Coronavirus Deaths Outside China Spike As WHO Team Visits Wuhan: Live Updates

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Summary:

  • Italy confirms second death, 12 towns on lockdown, more than 50 cases confirmed

  • Japan cases triple in a week to 121

  • Chinese scientists find virus in urine

  • Experts propose 27 day quarantine, say 14 days likely not long enough

  • Cases outside China go exponential

  • WHO team visits Wuhan; will give Monday press conference

  • Iran reports 10 new cases, deaths climb to 5

  • San Diego says 200 under ‘medical observation’

  • Young woman infected five relatives without ever showing symptoms

  • South Korea cases surge 8-fold in 4 days to 433; country reports third death

* * *

Update (1100ET): Italian health officials have confirmed nearly two dozen more cases across Lombardy and Veneto, according to Bloomberg.

The Lombardy region has 39 coronavirus cases with another 12 cases in the Veneto, regional officials said in a press conference Saturday in Milan. Most of the cases are in the Codogno area, 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Milan. A woman who was found dead in her home subsequently tested positive, the health secretary said. Earlier, three tourists in Rome were diagnosed with the virus.

* * *

When WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros was asked on Thursday whether the COVID-19 virus was at a tipping point, he replied that the window to stop the outbreak from growing exponentially worse was rapidly closing.

Though by Friday night, it certainly seemed like that window had slammed shut. In South Korea, cases went exponential, soaring by 70% in one day.

Overnight, the country reported another rash of confirmed cases, bringing the total to 433, with 352 in Daegu, presumably members of the cult-like church where a ‘super-spreader’ worshipped. That marks an eight-fold increase in cases in just four days for South Korea, as the AP reported.

SK also reported its third death, a man in his 40s who was found dead in his apartment and posthumously tested.

South Korean health officials warned they could soon see a rash of deaths as several patients are in serious condition. Virus patients with signs of pneumonia or other serious conditions at the Cheongdo hospital were transferred elsewhere as 17 of them are in critical condition, according to SK Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip told reporters.

The country has followed China in imposing quarantines (everyone is too terrified to go outside anyway) and they’re hoping to prevent a national outbreak, despite a few cases in Seoul that weren’t immediately traceable to an obvious source, which is sort of discouraging.

“Although we are beginning to see some more cases nationwide, infections are still sporadic outside of the special management zone of Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province,” Kim said during a briefing. He called for maintaining strong border controls to prevent infections from China and elsewhere from entering South Korea.

In Italy, a seemingly minor outbreak went exponential. By day’s end, Italian health authorities had confirmed their first virus-related fatality, and 12 towns in Lombardy were under strict quarantine orders with residents huddling terrified inside their homes, a tableau that has become all too familiar by now. Another fatality followed overnight, as a couple more towns joined in the lockdown. This marked Italy as the first European country to see its own nationals succumb to the virus, according to Euronews.

Across Italy, there are 32 cases in Codogno, Lombardy, and seven in Veneto, according to the AFP and Sky Italia television. Many of the new cases represented the first infections in Italy acquired through secondary contagion.

In Iran, 10 more cases, and one more death, were recorded overnight. That brings the total number of confirmed cases to 28, including cases in Qom and Tehran. So far, five Iranians have died.

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As we await more information out of China, CNBC’s Eunice Yoon reports that the team would hold a press briefing on Monday at 6 am ET.

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Meanwhile, as we noted yesterday, the team has arrived in Wuhan, where it’s gathering information and observing the situation on the ground.

The team has already been to three Chinese provinces, Beijing, Sichuan and Guangdong, but are only now just visiting the city at the heart of the outbreak. Dr. Tedros confirmed the trip during public comments on Saturday, where he once again shared some familiar words.

“We have to take advantage of the window of opportunity we have, to attack the virus outbreak with a sense of urgency,” Dr. Tedros told the leaders, who had gathered for an emergency meeting on the response to the coronavirus in the continent.

President Xi said Saturday that the situation in Wuhan remains ‘grim and complex’ – which means the WHO team should be in for an eye-opening experience.

As of Saturday morning in the US, 1,200 cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed outside China. More than 200 cases have been confirmed in South Korea, more than 30 in Italy, roughly a dozen in Iran, and one in Egypt, the first to be confirmed in Africa. China has reported over 76,000 cases, including over 2,300 deaths.

Confirmed cases in Japan rose to 121 on Saturday, having more than tripled in a week.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that health officials and the cruise line are continuing to test crew members aboard the Diamond Princess. So far, 74 crew have been confirmed to have the virus, but they have been included in the toll already.

