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  • The coronavirus outbreak has already taken the lives of 56 people.
  • Chinese authorities have taken additional steps as the disease mutates.
  • Stock markets in the Middle-East are falling and additional safe-haven flows are likely.

The official death toll from the coronavirus has risen to 56, with around 2,000 affected by the disease. Most of the diagnosed cases are in China but several are in other countries such as South Korea, the US, Australia, France, and others.

Chinese authorities have put some 35 million people in effective lockdown, going well beyond Wuhan, where the SARS-like virus originated. Long-distance bus services from Beijing and in the province of Shandong, home to around 100 people, have been canceled. Several European countries are attempting to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan. 

More worryingly, the coronavirus seems to have mutated and its transmissibility has increased. Patients may carry the virus for between one day to weeks before developing symptoms. Uncertainty about the incubation periods is another reason for the enhanced measures.

Stock markets in several Middle-Eastern countries are open, and they are trading lower. Asian shares are also likely to open below closing prices on Friday and safe-haven assets may find demand. The Japanese yen, US dollar, Swiss franc and gold will likely be beneficiaries. 

Bitcoin, which is trading over the weekend, has been edging higher as well.