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

Shelf-stripping

Ice cream and chocolate Easter eggs anyone? That is all that remains on some UK supermarket aisles as panic-buying escalates. That has prompted two big chains, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, to impose restrictions on certain items: Tesco for example is limiting purchases to just two packs of things like dried pasta, toilet roll and long life milk.

Aldi meanwhile introduced outright rationing, limiting customers to buying four items of any one product during each visit. The paradox is that the stores say they have enough food coming into the system – suggesting that supplies would be fine if the panic-buyers just eased off.

$1,000 in your pocket

As the coronavirus threatens to push the global economy into recession, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is rolling out an unusual idea: handing out free money.

Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin proposed on Tuesday mailing out checks of up to $1,000 to American adults to quickly pump hundreds of billions of dollars into the U.S. economy, similar to the playbook deployed through the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008.

Economists say it could be one of the most effective measures to blunt the impact of the virus on the economy. Any such programme would need Congressional approval.

The spread

There are almost 200,000 cases of coronavirus across 164 countries and territories, a Reuters tally at 0200 GMT on Wednesday showed.

Outside China, two-thirds of all cases and three-quarters of all deaths are in Europe. The number of cases in Europe, over 77,000, is now approaching China’s total of 81,054 cases. Europe has recorded more than 3,800 deaths, around 600 more than China.

In Italy, there was a dramatic rise in the number of deaths, with a further 783 recorded in the past 24 hours. That brings the official mortality rate there close to 10%. In the absence of a compelling explanation, some experts put it down to the denominator – that is, it looks high as a ratio because the number of overall infections is being under-estimated.

(Open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser, to see an interactive graphic of the coronavirus spread)

Crystal clear

The pandemic lock-down is meanwhile having some unexpected side effects in Italy. Venice canals, usually bogged down with tourists in gondolas and motorboats are now crystal clear. Those that venture out into the city and peer down into the water may even see little silver fish swimming around.

Olympics make no sense if athletes can’t come

Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso said holding the Tokyo Olympics “would not make sense” if countries could not send their athletes. He spoke in parliament on Wednesday as a plane took off from Haneda airport to fly to Athens to collect the Olympic flame.

Athletes are growing increasingly anxious about whether the Games will go ahead or not as scheduled. Reigning Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi said she wanted to know what the Plan B was for staging the event.

(Click https://www.reuters.com/live-events/coronavirus-6-id2921484 to see a selection of curated coverage about the coronavirus outbreak.)

(Compiled by Karishma Singh and Mark John)

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