The Wall Street Journal - 16.03.2020

(Ben Green) #1

A8| Monday, March 16, 2020 ***** THE WALL STREET JOURNAL.


back online, but Mr. Foreman
fears the pandemic will mean
fewer sales of its Tonka trucks,
Lite Brite, Lincoln Logs and other
Companies with fewer than
500 workers employ about 60
million people, or about 47% of
the private-sector workforce, ac-
cording to the Small Business
Administration. The challenges
these businesses face and the
steps they take in response, such


such as policing, health and
As of Sunday afternoon, con-
firmed infections in Spain had
reached 7,753 people, a 35% in-
crease from a day earlier. Spain
had also confirmed 288 deaths
from the virus, more than dou-
ble the amount a day earlier.
Almost half of the infections
are in the area of the capital,
Madrid. On Saturday the gov-
ernment said Begoña Gómez, the
wife of Prime Minister Pedro
Sánchez, has tested positive for
the virus after two ministers
tested positive last week.
Germany plans to introduce
strict controls along its western
and southern borders at 8 a.m.

on Monday, affecting Austria,
Switzerland, France, Luxem-
bourg and Denmark. Travelers
who have no significant reason
to enter or exit the country will
be denied passage, Interior Min-
ister Horst Seehofer said. The
French government said it also
plans to introduce border checks
along its eastern border with
Commuters who need to
travel abroad for work will be
exempt, and the traffic of goods
won’t be impacted, French and
German officials said.
In Paris, the French govern-
ment’s decision to close down
shops and restaurants was
greeted with general noncha-

lance by people who poured
onto the streets on Sunday.
“Look around, there are peo-
ple everywhere,” said Murielle
Texier, 49, rubbing her hands
with sanitizer after she cast her
In the U.K., authorities are
facing a backlash to the govern-
ment’s decision to hold off on
introducing strict social distanc-
ing measures, such as closing
Authorities reason a massive
clampdown in the early stages
of the virus’s spread would sim-
ply cause mass infection to re-
emerge later in the year. The
British government is also reluc-
tant to shut down the country

too early during the pandemic,
fearing that a population holed
up at home will go stir crazy
and begin to venture out just as
the novel coronavirus hits its
On Sunday, however, the gov-
ernment began to contest the
views of its chief scientific ad-
viser, Patrick Vallance, who says
Britain needs to acquire “herd
immunity.” Mr. Vallance’s rea-
soning is that there is no cure to
the novel coronavirus so natural
immunity is the only way to
stop its spread.
On Sunday, Health Secretary
Matt Hancock instead talked of
tightening measures, saying
people over 70 years old would

be asked to self-isolate in the
coming weeks “for a very long
time.” The government is also
preparing to ban mass gather-
ings, starting next weekend.
Britons have begun to take
matters into their own hands,
stocking up on groceries and
preparing to keep their children
out of school—ignoring the gov-
ernment’s advice.
Soccer’s Premier League,
which was given the go-ahead
by the government to hold
games this weekend, called off
matches after a coach and a
player were tested positive for
In Italy, where there were
24,747 confirmed infections and
1,809 deaths as of Sunday, cities
and towns were deserted. Hospi-
tals are under heavy strain in
the north of the country, and au-
thorities said they are running
short on intensive care beds and
basic supplies, such as face
On Sunday, Foreign Affairs
Minister Luigi Di Maio said
China was shipping medical
equipment to Italy such as cru-
cial ventilators. That followed
another Chinese shipment which
arrived on Thursday night to-
gether with a team of medical
experts who dealt with the out-
break in China.
—Bojan Pancevski in Berlin,
Noemie Bisserbe in Paris, Max
Colchester in London and
Margherita Stancati
in Rome
contributed to this article.

