Covid-19 “will be here for some time”

It has become obvious that the impact of Covid-19 will continue for some time, either contracting the virus or the significant impact on everyone’ way of life – months if not years.

Yesterday Jacinda Ardern said we should accept there would be a “significant disruption” to daily life from now on – “this will not leave in weeks. It will be here for some time”. Some time is obviously going to be quite a bit more than a few weeks.

As of Saturday afternoon there were 52 confirmed cases in New Zealand, with the possibility that two of the latest my have been community spread. This is significant, because if community spread is confirmed then communities (probably local at first, for example towns, cities or schools) are going to be locked down – that is, we will be asked if not compelled to stay at home.

So far 279,000 people have been confirmed infected across the world and 12.755 have died.

Italy and Europe continues to bear the brunt of the pandemic.

Reuters: Italy coronavirus deaths surge by 793 in a day, lifting total death toll to 4,825

The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has leapt by 793 to 4,825, officials said on Saturday, an increase of 19.6% — by far the largest daily rise in absolute terms since the contagion emerged a month ago.

The total number of cases in Italy rose to 53,578 from a previous 47,021, an increase of 13.9%

Italy is in lockdown and their health system is under severe strain, currently having to try to care for 2,857 people in intensive care.

Spain, France and Germany also have a large number of cases, but the death rates are markedly different, suggesting that access to good healthcare is imperative – Germany has started to take patients from France. The worst affected countries:

The full table, map and other information from Reuters here.

Good data summaries from John Hopkins University including this map:

That shows the virus spread around the world, with China, Iran, Europe and the US prominent. It seems odd to see so little in Russia but these are reported cases.

Russia has reported few coronavirus cases but a sharp spike in pneumonia

Despite its large population and hefty border with China, Russia has reported just 306 confirmed coronavirus cases. Pneumonia, however, is booming, according to official statistics.

As of March 18, only one lab, located near the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, has been able to carry out tests—and had found only 114 positive results from 116,000 tests, according to the Moscow Times. That is the lowest ratio of tests to positive cases in the world, the paper reports. A deputy in the health committee of the Duma, Russia’s parliament, acknowledged the “figures are likely a lot higher.”

As the US and EU accuse the Kremlin of sowing disinformation about Covid-19 at Americans and Europeans, some Russians are looking back at Chernobyl and accusing their government of again lying to its own people about a public health crisis.

International power playing and propaganda haven’t been halted by Covid-19.

More from Reuters: Latest on the spread of the coronavirus around the world

  • Spain said it would turn a Madrid conference center into a giant military hospital, as Europe’s second-worst outbreak claimed another 235 lives.
  • France reported 78 new deaths on Friday, taking the total to 450, an increase of 21%.
  • Germany may enforce a nationwide curfew if the country’s 83 million people fail to keep their distance from each other this weekend.
  • New Jersey’s governor was expected on Saturday to follow four other states – California, New York, Illinois and Connecticut – demanding that millions of Americans close up shop and stay home to slow the spread of coronavirus infections. The total number of known U.S. cases has climbed past 19,000 in a surge that health officials attributed in large part to an increase in diagnostic testing. More than 270 Americans have died.
  • China reported a record rise in imported coronavirus cases as students and expatriates returned home from the United States and Europe, sparking fears of a second wave of infections just as the country recovers from the initial outbreak.
    All 41 of the new confirmed cases in China were imported from overseas.
  • Indonesia’s total of cases rose to 450, with 38 deaths, a health ministry official said on Saturday. This comes a day after the governor of Jakarta declared a state of emergency in the Indonesian capital for the next two weeks.
  • Malaysia’s cases jumped to 1,183 on Saturday with four deaths.
  • Iran’s death toll from the outbreak rose on Saturday by more than 100 to 1,556, and the total number of people infected now exceeds 20,000, a health ministry official said.
  • Angola on Saturday confirmed its first two cases of coronavirus, while Mauritius recorded its first death as the virus spreads across Africa.

The news may not all be bad.

One reason for measured optimism is the prospect that antiviral medicines will beat the coronavirus; some are already in clinical trials. Scientists have hopes for remdesivir, originally developed for Ebola; chloroquine, an old anti-malaria drug; and some anti-H.I.V. and immune-boosting drugs. Many other drugs are also lined up for trials.

Even without proven treatment, the coronavirus may be less lethal than was originally feared, so long as health care systems are not overwhelmed. In South Korea and in China outside Hubei Province, about 0.8 percent of those known to be infected died, and the rate was 0.6 percent on a cruise ship.

But:

By some counts, the United States is just eight days behind Italy on a similar trajectory, and it’s difficult to see how America can pirouette from the path of Italy to that of South Korea. The United States may already have 100,000 infected citizens — nobody knows. That’s too many to trace. Indeed, one can argue that the U.S. is not only on the same path as Italy but is also less prepared, for America has fewer doctors and hospital beds per capita than Italy does — and a shorter life expectancy even in the best of times.

Sounds a bit ominous. And I hate to think what may happen when Covid-19 gets going in Africa.

eNCA: Africa coronavirus cases to rise as some undetected

Africa will likely see higher numbers of coronavirus cases in coming weeks because of the likelihood some are slipping through the net, the head of a regional disease control body said.

“We are picking (up) some people but we are also missing some people,” said John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which is a branch of the African Union bloc.

“The situation will get worse before it gets better because the chances are clear that people have slipped through.”

