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Italy Expands Lockdown; Pandemic Threat ‘Real’: Virus Update

Bloomberg News

(Bloomberg) -- Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said he’ll move to extend restrictive measures on travel -- currently in force in the north -- throughout the rest of the country in a bid to limit the spread of the coronavirus after the number of cases soared by 25%. Cases in Spain almost doubled, and French President Emmanuel Macron called for urgent European cooperation.

The World Health Organization said the threat of a pandemic is “very real.” The Trump administration is drafting economic measures to blunt the fallout from the outbreak. JetBlue Airways Corp. became the latest major airline to withdraw its earnings forecast. Germany reported its first two deaths, and Canada announced its first, a patient in British Columbia.

U.S. stocks plunged more than 7.5% in the worst day on Wall Street since the financial crisis, as a full-blown oil price war rattled financial markets already on edge over the virus.

Key Developments:

Cases surpass 113,000 worldwide; deaths exceed 3,900U.S. confirmed cases top 600; at least 24 deathsQuest rolls out virus tests in CaliforniaU.S. warns against cruises; Two U.S. lawmakers self-quarantineSeattle’s Patient Zero spread virus despite Ebola-style lockdown

Click VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus and here for maps and charts. For analysis of the impact from Bloomberg Economics, click here.

Italy to Extend Travel Ban Nationwide (4:52 p.m. NY)

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said he’ll move to extend restrictive measures on travel -- currently in force in the north -- throughout the rest of the country in a bid to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Florida Walks Back Call for All Travelers to Self-Isolate (2:51 p.m.)

Florida walked back its call for all travelers arriving from abroad to self-isolate for two weeks over coronavirus concern.

Travelers arriving from high-risk countries China, Iran, Italy or South Korea should self-isolate for 14 days, the health department said in the new statement.

The new statement, which cited Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, also said those who had just returned from a cruise should limit interactions and pay close attention to their health.

Cases, Deaths Surge in Italy (1:50 p.m. NY)

Italy, the center of the outbreak in Europe, reported 9,172 coronavirus cases on Monday, up from 7,375 the day before. The number of deaths jumped to 463 from 366, civil protection chief Angelo Borrelli said in Rome.

Florida Urges Self-Isolation for Travelers (1:35 p.m.)

The Florida Department of Health is urging all people who have traveled internationally to self-isolate for 14 days upon returning.

WHO Says Outbreak Close to Being a Pandemic (12:53 p.m. NY)

The spread of the new coronavirus is very close to being a pandemic after the disease has reached more than 100 countries, Mike Ryan, head of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Program, said at a daily briefing.

“The threat of a pandemic has become very real,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “But it would be the first pandemic in history that could be controlled.”

Ryan said countries that shift solely to mitigation are conceding defeat and that they shouldn’t give up on containment efforts. The WHO said China and South Korea’s efforts have borne fruit, and that it hopes to see results from Italy’s recent measures in coming days.The mortality rate for people 80 and over exceeds 20%, said Maria Van Kerkhove, a WHO epidemiologist, citing figures fromthe WHO’s mission to China.

N.Y. Ordering 24-Hour School Closing If Student Tests Positive (11:51 a.m. NY)

New York state health officials will issue a joint resolution with the state Education Department mandating at least a 24-hour shutdown of any school where a student tests positive. Such a move will allow the state time to determine whether the closing should be extended, and if so, for how long, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

Port Authority Executive Director Has Virus (11:34 a.m. NY)

Rick Cotton, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, has the new coronavirus, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a press briefing.

Cotton, who tested positive after visiting airports and other Port Authority facilities, is on home quarantine, Cuomo said. The authority runs the New York York City area’s three major airports.

Ireland Set to Cancel St. Patrick’s Day Parades (11:20 a.m. NY)

Irish authorities are set to cancel the nation’s annual St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, as concern around the coronavirus outbreak escalated.

The St. Patrick’s parade scheduled for March 17 in Dublin has been shelved, local media reported, on government advice. About half a million people attended Ireland’s national day celebrations last year, with thousands traveling from overseas.

Cork, Ireland’s second-biggest city, canceled its event because city leaders said they couldn’t provide the “necessary assurances” to guarantee the safety of participants and spectators.

Italy Puts Early End to Ski Season (11:20 a.m. NY)

Italian ski resorts including Courmayeur on the Italian side of Mont Blanc and locations in the Dolomites are ending the season early by closing lifts.

Sky facilities in the Aosta Valley are closed as of Monday, while the Dolomiti Superski area said it will be closed as of Tuesday.

Skiing locations in Lombardy were already shut down as of Sunday due to a government decree. The FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Finals scheduled for March 16-22 in Cortina d’Ampezzo, were canceled on Friday.

Cork Cancels St. Patrick’s Day Parade (10:38 a.m. NY)

Cork, Ireland’s second-biggest city, canceled its March 17 St. Patrick’s Day parade event, local media reported. The decision came as the numbers of Irish coronavirus cases rose to 21.

A decision on Dublin’s festivities is expected in the next 24 to 48 hours, Health Minister Simon Harris said on Monday, adding that the government is prepared to make tough decisions to halt the spread of the virus.

