China Cases Top 75,000; 52 More Korean Infections: Virus Update

The number of coronavirus cases in China topped 75,000, while concerns grew over the pace of infections in other Asian countries.

China’s death toll rose to 2,236 with 115 new fatalities in Hubei province. The province at the center of the outbreak reported 411 additional cases.

Anxiety has crept back into global financial markets as the outbreak spreads outside of China and investors weigh the impact on corporate earnings. The head of the World Health Organization said if countries don’t respond strongly now, the spread outside of China may become a wider threat.

South Korea reported 52 more cases, bringing the total number to 156. Two people evacuated to Australia from a cruise ship in Japan have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Key Developments

  • South Korea confirms 52 more cases, bringing total to 156: Yonhap
  • China cases rise to 75,465, with 2,236 fatalities; 2,109 patients were discharged
  • Hubei adds 411 new cases, 115 deaths
  • Japan economic activitycontracting sharply as virus hits

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China Shandong Province Finds 200 Cases in Prison (10:37 a.m. HK)

The eastern Chinese province of Shandongreported 202 new cases as of Thursday, of which 200 were found in Rencheng prison. Local officials including the head of the Shandong provincial justice department have been removed from their posts.

Japan Economic Activity Contracting Sharply on Virus (10:20 a.m. HK)

Japanese economic activity, hit by the coronavirus, has been contracting so far in February, PMI data show, adding to evidence the country has slipped into recession.

Activity in the manufacturing sector hit its lowest level in more than seven years in February, according to Jibun Bank Japan Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index. The reading slipped to 47.6, while an index for the service sector plunged back into contractionary territory with a sharp fall to 46.7.

Over 1,000 to Have Left Virus-Hit Cruise Ship by End of Day (10:04 a.m. HK)

More than 1,000 passengers will have left the Diamond Princess cruise ship by the end of Friday, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters in Tokyo.

Almost 720 passengers who tested negative for the virus left the liner in the last two days, while more than 400 will depart today, he said. Some 759 foreign nationals who were onboard have left Japan, while about 1,000 people will remain on the ship.

Earlier, two people evacuated to Australia from the cruise ship tested positive for the virus. Japan is allowing guests to leave the vessel, quarantined in Yokohama for 14 days, despite worries the country hasn’t done enough to prevent the spread of disease from the ship.

China Adds 889 Cases, Bringing Total to 75,465 (9:27 a.m. HK)

China reported 889 additional coronavirus cases by the end of Feb. 20, taking the total case count to 75,465, according to a statement from the National Health Commission. The total number of deaths increased by 118 to 2,236.

Earlier, Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, reported 411 additional cases, but the NHC said Hubei had 631 new cases.

South Korea Reports 52 More Cases (9:06 a.m. HK)

South Korea confirmed 52 additional infections, with the bulk of the new cases tied to a cluster from a religious sect in Daegu, where officials have shut down public facilities and advised residents to stay indoors.

The country’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the total number of cases rose to 156, a five-fold increase from earlier this week when the first patient tied to the church was found to be infected. Of the new infections, 39 were tied to the religious sect.

Two in Australia From Japan Cruise Ship Test Positive (8:06 a.m. HK)

Two people evacuated to Australia from the Diamond Princess cruise ship have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Northern Territory Department of Health. Six people were isolated yesterday after presenting minor symptoms on arrival at Darwin airport, Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported.

South Korea to Ban Vacations for Military Personnel (7:20 a.m. HK)

South Korea’s defense ministry will limit vacations, outside trips and visits by citizens for all military personnel, Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported. A Navy sailor in Jeju Island was confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus in the first confirmed case among service personnel, Yonhap reported earlier.

Hubei Adds 115 Deaths, Reports 411 New Cases (7:13 a.m. HK)

Hubei, the province at the center of the virus outbreak, reported 411 additional confirmed cases and 115 deaths, bringing the total case count in the province to 62,442.

