Stocks plunge amidst fears that coronavirus could spread more quickly in countries outside of China

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Stocks in the United States have plunged dramatically amidst fears that the outbreak of coronavirus could spread more quickly in countries outside of China.

Italy and South Korea have reportedly a spike in cases nationally leading to concern among investors of the potential negatives impacts to the global economy.

Wall Street plunged as much as 1000 points at the opening Monday and the S&P 500 dropped over 3% after European markets recorded their worst day in over three years and Asian markets closed sharply lower as uncertainty spread.

The International Monetary Fund also warned at the weekend that the epidemic could put an already fragile global economic recovery at risk.

But the World Health Organisation has sought to allay fears despite growing unease over a possible pandemic as Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesys explains: “For the moment we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus and we’re not witnessing large scale severe diseases or death. Does this virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely it has. Are we there yet? From our assessment, not yet.”

A total of almost 80 000 cases globally have been confirmed – the vast majority in China with a total global death toll exceeding 2 600.

South Korea has 833 cases with 7 deaths.

Italy has the largest outbreak in Europe with 219 cases also with 7 dead.

The United States has 35 confirmed cases with the White House expected to request emergency funding to the tune of 1 billion dollars from Congress.

Ghebreyesys added: “The sudden increase in new cases is certainly very concerning. I have spoken consistently about the need for facts not fear. Using the word “pandemic” now does not fit the facts but it may certainly cause fear. This is not the time to focus on what word we might use. That will not prevent a single infection today or save a single life today. This is a time for all countries, communities, families and individuals to focus on preparing.”

Preparation that includes the hosting of major events like the upcoming annual Commission on the Status of Women with some 12 000 delegates expected at UN Headquarters in early March.

United Nations spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric says: “It is the responsibility of the host government to ensure the proper policies and screenings are in place. We are asking people to follow the recommendations of WHO notably on issues of personal hygiene, washing hands and so forth. But it’s a bit too early to tell if it has or will have an impact on the number of delegates that we expect to see here.”

While stocks including oil prices slid amid concerns over demand especially from China whose Hubei Province remains the epicenter of this virus, gold stocks jumped 2.2% confirming its safe-haven status in times of uncertainty. And while the official line is that people around the world should not panic, spikes in countries like South Korea, Italy, Iran and several regions in the Middle East that are now reporting their first cases, is adding to the unease rather than alleviating it.