(Reuters) – Bars, restaurants, cinemas and schools were shutting down from New York and Los Angeles to Paris and Dubai in a worldwide effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic, as financial markets tumbled despite emergency action by global central banks.
The U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates for the second time in less than two weeks, but Wall Street opened with a dizzying plunge that set off circuit breakers. [.N]
EU finance ministers were planning a coordinated economic response to the virus, which the European Commission says could push the European Union into recession.
Leaders of the G7 countries were due to hold a video conference on Monday to discuss a joint response.
European stocks fell on Monday to their lowest level since 2012, with investors still worried about the threat to the global economy. Wall Street’s S&P 500 index fell more than 9% as trading resumed after an initial automatic 15-minute cutout. It was down about 7% by midday. [MKTS/GLOB]
The World Health Organization (WHO) called on all countries on Monday to ramp up their testing programs as the best way to slow the advance of the pandemic.
“We have a simple message to all countries – test, test, test,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference in Geneva.
In Italy, hardest-hit country in Europe, there were 368 new deaths from the COVID-19 outbreak on Sunday, a daily toll more dire than even China was recording at the peak of the outbreak that first hit its central city Wuhan.
“Many children think it is scary,” Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg told a news conference at her office dedicated to answering children’s questions about the pandemic.
“It is OK to be scared when so many things happen at the same time,” Solberg said.
Several countries banned mass gatherings such as sports, cultural and religious events to combat the fast-spreading respiratory disease that has infected nearly 175,000 people globally and killed more than 6,700.
Just a month ago, financial markets were hitting record highs on the assumption that the outbreak would largely be contained in China. But there have now been more cases and more deaths outside mainland China than inside. Tracking the spread here
U.S. states pleaded with the Trump administration on Monday to coordinate a national response to the coronavirus outbreak, saying patchwork measures enacted by state and local authorities were insufficient to confront the coast-to-coast emergency that has killed 71 Americans.
“This should be a reality where the United States is put on a war footing, where the federal government mobilizes all the resources necessary – and it begins with testing,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told MSNBC.
Spain and France, where cases and fatalities have begun surging at a pace just days behind that of Italy, imposed severe lockdowns over the weekend.
The Middle East business and travel hub of Dubai said it was closing all bars and lounges until the end of March. Thailand plans to close down schools, bars, movie theaters and popular cockfighting arenas.
“The worst is yet ahead for us,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious diseases expert in the United States, a warning echoed by officials in Switzerland, where 14 have died.
GETTING WORSE IN ITALY
Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told daily Corriere della Sera that the outbreak was still getting worse, though the governor of Lombardy, the northern region that has suffered the worst, said he saw the first signs of a slowdown.
Britain has asked manufacturers including Ford Motor Co (F.N), Honda (7267.T) and Rolls Royce (RR.L) to help make health equipment, including ventilators to cope with the outbreak, and will look at using hotels as hospitals.
The worldwide financial policy actions were reminiscent of the sweeping steps taken just over a decade ago to fight a meltdown of the global financial system, but the crisis now is forcing entire societies to effectively shut down.
Airlines said they would make more drastic cuts to their flying schedules, shed jobs and seek government aid because of sweeping global travel restrictions.
China said industrial output contracted at the sharpest pace in 30 years in the first two months of 2020.
The International Olympic Committee will hold talks with heads of international sports organizations on Tuesday, a source close to a federation briefed on the issue said, amid doubts the Tokyo 2020 Olympics set to start on July 24 can proceed.
The Jewish faithful should avoid kissing the stones of the Western Wall, the chief rabbi of the Jerusalem site said.
And Starbucks (SBUX.O) has moved to a “to go” model in all its company-owned stores in the United States and Canada, the coffee chain said, similar to actions taken earlier this year in parts of China.
Reporting by Doina Choicu in New York and Guy Faulconbridge in London; Additional reporting by Leela de Krester in New York; Lindsay Dunsmuir, Nandita Bose, Howard Schneider and Ann Saphir in Washington; Kate Holton in London; Jan Strupczewski and Francesco Guarascio in Brussels; Francesca Landini and Elvira Pollina in Milan; John Revill in Zurich; Emma Farge in Lausanne; Kevin Yao in Beijing; Jaime Freed in Sydney; Gwladys Fouche in Oslo; Kay Johnson in Bangkok and Tracy Rucinski in Chicago; Writing by; Raju Gopalakrishnan, Nick Macfie and Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Timothy Heritage, Peter Graff and Bill Berkrot