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UK warns fifth of workforce could be off sick; army prepared

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Via CNBC

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits the Public Health England National Infection Service in Colindale on March 1, 2020 in London, England.

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This is a live blog. Please check back for updates.

All times below are in Beijing time.

6:46 pm: UK government publishes ‘battle plan’ to tackle spread of coronavirus

Britain’s government unveiled its plans to tackle the spread of the virus Tuesday, warning that up to a fifth of the workforce could be off sick during a peak period.

“Given that the data are still emerging, we are uncertain of the impact of an outbreak on business. In a stretching scenario, it is possible that up to one fifth of employees may be absent from work during peak weeks. This may vary for individual businesses,” the government said.

The U.K.’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Tuesday that in the worst possible scenario, the army is ready to step in. Johnson warned on Monday that there could be a “very significant expansion” of the outbreak among the population. Currently, there are 39 cases of the virus in the U.K. — Ellyatt

5:38 pm: Bank of England governor says its role is to help UK through ‘an economic shock’

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney has said that the central bank’s role in the coronavirus outbreak is to help U.K. businesses and households “through an economic shock that could prove large, but will ultimately be temporary.”

Speaking to the U.K. government’s Treasury Committee Tuesday, Carney, who is leaving the role this month, said the central bank is in frequent contact with its international peers, including at the Group of Seven (G-7), Group of Twenty (G-20) and International Monetary Fund. 

Carney’s comments come ahead of a conference call between global financial ministers and central bankers on Tuesday to coordinate their response to the outbreak.

The teleconference call will be led by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Tuesday at 7 a.m. ET, CNBC’s Steve Liesman reported. Representatives of the Group of Seven (G-7) industrialized nations will attend the call. — Ellyatt

5:01 pm: Germany’s number of coronavirus cases rises

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus has risen in Germany to 188, up from 157 on Monday afternoon, according to the country’s RKI health institute. Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn warned last week of a potential epidemic in the country. — Ellyatt

5:00 pm: Beijing, Shanghai step up restrictions on travelers from overseas

Two of China’s largest cities, and the province of Guangdong that borders Hong Kong and Macau, announced that visitors from countries severely hit by the new coronavirus must quarantine themselves for 14 days upon arrival. These countries include South Korea, Italy and Japan. The requirement applies to both Chinese and non-Chinese residents.

Previously, travelers who had not been in mainland China prior to arrival in Beijing did not have to self-quarantine. — Cheng

4:00 pm: Ahead of full-year results, BMW CEO advises against pessimism

The chief executive officer of BMW does not foresee any large disruptions to its supply chain this year, despite heightened fears about the coronavirus outbreak in the world’s largest automarket.

“I think China was a very peculiar situation because we had an extended new year celebration. So, a lot of citizens and also our employees stayed away after the festive season but now, dealers are re-opening again (and) our plans are working normally,” Oliver Zipse, chief executive of BMW, told CNBC’s Annette Weisbach in Munich, Germany on Tuesday.

When asked how the coronavirus might impact business in China this year, Zipse replied: “We had some impact in February, we will see some impact in March and then we will see.”

“I wouldn’t be too pessimistic for the whole year yet,” he added.

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BMW is scheduled to publish its full-year earnings on March 18. — Meredith

3:35 pm: Malaysia’s central bank lowers benchmark interest rate

Malaysia’s central bank has cut its overnight policy rate by 25 basis points to 2.5% in light of weakened global economic conditions due to the coronavirus.

Bank Negara Malaysia said in a statement that the outbreak will hit economic growth in the country in the first quarter, with tourism-related and manufacturing sectors among the biggest victims.

“Although domestic growth is expected to gradually improve in the second half of the year, there are key downside risks, mainly stemming from the evolving nature and prolonged impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, and continued weakness in commodity-related sectors,” it said. — Lee

3:00 pm: Economic growth in the Netherlands set to slow in 2020

Netherlands’ gross domestic product growth this year is expected to come in at 1.4% — but could fall below that if the coronavirus were to spread more widely and last until the second half of 2020, said the country’s main policy advisor.

“The economic impact of the coronavirus is highly uncertain,” said the CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis in a statement.

