Coronavirus swarms across Europe as Merkel warns 70% could be infected

Angela Merkel told her government ministers that up to 70% of Germany could become infected with coronavirus, it has been reported.

The German Chancellor is understood to have given the worrying prediction in a parliamentary meeting on Tuesday, rendering the room silent, German newspaper Bild reports.

Germany has more than 1,400 cases of Covid-19, with two confirmed deaths as the disease spreads rapidly through Europe. In Italy – the worst-hit country outside China – 10,000 people have been infected and more than 400 people have died, according to the latest available figures.

All 27 EU leaders will hold a video conference today to discuss the virus outbreak.

According to Bild, Ms Merkel told her ministers yesterday that events and large gatherings could be cancelled in Germany but stopped short of calling for any severe measures as she laid out the possibilities facing the nation amid the outbreak.

In the UK, the Bank of England slashed its key interest rate by half a percentage to 0.25% in an emergency response to the ‘economic shock’ of coronavirus.

The central bank said in a statement that the move, which was supported by all nine members of the Monetary Policy Committee, would ‘help support businesses and consumer confidence at a difficult time’.

The cut – which takes the main rate to the record low it stood in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum in 2016 – came just hours before British chancellor Rishi Sunak delivers his first Budget.

He will announce financial measures to shore up the economy in the face of arguably the biggest economic shock since the global financial crisis 12 years ago.

So far, 382 people have been infected and six died from the virus in Britain. The latest patient, in their 80s and who had underlying health conditions, died at Watford General Hospital on Monday.

The impact of the outbreak has already slammed European airlines, airports and travel-related businesses, as air passenger numbers sink rapidly and travelers avoid cruise ships.

Heathrow Airport saw a 4.8% year-on-year decline in passenger numbers in February due to coronavirus and has warned that demand has continued to weaken in March.

The Bank of England said the effect of Covid-19 on the British economy could be significant, with activity likely to ‘weaken materially’ in the coming months.

Growth projections have been slashed for all major economies around the world as the virus halts production and dents business and consumer confidence.

Around the world, China has reported a slow-down in people contracting the virus and is now seeing more new cases being brought in from overseas.

In Beijing, the capital, all the new cases of Covid-19 reported on Wednesday came from outside the country, five from Italy and one from the US.

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