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Sunday, 2 February 2020

Egypt halts flights to China, evacuates citizens in Wuhan as coronavirus declared int’l health emergency

Egypt halts flights to China, evacuates citizens in Wuhan as coronavirus declared int’l health emergency: The government has begun evacuating Egyptian expats in China’s Wuhan, where the outbreak of the coronavirus originated, Al Masry Al Youm reports, citing sources in the know. According to the sources, the citizens will be brought back to Egypt, where they will be quarantined for a period of 14 days to ensure they have not contracted the virus. This comes after the World Health Organization declared the virus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on Thursday.

National flag carrier EgyptAir suspended all flights to and from China indefinitely as of yesterday, Reuters reports. Shipping lines in Egypt are still operating as usual, the local press reports. Although the WHO did not issue recommendations on travel or trade restrictions, the US has imposed a ban on entry for foreigners who have recently traveled to China, as has Australia. US and global airlines are also suspending flights to the world’s most populous nation in a bid to stem the spread of the virus.

The virus wiped out the US equity market’s gains on Friday, while European and Asian shares also dropped as the death toll continued to rise, according to the Financial Times. The S&P 500 has plunged 0.2% since the beginning of the year, while the Dow Jones is down 1%.

In China, the country’s top exchange-traded funds are up against one of their worst dives in years, despite markets being closed since 24 January in observation of the extended Lunar New Year holiday, the Wall Street Journal reported. Apple also closed down all stores and offices in the Asian country, according to Bloomberg.

Traders have been short selling oil futures as concerns that travel bans could threaten global demand for jet fuel and other petroleum products has resulted in a 52% jump in wagers against the black stuff, according to Bloomberg. Crude oil prices dropped 16% to USD 51 / bbl in January, making it the worst start to a year in three decades.

The worst is yet to come: The pandemic could even be worse than the global financial crisis and Great Recession of 2008, according to Moody’s, mainly because no one saw this one coming. The agency’s industrial metals price index, which the ratings agency says is an “often-reliable barometer of global industrial activity,” is already down by 7.1%. Forecasts that the global economy would grow 3.3% in 2020 are now uncertain in the wake of the pandemic, which has been dubbed a “black swan.”

The virus’ death toll has reached 304, while the total number of reported cases reached 14,380 at dispatch time, according to the New York Times.

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