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Scotiabank halts non-essential travel, WHO raises global coronavirus risk

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Bank of Nova Scotia, the Canadian lender with operations in about 30 countries, has suspended all non-essential business travel as the coronavirus outbreak spreads worldwide.

The Canadian bank has suspended all non-essential travel amid the coronavirus putbreak. (Photo: Winnipeg Free Press)

Scotiabank told its nearly 100,000 employees of its decision, which applies to both domestic and international travel effective immediately, in a firm-wide email sent Thursday from the human resources department, according to people familiar with the memo. Any exceptions require approval from an executive vice president.

The Toronto-based lender joins other companies including JPMorgan Chase & Co. in restricting business trips as the spreading coronavirus risks becoming a pandemic.

A disinfection professional wearing protective gear spray anti-septic solution against the coronavirus (COVID-19) at a sybway station on February 28, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization raised the global risk for the new coronavirus to “very high” from “high.” James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis, said rate cuts may be necessary if it becomes a pandemic, and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said school closings are likely.

Italy, the epicentre of the outbreak in Europe, is expected to approve emergency measures. Germany quarantined about 1,000 people and Switzerland banned large events, leading to the Geneva car show being cancelled. Iran and South Korea revealed more coronavirus cases and Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, confirmed the first infection south of the Sahara desert.

People wearing protective masks walk at Hong Kong Station of MTR in Hong Kong, China, on Tuesday, Feb.11, 2020. Photographer: Paul Yeung/Bloomberg

Mexico confirmed its first case, while Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Britain all reported new infections. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to chair an emergency meeting next week.

Fear over the economic fallout tightened its grip on global markets, sending US equities to a seventh straight loss and sparking demand for safe assets from Treasuries to the yen. Brent crude dipped below $50 a barrel for the first time since December 2018.

Key Developments

  • Confirmed cases worldwide pass 83,000; deaths top 2,800
  • Iran reports 143 more infections; South Korea adds 571
  • Traders speculate on Fed’s first emergency cut since 2008
  • Limited virus testing in Japan masks true scale of infection
  • China is making progress in the battle to get back to work