20 Mar UK prepares for lockdown; EU’s chief Brexit negotiator has coronavirus
7:39 pm: Spain’s coronavirus tally climbs by thousands, death toll up over 200
Spain’s health ministry said on Thursday that the total number of coronavirus cases climbed by a quarter to 17,147 on Thursday, up from 13,716 cases the previous day.
The death toll from the epidemic has climbed 209 to 767 fatalities from the previous day. — Holly Ellyatt
6:33 pm: Europe’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has coronavirus
Michel Barnier, who leads the EU’s Brexit negotiations, has said he has contracted the virus.
Announcing the news on Twitter, he said he was “doing well and in good spirits.” — Holly Ellyatt
6:20 pm: Burberry’s sales plunge 80% as coronavirus stalls luxury shopping
Luxury brand Burberry said sales in the final weeks of March would plunge by up to 80% as the impact of coronavirus on consumers, already seen in China, has spread to Europe and the U.S.
The British brand said like-for-like sales in the final weeks of its financial year to March 28 would be down 70% to 80%, and as a result fourth-quarter sales would be 30% lower, Reuters reported. — Holly Ellyatt
6:14 pm: Medtronic says it has increased ventilator production by 40%
Global medical device producer Medtronic has said it is continuing to make progress in increasing ventilator production worldwide.
The company has increased production by more than 40% to date, it said in a statement, and “is on track to more than double its capacity to manufacture and supply ventilators in response to the urgent needs of patients and healthcare systems across the globe” confronting the coronavirus. — Holly Ellyatt
5:48 pm: Number of German coronavirus cases jumps by 2,801
The number of coronavirus cases in Germany climbed by 2,801 or roughly a third in a single day, public health institute RKI said on its website Thursday.
The total increased to 10,999 cases with North Rhine-Westphalia the most badly-affected state with over 3,000 cases. Twenty people have died from the virus, the public institute said. — Holly Ellyatt
5:11 pm: UK prepares itself for coronavirus lockdown; multiple London Underground stations close
Preparations to shut down much of the U.K. appear to be in place with all schools set to close on Friday and public transport closures being introduced in London.
Up to 40 London Underground stations are closed Thursday, Transport for London announced, reducing transport services for the capital’s 9 million residents, many of whom are already working from home if they can do so.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Wednesday that tougher measures to tackle the coronavirus outbreak were being considered, saying the government was not ruling anything out when asked whether he would bring in measures to lock down London, which has seen the largest amount of cases.
Around 20,000 British military service personnel have been put on standby to help tackle the coronavirus outbreak and Queen Elizabeth is due to leave the capital for her castle at Windsor, Reuters reported. — Holly Ellyatt
5:00 pm: Abu Dhabi acts to cushion the blow of coronavirus on the UAE
Abu Dhabi is putting its development plans “on steroids” despite low oil prices and the global coronavirus outbreak, according to Mohammed Ali al-Shorafa, the chairman of the city’s department of economic development.
“One of the most important things is that Abu Dhabi as a government is continuing developing its capital investments … which was planned for 2020,” he said.
His comments come as economies around the world grapple with the ongoing health crisis. The United Arab Emirates has close to 100 confirmed cases.“It’s a global crisis, but at the same time, we have to look at what are the initiatives to enable the economy and give it that drive,” he said. — Abigain Ng
4:10 pm: European markets ambivalent toward ECB stimulus package
European markets made a mixed start Thursday despite the European Central Bank launching a 750 billion euro (around $821 billion) bond-buying program designed to help the region’s economy through the coronavirus outbreak.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 slid 0.3% below the flatline at the start of the trading session, with basic resources falling 3% to lead losses while telecoms climbed 1.7%. — Elliot Smith and Holly Ellyatt
3:50 pm: Italy’s coronavirus death toll spikes yet again as hospitals at the epicenter struggle to cope
Hospitals in Italy’s Lombardy, the epicenter of the country’s coronvirus outbreak, are reaching the point where they may not be able to treat any new cases of the virus, as Italy’s death toll rises at a record rate.
Medical facilities in Lombardy will “soon” be unable to help new coronavirus cases, the region’s Governor Attilio Fontana said Wednesday, as he urged everyone to stay at home.
