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WHO Declares Coronavirus Outbreak a Pandemic

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The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, saying cases outside China have risen 13-fold. The U.S.’s top infectious-disease specialist told lawmakers the pathogen is 10 times more deadly than the seasonal flu.

Britain announced a $39 billion stimulus package, hours after the Bank of England cut interest rates. German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to do “whatever is necessary,” and the European Central Bank’s president warned of a significant shock. U.K. cases jumped 22% to 456.

The major US markets were down nearly 5%, wiping out Tuesday’s gains. The White House is considering a stimulus package to bolster the markets and economy.

New York reported 20 more cases. The state will ask businesses to consider staggering shifts and allowing employees to work from home, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. Washington recommended that all large gatherings be canceled in the nation’s capital.

Key Developments:

  • Confirmed cases top 120,000 globally; 4,373 dead
  • Germany’s Merkel says 60%-70% of population potentially at risk
  • U.S. Treasury considers extending tax deadline
  • Fed faces debate on whether and how quickly to cut rates to zero
  • Trump plans an executive order to help the medical supply chain

Britain announced a $39 billion stimulus package, hours after the Bank of England cut interest rates. German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to do “whatever is necessary,” and the European Central Bank’s president warned of a significant shock. U.K. cases jumped 22% to 456.

WHO Declares Pandemic (12:37 p.m. NY)

The outbreak of coronavirus is now a pandemic, the World Health Organization’s top official said Wednesday in a press briefing. The long-awaited pronouncement came as worldwide cases topped 120,000 while the number of deaths exceed 4,300.

“All countries can still change the course of this pandemic,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in the briefing. “If countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace and mobilize their people in the response, those with a handful of cases can prevent those cases becoming clusters and those clusters becoming community transmission.”

The new coronavirus is the cause of the first pandemic since 2009, when a novel influenza strain swept around the world, infecting millions of people.

Washington Urges Large Gatherings be Canceled (12:11 p.m. NY)

Washington recommended that gatherings of more than 1,000 people be canceled or postponed through at least March 31 in the nation’s capital.

U.S. to Allow Tax Extensions Without Penalty (12 p.m. NY)

Individuals can ask for tax extensions without penalty or interest, Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin told reporters.

Case at Mining Conference Sparks Race to Limit Spread (11:58 a.m. NY)

The race is on to limit the spread of the coronavirus after news of an infection at an international mining conference in Toronto attended by more than 23,100 people, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

TSA to Allow Higher Volume of Sanitizer at Checkpoints (11:54 a.m. NY)

TSA will allow passengers to carry a higher volume of hand sanitizer liquid through airport checkpoints likely beginning today or Thursday.

The agency implemented a new policy Tuesday to change the swab that checks hands for traces of explosives for every passenger, citing concern about spreading the virus.

Coronavirus Seen Far More Lethal, Fauci Says (11:53 a.m. NY)

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told U.S. lawmakers the new coronavirus is 10 times more deadly than the seasonal flu.

“The flu has a mortality of 0.1%. This is ten times that. That’s the reason I want to emphasize we have to stay ahead of the game.”

N.Y. to Recommend Swing Shifts, More Telework: Cuomo (9:41 a.m. NY)

The State of New York will ask businesses to consider having employees work two shifts and allowing telework, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a CNN interview.

“This is about reducing the density,” Cuomo said. “The spread is not going to stop on its own.”

New York has 20 new cases of virus, Cuomo said, mostly in the New Rochelle area.

Hungary Declares State of Emergency, Shuts Universities (9:24 a.m. NY)

Hungary’s government declared a state of emergency, closing university campuses and banning large gatherings.

The government described the measures as unprecedented in the three decades since the fall of communism. Hungary has registered 13 cases of the coronavirus.

Cases Jump in the Netherlands, Sweden (9:20 a.m.)

In the Netherlands, a fifth death was reported, while the number of confirmed cases rose by 121 to 503, according to the daily update from the Dutch RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment. The province of North-Brabant remains the hardest hit region.

To combat the spread of the virus in Brabant, professional soccer matches in the two highest leagues in the country as well as other sports in the province, will be canceled this weekend.

Cases in Sweden rose to 461 from 326.

U.K. Unveils Stimulus (8:54 a.m. NY)

U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak says announced a total fiscal stimulus package valued at 30 billion pounds ($39 billion) to support jobs and businesses. That came hours after the Bank of England cut interest rates.

The government will fund statutory sick pay for employees of small and medium-sized companies who are off work because of coronavirus, Sunak said.

Toronto Mining Conference Attendee Tests Positive (8:47 a.m. NY)

A man in his 50s who attended a mining conference in Toronto, one of the industry’s biggest, has tested positive for Covid-19. The man went to the hospital in Sudbury, Ontario, on March 7. He was discharged home and remains in self-isolation.

More than 23,100 people attended the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada conference in Toronto March 1 to 4, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford. The man attended the conference March 2 and 3.

Trump Plans Executive Order to Help Medical Supply Chain (8:44 a.m. NY)

“The Trump Administration’s forthcoming Executive Order is a very strong first step toward increasing domestic production by enforcing Buy American requirements for pharmaceuticals and medical supplies,” Senator Marco Rubio said in an emailed statement.

Coronavirus Threatens Brexit Talks (8:42 a.m. NY)

Speaking to a panel of lawmakers in London on Wednesday, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said whether the talks will go ahead as planned is now a “live question.” “We have had indications today from Belgium that there may be public health concerns,” he said.

BOJ Likely to Ease Policy Next Week, Reuters Says (8:39 a.m. NY)

The Bank of Japan is likely to ease monetary policy next week, Reuters reported, citing what it says are people familiar with the central bank’s thinking. There is no consensus on how the BOJ will ease, but increasing the size of the bank’s ETF purchases is seen as among the most likely options, the sources told Reuters.

