Rising infection numbers in several countries from a new coronavirus originating in China have spooked financial markets from the United States to Italy and Germany on February 24.
Wall Street stocks finished with steep losses on February 24 as U.S. markets followed suit with peers around the world.
The broad-based S&P 500 closed 3.35 percent down, while the benchmark Dow Jones Industrial average lost more than 1,000 points, or more than 3.5 percent.
Reacting to the quick spread of the COVID-19 virus in South Korea and Italy, the technological-laden Nasdaq witnessed similar declines and 10-year Treasury yields were near a record low.
Oil prices also declined.
Germany’s main trading platform, Frankfurt’s DAX, closed 4.01 percent down and the eurozone’s Eurostoxx 50 sunk by 4.01 percent.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Consulate in Milan said it would stop seeing citizens and accepting documents until further notice starting on February 25 due to the outbreak of the virus in the region of Lombardy.
The Italian sports minister announced late on February 24 that upcoming matches in Italian Serie A and the Europa League would be played without spectators at venues located in areas affected by the virus.
Seven people have died and more than 220 have caught the virus in Italy as of February 24 and it has the most confirmed cases in Europe.
Italian shares tumbled more than 5 percent, the biggest daily drop in almost four years, while residents emptied supermarket shelves to stock up on essentials.
The spread of the disease has already killed more than 2,600 people in China.
Afghanistan, Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman on February 24 reported their first cases of the COVID-19 virus — all involving people who had come from Iran, which has recorded the highest death toll outside the disease‘s epicenter in China.
The semiofficial ILNA news agency reported that 50 people had died from the virus in the central city of Qom in Iran, but Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi rejected the report, telling a news conference that the total number of confirmed cases now stood at 61, including 12 deaths.
In South Korea, seven people have died with 833 people infected — the largest number outside China. Many new cases have been linked to a church in the city of Daegu.
However, World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cautioned against using the word “pandemic,” saying it did not fit the facts.
“We must focus on containment while preparing for a potential pandemic,” he told reporters in Geneva, adding that the world was not threatened by an uncontained spread or large-scale deaths.
The epidemic in China peaked between January 23 and February 2 and has been declining since, the WHO said.