WHO Chief Warns “Window Of Opportunity Is Narrowing” As Coronavirus Spreads To Lebanon, Iran & Israel; China Orders Millions Back To Work

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Update (1130ET): Epidemiologist had already warned that patients could be reinfected with the virus. But the Epoch Times’ Jennifer Zeng is sharing a report about a patient in Sichuan (notably one of the provinces visited by WHO experts) who was reinfected with the virus after recovering.

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UPI reported earlier that everal patients in China who were discharged from hospitals after making a full recovery have been reinfected, citing reports in the People’s Daily on Friday.

One patient in Chengdu was discharged from a local hospital and was quarantined for 14 days at home, but somehow became reinfected. And doctors quoted in the story said her case isn’t unique.

It’s also possible to catch the flu twice in one season, but that is rare.

* * *

Update (1100ET): Epoch Times’ Jennifer Zeng is reporting that in parts of China, the government has signaled to workers that they will be “punished” if they don’t report back to work.

And for everyone who gets infected, don’t expect your employer to deal with it, Zeng adds. “if you get infected, it is not a work-related injury. You are on your own.”

That’s pretty chilling stuff, but as we pointed out yesterday, there’s an ongoing debate in parts of the country where case numbers aren’t as high (not that anybody trusts the government’s figures) about whether keeping the economy on lockdown might be doing more harm then good. And in order to prevent a repeat of what happened last time (when millions just simply didn’t show up), it’s upping the ante for citizens who don’t abide by the state’s command.

The New York Times is reporting that, for the first time since the outbreak began, Chinese health officials acknowledged on Friday that their constant changes to the ‘criteria’ for what constitutes a ‘confirmed case’ have sown confusion and mistrust.

As we have assiduously reported, officials in Hubei have revised their case tallies three times now because of these shifting definitions.

in the province hardest hit by the coronavirus acknowledged for the first time on Friday that their methods of confirming and reporting infection numbers had sown confusion and mistrust. They added that they would no longer subtract cases from the total. The message comes just hours after state media reported new breakouts in a handful of Chinese prisons.

Moving over to the WHO’s daily press conference from Switzerland, Director-General Dr. Tedros commented on the new cases and deaths reported in Iran, as well as Lebanon, which reported its first case this morning though hasn’t yet recorded a death.

Dr. Tedros said the new wave of outbreaks suggests that the world is at a “tipping point.”

“The window of opportunity is narrowing,” Dr. Tedros said, and humanity is running out of time to stop this virus before things get much, much worse.

You know, just some reassuring words to kick off the weekend with a little levity.

We’re starting to suspect that Dr. Tedros may have recently purchased some out-of-the-money S&P puts.

Seemingly responding to the growing number of ‘armchair cranks’ and ‘conspiracy theorists’ questioning why a WHO team of experts – a team that includes two Americans – hasn’t yet traveled to Wuhan, Dr. Tedros added that the team is planning to travel to the epicenter of the outbreak on Saturday.

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So far, the team has traveled to Beijing, Sichuan and Guangdong provinces.

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Update (1000ET): Check this out.

The NYT has published an interesting interactive illustrating the huge drop in flights departing from China to the US and other major economies.

The disappearance of tens of thousands of flights leaving China shows “how the coronavirus has hobbled a nation,” the NYT said.

Jan. 23:

Feb. 13:

Put another way:

As the NYT reports, Oxford Economics said in a recent report that the outbreak could wipe $1.1 trillion from global output, which kind of undercuts Larry Kudlow’s stammering on CNBC about this not being a ‘US story’: It’s difficult to imagine a scenario where the US economy would walk away unaffected by this.

See it here.

In other news, Beijing continues to push the ‘everything’s fine; we’re winning’ narrative.

Update (0725ET): Lebanon has confirmed its first case of COVID-9.

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The tiny Levantine state, which has swollen with refugees from nearby Syria in recent years, is in the middle of an economic crisis, and its government is presently weighing whether to default on an upcoming loan payment, which could lead to deeply unpopular austerity measures, as Al Jazeera reports.

Earlier, Israel’s Health Ministry confirmed that an Israeli citizen contracted the virus while aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship (1 of 11 Israeli passengers). She is currently under supervision and isolation in Israel. All 11 were flown out of Japan and sent directly Friday into isolation at Sheba Tel Hashomer Hospital, where they will remain during a 2-week quarantine period. Earlier this week, Israel’s government announced a temporary travel ban on all foreign nationals who had traveled to Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macao during the past 2 weeks.

Following reports yesterday that two Beijing hospitals had been put under quarantine amid fears of a wider outbreak, WaPo reported that one district in Beijing has been found to have an “infection density” second only to Wuhan on mainland China. This has served to further intensify concerns about what might happen when millions of Chinese return to work next week.

