Update (0650ET): It’s not even 7 am in the US, and it looks like a new outbreak is beginning in Central Europe.
Local news agencies report that Croatia has confirmed its first case, while the Austrian Province of Tyrol has confirmed two cases.
In South Korea, meanwhile, officials have just confirmed the 11th coronavirus-linked death, a Mongolian man in his mid-30s who had a preexisting liver condition.
Over in India, where President Trump is in the middle of an important state visit with the newly reelected Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the president struck an optimistic tone once again claiming that the virus will be a “short-term” problem that won’t have a lasting impact on the global economy.
“I think it’s a problem that’s going to go away,” he said.
Trump also reportedly told a group of executives gathered in India that the US has “essentially closed the borders” (well, not really) and that “we’re fortunate so far and we think it’s going to remain that way,” according to CNN.
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Last night, a post written by Paul Joseph Watson highlighted commentary from a Harvard epidemiology professor (we realize we’ve heard from pretty much the whole department at this point in the crisis, but bear with us for a moment) who believes that, at some point, ‘we will all get the coronavirus’.
Well, up to 70% of us, but you get the idea: The notion that this outbreak is far from over is finally starting to sink in. Stocks are struggling to erase yesterday’s losses, with US futures pointing to an open in the green after the biggest drop in two years. More corporations trashing their guidance, and more research offering a glimpse of the faltering Chinese economy (offering a hint that all the crematoriums are keeping air pollution levels elevated even as coal consumption and travel plunge) have seemingly trampled all over the market’s Fed-ensured optimism.
And across Europe, the Middle East and the Far East, headlines tied to the outbreak hit at a similarly non-stop pace on Tuesday.
With so much news, where to start?
In China, data out of the Transport Ministry revealed that barely one-third of China’s workforce has returned to work, despite state-inspired threats. CNN reported Tuesday that only 30% of small businesses in China have returned to work. The problem? Travel disruption has left millions of migrant workers stranded. There’s also the question of schools: Some cities, including Shanghai, are offering students the option of completing their studies online after March 2.
China’s rapidly advancing tech sector has responded to the crisis by unleashing a wide range of technologies outfitted for specific tasks, including ferrying supplies to medical workers, fitting drones with thermal cameras and leveraging computer-processing power to aid the search for a vaccine.
In a televised interview, one health official said it might take 28 days to safely say an area is free of coronavirus, while another official insisted that “low risk” areas should “resume normal activity” on Tuesday. The government is dividing the country outside Hubei and Beijing into three ‘risk’ tranches, and will mandate that those in the lowest tranche get back to work, school or whatever they were doing before the virus hit.
Investors are clearly concerned that, instead of the ‘v’-shaped recovery promised by the IMF, the economic bounce-back from the coronavirus might be closer to a “u”-shape. On top of that, as cases proliferate in South Korea, Italy and the US, pundits are beginning to worry that the rest of the world is where China was two months ago – in other words
Throughout the day, South Korea confirmed 144 more cases, bringing the country-wide total to 977, the highest number outside China.
As the Korean government warns that foreigners shouldn’t travel there, Korean Air Lines and Asiana Airlines, to South Korean airlines, said they would halt flights to Daegu until next month, leaving the door open to a longer shutdown.
On Tuesday afternoon, South Korean President Moon Jae-in traveled to Daegu, the city where more than half of the country’s cases have been detected, and advised its residents to stay indoors but pledged to avoid the draconian restrictions Chinese authorities implemented in Wuhan.
Outbreak-related news in Seoul took on a more morbid tone Tuesday following reports in the local press that a civil servant from the Ministry of Justice’s Emergency Safety Planning Office jumped off a bridge in Seoul at around 5 am local time Tuesday.
The official was one of several individuals charged with overseeing the government’s response to the virus. As cases soar and hysteria mounts, we suspect this news won’t exactly help quiet the public’s nerves.
A Singaporean government minister warned that the city-state could impose sweeping travel restrictions targeting South Korea if the outbreak gets worse.
Minutes ago, Italian authorities confirmed another 8 coronavirus cases, 54 of which have been confirmed on Tuesday, bringing the total to 283.
More than 100,000 Italians in 10 villages are under lockdown in the ‘red zone’ in northern Italy, where the military has been deployed and people have been told to stay inside. Fears about the virus spreading throughout the region were validated yesterday when Spain reported a third case, an Italian traveler. On Tuesday, Reuters reports that Spanish authorities have closed the Tenerife Hotel on the Canary Islands and are testing all of its occupants.
Most of the cases have been recorded in Lombardy (200+), while Veneto, Emilia-Romagna, Piedmont, Bolzano, Trentino and Rome have all confirmed at least one case. The UK government warned that any British travelers in northern Italy should self-isolate, according to the Washington Post.
In Japan, the “J League”, Japan’s professional soccer league, has announced that it will postpone all games until at least March 15, saying in a statement that it’s “fully committed” to stopping the spread of the coronavirus. The decision followed a government recommendation to cancel all public events and gatherings.
Embracing a markedly different approach from Beijing, Japan has announced a new policy on Tuesday designed to focus medical care on the most serious cases, while urging people with mild symptoms to treat themselves at home.
According to the FT, the new strategy of containment announced by a panel overseeing the virus response acknowledged that simply testing everyone potentially exposed to the more than 100 cases outside the ‘Diamond Princess’ would overwhelm its health-care system.
It is radically different approach from that adopted by China,
Though it hasn’t announced new cases in a day or so, Japan has confirmed 840 cases of novel coronavirus so far, with nearly 700 of them linked to the ‘Diamond Princess’ cruise ship.
Iran’s ‘official’ death toll climbed to 14 on Tuesday, with 61 cases confirmed so far. Despite a wave of border closures that left Iran virtually isolated by its neighbors, more cases have started to bleed across the border: Iraqi health ministry officials have confirmed four coronavirus cases in Kirkuk, all of whom are members of a family.
Even more embarrassing for the Iranians than having a local lawmaker expose the horrifyingly real death toll: on Tuesday, the government confirmed that a Deputy Health Minister had been sickened by the virus.
We suspect we’ll be hearing more bad news from the Middle East as the full scope of the Iranian outbreak becomes more clear.