Global markets slid Monday as the number of coronavirus cases surges outside of China, fueling fears that the COVID-19 epidemic may become a global pandemic. So far, the flu-like virus has been detected in at least 29 countries, now including Kuwait, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Oman. The State Department has released travel advisories to South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong.
Here’s what else you need to know:
- Italy locks down. Ten towns (50,000 people) are under military/police quarantine in Italy, which now has 230 cases and counting. Some schools are closed, and carnivals, trade events, soccer matches, and tourist attractions are closed or canceled, including in major cities like Milan. Officials have had trouble containing the outbreak because they have not identified Patient Zero.
- South Korean cases explode. The number of suspected infections jumped 25-fold in five days, to 833. The government raised its virus-alert system to its highest level and has begun restricting travel, stopping public activities, and will delay the school year start. Half the cases are connected to a cult-like megachurch.
- Confusion in Iran. A lawmaker told media on Monday that 50 people had died in Qom from coronavirus, so experts are questioning Iran’s transparency: the health ministry says there are only 61 cases in the country. State news outlets reported 12 deaths, but Iran’s neighbors are taking the situation even more seriously, with Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Armenia closing their land borders with Iran.
- Global markets tumble. As COVID-19 now threatens three major regional economies (Europe, Asia, and the Middle East), the Dow opened down 900 points (3%). European markets had their worst day since 2016.
- Alabama says no to housing cruise ship passengers. Alabama scrapped DHS plans to house evacuated passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in an Anniston, Alabama, FEMA facility. The mayor, the governor, and Alabama congresspeople were not on board. “This is an absolutely terrible idea,” tweeted Rep. Bradley Byrne. There are 35 confirmed U.S. cases.
- Chinese casualties are growing. On Sunday, the National Health Commission announced 150 new confirmed fatalities from the coronavirus, pushing the death toll to over 2,500 among about 77,000 confirmed cases.
As always, you can monitor global COVID-19 activity with this dashboard map from Johns Hopkins.