Asian stock markets plunged further on Friday, deepening the global financial rout as a first case of coronavirus is reported in sub-Saharan Africa.
Tokyo’s benchmark plummeted by 3.7% while Sydney and Seoul dropped by more than 3%. In China, Shanghai and Hong Kong both recorded drops of over 2.5%.
It comes after US stock markets suffered massive losses on Thursday with the Dow Jones Industrial Average recording its largest one-day point drop in history, shedding more than 1,190 points.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Thursday that the world is at a “decisive point” in the battle against COVID-19. The disease has continued to spread to new countries, spooking global financial markets.
The coronavirus has now killed 54 people in 44 countries outside China and still has “pandemic potential,” Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference in Geneva.
“If you act aggressively now you can contain this virus,” he said, urging governments around the world to follow WHO advice such by preparing isolation units and introducing health checks at borders.
“The most important thing is to calm down and do the right things,” he said.
In other COVID-19 updates:
- Stock market shares fell significantly due to coronavirus worries
- France had a significant increase in the number of cases from 18 to 38.
- Northern Ireland confirmed its first case bringing the UK total to 16
- The London Stock Exchange fell to a 13-month low amid global economic fears
- Greece, Norway, and North Macedonia have reported their first cases
- Two new cases were confirmed in England after being infected in Italy and Tenerife
- Japan ordered all schools to be closed after this weekend
- In Iran, cases climbed to 254 — including the Islamic Republic’s vice president Masoumeh Ebtekar
- Saudi Arabia banned travel to Mecca, just months before the annual Hajj pilgrimage
- A woman in California tested positive without having travelled to a zone at risk
- Facebook cancelled its F8 developer conference due to the outbreak
As countries scrambled to contain the virus, many adopted new measures. In Germany, landing cards were issued to passengers arriving from countries most hit by the virus, while Cyprus added more police and health workers at crossing points at the self-declared Turkish Cypriot state in the north.
Coronavirus reaches Africa
Health officials in Nigeria reported their first case of the disease on Friday — the first in sub-Sarahan Africa.
The patient, an Italian man, entered Nigeria on Tuesday and fell ill the next day. He is being treated at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Lagos, the country’s capital.
Meanwhile, South Africa announced on Thursday that it would repatriate Africa citizens from Wuhan “following several requests from the families of South Africans in the city.”
The government said that 132 of the estimated 199 South Africa nationals in the Chinese city have asked to be flown to their home country and that they would be placed in quarantine for 21 days upon their return.
Cases of the virus had already been confirmed in North Africa countries including Egypt and Algeria.
Cases in France double
France’s health minister said there was a significant increase in cases of coronavirus, with the country confirming 38 cases on Thursday, more than double the number reported previously.
Twelve of the newly confirmed cases were linked to two people in the department of Oise, in northern France including one patient who died earlier this week of the virus.
In France, some cases were connected to people who had recently returned from Italy. Two others had recently come back from a trip to Egypt.
Another person is in intensive care in a hospital in Lyon.
Coronavirus ‘does not respect borders’
The WHO said countries could curtail the impact of COVID-19 if they “move swiftly and contain it at the bud.”
“We’re at a decisive point,” Ghebreyesus said in Geneva, saying the virus was growing faster outside than inside China, where the outbreak began.
“Every country must be ready for its first case, its first cluster,” he said. “This virus does not respect borders.”
He added: “This virus is not influenza. With the right measures, it can be contained. This is not a time for fear, this is a time for taking action now to prevent infections and save lives. Fear and panic doesn’t help.”
Facebook cancels developer conference
Facebook said it would cancel F8, its annual developer conference held in California due to the spread of coronavirus.
“This was a tough call to make — F8 is an incredibly important event for Facebook and it’s one of our favorite ways to celebrate all of you from around the world — but we need to prioritize the health and safety of our developer partners, employees and everyone who helps put F8 on,” Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, the company’s director of platform partnerships said in a statement.
Drastic measures in the Middle East
Saudi Arabia banned foreigners from reaching the holy city of Mecca and the Kaaba, the cube-shaped structure the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims pray toward five times a day. It also said travel was suspended to Prophet Muhammad’s mosque in Medina.
Disease outbreaks have always been a concern on the hajj pilgrimage, with peopl travelling from all over the world to complete the walk which is compulsory for able-bodied Muslims.
Saudi Arabia has taken the measure as its neighbours deal with their own cases of coronavirus. Bahrain confirmed 33 cases as of Thursday morning, while Iran’s president insisted there were no immediate plans to quarantine cities as authorities try to get a handle on the spread of the virus in a country which has so far seen 19 deaths. There are also confirmed cases in neighbouring Oman, Iraq, Kuwait and the UAE.
“There are several countries that have not reported a #COVID19 case for more than 2 weeks: ??, ??, ??, ??, ??, ??, ?? and ??.
Each of these countries is different & each shows that aggressive, early measures can prevent transmission before #coronavirus gets a foothold”-@DrTedros
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) February 27, 2020