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'We can't tell how severe it will get': Markets panic over the coronavirus

28 February

The Dow Jones tumbled by almost 1,200 points on Thursday amid growing anxiety about the coronavirus - the biggest one-day drop in its history.

Global stock markets are now heading for their worst week since the darkest days of the financial crisis 12 years ago.
The mass sell-offs are a sharp contrast to the beginning of February, when the Dow reached all-time highs as investors shrugged off the threat of an outbreak.
Panic on Wall Street has been fuelled by warnings from major companies that profits could take a hit as countries around the world try to contain COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
The number of new infections being reported around the world now surpass those in China - shattering hopes that the epidemic would be short-lived and economic activity would return to normal.
Apple and Microsoft, two of the world's largest businesses, are among those who have said their sales this quarter will be affected.
A toxic cocktail of factory shutdowns in China, lockdowns and travel restrictions is to blame - with airlines, hotels and cruise ship companies among those suffering the steepest falls in their share prices.
Norihiro Fujito, an investment strategist, said: "The coronavirus now looks like a pandemic. Markets can cope even if there is big risk as long as we can see the end of the tunnel.
"But at the moment, no one can tell how long this will last and how severe it will get."
Some markets around the world have now fallen by more than 10% from their recent highs, putting them fairly into correction territory. There are analysts who believe such a slump was long overdue.
The misery continued early on Friday morning in the Asian markets, with Japan's Nikkei 225 index plunging by more than 3%.
Later, all eyes will be on London's FTSE 100. Yesterday, £62bn was wiped off the value of its constituent companies - and they are down £152bn since Monday.
Away from stocks, oil prices have also taken a hit - reaching their lowest level in more than a year - over fears a major economic slump is on the horizon.
Gold, which investors often flock to during times of uncertainty, is trading close to the seven-year high of $1,688.90 hit earlier this month.
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In his final interview before he steps down as Bank of England governor later this month, Mark Carney told Sky News that Britain should prepare itself for an economic growth downgrade as the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak deepens.
However, he said it is too early to tell exactly how the UK will be affected.
In other developments:

  • Schools in the UK could be closed for more than two months if the outbreak intensifies, England's chief medical officer has said
  • Northern Ireland has confirmed its first case of the coronavirus
  • Some British tourists are being allowed to leave a Tenerife hotel on lockdown because of COVID-19 - but Jet2 says it will not fly them home until testing confirms they haven't got the disease
  • British cyclists Chris Froome and Mark Cavendish are among the riders being tested for the coronavirus after the UAE Tour was cancelled
  • Officials in California are trying to retrace the movements of a woman who could be the first to contract COVID-19 with no known connection to travel abroad
  • The number of coronavirus cases in South Korea has exceeded 2,000 after 256 new diagnoses were confirmed
  • The sharp downwards trend of new COVID-19 cases has continued in China, where there were 327 new cases and 44 deaths on Thursday.
Sky News will broadcast Virus Outbreak: Global Emergency, a special programme on the coronavirus, at 2pm.

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Coronavirus: UK schools could shut for two months if virus becomes 'out of control'

28 February

Schools in the UK could be closed for more than two months if the coronavirus outbreak intensifies and becomes "out of control", England's chief medical officer has said.

