The novel coronavirus continues its spread across the globe as first confirmed infection cases were reported by Belarus, Lithuania, Nigeria and New Zealand on Friday. The number of states that confirmed coronavirus cases, has already exceeded 50.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has urged countries to assume their responsibilities to fight the spread of COVID-19, adding that the disease can still become out of control with dramatic consequences in global health and the global economy.
The World Health Organization suggests though that it is too early to declare a coronavirus pandemic. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said that the situation outside China is worrisome, insisting though that its spread can be contained if every country is ready to detect cases early.
He mentioned eight states, including Russia, which had not reported further cases for more than two weeks, the Tass news agency reported.
The situation continues affecting the economy. Key Asian indexes closed in the red, while the US stocks plunged by around 4.5%. Dow Jones lost almost 1,200 points, marking the worst one-day point drop ever. Stocks are poised for their worst week since the 2008 global financial crisis as estimated by Associated Press and Bloomberg.
Russia’s MOEX and RTS indexes fell to October 2019 levels as they opened down below 2,800 and 1,350 points, respectively.
Global oil prices also continue their decline as the cost of futures contracts of Brent crude oil for May 2020 delivery decreased by almost 3% early on Friday, with the price approaching the $50 per barrel mark. The oil price was last below that level in the summer of 2017.
In China, 327 new coronavirus cases have been confirmed over the past 24 hours, while 44 people have died. That brings the total number of infected to over 78,800, while around 36,100 have recovered, according to the figures provided by the authorities. The death toll has almost reached 2,800 people.
In South Korea, which has emerged as the biggest focal point outside the People’s Republic of China, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has exceeded 2,000 people, while 13 people have died. Hyundai Motor was forced to suspend production at one its factories in Ulsan after a worker tested positive for the new coronavirus. South Korea’s Kospi index was down over 2%.
As more than 900 new coronavirus cases have been confirmed and eight people died in Japan, the officials have announced the closures of all schools in the country due to its spread threat. Japan’s key Nikkei index dropped by 3.67% on Friday (the decline reached 4.5% during the day), while the Topix index went down by 3.65%.
The situation in Italy remains difficult, with 650 confirmed cases and 17 deaths. Russia decided to suspend train service between Moscow and the French city of Nice as the train runs through the Italian territory, starting March 5. Flights operated by Aeroflot and Alitalia from Italy to Sheremetyevo will be serviced in Terminal F, to which flights from China and South Korea have been moved. Russians have been recommended to refrain from travelling to Italy.
The number of infected in the United States has doubled as at least 33 new cases have been confirmed in California. Vice President Mike Pence appointed to lead a task force to combat the spread of the coronavirus, noted though that the risk of the coronavirus spread in the US remains low.