Princeton Shifting to Virtual Classes, Student Paper Says (9:45 a.m. NY)

Princeton University will move all lectures, seminars and precepts to virtual instruction beginning March 23, the Daily Princetonian student newspaper reported, citing a letter from the Ivy League school’s president.

Riksbank Deputy Governor Infected (9:14 a.m. NY)

The official, Martin Floden, has been infected with the coronavirus after a visit to northern Italy. He’s feeling well and working from home, a spokesman for the Swedish central bank said.

Earlier, airport operator Groupe ADP’s Chief Executive Officer Augustin de Romanet tested positive, according to Agence France-Presse. A NATO staff member working in Brussels, who had come back from a holiday in northern Italy, has also been infected.

German Neighbors Complain About Mask Export Ban (9:05 a.m. NY)

Switzerland and Austria are upset over a decision by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to ban most exports of protective medical equipment. Switzerland has called in the German ambassador to complain, while Austria’s economy minister demanded her German counterpart order the release of supplies destined for her country.

JetBlue Pulls Guidance (8:50 a.m. NY)

JetBlue Airways Corp. said it’s withdrawing all first quarter and full year 2020 guidance, citing the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the impact on the travel industry related to the coronavirus. Last week, Southwest Airlines Co. warned that a drop in bookings will dent first-quarter revenue.

Macron Calls for Urgent European Cooperation (8:29 a.m. NY)

Macron plans to announce initiatives as soon as Monday afternoon to boost coordination on coronavirus. “I call on our European partners to take urgent action to coordinate sanitary measures, research efforts and our economic response,” Macron said on Twitter. He plans to hold a call with EU leaders on Tuesday.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire also highlighted his concerns earlier, saying Europe needs a “call to arms” to defend the already-weakened economy. Separately, The European Council President Charles Michel plans to hold a conference call shortly to coordinate EU efforts against coronavirus.

Brookfield Employee in New York Tests Positive (8:21 a.m. NY)

An employee at Brookfield Asset Management Inc.’s U.S. headquarters in New York tested positive. The employee sought medical attention after feeling flu-like symptoms Feb. 27 but the test at the time was negative. The employee remained out of the office, located at 250 Vesey Street in Manhattan, with the exception of one hour on March 4.

“He then left the office after not feeling well. He was retested and results confirmed today that he was positive for Covid-19,” said Brian Kingston, head of Brookfield’s real estate group. Brookfield is asking anyone who sat on the same side of the floor as the employee and those with compromised immune systems to work from home.

Cases Surge in Spain (8:10 a.m. NY)

As Italy struggles to enforce a lockdown, Spain is facing a dramatic rise in cases. Infections in Spain rose to 999 on Monday from 589. The cases are mostly concentrated in the capital Madrid and the Basque country, an industrial hub.

While Spain hasn’t adopted the same measures as Italy -- which has closed down all schools and imposed travel restrictions in the north of the country -- the city of Vitoria in northern Spain ordered a shutdown of all schools for 15 days to try to contain the outbreak.

Fed Boosts Repo Operations (7:49 a.m. NY)

The Federal Reserve lifted the amount of temporary cash it’s willing to provide markets as pressure intensifies for the U.S. central bank to tackle the risk of a worldwide credit crunch.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York will increase the size of this week’s overnight and term repurchase operations, according to a statement on Monday. The added liquidity boost comes just less than a week after policy makers executed an emergency interest-rate cut.

U.S. Credit Market Fear Gauge Surges (7:28 a.m. NY)

A credit derivatives index that measures the perceived risk of corporate credit surged by the most since Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008 as the spreading coronavirus and a crash in oil prices sent shock waves across global markets. The Markit CDX North American Investment Grade Index jumped 42 basis points to 125 basis points, the highest level since February 2016.

FIFA Postpones Asian World Cup Qualifying Matches (7:18 a.m. NY)

Soccer’s governing body FIFA delayed the Asian qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar due to the coronavirus. Matches originally scheduled to take place in March and June have been postponed to later dates, FIFA said in a statement Monday, adding that it will continue to assess the situation and decide if further schedule changes are needed.

China Sets up Emergency Center to Fight Inbound Infections (7 a.m. NY)

China’s Foreign Ministry establishes 24-hour emergency center to prevent coronavirus infections from overseas travelers, according to a statement. The center will coordinate with government agencies and embassies.

Iran Cases Top 7,000 (7 a.m. NY)

New coronavirus cases in Iran continued to drop, with the health ministry reporting 595 infections and 43 deaths on Monday. That compares with a single-day peak of 1,234 cases last Friday. Overall, 7,161 cases have been reported so far in Iran and 237 people have died.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, Qatar decided to shut schools and higher education institutions from Tuesday. It follows Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait where schools are closed.

--With assistance from Angelina Rascouet, Noah Buhayar, Hailey Waller, Zaid Sabah, Joao Lima, Saleha Mohsin, Jennifer Jacobs, Arne Delfs, Patrick Donahue, Tian Ying, Yasna Haghdoost, Iain Rogers, Nikos Chrysoloras, Shaji Mathew, Flavia Krause-Jackson, Dara Doyle, Chiara Remondini, Henry Goldman, Thomas Mulier and Flavia Rotondi.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Adveith Nair in London at anair29@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Stuart Wallace at swallace6@bloomberg.net, Mark Schoifet, Andrés R. Martinez

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