Markets keep falling as coronavirus fears grow

World Sergey Matyunin 26-Feb-2020
ID 159868933 © 9194202 | Dreamstime.com

World markets keep falling amid global concerns over the disruption caused by the coronavirus, which has infected more than 80,000 people and resulted in over 2,700 deaths worldwide. The health crisis has led to restrictions on how companies operate amid a breakdown of global supply chains.

On Wednesday China’s CSI 300 index dropped 0.8 per cent, Tokyo’s Topix fell 1.1 per cent, Seoul’s the Kospi index dropped 1 per cent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index dropped 0.8 per cent.

The S&P 500 dropped 3 per cent, bringing its losses to 7.6 per cent since hitting a record high last Wednesday and erasing a total of $2.1tn in market value.

Japan urged companies to adopt remote working, stagger shifts and hold online meetings to reduce the spread of the illness. An expert government panel said there had been 146 infections confirmed in more than 16 different prefectures, excluding cases from an infected cruise ship and Japanese evacuees from China.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asked companies to adopt the new strategy after his cabinet on Tuesday approved an antivirus plan.

Italy warned that the EU should offer flexibility on its budget targets should the coronavirus outbreak in its industrialised northern regions have a prolonged impact on an economy already teetering on edge of a recession. The majority of cases were clustered in Lombardy and Veneto, regions which together make up a third of output for the eurozone’s third-largest economy and about half of its exports.

In Tenerife, authorities put a hotel with hundreds of guests and staff under quarantine after an Italian doctor staying there tested positive.

Switzerland also reported its first case, a pensioner who had visited Milan.

Iranian health officials said 95 people had tested positive for the disease and 15 had died in the country, the highest number of coronavirus deaths outside of China. The high mortality rate has sparked concerns that Iran is struggling to contain the outbreak and prompted neighbouring countries to impose border restrictions. Among those infected is Iran’s deputy health minister.

A jump in cases in South Korea, where authorities say nine people have died and there have been 893 confirmed infections, prompted officials in Washington and Seoul to consider scaling back joint military exercises. US officials also raised the travel warning to South Korea to its highest level, warning Americans against all but essential travel to the country.

The expert panel in Japan recommended changing its strategy of keeping the infection out altogether to containing it and slowing its spread. It no longer made sense to test everybody who might have been exposed to the virus, they said, as doing so would overwhelm the healthcare system.

Instead, Japan was asking anybody who felt ill to isolate themselves and said they should only seek medical help if they suffered severe symptoms.

It also said that the next one to two weeks would be decisive in preventing the spread of the virus.