The ongoing coronavirus outbreak could tip into pandemic territory, representing a greater threat to the economy and raising the possibility of a coordinated policy response, says CIBC World Markets Inc. in a new report.

In the early days of the outbreak, economists tried to gauge the risk from coronavirus by comparing it with the SARS outbreak in 2003. Now, CIBC says the coronavirus outbreak appears to be following a different course.

Compared with SARS, the coronavirus is much more contagious, “so global caseloads and mortalities already vastly exceed the SARS totals,” CIBC noted.

Rather than comparing coronavirus with SARS, CIBC said that past flu pandemics might be a better guide.

But efforts to model the economic effects of severe flu outbreaks produce a wide range of possible outcomes, leaving forecasters “unable to dismiss either the one-quarter hit-and-run or the larger shock as credible possibilities,” the report noted.

“We have one [interest rate] cut built into our call for Canada, and none at this point for the U.S. We won’t shift that view until we see evidence of more than a handful of transmissions of COVID-19 within North America, as we’re already seeing in South Korea and Italy,” CIBC said.

“But if that indeed happens, the macro analyses reviewed [here] suggests that the economic consequences of a pandemic would justify a monetary policy response, perhaps coordinated globally, to shore up confidence,” the report concluded.