* * *

When historians look back at the COVID-19 outbreak, they’ll remember this week as an important turning point in the crisis, when international public-health experts and investors started to focus their attention on South Korea, Japan and other countries in the region that have seen the number of new cases accelerate markedly in recent days.

Put another way, evidence that the virus is spreading more rapidly within other Asian countries outside mainland China has become impossible to ignorewhich is probably why US futures are pointing to a lower open for a second straight day.

As Bloomberg reminds us, South Korea has seen its total cases soar past 200 as the number of infections doubled in 24 hours.

Meanwhile, cases in Singapore and Japan have topped 85, and let’s not forget the 600+ from the ‘Diamond Princess’ who have been excluded from the ‘Japan’ total.

At least as far as deaths are concerned, the numbers outside of China remain small: out of 2,247 deaths, only 13 have occurred in other regions (this includes 2 more deaths in Iran announced just minutes ago).

But there’s no getting around it: the spread of the virus will undoubtedly worsen the economic blowback, as one economist explained to BBG.

“The sudden jump in infections in other parts of Asia, notably in Japan and South Korea, has sparked renewed concerns,” said Khoon Goh, Singapore-based head of Asia research at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd.

“This points to a new phase in the outbreak, and one which will see continued disruption and more economic impact than previously thought.”

Last night, we reported on the latest case numbers out of South Korea, and more have already been recorded. The current total is 204. Earlier this month, the WHO said China’s approach to tackling the virus should be a “model” for other governments facing similar outbreaks. At the time, experts criticized the organization for appearing to parrot Chinese propaganda. But it looks like they might have been on to something. Because as we reported late last night, the Blue House has ordered a ‘special management zones’ in the cities of Daegu and Cheongdo, or what appears to be a kind of ‘soft’ quarantine. The government said that since they’ve failed to prevent an outbreak, they’re pivoting decidedly to a strategy of containment.

Just a few hours ago, Chinese state media reported that 500 cases – roughly half of the new cases reported in China on Friday – involved prisoners at a handful of jails across the country, according to the Washington Post.

Infections have been confirmed at five prisons in Shandong, Hubei and Zhejiang, according to China’s Ministry of Justice. A prison in eastern Shandong province showed 207 out of 2,077 inmates and staff were infected, and the provincial justice department’s Communist Party secretary was dismissed as a result, the province announced. Another jail in Zhejiang province found 34 cases. Hubei province, at the center of the outbreak, said Friday it found 220 new cases inside penitentiaries.

According to the Washington Post, the prison outbreaks underscore the virus’s easy transmissibility in confined spaces.

Even the Global Times acknowledged that the prison outbreaks have “weakened” Beijing’s claims that the virus is receding…

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…Even as local officials adopt ever-more bizarre and draconian restrictions on individual movement.

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Tests at a prison in eastern Shandong province showed 207 out of 2,077 inmates and staff were infected, and the provincial justice department’s Communist Party secretary was dismissed as a result, the province announced. Another jail in Zhejiang province found 34 cases. Hubei province, at the center of the outbreak, said Friday it found 220 new cases inside penitentiaries.

The prison outbreaks underscored the SARS-CoV-2 virus’s high transmissibility in confined spaces after the disease ravaged the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan.

While overall numbers remain low, thousands who fear they may have come into contact with a ‘super-spreader’ in Daegu, a city of 2.5 million about 2 hours south of Seoul. The woman, who believed she was suffering from a simple cold because she had not traveled abroad, reportedly attended four church services at a “cult-like” church with 1,100 members in the city, as well as branches in other cities, including Seoul, where the mayor has ordered the local church closed until further notice.

Communist Party leaders made yet another public misstep overnight when health officials said they would once again change their ‘criteria’ for what constitutes a ‘confirmed’ case of COVID-19 back to the more inclusive and accurate definition. Officials said they decided on the switch because they couldn’t subtract already confirmed cases from the total, which sounds…almost plausible.

On CNBC Friday morning, Eunice Yoon, the network’s reporter on the ground in Beijing, interviewed the owner of a Beijing restaurant discussing his fears about going out of business. But as China slouches back to work, millions are worried that Beijing might sacrifice the public welfare to get a few factories up and running.

Looks like the cat’s out of the bag: North Korea has cancelled the Pyongyang Marathon, the country’s largest tourism money-maker, because of COVID-19, according to the operators of several tour companies who spoke with AFP.

Beijing-based Koryo Tours, the official partner of the marathon, said on its website it had “received official confirmation today that the Pyongyang Marathon 2020 is cancelled”.

“This is due to the ongoing closure of the North Korean border and COVID-19 virus situation in China and the greater region,” it added.

North Korean officials have vehemently denied reports that the virus had crossed the Yalu River, evening becoming enraged at the US in response to an offer of assistance from the State Department. Recently, a WHO official said there are “no indications” that the virus has arrived in North Korea, but considering that we’re talking about North Korea, that’s hardly surprising.

