Donald Trump surprised the media on Saturday when he announced he’d taken the coronavirus test, despite previously suggesting he didn’t see the utility in subjecting himself to the inconvenience.
I’ll save you the suspense: Trump’s test was negative. As of the time he was tested (by his account, Friday evening), the president was not positive for COVID-19.
“Last night after an in-depth discussion with the President regarding COVID-19 testing, he elected to proceed”, Sean Conley said, in a statement. “This evening I received confirmation that the test is negative”
And it’s a good thing, because no body double would suffice. Only Trump can be Trump.
Jokes aside, the outbreak is no laughing matter. Spain declared an emergency (effective immediately and lasting at least 15 days) and told people to stay in their homes, becoming the second European country (after Italy) to institute a nationwide lockdown.
The government said citizens are allowed to leave their homes only to buy food, go to work if working remotely isn’t possible, to help others or to seek medical assistance for themselves.
France closed all nonessential business, starting at midnight Saturday. “Too many people still go to cafes and restaurants”, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said, during a press briefing in Paris on Saturday. “We must show more discipline”.
As ever, the following chart is accurate to the best of my data gathering abilities, and is based on official government statistics and figures reported by the most reputable, mainstream media outlets. Still, the accuracy of the numbers is obviously impossible to verify in real-time.
Norway has effectively shut itself off from the rest of the world. The country’s airports, ports and border crossings are all closed. The army is enforcing the order. “We’ve decided to shut our airports, close our ports and implement extensive controls along our border”, Prime Minister Erna Solberg declared.
Remember, this is just about the last thing Europe needed right now. Output contracted in Italy and France in Q4 and the bloc’s economy was essentially flatlining even before the epidemic. On Friday, the EU Commission said a recession is now the base case.
“The direct impact through all channels is estimated to reduce real GDP growth in 2020 by 2.5 percentage points compared to a situation where there would be no pandemic”, the EC lamented. “Given that real GDP growth was forecast to be 1.4% for the EU in 2020, this would imply it could fall to just over -1% of GDP in 2020”.
Meanwhile, Israel is now limiting gatherings to just 10 people. Benjamin Netanyahu shuttered all leisure and entertainment venues starting Sunday morning.
In the US, North Carolina closed all public schools for at least two weeks starting Monday, Gov. Roy Cooper said Saturday. Mississippi declared a state of emergency, bringing the total (including the District of Columbia) to 32. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp authorized as many as 2,000 Georgia National Guard troops to assist in efforts to address virus concerns and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger postponed the state’s Democratic Primary scheduled for March 24 (it’s been is rescheduled for May 19).
At the risk of stating the obvious, none of this is market-friendly news, not that markets should be anyone’s highest priority right now.
Economic activity is effectively shutting down across major economies, and the US will likely be next assuming cases continue to rise, which they almost assuredly will, according to all experts.
“We have not reached our peak”, NIAID director Anthony Fauci cautioned on Saturday. “We will see more suffering and death, predominantly among the vulnerables in our society”.
“Western governments are no longer trying to contain the virus but to pursue a ‘delay’ strategy to limit the peak in infections, which otherwise threatens to overload health services”, Rabobank’s Michael Every wrote Friday.
“Economies are in lockdown and markets are in turmoil”, he added. “Quite rightly, this is the short-term focus for all of us, and suggests the virus will dominate most of 2020”.