Coronavirus crisis: Health experts warn deadly virus ‘is pandemic’ as stock markets crash

The report’s authors said keeping the death toll as low as possible would be the highest priority, meaning governments would have to introduce measures to soften the inevitable financial blows caused by the spread of the disease. The warning was issued on the day global stock markets plunged into freefall as a knock-on effect of record-breaking falls in oil prices sparked by coronavirus.

In our view, COVID-19 has developed into a pandemic

Lancet report authors

The researchers behind the Lancet report said: “In our view, COVID-19 has developed into a pandemic, with small chains of transmission in many countries and large chains resulting in extensive spread in a few countries, such as Italy, Iran, South Korea, and Japan.

“Most countries are likely to have spread of COVID-19, at least in the early stages, before any mitigation measures have an impact.

“What has happened in China shows that quarantine, social distancing, and isolation of infected populations can contain the epidemic.

“This impact of the COVID-19 response in China is encouraging for the many countries where COVID-19 is beginning to spread.

“However, it is unclear whether other countries can implement the stringent measures China eventually adopted.”

They said the key issues facing governments were minimising the number of deaths, avoiding an epidemic peak that overwhelms health-care services, keeping the effects on the economy within manageable levels, and flattening the epidemic curve to wait for vaccine development and manufacture on scale and antiviral drug therapies.

They warned such mitigation objectives were difficult to achieve by the same interventions and said choices must be made about priorities.

The researchers acknowledged the potential economic impact of self-isolation or mandated quarantine could be substantial, as seen in China.

But with no vaccine or effective antiviral drug is likely to be available soon, authorities will have to make decisions on stopping mass gatherings, closing educational institutions or places of work where infection has been identified and isolating households, towns or cities.

The authors said: “Broader-scale social distancing provides time for the health services to treat cases and increase capacity, and, in the longer term, for vaccines and treatments to be developed.

“Containment could be targeted to particular areas, schools, or mass gatherings. This approach underway in northern Italy will provide valuable data on the effectiveness of such measures.

“The greater the reduction in transmission, the longer and flatter the epidemic curve, with the risk of resurgence when interventions are lifted perhaps to mitigate economic impact.”

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Stocks have fallen worldwide as the virus has spread, cutting global supply lines and crippling industry.

They plummeted again today as prices for crude oil slumped by as much as 33 percent after Saudi Arabia launched a price war with Russia.

FTSE 100 shed 8.4 per cent a few minutes after the open in its worst single-day drop since the 2008 financial crisis.

US stock also tumbled quickly hitting their daily lower limit which caused trading to be halted for 15 minutes.

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