That’s a worry around the world, including here in New Zealand. Even if we manage to contain it and prevent community spread we will have a problem as soon as we re-open our borders. Our lives for the rest of the year are going to be markedly different to anything we could have imagined.

Just one town: Wanaka on the brink

Businesses are shuttering in the picturesque South Island town as the coronavirus pandemic takes its toll.

“The mood is pretty sombre. Businesses are laying off staff and some are closing even if just to avoid the risks posed by tourists who have not self isolated.”

Domestic tourism made up about 40 per cent of visitors to Wanaka and Helmore said they were pinning their hopes on the ski season going ahead.

The ski season won’t start for three months, if there’s enough snow and Covid border restrictions are lifted (and if we are allowed to travel internally by then).

And there’s a real chance it could be worse here already than we know – Man who tested positive for Covid-19 could not get through to helpline for four days

Tūwharetoa Trust Board has confirmed one of its staff members, Te Mahau Kingi, tested positive for the virus after returning to Auckland from London via Dubai on 12 March.

He then flew to Taupō on 14 March, self-isolated and was tested on Tuesday. His results came back positive on Friday evening.

That’s a flight into the country and an internal flight before self-isolating. And then four days wait, then another two days before tested positive before contact tracking would have begun.

I know a nurse who works in an elderly care hospital who was off work last week with flu-like symptoms. She tried to get tested but they said it wasn’t required as she had not had contact with anyone who had been travelling recently. She was allowed to go back to work.

 

Italy data shows elderly and those already ill at most risk

An analysis of deaths on Italy adds weight to what was already known – the elderly (especially over 70) and people with existing illnesses are most at risk from of dying from the Covid-19 coronavirus.

The average age of victims was 80.5 in the group being studied and 79.5 overall.

One specific problem I’ve been told about (from a health source) is that there are cases where people put on ventilators have appeared to recover, are taken off the ventilator and then die due to stress on their heart.

MSN/Bloomberg: 99% of Those Who Died From Virus Had Other Illness, Italy Says

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s government is evaluating whether to extend a nationwide lockdown beyond the beginning of April, daily La Stampa reported Wednesday. Italy has more than 31,500 confirmed cases of the illness.

a close up of a logo: Italy Coronavirus Deaths

The Rome-based institute has examined medical records of about 18% of the country’s coronavirus fatalities, finding that just three victims, or 0.8% of the total, had no previous pathology. Almost half of the victims suffered from at least three prior illnesses and about a fourth had either one or two previous conditions.

More than 75% had high blood pressure, about 35% had diabetes and a third suffered from heart disease.

The average age of those who’ve died from the virus in Italy is 79.5.

But the biggest risk appears to be age (as people get older they tend to acquire illnesses) – especially to the 70+ age group.

a screenshot of a cell phone: Threat to the Elderly

 

As of March 17, 17 people under 50 had died from the disease.

So a very low number of younger people.

All of Italy’s victims under 40 have been males with serious existing medical conditions.

While data released Tuesday point to a slowdown in the increase of cases, with a 12.6% rise, a separate study shows Italy could be underestimating the real number of cases by testing only patients presenting symptoms.

According to the GIMBE Foundation, about 100,000 Italians have contracted the virus, daily Il Sole 24 Ore reported. That would bring back the country’s death rate closer to the global average of about 2%.

So it looks like if you are healthy and under about 70 then the risks are low.

But people with existing illnesses, especially if they are over 70, are high risk.

This means that those people in particular should be especially cautious about what they do to help ensure that don’t catch the virus. Many people are self isolating to protect themselves.

Italy locked down to limit spread of Covid-19 but deaths increase

Italy is in near total lockdown to try to reduce the spread of the Covid-19 virus, with businesses and restaurants shut and streets virtually deserted. Italians have been barred from travelling to Austria.

A New Zealander in Rome has just been interviewed on RNZ, they have to stay in their hotel except for emergencies, and have no idea how long they will have to stay there.

The impact of the virus in New Zealand is much less drastic but still significant.

Reuters: Streets deserted as Italy imposes unprecedented coronavirus lockdown

Shops and restaurants closed, hundreds of flights were canceled and streets emptied across Italy on Tuesday, the first day of an unprecedented, nationwide lockdown imposed to slow Europe’s worst outbreak of coronavirus.

The government has told all Italians to stay at home and avoid all non-essential travel until April 3, dramatically widening steps already taken in much of the wealthy north, which is the epicenter of the spreading contagion.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte unexpectedly expanded the so-called red zone to the entire country on Monday night, introducing the most severe controls on a Western nation since World War Two.

The move shocked many small businesses, which feared for their future.

“It looks like an apocalypse has struck, there is no one around,” said Mario Monfreda, who runs Larys restaurant in a smart Rome residential area. Under the government order, all bars and restaurants will now have to close at 6.00 p.m.

However, the prosperous northern region of Lombardy, centered on Italy’s financial capital Milan, called on the government to introduce even more stringent measures.

This must have a massive effect on the Italian economy, as well as on the lives of Italians and anyone else stuck in the country.

The total number of coronavirus cases in Italy has officially gone from 9,172 to 10,149.

Of that number, 1,004 have fully recovered.

Italy’s death toll of 631 is the largest outside China, and the latest increase in deaths – 168 – is the biggest recorded in a single day.

So it looks like things are getting worse. It is reported that Italian hospitals are under severe pressure.

