Tables and chairs are taped to enforce the social distancing law enforcement to help curb the spread of the coronavirus at a Starbucks coffee shop in Hong Kong. Picture: Vincent Yu/AP/African News Agency (ANA)
Tables and chairs are taped to enforce the social distancing law enforcement to help curb the spread of the coronavirus at a Starbucks coffee shop in Hong Kong. Picture: Vincent Yu/AP/African News Agency (ANA)

What you need to know about coronavirus right now

By Reuters Time of article published Mar 30, 2020

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Here's what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

Shelter from the financial storm

The numbers have been staggering: $15 trillion wiped off stock markets, airlines have had half their value vapourised and cratering economies risk a new wave of government debt crises.

Where are the places to park your money?

Sit-on-your-sofa-suited stocks like Netflix and Amazon have risen and some specialised medical equipment companies have surged. Ultra-safe US government bonds too appear a safe harbour, returning 13% as the Fed cut US interest rates to effectively zero.

Though the cavalry has arrived in the G20 promise of a $5 trillion revival effort, it's unlikely April will bring much relief.

"Our expectation is for a very volatile second quarter," Stephane Monier, chief investment officer of Lombard Odier, said. "It is important to keep in liquid, high-quality assets."

'Blind luck': South Korea practised an emergency response to fictional pneumonia outbreak in December

According to an undisclosed government document seen by Reuters, two dozen leading South Korean infectious diseases specialists tackled a worrying scenario in a tabletop exercise on emergency responses on December 17: a South Korean family contracts pneumonia after a trip to China, where cases of an unidentified disease had arisen.

This led the team of experts at the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) to develop an algorithm to find the pathogen and its origin, as well as to test techniques.

Those measures were mobilised in real life when a first suspected coronavirus patient appeared in South Korea on Jan. 20, the document said.

"It was blind luck – we were speechless to see the scenario become reality," said Lee Sang-won, one of the KCDC experts who led the drill. "But the exercise helped us save much time developing testing methodology and identifying cases."

The spread

There are over 720 000 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide, with more than 57 000 cases added in the last 24 hours across 202 countries and territories.

The United States reported over 18 000 new cases in the past day, roughly a third of all new cases. North America now accounts for 20% of all cases, and Europe 53%, though fatality rates in the latter are much higher than in the United States.

There were 3 208 deaths reported in the last day, bringing the total number of fatalities to 34 000.

The global average fatality rate of the disease remains high at around 4.7%, though that figure is expected to drop as testing widens. Countries with unusually high fatality rates include Italy, where around 11% of reported cases have been fatal, and Spain, where 8% of cases have been fatal.

China continues to report low numbers of new cases, with just 31 new infections on Sunday and only one locally contracted case. The country closed its borders to foreign passport holders on Saturday.

Globally, over 145 000 cases have been reportedly cured, around 20%. The recovery rate has reached 92.5% in China where the virus peaked over a month ago.

Acceptable distance = length of hockey stick, sturgeon or big llama

Two metres (6 feet, 6 inches) of separation is seen as critical to preventing transmission of the coronavirus, but with few people carrying tape measures, rules of thumb have become important.

The City of Toronto posted signs in parks last week urging residents to stay one hockey stick apart.

In nature-loving Oregon, standing back about "one mature white sturgeon" should do the trick, the US state's fish and wildlife department wrote on Twitter, while the City of Calgary, Alberta, suggested a "big llama".

Even a large llama's length may not work, though. A study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology concluded coughs and sneezes can generate clouds of viral droplets of seven to eight metres.

That's roughly four hockey sticks.

Reuters

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