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Coronavirus touching all walks of life


Coronavirus touching all walks of life

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ROME – All of Italy under lockdown, reeling financial markets and rioting prisoners made clear on Monday how the global coronavirus epidemic was extending its reach into all aspects of social and economic life.

Major European stock markets dived more than seven per cent, Japanese indexes fell over five per cent and United States markets sank over seven per cent after Saudi Arabia launched an oil price war with Russia that sent investors already spooked by the coronavirus epidemic running for the exits.

In Italy, scene of Europe’s worst outbreak with infections and deaths still soaring, the government took its most drastic steps yet to contain the outbreak, affecting some 60 million people. It ordered everyone across the country not to move around other than for work and emergencies, banned all public gatherings and suspended sporting events, including soccer matches.

Deaths in Milan’s Lombardy region – which had already been on lockdown with cinemas, theatres and museums closed and restaurant hours restricted – jumped 25 per cent in a day to 333, while the national death toll soared by 97 to 463, the highest in the world after China.

Over 9 000 people have become infected in Italy in little over two weeks, out of a global total of more than 113 000 in over 100 countries. Nearly 4 000 people have died across the world, the vast majority in mainland China.

“Now that the virus has a foothold in so many countries, the threat of a pandemic has become very real,” World Health Organisation Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference.

But he welcomed Italy’s tough measures, noting that just four countries – China, South Korea, Italy and Iran – accounted for 93 per cent of cases worldwide. Israel ordered anyone entering the country to self-quarantine for 14 days on Monday.

“It would be the first pandemic that could be controlled,” Tedros added. “The bottom line is we are not at the mercy of the virus.”

In the United States, which has reported over 600 cases and 26 deaths, the administration scrambled on Monday to assure Americans it was responding to the outbreak as stock markets plunged and top health officials urged some people to avoid cruise ships, air travel and big public gatherings.

United States President Donald Trump, who continued to play down the threat posed by the flu-like virus, said he would announce economic measures on Tuesday and would discuss a payroll tax cut with Congress to bolster the economy.

Trump recently spent time with two members of Congress, including one who rode on Air Force One, who are self-quarantining over concerns about exposure to the virus. Vice President Michael Pence said he did not know if Trump had been tested for coronavirus. (Reuters)