Reuters Health News Summary

Following is a summary of current health news briefs.

Stocks savaged, bars deserted, prisons in uproar as coronavirus spreads

Deserted bars, reeling financial markets and rioting prisoners made clear on Monday how the global coronavirus epidemic was extending its reach into all aspects of social and economic life. Major European stock markets dived more than 7%, Japanese indexes fell over 5% and U.S. markets sank over 7% after Saudi Arabia launched an oil price war with Russia that sent investors already spooked by the coronavirus outbreak running for the exits.

U.S. coronavirus threat fuels demand for traditional herbal remedies

New York City acupuncturist and herbalist Clayton Shiu says demand for traditional Chinese remedies has surged at his practice since March 1, the day New York announced its first case of the novel coronavirus. "It was like a light switch was flipped," said Shiu, who had stocked up and had an ample supply of herbs on hand for his patients.

British PM to hold emergency meeting on coronavirus

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will on Monday chair an emergency meeting on coronavirus as the government mulls more stringent measures to tackle the outbreak. Britain so far reported three deaths and 278 cases of the new coronavirus. The country's biggest retailer, Tesco, has restricted bulk buying of products such as anti-bacterial gels and wipes, dried pasta and long-life milk.

Iran temporarily releases 70,000 prisoners as coronavirus cases surge

Iran has temporarily freed about 70,000 prisoners to combat the spread of the coronavirus in jails, the head of the judiciary said on Monday, as officials reported hundreds of new infections and dozens more deaths across the country. Iran has reported 595 new infections and 43 new deaths within the past 24 hours. This takes total cases of coronavirus to 7,161, with 237 deaths, the health ministry spokesman said.

Cruise ship facing coronavirus quarantine arrives at Port of Oakland, California

The cruise ship Grand Princess, barred last week from returning to its home port of San Francisco and facing quarantine due to a coronavirus outbreak on board, arrived at a temporary berth on Monday in the nearby Port of Oakland to the cheers of its passengers. The 2,400 cruise guests, who have been largely confined to their staterooms since Thursday, are to begin disembarking on Monday for transport to healthcare facilities or quarantine stations, depending on whether they need immediate medical attention.

Germany, with over 1,100 cases, reports first two coronavirus deaths

Germany confirmed its first two deaths from the coronavirus on Monday as its overall number of new infections rose by 20% to 1,139, the latest signs that the epidemic is spreading rapidly in Europe's largest economy. Germany's tally, far short of Italy's 7,300, included a cluster of 322 in one municipality.

CVS Health offers free home delivery of prescription drugs amid virus outbreak

CVS Health Corp said on Monday it would immediately waive charges for home delivery of prescription medications, in response to the U.S. health agencies urging patients to stay at home amid a fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak. This follows the company's announcement on Friday that its health insurance unit, Aetna, will offer all diagnostic testing and telemedicine visits without any patient cost sharing for the next 90 days.

Wary of coronavirus, U.S. shoppers skip the fresh produce aisle

Fearful of coronavirus and potential quarantine, U.S. shoppers are avoiding touching fresh fruits and vegetables in grocery stores and stocking their pantries with pretzels, powered milk, canned meat and other packaged food. "People are getting supplies for a bomb shelter almost," said Victor Colello, who heads the meat and fish department at New York-based Morton Williams, which operates 16 stores. "When people buy produce, they touch it. So a lot of people are thinking twice about doing that."

White House under pressure to boost coronavirus fight as stocks plunge

The Trump administration scrambled on Monday to assure Americans it was responding to a growing coronavirus outbreak as stock markets plunged and top health officials urged some people to avoid cruise ships, air travel and big public gatherings. U.S. President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly played down the threat posed by the flu-like virus sweeping the globe, was planning to meet with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other members of his economic team to weigh possible action, an administration official told Reuters.

Empty shops, deserted streets as Italy imposes coronavirus lockdown

Closed shops, plunging stock markets and prison riots marked the first day after Italy locked down much of its northern region in a bid to fight the coronavirus outbreak with its most draconian control measures since World War Two. Faced with Europe's worst outbreak of the highly contagious virus, Italy imposed strict controls on travel from the northern region of Lombardy and parts of neighboring Veneto, Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna.