Coronavirus fears have led to a historic drop in US stocks, shut borders and disrupted daily life around the world, as governments took increasingly drastic measures to try to reduce the severity of the global outbreak.
Financial markets had their worst day in 30 years despite emergency action by global central banks to try to prevent a recession, with US stock markets falling 12 per cent, wiping out trillions of dollars in market value.
Just a month ago, financial markets were hitting record highs on the assumption the outbreak would largely be contained in China and not cause disruptions beyond.
There have now been more cases and more deaths outside mainland China than inside, with 180,000 cases worldwide and over 7,000 deaths.
Canada, Chile and other countries have closed their borders to visitors.
Peru deployed masked military personnel to block major roads, while Ireland launched a campaign to recruit more healthcare workers.
Airlines slashed flights, shed jobs and asked governments for billions of dollars in loans and grants.
US states have pleaded with the Trump administration to coordinate a national response to the outbreak, saying patchwork measures enacted by state and local authorities were insufficient to confront the coast-to-coast emergency that has killed at least 74 Americans.
A few hours later, President Donald Trump urged Americans to halt most social activities for 15 days and not congregate in groups larger than 10 people in a newly aggressive effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
Calling the highly contagious virus an “invisible enemy,” Trump said the worst of the outbreak could be over by July, August or later and warned a recession was possible.
However, the United States was not yet closing its borders or mandating curfews or business closures on a national scale.
A White House adviser said the United States could pump $ US800 billion or more into the economy to minimise economic damage.
EU finance ministers were planning a coordinated economic response to the virus, which the European Commission says could push the European Union into recession.
The World Health Organization (WHO) called on all countries to ramp up testing programmes as the best way to slow the advance of the pandemic.
“We have a simple message to all countries – test, test, test,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference in Geneva.
“All countries should be able to test all suspected cases. They cannot fight this pandemic blindfolded.”
In Italy, another 349 people died on Monday, taking the total to 2,158, with nearly 28,000 cases, after 368 deaths were reported on Sunday, a daily toll more dire than even China was reporting at the peak of the outbreak.
Several countries banned mass gatherings such as sports, cultural and religious events to combat the fast-spreading respiratory disease that has infected nearly 179,000 people globally and killed more than 7,000.
Spain and France, where cases and fatalities have begun surging at a pace just days behind that of Italy, imposed severe lockdowns over the weekend.
The Middle East business and travel hub of Dubai said it was closing all bars and lounges until the end of March.
Thailand plans to close schools, bars, movie theatres and popular cockfighting arenas.
Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told daily Corriere della Sera that the outbreak was still getting worse, though the governor of Lombardy, the northern region that has suffered the worst, said he saw the first signs of a slowdown.
The International Olympic Committee will hold talks with heads of international sports organisations on Tuesday, a source close to a federation briefed on the issue said, amid doubts the Tokyo 2020 Olympics set to start on July 24 can proceed.
Australian Associated Press