Italy’s tally of coronavirus cases and deaths jumped on Wednesday; 2,978 have now died from coronavirus in Italy, 475 more than Tuesday. — Holly Ellyatt
3:05 pm: Recovery from virus-driven downturn in Asia Pacific depends on pent-up consumer demand
A recession in Asia Pacific looks certain as economic activity plummets due to lockdowns meant to slow the coronavirus pandemic, but analysts say the recovery will be driven by pent-up demand.
A recession “is now guaranteed” for the region, ratings giant S&P Global said in a report Wednesday.
It projected that growth across the region will now fall by more than half, to less than 3%. It defined recession as at least two quarters of well below-trend growth sufficient to trigger rising unemployment. — Weizhen Tan
2:05 pm: The UAE suspends entry to resident visa holders, mandates 14-day quarantine on arrival
The United Arab Emirates is barring entry to valid resident visas holders for a renewable period of two weeks, effective Thursday.
The country is also suspending all work visa issuance and visas-on-arrival beginning Thursday and imposing a mandatory 14-day quarantine on anyone entering the country, any violations of which will be prosecuted. The only exemptions to the work visa suspension apply to Expo 2020 permit holders and intra-corporate transfer.
“The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation has suspended the issuance of all types of labour permits, including for drivers and domestic workers, effective Thursday, March 19th until further notice,” state news agency WAM reported.
The UAE government has also implemented a ban on its citizens traveling overseas from Wednesday until further notice. — Natasha Turak
1:35 pm: Australia, New Zealand tighten borders
Australia and New Zealand announced tighter border controls in an attempt to curb imported cases of the new coronavirus, reported Reuters.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said all non-citizens and non-residents will be barred from entering the country from 9 p.m. local time on Friday (6 a.m. ET Friday), the report said. He added that an “overwhelming proportion of cases in Australia have been imported,” according to the report.
Meanwhile, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her country’s border will be closed to all foreigners from midnight on Thursday local time ( 7 a.m. ET Wednesday), according to a separate Reuters report. Citizens and permanent residents can still enter the country after the deadline, said the report.
Australia has reported 565 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the country’s Department of Health. Meanwhile, New Zealand has reported 28 cases, according to its Ministry of Health. — Yen Nee Lee
1:00 pm: Amazon warehouse worker in New York tests positive
An Amazon warehouse worker at a facility in New York has tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus, the company confirmed to CNBC.
The employee works out of Amazon’s Queens, New York delivery station, known as DBK1. Amazon said the employee is receiving medical care and is in quarantine.
The company said it has temporarily closed the facility for additional cleaning and has sent workers home with full pay. It’s not yet clear when the facility will reopen.
The case marks the first known incident of a worker at a U.S. Amazon warehouse testing positive for the coronavirus. On Monday, Amazon confirmed that at least five workers at Amazon warehouses in Spain and Italy contracted the disease. — Annie Palmer
12:30 pm: South Korea announces $39 billion emergency financing for small businesses
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has pledged 50 trillion won ($39 billion) in emergency financing for small businesses, reported Reuters.
Moon also said the government will help small businesses to access credit easily and cheaply by issuing loan guarantees for those with annual revenues below 100 million won ($78,000), the report said.
South Korea reported 152 new cases, bringing the country’s cumulative cases to 8,565 so far (See 11:10 am update). — Yen Nee Lee
12:10 pm: Australia’s central bank cuts interest rates, starts quantitative easing
Australia’s central bank cut interest rates for the second time this month, taking the benchmark cash rate down to an all-time low of 0.25%, it said in a statement.
Other announcements by the Reserve Bank of Australia include setting a target of around 0.25% for the yield on three-year Australian government bonds, the statement read. The central bank plans to achieve that targeted yield by purchasing government bonds in the secondary market starting Friday, according to the statement.
Central banks, governments and regulators around the world have stepped up with various measures to support their respective economies and financial markets as the new coronavirus continues to spread. — Yen Nee Lee
11:50 am: Federal Reserve to shore up prime money market funds
The Federal Reserve took another page out of its 2008 crisis-era playbook late Wednesday evening, invoking its emergency authority to create a backstop for prime money market mutual funds.