The current economic projections by CPB assumed that the outbreak is contained quickly, with limited impact on the economy. — Lee

2:40 pm: Pope Francis reportedly tests negative for coronavirus 

Pope Francis has tested negative for the new coronavirus, Reuters reported, citing Italian newspaper Il Messaggero.

A spokesman from the Vatican had no immediate comment, reported Reuters. 

The 83-year-old pope on Sunday announced that he would skip a Lenten spiritual retreat with senior Vatican officials near Rome for the first time in his papacy because he was down with a cold. — Lee

1:55 pm: Some new cases in China come from outside the country

Of Monday’s 11 new confirmed cases that were reported outside the epicenter of Hubei province, seven came from travelers returning from Italy to Zhejiang province, according to the local government.

In the past week, China has attributed six confirmed virus cases to travelers from overseas. Beijing city and Ningxia autonomous region each reported two confirmed cases from people who returned from Iran. A 35-year-old man traveling back from the U.K. was confirmed in Shenzhen and one man who worked as a waiter in a restaurant in Italy was reported on Sunday.

As the virus has spread in South Korea and Europe, local governments within mainland China have stepped up travel restrictions for those returning from overseas. — Wu

12:50 pm: G-7 is expected to issue statement on countering virus impact

The Group of Seven industrial powers is expected to issue a statement on Tuesday or Wednesday on countering the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, reported Reuters. 

In the draft statement currently in the works, the G-7 countries will pledge to work together to mitigate the damage to their economies from the fast-spreading epidemic, according to the report, citing an official with knowledge of the deliberations.

The draft does not call for new government spending or coordinated interest rates by central banks, but language of the statement is subject to change as it is still under discussion, Reuters reported. 

The U.S., this year’s G-7 chair, said the group’s finance ministers and central bank governors will hold a conference call on Tuesday morning to discuss measures to deal with the epidemic and its economic impact. — Lee

12:20 pm: Coronavirus outbreak forces China’s start-ups to rethink their priorities

The coronavirus outbreak is shaking up China’s investing industry, as companies shift their business mentalities, while others seek new opportunities.

Now, some in the industry say more start-ups are realizing the importance of having more capital on hand, while investors are assessing what trends the virus’ disruptions may accelerate.

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Investors speak generally of canceled meetings and delays in deals as a result of the virus. It’s just a slice of the ripple effects the highly contagious disease is having on the Chinese economy. — Cheng

11:55 am: Australia’s central bank cuts interest rate to a record low

Australia’s central bank cut its benchmark cash rate by 25 basis points to a record low of 0.5% and warned that the country’s economic growth in the first quarter “is likely to be noticeably weaker than earlier expected.”

“The coronavirus outbreak overseas is having a significant effect on the Australian economy at present, particularly in the education and travel sectors,” Philip Lowe, governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, said in a statement. 

Lowe added that it’s difficult to predict the extent and duration of the virus impact on the economy, given the evolving situation. But once the outbreak is contained, the Australian economy is expected to improve, he said. — Lee

11:30 am: Tencent to extend warranty for Nintendo Switches in China

Chinese tech giant Tencent said it will extend by six months the warranty for Nintendo Switches purchased in China before Mar. 31.

The company said in a statement that the coronavirus outbreak has hit sales of Nintendo Switches, logistics, promotions and user experience in China.

Tencent is a partner of Nintendo for console games sales in China, according to Reuters. — Lee

11:10 am: US state Georgia confirms first two coronavirus cases 

The U.S. state of Georgia has confirmed its first two cases of the coronavirus disease, said Governor Brian Kemp.

The two patients are from the same household, state officials said. One of them had traveled to Milan, Italy, they added. — Lee

10:15 am: Hong Kong will bring back 533 citizens from Wuhan

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, said 533 citizens currently in the mainland Chinese city of Wuhan will return via four charter flights. 

The flights will return to Hong Kong on Wednesday and Thursday, said Lam, adding that all passengers on the flights will face a 14-day quarantine upon their arrival.