Professor Chris Whitty's warning comes as two people tested positive for COVID-19 in Derbyshire and Northern Ireland recorded its first case - bringing the total confirmed cases in the UK to 16.
He also said onward transmission between people in the UK without recent travel to affected virus hotspots was "just a matter of time".
Professor Whitty said if the virus becomes a global epidemic there could be a potential "social cost", which may include cutting the number of mass gatherings and shutting schools for several weeks.
He said: "One of the things that's really clear with this virus, much more so than flu, is that anything we do we're going to have to do for quite a long period of time, probably more than two months.
"The implications of that are non-trivial, so we need to think that through carefully.
"This is something we face as really quite a serious problem for society potentially if this goes out of control."
Professor Whitty added: "If this becomes a global epidemic then the UK will get it, and if it does not become a global epidemic, the UK is perfectly capable of containing and getting rid of individual cases leading to onward transmission."
It comes as some British tourists are being allowed to leave a Tenerife hotel which has been on lockdown after four Italian guests, including a doctor, tested positive for the new coronavirus.
But in a new setback, the airline Jet2 said it will not fly any customers back who have stayed at the hotel during quarantine until they can confirm by testing that they do not have novel coronavirus.
Alternatively they can remain in the hotel for the whole of a two-week quarantine period and then Jet2 will allow them to fly on one of their planes.
One of the new cases in Derbyshire - a parent of a pupil at Burbage Primary in Buxton - contracted the virus in Tenerife. The school has now been shut.
A GP surgery, Buxton Medical Practice, has also been closed as a result of the other confirmed case. The person contracted the virus in Italy, which has become the worst affected country in Europe with more than 400 cases and 14 deaths.
The Northern Ireland case recently returned from Italy.
Several schools in the UK have closed over fears of COVID-19 contact.
Others have sent pupils home, including Prince George and Princess Charlotte's primary school, Thomas's Battersea.
But Public Health England's general advice is for them not to shut.
The government has said people returning from the coronavirus epicentre - Hubei province in China, as well as Iran, lockdown areas in northern Italy, and special care zones in South Korea - should self-isolate at home and call NHS 111.
People returning from a number of other countries including the rest of China and Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore should self-isolate if they develop symptoms of cough or fever or shortness of breath.
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It also said that those returning from Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and northern Italy above Pisa should self-isolate if they show symptoms.
So far there have been at least 2,810 deaths worldwide, the vast majority in China, and at least 82,700 confirmed infections, most affecting Chinese citizens.
In other developments around the world:

  • A vice president of Iran, Masoumeh Ebtekar, has the new coronavirus
  • Stock markets are falling sharply again as countries report a surge in coronavirus cases
  • Some UK hospitals and other medical sites including GP surgeries will now test flu patients for the virus
  • The government has banned the export of an HIV drug and anti-malaria infection treatment so that they can be tested as potential treatments for COVID-19
  • Russia's Federal Tourism Agency recommends the country's holiday firms suspend tours to Italy, South Korea and Iran until outbreaks are brought under control
  • South Korea has reported 505 more cases, bringing its total to 1,766 - the second-highest number after China, which has around 78,500
  • China reports 433 new cases, 383 in the city of Wuhan, where the disease emerged in December
Sky News will broadcast Virus Outbreak: Global Emergency, a special programme on coronavirus at 2pm on Friday.

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Syria: Serious escalation as airstrikes kill 33 Turkish soldiers

28 February

At least 33 Turkish soldiers have been killed in an airstrike carried out by Syrian government forces, officials in Turkey say.

Thursday night's attack in Idlib marks a serious escalation in the direct conflict between Turkish and Russia-backed Syrian forces.
The governor of Turkey's Hatay province, Rahmi Dogan, said: "None of our wounded soldiers who are being treated in hospital are in critical condition. May our martyrs rest in peace."
At least 54 Turkish soldiers have been killed in Idlib since the start of February - and Thursday was the deadliest day for Turkish forces since Ankara first intervened in Syria four years ago.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has held an emergency security meeting in Ankara, and discussions have been held by phone with NATO's secretary general and America's national security adviser.
The airstrike came after a Russian delegation spent two days in Ankara for talks with Turkish officials on the situation in Idlib, where a Syrian government offensive has sent hundreds of thousands of civilians fleeing towards the Turkish border.
Last week, Sky News reported from inside Idlib, where more than 70 hospitals have been bombed out of action.
Correspondent Alex Crawford said the scale of the humanitarian crisis is quite enormous - and one man told her "there is nowhere safe in Syria anymore".
In response to Turkish fatalities, Mr Erdogan's communications director has said "all known" Syrian government targets are now under attack by Turkish air and land forces.
The soldiers were targeted in an area between the villages of al Bara and Baliun near the Jabal al Zawiya region in the southern Idlib countryside.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 34 Turkish soldiers have lost their lives.
Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al Assad now control almost the entire southern province of Idlib after capturing more than 20 villages on Thursday.
Idlib is Syria's last rebel stronghold, and Assad's weekslong campaign has been backed by Russian air power.

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Harry and Meghan to lose Canadian security as they step back from duties

27 February

Canada says it will end its security assistance for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex when they step back from royal duties.

