Coronavirus: US bans travel from Europe, CME stops trading

The World Health Organization (WHO), on Wednesday, declared the coronavirus as a pandemic. The virus is now spreading rapidly outside China with the number of confirmed cases rising almost every hour. To contain the spread of the virus, countries, as well as, companies are taking stern measures. Detailed below are some of the major measures announced Wednesday to fight the coronavirus.

Italy orders lockdown

Several reports yesterday noted that Italy had ordered a shutdown of all retailers, except for pharmacies and grocers. Primarily, non-essential retailers such as cafes and restaurants, would be closed, while factories, banks, post offices and transportation services would remain open.

Italy has also announced billions in financial relief to curtail the spread of the outbreak. The country has set aside 25 billion euros ($28.3bn) to support companies and families.

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“We will only be able to see the effects of this great effort in a couple of weeks,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in a televised address to the nation. “Thank you to all Italians who make sacrifices. We are proving to be a great nation.”

Italy has already closed museums, nightclubs, schools, gyms and other social places across the country. The country so far has seen over 12,000 confirmed cases and 827 deaths due to the outbreak.

CME suspends trading

On Wednesday, CME Group announced a stop in trading at its Chicago trading floor as a precautionary move against the outbreak. In a statement, CME said the closing will take effect Friday “at the close of business.” Further, the company confirmed that no coronavirus cases had been reported at the Chicago Board of Trade trading floor.

CME will share more details with the floor traders about “execution of certain floor products, procedures and protocols and other floor-related practices” on Thursday.

CME now is the first major U.S. exchange to terminate trading over coronavirus fear. As per a report from Reuters, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) is working to separate traders and other employees.

Trump suspends travel from Europe

U.S. President Donald Trump announced major travel restrictions on Europe in an effort to limit the spread of the virus. Trump has put a ban on all inbound flights from Europe for a month. He said that such “strong but necessary” measures won’t apply to the UK, which so far has seen 460 cases of the virus.

Trump, in his speech, said the ban would apply to passengers, as well as trade and cargo. However, the White House later clarified that goods and cargo would be exempted. The ban will start Friday, March 13, at midnight.

“To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe,” Mr Trump said from the Oval Office on Wednesday evening. Explaining the need for the ban, the President said the European Union had “failed to take the same precautions” as the U.S. in fighting the virus.

Further, Trump hinted that health insurance companies would waive copayments and cover Covid-19 treatment. So far, there have been 1,135 confirmed cases of the outbreak in the U.S., including 38 deaths so far.

Bank of England cut rates

On Wednesday, the Bank of England (BOE) announced an emergency cut to interest rates. In a statement, the BOE said, “At its special meeting ending on 10 March 2020, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted unanimously to reduce Bank Rate by 50 basis points to 0.25%.”

Additionally, the central bank also talked of a new term-funding scheme to support small and medium-sized companies. Also, the bank announced new steps to encourage commercial banks to lend more.

As per the data released last month, the UK economy stagnated toward the end of last year. The country has been witnessing economic uncertainty following its decision to exit the European Union in 2016. Along with financial uncertainty, the UK is also facing political uncertainty.

Measures from tech companies to fight coronavirus

Tech companies have also announced significant measures to fight coronavirus. Twitter has asked its 4,900 employees to work from home. The micro-blogging site said the move is mandatory as it has the “responsibility to support our communities, and those who are vulnerable.”

Google, on Wednesday, also requested the majority of its global workforce to work from home. The search giant has already asked its 100,000 North American workforce to stay at home.

Amazon also has asked its employees in states affected by the outbreak, such as Washington, New York and California, to work from home. On Wednesday, the company announced that it would pay up to two weeks of pay to employees diagnosed with the coronavirus or put into quarantine.

Amazon also plans to set up a relief fund to help contractors and gig workers affected by the outbreak. Other tech companies, such as Instacart, DoorDash, Uber, and Lyft have also announced new policies regarding sick pay leaves for those diagnosed or quarantined.