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Markets tank as COVID-19 is ‘very close’ to pandemic

corona 1

SupChina illustration by Derek Zheng

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 outside of China has “tripled over the past week” — from 10,000 to more than 30,000 — the Wall Street Journal reports (paywall). Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, said today that the epidemic is “very close” to a pandemic.

However, only a handful of countries “have signs of sustained community transmission,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of WHO, added in a press conference, per CNBC. “Roughly 93% of the global cases are concentrated in four countries: China, Korea, Italy and Iran, they said. Roughly 80 countries have less than 100 cases each.” Click here for the latest numbers.

“It was Wall Street’s worst day in more than a decade: Stocks plunged on Monday as a panic that began in the oil market made its way through the global financial system,” the New York Times reports.  

What happens next?

One country with sustained community transmission is the U.S., though judging by Donald Trump’s Twitter feed this morning, the official line is to deny the seriousness of the epidemic. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is also deflecting blame: Per Reuters, he claimed that imperfect information from China “has led us now to a place where much of the challenge we face today has put us behind the curve.” Pompeo has also insisted multiple times on calling the novel coronavirus the “Wuhan virus,” contrary to WHO guidelines.

Meanwhile, Italy has embraced China-style quarantine action, putting its entire population of 60 million under lockdown, the Financial Times reports (paywall). Italians have been “instructed to limit leaving their houses unless for urgent health or work reasons,” and all public gatherings have been banned until April 3. The country is the worst-hit in Europe, with nearly 10,000 infections and over 450 deaths.

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