turnout was 39%, compared
with 55% in 2014. Voters
brought their own pens to cast
votes, and bottles of hand sani-
tizer were stationed near the
ballot box.
“We are going to continue to
go outside for grocery shopping
or fresh air. It is legitimate to al-
low people to go and vote,” said
President Emmanuel Macron af-
ter voting himself in the north-
ern town of Le Touquet.
Prime Minister Édouard Phi-
lippe said he would consult a
committee of health experts and
political leaders on whether to
hold the second round of voting
on March 22. Several lawmakers
have demanded a delay.
Spain’s 15-day lockdown re-
quires Spaniards to remain at
home unless they need to buy
food, medicine and other essen-
tials. The lockdown, which can
be extended with parliamentary
approval, also makes exceptions
for emergencies and for people
to go to work.
The central government in
Madrid will take control of ser-
vices that are usually in the
hands of local governments,



Bears Brunt

Of Crisis

National municipal elections went ahead Sunday as scheduled in France.
A woman cast her ballot in Bordeaux.


as furloughing or laying off
workers or pulling back on in-
vestment, will quickly ripple
through the broader economy.
The pandemic is likely to be
particularly challenging for small
companies because they tend to
operate on thinner margins and
with smaller cash reserves. A
2019 report by the JPMorgan
Chase Institute looked at 1.4 mil-
lion small businesses with a busi-
ness banking deposit account at
the bank and found 29% of those
in a typical community were un-
profitable, and 47% had less than
two weeks of cash liquidity.
The March drop in small-busi-
ness confidence reversed four
months of gains. More than twice
as many business owners said
they expected the economy
would weaken rather than im-
prove in the coming year, accord-

ing to a monthly survey of more
than 900 businesses with $1 mil-
lion to $20 million in revenue by
Vistage Worldwide Inc., a busi-
ness coaching and peer-advisory
The outlook dimmed over the
course of the weeklong poll, with
38% of business owners who re-
sponded on March 9 reporting
that overall economic conditions
in the U.S. had worsened com-
pared with a year earlier, up
from 25% on March 2 when the
survey began. The portion of
companies that expect sales to
increase in the next 12 months
dropped to 57% from 70% over
the week.
MBX Systems, a 180-person
manufacturer of custom-comput-
ing hardware, recently reviewed
each area of its business to de-
termine minimum staffing levels,

figure out who is cross-trained
and determine who can be
taught skills in case they need to
cover for someone else.
MBX has told the half of
workers who can work re-
motely to do so, increased paid
time off to 15 days from 10, and
largely walled off its Liber-
tyville, Ill., facility. “For the
most part, we are not having
[visitors] come in unless there
is something like an audit or
something required for us to
sustain our business,” said Jus-
tin Formella, chief strategy offi-
Businesses that rely on
steady customer traffic are get-
ting hit especially hard. At Bo-
nanno Concepts, a Denver res-
taurant operator with 500
employees, customers began
canceling private parties and

other events. Then on Tuesday,
traffic to its 10 restaurants be-
gan falling.
“We are writing schedules for
everything from only doing 30%
of business to 50% of business,”
said co-owner Frank Bonanno.
For some firms, projections of
sales growth have vanished.
24G LLC, a digital marketing,
training and communications
agency in Troy, Mich., first re-
vised sales projections down-
ward a month ago when shut-
downs in China’s supply chain
reduced demand for its Ama- Inc. marketing-services
team. A few weeks later, confer-
ence cancellations and travel
bans hit demand for the 108-per-
son company’s mobile marketing
displays. Though it expects to get
a boost in its distance learning
and virtual events business, 24G

says sales are likely to be down
slightly instead of growing 20%
as it had planned for.
“It is really stunning how di-
mensional this is and how it is
affecting every aspect of the
business,” Chief Executive Scott
Wiemels said.
Not everyone is hurting.
Maintenance Management
Group, in Livonia, Mich., which
provides cleaning services to
hospitals and other facilities, has
received nearly three-dozen calls
in the past two weeks from com-
panies looking for advice. “If the
last two weeks have been any in-
dication, I think we are in great
shape,” Sean Murphy, chief exec-
utive, said. With so much uncer-
tainty, “we could double our
business or we may have to shut
down for a period. We are trying
to be prepared both ways.”








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Sources: Johns Hopkins CSSE; countries' governments

Note: As of March 15

Cumulative confirmed coronavirus cases







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