New world news from Time: A Silent Epidemic? Experts Fear the Coronavirus Is Spreading Undetected in Southeast Asia

As coronavirus cases continue to soar globally, in at least one region a steady façade of optimism persists. Southeast Asia’s foreign ministers have joined hands with China and declared their intention to “stay strong!”

Yet their hastily called meeting in secretive, socialist Laos last week suggests not so much resiliency as the need to shore up mutual support. Health experts are widely skeptical of the numbers reported by China’s neighbors, and believe the deadly infection is spreading undetected throughout much of Southeast Asia.

With infection clusters increasingly sprouting outside the mainland, where the virus originated, many fear these pockets—rooted out or not—are sustaining the outbreak and pushing the world toward a global pandemic.

The disease, officially COVID-19, has sickened over 83,000 and killed more than 2,850, primarily in China. But cases have spread to more than four dozen countries, and been identified as far away as Brazil and Finland.

Strangely absent from the list are Myanmar and Laos, which border China, as well as Brunei, East Timor, and Indonesia—of which the latter had daily, direct flights to the virus epicenter, Wuhan. Every other country in the region, all beneficiaries of Chinese aid, investment and tourism, has reported cases.

PHYO MAUNG MAUNG—AFP/Getty Images A Myanmar health officer checks the temperature of a child entering the Myanmar-China border crossing in Muse, Shan State on Jan. 31, 2020.

“The transmission dynamics of this virus are like the flu. It’s very, very difficult to stop,” says Richard Coker, a Bangkok-based professor emeritus of public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

At the beginning of the outbreak, several of these governments downplayed the severity of the threat, publicly voicing their wariness of offending the superpower upon whom their economies rely. In lieu of public health precautions or stringent defenses, they offered folk remedies—suggesting everything from consuming onions or alcohol to working less to ward off coronavirus.

“Surely the desire not to alienate China was a factor,” says Joshua Kurlantzick, senior fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Overall, the region is just so heavily tied to China now.”

In Cambodia, which has increasingly gravitated into China’s orbit, Prime Minister Hun Sen insists he won’t cut air travel, beyond suspending the six weekly flights from Wuhan. He also refuses to evacuate citizens stranded in Wuhan, as other countries have done. While Beijing chided the U.S. for banning Chinese travelers, saying it “set a bad example,” Hun Sen earned plaudits when he flew to China earlier this month.

“A friend in need is a friend indeed,” he wrote on his official Facebook page.

But Hun Sen’s vehement denial of the disease’s risks has stoked fears that Cambodia, a tourism hotspot with limited health resources, will become yet another vector of transmission.

“The cost of his decision is the health of his people,” says Sophal Ear, an expert on Cambodian politics at Occidental College in California. “Cambodia has become the weakest link: a country with poor health care, poor disease surveillance, and a long rap sheet of non-reporting.”

READ MORE: The Coronavirus Outbreak Could Derail Xi Jinping’s Dreams of a Chinese Century

Earlier this month, a study by five researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health concluded that it is statistically implausible that Cambodia and Thailand do not have more cases, and virtually impossible that Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, has not reported a single one. Based on its direct flights from Wuhan, the archipelago should have at least five patients by now, the study found.

It’s not that these countries are getting lucky, says Marc Lipsitch, director of Harvard’s Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, and one of the study’s authors. “They’re missing infections.”

About 2 million Chinese tourists visit Indonesia annually, mostly holidaying in Bali. According to China’s consulate there, 5,000 Chinese tourists, 200 from Wuhan, were visiting the resort island when news of the outbreak suspended flights on Feb. 5. Most were not quarantined or tested.

Ulet Ifansasti—Getty Images An Indonesian health official monitors as passengers from an international flight pass a thermal scanner upon arrival at the Adisucipto International Airport in Yogyakarta, Indonesia on Jan. 23, 2020.

“There are definitely cases. We just haven’t found them yet,” says Dr. Shela Putri Sundawa, an Indonesian physician who hosts health podcast “Relatif Perspective.”

