Coronavirus fears led to a historic drop in U.S. stocks, shut borders and disrupted daily life around the world, as governments took increasingly drastic measures to try to reduce the severity of the global outbreak.
Financial markets had their worst day in 30 years in spite of emergency action by global central banks to try to prevent a recession, with U.S. stock markets falling 12 per cent to 13 per cent, wiping out trillions of dollars in market value.
Financial markets, just a month ago, were hitting record highs on the assumption the outbreak would largely be contained in China and not cause disruptions beyond what was seen with earlier viral outbreaks of Ebola, SARS and MERS.
There have now been more cases and more deaths outside mainland China than inside, with 180,000 cases worldwide and over 7,000 deaths.
Canada, Chile and other countries had closed their borders to visitors.
Peru deployed masked military personnel to block major roads, while Ireland launched a campaign to recruit more healthcare workers.
Airlines slashed flights, shed jobs and asked governments for billions of dollars in loans and grants.
In contrast to much of the world, Mexico and Brazil still held large political rallies and the UK kept its schools open.
On Monday, U.S. states pleaded with the Trump administration to coordinate a national response to the outbreak.
It noted that patchwork measures enacted by state and local authorities were insufficient to confront the coast-to-coast emergency that has killed no fewer than 74 Americans.
President Donald Trump, a few hours later, urged Americans to halt most social activities for 15 days and not congregate in groups larger than 10 people in a newly aggressive effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
Trump, calling the highly contagious virus an “invisible enemy,” said the worst of the outbreak could be over by July, August or later and warned a recession was possible.
However, the U.S. was not yet closing its borders or mandating curfews or business closures on a national scale.
Many states and cities had already taken those steps or were preparing to.
“San Francisco area residents will be urged to shelter in place for three weeks starting,’’ the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
A White House adviser said the U.S. could pump 800 billion dollars or more into the economy to minimise economic damage.
EU finance ministers were planning a coordinated economic response to the virus, which the European Commission says could push the European Union into recession.
Edited By: Rabiu Sani Ali
Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said late on Monday that Turkey had 29 new coronavirus cases, taking the total to 47 since the first positive test was announced on March 11.
All 29 people had “directly or indirectly” been in contact with the U.S., the Middle East or Europe, including three who returned from the Umrah pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, Koca tweeted.
While Turkish authorities haven’t reported any deaths from the COVID-19 disease, the government has ramped up measures to ward off an outbreak.
Koca said flights to six more countries would be banned, bringing the total to 20 nations.
The latest travel ban – to Britain, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Ireland and the United Arab Emirates – will go into effect at 8 am (0500 GMT) on Tuesday.
Earlier, Turkey’s highest religious authority suspended all mass services, including Friday prayers, at mosques across the country.
Ali Erbas, the head of the religious affairs directorate (Diyanet), said that mosques would remain open for individuals, but not for group prayers.
“Until the danger of spreading the new type of coronavirus disappears, it has become necessary to interrupt prayers with the community in mosques and masjids [small mosques or prayer rooms], especially Friday prayers,” Erbas told a press conference.
The decision affects tens of thousands of mosques across the country.
The Diyanet head urged the faithful to pray at home.
Noting that one of the main tenets of Islam is to protect people’s lives, Erbas recounted how the prophet Mohammed had cautioned believers not to leave places hit by the plague and to respect quarantine instructions.
The Interior Ministry ordered the nationwide closure of cafes, restaurants, cinemas, wedding halls, casinos and amusement parks.
Also included on the list of temporary closures were indoor children’s playgrounds, internet cafes, Turkish baths, spas, massage parlours, shisha lounges, swimming pools and sports facilities, the ministry said. There was no indication of how long these measures would last.
The ministry had earlier called for bars, discos and nightclubs in all 81 provinces to be shuttered.
Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul announced additional measures, such as postponing court hearings.
The government has already closed schools and universities, and quarantined thousands of pilgrims returning from Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will on Wednesday hold a coordination meeting on the fight against the new virus and address the nation on next steps to be taken, his communications director Fahrettin Altun said.
Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim
The United States has added the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland to its travel ban on Europe as part of measures to prevent new cases of the coronavirus pandemic.
Vice President Mike Pence, who announced the new decision at a news conference on Saturday, said it would take effect on Monday at midnight (5 a.m. Nigerian time).
Pence also announced free coronavirus testing for Americans who needed it.
President Donald Trump used the same platform to announce that he had been tested for the virus himself, with the results expected in two days.