SCMP

So far, China has reported only 397 new cases Saturday, as the rate of increase continued to decline, but another 109 have died. And even the Washington Post acknowledges that there is a “great deal of skepticism” about China’s numbers, according to a new case study seen by Reuters.

Cases where patients didn’t show signs of infection for longer than two weeks have prompted some epidemiologists to suggest a 27 day quarantine period instead of just a 14 day. Also on Saturday scientists in China revealed that they had discovered a strain of the virus in a patient’s urine, raising new and uncomfortable questions about the virus’s ability to spread through sewer systems.

There have also been several new indications that the virus’s incubation period might be longer than the 14 days currently believed. A woman in Wuhan with no symptoms infected five relatives without every showing signs of infection.

In the US, health officials are scrambling to contain the fallout from the evacuation of 300 Americans from the ‘Diamond Princess’. It appears that the decision to transport 14 infected passengers along with the rest of the group was a disaster. Dozens of others appear to have been infected either during the trip, or shortly before.

But in San Diego, officials announced that they’re monitoring some 200 cases, none of which had anything to do with the ship.

After confirmed US cases more than doubled to 34 on Friday, officials in San Diego on Saturday confirmed that more than 200 people are currently being monitored over virus concerns, according to ABC News 10.

Officials said everyone being monitored had either come in contact with one of the three confirmed cases, or others under suspicion. Health officials didn’t exactly offer specific details.

They’re among more than 300 people who have been, or are being, ‘monitored’ by the county.

The 204 people under county supervision include those deemed at risk of having been exposed to the virus due to close contact with confirmed cases or because of travel to China in the past 14 days, the county said.

Those individuals are monitoring their health under the supervision of county health officials.

So far, 338 people in all have been monitored by the county, with 134 people completing their time under supervision.

Health officials say the CDC is conducting screening for those landing at one of 11 U.S. airports from China. From there, if a patient shows no symptoms they are self-quarantined at home for self-monitoring with public health supervision.

Keep in mind: These individuals aren’t being held in isolation or a mandatory quarantine. Instead, they’ve been asked to self-quarantine, and immediately report any suspicious symptoms.

San Diego has had two confirmed cases of coronavirus, or COVID-19, among the evacuees who were flown out of Wuhan a few weeks ago. One patient has since recovered from the virus and has been released. The second patient is still receiving care. A third patient, reportedly a child, is still awaiting test results, but has been said to be showing symptoms.

When they extended a coronavirus-related emergency declaration for another 30 days, officials said there were no signs the virus was spreading around San Diego. But it never hurts to be cautious.

Before we go, we wanted to remind readers of a chart we first shared a couple of days ago:

SOUTH KOREA REPORTS 52 MORE CORONAVIRUS CASES

South Korea Reports 52 More Coronavirus Cases

Country now has second-highest number of infections after China

Deutsche Welle – FEBRUARY 21, 2020

South Korea reported 52 new cases of coronavirus, or COVID-19 on Friday, taking up the number of infected to 156.

The country now has the second highest number of infected people after China.

The country also confirmed its first death from coronavirus on Thursday.

The Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that of the new cases, 39 were from the southern city of Daegu. All of these cases were linked to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the city.

The infections have been traced to a 61-year-old woman, who attended the church. The sect has since shut down its services. The mayor of Daegu, Kwon Young-jin has advised residents to stay indoors as much as possible.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said that Daegu and the neighboring area of Cheongdo County would be declared as “special care zones.”

The government is trying to identify those who might have come in contact with infected people, and diagnose the disease at the earliest opportunity.

“We will proactively provide necessary assistance including sickbeds, personnel, and equipment,” the PM said in a meeting with senior officials.

Also on Friday, officials in the capital Seoul banned public rallies in a bid to control the spread of the disease.

The coronavirus outbreak that originated in China has infected more than 76,000 globally. It was named COVID-19 by the World Health Organization due the coronavirus that causes it, and the year 2019 when it originated.

REPORT: COMMUNIST CHINA EXECUTING PETS TO STOP CORONAVIRUS

Report: Communist China Executing Pets To Stop Coronavirus

Officials force residents to hand over family pets during door-to-door visits

  – FEBRUARY 20, 2020

“Community officers” in China are reportedly going door-to-door and forcibly removing and executing villagers’ pets in an attempt to mitigate the coronavirus currently ravaging the nation.

An activist group called Nanchong Missing Animal Aid Group claims officers from a county in south-western China’s Sichuan Province were going house-to-house and ordering citizens to hand over their furry companions, most often dogs.

