(Image: AAP/Glenn Hunt)

The coronavirus is edging closer to global pandemic status. Meanwhile, Wall St’s confidence slides, the global tourism economy takes a hit, and serious questions emerge about the level of preparedness of major countries.

By the numbers

  • For the first time since the start of the outbreak, there are more new cases of COVID-19 outside of China than in, the World Health Organisation said yesterday.
  • According to the latest figures (they change by the minute), 81,322 have been infected worldwide, with 2770 deaths.
  • The reported mortality rate is dramatically higher in Iran (14%) than elsewhere (about 1% globally and 2% in Wuhan), but this could be because of reporting problems.
  • Despite worldwide spread, China has reported an 80% drop in new cases over the last two weeks — but experts warn this figure may be a result of new recording practices, and a product of Xi Jinping’s desire to restart the economy.
  • After initially brushing off fears, investors are getting spooked. On Monday, the S&P 500 fell over 3%, its worst single day slide in two years, while European stocks have fallen nearly 7% in the last week.
Compare the pair: New York Times headlines show how Wall St’s fears about COVID-19 have escalated in less than a week.
  • Risk analysts Moody’s Analytics yesterday predicted a 40% chance the virus would evolve into a global pandemic, making a global recession likely.
  • Tourism has already taken a hit — visitors to France have fallen 30-40%, airlines are anticipating a $28 billion loss in revenue this year, while countries in South East Asia reliant on Chinese tourists are expected to lose $3 billion.

Reaching new ground

The spikes in COVID-19 cases in Iran and Italy have led to the spread of the virus into new countries.

A Brazilian man returning from a business trip in Italy has tested positive, the first known case in all Latin America. In the last 24 hours, Georgia, Norway, Romania and Algeria all recorded their first cases.

But Indonesia has still recorded no cases, despite its close tourism ties to China, leading to concerns that the world’s fourth-most-populated country is seriously under-prepared.

America leads from behind

As the outbreak gets closer to a pandemic, there are serious questions about the Trump administration’s preparedness.

The US has been sluggish in testing people, in part because the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) distributed faulty testing kits.

After flip-flopping over whether to nominate a separate “coronavirus czar”, Trump put his Vice President Mike Pence in charge of leading the response. Critics immediately pointed to Pence’s failure to curb an HIV outbreak in Indiana when he was governor.

The administration has recently cut funding to the CDC, and narrowed its global epidemic work two years ago. But never fear — this week Trump boasted that the US was “in great shape”, and blamed “Fake News” for spreading fear about the virus.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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