BBC: Italians barred from Austria to stop spread

Austria has announced a ban on people entering the country from Italy unless they carry a medical certificate, in an attempt to stop coronavirus spreading.

Speaking after the Italian government imposed travel restrictions across the country, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Austrians returning from Italy would have to self-isolate for two weeks.

Austria has seen 158 cases of coronavirus so far.

Austria and Italy share a border north of Italy’s South Tyrol region. On Tuesday, South Tyrol, in common with the rest of Italy, closed all cultural centres and restricted access to bars and cafes to daytime hours.

Italy’s nationwide lockdown limits travel to those with “verifiable work requirements or situations of necessity”. All sporting events have been suspended, and schools and universities have been shut until 3 April. Employees have been urged either to work from home or take annual leave.

In other parts of Europe:

  • Spain has reported 1,622 cases, almost half in the Madrid area, and all Spanish sport is to be played behind closed doors until April, including La Liga matches
  • Several German states are imposing restrictions. Bavaria will ban events involving more than 1,000 people
  • Denmark has recommended avoiding public transport during the rush hour and banned planes from landing from Northern Italy, part of Austria, Iran and areas of South Korea and China
  • Czech schools will shut from Wednesday and authorities are looking for dozens of customers of a Czech Uber driver who tested positive for the virus

After a big drop Tuesday the US sharemarket has recovered slightly (0.41%) so far on their Wednesday, but the virus is still a problem there.

Reuters: ‘This is likely to get worse’: U.S. public health official

The U.S. coronavirus outbreak is likely to get worse, the country’s top public health official said, and Americans should assess their personal circumstances when deciding whether to cancel travel plans or avoid public gatherings.

The number of cases of the highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the virus has risen steadily in the United States this week, stoking concerns of a health and economic crisis that could pummel workers and companies.

And the number of cases may be under-detected.

Health officials in New York state and other parts of the country hard hit by the coronavirus have complained about a shortage of testing capacity.

Trump was heading to Capitol Hill on Tuesday afternoon to discuss what action should be taken. During the White House meeting he said the administration intended to also help airlines and the cruise line industry.

After reaching some of his best poll results approval of Trump is taking a bit of a hit.

This sort of communication is typical of trump, but facing a serious health crisis people may not be as forgiving as they have been.

In New Zealand things seem under control as far as the virus goes, but there are concerns about business, employment and the economy.

Newsroom: Covid-19 the crisis that could allow debt rule breach

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said for the first time today that the global Covid-19 economic drama that worsened substantially overnight could be the crisis situation that could trigger the exemption clause in the Government’s much-discussed Budget Responsibility Rules. He suggested today that Covid-19, which crashed stock markets overnight, could have passed that threshold to be the ‘out clause’ in the BRRs.

That would be justified.

Newsroom: Govt locks down travel amid Covid-19 fears

A wave of ministries and DHBs are scrambling to put in place travel policies that have been vetted by health experts and approved by staff and unions as the global Covid-19 crisis worsens. While some say they are sticking to advice from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, others have struck out on their own with unique policies.

A Ministry of Health spokesperson told Newsroom that “Ministry of Health employees have been advised that any non-essential international business travel to or through Covid-19 countries of concern should be postponed or cancelled”.

Auckland DHB told staff in a memo on Thursday that it would be restricting overseas travel. Now, Canterbury has joined Auckland, Counties Manukau and Waitematā in slapping a ban on “non-essential international [business] travel” and recommending that staff “consider carefully any private international travel”.

Newsroom: Businesses fear late and weak response

As the Government touts a “targeted approach” to a worsening economy, businesses and economists are starting to say the Government just needs to spend. Sometimes a broad brush approach that slops around plenty of cash is better at helping everyone than targeting and means-testing those with the most obvious and provable problems.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced yesterday the Government was working on a business continuity package that would include a wage subsidy for affected businesses with possible working capital support.

survey of Retail NZ members showed 60 percent of their members have already been negatively affected by Covid-19. It noted an average 15 percent decrease in sales through its members’ outlets.

Most of those affected retailers (70 percent) expected to have cashflow difficulties as a result of the Covid-19 situation.

While the flow-on effects for the tourism sector have been well-documented, Covid-19 has also changed the behaviour of consumers in unpredictable ways.

Auckland Business Chamber Chief Executive Michael Barnett said the Government needed to get its hands dirty, not be afraid to make mistakes, and start pushing money into businesses to prevent them from folding up or shedding staff.

Infometrics economist Brad Olsen argued there was a growing case for a “supercharged” policy response that overshot the mark.

“At the moment we’ve been quite a long time without having inflation return to its 2 percent band that we normally target,” Olsen said.

First Retail group managing director Chris Wilkinson said indicators from clients were that Covid-19 had changed retail spending patterns and that there had been a “significant” growth in online spending.

He said there was a lack of strong leadership around Covid-19 that had left businesses to make their own decisions which, while in their own interests, might not be in the interests of the wider economy.

Stuff: Recession plans under way

It’s “now certain” that the economic impact of coronavirus will ripple through NZ’s economy for the rest of the year, says government.

The Government is designing a stimulus package in case the economic shock spurred by Coronavirus turns into a recession.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson, in a sit down interview with Stuff, said that while he isn’t forecasting a recession, the nation’s top bureaucrats have been tasked with preparing a macroeconomic package in case it is required.

