China’s president visited the centre of the global coronavirus outbreak Tuesday as Italy began a sweeping nationwide travel ban and people worldwide braced for the possibility of recession.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The World Health Organization says people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while severe cases may last three to six weeks. In mainland China, where the outbreak emerged in December, almost three-fourths of its more than 80,000 patients have recovered.
President Xi Jinping’s trip to the coronavirus’s epicentre of Wuhan — his first since the start of the outbreak — came as the country recorded just 19 new cases of the virus Tuesday. State media reported he would inspect virus prevention and control efforts and visit medical workers, patients and others on the front lines of the virus fight.
The visit also was likely to be seen as an attempt to bolster views of the ruling Communist Party’s handling of the crisis. Xi was conspicuously absent from the public eye during the early days of the outbreak and alarms were not sounded until late January.
Wuhan and nearby cities have been under lockdown since then, though, in a virus-containment measure.
Ying Yong, the party secretary of Hubei province where Wuhan is located, told local officials that preparations should be made for resuming business production and the safe and orderly movement of individuals, according to a notice published on Hubei’s government website.
Already, there are signs the lockdown is loosening. Jingzhou, a city in Hubei, has ordered roads and village entrances to low-risk areas to be reopened to restore agricultural production.
China has now closed all temporary hospitals in the central city of Wuhan, a news website backed by the Shanghai government, the Paper, said on its official Twitter account on Tuesday.
Global markets rattled
The virus has shaken global markets, with stocks taking their worst one-day beating on Wall Street since 2008 and oil prices suffering their most brutal losses since the start of the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
Even with Asian markets posting modest gains Tuesday, fear was rampant that economies stood at the brink of recession.
« Right now, it’s all-out panic, » said Phil Flynn of the Price Futures Group brokerage.
The edge toward normalcy in China and improving reports from South Korea — where new infections continued to dip — contrasted with a widening problem elsewhere in the world.
Nowhere was that more evident than Italy, where travel restrictions previously limited to the country’s north were extended everywhere beginning Tuesday, with soldiers and police enforcing bans.
« We’re only at the beginning, » said Dr. Massimo Galli, head of infectious disease at Sacco Hospital in Milan, where people at the city’s main train station were required to sign forms certifying the necessity of their travel.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in Canada, the U.S. and some of the hard-hit regions around the world.
Here’s what’s happening in Canada
A flight carrying Canadians who were aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship landed at CFB Trenton early Tuesday morning. The chartered plane, which departed from California, ferried the Canadian travellers to Ontario, where they will complete a 14-day quarantine period.
The exact number of Canadians on the flight was unknown because they had to pass a screening process before being allowed to board the flight. There were 237 Canadians among the 3,500 passengers and crew on board the Grand Princess cruise ship.
The repatriated travellers arrived a day after Canada reported its first COVID-19 related death. A man in his 80s who lived at a long-term care facility in B.C. died on Monday, provincial health officials said.
As of Tuesday morning, 79 presumptive and confirmed COVID-19 cases had been reported in Ontario, B.C., Alberta and Quebec, including:
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said on Monday that the risk from the coronavirus to the general population in Canada is low, but she cautioned that the situation could change rapidly.
« We are most concerned for Canada’s vulnerable populations, » Tam said.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu said some provinces have indicated they don’t have all the supplies they might need to respond to COVID-19 cases.
« We are gathering that information — and we have said all along that we will be there as a federal government to support them with the resources they need, whether those are financial resources or practical resources. »
Here’s what’s happening in the U.S.
Fear has been rising in the United States, where more than 750 people are infected and even some top political leaders were quarantined.
President Donald Trump was planning to announce proposals Tuesday aimed at curbing the economic fallout from the outbreak. He said the measures would include payroll tax relief.
WATCH: Weighing the risks of mass gatherings during the coronavirus outbreak
Trump dove into handshakes with supporters earlier in the day and flew back from a Florida fundraiser with a lawmaker who later went into a voluntary quarantine because he came into contact with someone who had tested positive for the virus.
