The coronavirus outbreak’s impact on the world economy grew more alarming on Saturday, even after U.S. President Donald Trump denounced criticism of his response to the threat as a “hoax” cooked up by his political enemies.
China’s manufacturing plunged in February by an even wider margin than expected after efforts to contain the virus outbreak shut down much of the world’s second-largest economy, an official survey showed Saturday.
The survey, coming as global stock markets fall on fears the virus will spread abroad, adds to mounting evidence of the vast cost of the disease that emerged in central China in December and its economic impact worldwide.
The monthly purchasing managers’ index issued by the Chinese statistics agency and an industry group fell to 35.7 from January’s 50 on a 100-point scale on which numbers below 50 indicate activity contracting.
Iran is preparing for the possibility of “tens of thousands” of people getting tested for the virus as the number of confirmed cases spiked again Saturday, an official said, underscoring the fear both at home and abroad over the outbreak in the Islamic Republic.
The virus and the COVID-19 illness it causes have killed 43 people out of 593 confirmed cases in Iran, Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said. The new toll represents a jump of 205 cases — a 150 per cent increase from the 388 reported the day before.
But the number of known cases versus deaths would put the virus’ death rate in Iran at over 7 per cent, much higher than other countries. That’s worried experts at the World Health Organization and elsewhere that Iran may be underreporting the number of cases now affecting it.
Earlier Saturday, Bahrain threatened legal prosecution against travellers who came from Iran and hadn’t been tested for the virus, and also barred public gatherings for two weeks.
Saudi Arabia said it would bar citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council from Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina over concerns about the virus’ spread. The GCC is a six-nation group including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
On Thursday, Saudi Arabia closed off the holy sites to foreign pilgrims over the coronavirus, disrupting travel for thousands of Muslims already headed to the kingdom and potentially affecting plans later this year for millions more ahead of the fasting month of Ramadan and the annual hajj pilgrimage.
Elsewhere around the world, already slumping financial markets dropped even lower on Friday, while virus fears led to emptied shops and amusement parks, cancelled events, and drastically reduced trade and travel.
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