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What you need to know about coronavirus right now

(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus:

A woman wearing a protective face mask, following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is seen at a restaurant in Aizu-Wakamatsu, Japan, March 8, 2020. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Italian lock-down

Millions of northern Italians are grappling today with their first day back at work since the imposition of an unprecedented virtual lock-down of activity in the region. How will bars and cafes cope with rules banning customers from sitting closer than one meter apart? And how will authorities on the ground make consistent decisions about what constitutes “essential” travel in and out of the region? The stated aim of the measures is to buy time for over-stretched health services to ramp up their response. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte says Italy has chosen the path of “truth and transparency” in acknowledging the full scale of the crisis – meanwhile questions abound about how its near neighbors France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland will react.

Markets double-whammy

Financial markets are already struggling to understand what the coronavirus outbreak means for asset prices – now add to that the new trading turmoil after Saudi Arabia slashed oil prices and set plans for a dramatic rise in crude production. European shares this morning slumped as fears of a global recession were amplified by a 25% plunge in oil prices. Panicked investors bought bonds and the yen, which are deemed as safer assets to own right now.

“Wild is an understatement,” said Chris Brankin, chief executive at stockbroker TD Ameritrade Singapore.

“Across the globe you would have every broker/dealer raising their margin requirements … trying to basically protect our clients from trying to leverage too much risk or guess where the bottom is.”

The spread in figures

The number of people infected with the coronavirus topped 107,000 globally, according to a Reuters tally of government announcements. Mainland China, outside the epicenter of Hubei province, reported no new locally transmitted cases for the second straight day. That said, this is the second-highest number of daily reported cases since the disease began, with almost 99% of new cases reported now outside of China.

The death toll outside of China also shot up to 704 from 129 a week earlier. Almost 80 percent of those deaths are from Iran and Italy. In the past 24 hours Italy reported 133 deaths, roughly the same amount as China’s combined toll over the past 5 days.

The number of confirmed U.S. cases of coronavirus reached nearly 550 on Sunday, including 22 deaths. Older Americans, especially those with chronic medical concerns, are being advised to think twice about attending big social gatherings and going on airline flights.

Sports without spectators

The latest sporting event to be held without fans in attendance will be the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix on March 22. Bahrain itself has reported 83 cases of the virus, mostly linked to people who had traveled to Iran.

“Convening a major sporting event, which is open to the public and allows thousands of international travelers and local fans to interact in close proximity, would not be the right thing to do at the present time,” the organizer said.

Compiled by Mark John and Karishma Singh; Editing by Peter Graff

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