“We’re not predicting it still, but we directed officials yesterday [Monday] to pull together a macro-economic package that would recognise that we were moving into a sustained global downturn,” Robertson said.

Robertson keeps playing it down some have predicted a recession seems inevitable in New Zealand and world-wide, for obvious reasons.

It’s hard to predict what impact all this will have on us as individuals. The virus seems contained, but the effects of the virus could be significant and for some time.

There were no new Beehive announcements on the virus yesterday, after saying on Tuesday that the details of a Business Continuity Package are ” now being worked through”.

Covid-19 up, markets down, down, down

The Covid-19 virus is getting worse in some places, especially Italy but it is also getting a hold in Spain.

And following a bad week on sharemarkets in the last two weeks there are even bigger drops this week, with the Dow Jones slumping.

At the same time oil prices have crashed by more than 20%.

The spread of the virus seems under control in New Zealand for now, but the economic effects are significant with Air New Zealand scaling back operations and many businesses under stress.

We may benefit from plunging oil prices, but our stock market (and Kiwisaver investments) is suffering, and it is likely to follow \world markets down and get worse today.

And problems around the world are much worse, especially currently in Italy where they are shutting down a lot of the country to try and stop the virus spreading.

Reuters: EU seeks to tackle coronavirus as Italy locks down north, prisoners riot

EU leaders will seek a coordinated response to the coronavirus after global markets plunged on Monday and Italy sealed off much of its industrial north, where six prisoners were killed in a riot over curbs on visits.

Joining the global rout, triggered by a 22% slump in oil prices, Wall Street’s main share indexes dropped 7% and the Dow Jones Industrials crashed 2,000 points – which would be its biggest ever one-day ever if there is no recovery by the close.

More than 110,000 people have been infected in 105 countries and territories, and 3,800 have died, the vast majority in mainland China, according to a Reuters tally.

With Italy’s economy already on the brink of recession, bars and restaurants in Lombardy were ordered to close or to restrict entry and maintain a distance of at least a meter between people on their premises.

Major sporting events in Italy, including top-flight Serie A football, will be played without spectators for a month.

This must have a major impact in the Italian economy. And the virus is spreading in Spain.

In Spain, schools were closed in the town of Labastida near Vitoria in the Basque country after nearly 150 cases of coronavirus were identified in the region.

Spain has reported 999 cases in all, most of them in two areas around Madrid and around Vitoria in the north. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said it had prepared an emergency plan to deal with the economic consequences of the virus.

It is improving in regions that were first hit.

China and South Korea, Asia’s second-worst-hit country, both reported a slowdown in new infections.

Mainland China, outside Hubei province, center of the outbreak, reported no new locally transmitted coronavirus cases for the second day on Monday, but a top Communist Party official warned people against dropping their guard.

South Korea reported 165 new coronavirus cases, bringing the national tally to 7,478, while the death toll rose by one to 51.

The New Zealand Government is rolling out economic measures.

Beehive: Cabinet approves Business Continuity Package in response to COVID-19

Cabinet today approved the development of a Business Continuity Package to help support the economy through the disruption caused by COVID-19.

The Business Continuity Package includes:

  • a targeted wage subsidy scheme for workers in the most adversely affected sectors.
  • training and re-deployment options for affected employees; and
  • working with banks on the potential for future working capital support for companies that face temporary credit constraints;

As part of the package:

  • The Treasury and IRD have been directed to develop tax policy options in line with the goal of reducing the impact for affected businesses, to support businesses to maintain operational continuity.
  • The Treasury and MSD have been directed to develop policy options to support households to maintain incomes and labour market attachment.

The detail of this package is now being worked through. It will be discussed again at the Cabinet COVID-19 committee on Wednesday, and the Government expects to be in a position to make further detailed announcements next week.

So a bit of dabbling so far.

“New Zealand is well-placed to respond to COVID-19. We have been running surpluses and our net debt position at 19.5% of GDP is well below what we inherited, and well below other countries,” Finance Minister Grant Robertson says.

But if world markets crash they will drag us down, and that could have a major impact.

Newshub: BNZ becomes first major New Zealand bank to predict a recession

BNZ is now using the much-dreaded R-word, saying it’s more than likely there’ll be a recession this year.

“Everyone sort of panics when they hear the word recession,” BNZ head of research Stephen Toplis said. “It’s like the whole world’s going to fall in.

That may be happening now.

CNBC: Oil nosedives as Saudi Arabia and Russia set off ‘scorched earth’ price war

Oil prices fell through the floor in early trading Monday, tanking as much as 30% after Saudi Arabia slashed its crude prices for buyers. The kingdom is reportedly preparing to open the taps in an apparent retaliation for Russia’s unwillingness to cut its own output.

  • Oil prices are down nearly 50% for the year after OPEC+ talks collapsed and Saudi Arabia announced slashed prices in an apparent price war with Russia.
  • With previously agreed OPEC+ production cuts expiring at the end of March, Saudi Arabia and Russia can theoretically pump as much crude as they want.
  • An oil price war will have massive geopolitical consequences, pummeling markets already shaken by the new coronavirus, COVID-19.

Reuters: Wall Street pounded by oil crash, virus fears

Wall Street’s main stock indexes plummeted about 5% on Monday, as a slump in oil prices and the rapid spread of the coronavirus amplified fears of a global recession on the anniversary of the U.S. stock market’s longest bull run.

