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Ukraine Closes Consulate In Milan As Markets Fall Over Virus Fears


Soldiers wearing face masks stand outside the Duomo cathedral, closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, in Milan, Italy, on February 24.
Soldiers wearing face masks stand outside the Duomo cathedral, closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, in Milan, Italy, on February 24.

The Ukrainian Consulate in Milan has said it will stop seeing citizens and accepting documents until further notice starting on February 25 due to the outbreak of the virus in the Lombardy region.

The Italian sports minister announced late on February 24 that upcoming soccer matches in Italian Serie A and the Europa League would be played without spectators at venues located in areas affected by the virus.

Seven people have died and more than 220 have caught the virus in Italy as of February 24 and it has the most confirmed cases in Europe.

Italian shares tumbled more than 5 percent, the biggest daily drop in almost four years, while residents emptied supermarket shelves to stock up on essentials.

The spread of the disease has already killed 2,663 people and infected 77,658 in mainland China as of February 24.

The country's National Health Commission on February 25 reported 71 new virus deaths and 508 new confirmed cases for the previous day.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump will ask Congress for $2.5 billion to fight the coronavirus epidemic as rising infection numbers spooked financial markets from the United States to Italy and Germany on February 24.

The White House said more than $1 billion of the requested funds would be used for developing a vaccine to inoculate and protect the public from the virus, which originated in China and has infected more than 80,000 worldwide.

The remainder of the money would be used to support preparedness and response activities and to purchase equipment and supplies, White House budget office spokeswoman Rachel Semmel said.

Wall Street stocks finished with steep losses as U.S. markets followed suit with peers around the world.The broad-based S&P 500 closed 3.35 percent down, while the benchmark Dow Jones Industrial average lost more than 1,000 points, or more than 3.5 percent.

Reacting to the quick spread of the COVID-19 virus in South Korea and Italy, the technological-stock-laden Nasdaq witnessed similar declines and 10-year Treasury yields were near a record low.

Oil prices also declined.

Germany’s main trading platform, Frankfurt's DAX, closed 4.01 percent down and the eurozone's Eurostoxx 50 sunk by 4.01 percent.

Afghanistan, Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman on February 24 reported their first cases of the COVID-19 virus -- all involving people who had come from Iran, which has recorded the highest death toll outside the disease's epicenter in China.

The semiofficial ILNA news agency reported that 50 people had died from the virus in the central city of Qom in Iran, but Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi rejected the report, telling a news conference that the total number of confirmed cases now stood at 61, including 12 deaths.

In South Korea, seven people have died with 833 people infected -- the largest number outside China. Many new cases have been linked to a church in the city of Daegu.

However, World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cautioned against using the word "pandemic," saying it did not fit the facts.

"We must focus on containment while preparing for a potential pandemic," he told reporters in Geneva, adding that the world was not threatened by an uncontained spread or large-scale deaths.

The epidemic in China peaked between January 23 and February 2 and has been declining since, the WHO said.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa, and RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, Ukrainian Service, and Radio Mashaal
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