The new Money Market Mutual Liquidity Fund will provide loans to financial institutions to buy assets from prime money market funds.
It was the second program in two days to use a $10 billion backstop from the Treasury Department’s Exchange Stabilization Fund. And it was the second time in two days that the Fed invoked its emergency authority under section 13.3 of the Federal Reserve Act.
The move was another sign of turmoil inside the financial system created by the coronavirus, and it remained unclear if the constant barrage of programs from the Fed and the Treasury would be enough to restore order. — Steve Liesman
11:43 am: DBS Group predicts possible recession for Singapore
DBS Group, one of Asia’s largest lenders, said the Singapore economy is likely to sink into a recession following the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. Economist Irvin Seah said in a note that the services sector — particularly tourism, aviation, retail and trade-related industries, will bear the brunt — but manufacturing will not be spared either.
“A recession in Singapore appears inevitable, and we have revised our full year GDP growth forecast for 2020 to -0.5% to reflect the recession scenario,” Seah wrote. The city-state has more than 300 confirmed cases, but 117 people have been cured and discharged to-date. (see 7:30 am update) — Saheli Roy Choudhury
11:10 am: South Korean reports 152 more confirmed cases
South Korea reported 152 new cases, bringing the country’s cumulative cases to 8,565, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The country also reported another 7 deaths, taking the total to 91, said KCDC.
A new outbreak emerged in a nursing home in Daegu, the city hit hardest by the spread of the new coronavirus in South Korea, according to a report by Reuters. Of the new cases reported, 97 were in Daegu but KCDC didn’t specify how many of those came from the nursing home. — Yen Nee Lee
10:48 am: India’s response could include cash transfers to the informal economy
India is working on a set of policy measures to combat the economic impact of the fast-spreading coronavirus and that may include some cash transfers to workers in the informal sector, top economic adviser to the government, Krishnamurthy Subramanian said.
India has reported at least 151 cases, out of which 14 have recovered and three died, according to the health ministry. Subramanian said that tests found there is still no evidence of community spread of the virus in India. — Saheli Roy Choudhury
9:50 am: New Zealand advises citizens to not travel overseas
New Zealand advised its citizens on Thursday to avoid traveling overseas due to heightened risks of contracting COVID-19.
“We are raising our travel advice to the highest level: do not travel,” Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said in a statement. “New Zealanders who travel overseas risk contracting COVID-19. At the same time, health care systems in many countries are under strain and do not have the capacity to support foreigners.”
Peters also urged New Zealanders who are currently traveling abroad to consider returning immediately. Earlier in the day, the country’s health ministry reported eight new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 28. All of the new cases are related to overseas travel, according to the ministry. — Saheli Roy Choudhury
9:21 am: China reports 34 new cases, 8 additional deaths
China’s National Health Commission said there were 34 new cases, which it attributed to travelers returning from abroad. All of the 8 additional deaths occurred in Hubei province, where the virus was first detected.
Still, Hubei did not report any new confirmed cases. As of the end of March 18, China’s total number of confirmed cases stands at 80,928, of which 70,420 have recovered and 3,245 died. Because of the infection’s exponential spread in other countries in recent weeks, China now accounts for less than 50% of the total number of cases worldwide. — Saheli Roy Choudhury
9:15 am: Chinese firm SF Express says delivery volume up 118.89% on-year in February
Major Chinese delivery company SF Express said order volume in February rose 118.89% to 475 million yuan from a year ago while operating revenue increased 77.3% to 8.64 billion yuan ($1.23 billion) during that time. The revenue per order fell 19% to 18.19 yuan, the company said. Operating revenues from supply chain-related operations rose nearly five-fold from a year ago to 369 million yuan.
The outbreak in China had forced many people to stay indoors and they turned to delivery companies and e-commerce firms for purchases. — Evelyn Cheng
8:40 am: New York state likely has ‘tens of thousands’ of coronavirus cases, Gov. Cuomo says
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said there are likely “tens of thousands” of COVID-19 cases in the state by residents who never knew they had the illness.” An increase in testing is “revealing more cases,” he told CNN on Wednesday.
New York state is now the hardest-hit region in the United States, with nearly 3,000 coronavirus cases. Cuomo and other tri-state area officials on Monday banned all gatherings of 50 or more people and placed restrictions on restaurants, bars and other places of recreation in an attempt to slow the outbreak. — Berkeley Lovelace Jr.
