Donald Trump has spent his Monday attacking former President Barack Obama and the “fake news” media for its coverage of the deadly coronavirus outbreak, claiming the stock market’s morning plunge was the result of negative news coverage.
After spending a weekend golfing with Washington Nationals players, the president lambasted Barack Obama’s administration and compared the coronavirus to the common flu. US health officials began to warn that older Americans and people who are sick may be at risk of contracting the illness, as at least 30 states confirmed cases of the Wuhan coronavirus.
Coronavirus fears and a crash in oil prices sent a shudder through financial markets on Monday, with stocks plummeting so fast on Wall Street that they triggered the first automatic halt in trading in over two decades.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 7.8 percent, and European markets entered a bear market, registering their heaviest losses since the darkest days of the 2008 meltdown, as the damage mounted from the crisis that has closed factories, schools and stores and led to travel bans and unprecedented quarantines.
"The market has had a crisis of confidence," said Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at Baird.
The market slide came as Italy, the hardest-hit place in Europe, began enforcing a lockdown against 16 million people in the north - a quarter of the population - with masked police officers and soldiers checking travellers' documents. The turmoil is expected to push Italy into recession and weigh on the European economy.
In the US, a cruise ship with a cluster of coronavirus cases that forced it to idle off the California coast for days arrived at the port of Oakland as officials prepared to start taking passengers to military bases for quarantine or get them back to their home countries.
The Grand Princess had more than 3,500 people aboard - 21 infected with the virus.
The escalating crisis combined with an intertwined development - plummeting oil prices - to drag down the market. The price of oil sank nearly 20% after Russia refused to roll back production in response to virus-depressed demand and Saudi Arabia signalled it will ramp up its own output.
While low oil prices can translate into cheaper fuel, they wreak havoc on energy companies and countries that count on petroleum revenue, including the number one producer, the US.
Additional reporting by Associated Press. Read The Independent's live updates as they came in below:
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Good morning and welcome to live coverage from The Independent on Donald Trump and the White House administration's response to the coronavirus outbreak in the US. Today we'll be covering the latest developments surrounding the Wuhan coronavirus and the government's handling as it prepares to take in thousands of passengers from a cruise ship dealing with an outbreak of the deadly illness off the coast of California.
The president spent his weekend with both current and former Washington Nationals players at his golf clubs in Florida as federal officials prepared to receive the passengers and changed their tone on the latest developments surrounding the mysterious illness responsible for over 3,500 deaths worldwide.
He seemed to have harsh words when his predecessor went golfing amid the Ebola outbreak (because, of course, there is always a tweet when it comes to Donald Trump) -
US health officials have begun to warn that older Americans and people who are sick may be at risk of contracting the illness, as at least 30 states confirmed cases of the Wuhan coronavirus.
Meanwhile, the stock market was predicted to take a major hit on Monday morning as fears of a potential global pandemic continued to grow.
Federal officials scramble to deal with coronavirus outbreak
US Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson acknowledged that a process was not fully put in place as of this weekend to deal with thousands of passengers set to be received by federal and state officials from a cruise ship dealing with a coronavirus outbreak off the coast of California:
Breaking news: Trading has been halted as the stock market plunged on Monday morning. Here's The Independent's Danielle Zoellner with more:
As the stock market begins to stabilize somewhat, here's The Independent's James Moore with what the coronavirus outbreak could potentially mean for global businesses:
After spending his weekend golfing, Trump fundraises amid coronavirus fears
The president is now spending his Monday fundraising for his re-election campaign, where he's expected to make $4 million by attending a luncheon with a reported 250 attendees. There is nothing else listed on his public schedule for the day.
The Independent's Phil Thomas has more on Donald Trump's plan to ditch this year's St Patrick's Day Parade on Capitol Hill:
The lunch, hosted by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, has been held every year since 1983 and has only been skipped by presidents four times since then, Politico reports. The last time it happened was when George W Bush decided not to attend in 2003, shortly before the start of the Iraq War.
White House spokesman Judd Deere told Politico: “Since the Speaker has chosen to tear this nation apart with her actions and her rhetoric, the president will not participate in moments where she so often chooses to drive discord and disunity, and will instead celebrate the rich history and strong ties between the United States and Ireland at the White House on 12 March.
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham went on Fox News earlier this morning to slam Democrats and the media for covering the deadly coronavirus, as more than 30 states confirm cases across the country.
"I just want to stress to politicians and the media to stop using this as a tool to politicize things and to scare people," she said.
The press secretary added: "It's not responsible. This is not the time for this. People need to be looking to the CDC for guidance. People need to be washing their hands, treating this like the flu, making responsible choices. This is absolutely not the time to be trying to scare people to gain political points or make headlines."
After headlining fundraising events in Orlando, Florida, Donald Trump will return to the White House to huddle with his economic team about a potential package of steps the government could take to ward off a coronavirus-triggered economic slowdown – or recession.
A White House official confirmed the meeting, and it is expected the president's aides will lay out options from which he could choose steps to guard against an election-year economic lull that could cost him a second term.
Among the options expected to be on the menu: Paid sick leave for all virus victims.
Mr Trump is scheduled to return to the White House around 3:45 p.m.
As he arrived in Orlando, a reporter traveling in his travel pool filed a dispatch from the central Florida city's airport saying the president was shaking hands with a group of supporters who cheered wildly as he stepped of Air Force One. Public health experts have warned hand-shaking is a leading way to spread the virus, which Mr Trump has downplayed as not as serious as the flu, or influenza.
As Air Force One was about to land in Orlando, Mr Trump fired off a tweet giving statistics about the common flu from an uncited source, contending that tens of thousands die in America each year from influenza but "Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on.
"At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!" he advised his fellow Americans.
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