The government of Japan ordered all of its schools closed from March 2 and Saudi Arabia has suspended pilgrimages by foreigners to Mecca and Medina as the number of coronavirus cases globally continues to rise.
Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered all schools in the country closed through March, making it the second country to shutter schools nationwide. Cases have been confirmed in at least 47 countries so far.
Some 82,000 people and counting have so far been infected with the virus, which causes the respiratory disease Covid-19, with new cases now documented on every continent except Antarctica. So far, nearly 3,000 people have died, the vast majority of them in China.
Now other countries are taking dramatic steps to curb the spread of the illness, which for the first time in the U.S. has infected a person who had no ties or travel to any other affected regions or people.
In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia has suspended pilgrimages by foreigners to Mecca and Medina as the region counts more than 220 cases. The move comes five months ahead of the main Hajj pilgrimage, when millions visit the holy site.
Iran, meantime, has refused to institute any kind of lockdown or other measures. President Hassan Rouhani said the country would continue to quarantine only individuals, not places. The government only advised against travel to Qom, which is the epicenter of its outbreak.
And a Japanese woman became the first individual to test positive for coronavirus for a second time. The first repeated case in Japan reinforced concerns about the spread of the virus, and whether patients who think they’re healed are actually still sick and contagious.
Meantime, businesses continue to warn of both direct and knock-on effects of the virus and efforts to contain it.
Apple (AAPL) - Get Report already has said its supply lines have been disrupted and will continue to face pressure, while Microsoft (MSFT) - Get Report, AB InBev (BUD) - Get Report and numerous other companies including chipmakers and cruise operators have all said earnings will be negatively impacted.
U.S. President Donald Trump took to the White House podium on Wednesday evening, flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the Centers for Disease Control, telling reporters the U.S. is "very, very, very ready" to handle an uptick in coronavirus cases.
Trump named Pence as point person to coordinate the government’s response, expressing confidence that the U.S. will be able to prevent a widespread domestic outbreak. The government has so far earmarked $2.5 billion in funding to combat the disease.
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