Europe is coronavirus epicenter; investors unmoved by stimulus


The Atlantic Council’s Coronavirus Alert is a regular summary of policy, economic, and business events around the emergency. To stay updated, sign up to the Coronavirus Alert here.


Europe became the epicenter of the coronavirus, with Italy recording the highest number of deaths so far. Far-reaching economic stimulus measures failed to reassure investors, as Germany shut its borders, schools closed in New York, and airlines faced the prospect of bankruptcy amid worldwide travel disruption.


There are now approaching 170,000 cases worldwide in almost 150 countries and territories; more than 6,500 people have died.  

QUOTE: “This hits the heart of the economy, and it hits the economy on all sides,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton, The New York Times reported. “It’s not just that we’re slowing down things. We’re actually hitting the pause button, and there is no precedent, there is no mold for that.”


  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States has urged a nationwide halt to gatherings of more than fifty people for the next eight weeks, making it the strongest guidance yet from the agency, The Washington Post reported.
  • Public schools in New York will close until at least April 20 to counter the spread of coronavirus, The Wall Street Journal cited the city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, as saying in a March 15 press conference. The measure affects 1 million children. “We may actually have to go out for the whole school year, which is just extraordinarily painful,” he said, the Journal reported.
  • As of late March 15, thirty-three states and the District of Columbia had decided to close schools, disrupting the education of about 32 million students, The Washington Post said, citing a tally by Education Week
  • US President Donald J. Trump, who has extended a travel ban to the UK and Ireland, tested negative for coronavirus, ITV News reported. The extended ban takes effect from midnight on March 16, ITV said.
  • States with the highest incidence of coronavirus will see walk-in and drive-through testing centers set up this week, the White House said, NPR reported.The facilities will be able to test between 2,000 and 4,000 people a day, NPR said.
  • The number of deaths from coronavirus was higher outside China than inside for the first time, The Wall Street Journal reported. More than 3,300 people have now died from the virus in countries including Italy, Iran, and Spain, the Journal said, compared with about 3,200 in China, it reported, citing figures compiled by John Hopkins University. 
  • Europe is now the “epicenter” of the coronavirus outbreak, the World Health Organization said, the BBC reported. Officials in Italy said the number of deaths increased by 25 percent in one day, making it the deadliest day so far in the outbreak, The New York Times reported. Italy has one of the world’s oldest populations, with the virus especially dangerous for the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, the BBC also said. Deaths from coronavirus in Spain more than doubled in a day to 288, Sky News reported. France has closed all non-essential businesses including restaurants and bars, The New York Times reported.
  • Britain has asked companies including Ford, Honda, and Rolls-Royce to make medical equipment such as ventilators to help with coronavirus treatment, Reuters reported. Everyone in Britain over the age of seventy will be told within the next few weeks to stay at home, the BBC reported.
  • Germany became the latest country in Europe to close its borders in a bid to contain the spread of coronavirus, CNBC reported. Germany shut its frontiers with Austria, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, and Denmark, CNBC said. German citizens, those who work there or in a neighboring country, and goods are exempt.
  • Austria has banned gatherings of more than five people and urged Austrians to stay at home, The New York Times reported.
  • Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, will take part in a video call with Group of Seven (G7) leaders about coronavirus today, Reuters reported.
  • South Africa has announced a national state of disaster, shutting schools, closing ports, and barring gatherings of more than 100 people, The New York Times reported. Kenya has imposed stringent travel restrictions, with at least twenty-seven African states affected by coronavirus, the BBC said.
  • The first participant in a clinical vaccine trial to protect against coronavirus will take an experimental dose today, the Associated Press reported, citing an unidentified government official.  
  • News service Stat has a special report: “a drug that once raised the world’s hopes is given a second shot” runs part of the headline. Gilead Sciences’ remdesivir, the descendant of a clinical compound called 3a which, in lab experiments, fought off “a number of different viruses,” is now in the spotlight, Stat reported.

QUOTE: “We are looking at a new war no one has seen before. We have never fought a virus like this with this potential consequence,” said New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, The Washington Post reported. “[I]t is only a matter of time before ICU beds are full.”


  • “Central Banks fail to reassure,” Bloomberg reports, after the US Federal Reserve slashed interest rates close to zero and the Bank of Japan strengthened stimulus measures in response to the coronavirus crisis. Stocks tumbled worldwide as investors remain concerned emergency measures won’t be enough to stop a recession, The Wall Street Journal reported.
  • The United States’ biggest banks said they will stop share buybacks and use the money to grant loans to their customers, The Washington Post reported.
  • Coronavirus had a far-reaching impact on China’s economy in the first two months of the year, with a drop in activity across the board, CNN reported. Retail sales fell 20.5 percent and industrial output declined by 13.5 percent, CNN said.
  • “The plumbing behind world’s financial markets is creaking. Loudly” reads the headline to a Reuters article, as companies, investors, and individuals flee to cash and other assets deemed safe to ride out the chaos caused by coronavirus.
  • New Zealand made an emergency cut to interest rates, by 0.75 percentage points to a record low of 0.25 percent, in response to the coronavirus outbreak, Radio New Zealand reported.
  • “Though no one wishes the world a financial crisis of the 2008 and 2009 dimensions, it would be irresponsible not to begin talks among the world’s major economies and democracies about what strains they see in the system and what contingency planning they should be undertaking should the coronavirus slowdown continue,” writes the Atlantic Council’s Frederick Kempe.

QUOTE: “We’re facing the loss of credibility of the central bank from a market perspective,” said Michael O’Rourke, chief market strategist, Jonestrading in Stamford, Connecticut, Reuters reported. “When the investor community loses faith in the Fed, that’s when the market gets very dangerous.”


  • Coronavirus will bankrupt most airlines worldwide by the end of May without coordinated help to prevent it, Bloomberg reported, citing CAPA Centre for Aviation, a Sydney-based consultancy.
  • Delta Air Lines has slashed its transatlantic schedule of flights, Reuters said; Air France-KLM will cut capacity by between 70 and 90 percent in coming months, Business Traveller reported; IAG, the owner of British Airways, will cut capacity by at least 75 percent in April and May, the BBC reported. Ryanair, the Irish low-cost carrier, said the grounding of its entire fleet “cannot be ruled out,” the Financial Times said.
  • “We don’t know when this will end,” Bloomberg cited Ben Smith, CEO of Air France-KLM, who has taken a 25 percent pay cut, as saying. Scandinavian carrier SAS will temporarily lay off as many as 10,000 staff, or 90 percent of its workforce, the news service also reported.
  • US airports were in a state of chaos over the weekend as travelers arriving from Europe arrived at thirteen of the country’s busiest hubs for health screenings, The Washington Post reported.
  • Retailers from Nike to Apple and Abercrombie & Fitch are temporarily closing stores or scaling back hours because of coronavirus, Fortune said. “The most effective way to minimize risk of the virus’s transmission is to reduce density and maximize social distance,” it cited Tim Cook, chief executive of Apple, as saying in a statement.

QUOTE: “The current market turmoil tells me a new era is breaking, so question everything,” writes Andy Kessler in The Wall Street Journal.


From the Atlantic Council