The energy .SPNY index plunged 18.2% to its lowest level since August 2004 and crude prices were on track for their worst day in three decades as Saudi Arabia and Russia moved to significantly ramp up production after the collapse of a supply cut agreement. [O/R]

Companies listed on the S&P 500 have now lost more than $5 trillion in value in a sell-off sparked by fears that the coronavirus epidemic could tip the global economy into recession.

That report is out of date, Wall Street has got progressively worse through the day, with several trading haalts to try to pause the slide.

At 2:15 pm Monday in New York the Dow Jones is down 7.3% for the day.

The NZX already dropped 2.94% in Monday trading and will be affected by international markets today. All we can do is wait and see what happens.

And all the New Zealand Government can do is try to limit the damage here, but the may be chasing a bear.

 

Covid-19 concerns but so far seems under control in NZ

There are obvious concerns about the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus (I don’t think I heard of a ‘coronavirus’ until about a month ago) around the world, but so far at least it seems largely contained here in New Zealand.

It started and surged in China, got a hold in South Korea, Iran and Italy, and is getting worse in the United States, but so far there are only two confirmed cases here, both imported by New Zealand citizens. One was someone returning from Iran via Bali (now in hospital), the other returning from Italy via Singapore (now in isolation at home).

There’s a chance that these two may have spread the virus after returning, but that is being checked out and precautions are being taken.

One problem is that most people who get the virus only experience mild to meduim flu-like symptoms and may not get checked for Covid-19, so it could be quietly spreading. Or it may be limited and under control.

There has been an impact on businesses in New Zealand and will impact on finances for some time regardless of how many get the virus here.

However international risks increase, especially from the US.

Reuters: Coronavirus hits New York family, U.S. cases rise; lawmakers near emergency funds deal

Three family members and a neighbor of a New York man infected with the new coronavirus have also tested positive, officials said on Wednesday, and the number of cases increased across the United States.

The latest data here from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) listed 129 confirmed and presumed cases in the United States from the previous 108.

The cases were 80 reported by public health authorities in 13 states plus 49 among people repatriated from abroad, according to the CDC website. North Carolina became the 13th state to report a case on Tuesday.

Nine people have died in the Seattle area, health officials said. Of the 27 cases documented as of Tuesday in Washington state in the Pacific Northwest, nine were connected to a long-term nursing-care facility in a Seattle suburb.

Reuters: Fragile safety net leaves U.S. economy vulnerable to coronavirus hit

Economists worry that a large number of quarantined workers could sharply curb consumer spending, the pillar of the U.S. economy, and further widen the gap between the affluent and a working class that already struggles to pay the bills.

I know someone who has had a business trip to the US delayed due to concerns about the virus.

US sharemarkets plummeted last week, but recovered a bit at thee start of this week and now Wall Street surges after Biden’s surprise Super Tuesday lead

I wonder who Trump will blame that on, or maybe he will claim the credit.

Trump has been busy on twitter jeering at Democrat candidates who are dropping out (and also past allies like Jeff Sessions: “This is what happens to someone who loyally gets appointed Attorney General of the United States & then doesn’t have the wisdom or courage to stare down & end the phony Russia Witch Hunt. Recuses himself on FIRST DAY in office, and the Mueller Scam begins!”

Sport around the world has been impacted by the virus, with doubts about the Olympics.

Reuters: Japan coronavirus cases hit 1,000 mark as Tokyo insists Olympics on track

Japan’s confirmed coronavirus infections rose above 1,000 on Wednesday, most of them from a quarantined cruise liner, as Olympics organizers dismissed speculation that the Tokyo Summer Games could be canceled.

The virus is spreading worldwide, with South Korea, Europe and Iran hit hard, and several countries have reported their first confirmed cases, taking the total to some 80 nations hit with the flu-like illness that can lead to pneumonia.

The number of cases in mainland China, where the outbreak originated in December, has reached 80,270, while the death toll had risen by 38 to 2,981 by March 3.

There have been more than 125 deaths outside China.

The new cases in Japan pushed the total over 1,000, according to Reuters calculations – 706 are from the Diamond Princess cruise liner, which has been quarantined for weeks off Yokohama.

World Health Organisation: Coronavirus disease (COVID-2019) situation reports

SITUATION IN NUMBERS
total and new cases in last 24 hours

Globally
90 870 confirmed (1922 new)

China
80 304 confirmed (130 new)
2946 deaths (31 new)

Outside of China
10 566 confirmed (1792 new)
72 countries (8 new)
166 deaths (38 new)

WHO RISK ASSESSMENT
China Very High
Regional Level Very High
Global Level Very High

All we can do here is hope that the virus is contained here, which will be a challenge given how interconnected the world is now.


UPDATE:

That person seems likely to be connected to one of the two already confirmed to have the virus.

Covid-19 virus and effects spread around the world

Yesterday the Dow Jones dropped 1000 points (over 3%) and early Tuesday it is down another 1%, The NZX50 dropped a further 1.18% on Tuesday.other markets around the world are also down.

Fears and effects of the Covid-19n coronavirus are cited as drivers of the drops. Airlines and tourism in particular have already been significantly affected.

RNZ: Counting the cost of Covid-19s local impact

Hundreds of millions of dollars is likely to be shaved off the value of the economy for the first quarter, with estimates currently between 0.3 and 0.6 percentage points less than pre-virus forecasts.

The International Monetary Fund sees the virus as the biggest threat to the global economy.

Nearly every part of New Zealand’s economy is affected by the outbreak – but particularly exporters and importers who are largely dependent on the Chinese market.