By comparison, it had 349 new confirmed cases Thursday, which was a sharp drop after China changed the way it officially reports the number of infections for the second time in a month. China has been continually changing the method by which it counts coronavirus cases, leading to doubts about the data.

Disagreement Over Japan Patients Returned to U.S. (4:37 p.m. NY)

Officials from the U.S. State Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention disagreed over how to handle 14 people from a cruise ship who tested positive for the coronavirus while in the process of being repatriated to the U.S., according to the Washington Post.

According to the report, CDC officials wanted to wait and have the people who had tested positive for the virus travel separately from about 300 people being sent back to the U.S. after a long stint on a cruise ship where the virus broke out. State Department officials disagreed and pushed for the patients to be included.

The group was eventually flown back together, and the patients are being treated.

Fifty-Nine Hong Kong Police Are Quarantined (1:24 p.m.)

A group of 59 Hong Kong police officers are being quarantined after a fellow officer preliminarily tested positive for the virus, the city’s police force said in a statement on Facebook.

Two days before being tested because he was feeling sick, the police officer had a meal with the 59 other officers at a restaurant in Hong Kong.

“After learning of the incident, the police have immediately arranged that all colleagues immediately stop police work, avoid contact with the public, and go home to wait for quarantine arrangements,” the department said in the statement.

The officer works with a riot team in Hong Kong’s Eastern Police District. Members of the riot control unit that the sick officer is part of aren’t being considered close contacts subject to quarantine, the department said.

Drug-Trial Results Expected in Three Weeks, WHO Says (11:53 a.m. NY)

Preliminary results from two clinical trials of treatments prioritized by the World Health Organization are expected in three weeks, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesustold reporters in Geneva Thursday.

One of the trials is for a pill combining the anti-retroviral medicines lopinavir and ritonavir, a brand-name combination of which is sold by AbbVie Inc. The second trial is testing the experimental injected drug remdesivir, which is being developed by Gilead Sciences Inc.

The trials are being run in China, where health officials are seeking ways to treat patients infected with the coronavirus using existing and experimental therapies.

Airlines Expect First Global Traffic Drop Since 2009 (11:20 a.m. NY)

The airline industry expects thefirst annual decline in global passenger demand in 11 years, after tallying up the initial impact of the thousands of flights canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak in China.

The estimate shaves about 4.7 percentage points off of a passenger-growth forecast issued just two months ago, with almost all of the impact in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the International Air Transport Association. That may be conservative: The projections assume the loss of demand will be limited to markets linked to China.

The drop would be the first overall decline since the financial crisis of 2008-2009. Global passenger demand is now seen contracting by 0.6% this year, compared with a December forecast for 4.1% growth, IATA said.

WHO Says More Funding Needed to Fight Virus (10:50 a.m. NY)

The head of the World Health Organization urged countries to boost funding to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus, saying that the response to its call for $675 million has been limited.

“This is the time to attack the virus while it is manageable,” Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a briefing in Geneva Thursday.

Tedros said he’s surprised donations have been low and that countries aren’t treating the outbreak seriously enough. If the response isn’t strong now, the spread outside of China, which so far has been manageable, may become a wider threat, he said. “The virus is very dangerous, and it’s public enemy No. 1.”

Goldman Sees High Risk of Stock Correction (7:36 a.m. NY)

Investors may be underestimating the negative impact of the coronavirus on corporate earnings, which poses a threat to the stock market rally, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s chief equity strategist.

While coronavirus fears triggered a worldwide sell-off in January, those losses proved short-lived. Global equities are trading near record highs on optimism that the impact from the epidemic will be limited and China will step up support for its economy. Goldman’s Peter Oppenheimer cautioned against complacency.

“While a sustained bear market does not look likely, a near-term correction is looking much more probable,” Oppenheimer, chief global equity strategist at Goldman, wrote in a note.

— With assistance by Shinhye Kang, and Jeff Sutherland

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