“I think the surveillance we’re doing now is too loose.”

Doctors in Indonesia are not testing all respiratory infections for coronavirus, relying instead on weeding out suspected patients by their links to known cases or their travel history, she says.

But cases have already turned up in several countries among those who have not been to China. Missing one potential carrier can lead to further infections that can’t be linked to travel, meaning more and more patients who might never be screened.

“You can’t find things you don’t look for,” says Lipsitch, the Harvard epidemiologist. “We estimated that even high surveillance countries were missing about half their imported cases.”

He predicts that a global coronavirus pandemic is “likely” and that 40 to 70 percent of the world’s population could be infected (though they won’t all become sick).

‘So what can we investigate?’

In Indonesia, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, security minister Mohammad Mahfud MD has told reporters “the coronavirus does not exist” in the country.

Indonesia’s health officials insist their protocols follow the World Health Organization’s guidelines with a system focusing on temperature checks at arrival gates and self-reporting. Most of Southeast Asia follows this approach, even as several studies indicate border screenings are not effective.

“I think airport scanning is more of a political measure than a practical measure. It might calm people down and demonstrate that the government is doing something, but as for public health, it’s not very useful,” says Coker, the emeritus public health professor.

These screenings must catch people in a very narrow window, between when they are well enough to travel, but sick enough to detect. Temperature scanners, fickle at the best of times, will also not find anyone whose fever may have subsided after a Tylenol on the plane. And just because someone doesn’t present clinical symptoms, doesn’t mean they aren’t sick. Asymptomatic patients still in the incubation phase have shed this coronavirus, according to doctors.

Two tourists who traveled through Indonesia before later testing positive have prompted alarm. A Chinese visitor who traveled to Bali from Wuhan was reportedly confirmed to have the virus on Feb. 4, after he left, while a man from Tokyo was hospitalized with the infection soon after returning to Japan on Feb. 19.

Indonesia’s health directorate general secretary, Achmad Yurianto, told local media he did not know the Japanese man’s name or where he visited. “So what can we investigate?”

CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN—AFP/Getty Images Women wearing face masks exercise at a playground in Banda Aceh, Indonesia on Feb. 2, 2020.

The government also said that none of the 243 people who were evacuated from Wuhan on Feb. 2 showed signs of the virus while quarantined at a military hospital on an island northwest of Borneo.

But Dr. Putri Sundawa noted that the standard quarantine lasts 14 days, while the disease incubation period can stretch potentially as long as 24 days.

“If there were no complaints of pneumonia, they would not be checked,” she says.

READ MORE: ‘It Will Be Catastrophic.’ Asia’s Tourism-Dependent Economies Are Being Hit Hard by the Coronavirus

Relying on self-reporting once cases are introduced to the country creates further problems if patients and medical workers don’t know what to look for. An Indonesian woman with viral pneumonia was reportedly discharged because she had not been to China, while a nurse who cared for her had “no idea” the case could have been a coronavirus suspect.

It’s also hard to test for coronavirus without the right lab kits, which Indonesia lacked until February 5. The country’s health minister, a former military doctor who previously stoked controversy for urging a “brainwashing” treatment on stroke victims, determined that prayer had kept the virus away. His message to the public: “don’t be anxious.”

Myanmar, like Indonesia, has not reported a single case of coronavirus as of Friday. The restive country shares a 1,400-mile, porous border with China over which goods and people continue to flow.

Until donated testing kits arrived on Feb. 20, no domestic hospitals were able to confirm coronavirus cases. Previously, samples had to be shipped to Thailand or Hong Kong with results taking up to one week.

In a country with limited political freedoms and a kneejerk reaction to negative press, the government has kept a tight lid on coronavirus. Even government spokespeople said they did not have permission to comment on what preparations were being taken for an outbreak. Rather than empower the spread of information, the Health Ministry has reportedly proposed amending legislation to punish any healthcare workers who talk to the press or public about the virus with up to six months in jail or a $70 fine.