Hong Kong has reported 100 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, of which two have died. — Lee

9:15 am: South Korea reports jump of 600 new cases

New cases in South Korea surged by 600 as of Tuesday morning, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It also reported six more deaths, bringing the death toll to 28 fatalities for the country. The total number of cases in the country is now 4,812.

Of the new cases, 519 were from the fourth-largest city of Daegu, where most of the country’s new cases have been reported. Many cases have been traced back to the secretive religious group called Shincheonji.

The mayor of Seoul has sued key leaders of the Shincheonji religious group, “for murder, injury and violation of prevention and management of infectious diseases,” according to a translation from NBC News. 

On Monday, the leader of the group knelt before the nation to ask for forgiveness, bowing twice, according to a Reuters report. — Tan

9:00 am: Twitter ‘strongly encourages’ all employees to work from home

Twitter said that starting March 2, it is “strongly encouraging all employees globally to work from home if they’re able.”

“Our goal is to lower the probability of the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus for us — and the world around us,” it wrote in an update.

“We are working to make sure internal meetings, all hands, and other important tasks are optimized for remote participation. We recognize that working from home is not ideal for some job functions. For those employees who prefer or need to come into the offices, they will remain open for business,” the social media firm said.

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Working from home for its employees in Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea offices will be mandatory, however, it said. — Tan

8:00 am: China reports 125 new cases, 31 more deaths

New cases in China continued to decline, according to its latest numbers as of March 2, which showed 125 new confirmed cases, and 31 more deaths. The country reported 202 new cases for March 1, and 573 new cases for Feb. 29, according to data from the National Health Commission.

All the additional fatalities in the latest update were from the epicenter of Hubei. Of the new cases, 114 were in Hubei. That brings China’s total to 80,151 cases, and 2,943 deaths. — Tan

7:50 am: WHO says the epidemics spreading outside China are of ‘greatest concern’

As cases spread across other continents, new cases in China are falling, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press briefing in Geneva. 

Outside China, the total number of cases topped 8,739 across 61 countries, including 127 deaths, according to WHO data. About 81% of cases outside China are from four countries, he added.

“The epidemics in the Republic of Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan are our greatest concern,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. — Lovelace, Higgins-Dunn

All times below are in Eastern time.

6:38 pm: Washington state governor says people ‘should start to think about avoiding large events’

Washington Governor Jay Inslee said that residents “should start to think about avoiding large events and assemblies” as the coronavirus outbreak in the state worsens. Local health officials are currently not making a request for events to be canceled, Inslee said during a press briefing. “The people should be prepared for that possibility and need to be thinking about it,” he added. Earlier in the day, Washington state officials said at least four more patients had died from COVID-19, bringing the total number of deaths in the U.S. to at least six. — Lovelace

6:35 pm: Pence says coronavirus-related travel restrictions may expand

Vice President Mike Pence said the administration’s decision on whether to expand its travel advisories for Italy and South Korea will be based on how many new cases they report. “The action the president authorized this weekend, raising the travel advisory, the American people should know we’re saying you should not travel to certain sections of Italy or South Korea. Those advisories may expand, but we’ll allow the caseload in those countries to define that,” he said during a White House press briefing. The Trump administration currently recommends Americans refrain from visiting regions of Italy and South Korea impacted by the virus. —Lovelace, Breuninger

5:09 pm: Consumers buy up survival foods like dried beans and vitamins

Consumers are shopping for more foods with long shelf lives and packaged items as the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. rises, according to the latest Nielsen data. At U.S. stores, sales of fruit snacks were up by nearly 13%, dried beans were up 10% and pretzels were up 9% in the week that ended Feb. 22, according to Nielsen data that compared the period to the same time a year earlier. Sales of energy drinks, pet medicine, vitamin supplements and first aid kits also saw sales spike. On the other hand, sales of fresh fruit and vegetables have dropped. Mandarins were down 4% and celery was down 16% in the week that ended Feb. 22. —Repko

Read CNBC’s coverage from the U.S. overnight: Seattle reports new coronavirus deaths, CDC released woman who tested positive

— CNBC’s Berkeley Lovelace Jr., Noah Higgins-Dunn, Kevin Breuninger, Melissa Repko, Evelyn Cheng, Lilian Wu, Sam Meredith contributed to this report. 




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