Canadian officials say they will not provide security for Harry and Meghan after they walk away from most royal duties, which they plan to do from April.
Mary-Liz Power, a spokeswoman for Canada's public safety minister, said: "The assistance will cease in the coming weeks, in keeping with their change in status."
The couple said they will give up public funding and become financially independent as they live in Canada.
Royal Canadian Police had been working as security for the couple since November.
Ms Power said that as Duke and Duchess of Sussex, they had been considered "internationally protected persons" who warranted security measures under international treaty.
Britain's Metropolitan Police had also requested the assistance.
The couple are expected to spend most of their time in Canada while maintaining a home near Windsor Castle.
They have been renting a mansion on Vancouver Island in British Columbia.
While they have been welcomed in Canada, there has been public opposition to taxpayers paying for their security.
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The couple stunned Britons in January by announcing that they wanted to step back from royal duties and build a more peaceful life away from the media spotlight.
The pair have also abandoned plans to use the "Sussex Royal" brand once they have stood down as senior royals.
The Duchess of Sussex will soon return to the UK for the first time in almost two months for one of her final engagements as a senior royal.
Meghan will join Harry at an event in London on 5 March to celebrate the achievements of wounded service personnel, which will be their first public appearance together since 7 January.
They were last sighted as a couple at Canada House in the capital to thank the nation for hosting them during their festive break.

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Labour leadership candidates turn on each other over antisemitism action in Sky News debate

27 February

The three Labour leadership hopefuls have clashed over the party's response to antisemitism allegations in a Sky News debate.

Each of Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy and Sir Keir Starmer - who are hoping to replace Jeremy Corbyn - asserted their own efforts in tackling the issue of Jewish hate.
In sometimes heated exchanges, the contenders also questioned whether their rivals had been as outspoken as they should have been in past years.
The issue was raised by a member of the audience at Dewsbury Town Hall, in West Yorkshire, who asked how shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir and shadow business secretary Ms Long-Bailey could "stand by" the party's leadership in the middle of Labour's antisemitism crisis.
"How on Earth did you stand by the leadership when you know so many Jewish people were made to feel they couldn't vote for the Labour Party?," they asked.
Labour is still under inquiry by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission over its handling of antisemitism allegations, with the independent body expected to publish its findings later this year.
Sir Keir stressed there had been "robust discussion" and "massive rows" over antisemitism within the shadow cabinet and he was "pushing time and again" for greater action.
"I said we need the international definition of antisemitism, we need to change our rules so we can throw people out if they are clearly antisemitic, and we need to open the books to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission," he said.
"I didn't just do it in the shadow cabinet, I did it in the public and on the media as well."
Ms Nandy, who was briefly in the shadow cabinet before resigning in June 2016, challenged Sir Keir directly over the shadow cabinet's role.
She said: "If we do not acknowledge how badly the shadow cabinet as a whole got this wrong, we will not earn the trust of the Jewish community."
The Wigan MP claimed "a collective failure of leadership at the top of the party for years" had "given a green-light to antisemites everywhere that they had a home in Labour."
She added: "I spoke up about this when I was in the shadow cabinet, it's the only time when I broke collective responsibility.
"I am half-Indian and I know what racism feels like, and I know it cannot be your battle alone to fight it."
But Sir Keir branded Ms Nandy's suggestion that the shadow cabinet snubbed the chance to view the party's submission to the EHRC as "nonsense".
He said: "Shadow cabinet should be confidential and I don't break the confidences.
"It was [ex-Labour deputy leader] Tom Watson and I that were asking for that submission and we were offered it."
He also claimed fellow current shadow minister Ms Long-Bailey "didn't speak out in the same way as I did".
But Ms Long-Bailey said she "expressed my concern many, many times" and countered: "Keir knows that I spoke at shadow cabinet a number of times about this."
With Labour having recently suffered its fourth general election defeat in a row - its worst defeat since 1935 - she added: "The time for retrospective criticism of each other has gone - we are in a crisis."
But another audience member challenged the candidates' assertion of the need for action.
He said he had "never once" heard an antisemitic comment in his more than 40 years' membership of Labour.
"This is about propaganda against a leader [Mr Corbyn] who's fought antisemitism in his constituency, he's fought racism, he's driven out right-wing people," he added.
"It's propaganda… and the Tories benefit."

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