‘Extreme risk’

“Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general, said earlier this month.

With the exception of small and affluent Singapore, which experts have praised for its response to coronavirus, Southeast Asian governments spend little on health per capita by international standards. Even Indonesia, with a population of nearly 270 million spread over thousands of islands, faces discrepancies in health resources and suffers an overall shortage of facilities and personnel.

While admitting they may struggle amid an outbreak, Indonesian health officials insist they will contain the virus before it becomes one. But many health experts say it’s too late, as coronavirus will ultimately evade containment.

Coker, in Bangkok, says all countries should be preparing for a pandemic and implementing mitigation measures, like closing schools, preparing hospitals and redistributing medical staff as needed. Southeast Asian countries, he says, should assume they have cases.

The U.K.’s National Health Services has already seemingly made the leap. Anyone returning from Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos with symptoms, however mild, is advised to call the NHS hotline. Global risk analysis firm Verisk Maplecroft warns of “extreme risk” in Indonesia and Cambodia based on those countries’ ability to respond to a pandemic.

TANG CHHIN SOTHY—AFP/Getty Images Volunteers hand out free face masks to people along a street in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Jan. 29, 2020.

Yet even amid concerns about regional preparedness and possible equipment shortages, several Southeast Asian nations have been rushing to donate goggles, face masks and respirators to China. Laos, with a GDP comparable to Mali’s and Afghanistan’s, mustered $400,000 and $100,000-worth of supplies for the world’s second-largest economy after a national fundraising campaign.

Such political genuflection may have broad consequences. How nations across the world cope with coronavirus, and what they choose to prioritize, could resonate globally. And because of cross-border travel, migration and international tourism, Southeast Asia is highly interconnected with the rest of the world.

As countries everywhere grapple with or brace for coronavirus, the possibility of undetected cases spreading throughout the region underscores how the virus can no longer be assumed to stay confined to a handful of outbreak clusters.

“The significance of not recognizing the true breadth of the outbreak is that it continues to suggest to some that the travel bans and quarantines are effective tools in limiting global spread,” says virologist Christopher Mores at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health.

“The sooner this outbreak is appreciated for the pandemic it has become, the better for a coordinated global response.”

New world news from Time: The World’s Growing Gender Inequality ‘Should Shame Us All,’ Says U.N. Chief

(UNITED NATIONS) — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Thursday that inequality for women is growing and it “should shame us all in the 21st century because it is not only unacceptable, it is stupid.”

The U.N. chief said in a speech at the New School in New York that gender inequality and discrimination against women is the “one overwhelming injustice across the globe — an abuse that is crying out for attention.”

“Everywhere, women are worse off than men, simply because they are women,” he said, and minority, migrant, refugee and disabled women “face even greater barriers.”

Guterres said gender inequality is “a stain,” just like slavery and colonialism were in previous centuries.

He said young women like Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who campaigned for girls’ right to education after surviving being shot by Taliban militants, and Nadia Murad, the Nobel peace laureate who survived enslavement and sexual abuse by Islamic State extremists in Iraq, “are breaking barriers and creating new models of leadership.”

But despite these advances, Guterres said, “the state of women’s rights remains dire.”

“Progress has slowed to a standstill — and in some cases, been reversed,” he said. “There is a strong and relentless push back against women’s rights.”

Guterres pointed to violence against women “at epidemic levels,” with more than one in three women experiencing violence in their lifetimes, and legal protections against rape and domestic violence “being diluted or rolled back.”

The secretary-general spoke ahead of the meeting of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women from March 9-20 which will assess implementation of the declaration and platform for action adopted by the world’s nations at the U.N. women’s conference in Beijing 25 years ago to achieve gender equality.

Guterres said women leaders and female public figures “face harassment, threats and abuse, online and off” and are excluded from “the top table” in government, corporations and peace negotiations.