As at the time of filing this report, the confirmed cases and deaths from the disease in the U.S. had risen to 2,488 and 51 respectively.
Trump had exempted the UK when he first announced the restrictions of all travels from Europe on Wednesday. That policy came into effect on Saturday.
The total number of confirmed cases in the UK has reached 1,140, with 21 deaths – up from 11 on Friday, according to the BBC.
Pence explained that American citizens and legal residents would still be allowed into the U.S. from Europe, but would be “funneled through specific airports and processed”.
Edited By: Ismail Abdulaziz
A growing number of EU member states have signaled readiness to take in some 1,600 child and teenage refugees from severely overcrowded camps on Greek islands.
EU Migration Commissioner, Ylva Johansson said on Friday.
Seven states to include Croatia, Germany, Finland, France, Ireland, Luxembourg and Portugal were on board with the plan, which was announced on Thursday.
Johansson said even more countries are prepared to pitch in on the relocation initiative designed to ease pressure on Greece or were considering getting involved.
However, he did not name those countries.
There are more than 5,500 unaccompanied minors in the camps, according to the EU executive.
The total number of migrants living at the Greek island reception centres is 42,500, according to Greek authorities, more than seven times the intended capacity of 6,000.
EU interior ministers met in Brussels on Friday with the tense situation at the Greek-Turkish border near the top of the agenda.
They were briefed on the latest developments on the European Union’s external border with Turkey, where thousands of migrants are trying to cross into the bloc.
The home affairs officials also discussed the outbreak of the new coronavirus, which continues to spread throughout Europe.
Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have imposed travel restrictions on other members of the 26-country Schengen freedom of movement area, citing public health concerns.
The commission opposes general travel bans.
Instead, the EU executive is working on guidelines for border management in light of Covid-19, according to Johansson, which will be presented as soon as possible.
These could recommend the introduction of health screening on the EU’s external borders, or within the Schengen zone.
Such checks would be allowed under the Schengen area’s open-border rules, because they do not qualify as travel bans, she noted.
Edited By: Halima Sheji/Felix Ajide
Oil prices fell, on Thursday fell more than five per cent after Donald Trump unexpectedly announced restrictions on travel from Europe, an attempt to halt the spread of coronavirus after WHO described the outbreak as pandemic.
The slump in oil is being compounded by the threat of a flood of cheap supply after Saudi Arabia and the UAE said they would raise output in a stand-off with Russia.
Global shares also took a hit after Trump said the U.S. would suspend all travel from Europe, except Britain and Ireland, as he unveiled measures to contain the coronavirus.
According to the Head of oil markets at energy consultant, Rystad Tonhaugen, the oil market was taking the decision very negatively due to the impact on jet fuel demand and expectations for business activity and economic growth.
“It leads to further loss of confidence in governments’ handling of the fallout and increases uncertainty about the extent of the virus impact on the overall economy, reflected in sharp falls in risk assets across board,” Tonhaugen said.
The two benchmarks are down about 50 per cent from highs reached in January.
They had their biggest one-day declines since the 1991 Gulf War after Saudi Arabia launched a price war.
The six-month Brent contango spread LCOc1-LCOc7 from May to November widened to as low as $6.40 a barrel, a level not seen since Feb. 2015.
Contango is where the futures price of a commodity is higher than the spot price, prompting traders to fill tankers with oil to store for later delivery.
The cost to transport oil on supertankers soared as major producers scrambled to secure vessels to ship more crude in a bid to regain market share and buyers took advantage of plunging oil prices.
The Head of Head of MENA research and strategy at MUFG, Ehsan Khoman, said many await to see who would break first in the Saudi-Russian price war.
“We believe that both sides have enough financial capacity and sufficiently divergent goals to sustain the oil price war for many quarters, not months,“ he said.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), and the OPEC, slashed forecasts for oil demand because of the coronavirus outbreak and now expect demand to contract in the first quarter.
According to Chief market strategist at FXTM, Hussein Sayed, said if the crisis persists for another two or three months, many companies will go bankrupt, especially those in the U.S. energy sector who deal with oil price war.
Weekly data on U.S. inventories showed minimal effects from the coronavirus pandemic so far. Crude stocks increased by 7.7 million barrels, but inventories of gasoline and diesel fell sharply, as refining runs remain at seasonally low levels.
Edited By: Yahaya Isah/Emmanuel Yashim
Travellers scrambled at European airports to board flights to U.S. on Thursday after President Donald Trump announced sweeping travel restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus.
The 30-day travel order will apply to citizens of 26 European countries but exclude Britain and Ireland as well as American citizens.
