World markets plunged Friday as the director-general of the World Health Organization warned that the coronavirus epidemic "could get out of control." Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the epidemic, which has now hit 53 countries, has "pandemic potential" and is at a "decisive point globally," where countries will have to move aggressively to contain it, the Guardian reports. "This is not a time for fear," he said. "This is a time for taking action to prevent infection and save lives now." In other developments:
- First case in sub-Saharan Africa. New countries reporting coronavirus infections include Lithuania, Belarus, and New Zealand, but health officials are especially worried by a case in Nigeria, the first confirmed infection in sub-Saharan Africa. Authorities fear the epidemic could spread widely and overwhelm health systems across the continent, the New York Times reports. The patient in Nigeria is an Italian citizen who traveled to Lagos from Milan on Tuesday.
- Markets nosedive. Stock markets around the world, including those in Hong Kong, Australia, and Japan, followed the Dow Jones downward Friday in the worst week for global markets since the 2008 financial crisis, the BBC reports. On Thursday, the Dow Jones Index recorded the biggest one-day points drop in its history, plunging nearly 1,200 points. An estimated $5 trillion has been wiped off market values this week.
- Switzerland bans large gatherings. In Switzerland, which has confirmed 15 cases of COVID-19, authorities have banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people, the AP reports. Authorities say people organizing smaller events must carry out risk assessments. The annual Geneva International Motor Show, which was set to start on March 5, has been cancelled.
- State of emergency in Japan. Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island, has declared a state of emergency after a surge in infections. Residents have been advised to remain in their homes this weekend.
- US schools brace for closure. In the US, schools are preparing for the possibility of a weeks-long closure by updating emergency plans and preparing online lessons, CBS reports. President Trump has suggested schools start planning "just in case."
- Most new infections are now outside China. Reuters reports that while China still accounts for the vast majority of coronavirus infections, the rate of new infections is slowing down there while accelerating in the rest of the world. Some three-quarters of new infections are now outside China. The 327 new cases China reported Friday is the lowest since Jan. 23. The AP reports that some 83,000 people worldwide have been infected, including more than 2,300 in South Korea.
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