“From the ridiculing of women as hysterical or hormonal, to the routine judgment of women based on their looks, from the myths and taboos that surround women’s natural bodily functions, to mansplaining and victim-blaming — misogyny is everywhere,” Guterres said.

“And the digital age could make these inequalities even more entrenched,” Guterres warned.

The secretary-general said he sees five areas where achieving gender equality “will transform the world.”

First, he calls for an end to “men waging war on women,” noting that 137 women around the world are killed by a member of their own family every day.

The U.N. is committed to putting women at the center of conflict prevention, peacemaking, peace-building and mediation — and to increase the number of female peacekeepers, he said.

In other areas, Guterres said “macho posturing will not save our planet” but gender equality “is essential if we are to beat the climate emergency.” And he said women still earn just 77 cents for every dollar earned by men and that must be rectified to ensure equal economic rights.

As for the digital divide, Guterres said many algorithms are biased toward men, and “unless women play an equal role in designing digital technologies, progress on women’s rights could be reversed.”

Finally, the secretary-general said political representation must improve, noting that while women’s participation in parliaments around the world has doubled in the last 25 years, it’s only been “to one quarter” of members, and less than one-tenth of the world’s nations are led by women.

“Gender equality is a question of power — power that has been jealously guarded by men for millennia,” Guterres said.

“We must urgently transform and redistribute power, if we are to safeguard our future and our planet,” he said.

New world news from Time: Hong Kong Newspaper Owner Arrested on Charges of Unlawful Assembly and Intimidation

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai has been arrested on suspicion of participating in an unlawful assembly last year and intimidating a reporter in 2017.

The arrest was confirmed by Mark Simon, the group director for Lai’s company, Next Digital Ltd., which publishes the Apple Daily newspaper. Two former pro-democracy lawmakers and activists, Lee Cheuk-yan and Yeung Sum, were also arrested on suspicion of unlawful assembly Friday, he said.

“This is ridiculous,” Simon said by phone. Lai was being held in a police station in Kowloon and was waiting to see his lawyer, he said.

The Police Public Relations Branch didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. The moves were earlier reported by local media including Now TV and Cable TV.

The arrests come amid a lull in protest activity following more than six months of nearly non-stop demonstrations in the former British colony and as the city battles the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus. The Hong Kong police have been going through footage and trying to track down around 300 protesters and suspects, the South China Morning Post newspaper reported Jan 29.

The arrests also follow Beijing’s appointment of new hard-line officials responsible for overseeing Hong Kong. Earlier this month, China tapped Xia Baolong, the vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, as director of the Hong Kong & Macau Affairs Office.

Beijing also appointed Luo Huining — a cadre known for executing President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign — as head of China’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong. Simon, the Next Digital group director, said Lai’s arrest probably stemmed from the Liaison Office’s desire to show it was taking action.

Lai has long championed the city’s pro-democracy movement and has been labeled a traitor by the Chinese government.

Around 10 police officers arrived at Lai’s home in Ho Man Tin in Kowloon at around 7:30 a.m. Friday, according to local newspaper Oriental Daily News. He was arrested in relation to the criminal intimidation of the newspaper’s reporter in 2017 and for unlawful assembly on Aug. 31 last year, the Oriental Daily said, citing unidentified people.

The Oriental Daily had long sought to have Lai prosecuted over the 2017 incident, Simon said.

New world news from Time: Coronavirus Patient’s Pet Dog Tests Positive for ‘Low Level’ of Virus

The pet dog of a coronavirus patient in Hong Kong has been found to have a “low level” of the virus, the Hong Kong government said early Friday.

The dog tested “weak positive” for the coronavirus, the city’s agricultural and fisheries department said in a statement, without giving further details. Officials will carry out further tests to confirm whether the dog has really been infected with the disease, or if it was a result of environmental contamination of its mouth and nose.

Much is still not known about the virus that is spreading around the world after emerging in central China late last year. It is thought to have transferred to humans from bats and has been shown to spread in a number of ways, but the Hong Kong agricultural department said it doesn’t have evidence that pet animals can be infected, or be a source of infection to people.