As the lockdowns in Beijing, Tianjin and other cities intensified over the last week, more Chinese were subjected to displays like this:

On Friday, Japanese health officials and Carnival Japan will release the last batch of passengers and crew from their 14-day quarantine aboard the ‘Diamond Princess’ despite criticisms from the CDC that Japanese officials had failed to maintain the quarantine. Right now, infectious disease experts see Japan as one of the riskiest places outside China, according to BBG. Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said on Sunday that Japan had lost track of the route of some of the infection cases, which have tripled in the past week to more than 90.

Iran just confirmed 13 more cases and 2 new deaths, mostly in Qoms, the same city where some earlier cases had been detected, while also reporting that the virus has reached Tehran, according to Reuters. So far, seven Iranians have been diagnosed in Qom, four in Tehran and two in Gilan, according to a tweet from the Iranian health ministry. Iranian officials have acknowledged the possibility that the virus might have arrived in every major Iranian city.

Even in Korea, health officials say they their investigators can’t figure out how some of the outbreaks started. That’s not exactly reassuring.

Right now, the focus is on South Korea. Last week, it briefly shifted to the UK before moving on to Japan. Italy just reported another three cases, doubling its count from 3 to six. Will they be next? Maybe Africa?

Shocking Spike In COVID-19 Cases Puts Beijing On High Alert; Officials Weigh “Wuhan-Level” Lockdown

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Summary:

  • Iran confirms 5 cases of COVID-19

  • Japanese officials defend their handling of ‘Diamond Princess’ quarantine

  • Beijing tightens lockdown after dozens more cases reported

  • As outbreak ex-China accelerates, WHO warns case #s “won’t stay low for long.”

  • Hong Kongers evacuated from ‘Diamond Princess’ after Japanese government confirms 2 deaths

  • Researchers confirm COVID-19 more contagious than SARS and MERS

  • Tim Cook welcomes back employees, customers as Apple reopens some China stores

* * *

Update (1420ET): WSJ reports that Japan’s top health officials have defended their handling of the ‘Diamond Princess’ quarantine during a statement to Japan’s parliament, the Diet.

Japan’s Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told Parliament the two people from the Diamond Princess cruise ship who died had “received the best medical treatment” but couldn’t be saved after catching the novel coronavirus on board. As of Thursday, 634 passengers and crew members were diagnosed with the virus out of 3,063 tested. Slightly more than half have no symptoms at all, officials said, and many of the remainder have only mild fever or a cough. Among patients who tested positive for the virus, 28 were reported in serious condition Thursday.

Doctors have said the virus can be particularly harmful in elderly patients, and one of the two fatal cases from the Diamond Princess, a Japanese man in his 80s, had pre-existing bronchial asthma and had been treated for angina. The other, a Japanese woman in her 80s without underlying illnesses, came down with a fever on Feb. 5, the same day passengers were told they would be quarantined in their cabins for two weeks, according to health ministry officials. The next day, she started suffering from diarrhea and saw a doctor on board.

She wasn’t taken to a hospital until Feb. 12 when she started suffering shortness of breath. Her virus test came back positive the following day, and despite treatment with antiviral drugs normally used to treat HIV infection, she died Thursday.

Asked about the woman’s case, health ministry official Hiroshi Umeda said, “I believe it was handled promptly.” He said the ship was a difficult environment for medical staff but they worked day and night and tried to prioritize the most serious cases.

The country has been widely criticized for appearing to break quarantine on the cruise ship, which was home to the largest COVID-19 outbreak outside China. More than 700 passengers who tested negative for the virus disembarked the ship on Wednesday and Thursday.

* * *

Update (1415ET): A group of 59 Hong Kong police officers has been quarantined after a fellow officer tested positive for the virus, according to a statement released publicly by the city’s police.

* * *

Update (1250ET): Less than an hour ago, we mentioned that Beijing’s heavy-handed virus-fighting measures had become the subject of an intense “public debate” about whether they were doing more harm than good.

Well, according to an unconfirmed report from the Epoch Times’ Jennifer Zeng, party officials in Beijing are upgrading its “epidemic prevention” status to “Wuhan-level” – meaning a complete lockdown where residents aren’t allowed to leave their homes without specific permission.

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Another tweet sent earlier in the day reported new restrictions being imposed at a Beijing apartment complex.

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How much longer can the party keep this up before it damages public confidence to a degree that can’t be repaired.

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Update (1200ET): In what appears to be yet another consequence of Beijing’s rushed push to get all of China “back to work” nearly two weeks ago, the Global Times, a Chinese tabloid that also publishes in English.

A hospital in Central Beijing has reported 36 novel coronavirus cases as of Thursday, a sharp increase in the number of cases reported in the capital city. The new cases bring Beijing’s total to 45, stoking fears that the outbreak could accelerate.

