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Large gatherings banned, what does this mean for ASX shares?

In a press conference this afternoon, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a ban on “non-essential” public gatherings of over 500 people as part of the government’s escalating response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a briefing alongside Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy, the Prime Minister said that the cancellations would not extend to schools, universities, public transport or airports – according to reporting from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

However, the Prime Minister did also warn Australians against traveling overseas unless absolutely necessary:

“We now advise all Australians to reconsider your need to travel overseas at this time, regardless of your destination, age or health. If your travel is not essential, consider carefully whether now is the right time.”

Events like sporting games are at risk from not continuing and, as quoted by the ABC, the Chief Medical Officer has also endorsed these measures:

“This is a proportionate early response to get ahead of the curve,” Murphy said.

What does this mean for ASX shares?

It’s difficult to say at this point. Obviously, restrictions on public gatherings are yet another spanner in the works for the economy (albeit a necessary one). How the ASX markets will respond next week will be telling – although the S&P/ASX 200 Index (ASX: XJO) did end up closing over 4% higher today after the Prime Minister’s address, after falling as much as 8% in early trading.

But there’s no doubt this is a tough time for Australia and the world. Expect a lot of volatility in the coming days, weeks and even months – times like these do tend to bring out the best and worst in investors.

Travel stocks will likely continue to see selling pressure – and I think it’s worth putting out there that they are not just tickers on a screen, but real companies with real employees and shareholders. It would be an immensely tough time for everyone connected to the travel sector.

And of course, that extends to anyone with an ASX share portfolio. It’s been an unbelievable week on the markets, and I’m sure there are a lot of people who are extremely worried right now (especially those approaching retirement).

But unfortunately, events like these are just part of the deal when it comes to shares. You have to take the good (and remember, there is usually a lot of good) with the bad and the ugly. This is a brutal time, but it will pass!

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Motley Fool contributor Sebastian Bowen has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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