If confirmed, the dog would be the first case of a pet catching the coronavirus amid a global outbreak that’s now infected more than 82,000 people and claimed more than 2,800 lives.

The dog is being quarantined at an animal facility, the Hong Kong government said. The department strongly advised that pets of confirmed virus patients also be put under quarantine.

New world news from Time: 29 Turkish Soldiers Killed in Air Strike in Northern Syria

(BEIRUT) — More than two dozen Turkish soldiers were killed in an air strike by Syrian government forces in northeast Syria, a Turkish official said Friday.

The deaths mark a serious escalation in the direct conflict between Turkish and Russia-backed Syrian forces that has been waged since early February.

Rahmi Dogan, the governor of Turkey’s Hatay province bordering Syria’s Idlib region, said 29 troops were killed and others were seriously wounded in the attack late Thursday.

In addition to three Turkish soldiers killed in Idlib earlier Thursday, the casualties mark the largest death toll for Turkey in a single day since Ankara first intervened in Syria in 2016. At least 50 have now been killed in Idlib since the start of February.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was holding an emergency security meeting in Ankara, state-run Anadolu news agency reported. Meanwhile Turkish Foreign Minister Mevult Cavusoglu spoke to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg by telephone.

Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin, who plays a senior role in foreign affairs, also spoke to U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien.

The air strike 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.

The offensive has also engulfed many of the 12 military observation posts Turkey has in Idlib.

Fahrettin Altun, Erdogan’s communications director, said “all known” Syrian government targets were under attack by Turkish air and land forces in response to the deaths.

Turkish television news channels aired black-and-white footage of air strikes on Syrian targets.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 34 Turkish soldiers were killed in air strikes on Idlib on Thursday. It said the attacks occurred in an area between the villages of al-Bara and Baliun near the Jabal al-Zawiya region in the southern Idlib countryside. The Britain-based Observatory monitors the Syria war through a network of activists on the ground.

The air strike came after Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters retook a strategic northwestern town from government forces on Thursday, opposition activists said, cutting a key highway just days after the government reopened it for the first time since 2012.

Despite losing the town of Saraqeb, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces made major gains to the south. Assad now controls almost the entire southern part of Idlib province after capturing more than 20 villages Thursday, state media and opposition activists said. It’s part of a weekslong campaign backed by Russian air power into Syria’s last rebel stronghold.

Violence in Idlib province also left three more Turkish soldiers dead, according to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, raising the number of Turkish troops killed in Syria this month to 21. Thousands of Turkish soldiers are deployed inside rebel-controlled areas of Idlib province, which is dominated by al-Qaida-linked militants.

Turkey’s U.N. Ambassador Feridun Sinirlioglu told the Security Council on Thursday that Turkey was committed to upholding a fragile cease-fire agreement that Turkey and Russia reached on Idlib in 2018.

The Syrian government troops’ “deliberate attacks on our forces has been a turning point. We are now determined more than ever to preserve Idlib’s de-escalation status.”

Syria’s Defense Ministry said insurgents were using Turkey-supplied portable surface-to-air missiles to attack Syrian and Russian aircraft. It did not elaborate. Earlier this month, Turkish-backed opposition fighters shot down two helicopter gunships belonging to the Syrian military.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitoring group, said opposition fighters seized the town of Saraqeb after intense bombardment by Turkish troops. Turkey and Russia support opposite sides in Syria’s brutal civil war, with Ankara backing the opposition and Moscow backing Assad.

Saraqeb’s loss is a big setback for Assad. It sits on the strategic M5 highway linking the northern city of Aleppo with the capital, Damascus. Syrian troops recaptured the last rebel-controlled section of the M5 earlier this month. Officials had hailed the reopening of the motorway as a major victory in the nine-year conflict.

