An outbreak of the deadly coronavirus has left the Chinese stock market in tatters, sending the country’s share prices plunging. The virus has led to at least two deaths so far. It is believed that more than 300 people are known to have contracted the disease and the death toll could rise as the number of people infected continues to rise.
Shanghai, which has long been considered a hotbed for finance and commerce, has been the hardest hit, with large industrial companies forced to halt production and lay off staff. Rising economic anxiety has also hit growth in China, which is facing an increase in inflation as the central bank tries to bring down its currency to regain some of the lost ground against the dollar.
The news is so bad that the Chinese central bank is even considering a devaluation of the currency. With the heavy burden of debt from heavily subsidised state-owned enterprises and a growing gap between rich and poor, there has been speculation that the government is planning to bring the stock market under control, though it is not clear whether the central bank would be allowed to intervene.
As well as the news that the market is tanking, there has also been plenty of bad news about the spread of the virus. A huge range of animals, both domestic and wild, have also been reported to be infected, meaning that the disease could still be spreading far into the countryside.
Although many of the hospitals around the country are being properly disinfected, more than 20 are still being monitored by the Chinese government. Officials have warned that it could take a while before all the affected areas are fully disinfected.
The virus is believed to have reached its peak in Shanghai on the 31st of last month. It was first detected in March, when a bird died in the city and was later found to have the virus in its remains.
It was not until July that the outbreak was traced to the mainland, when an infected woman travelling on a flight from the United States was diagnosed with the disease. She died soon after arriving at her destination. The woman had been working as a receptionist for a group called the International Association of Employees’ Representatives, which has a large factory complex in China.
By August, the virus had spread from there to the other major cities, and Beijing’s stock market collapse was well under way. The resulting panic caused a run on the banks, and many citizens were left wondering whether they would ever get their money back.
To make matters worse, the weather has worsened the situation, with heavy rains increasing the risk of flooding. There have been many reports of the affected areas being submerged by waters that have risen up to three feet.
There is still no confirmed evidence that it is related to the Asian strain of the yellow fever virus. There is also no conclusive explanation as to why the virus appears to have struck Shanghai alone, though researchers have noted similarities between the cases in that city and those in Hong Kong and Singapore.
There are fears that the outbreak of the coronavirus may prove fatal, although there is no evidence that it will spread into China from any other location. Scientists have warned that if a large number of infected humans have been transferred between places, it could lead to a global pandemic.