Among the infected at Fuxing Hospital in Beijing’s Xicheng district were eight medical workers, nine cleaning staff and 19 patients, along with members of their families.

These confirmations follow reports that Beijing officials quarantined whole office buildings following after some employees were suspected of having the virus.

“Considering 36 confirmed cases were found in Fuxing Hospital, it is more about one case of multiple infections rather than an epidemic of the whole area,” Wang Guangfa, director of the department of respiratory and critical care medicine at Peking University First Hospital, told the Global Times on Thursday.

“This coronavirus issue is big. It will effect a lot of companies, and I think the market’s have underestimated what a big supply-side shock this is,” said Mohammad El-Erian, Bill Gross’s former No. 2 man at PIMCO and a widely watched economist who works now with PIMCO parent Allianz.

Peking University People’s Hospital, another major hospital in Beijing, confirmed that it had received three patients carrying the virus earlier this week on Feb. 17. Already, a total of 164 medical workers at the hospital have been placed under close medical observation after they had “close contact” with the patients – something that seems almost unavoidable for nurses and doctors.

A total of 164 people including medical staff at People’s Hospital who have had close contact with the patients have been put under close The hospital said it had conducted coronavirus tests on 251 personnel, and so far, they’ve all been negative.

In other news, another analyst has told the GT that Apple’s iPhone sales in China will shrink 40% to 50% in the near term after the company closed all its retail stores in the country earlier this month. Those stores have only just started to reopen.

Liang Zhenpeng, a senior industry expert, told the Global Times on Thursday the COVID-19 outbreak has dealt a heavy blow to the sales of all mobile phone suppliers in China, including Apple.

“The iPhone’s sales in the first quarter of this year are likely to be less than half of the same quarter in 2019,” he said. “Mobile phone sales, both online or offline, are very difficult during this period, because the supply chains can hardly be normalized.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook said on his Sina Weibo account, China’s Twitter-like social media, that the company is welcoming back employees and customers and is looking to work closely with their manufacturing partners to get everything back on track.

We suspect this is what triggered the market plunge over the last 30 minutes.

Circling back to Beijing, the municipal officials said that all hospitals in Beijing should “accelerate hospitalization of patients and try their best to diagnose suspected cases to treat the infected patients at the earliest time.”

So far, the confirmed cases in the city have been scattered around 15 of its 16 districts.

The hysteria surrounding the outbreak across China has actually sparked an interesting public debate – something you don’t see much in China – about whether all of the heavy-handed government measures – the quarantines and lockdowns and roadblocks – and the work stoppages are really necessary.

Some even contend that by impoverishing regular Chinese people via work stoppages that damage the economy, the government might be doing more harm to the population than the virus has, according to the New York Times.

With hundreds of millions of people in China now essentially living in isolation and its economy nearly at a standstill, experts in the country are increasingly arguing that Beijing’s efforts to fight the coronavirus are hurting people’s lives and livelihoods while doing little to the stop the virus’s spread.

If the country becomes poorer because of emergency health measures, they say, that drop might hurt public health more than the virus itself.

The debate – including questions about whether mandatory 14-day quarantines, roadblocks and checkpoints are really necessary in areas where there have been few cases – is unusual in a country where dissent is usually censored.

It comes as China reported a significant decrease in new coronavirus infections on Thursday, as health officials changed the way they counted confirmed cases for the second time in over a week.

Of course, President Xi and China’s senior economic officials claim that there won’t be any economic pullback, since Beijing is obviously winning the ‘People’s War’.

* * *

Update (1010ET): Talk about a spike in deaths: Iran is now reporting 9 deaths after shocking the world by revealing that two Chinese nationals infected with the virus had died in the city of Qoms earlier this week.

The Iranian regime has reportedly imposed a China-style crackdown on Qoms, deploying military and crowd-control police across the city.

It’s just the latest sign that the cases and deaths ex-China are accelerating.

CNBC’s Eunice Yoon reports that Beijing has warned Hubei not to allow people back to work before March 10.

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Local leaders said yesterday that they would launch a special financing vehicle to help struggling companies in the province survive the outbreak.

Following the WHO’s daily press conference, Director General Dr. Tedros said the WHO had confirmed 1,000 cases outside mainland China (with more than half of them infected aboard the ‘Diamond Princess’), and 7 deaths, likely excludes some of the deaths announced over the past 12 hours. Though he added that the data coming out of China “appeared to show a decline in new cases.”

“Outside China, we have seen a steady drip of new cases, but we have not yet seen sustained local transmission, except in specific circumstances like the Diamond Princess cruise ship,” he added.

More ominously, Dr. Tedros exclaimed that the outbreak is far from over, and if governments don’t take adequate steps to fight the virus, the number of cases outside China “won’t stay low for very long.”

