. totaled 5,702.

Canada is also considering a “significant” fiscal stimulus package to support the economy. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that the government will roll out a plan Wednesday that will include economic support for individual Canadians and businesses affected by the pandemic.

Canada’s business and population hub Ontario province recorded its first Covid-19 death Tuesday as the provincial government declared a state of emergency. Canada reported 449 infections as of Tuesday noon, including 185 in Ontario.

In Spain, one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, the government unveiled an economic stimulus package worth as much as $219 billion. Spain joined countries including Germany and France in initiating state lending as part of outbreak relief plans after the European Commission suspended restrictions on public spending across the euro zone last week. As of Tuesday noon, Spain reported 11,309 cases, second only after Italy in Europe.

While governments ramp up financial aid, economists are warning of a global recession as the economic fallout of the outbreak spreads. Economists at Morgan Stanley’s team said a worldwide recession is now its “base case,” with global growth expected to fall to 0.9% this year. Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs predicted a weakening of growth to 1.25% and S&P Global projected growth would range from 1% to 1.5%.

In other coronavirus-related news:

• In an unprecedented move, European Union countries agreed to ban most entries into the continent to contain the outbreak. The closure of the EU’s external borders will last 30 days, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday at a press conference.

Movement of people within the bloc’s 27 member nations will still be allowed under the restrictions.

• Volkswagen AG will halt production at its plants in Europe amid the Covid-19 outbreak. The shutdown will last about two weeks in Germany, Chief Executive Officer Herbert Diess said.

• Apple said its stores outside China will remain closed indefinitely amid the pandemic. The company previously said stores would reopen March 27, but a new notice on its website said the closures will continue “until further notice.” Apple has closed roughly 460 stores outside of China.

Compiled by Han Wei

Tuesday, March 17, 6 p.m.

Following the worst day in 30 years on Wall Street, financial markets in Europe were edging lower on Tuesday. After European stock markets opened higher, they quickly sunk into the loss column. In Asia, markets were comparatively calm, with stock benchmarks in Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland barely budging over the course of trading.

In what was seen as a dramatic move, the Philippines announced that starting Tuesday it would halt trading of stocks, bonds and its currency, the peso, for the next two days, becoming the first country to suspend financial markets during the coronavirus outbreak.

Western countries up the ante in the coronavirus fight

1 The Trump administration on Monday announced a set of federal recommendations for Americans, advising them to significantly limit their social activities. The recommendations included closing schools and discouraging meetings of groups of more than 10 people. In California, authorities ordered residents to stay at home from Monday on, U.S. news media reported.

2 In Europe, some countries have followed the lead of Italy and Spain in shutting their borders, with France being the latest. The French government on Monday announced rules to confine residents to their homes except for essential outings, such as grocery shopping.

On Monday, the G-7, a club of the world’s major economies, pledged to do “whatever is necessary” (link in Chinese) to ensure a strong global response to the coronavirus. After a video conference, the leaders of G-7 issued a statement that they would coordinate measures and offer support to affected companies and workers by “mobilizing a full range of instruments, including monetary and fiscal measures.”

Other coronavirus-related news:

On Monday, the U.S, Department of Defense said it would put two of its highest-ranking Pentagon officials — Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist — under quarantine as a precaution to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The department had reported 37 known cases (link in Chinese) among its ranks as of Monday.

• On Monday, Beijing reopened a hospital (link in Chinese) to treat imported coronavirus cases. The well-known Xiaotangshan hospital was built 17 years ago to treat patients with SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome.

• The coronavirus epidemic will leave most airlines bankrupt by the end of May unless governments and the industry take coordinated steps to avoid it, the Sydney-based consultancy CAPA Centre for Aviation warned in a report Monday.

On Monday, Cathay Pacific announced a net loss of HK$2 billion ($257 million) for February, due to coronavirus disruptions. Hong Kong’s largest airline expected even worse to come (link in Chinese) in March.

• Japan still aims to host the Olympics, Prime Minster Shinzo Abe said Monday, following a G-7 leaders’ video conference on the coronavirus. Abe said his plan to hold the Olympics and Paralympics has the support of G-7 leaders. However, he has refrained (link in Chinese) from addressing the timing of the event.

• Shanghai has extended (link in Chinese) its mandatory quarantine policy for overseas arrivals to 16 countries, up from eight. Starting Tuesday, international arrivals in Shanghai from the U.K., Switzerland, Belgium, Norway, Netherlands, Denmark and Australia — will be subjected to a 14-day quarantine. Previously, people arriving from eight countries including the U.S. and Iran were subject to the rule.

Also, starting Tuesday in Hong Kong, travelers arriving from any foreign country will be put under quarantine (link in Chinese) for 14 days, its leader Carrie Lam said. The rule will not apply to arrivals from Macao or Taiwan. Previously, Hong Kong said those arriving from the Chinese mainland would be required to isolate themselves at home.

Meanwhile, Macao announced that, starting Wednesday, nonresidents — excluding those from the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as foreign workers — will not be allowed to enter the special administrative region.

Compiled by Mo Yelin

Caixin’s coverage of the new coronavirus

Tuesday, March 17, 10 a.m.

Situation continues to worsen in the U.S. and Europe

• As of Tuesday morning, at least 15 countries outside China had reported caseloads of more than 1,000 infections, including a combined total of nearly 4,000 deaths, according to data compiled by a research collective at Johns Hopkins University.

• The gravity of the coronavirus outbreak has now shifted from Asia to Europe and the U.S. Among the 15 countries with caseload exceeding 1,000, Europe is home to 11.

In the U.S., there are currently at least 4,661 confirmed cases with 85 deaths. Eighteen fatalities were reported on Monday, the largest one-day increase in death toll since the outbreak began. On Monday, the Trump administration released new guidelines to limit people’s interactions in a bid to contain the virus’s spread. The guidelines included closing schools and discouraging meetings of groups of more than 10 people, multiple U.S. media reported.

In Europe, Italy remained the hardest hit country with a caseload reaching 27,980. Spain remained the second hardest hit, with 9,942 cases. That was followed by Germany and France, both with more than 6,000 cases.

Rising threat from imported cases in China

• On Monday, China reported 39 new confirmed cases, bringing its total to 81,116, according to the latest data (link in Chinese) from China’s top health body.

The new infections included 21 on the Chinese mainland; nine in Hong Kong; eight in Taiwan and one in Macau.

On the mainland, Central China’s Hubei province, the epicenter of outbreak, reported only one new case. The other 20 were imported cases. That means no new local cases were reported in regions on the mainland outside Hubei on Monday, marking the fifth day in a row that happened.

• The 20 newly added imported cases on Monday brings the total of such cases on the mainland to 143. The previous day on Sunday, there were 12 such additional cases.

• On Monday, China reported an additional 13 deaths, bringing the total death toll to 3,231.

In other coronavirus-related news:

The Philippines has halted trading of stocks, bonds and its currency, the peso, until further notice, becoming the first country to shut down financial markets in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Bloomberg reported, citing the Philippine Stock Exchange and the Bankers Association of the Philippines.

The Philippine stock exchange chief later said he planned to reopen the $188 billion market on Thursday, seeking a quick resumption of trading after the halt, Bloomberg reported.

Compiled by Mo Yelin

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

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