Monday 24 February 2020 8:43 am

UK airline stocks plunge as Italy reports fourth coronavirus death

UK airline stocks plummeted in early trading today as the FTSE 100 plunged two per cent after Italy reported a dramatic rise in its number of coronavirus cases.

Easyjet’s share price sank 11.6 per cent while British Airways owner IAG suffered an eight per cent drop in its market cap.

Tour operator Tui also shed value, falling eight per cent as budget flyerS Wizz Air saw their share prices drop 7.6 per cent and 8.4 per cent respectively in a torrid start to trading.

The stocks rout – which also hit publisher Bloomsbury and others – came as countries reported a spike in the number of coronavirus cases.

South Korea now has the second highest number of cases in the world with 763 infected and seven dead. That came as North Korea opted to quarantine 380 foreigners.

The number of people infected with Covid-19 surged to 152 in Italy, a huge rise from three cases on Friday. Meanwhile four Italians died from the illness over the weekend. Italy has put towns including Lombardy and Veneto on lock down, effectively isolating 50,000 people./

And Austria is plotting border controls in a bid to contain the coronavirus outbreak. Yesterday it refused entry to a train passing through from Venice after it emerged that two people were aboard with fever symptoms.

“Tonight a train on its way from Venice to Munich was stopped at the Austrian border,” Austria’s interior ministry said.

Iran has also confirmed 43 cases of the coronavirus and counted eight deaths.

The FTSE 100 sank over two per cent in early trading as the new spike in coronavirus cases gripped investors.

Four new cases have been confirmed in the UK after the evacuation of Brits from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship. The new British patients were on board the ship and in quarantine in the Wirral when they became ill. The new infections took the number of British coronavirus cases to 13.

Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Ava Trade, said the coronavirus panic could help gold reach a new high.

“ If someone wants to see a robust rally they do not have to go far, the precious metal’s price action is really solid,” he said. “This week the doors are wide open for the price to touch the $1,700 mark, it has already made a high of $1,678. Basically, investors are hedging their risk. Investors believe that central banks will be pushed in the corner due to the global economic meltdown caused by coronavirus and this mean more stimulus.”