About 50,000 Chinese visitors came through New Zealand’s arrivals gate in February last year, but that traffic has all but disappeared with New Zealand’s border closed to the travellers.

Retail NZ have reported about a third of its members say they are putting up to 30 percent less through their tills, cutting back on forward orders and dropping back staff hours.

Tertiary institutes stand to lose more than $100 million if students from China could not make it to class.

The list goes on, Millennium & Copthorne Hotels New Zealand Limited said it expected to lose up to $3 million in last minute cancellations.

Auckland Airport was in the same boat, with 45 return services to Mainland China reduced to eight, almost overnight. It downgraded its earnings by $5 million.

And to top it off, the primary sector was also dealing with a significant drought.

Silver Fern Farms chief executive Simon Limmer said it was the perfect storm.

The virus is not the only problem but is adding to other problems.

The virus increases it’s spread around the world.

RNZ – Coronavirus: Iran’s deputy health minister tests positive as outbreak worsens

Iran’s deputy health minister and an MP have both tested positive for the new coronavirus disease, as it struggles to contain an outbreak that has killed 15.

They have reported 95 cases, but the actual number is thought to be higher.

The director general of the World Health Organization (WHO) has said the sudden increase in cases in the country is “deeply concerning”.

More people have died in Iran from the virus than anywhere else outside China.

It is one of three global hot-spots causing great concern among health experts that the virus could be developing into a pandemic. The others are South Korea and northern Italy, where cases have surged in recent days.

On Tuesday an MP from the Iranian capital Tehran, Mahmoud Sadeghi, also said he had tested positive for the virus.

More than 80,000 cases of the Covid-19 respiratory disease have been reported worldwide since it emerged last year. About 2,700 patients have died – the vast majority in China.

Reuters: Coronavirus isolates Iran, strains South Korea, Italy

Iran’s coronavirus death toll rose to 16, the most outside China, heightening its international isolation as dozens of nations from South Korea to Italy accelerated emergency measures to curb the epidemic’s global spread.

Beyond mainland China, however, it has jumped to about 29 countries and territories, with some three dozen deaths, according to a Reuters tally. Growing outbreaks in Iran, Italy and South Korea are of particular concern.

A minor local impact – I was in a Dunedin pharmacy yesterday and they had a sign on their counter saying ‘We are out of stock of face masks, try again next week’.

Weakened Merkel forced to backtrack on illegal immigration

Angela Merkel was always going to have a challenge managing a coalition government that took months to form, and relies on the agreement of several diverse parties.

The contentious issue of illegal immigration put the three month old coalition at threat of collapse, but that was averted with an agreement that will toughen up significantly on cross-border migration, if the agreement holds together. It meanbs setting up transit camps on the Austrian border.

Reuters: Merkel to fight another day after settling migration row

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives settled a row over migration that threatened to topple her fragile governing coalition late on Monday evening after talks with her rebellious interior minister led him to drop his threat to resign.

Emerging after five hours of talks, Horst Seehofer, leader of Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU), told reporters he would remain in his post after a deal with Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) that he said would stem illegal immigration.

“After intensive discussions between the CDU and CSU we have reached an agreement on how we can in future prevent illegal immigration on the border between Germany and Austria,” Seehofer said as he left the CDU’s Berlin headquarters.

The deal, which brought Merkel’s government to the brink of collapse just three months after it was formed, keeps her in office. But the woman who has dominated European politics for 12-1/2 years appears greatly diminished, raising questions over whether she will serve out her term.

NY Yimes: Merkel, to Survive, Agrees to Border Camps for Migrants

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who staked her legacy on welcoming hundreds of thousands of migrants into Germany, agreed on Monday to build border camps for asylum seekers and to tighten the border with Austria in a political deal to save her government.

It was a spectacular turnabout for a leader who has been seen as the standard-bearer of the liberal European order but who has come under intense pressure at home from the far right and from conservatives in her governing coalition over her migration policy.

Although the move to appease the conservatives exposed her growing political weakness, Ms. Merkel will limp on as chancellor. For how long is unclear. The nationalism and anti-migrant sentiment that has challenged multilateralism elsewhere in Europe is taking root — fast — in mainstream German politics.

Ms. Merkel agreed to the latest policy after an insurrection over migration policy led by her interior minister, Horst Seehofer, threatened to bring down her coalition.

It’s tough when in a tenuous coalition one of your own ministers threatens to bring it down if they don’t get their way.

The new policy still needs to be approved by the third part in the coalition, the Social Democrats, and also needs to be accepted by Austria, so it isn’t a done deal yet.

It would establish camps, called “transit centers,” at points along the border. Newly arriving migrants would be screened in the centers, and any determined to have already applied for asylum elsewhere in the European Union would be turned back.

Administration aside this this may reduce Germany’s immigration problems but it won’t make them go away – the flood is still in Europe, Germany is just blocking a few holes in the dyke.

Under Ms. Merkel, Germany has been a bulwark against the rise of the far right in Europe and the increasing turn against migrants. Even as neighboring countries turned away those fleeing war and strife in the Middle East, she has welcomed more than a million since 2015, and lobbied for a collective European solution.

Since then the number of new migrants has dropped to a fraction of what it was three years ago. But the good will has been eroding as Germany has struggled to absorb those already in the country.

While migration has reduced significantly concerns over what has already happened and is still happening has grown.