The travel ban is to take effect from midnight on Friday.
Trump’s announcement has disrupted the travel plans of thousands of people and hit airlines already reeling from the coronavirus outbreak.
Coronavirus has now been branded a pandemic and has killed more than 4,600 people worldwide.
EU disapproves of U.S. travel ban, taken unilaterally and without consultation.
Edited By: Hadiza Mohammed/Emmanuel Yashim
The traditional Saint Patrick’s Day parade in New York has been suspended for the first time in over 250 years due to fears that the annual street party will help spread the coronavirus.
Saint Patrick’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Patrick, is a cultural and religious celebration held on March 17, the traditional death date of Saint Patrick, the foremost patron saint of Ireland.
Health experts have been unanimous in advising officials to call off large gatherings that make close contact in the crowds inevitable.
The parade honouring the Irish saint had been planned for March 17.
“I know this decision didn’t come easy, so I’ll make this promise: this is a postponement, not a cancellation,’’ Mayor Bill de Blasio wrote on Twitter.
Sean Lane, the head of the organising committee, also said the city would celebrate its 259th Saint Patrick’s Day parade at a later date.
Some 150,000 people annually take part in the event, which is centred on Fifth Avenue.
Participants include Irish community groups and associations from police, emergency services and the military, while up to 2 million people turn out to watch.
The cities of Chicago and Boston have also cancelled their Saint Patrick’s Day parades.
On Monday, Ireland said it was cancelling its major St. Patrick’s Day parades because of the coronavirus.
Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Felix Ajide
Europe’s top football leagues and competitions continued to grapple with the evolving coronavirus crisis on Tuesday with most carrying on but many barring fans from attending matches.
Serie A has been left in limbo with Italy in lockdown in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus.
It is one that has infected more than 9,000 people and killed 463 in the country.
On Monday the government said all sports events would be cancelled until April 3.
This left Serie A on hold and with serious doubts as to whether a gripping title race between Juventus, Lazio and Inter Milan will even be completed.
In Spain, where cases have risen dramatically in the past few days, La Liga announced that the next two rounds of fixtures would be played behind closed doors.
The French League followed suit, announcing that all Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 matches would be played without fans until April 15.
Germany’s Bundesliga is also being impacted, with this Saturday’s eagerly-anticipated derby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 to go ahead without a crowd.
“It is not a joke or about spoiling the game. This is about life or death,” Dortmund mayor Ullrich Sierau told a news conference of the decision.
Borussia Moenchengladbach and Cologne will on Wednesday be the first teams to play in an empty stadium in the Bundesliga.
In Portugal, this weekend’s games will go ahead but behind closed doors.
The Swiss League is on hold until March 23.
England’s Premier League, however, is functioning as normal, for now, with the government saying on Monday there was “no rationale” to follow the example of their European counterparts.
Several high-profile UEFA Champions League last 16 ties will be played in empty stadiums, including FC Barcelona’s second leg against Napoli, scheduled for the Nou Camp on March 18.
Other games in the competition this week —- Paris St-Germain (PSG) versus Borussia Dortmund and Valencia versus Atalanta —- will also be played behind closed doors.
Media access to PSG’s Parc des Princes stadium has been restricted to the bare minimum.
In the Europa League, Austrian club LASK said no fans would be allowed to watch their match with Manchester United on Thursday.
Olympiakos’s home clash with Wolverhampton Wanderers will go ahead behind closed doors.
The Greek club’s owner Evangelos Marinakis has tested positive for coronavirus.
Marinakis also owns English club Nottingham Forest who said they are “seeking advice” from medical experts because he visited the club last Friday.
Coronavirus is not just impacting club football.
Looming large are this year’s European Championship, being played across 12 cities from June 12.
Many nations are involved in playoffs later this month to seal their places in the tournament.
So far, none have been cancelled but several are likely to be played in empty stadiums.
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s FA said it has postponed ticket sales for the play-off semi-final against Northern Ireland on March 26.
Bulgaria’s FA announced a similar move for their clash with Hungary, while Slovakia’s semi-final at home to Ireland will be played behind closed doors.
The play-offs on March 26 and March 31 feature 16 teams battling for four spaces in the 24-team finals.
Poland, who have already qualified, said their friendlies against Finland and Ukraine this month will not have fans in attendance.
This was after the government decided to cancel all mass gatherings due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Edited By: Olawale Alabi)
European countries attempted to shield themselves from a severe coronavirus outbreak in Italy on Tuesday with travel bans and warnings, as they introduced ever stricter measures to contain their own domestic epidemics.
