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Coronavirus: China’s Xi Jinping visits Wuhan as fears of recession grip world


China’s president visited the center of the global virus outbreak Tuesday as Italy began a sweeping nationwide travel ban and people worldwide braced for the possibility of recession.

President Xi Jinping’s trip to the coronavirus’ epicenter of Wuhan — his first since the start of the outbreak — came as parts of his country return to normalcy, and was a sign of the diminishing threat the illness presents in China as it spreads west.

READ MORE: Coronavirus — China reports no new local cases outside of Hubei for 3rd day straight

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. Some 9,172 people were infected in Italy and 463 have died and there was a growing sense the numbers would only worsen.

“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.

Outbreaks flared in France, Spain and Germany, and fear grew in the United States, where more than 750 people are infected and even some senior political leaders were quarantined.

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.

Regardless, 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 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.

Xi’s trip to Wuhan came as the country recorded just 19 new cases of the virus Tuesday. The official Xinhua News Agency said Xi went to a hastily built hospital, visited with patients and encouraged staff to “firm up confidence in defeating the epidemic.” He then visited Wuhan residents under quarantine at home, Xinhua reported.

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