Trudeau to Announce Measures in Virus Response (8:35 a.m. NY)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to announce financial measures on Wednesday to help mitigate the effects of the widening coronavirus outbreak.Trudeau is scheduled to provide details of the measures at a 9 a.m. press conference in Ottawa.

The plan would include providing faster unemployment insurance benefits to people who self-isolate, more funding for coronavirus research and financial assistance to provinces for procurement of medical supplies, according to CTV News. In a tweet this morning, CTV said the package would be worth more than C$1 billion ($730 million).

U.S. Treasury Considering Extending Tax Deadline (7:50 a.m. NY)

The U.S. Treasury Department is considering extending the 2019 tax-filing deadline beyond April 15 to provide relief from economic disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Treasury officials have been discussing the idea of extending the Internal Revenue Service’s payment deadline as the Trump administration considers measures to relieve economic pressure on citizens, businesses and government agencies dealing with the impact of the virus, according to the people.

Erdogan Uses Thermal Camera (7:37 a.m. NY)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is using a thermal camera in public to keep people with fevers away after the country confirmed its first case of coronavirus. Erdogan had already stopped shaking hands with the public days earlier.

On Wednesday, staffers monitored the crowds around Erdogan during his visit to Parliament through a mobile thermal camera that picks up body heat and can detect fevers, Turkish media reported, saying the practice will continue. Earlier, state-run Anadolu Agency reported Turkey would act against 29 people for their posts on social media.

Airlines Defer Aircraft Deliveries (7:35 a.m. NY)

Battered airlines, suddenly in cash-preservation mode, are starting to defer aircraft deliveries from the planemaking duopoly of Airbus SE and Boeing Co. Gulf discounter Flydubai, the second-largest customer for Boeing’s 737 Max, is seeking to alter price and delivery schedules for its 251-plane order, worth about $30 billion before customary discounts, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Transatlantic discounter Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA is seeking to postpone receipt of four Boeing 787 Dreamliners, according to a person familiar with the matter. In Asia, Cathay Pacific Airways — a customer of both Airbus and Boeing — said on Wednesday that it’s in talks with manufacturers to defer handovers, while Malaysia’s AirAsia X has said it will hold off on deliveries of Airbus A330neo aircraft.

Australia to Unveil Stimulus Plan (7:30 a.m. NY)

Australia is planning a multi billion-dollar fiscal stimulus plan to buttress the economy from the outbreak that threatens to tip the nation into its first recession since 1991. The plan, to be announced on Thursday, includes A$1.3 billion ($849 million) in support over two years to safeguard the jobs of 120,000 apprentices. The government will also spend A$6.7 billion over four years to support the cash flow of small and medium businesses so they can pay wages during the expected downturn.

Schumer to Ask Trump to Declare National Emergency (7:07 a.m. NY)

Senate Democratic leader Schumer, along with fellow Democratic Senators Patty Murray and Gary Peters are preparing letter to ask President Trump to declare national emergency over coronavirus, Politico reported.

Declaring an emergency would allow FEMA to use $40b in the Disaster Relief Fund to assist state and local governments in their efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Politico said.

Merkel Says EU Must Work in Concert to Fight Spread (7:03 a.m. NY)

Chancellor Merkel said Germany will do whatever is needed to limit the impact of the coronavirus on Europe’s biggest economy. “We will do whatever is necessary,” Merkel said at a news conference in Berlin, a day after the 27 EU leaders held a video conference to coordinate action with European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde.

The German leader was referring to budget spending on health measures, on top of a pledge to provide ailing companies with liquidity and extend furlough pay for workers. She said she agreed with Lagarde that the situation must be taken “very seriously” and that without natural immunity against the virus, and a lack as yet of vaccination or therapy options, as much as 70% of the population is at risk.

Italy Announces $28 Billion Plan to Cushion Economy (6:52 a.m. NY)

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s government is ready to spend as much as 25 billion euros ($28.3 billion) on stimulus measures to shield the economy from Europe’s worst outbreak of the coronavirus.

Finance Minister Roberto Gualtieri said the cabinet is likely to approve a first package worth about 12.5 billion euros by Friday. The rest will be a reserve to pay for any further measures, he said in a joint press conference with Conte on Wednesday. Gualtieri said the government will ask parliament to increase the country’s deficit targets by 20 billion euros.

Cases Jump in Iran, Switzerland (6:53 a.m. NY)

Iran reported 958 new coronavirus infections, taking its tally to 9,000. Iran’s death toll now stands at 354 after 63 people died over the past 24 hours, Jahanpur said. The country earlier urged the U.S. to ease sanctions that have been preventing the Islamic Republic from importing medicines and food needed in its efforts to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

The number of cases in Switzerland rose to 645 from 476 on Tuesday, Patrick Mathys, head of crisis management at the Federal Office of Public Health, told reporters in Bern. He said the canton most affected was Ticino, which borders Italy, with 120 cases. The government said there is currently no legal basis to close the border with Italy.

In Spain, confirmed cases of coronavirus rose to 2,002 from 1,639. Deaths due to the outbreak climbed to 47 from 36.

— With assistance by Adveith Nair, Jeff Sutherland, Robert Hutton, Sophie Alexander, Jason Scott, Ryan Beene, Justin Sink, Greg Sullivan, Anurag Kotoky, Joyce Cutler, Dina Bass, Golnar Motevalli, Viktoria Dendrinou, Siddharth Vikram Philip, Charlotte Ryan, Lisa Du, Jan Dahinten, and John Tozzi

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