Hopes the coronavirus would be contained to China vanished on Friday as infections spread rapidly around the world, countries started stockpiling medical equipment and investors took flight in expectation of a global recession.
Share prices were on track for the worst week since the global financial crisis in 2008 as virus-related disruptions to international travel and supply chains fueled fears of recession in the United States and the Euro zone.
The U.S. stock market fell into correction territory with the benchmark S&P 500 index down more than 4% on Thursday, extending a market rout that has now sliced more than 10% off of its closing peak on Feb. 19. Asian stocks on Friday tracked Wall Street’s plunge.
But with new infections reported around the world now surpassing those in China, World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said nations should prepare.
A Reuters tally showed about 10 countries reported their first virus cases in past 24 hours, including Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa and the first case in sub-Saharan Africa.
U.S. investment bank BofA cut its world growth forecast to the lowest level since the peak of the financial crisis, and ratings agency Moody’s said a coronavirus pandemic would trigger global and U.S. recessions in the first half of the year.
In addition to stockpiling medical supplies, governments ordered schools shut and canceled big gatherings, including sports events, to try to halt the spread of the flu-like disease known as COVID-19.
In Europe, France’s number of reported cases doubled, Germany warned of an impending epidemic and Greece, a gateway for refugees from the Middle East, announced tighter border controls.