(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus outbreak today:
Closing U.S. borders to Europe
After being criticized for his government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out all the stops on Wednesday with a month-long travel restriction to the United States from Europe. This order does not apply to Britain or to Americans undergoing “appropriate screenings,” Trump said.
The move added to the panic and confusion, not least among those who now have to reconsider travel plans. Flights from Europe can operate to a limited number of U.S. airports with enhanced screening, but only U.S. citizens, permanent residents and immediate family members will be allowed in, severely denting the passenger base and hurting the U.S. tourism industry.
The news hit financial markets hard, with stocks diving and oil slumping, as investors were disappointed by the lack of broad measures to offset a likely fall in consumption.
No pressure, Lagarde
After moves by the U.S. Federal Reserve and Bank of England, Christine Lagarde faces her biggest test as European Central Bank president today and she doesn’t have much of an arsenal to throw at the coronavirus crisis. Expectations are high for a range of measures – more cheap loans for banks to pass on to small companies, a rate cut and perhaps even a step-up in the bank’s stimulus program.
But Lagarde, who has encouraged ECB staff to work from home if they wish to, will also stress that it is up to governments to react to the pandemic and they should use leeway in their budgets, a more powerful weapon than whatever the ECB can offer. She has told EU leaders inaction could lead to calamity on a par with the global financial crisis.
There are now more than 126,000 cases of coronavirus globally, after the World Health Organization called the outbreak a pandemic for the first time on Wednesday, and more than 4,600 have died, according to a Reuters tally at 0200 GMT on Thursday. Almost 7,000 cases were reported in the past day, far surpassing the average daily number reported in China during the virus’ initial peak.
[For an interactive graphic of the spread, open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.]
Italy saw the sharpest increase in cases, with over 2,300 in 24 hours, accounting for a third of all new cases in the past day. A total of 196 people died in Italy over the last 24 hours, the largest rise in absolute numbers since the contagion came to light on Feb. 21.
China had eight new coronavirus infections in Hubei province, the first time the epicenter of the pandemic recorded a daily tally in single digits. More businesses reopened as authorities cautiously eased containment measures.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was criticized for being alarmist when she said the new coronavirus was likely to infect up to 70% of Germans.
(Compiled by Karishma Singh and Mark John; Editing by Janet Lawrence)