The township of Longcan in Peng’an County, Nanchong is where the inhumane executions are allegedly taking place.

Video posted to a Chinese website similar to Twitter allegedly shows officers from the villages of Qianqiubang putting deceased dogs into the back of a truck.

Another video posted by an animal activist shows an officer touching a lifeless dog lying on the ground as bystanders watch.

Warning: Viewers may find the following content disturbing.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/video/coronavirus/video-2114744/Video-Chinese-officials-continue-kill-dogs-coronavirus-fears.html

An activist who posted one of the videos claims the Communist Party Secretary of Longcan Town ordered the mass executions.

“Stop slaughtering pets in the midst of the epidemic. Enforce law in a civilized way,” the activist wrote in the social media post.

A spokesperson for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) told DailyMail the outbreak is not “an excuse to abuse animals.”

“Violent acts like this one don’t address the public health problems. They only cause more conflicts in society,” the PETA spokesperson added.

Additionally, the WHO (World Health Organization) has already dismissed claims that pets are transmitting the virus.

Just last week footage allegedly coming out of China showed a community officer beating a dog to death with a massive wooden staff.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/video/coronavirus/video-2108104/Video-Chinese-worker-beats-dog-death-stop-spreading-coronavirus.html

Pet culling campaigns have also been reported in the cities of Chengdu and Wenzhou.

As the virus continues spreading throughout the world, hitting China the worst, the nation’s communist government is becoming increasingly violent and authoritarian.

Senator Cotton: China Refusing to Hand Over Evidence About Wuhan BioLab

New report says lab was likely source of coronavirus outbreak.

Published  on 

Senator Tom Cotton says that China is refusing to hand over evidence concerning the bio-safety level 4 research lab in Wuhan despite a new report from biological scientists at the South China University of Technology saying it may have been the source of the coronavirus outbreak.

During an appearance on Fox News, Cotton told Maria Bartiromo that new evidence confirmed the source of the virus was not the meat market in Wuhan.

“Here is what we do know. This virus did not originate in the Wuhan animal market,” said Cotton. “Epidemiologists who are widely respected from China published a study in the international journal Lancet have demonstrated that several of the original cases did NOT have any contact with that food market. The virus went into that food market before it came out of that food market. So we don’t know where it originated… We also know that only a few miles away from that market is China’s only bio-safety Level Four Super Laboratory that researches human infectious diseases.”

Cotton said that China’s “duplicity and dishonesty” meant that questions needed to be asked about the lab but that “China right now is not giving any evidence on that question at all” and Beijing was being “very secretive” on what happens at the lab.

Cotton also accused China of consistently blocking American scientists from traveling to Wuhan to assist in discovering the origins of the virus.

A new report by scientists at the South China University of Technology in Guangzhou, China concludes that “the killer coronavirus probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan.”

One of the laboratories named in the report which was conducting research on bat coronavirus was located just 280 meters from the site of the Wuhan meat market.

For weeks, the media has demonized anyone who suggested the lab could have been responsible for the coronavirus outbreak as a dangerous conspiracy theorist peddling fake news.

However, now that CNN/NY Times journalist Ezra Cheung tweeted precisely that yesterday, one wonders whether they will begin to change their tune.

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“If You Show Up with Cancer and You’re 95 – We Should Say We Can’t Do Anything” – Bloomberg Explains How Healthcare will Bankrupt Us Unless We Deny Care to Elderly

A new video posted on Sunday shows former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg explaining how healthcare will “bankrupt us,” unless we deny care to the elderly.

Mike Bloomberg: All of these costs keep going up. Nobody wants to pay anymore money. And at the rate we’re going healthcare is going to bankrupt us. So not only do we have a problem we’ve got to sit here and say which things we’re going to do and which things we’re not. Nobody wants to do that. If you show up with prostrate cancer and you’re 95 years old, we should say go and enjoy, you’ve had a long life, there’s no cure and we can’t do anything. If you’re a young person, we should do something about it. Society’s not willing to do that, yet.”

Spoken like a true heartless socialist.
How horrible.