Trump’s incoming chief of staff, too, went into quarantine, also stemming from concerns that an infected person attended a conservative political gathering.
Here’s what’s happening in Italy and Europe
The Italian government is assuring its citizens that supermarkets will remain open and stocked after panic buying erupted after broad anti-virus measures were announced nationwide, sparking overnight runs on 24-hour markets.
Some 9,172 people were infected in Italy and 463 have died and there was a growing sense the numbers would only worsen.
Shoppers lined up overnight outside a Rome Carrefour to stock up after the government extended restrictions on movement from hard-hit northern Italy to the rest of the country. Some shoppers wore masks as they waited with their carts to be allowed into the store a few at a time.
Premier Giuseppe Conte’s office issued a clarifying statement after he signed the new decree late Monday, stressing that movement outside homes for « normal necessities » such as grocery shopping will be allowed, as well as for work or health reasons.
WATCH: Italy imposes sweeping travel restrictions
The statement said runs on supermarkets were contrary to the intent of the new decree, which aims to prevent Italians from congregating. The government assured citizens that markets would be regularly supplied.
Italy’s far-reaching restrictions were to last through April 3 and violators risked up to three months in jail or fines of roughly $320 Cdn. Schools and universities were remaining closed and pubs, eateries and cafes were to shutter at dusk.
« Our habits must be changed, changed now, » Conte said.
However, hard-hit Italy got a reminder that most patients ultimately recover from the illness: a 38-year-old man who was Italy’s first coronavirus patient was moved out of intensive care for the first time since testing positive.
In France, the death toll from COVID-19 has risen to 30. Poland, which is reporting 17 cases, moved to cancel all mass events.
The Czech Republic, which has 40 confirmed cases, is banning all public events with more than 100 people and is closing schools in response to the novel coronavirus.
Here’s what’s happening in Iran and the Middle East
Iran said Tuesday the coronavirus has killed 54 more people, raising the death toll to 291 amid 8,042 reported cases in the Islamic Republic. Many experts fear the scope of the illness there is far wider than reported.
Saudi Arabia’s health ministry said on Monday it has detected five new cases, bringing the total to 20.
Lebanon recorded its first death from coronavirus on Tuesday, local broadcasters said, adding that the patient had been in quarantine since returning from Egypt. The government has halted flights for non-residents from epicentres of the virus, shut schools and warned against public gatherings as the total number of cases rose to 41 this week.
Here’s what’s happening in South Korea and Japan
A downward trend in new coronavirus cases in South Korea raised hope on Tuesday that Asia’s biggest outbreak outside China may be slowing, but officials urged vigilance with new clusters of infections emerging from a call centre and a dance class. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 35 new coronavirus cases, down from a peak of 909 on Feb. 29.
The new figures brought the national tally to 7,513, while the death toll rose by eight to 59. The fall in the daily tally of new infections to its lowest level in 11 days coincided with the completion of testing of most of the roughly 200,000 followers of a fringe Christian church at the centre of South Korea’s epidemic.
Yoon Tae-ho, director general for public health policy at the health ministry, urged businesses to do what they could to help stem the outbreak after the discovery of 64 new cases among call-centre workers and their relatives. « The rate of increase is declining but there are still many new cases, » Yoon told a briefing.
The vast majority of South Korea’s cases have been in the southeastern city of Daegu, where the church at the centre of the outbreak is based, and the nearby province of North Gyeongsang. But alarm has been raised in the capital, Seoul, with the new cases there linked to the call centre, operated by an insurance company.
Japan, which has been dealing with both domestic patients and hundreds of people who were infected while living under quarantine on a cruise ship, passed an emergency bill that allows the prime minister to declare a state of emergency, if needed.
Abe on Tuesday extended his request that large events, including sporting events set to take place before March 19, be postponed or cancelled, Kyodo News reported.