March 17, 2020 / 7:29 AM / 16 days ago

What you need to know about the coronavirus today

March 17 (Reuters) - Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus today: Looking for the “big number” The race is on to launch the third – and largest yet – package of stimulus measures in the United States as economic activity stalls. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he was seeking a “big number” for additional legislation that would trigger support for small companies, aid for whole industries – read airlines and hotels – and general stimulus. One Senate Democrat urged an additional $750 billion to address the crisis.

While some hope the Senate would be in a position to pass such bills this week – not least because of uncertainty about its work schedule caused by the coronavirus outbreak – it was not clear whether such a timetable was viable. “I don’t think we can assume that we can keep reconvening the Senate every week,” Republican Senator Marco Rubio said. UK response jolted by new research Britain meanwhile is expected to unveil more help for businesses after the government told people to avoid pubs, clubs, restaurants, cinemas and theatres, raising the risk of companies collapsing. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has been jolted into tougher measures by new research painting a worst-case picture of hundreds of thousands of deaths and a health service overwhelmed with severely sick patients.

Separately, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the city would begin operating a reduced service over the next few days.

Traders ‘flying blind’

Many traders working from out-of-town offices or in unfamiliar dealing rooms fear that despite the best-laid contingency plans, communication problems and technical glitches risk adding to already spiralling volatility.

One investment strategist struggling to work with two screens instead of the normal five or six described it as “flying blind”.

The spread

Cases outside China surpassed 100,000 for the first time overnight, with a majority of infected countries in Europe reporting more than 100 cases each. Five countries globally reported more than 1,000 new cases each: Italy, Spain, France, Germany and Iran.

The earlier major outbreak in South Korea continues to ease, while China reported just 12 new cases. Europe is firmly the centre of most new cases, though Africa, South America and Southeast Asia are reporting steady increases, in patterns similar to Europe weeks ago.

There are now more than 101,000 cases and 7,165 deaths linked to the coronavirus across 163 countries and territories. China now accounts for less than half of all cases and deaths. Around 44% of infected people have reportedly recovered.

Social distancing is hard

In Paris, some cafes have taken to selling only takeaway coffee instead of seating patrons, leading to their clientele moving to the pavement, much to the despair of at least one cafe owner.

“I’d thought they’d buy their coffee and leave. But no, they linger and talk!” said Frederic Monnier of Le Cafe Tabac.

Tempers have started flaring in some U.S. cities over people trying to go about their normal lives, with those committed to complying with public health officials urging people to stay home to prevent the spread.

“Flatten the curve, go home! Flatten the curve, go home!” a man in New York’s Brooklyn borough yelled out of the window of a four-story apartment building, as people walked on the street below. (Compiled by Karishma Singh and Mark John, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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