The Syrian government’s military campaign to recapture Idlib province has triggered a humanitarian catastrophe and the war’s largest single wave of displacement. According to the United Nations, almost 950,000 civilians have been displaced since early December, and more than 300 have been killed. Most have fled farther north to safer areas near the Turkish border, overwhelming camps already crowded with refugees in cold winter weather.

From inside Saraqeb, activist Taher al-Omar said the town is now under opposition control. He posted a video with a fighter saying the government forces “ran away like rats.”

The Observatory said more than 60 fighters were killed on both sides since Wednesday, adding that government forces launched a counteroffensive later Thursday under the cover of Russian airstrikes to try retake the town.

Syrian state media reported intense clashes near Saraqeb, saying insurgents sent suicide car bombs and that Turkish forces bombarded the area. It said a small group of insurgents reached the highway to score a “propaganda stunt,” adding that “Syrian troops are dealing with them.”

State TV later Thursday confirmed that insurgents have cut the highway, adding that fighting is ongoing in the area.

The Observatory also reported on the more than 20 villages captured Thursday by the government. It added that Syrian troops have now besieged another Turkish observation post in an area known as Sheer Maghar.

The government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media said government forces advancing from northern parts of Hama province met Thursday with forces moving from southern Idlib, bringing wide areas under Syrian army control.

If government forces now turn north, they can eventually reach another major highway known as the M4 that links Syria’s coastal region with the country’s west. Assad has vowed to retake all of Syria.

Assad’s forces have captured dozens of villages over the past few days, including major rebel strongholds.

However, Erdogan said Thursday that, “The situation in Idlib has turned in our favor.” Speaking at the opening of a political academy in the capital, Ankara, he said the Syrian government had sustained “huge” losses.

Turkey’s Defense Ministry on Thursday said two Turkish soldiers were killed in Syria in an air attack the previous day, and that two others were wounded.

The Observatory reported that Syrian government warplanes struck a Turkish military post in the Jabal al-Zawiya region on Thursday, killing three soldiers and wounding others.


Wilks reported from Ankara, Turkey. Associated Press writers Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

New world news from Time: Global Stocks Plunge as Coronavirus Fears Deepen

Global stocks plunged to four-month lows, government debt yields sunk to unprecedented levels and crude oil extended declines as anxiety over the spread of the coronavirus deepened.

The S&P 500 tumbled 4.4% to close at the lowest levels of the day. It whipsawed investors earlier, turning lower late after California’s governor said the state was monitoring 8,400 people for signs of the virus after they traveled to Asia. The decline of more than 10% since last Friday has the benchmark on pace for its worse week since the 2008 global financial crisis and helped push the index into what is known as a correction. The MSCI All-Country World Index fell to the lowest since October, while the Stoxx Europe 600 also entered a correction.

“Stocks and bonds say we’re doomed,” said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist for MUFG Union Bank. “Anyone who has a better idea for what lies ahead please let us know because right now the direction ahead for the economy is straight down.”

The outbreak has the potential to become a pandemic and is at a decisive stage, the head of the World Health Organization said Thursday. The global economy is on course for its weakest year since the financial crisis as the virus damages demand in China and beyond, Bank of America predicted. Earlier, Goldman Sachs slashed its outlook for U.S. companies’ profit growth to zero. Germany is examining potential stimulus measures to stem the economic impact. Saudi Arabia halted religious visits that draw millions.

Haven assets continued to be in demand, and the yen strengthened as yields on 10-year U.S. and Australian government bonds hit fresh record lows. Oil sank further. The pound reversed a gain after the U.K. told the European Union it could walk away from the negotiating table in June if progress isn’t being made toward a trade deal.

Investors are pricing in a Federal Reserve easing in April followed by another rate cut in July, swaps data show, while bets for easing from Japan to Australia have also increased after the International Monetary Fund cut global growth forecasts.

Losses continue to mount as investors weigh each gloomy headline on the virus. U.S. health authorities on Wednesday said they found the first case of the illness that does not have ties to a known outbreak. Microsoft Corp. joined an expanding list of companies warning over the impact of the virus on operations.