Worried about more shortages of personal protective equipment like facemasks, Dr. Tedros pleaded with a dozen different manufacturers to do whatever they can to keep up appropriate global supplies.

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The director said the WHO expects to have more data from two clinical trials for treatments in roughly 3 weeks.

Since we haven’t posted a breakdown of new cases yet today, we figured we’d share this list of countries, cases and deaths courtesy of the Associated Press:

According to the Associated Press, the latest figures provided by each government’s health authority as of Thursday in Beijing are:

  • Mainland China: 2,118 deaths among 74,576 cases, mostly in the central province of Hubei

  • Hong Kong: 65 cases, 2 deaths

  • Macao: 10

  • Japan: 727 cases, including 634 from a cruise ship docked in Yokohama, 3 deaths

  • Singapore: 84

  • South Korea: 51, 1 death

  • Thailand: 35

  • Taiwan: 24 cases, 1 death

  • Malaysia: 22

  • Vietnam: 16

  • Germany: 16

  • United States: 15 cases; separately, 1 U.S. citizen died in China

  • Australia: 14

  • France: 12 cases, 1 death

  • United Kingdom: 9

  • United Arab Emirates: 9

  • Canada: 8

  • Iran: 5 cases, 2 deaths

  • Philippines: 3 cases, 1 death

  • India: 3

  • Italy: 3

  • Russia: 2

  • Spain: 2

  • Belgium: 1

  • Nepal: 1

  • Sri Lanka: 1

  • Sweden: 1

  • Cambodia: 1

  • Finland: 1

  • Egypt: 1

In other news, UK passengers aboard the ‘Diamond Princess’ will be evacuated by their government on Friday. The chartered evacuation flights (following the standard template) will land at Boscombe Down airbase in Wiltshire. Elsewhere in the anglosphere, Australia has extended its travel ban for arrivals from China into a fourth week. It will last until Feb. 29, the Guardian reported.

* * *

Hours after Japanese press reports claimed that two passengers who contracted COVID-19 aboard the ‘Diamond Princess’ died yesterday – news that was later confirmed by Japanese authorities – South Korea reported its first fatality while one of its major cities asked citizens to stay inside and avoid venturing outdoors, according to the Washington Post.

According to Japanese government officials, both of the virus-related fatalities were Japanese citizens in their 80s who had been moved off the ship more than a week ago for treatment in a Japanese hospital, though the government has so far declined to release names.

The latest reports Thursday morning confirmed another 13 cases aboard the DP bringing the total to 634. The odds that individuals being released from the 2 week quarantine on Thursday and Friday might have contracted the virus, but have yet to show symptoms, remains high. The death in South Korea raised the death toll ex-China to 10.

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The speed is hardly a surprise for those who have been paying attention to all of the new research, instead of dismissing it for being ‘alarmist’ and ‘not peer reviewed’.

Finally, earlier this week, researchers published the largest study yet of the outbreak, which confirmed that COVID-19 is more contagious than SARS and MERS, leaving it on par with seasonal influenza.

Still, experts insist that the virus’s fatality rate is probably around 2%, meaning that it’s less deadly than SARS, but the wider spread will result in more deaths, CNN reports.

“My sense and the sense of many of my colleagues, is that the ultimate case fatality rate … is less than 2%,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN’s Jim Sciutto on “New Day” Tuesday. “What is likely not getting counted is a large number of people who are either asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic, so the denominator of your equation is likely much much larger.”

“So I would think at tops it’s 2% and it likely will go down when all the counting gets done to 1% or less. That’s still considerable if you look at the possibility that you’re dealing with a global pandemic,” he added.

Even as President Xi does everything in his power to present an image of success to the Chinese people – in his speeches, he claims the Chinese government’s strict quarantines have been an unmitigated success – global experts, including the WHO, have warned that the disease will continue to spread globally, and that the end of this crisis is still far from certain.

And as new confirmed cases dropped substantially on Wednesday in Hubei, everywhere else, the rate of new infections is accelerating.

In South Korea, the number of cases soared by almost two-thirds to 104 overnight, further emphasizing our observation that the number of cases ex-China has started to accelerate notably as the curve starts to resemble an exponential progression.

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One WHO health expert told a Japanese TV station on Thursday that the virus is “a moving target” making it difficult to collect information and treat people: “Nobody has ever had to deal with this situation before, this is a new virus on a ship with 4,000 people, there are no guidelines for that.” He added that he suspects there was a substantial amount of transmission before it arrived in Yokohama, adding that it was “not possible” to isolate everybody individually.

The WHO senior epidemiologist was responding to claims made by another expert in infectious disease that the Japanese had failed to observer proper quarantine protocols.

