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European logistics in crosshairs. Virus shutting down Italy. Markets terrified

PortandTerminal.com, February 24, 2020

In Austria, security official Franz Lang said the country was considering activating border controls to Italy. Both nations are part of the European Union’s visa- and passport-free zone, but under certain circumstances, individual countries can reactivate controls. 

MILAN, ITALY – Logistics in Europe are under threat as the number of coronavirus infections in Italy, a nation of 60 million people at the heart of southern Europe, surged to 230 cases today. Italy has already quarantined at least 10 northern towns. Rail, air and road transport already compromised.

BBC is reporting that the death toll is now 7 as of 19:00 AST.

Read: Coronavirus explodes in Italy. Europe threatened. Markets spooked

The news shocked stocks markets globally sending the DOW down by -1,031 points (3.56%). Germany’s DAX was down by 4.01%, while France’s CAC 40 lost 3.94%. Gold, typically seen as a haven investment during times of crisis, saw its prices surge to a 7-year high.

Italy starting to shut down

Italy’s first two cases were a Chinese tourist couple, diagnosed earlier this month and reported recovering in a Rome hospital. Since then the virus has spread like fire in the country’s north.

Roadblocks have been set up in at least 10 towns in Lombardy at the epicentre of the outbreak, to keep people from leaving or arriving.

The dozens of newly confirmed virus cases have resulted in the closure of all schools and universities not only in Milan, Italy’s business capital but also in the entire region of Lombardy, for an indefinite period of time. Movie theatres, concerts and public gatherings have also been banned. LIDL, a supermarket chain, was limiting customers in its stores in Milan to groups of 20 and giving them just 10 minutes to do their shopping.

A couple of elderly people wearing respiratory masks push a trolley loaded with foodstuffs after having been given 10-minutes access to shop in a LIDL supermarket in groups of twenty people on February 23, 2020, in south-west Milan, Italy.

Logistics are already being affected. At one point yesterday Austria, which shares a border with Italy, halted all rail traffic to and from its neighbor for several hours after suspicion that a train at its southern border had two passengers possibly infected with the virus on board, authorities said. 

Empty urban roads and commuter railway lines
Empty roads in Italy’s business capital Milan. Some businesses have asked workers to stay at home.

Roadblocks have been set up in at least 10 towns in Lombardy at the epicenter of the outbreak, to keep people from leaving or arriving. Even trains transiting the area weren’t allowed to stop.

The majority of cases of the virus that have been diagnosed so far are concentrated in the wealthy regions of Lombardy and Veneto that make up about a third of Italy’s output.

It’s too late to stop the spread in Europe

There are already signs that it is too late to contain the virus’ spread from Italy into its neighboring countries.

There were confirmed cases of the virus in Spain (3) and Poland (1) already today that have been traced back to individuals who had recently been in Italy.

The cat is out of the bag.

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