“The way the market is going down, it’s happening pretty quickly, but it’s very difficult to say that it’s over,” said Sameer Samana, senior global market strategist for Wells Fargo Investment Institute. “Bottoming is a multistep process and you’re probably still in step one.”

Earnings keep rolling in from companies including: Baidu Inc., Occidental Petroleum Corp. and Dell Technologies Inc. on Thursday after the close of U.S. trading, and London Stock Exchange Group Plc on Friday.Here are some key events still to come this week:

  • Japan industrial production, jobs, and retail sales figures are due on Friday.

These are the major moves in markets:


  • The S&P 500 Index sank 4.4% to 2,978.48 as of 4:02 p.m. New York time, hitting the lowest in 19 weeks with its sixth consecutive decline and the largest tumble in more than eight years.
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average decreased 4.4% to 25,763.96, reaching the lowest in six months on its sixth consecutive decline and the biggest dip in about two years.
  • The Nasdaq Composite Index sank 4.6% to 8,566.48, the lowest in almost 12 weeks on the largest tumble in more than eight years.
  • The MSCI All-Country World Index sank 3% to 521.99, reaching the lowest in 19 weeks on its sixth consecutive decline and the biggest tumble in almost four years.


  • The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index dipped 0.3% to 1,211.80.
  • The euro gained 1% to $1.0989, the strongest in almost three weeks on the biggest climb in 21 months.
  • The Japanese yen appreciated 0.5% to 109.85 per dollar, the strongest in more than a week.


  • The yield on 10-year Treasuries fell five basis points to 1.28%, reaching the lowest on record with its sixth straight decline.
  • The yield on 30-year Treasuries declined four basis points to 1.78%, hitting the lowest on record with its sixth straight decline.
  • Britain’s 10-year yield fell three basis points to 0.47%, reaching the lowest in almost 20 weeks on its eighth straight decline and the biggest fall in almost four weeks.
  • Germany’s 10-year yield dipped four basis points to -0.54%, the lowest in almost 20 weeks.


  • Gold weakened 0.1% to $1,637.44 an ounce.
  • West Texas Intermediate crude declined 3.8% to $46.68 a barrel, hitting the lowest in 14 months with its fifth straight decline and the largest drop in almost seven weeks.

— With assistance from Luke Kawa and Claire Ballentine.

New world news from Time: Pope Francis Cancels Visit With Rome Priests Due to ‘Slight’ Illness

(VATICAN CITY) — Pope Francis is sick and skipped a planned Mass with Rome clergy across town on Thursday, officials said.

The Vatican said the 83-year-old pontiff had a “slight indisposition” and would proceed with the rest of his planned work on Thursday. But Francis “preferred to stay near Santa Marta,” the Vatican hotel where he lives.

There was no word from the Vatican about the nature of his illness, but the pope was seen coughing and blowing his nose during the Ash Wednesday Mass. It comes amid an outbreak of the coronavirus in Italy that has sickened more than 400 people, almost all of them in the north. Rome had three cases, but all three were cured.

Read more: Coronavirus Cases Outside China Are Accelerating Rapidly. Here’s What to Know

Francis had been scheduled to go to the St. John Lateran basilica across town to meet with Rome clergy and celebrate a penitential Mass at the start of Lent. Francis is bishop of Rome, but delegates the day-to-day running of the archdiocese to a vicar.

The Argentine pope has generally enjoyed good health. He lost part of one lung as a young man because of a respiratory illness, and suffers from sciatica, which makes walking difficult.

Francis has had a busy schedule lately, including his public general audience on Wednesday and the Ash Wednesday service later in the day in a Roman basilica.

During the audience, Francis made a point to shake hands with the faithful in the front row, kissed a baby during his popemobile spin through St. Peter’s Square and greeted visiting bishops at the end. The prelates, however, appeared to be refraining from kissing his ring or embracing him, as they normally would do.