What you need to know about coronavirus today

(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus epidemic today:

FILE PHOTO: Pedestrians wearing masks to prevent contracting the coronavirus walk on a zebra crossing in Seoul, South Korea, March 12, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

Testing times

“Test and you shall find” is the mantra of epidemiologists tackling the new coronavirus: the only question then becomes how public health authorities cope with all the confirmed cases that emerge. U.S. Democrats are nonetheless insisting that Americans must be fully encouraged to go for tests if the economic aid package going through Congress is to get their backing.

President Donald Trump tweeted earlier that coronavirus testing in the United States will soon happen on a large scale, but did not provide any details on how that would be accomplished. All eyes are on whether a deal could finally emerge later today.

Keep calm and carry on

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is facing an onslaught of domestic criticism over its coronavirus strategy, which has so far eschewed the social distancing measures – schools closures, public gathering bans and the like – which are now prevalent across much of continental Europe.

The British logic, based on the findings of behavioral research, is that timing is all: if you go too quickly with lockdowns, people get fed up and break them. Some commentators have compared the messaging to the stoic “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters that went up in the country in World War Two.

Yet that is not stopping many Brits from going down into lockdown mode themselves – witness evidence of stockpiling and emptier than usual roads and public transport. Pasta, toilet paper, flour and frozen food are all flying off the shelves.

Fear, panic, hope on the markets

Financial markets now appear to be finding some solace in hopes for more economic stimulus after plumbing the depths of despair earlier this week. The benchmark of European stocks gained a modest 2.6% on Friday after the 12% crash on Thursday that erased over $1 trillion from the value of European firms and plunged global equities into a bear market.

“There is a sense of fear and panic,” James Tao at Sydney-based stockbroker Commsec offered in a pithy summary of the mood earlier in Asia.

The expectation now is that governments will take emergency measures, including boosting liquidity, after the Fed injected $500 billion into the banking system in the States. Australia’s central bank followed suit on Friday, pumping $5.52 billion into its daily money market operation.

The spread

There are now almost 135,000 cases and more than 4,900 deaths form coronavirus recorded in 125 countries and regions, according to a Reuters tally at 0200 GMT on Friday. Experts say many more cases are either unreported or undetected.

China’s Wuhan city, ground zero of the coronavirus outbreak, reported five new cases on Friday, the second day in a row the tally has been less than 10, while no locally transmitted infections were reported in the rest of the country.

(For an interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser)

Compiled by Mark John; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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