While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, March 10

Threat of coronavirus pandemic ‘has become very real’: WHO chief Tedros

The coronavirus is closer to causing a pandemic but outbreaks in countries can still be controlled through a combination of containment and mitigation measures, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday.

“Now that the virus has a foothold in so many countries, the threat of a pandemic has become very real,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, told a news conference.

“But it would be the first pandemic that could be controlled. The bottom line is we are not at the mercy of the virus.”

Four countries account for 93 per cent of the nearly 110,000 cases worldwide, Tedros said.

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Italy’s coronavirus death toll rises to 463, total number of cases hits 9,172

The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has risen by 97 to 463, the Civil Protection Agency said on Monday, a slower rate of increase than registered the day before.

The total number of cases in Italy, the European country hardest hit by the virus in Europe, rose 24 per cent to 9,172, the largest daily increase in terms of absolute numbers since the contagion first came to light on Feb 21.

In the northern Italian region of Lombardy, which has borne the brunt of a nationwide contagion, has risen over the past day to 333 from 267, a local official said on Monday.

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Wall Street plummets as coronavirus, oil price drop stoke recession fears

Wall Street took a nose-dive on Monday as recession worries loomed large while tumbling oil prices and ongoing coronavirus fears prompted investor panic on the anniversary of the US stock market’s longest-ever bull run.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 2,013.45 points, or 7.78%, to 23,851.33, the S&P 500 lost 225.81 points, or 7.60%, to 2,746.56 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 624.94 points, or 7.29%, to 7,950.68.

Trading on US stock exchanges was halted immediately after opening, as the benchmark S&P 500 fell 7% to its lowest since June 2019, triggering an automatic 15-minute cutout put in place after the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

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Harry and Meghan wave royal goodbye

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan bowed out as senior royals on Monday (March 9), joining Queen Elizabeth II for a Commonwealth Day ceremony in London before setting off on their own.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were cheered as they joined other members of the royal family at Westminster Abbey in their final public engagement before stepping back from their roles on March 31.

Meghan, wearing an emerald green dress and hat, joined Harry as they briefly spoke with dignitaries, before the arrival of the queen.

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US military begins withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan: Pentagon

The US military has begun withdrawing soldiers from Afghanistan as part of a pullout agreed in the February 29 peace agreement with the Taleban, a Pentagon official said Monday.

The US has committed to reducing its troop level from more than 12,000 at the moment to 8,600 within 135 days of the agreement, said Colonel Sonny Leggett, spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan.

Even with the drawdown, US forces retain “all the military means and authorities to accomplish our objectives – including conducting counterterrorism operations against al-Qaeda and ISIS-K and providing support to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces,” Leggett said in a statement.

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