What you need to know about coronavirus today

(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus epidemic today:

“Worst ahead”

Bars, restaurants, theaters and movie houses in New York and Los Angeles are shutting down as the full scale of the coronavirus epidemic dawns on U.S. authorities. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was ordering restaurants, bars and cafes to sell food only on a take-out or delivery basis. Similar measures are taking effect in Los Angeles.

While President Donald Trump remains studiously optimistic about the outcome, Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, says the coming days are critical.

“The worst is yet ahead for us,” Fauci said, a warning he has issued frequently in the past week. “It is how we respond to that challenge that is going to determine what the ultimate end point is going to be.”

Losing faith?

After the Fed’s second emergency rate cut in a fortnight, Wall Street’s opening later on Monday could look pretty ugly if the usual advance indicators are anything to go by. S&P 500 futures are already strongly down, suggesting that a 15-minute cutout put in place to prevent another 1987 “Black Monday”-style crash may be triggered.

What does all this mean? For sure, financial markets have been underwhelmed by the collective policy response of world governments so far, and there remain huge concerns about the fate of key sectors such as the airline industry.

Equally, it is raising major questions about the ability of central banks – the guardians of the value of money – to do anything about an economic hit on this scale.

“When the investor community loses faith in the Fed, that’s when the market gets very dangerous,” said Michael O’Rourke, chief market strategist, Jonestrading, Stamford, Connecticut.

FILE PHOTO: A man watches from an apartment balcony with a banner reading ” Andra Tutto Bene” – “everything will be alright”, a phrase that has become symbolic of hope in Italy’s coronavirus crisis, as Italian government continues restrictive movement measures to combat the coronavirus outbreak, in Milan, Italy March 14, 2020. REUTERS/Daniele Mascolo

The spread

Europe is now clearly the epicenter of the outbreak: There are almost 170,000 cases of coronavirus globally and 6,509 reported deaths. In the past 24 hours, deaths and cases outside China surpassed the number inside China for the first time.

Spain has joined Italy in measures that amount to a partial lockdown of movement, and a growing number of countries in Europe’s “Schengen” border-free zone have started to impose restrictions on travel. France’s Emmanuel Macron is due to make an announcement later today, amid speculation that he will ask the country to accept greater levels of confinement.(For an interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser)

Compiled by Mark John; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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