 

CDC Admits Coronavirus Patient Accidentally Released Because Of “Lab Mix-Up”; Bullard Says Virus Still “Tail Risk” For Markets

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by Tyler Durden

Summary:

  • Two inmates at a UK prison are being tested for coronavirus and have been restricted to their cells
  • 13th case diagnosed in San Diego was evacuee rescued from Wuhan, she was briefly accidentally released
  • China death toll tops 1,000, globally cases top 40k
  • CNBC’s Eunice Yoon reports on China’s sluggish ‘return to work’
  • Hong Kong building residents quarantined over fears virus spread via pipes
  • Cruise ship with 0 nCoV cases refused entry to fourth port, in danger of running out of food
  • Beijing fires top health officials in Hubei, summons others to Beijing for an explanation
  • Scientists in Hong Kong and the mainland present vastly different takes on virus
  • 2 Japanese men test positive but were accidentally released
  • President Xi says China will be ‘more prosperous’ after outbreak
  • Experts suspicious about how Indonesia hasn’t reported any nCoV cases
  • Xi also reportedly warned top officials that efforts to contain the virus had gone ‘too far’
  • CDC admits lab “mix up” led to coronavirus patient being briefly released back to quarantine
  • Another citizen journalist goes missing in China
  • Hilton warns travel numbers could be impacted for up to a year after Under Armor saw shares plunge on sales warning
  • Bullard warns virus still major “tail risk” for US economy and markets

* * *

Update (1415ET): For everybody buying on Tuesday, uber-dove Jim Bullard, the president of the St. Louis Fed, has some advice: until the coronavirus pandemic has been completely contained, it will continue to pose a tail risk to the market.

Bullard, who spoke Tuesday following Congressional testimony by Fed Chairman Jay Powell, added that the three rate cuts last year will cushion the economy, but even that might not be enough to offset all of the economic uncertainty that markets are facing this year, from the virus to the presidential race.

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This after Powell – who was attacked by President Trump in the middle of his testimony via another Fed-bashing tweet calling for lower rates and a weaker dollar -said that the US economy “looks resilient” despite the coronavirus risk.

But Bullard apparently maintains a somewhat more cautious view:

“The efforts to bring the virus under control are substantial enough that the Chinese economy is expected to grow noticeably slower in the first quarter of 2020 than it otherwise would have,” Mr. Bullard said. “Experience with previous viral outbreaks suggests that the effects on U.S. interest rates can be tangible and last until the outbreak is clearly contained,” he said.

As futures markets price in at least one rate cut in 2020, Bullard said monetary policy “feels a bit too accommodative.” That’s saying something coming from one of the more dovish Fed presidents, though Bullard won’t be a FOMC voter again until 2022, assuming he’s still the president of the St. Louis Fed at that time.

The easing has shifted the outlook for short-term US rates considerably, he added.

“The efforts to bring the virus under control are substantial enough that the Chinese economy is expected to grow noticeably slower in the first quarter of 2020 than it otherwise would have,” Bullard said. “Experience with previous viral outbreaks suggests that the effects on U.S. interest rates can be tangible and last until the outbreak is clearly contained.”

But ultimately, we will need to “wait and see” whether the coronavirus truly becomes the catalyst of a global slowdown, like many analysts fear. Barring that, “the current baseline outlook for 2020 suggests a reasonable chance that a soft landing will be achieved,” Bullard said.

The St. Louis Fed twitter account shared this report that seems to expand upon the theme that monetary policy is much looser than the market realizes.

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Update (1330ET): Beijing has reportedly arrested another citizen journalist named Fang Bin. His arrest follows that of Chen Quishi, whose whereabouts are still unknown days after his disappearance.

Hilton is one of the latest American companies to warn about how the coronavirus outbreak will impact its business. The company said it could suppress travel numbers for up to a year, with their predictions based on what happened during the SARS epidemic. Facebook and Cisco have joined Sony and several other firms in pulling out of the Mobile World Congress, which was scheduled for Barcelona, Spain, a place the virus hasn’t yet touched.

This all comes after Under Armor warned about a $60 million sales hit, sending its stock tumbling lower. And it’s only the latest retailer to warn about the virus’s squeeze on sales.

In one of the more shocking revelations on Tuesday, the CDC said a “lab mix-up” is what led to them nearly releasing an infected patient back into mandatory quarantine on a nearby military base.

On the other hand, several carmakers including Hyundai and Ford confirmed that they had reopened at least some plants on Monday after idling them for all of last week.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, a top official at the CDC, told reporters in Washington, admitted that “it turns out there was probably a mix up and the original test wasn’t negative.” Earlier, state officials claimed the initial test was negative, but a second test was positive.

As we noted earlier, four evacuees at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego had been in federal quarantine after showing symptoms of the virus. After testing negative for the virus, they were returned to the base on Sunday where they joined more than 200 people who are stuck there under a 14-day quarantine order. The patient who tested positive was immediately returned to isolation, according to CNBC. 

Google trends shows that interest in the virus remains elevated, though it has fallen from a peak reached on Jan. 31.

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Finally, the WHO gave the virus a new name: Covid-19.