Back in Korea, the mayor of Daegu, a city of 2.5 million where 10 South Koreans contracted the disease from a church service, asked residents to stay indoors. Iran also reported two infected that then died.

Experts suspect that one woman in Daegu may have infected at least 40 others by going to her Christian church, according to Yonhap. The alleged ‘superspreader’ is the reason for the huge jump in new cases on Thursday. Experts say the city is now facing an “unprecedented crisis” following the spike in cases.

“We are in an unprecedented crisis,” Daegu’s mayor, Kwon Young-jin, told the press.

Cases are also surging in Singapore, where Deutsche Bank confirmed that an employee in its Singapore office had contracted the virus.

Adding to its woes, Iran reported three new cases on Thursday a day after it confirmed two virus-related deaths in the city of Qoms.

Warnings about the virus’s economic blowback are increasing, as Goldman said Thursday that stocks aren’t completely pricing in the risks from the virus.

Meanwhile, Air France-KLM, Qantas, and the global container shipping giant Maersk became the latest companies to warn about the financial impact from the continued spread of the coronavirus.

As President Xi balances the risks to tens of thousands of lives on one hand, and keeping his promise to double the size of China’s economy by 2020 on the other, it seems the leadership in Beijing are beginning to believe their own propaganda. Premier Li Keqiang, Xi’s No. 2 who is in charge of the committee managing the crisis, local governments should seek to increase the rate of resumed production and work, according to China Central Television.

Put another way: Come on in, the water’s fine, and if you get the virus and die, we’ll cremate your body and tell your family you died of “pneumonia.”

China’s smartphone shipment declined 50%-60% during the 2020 Spring Festival holidays due to the coronavirus outbreak. About 60 million smartphones remain unsold.

Chinese officials are pulling out all the fiscal and monetary stops to protect China’s damaged economy, and on Thursday local officials from Hubei announced a new lending scheme – a “special financing vehicle” – worth 50 billion yuan (more than $7 billion) to stabilize financing for local companies.

To be sure, the drop in new cases last night was largely caused by health officials reversing their decision to include “clinically diagnosed” patients – i.e. those who haven’t yet tested positive due to a shortage of effective tests – in the case totals.

The spate of deaths rattled investors overnight, and US equity futures are pointing to a lower open on Thursday, and a rush of risk-off trading in Asia has pushed the BBG dollar index to a 4-month high following the latest piece of evidence that the coronavirus isn’t simply “another flu”.

WHO Turns On China, Demands To Know How Nearly 2,000 Doctors Were Infected With COVID-19

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Summary:

  • China says 1,716 medical workers have been infected

  • WHO demands to know more about sick doctors, insists group of 12 virus experts will reach Beijing over the weekend

  • Singapore reports largest daily jump in cases amid increased human-to-human transmission

  • Hong Kong reports 3 new cases

  • Hubei’s new party boss orders quarantine tightened

  • President Xi touts new “biosecurity law”

  • Hong Kong Disney land offers space for quarantine

  • Chinese company says blood plasma of recovered patients useful in combating the virus

  • US mulling new travel restrictions

  • Japan reports 4 new cases; one patient recently returned from Hawaii.

  • CDC Director: Virus is “Coming” to the US.

Update (1040ET): The WHO has just wrapped up its now-daily presser for Friday, and it appeared to focus on imminent plans to send a group of a dozen scientists and researchers to Beijing to figure out exactly what the hell is going on.

Much fuss has been made over the past week over China’s continued refusals to allow Americans, or any other foreigners, for that matter, to offer assistance with the virus response. It’s almost as if they’re…hiding something…

Even after yesterday’s big reveal about the change in their ‘pro forma accounting standards’ to reflect a higher death toll and number of confirmed cases (the jump alarmed global investors and prompted a selloff on equity markets), China still won’t let Americans participate in a WHO-sponsored team of 12 researchers who are traveling to the mainland.

It was a big deal earlier this week when Beijing said it would reluctantly accept the team, ending weeks of suspiciously standoffish behavior (though the WHO bigwigs did travel to Beijing for meetings). But as one analyst said earlier on CNBC: ‘We want to see foreign boots on the ground before we simply take the Chinese at their word’.

It’s also notable how the WHO, initially a purveyor of what seemed like propaganda hot off the presses in Beijing, seems to have turned completely against its benefactor, now treating it with public suspicion.

  • WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION TEDROS SAYS WE NEED TO KNOW MORE ABOUT INFECTION OF 1,760 CHINESE HEALTH WORKERS, INCLUDING TIME PERIOD AND CIRCUMSTANCES

  • WHO BOSS TEDROS SAYS HE EXPECTS FULL TEAM OF WHO-LED INTERNATIONAL HEALTH EXPERTS TO TOUCH DOWN IN CHINA OVER WEEKEND TO HELP PROBE CORONAVIRUS

  • WHO MISSION TO CHINA WILL FOCUS ON UNDERSTANDING TRANSMISSION OF CORONAVIRUS, SEVERITY OF DISEASE AND IMPACT OF ONGOING RESPONSE MEASURES – WHO CHIEF TEDROS SAYS

  • WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION TEDROS SAYS WE NEED TO KNOW MORE ABOUT INFECTION OF 1,760 CHINESE HEALTH WORKERS, INCLUDING TIME PERIOD AND CIRCUMSTANCES

But after today’s WHO press conference, we were left with the distinct impression that it’s almost as if China doesn’t…want the team to come.

Why else would they have waited to reveal the figures about all the sick doctors and health-care workers until Friday morning in the US and Europe? Just a thought.

Back in the US, a team of American expertss is prepared to travel to China to investigate the outbreak on a moments notice, should they ever receive clearance from a government official, according to Secretary Azar.

As he said (and we noted) earlier, the US is bracing for the possibility that the warm weather doesn’t kill the virus, as President Trump expects.

Anyway, moving away from China, we’ve seen unconfirmed reports of four patients in St. Petersburg escaping a COVID-19 quarantine. Earlier in the week, two women escaped quarantines in Siberia.

* * *

Update (1000ET): China is turning the quarantine nob up to ’11’.

After imposing strict lockdown conditions on nearly a third of the country, Beijing’s is kicking off its shift to ‘wartime measures’ by adopting even more strikingly draconian measures on the residents of its capital city.

From Feb. 14 on, all people returning to the city will be advised to quarantine for 14 days.

Meanwhile, the BBC reports that hundreds of conference atendees in London have been contacted by health officials after one of them was later diagnosed with the virus.

The person, who has not been identified, attended the UK Bus Summit at the QEII Conference Centre last week. Two Labour MPs who attended the conference said they’re cancelling public events until Feb. 20, just in case.

So far, nine people in the UK have been confirmed to have the virus.

* * *

Update (0915ET): Japan has reported 4 new cases of the virus, including one man who recently returned from the US state of Hawaii, and another who helped transfer an infected patient diagnosed aboard “the Diamond Princess”, the cruise ship that has been quarantined in Yokohama for 10 days.

Meanwhile, over in the US, this interview of the director of the CDC warning that the virus could become widespread in the US ‘beyond 2020’.

* * *

Update (0850ET): Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said during an interview on Friday morning that more travel restrictions are “on the table,” suggesting that the US might apply similar restrictions to Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and other Asian countries that have reported rising numbers of cases.

Earlier this month, the State Department raised its travel alert for China to ‘4’, and the US imposed restrictions on foreigners who have recently traveled to China and re-routing Americans who have been to viral hotspots to certain US airports for screening on arrival. These travel restrictions have infuriated Beijing, and prompted a government spokesperson to accuse the US of spreading hysteria.

Even if the virus does “go away” in April, as President Trump has insisted…

…At this point, Q1 GDP is going to be a disaster anyway, so the US might as well kitchen-sink it.

And it’s not like investors have anything to worry about – bad news is still good news, after all, and the market will simply go to pricing in ~1 Fed rate hike in 2020 to ~2.

* * *

Update (0810ET): Earlier this morning, Hong Kong confirmed three more coronavirus infections, bringing the total number of cases in the city to 56.

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Here’s more information on the new cases from SCMP:

  • The Centre for Health Protection said one of the three cases involved a man in critical condition after suffering shortness of breath for more than 10 days. He had to be intubated in Princess Margaret Hospital. He lives in Shek Lei Estate in Kwai Chung, and passed through the Lok Ma Chau border crossing on January 22.

  • Another person who tested positive for the virus, which causes the disease known as Covid-19, was the cousin of a previously infected case. Both attended a family gathering of 29 at a restaurant in North Point on January 26. At least six other members at that gathering have been infected with the new deadly virus, while at least two are still in quarantine pending test results.

  • The third case is a worker in a dim sum restaurant in Sheung Wan, whose husband visited their son in Xinhui, Guangdong province, from January 23 to January 28. Her husband and son are not infected.

Unlike most of the countries that have reported cases of the virus, both Singapore and Hong Kong have confirmed human-to-human transmission within their own borders, meaning the outbreak has already started to spread past the 2nd and 3rd generations of the infected.

Though Singapore is still ahead in terms of number of cases, Hong Kong is giving it a run for its month (though, as we’ve said before, it’s an outbreak, not a race).

* * *

Following Chinese health officials’ claim last night that it “double-counted” some deaths (while crematoriums in the country have been working 24/7 as the outbreak has worsened over the last few weeks), the good people at China’s NHC have disclosed for the first time that 1,716 medical workers have been infected across the country.