This is a huge ongoing problem for Germany and for Europe.

A new government in Italy is also trying to deal with illegal immigration – Migration crisis: Italy’s threats a plea for help

As migration to Europe surges, Italy has issued threats against aid organizations assisting refugees in the Mediterranean.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), an agency that cooperates with the UN, 85,000 migrants fled to Italy from North Africa by boat in the first half of 2017. That figure is 19 percent higher than the one for the first half of last year. And according to IOM, the high point of the “season” hasn’t even been reached yet.

All of the EU’s attempts to reduce the number of migrants have failed so far. The official aim of the EU is to close off the Mediterranean route, as well as the route between Turkey and Greece, as much as possible.

Almost half of those refugees who have been rescued were saved not by EU ships but by private boats being operated by one of the 10 private aid organizations patrolling the area.

Italy now wants to control the work of aid organizations more closely and is preparing new procedures and new rules of conduct. Missions by Frontex and the NGOs have so far been coordinated by the Italian navy. They have accused individual employees of switching off their ships’ transponders.

Without the transponders automatically indicating the position of their vessels, these individuals then allegedly travel to Libyan waters, where they pick up migrants from inflatable boats and rotten wooden cages.

Now, Italy is threatening to close its ports to NGO ships with migrants on board.

Interior ministers from France and Germany have promised Italy more support.

The deeper problem, namely the failed redistribution of refugees to other EU countries, has still not been solved despite two years of dialog.

Illegal migration has become a huge problem for Europe, with no easy solutions.

Immigration issues in New Zealand are tiny in comparison. Being isolated in a remote part of the southern Pacific Ocean makes us hard to get to and relatively easy to police.

 

Berlin attack suspect shot in Italy

Anis Amri, the suspect in the Berlin truck attack, has been shot dead by Italian police after travelling to Italy via France.

Reuters: Berlin truck attack suspect shot dead by police in Italy

Italian police shot dead the man believed responsible for this week’s Berlin Christmas market truck attack, killing him after he pulled a gun on them during a routine check in the early hours of Friday.

The suspect – 24-year-old Tunisian Anis Amri – traveled to Italy from Germany via France, taking advantage of Europe’s open-border Schengen pact to cross the continent undetected.

Open borders are great for tourists, but one can still be detected – in my only visit to France I walked across the border in Basel railway station, got on a French train, and soon after leaving the station I was asked for my passport by a posse of French security working their way through the train. I don’t know if this is normal or random.

As anger grew over the fact that Amri had escaped expulsion twice in 18 months thanks to bureaucratic loopholes, euroskeptic parties called for the reintroduction of border controls, while Germany said deportations had to be made easier.

From what I’ve seen it was a difficult ‘loophole’ to overcome as German authorities couldn’t prove Amri’s Tunisian citizenship so Tunisia wouldn’t have allowed him in. They can’t deport someone with nowhere for them to go.

“I call on my Muslim brothers everywhere… Those in Europe, kill the crusader pigs, each person to their own ability,” he says in the video posted on Islamic State’s Amaq news agency.

The video of Amri’s video is in the Reuters link. It sounds like recited boilerplate bull typical of Muslim extremists.

Amri had arrived in Milan’s main railway station from France at 1.00 a.m. (2000 EDT) and then traveled to the working class suburb of Sesto San Giovanni, where two young policemen approached him because he looked suspicious idling on a street.

Milan police chief Antonio De Iesu told a news conference his men had no idea that they might be dealing with Amri.

“They had no perception that it could be him, otherwise they would have been much more cautious,” De Iesu said. “We had no intelligence that he could be in Milan.”

So a lucky encounter for the Italian police…

He failed to produce any identification so the police requested he empty his pockets and his small backpack. He pulled a loaded gun from his bag and shot at one of the men, lightly wounding him in the shoulder.

Amri then hid behind a nearby car but the other police officer managed to shoot him once or twice, killing him on the spot, De Iesu said. Amri was identified by his fingerprints.

…and lucky for the world as it turns out.

Amri once spent four years in jail in Italy and police were trying to work out if he knew someone in Sesto, which is home to a sizeable Muslim community. “He could have carried out other attacks. He was a loose cannon,” De Iesu said.

So Amri was well known to Italian as well as German authorities.

A lot will be asked and said about why Amri still had the opportunity to carry out the truck attack in Berlin.

A problem for a number of European countries is the large number of illegal immigrants who have travelled across the Mediterranean, and that flood continues via boat.

It would be a huge job to identify and detain them all, let alone work out where they could be deported to, especially if they are suspected of having links extremist organisations.

Even if they can be sent back to their country of origin unless they are detained indefinitely there they can probably find another boat to take them back to Europe. And it’s a worsening problem.

Financial Times reports:

Nearly 15,000 people have made the dangerous crossing from north Africa to Italian shores in the first three months of 2016, which is a 43 per cent increase on the same period in 2015, and a 38 per cent increase on the same period in 2014.

The vast majority of migrants arriving in Italy recently are from sub-Saharan Africa — Nigerians, Gambians and Senegalese are the largest nationalities to arrive in Italy in 2016 — and are not automatically eligible for international protection. This means they cannot qualify for the EU’s relocation programme, which applies to Syrians and Eritreans fleeing war and persecution, redistributing them to other EU countries. Many are likely to have their initial asylum applications rejected and will be stuck in legal limbo in Italy for months, until a final ruling is made.

