Hubei Adds Fewer Infections as Deaths Reach 1,596: Virus Update

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China’s Hubei province, epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, reported fewer new infections for a second straight day on Sunday with 139 deaths overnight, the same as for the previous day.

The province had 1,843 new cases, down from 2,420 a day earlier. Total deaths reached 1,596, more than three quarters in Wuhan.

An 83-year-old U.S. cruise-line traveler has the coronavirus, raising concerns as more than 2,200 passengers and crew head home after being trapped for almost two weeks searching for a port.

Key Developments

  • Hubei total cases reaches 56,249, with 70% in Wuhan
  • China new cases exceed 68,300 as deaths top 1,600
  • WHO says virus path ‘impossible to predict’
  • Westerdam passengers blocked from leaving Malaysia
  • U.S. senators urge emergency funding for response
  • Europe Suffers First Virus Death as Fatalities Move Beyond Asia
  • U.S. plans to evacuate Americans on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship
  • U.K. releases eight of nine infected patients

Click VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the novel coronavirus and here for maps and charts. For analysis of the impact from Bloomberg Economics, click here.

Canada’s Virus Risk Remains ‘Low’ (6 a.m. HK)

The risks in Canada from the coronavirus remain “low,” Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said Saturday as the government said total cases remained at eight.

Canadians under quarantine are “healthy” with no coronavirus symptoms, Tam said. Should this continue, evacuees who arrived Feb. 7 and Feb. 11 should be released on Feb. 21 and Feb. 25, respectively. At that time, health officials will confirm individuals in quarantine are healthy and able to leave, Tam added.

U.S. Planes Set for Japan Evacuation (4:30 p.m. NY)

Aircraft chartered by the U.S. State Department are to arrive Sunday in Japan to evacuate about 400 citizens from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship — the largest infection cluster outside China with almost 300 confirmed cases.

Passengers will be screened before boarding and anyone with symptoms will “receive the required care in Japan if they cannot board the flight,” the department said. More checks will be made en route and upon landing at Travis Air Force Base in California.

Americans on the flights are subject to a 14-day quarantine at either Travis or Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas.

“The U.S. government recommends, out of an abundance of
caution, that U.S. citizens disembark and return to the United States for further monitoring,” according to a statement. “Should passengers choose not to return on this charter flight, they will be unable to return to the United States for a period of time.”

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WHO Chief Urges Broader Response (3:45 p.m. NY)

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged the international community on Saturday to make their response to the coronavirus government-wide.

“This is not a job for health ministers alone. It takes a whole-of-government approach,” he said in a speech at the Munich Security Conference. “That approach must be coherent and coordinated, guided by evidence and public health priorities.”

The WHO chief again praised China, saying the steps taken by the Beijing government are encouraging.

“China has bought the world time. We don’t know how much time,” he said. “We’re encouraged that outside China, we have not yet seen widespread community transmission.”

Liner Passengers Can’t Leave Malaysia (2:45 p.m. NY)

Some passengers from the Westerdam luxury liner were blocked from leaving Malaysia after an 83-year-old U.S. woman from the ship tested positive for the coronavirus, the Dutch RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment said by phone.

The travelers who left when the ship docked in Cambodia and headed to Malaysia were denied boarding an Amsterdam-bound flight from Kuala Lumpur, according to the Dutch foreign ministry. Two were Dutch citizens, both RIVM and the foreign ministry said. They remained in Malaysia, along with a group of Dutch citizens that may have had contact with the infected woman, who also remains in the country. The RIVM estimates 11 people weren’t able to board.

Holland America, which operates the liner, on Saturday said everyone on the ship was tested on Feb. 10 and none had an elevated temperature, and during the cruise “no indication” of the coronavirus was evident.

The ship with more than 2,200 passengers and crew was allowed by Cambodia to dock in the port city of Sihanoukville on Friday after being turned away by countries including Japan and Thailand over fears it harbored the coronavirus. The company said 236 customers and 747 crew remained on the ship on Saturday after many took charter flights to Phnom Penh to start trips home.

A number of Dutch citizens are home and will be monitored daily by local authorities. The Holland America line ship had 91 Dutch passengers, a spokesman for the RIVM said.

Democrats Urge Extra U.S. Virus Funds (12:30 p.m. NY)

The Trump administration was “strongly urged” by Senate Democrats to seek emergency funding to fight the coronavirus, and in a letter released Saturday they criticized officials for not being forthcoming about the costs of U.S. action.

A decision this month by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to shift $136 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other units showed a “need for more resources,” senators led by Patty Murray of Washington state wrote to the White House, even as administration officials “continue to assert that there are already sufficient resources.”

Emergency funding would cover states’ costs to implement federal orders such as travel screening and quarantines, the lawmakers said.

Canada Sends 3 to Diamond Princess (11 a.m. NY)

Canada’s Public Health Agency is sending three officials to assess the situation on Carnival Corp.’s Diamond Princess, quarantined in Yokohama, as more passengers are diagnosed with the coronavirus. The ship is the largest infection cluster outside China.

Global Affairs Canada is working with Japan to determine next steps, spokesperson Barbara Harvey said in an email on Saturday.

Some 3,500 people are on the ship. An additional 67 cases have been found, the Japanese health minister said, pushing total infections to almost 300.

Westerdam Passenger Has Virus (9:55 a.m. NY)

An 83-year-old U.S. citizen has been diagnosed with the coronavirus after traveling on the Westerdam, a Holland America Line ship that finally docked in Cambodia after being spurned by multiple countries.

The woman and her husband were among 145 passengers who flew to Malaysia on Friday, the country’s health ministry said in a statement. She was found with symptoms and sent to a hospital where she’s in isolation in stable condition. Her 85-year-old husband tested negative but placed under observation.

The Westerdam, a luxury liner, arrived in Sihanoukville early Thursday with more than 2,200 passengers and crew.

Virus Path ‘Impossible to Predict’ (9:45 a.m. NY)

All nations must be ready to handle coronavirus cases and prepared to prevent further transmission, according to the head of the World Health Organization.

“It’s impossible to predict what direction this epidemic will take,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement at the Munich Security Conference.

“We’re concerned by the continued increase of the number of cases in China,” he added, saying there has been a “lack of urgency” from the international community in funding a response.

“Most of all, we’re concerned about the potential havoc this virus could wreak in countries with weaker health systems,” Tedros said. “We must use the window of opportunity we have to intensify our preparedness.”

U.K. Releases All But One Patient (8:30 a.m. NY)

The U.K. discharged all but one of the nine patients being treated for the coronavirus after twice testing negative, the government said Saturday. A center in Milton Keynes, north of London, still has 100 people, the NHS said.

Epidemic Poses ‘Severe Challenges’ to China (6:44 a.m. NY)

“The epidemic has posed a severe challenge to China’s economic and social development,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at the Munich Security Conference. “Nonetheless, the difficulties will be temporary and short-lived. With its strong resilience and vitality, the Chinese economy is well-positioned to overcome all risks and challenges. The fundamentals sustaining sound economic growth have not changed and will not change.”

Death in France First From Disease in Europe (6:15 p.m. HK)

An 80-year-old Chinese tourist died in Paris, becoming the first fatality of the coronavirus in Europe, France’s health ministry said. The man’s daughter, 50, was also infected and remains in a hospital in Paris. There are now 10 remaining cases in France and four of those have been released from hospital after recovering from the virus, Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said on Saturday.

— With assistance by Pavel Alpeyev, Yinan Zhao, Shuping Niu, Iain Rogers, Michael Bellusci, and Wout Vergauwen

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