* * *

Update (1035ET): Two inmates at HMP Bullinton prison in Oxfordshire, UK are being tested for coronavirus, according to Sky News.

The men are being kept in isolation in their cells, while access has been restricted to the wing where the prisoners are. HMP Bullington has capacity for 1,114 inmates, and holds both prisoners on remand and who have been sentenced, along with young adults aged 18-21, according to Sky.

Eight people in the UK have been confirmed as having coronavirus – four of them testing positive on Monday.

* * *

Update (0900ET): The Guardian reports that the diagnosis of four people living in a single apartment block in Hong Kong that has been evacuated and some of its residents quarantined has prompted worried comparisons to SARS.

Medical workers descended on the apartment block in Tsing Yi district wearing full protective suits and evacuated 100 people in 34 apartments after cases were identified more than 10 floors apart, suggesting that the virus may have traveled through the pipes.

One 62-year-old woman was among the victims, and she apparently passed it to her son and daughter-in-law who live with her and were among seven new cases reported on Tuesday, raising the city’s total to 49, leaving it in third place overall, behind mainland China and the ‘Diamond Princess’, which is under quarantine in Yokohama. The worsening outbreak a high profile incident of an individual believed to have tried to escape quarantine prompted Carrie Lam to threaten affixing GPS tracking devices to anyone in an HK quarantine.

Johns Hopkins

Plumbing was a problem during the SARS outbreak as well, as there were incidents where the virus traveled through the pipes.

Meanwhile, the Westerdam luxury liner still hasn’t found anywhere to dock after Thailand refused it entry earlier on Tuesday, which we noted below.

In other China news, the Communist Party Boss of Huangguang, a city that has been badly impacted by the outbreak, warned taht the crisis in his city is still “Very severe.” We suspect he will be scapegoated by this time tomorrow. After appearing in public yesterday for the first time since the outbreak kicked into high gear, President Xi said Tuesday that China will be “more prosperous” after the outbreak (despite its economy-crushing blowback). It’s the latest sign that Beijing is growing desperate to convince the public that China’s slowing economy can weather the outbreak without a severe downturn.

It begs the question: Will Xi add the capitalist concept of ‘creative destruction’ to his ‘Xi Jinping Thought’?

Meanwhile, Reuters reported on Tuesday that Xi warned top party officials last week that the country’s efforts to contain the outbreak – including quarantining 400 million+ people inside their homes and locking down whole cities – had gone too far. Xi fretted that the lockdown would threaten China’s fragile economy. Protecting and nurturing economic growth is Xi’s No. 1 priority in office and the bedrock of his ‘mandate’ to govern.

It’s unclear where Reuters got its information, but it claimed Xi made the remark during a Feb. 3 Politburo Standing Committee meeting that has already been covered by media reports (hand-picked comments were passed to state press). It just shows how much Cina’s tepid growth last year, the weakest in nearly 30 years, has been weighing on the president’s mind.

After reviewing reports on the outbreak from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and other economic departments, Xi told local officials during a Feb 3 meeting of the Politburo’s Standing Committee that some of the actions taken to contain the virus are harming the economy, said two people familiar with the meeting, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

He urged them to refrain from “more restrictive measures”, the two people said.

Local authorities outside Wuhan – where the virus is thought to have first taken hold – have shut down schools and factories, sealed off roads and railways, banned public events and even locked down residential compounds. Xi said some of those steps have not been practical and have sown fear among the public, they said.

China’s state council information office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In an incident that mirrors the circumstances of the 13th virus case diagnosed in the US by health officials in San Diego, Bloomberg reports that two Japanese men who were evacuated from Wuhan late last month have tested positive for 2019-nCoV after earlier having been cleared by the Japanese health ministry. It’s just the latest sign that the virus may be undetectable – or ‘silent’ – for a period, allowing its host to unknowingly spread it without being detected.

Health officials let the coronavirus patient in San Diego travel back to the army base quarantine briefly before realizing the error and recalling her to the hospital.

The case brings Japan’s total to 28 (not including the 136+ trapped aboard the DP).

In other news, the NYT reported late Monday that scientists are growing increasingly suspicious of Indonesia, and the fact that no cases have been reported in the country, despite thousands of tourists from Wuhan and Hubei visiting the country after the outbreak began. Many worry Indonesia is simply ignoring the threat, given that it was relatively slow to freeze flights from China. A consular official estimated that 5,000 Chinese remained in Bali alone, including 200 people from Wuhan.