In the past, Italy could count on many undocumented migrants moving on to northern Europe, taking advantage of the EU’s passport-free travel zone. But since Austria has said it will step up checks along the Italian border and limit the number of refugees allowed to enter, migrants are more likely to remain boxed in south of the Alps. France, too, is expected to further intensify its own border controls, in response to terrorist attacks in Brussels and Paris.

There will be pressure on Germany to try to clamp down on illegal immigrants entering there too.

But there is already a huge problem scattered across Europe. Random attacks as happened in Berlin will be very difficult to prevent. Public events like the Berlin markets and the Bastille Day celebrations in Nice must be able to continue.

Risks are still relatively tiny to members of the public, but small terrorist attacks are designed to inflict maximum fear – and maximum loathing. This is nothing new, but what is relatively new is how quickly and graphically news of attacks spreads around the world.

There are no easy solutions.

Western nations with colonist histories ending their meddling in the Middle East must be a serious consideration because it is one of the primary causes. And not supplying Middle Eastern countries with weapons and bombs would help a lot. But that gets complicated, with Russia being also heavily involved in the current destruction.

One thing that would reduce interference in the Middle East would be to substantially reduce demand for oil.

But the arms and oil industries have very strong lobbies in the US and in Europe. Power and greed perpetuate death and destruction, and the occasional terrorist attack is a price that will continue to be paid.

Brexit a further blow to Italian banks

The domino effect of the UK Brexit vote could topple European countries already under a lot of pressure.

Italian banks had already been struggling, but the market slump post Brexit has dumped on them even more.

Bloomberg: Italy Explores Bank-Rescue Options With EU on Brexit Losses

The Italian government, which failed to gain European Union backing for a bad bank just months ago, is sounding out regulators on ways to shore up its banks after their shares were hammered following the U.K.’s vote to secede from the bloc.

The government in Rome is considering measures that may inject as much as 40 billion euros ($44 billion) into banks, possibly by providing capital or pledging guarantees, said a person with knowledge of the talks. The amount is still under discussion and no final decision has been made, the person said.

And EU rules limit the Italian Government’s options for propping them up.

Italy’s government earlier this year was forced to water down plans for a publicly funded bad bank on EU resistance, instead creating a smaller fund backed by lenders and investors to help stabilize the financial system and speed up consolidation.

Use of public money to prop up banks would require European Commission approval under EU state-aid rules.

Italy may evoke exceptional circumstances of systemic stress caused by Brexit to allow all European governments to help banks with public funds, la Repubblica reported without citing anyone. Under the plan, Europe would close the window for waiving state-aid rules after six months, the newspaper said.

EU state-aid rules normally require shareholders and junior creditors to take losses before public money is put into a bank.

One exception foreseen is for aid provided in “exceptional circumstances.” This requires a unanimous decision of EU member states.

Another provision allows for an exception from the bail-in requirement when enforcing it would “endanger financial stability.”

Britain is still a member state of the EU so would presumably still have a say, if anything was decided before they left.

Other countries may be more of a problem.

Sven Giegold, a German member of the European Parliament, said Italy was “quite brazen” to try to use the “Brexit confusion” to push through state aid for banks.

There is a real possibility that the referendum in Britain could precipitate the collapse of Italian banks (which slumped 20% in value since the Brexit vote)  and the country’s already shaky economy.

However the post-Brexit slump may be over. For now. Perhaps.

Stuff: European Union leaders tell Britain to exit swiftly, market rout halts

Financial markets recovered slightly after the result of Thursday’s (Friday NZT) referendum wiped a record US$3 trillion off global shares and sterling fell to its lowest level in 31 years against the dollar, but trading was volatile and policymakers said they would take all necessary measures to protect their economies.

 

A Sea of Immigrants

Despite what some peop,e claim we don’t have open borders in New Zealand and we don’t have an unlimited flood of immigrants.

It’s debatable whether we have the right sort of immigration balance but especially compared to many other countries our immigration isn’t out of control. Illegal immigration is a minor issue here. Part of the reason for this is our lack of proximity to other countries.

Europe has major problems with illiegal immigrants. Many of these flood across the Mediterranean Sea moving north from Africa (a path for immigration since humans started moving from our continent of origin and spreading around the world).

Desperation forces people to take despereate measures and there’s many risks with the Mediterranean route, as a disater this week demonstrates.

Finjancial Times reports: New migrant deaths off Italian coast spur calls for EU action

As many as 300 people are feared dead after attempting to reach Italy on inflatable dinghies in stormy weather, in one of the Mediterranean Sea’s worst maritime disasters, sparking calls for European authorities to fund more intensive search-and-rescue operations.

Reporting accounts from survivors, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said four rubber boats carrying migrants mainly from sub-Saharan Africa left a Libyan beach on Saturday — but scores drowned in international waters amid high waves and freezing temperatures.

The death toll, if confirmed, approaches that of a shipwreck off the Italian island of Lampedusa in October 2013 that killed 366 migrants.

One of the winners in the World Press Photo competition is a graphic indication of what people will do, from the migrants to the traffickers.

BoatPeople

A Sea of Immigrants

Operation Mare Nostrum by Italian photographer Massimo Sestini: Taking second prize in the General News category is this image depicting a boatload of refugees rescued 20 miles north of Libya by the Italian Navy. Following the deaths of scores of asylum seekers in 2013, the Italian Government set its forces on saving anyone shipwrecked at sea