8:29 am: Italy death toll nears 3,000
At least 2,978 people in Italy have died as a result of COVID-19, as the total number of confirmed cases in the country stood at 35,713 as of 6 p.m. local time on March 18, according to the health ministry. Around 4,025 people have recovered so far. Italy remains under lockdown as shops, bars, restaurants, museums, and schools remain closed while movement is restricted; the stringent measures are already weighing on the economy. — Saheli Roy Choudhury
7:55 am: London underground to be partially shut on Thursday
London’s underground system will be partially shut down beginning Thursday in the city’s bid to slow the spread of coronavirus, Sky News reported, citing the Transport for London.
Up to 40 tube stations that do not interchange with other lines will be closed until further notice from Thursday and starting Friday, the Waterloo and City line will shut completely, Sky News said. No tube or overground service will run overnight on Fridays and Saturdays, but bus services will still be available at those times, it added. — Saheli Roy Choudhury
7:37 am: Qantas will suspend international flights starting late March
The Australian carrier said in a regulatory filing that all regularly scheduled international flights from Australia, including ones from its low-cost subsidiary Jetstar, will be suspended from end March until at least end May 2020. “Some flights may continue in order to maintain key links, based on ongoing discussions with the Federal Government,” the company said.
Within Australia, there will be a 60% cut in domestic flights; Qantas also said two-thirds of employees are set to be temporarily stood down to preserve as many jobs as possible in the longer term. On Wednesday, Australia raised its advisory for all overseas travel to the highest level and told citizens not to travel at this time, regardless of destination, age, and health condition. — Saheli Roy Choudhury
7:30 am: Singapore sees record 47 new cases in a day
Most of the city-state’s 47 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection are imported, as residents returned from their trips abroad to places in Europe, North America and other parts of Asia, according to the health ministry. As of Wednesday at noon, the total number of cases stood at 313, with 117 people reported as recovered and no deaths recorded.
Infection numbers in Singapore rose in recent days, prompting authorities to step up efforts to contain the virus’ spread; on March 18, the government told residents to defer all travel abroad, superseding the previous advisory on only non-essential travel. Starting Friday at 11:59 p.m., everyone entering Singapore, including residents, will be required to complete a two-week self-quarantine. — Saheli Roy Choudhury
7:17 pm: Google is still showing mask ads next to coronavirus stories after promising to take them down
Days after Google promised to remove ads for medical face masks, promotions are still appearing next to online content related to the coronavirus, much to the ire of U.S. lawmakers.
Senators Mark Warner, D-Va., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., sent a letter to Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph J. Simons on Tuesday, criticizing Google for continuing to serve ads next to stories about COVID-19 on various sites. Federal health officials have repeatedly told the public to refrain from purchasing masks so they can be reserved for people who need them, like health-care workers responding to the crisis. —Megan Graham, Jennifer Elias
6:32 pm: Dow futures down 100 points as Wall Street’s equity rout continues
Futures contracts tied to the major U.S. stock indexes pointed to another lower open on Thursday at the beginning of extended trading.
Dow Jones Industrial Average futures dropped 100 points shortly after the opening of extended trading, implying a flat open at the start of trading on Thursday.
S&P 500 and Nasdaq futures also pointed to slight gains, though futures contracts trading can change rapidly overnight. —Thomas Franck
6:00 pm: NYC mayor pushes for ‘shelter-in-place’ order as coronavirus cases surge to almost 1,900
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he’s pushing Gov. Andrew Cuomo to approve a “shelter-in-place” order for the city as coronavirus cases surge to almost 1,900 across the five boroughs.
De Blasio, speaking to NY1 local television station, said he had a “very good conversation” with Cuomo about an hour ago.
Earlier in the day, Cuomo said he wouldn’t approve a “shelter-in-place” order for New York City after de Blasio told residents to prepare for one. “That is not going to happen, shelter in place, for New York City,” Cuomo said on The Daily podcast by The New York Times. “For any city or county to take an emergency action, the state has to approve it. And I wouldn’t approve shelter in place.” —Dawn Kopecki, Berkeley Lovelace Jr.