“So far, Indonesia is the only major country in Asia that does not have a corona case,” Indonesia’s security minister, Mohammad Mahfud MD, told reporters on Friday. “The coronavirus does not exist in Indonesia.”

None of the 285 people who were evacuated from Wuhan and are now in quarantine on the Indonesian island of Natuna have shown signs of the virus, he added.

* * *

Update (0800ET): CNBC’s Eunice Yoon tweeted out a report that aired early Tuesday morning on CNBC detailing the struggles of one factory owner as China lurches slowly back to work.

The takeaway: Much of China’s economy, particularly its industrial core, remains shuttered.

* * *

A 13th case of the Wuhan coronavirus has been confirmed in the US after one of the Americans who traveled to California from the epicenter of the outbreak on an evacuation flight last week has been determined to have contracted the virus.

Like with cockroaches, where there is one case of coronavirus, there will likely be more, especially since the patient traveled on a long-haul flight with dozens of others, increasingly the likelihood that at least some of them were infected. The State Department chartered four flights to rescue more than 800 Americans who had been trapped in Wuhan by the quarantine passed by Chinese officials on Jan. 23. One American who apparently opted to stay behind in Wuhan has succumbed to the virus, according to Chinese officials.

Even more alarmingly, the evacuee was accidentally mistakenly released from UC San Diego Medical Center, though she wasn’t released to the public: All evacuees will spend 14 days on designated military bases being repurposed as quarantines. The case was the first in San Diego.

Initially, the hospital reported that four patients undergoing testing at the hospital had tested negative for the virus, and they were discharged and returned to federal quarantine at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, where more than 200 evacuees are staying. However, “further testing revealed that one of the four patients tested positive for 2019-nCoV,” CDC officials advised San Diego Public Health on Monday morning, and the person was returned to hospital” for observation, the hospital said in a statement.

The CDC said it’s tracing all of the individual’s contacts since arriving in the US, Reuters reports.

“CDC is conducting a thorough contact investigation of the person who has tested positive to determine contacts and to assess if those contacts had high risk exposures.”

Most US-China flights have been suspended by the White House, and only a handful of American nationals arriving on commercial flights from China have been quarantined under rules imposed on Feb. 2 to curb the virus’s spread.

There are now at least 3 cases of the virus diagnosed in California.

One of the private jets that carried Americans back from Wuhan

Out of eight states that have set up airport screenings for the virus, only six of them said they had no one under quarantine, while NY said it had 4 and Illinois aid it had a “tiny” number.

In China, the scapegoating continued on Tuesday as Beijing fired two of the most senior health officials in Hubei just hours after officials reported 108 new deaths from the virus on Monday, the first time a daily death toll has topped 100. Only 2 of the more than 1,000 deaths occurred outside mainland China.

Zhang Jin, the Communist party boss of the provincial health commission in Hubei, and its director Liu Yingzi were removed by decree of the party yesterday.

In their stead, senior Beijing official Chen Yixin has been sent to Wuhan to lead virus-suppression efforts at the crisis’s ground zero. Chen, a former deputy party chief in Hubei, will be deputy head of a central government group dispatched to the province.

Additionally, 3 senior Wuhan officials have been summoned to Beijing to explain their failings, according to state media reports cited by the SCMP.

Authorities were accused of playing down the extent of the outbreak in early January because they wanted to project an image of stability.

Wuhan authorities also faced criticism for going ahead with an annual public banquet for 40,000 families just days before the city was placed on lockdown, according to the Daily Mail. Beijing is of course trying to deflect attention from the senior Party leadership’s failures – failures that are implicit in their policies which guarantee the suppression of information during crises. However, the death of Dr. Li Wenliang late last week made it almost inevitable that the locals in Wuhan and Hubei would be punished – after all, it was Wuhan police who initially reprimanded Dr. Li for his warnings about the outbreak. Warnings that, if heeded, would have helped save hundreds of lives.

A top Red Cross official in Wuhan was also removed for dereliction of duty earlier this month. Local officials have faced an intense backlash almost since the beginning, once it had become clear that the virus had been allowed to spread within Wuhan without police or health authorities doing anything to stop it.

“Right now I’m in a state of guilt, remorse and self-reproach” said the official in an interview with CCTV last month.”

“If strict control measures had been taken earlier, the result would have been better than now.”

In South Korea, Reuters reports that the first confirmed coronavirus patient is returning to Wuhan (apparently despite the lockdown) after being discharged by the South Korean medical team that treated her.