Austria announced an entry ban for anyone arriving from Italy, and warned its citizens against travelling anywhere in the neighbouring country, which has gone into a national lockdown to try and slow the spread of Covid-19.
The Serbian government banned foreigners arriving from the whole of Italy, as well as parts of China, South Korea, Iran and Switzerland.
Malta banned travel to and from Italy with immediate effect, including all sea and air links, Prime Minister Robert Abela said.
The ban will be in place until further notice, and is only related to passengers. Shipments of food, medicine or other cargo between the two countries will continue, Abela said.
Airlines joined the efforts to limit the international spread of the Italy outbreak.
British Airways said it was suspending all routes to and from Italy, which has seen by the worst outbreak in Europe, with over 460 deaths.
Denmark announced that flights from areas badly affected by coronavirus, including parts of Italy, would not be given permission to land, while Austrian Airlines stopped its flights to the northern Italian cities of Venice, Milan and Bologna.
German airline Lufthansa had already cancelled thousands of its services, with flights to and from Italy particularly affected. The German Foreign Office is currently advising against all but essential travel to Italy.
Health Minister Jens Spahn on Tuesday appealed for an all-hands-on-deck response to the new coronavirus in an op-ed printed in the country’s most-read newspaper.
In the Bild tabloid, Spahn called the outbreak a major challenge for us as a whole society, while stressing that the German health system was well placed to deal with the virus.
“The virus will change our everyday life. We can only do it together,’’ he said.
The outbreak originated in central China in December and has spread rapidly across the globe.
European Union leaders will hold a video conference at 5 pm (1600 GMT) to coordinate efforts to respond to the outbreak.
Germany has confirmed 1,139 cases of infection according to the latest official data and recorded two deaths.
It has reached all 16 of Germany’s federal states, after authorities in Saxony-Anhalt confirmed cases of infection there on Tuesday.
A German woman on vacation in Northern Cyprus was diagnosed with coronavirus, state news agency Anadolu reported on Tuesday, the first such case in the Turkish-administered part of the divided island.
The 65-year-old woman was among a group of 30 tourists who arrived in Cyprus on Sunday from Germany’s Balingen, Anadolu quoted the Turkish Cypriot Health Minister Ali Pilli as saying.
The entire group was placed in quarantine at a hotel in Famagusta, Pilli said.
Cultural and sporting life on the continent ground to a standstill in more places, as Poland and Slovakia joined Italy in banning all sports and cultural events. Austria said all indoor events with more than 100 participants would be stopped.
Slovakia’s measures would be in place for 14 days, the ban in Poland did not have an end date, and will cover professional football games and concerts, among others. However, theatres, opera houses, philharmonic concert halls or art galleries will be exempt.
Polish President Andrzej Duda announced he will refrain from holding large conventions as part of his electoral campaign.
The risk that the coronavirus may spread is too big. I don’t want to endanger people who come to these meetings,” Duda said late Monday evening.
In the Czech Republic, all schools are being shut and all events with more than 100 participants are being banned.
In North Macedonia, the director of a Skopje dermatology clinic is facing suspension because of reckless disregard for epidemiologic procedures, Health Minister Venko Filipce said.
The doctor returned from skiing in Italy a week ago, then went to work for five days without any precaution or testing and even held a lecture to more than 100 people before she finally tested positive on Monday evening, Filipce said on Tuesday.
The leaders of Northern Ireland’s devolved government have cancelled a planned visit to the U.S. coinciding with St Patrick’s Day celebrations, while Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar still plans to travel to Washington this week but has cut short his trip to allow more time to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
Edited By: Halima Sheji/Emmanuel Yashim
NNN: U.S. President Donald Trump said he would replace his current chief of staff Mick Mulvaney with Mark Meadows, a Republican congressman who is one of the president’s staunchest defenders.“I have long known and worked with Mark, and the relationship is a very good one.“I want to thank Acting Chief Mick Mulvaney for having served the Administration so well,” Trump said in a tweet.Mulvaney, also a former Republican congressman, served as the chief of staff for 14 months, in a tenure defined by his entanglement in Trump’s impeachment.In the role, Mulvaney was a stalwart defender of the president, but his political gaffes, including some statements regarding Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, put the president in hot water.Democrats unsuccessfully sought to compel Mulvaney to testify about his actions related to the withholding of aid to Ukraine, which was at the centre of the impeachment trial.Meadows will be the president’s fourth chief of staff. Trump said Mulvaney will now serve as the special envoy for Northern Ireland.Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)