National

Coronavirus increases economic woes

By AAP Newswire

Fears surrounding the economic impact of the deadly coronavirus continue to shake global financial markets as an eighth Australian who was on board the Diamond Princess was confirmed as having caught the disease.

The Victorian man struck down with COVID-19 has a partner who had previously been diagnosed, so he had already been quarantined on the cruise ship and in isolation before travelling to Victoria, Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters on Wednesday.

"So he could not have been in a more contained environment," he said.

However, chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said the international situation was a major concern with significant outbreaks in South Korea and Italy.

"Our concern now is the number of countries outside China, making it more likely we will have further outbreaks in Australia," Professor Murphy told reporters.

But for now, "we are still contained in Australia".

Mr Hunt said globally there are now 80,410 reported COVID-19 cases and 2707 deaths.

Financial markets are becoming increasingly nervous about the impact of the virus on the global economy with the Australian stock market shedding a further two per cent - the third consecutive day of hefty losses.

Credit rating agency Moody's Investors Services says the odds of a COVID-19 global pandemic are rising. It now puts this at 40 per cent chance, double its previous estimate.

"The coronavirus has been a body blow to the Chinese economy, which now threatens to take out the entire global economy," Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi said in a research note.

"A global recession is likely if COVID-19 becomes a pandemic, and the odds of that are uncomfortably high."

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg declined to say whether Australia faced a recession, telling Sky News: "That's not the word I would use."

He remains coy on what impact the coronavirus will have on his much-promised surplus, saying people will have to wait until budget night in May.

"But I do know that this is going to hit the economy, and I do know that our focus has been - in relation to the fires and other shocks that we've faced - on getting the support to the community in need," he said.

"That's been our primary focus, not the surplus."

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers was unimpressed by Mr Frydenberg's response, joking it "had all the coherence of a Sydney baboon rampage".

He said Australia's economic woes pre-dated the bushfires and coronavirus, with weakness in growth, wages and productivity.

"They shouldn't be pretending that in their seventh year of government, that all this economic weakness that we've seen for so long now, is somehow the product of a coronavirus which has hit in recent weeks," he told reporters.

Australia's response to the virus with the travel ban on Chinese visitors and students is expected to have a major impact on the economy.

Universities Australia chairwoman Deborah Terry told the National Press Club in Canberra Chinese students bring $40 billion a year into the Australian economy, supporting Australian jobs, wages, local shops, tourism operators, and small businesses.

"Our students and staff who remain in China are deeply stressed, and they are so keen to start or continue their studies," she said.

"We will do all we can to ensure that your studies stay on track."