While searching through virus-related headlines this morning, we stumbled on a telling example of Beijing’s strategy of extreme media censorship after its brief experiment with ‘openness’ provoked widespread public rage Consider this contrast: A doctor who helped lead the fight against SARS in Hong Kong warned Tuesday that nCoV could infect “60% to 80%” of the global population if left unchecked. While on the mainland, the state media reported that another veteran SARS fighter named Zhong Nanshan, the Chinese government’s senior medical adviser, is claiming that the outbreak is peaking right now.

In an interview with Reuters, the 83-year-old scientists who helped fight the SARS epidemic said his model showed the virus should peak in the middle of February.

Echoing comments from President Trump, the scientist added that he hoped the virus would peter out by April.

“I hope this outbreak or this event may be over in something like April,” he said in a hospital run by Guangzhou Medical University, where 11 coronavirus patients were being treated.

“We don’t know why it’s so contagious, so that’s a big problem,” added Zhong, whose previous forecast of an earlier peak turned out to be premature. He said there was a gradual reduction in new cases in the southern province of Guangdong where he was, and also in Zhejiang and elsewhere.

Finally, the man from Brighton believed to be the ‘super spreader’ linked to 11 cases involving a French ski chateau has broken his silence, according to the Guardian.

His name is Steve Walsh, he’s 53 years old, and this is his story:

“I would like to thank the NHS for their help and care – whilst I have fully recovered, my thoughts are with others who have contracted coronavirus.”

“As soon as I knew I had been exposed to a confirmed case of coronavirus I contacted my GP, NHS 111 and Public Health England.”

“I was advised to attend an isolated room at hospital, despite showing no symptoms, and subsequently self-isolated at home as instructed.”

“When the diagnosis was confirmed I was sent to an isolation unit in hospital, where I remain, and, as a precaution, my family was also asked to isolate themselves.”

“I also thank friends, family and colleagues for their support during recent weeks and I ask the media to respect our privacy.”

Over in Hong Kong, dozens of residents of a housing complex in Hong Kong have been quarantined after two people living on separate floors were infected with the virus, raising the possibility that it might have been traveling through the pipes.

Per local officials from Hong Kong’s Center for Health Protection, the decision to partially evacuate the building was made after investigators discovered an unsealed bathroom pipe in the apartment of a 62-year-old woman found to be infected. She lives 10 floors below another resident who was found to be infected, the NYT reports.

Yesterday, we reported that the Westerdam cruise ship had finally been granted permission to dock in Thailand after being turned away from three other countries, despite having ZERO confirmed nCoV cases aboard. Now, Thailand has rejected it, leaving it once again adrift. The ship is set to run out of food and other essentials in just two days.

BRITISH AIRWAYS ENDS ALL FLIGHTS TO CHINA AS VIRUS SPREADS TO MIDDLE EAST

British Airways Ends All Flights To China As Virus Spreads To Middle East

The decision comes after United Airlines said it would temporarily reduce the number of flights between the US and China

Zero Hedge – JANUARY 29, 2020

As the Trump Administration denies plans to shut down all passenger air traffic to China, more airlines around the world are suspending routes, a sign that the coronavirus outbreak could do permanent damage to the industry.

Just hours after the UK Foreign Office warned Britons against traveling to China, British Airways, Britain’s flag carrier, and its second-largest airline in the UK, suspended all flights to China.

British Airways operates direct flights from Heathrow to Beijing and Shanghai, but right now, passengers can’t book flights on those lines until Feb. 29. CNN called it “the most drastic action yet by a major airline” in response to the crisis.

The decision comes after United Airlines said it would temporarily reduce the number of flights between the US and China.

“We have suspended all flights to and from mainland China with immediate effect following advice from the Foreign Office against all but essential travel,” the company said in a statement Wednesday.

This comes after United said Tuesday that it had seen a “significant decline in demand” and been forced it to suspend flights from Feb. 1 through Feb. 8 between its US hubs and Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai. In total, 24 round trips have been impacted between Hong Kong to San Francisco and Newark; Beijing to Dulles, O’Hare and Newark; and Shanghai to San Francisco, Newark and O’Hare.

American Airlines, Delta and United all extended change fee waivers through the end of February, while Hong Kong flagship carrier Cathay Pacific said it will reduce the capacity of flights to and from mainland China by half or more until the end of March.

Finland’s Finnair is canceling three weekly flights between Helsinki and Beijing between Feb. 5 and March 29, and two weekly flights between Helsinki and Nanjing between Feb. 8 and March 29, because of the suspension of group travel by Chinese authorities. It will continue to operate flights to Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Guangzhou.

