Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday that the lethal Chinese coronavirus is “very serious” issue that may disrupt economic growth in east Asia.
“There is likely to be some disruption to activity in China and possibly globally based on the spread of the virus today and the travel restrictions and business closures that have already been imposed,” Powell told reporters Wednesday.
Powell added that while its too early to say how much damage the illness will unleash, there will clearly be implications, at least in the near term, for Chinese output and I guess for some of their closest neighbors and we’ll just have to see what the effect is globally.”
Powells comments reflect the depth of concern among policymakers about the economic toll of the coronavirus, a lethal respiratory illness that has spread quickly through China. There are more than 6,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in China, claiming 132 lives, with at least 80 other cases confirmed outside of China.
The rapid spread of the illness has paralyzed China, forcing quarantines and travel bans throughout the country that have closed businesses and derailed travel. The State Department has warned Americans against non-essential travel to China, and several airlines have curtailed or cancelled routes to China.
The scramble to contain the coronavirus has weighed heavily on industries and businesses that depend on steady international travel or rely on sales to the quickly growing Chinese middle class. Stocks for airlines, resorts and hotels, travel companies, and major U.S. brands such as Nike and Disney have all taken deep hits throughout the panic.