March 6, 2020 / 11:43 PM / a month ago

Argentina's eight coronavirus cases add uncertainty to already dismal economy

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina has eight confirmed cases of coronavirus, all brought by people who had recently been in Europe, the Health Ministry said on Friday, adding uncertainty to an economy already slammed by recession, high inflation and unsustainable debt.

The number of people infected across the world surpassed 100,000 on Friday, as the outbreak reached more countries and economic damage intensified, with business districts beginning to empty and stock markets tumbling.

“Argentina continues in the containment stage, with eight confirmed cases with a history of travel to transmission areas,” the Health Ministry said in a statement. The Argentine patients range between age 23 and 72, it said.

The country is a major world food supplier struggling to pull out of recession and tame 50% inflation as the government hunkers down for what promise to be tough restructuring talks with bondholders. The economy ministry says it has to revamp about $100 billion in what it calls unsustainable debt, including $44 billion owed to the International Monetary Fund.

The virus outbreak has killed more than 3,400 people worldwide and spread across more than 90 nations. In many affected countries, people were being asked to stay home from work, schools were closed and stores were cleared.

“Lower world growth projections will negatively affect Argentina through trade channels,” said Ignacio Labaqui, who analyses the country for consultancy Medley Global Advisors. “Add to that a likely negative impact on Argentine tourism.”

Fellow South American countries Colombia, Chile and Peru announced their first confirmed cases of coronavirus this week, and a number of cases have been confirmed in neighboring Brazil.

Reporting by Hugh Bronstein and Maximilian Heath; Editing by Tom Brown

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