There are now 5,974 cases in China, with 1,239 of whom are severely ill, according to state media on Wednesday. Initial theories, put forward by some infectious disease experts, that the mortality rate of the virus is much lower than reflected in press reports because thousands with mild cases are likely toughing it out in their homes. If anything, it looks like the virus is more lethal than we previously believed.

And it’s certainly more infectious.

Per the SCMP, a 48-hour span of no new nCoV infections came to an end Wednesday when Hong Kong authorities announced two more patients tested positive for the potentially deadly illness, bringing the local total to 10, as the HK government suspends high-speed rail travel between the Special Administrative Region and the mainland. The HK Department of Health said the two new patients, an elderly couple, aged 72 and 73, tested positive at Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam, and, because of their age, fall into the high-risk category of infections. More than 100 people are still in isolation in HK.

CAP

The situation is growing increasingly worrisome in Guangdong province, which is centered around the city of Guangzhou, the fifth-largest in China.

Guangzhou is at the center of a massive conurbation stretching out all the way to Shenzen, and to the other neighboring cities of Foshan, Dongguan, Zhongshan and several other neighboring provinces. This agglomeration is one of the largest of its kind on Earth, home to more than 100 million. City officials announced five new infections, two locals and three foreigners. With more than 270 confirmed cases, this well-connected and economically important province is behind only Hubei and Zhejiang in terms of number of cases.

Now that several countries have copies of the coronavirus genome, the race for a workable vaccine is intensifying. Russia joined that race on Wednesday after receiving a copy of the virus genome from China, Russian state media reported on Wednesday. The US said on Tuesday that it would take three months to start initial trials for a vaccine that it’s developing, and three further months to gather data.

In Hong Kong, infectious diseases expert Professor Yuen Kwok-yung said on Tuesday that the city’s researchers had stumbled on a vaccine, but that it would take months to test on animals and at least another year to conduct trials on humans before it could be confirmed ready for human use. Scientists in Melbourne said they grew the virus from a patient sample, which could prove a “game-changer” in combating the outbreak. It was the first time the virus had been grown in a cell culture outside China (here’s hoping it isn’t misused as a potential bioweapon).

After confirming the first case of human-to-human transmission in Japan, health officials in Tokyo have shared more information about the case with the press: The man did not travel to Wuhan but drove buses with tour groups from the city twice this month. The man is in his 60s and lives in Nara Prefecture, according to the Japan Times.

Overnight, the first case of the virus in the Middle East have been confirmed in the United Arab Emirates, according to the country’s Ministry of Health and Community Protection. The 4 infected patients are members of a family that had traveled from Wuhan. In its statement, the health ministry reported the family as being in a stable condition under medical observation, according to CNBC.

As hysteria surrounding the outbreak grows, SCMP reports that resentment toward people from Wuhan is growing across China, as provincial authorities ramp up screenings of those from Wuhan, and citizens build unauthorized roadblocks to keep strangers out of their towns.

Meanwhile, President Xi said Wednesday that “preventing and containing the virus remains a severe and complex task,” a follow up to his claims that China would do whatever is necessary to contain the “demon” virus.

AUSTRIA: MUSLIM TAXI DRIVERS REFUSE TO TRANSPORT GUIDE DOGS FOR THE BLIND

Austria: Muslim Taxi Drivers Refuse to Transport Guide Dogs For the Blind

“Muslims traditionally regard dogs as “impure.”

  – AUGUST 15, 2019

Muslim taxi drivers in Austria are refusing to transport blind people with guide dogs because dogs are seen as being unclean in Islamic culture.

Tiroler Tageszeitung reports on how a former board member of the Association for the Blind, who is totally blind herself, ordered a taxi to drop her off at Innsbruck airport.

However, when the taxi arrived, the driver refused to take her dog.

Taxi operators Anton Eberl and Harald Flecker apologized for the incident but stressed that they only mediate calls and do not own the taxis.

“We try to make it clear to the drivers again and again that this is not the case for us and that these trips have to be carried out exactly like any other job. Unfortunately, at the moment we are not in a position to solve this problem satisfactorily, ” said Flecker, adding that drivers had to be told “again and again” about the rules.

According to the Tiroler Tageszeitung newspaper, “80 percent of drivers now have a migrant background – and Muslims traditionally often regard dogs as “impure”.

Gabriele Jandrasits also tried to order a taxi to transport her and her Beagle-Jack Russell dog to the airport. Despite the fact that the dog was contained inside a transport cage, she was told that “most drivers would refuse to take dogs for reasons of faith.”

Local laws state the drivers must accept guide dogs for the blind, although many of them simply seem to be ignoring this mandate.

Meanwhile, diversity continues to be a strength.

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