The Coronavirus Outbreak


The meeting, planned for Monday, had buoyed hopes for a quick deal to end the turmoil in oil markets.

A drilling rig in a Russian oil field. Tensions between Russia and Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s de facto leader, continue over who is to blame for the recent collapse in oil prices.
A drilling rig in a Russian oil field. Tensions between Russia and Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s de facto leader, continue over who is to blame for the recent collapse in oil prices.Credit...Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters
Stanley Reed

A meeting planned for Monday between officials of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and other oil producers, which had buoyed hopes for a deal to end the turmoil in energy markets, has been put off, according to two OPEC delegates.

The news comes as lingering tensions have surfaced once again between Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s de facto leader, and Russia over who is to blame for the recent collapse in oil prices. On Friday, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin partly blamed Saudi Arabia for the price drop. The Saudis responded with angry statements from their ministers of foreign affairs and energy blaming Russia.

News of the meeting’s delay may roil the markets when trading resumes on Monday. The meeting, which was never officially announced but was widely reported on Friday, added to hopes that OPEC and Russia would agree on production trims.

On Thursday, President Trump said he believed that Russia and the Saudis were near a deal to cut production, prompting a surge of nearly 40 percent in oil prices, to about $34 a barrel for Brent crude, the international benchmark.

The OPEC delegates indicated that further talks would be required before moving ahead with a meeting, which has now been rescheduled for Thursday. Saudi Arabia had called for the meeting last Thursday, responding to pressure from President Trump.

In early March, Russia declined to go along with a Saudi-led OPEC proposal to further trim production to deal with the plummeting demand for oil because of the coronavirus epidemic, leading the Saudis to walk away from a three-year agreement with Moscow on production trims. Recently, the Saudis have been increasing production and offering steep discounts to their customers.

On Friday, Mr. Putin said that these Saudi actions were one “reason behind the collapse of prices.” The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan al Saud, responded in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency that Mr. Putin’s comments were “fully devoid of truth” and that “Russia was the one that refused the agreement.”

Mr. Putin did indicate that he was willing to have Russia participate in the now-delayed meeting.

The Saudis want Russia and other producers to absorb some of the burden of new production trims. They are also hopeful that American oil producers will somehow share in output reductions.

Analysts estimate that because of the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, demand for oil is likely to fall by as much as 25 million barrels a day, or about a quarter of consumption in normal times, meaning that if oil producers don’t reach agreement on output curbs, involuntary shutdowns are likely to occur as refineries and other customers slash their purchases of crude and storage tanks fill up.

  • Updated April 4, 2020

    • The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

    • It seems to spread very easily from person to person, especially in homes, hospitals and other confined spaces. The pathogen can be carried on tiny respiratory droplets that fall as they are coughed or sneezed out. It may also be transmitted when we touch a contaminated surface and then touch our face.

    • Unlike the flu, there is no known treatment or vaccine, and little is known about this particular virus so far. It seems to be more lethal than the flu, but the numbers are still uncertain. And it hits the elderly and those with underlying conditions — not just those with respiratory diseases — particularly hard.

    • If the family member doesn’t need hospitalization and can be cared for at home, you should help him or her with basic needs and monitor the symptoms, while also keeping as much distance as possible, according to guidelines issued by the C.D.C. If there’s space, the sick family member should stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom. If masks are available, both the sick person and the caregiver should wear them when the caregiver enters the room. Make sure not to share any dishes or other household items and to regularly clean surfaces like counters, doorknobs, toilets and tables. Don’t forget to wash your hands frequently.

    • Plan two weeks of meals if possible. But people should not hoard food or supplies. Despite the empty shelves, the supply chain remains strong. And remember to wipe the handle of the grocery cart with a disinfecting wipe and wash your hands as soon as you get home.

    • That’s not a good idea. Even if you’re retired, having a balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds so that your money keeps up with inflation, or even grows, makes sense. But retirees may want to think about having enough cash set aside for a year’s worth of living expenses and big payments needed over the next five years.