Does this figure seem a little underwhelming? Officials put the infected medical worker total at 3.8% of 60k+ total cases on the mainland, and added that six medical workers – including the martyr Dr. Li – have died as of Friday. Of course, even if they’re all wearing protective gear (which we know many aren’t especially in the hardest hit areas like Hubei) this number would still seem low for such an infectious disease, given that more than 65,000 cases have been confirmed across the world.

One expert who spoke to the New York Times said the number of infected medical workers is “concerning.”

“I think it’s quite concerning,” said Benjamin Cowling, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Hong Kong. “Healthcare workers face the challenge of caring for a substantial number of patients in Wuhan. It’s worrying to discover that a number of them have been infected.”

From what we’ve heard and read, it seems that shortages of supplies like facemasks, gloves, goggles and other protective gear have persisted, even in Hubei, according to the NYT. During the SARS outbreak, 961 medical workers were infected, representing some 18% of all infections. Since COVID-19 is even more contagious than SARS, we’d expect the number of medical workers infected to be even higher.

After expressing skepticism about Beijing’s response to the virus earlier in the week, it looks like the WHO is back to shilling for the Communist Party, claiming overnight that the jump in cases in China shouldn’t be characterized as a “spike,” and that it’s normal to change how cases are defined.

Across the mainland, the Chinese people, who have been frustrated by the government’s dissembling, have come up with jokes like this one.

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Given everything we’ve learned about the virus, and all the reports about shortages of medical supplies like facemasks across the country, but especially in Hubei Province, we suspect that the real number is much, much larger. It’s just the latest evidence that Beijing hasn’t given up on doctoring its disease stats, even after its big non-admission on Thursday that its methods for confirming virus-linked cases and deaths hadn’t been sufficiently inclusive.

As we first pointed out yesterday, party officials said yesterday that the country would use “wartime measures” – a kind of public emergency declaration – to fight the virus, suggesting that the lockdowns will become even more widespread.

WHO DUBS CORONAVIRUS ‘PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER 1’

WHO Dubs Coronavirus 'Public Enemy Number 1'

Death toll rises as virus continues global spread

Deutsche Welle – FEBRUARY 12, 2020

More than 1,000 people have so far lost their lives to the new coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on the world to act and warned that “a virus is more powerful in creating political, economic, and socialist upheaval than any terrorist attack.”

“If the world doesn’t want to wake up and consider this enemy virus as public enemy number one, I don’t think we will learn from our lessons,” he said. “It’s the number one enemy to the whole world, and to the whole of humanity.”

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The number of fatalities from the virus reached 1,113 on Wednesday after China’s hardest-hit Hubei province reported 94 new deaths and three more were reported elsewhere in the mainland. In its daily update, the province’s health commission also confirmed another 2,105 new cases on Tuesday, the lowest since January 30.

Ghebreyesus, who previously served as the Ethiopian foreign minister, called on investing in prevention measures and helping countries with weaker health systems, He warned that “if this virus makes to (a country with) a weaker health system, it will wreak havoc.”

“For now it doesn’t seem so, but it doesn’t mean it will not happen. It may,” he said.

The virus has already paralyzed China’s economy as many large companies urged their employees to stay at home in order to curb the spread of the disease.

Meanwhile, an additional 39 cases have been reported on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was being quarantined for a second week off the coast of Japan.

The new reports bring the total number of cases on the ship, which has 3,700 passengers and crew on board, to 174. A quarantine officer was also found to be infected with the virus.

COVID-19

The WHO chief also announced a new official name for the disease, saying that the agency has dubbed it COVID-19.

The “CO” stands for “corona”, “VI” stands for “virus”, “D” for disease, and “19” for the year 2019, as the virus was first officially confirmed in December last year, according to Ghebreyesus.

The UN health agency intentionally avoided names that could be linked to a geographical region, an animal, or a group of people, he said.

‘We are not defenseless’

The WHO is currently hosting a conference of 400 medical experts who should prepare a “roadmap” for the outbreak response, including discussion on possible treatments.

“They will take time to develop, but in the meantime, we are not defenseless,” Ghebreyesus said, noting that a first vaccine “could be ready in 18 months.”

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Ghebreyesus also recommended washing your hands, keeping at a distance from people who are coughing, and — if you are coughing yourself — covering your mouth with a tissue or your elbow.

There are now more than 44,200 confirmed cases across China, based on previously released figures from the government.

Separately, Chinese epidemiologist and senior medical advisor Zhong Nanshan told the Reuters news agency that the outbreak would likely peak before the end of February.

“I hope this outbreak or this event may be over in something like April,” said the 83-year-old Zhong, who was also involved in fighting the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic.

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.

Months Before Coronavirus Rocked the World, Cambridge University Warned of Race-Specific Bioweapons

This is no conspiracy theory.

By Shane Trejo – 2/10/2020

Just months before the coronavirus pandemic hit the world, scientists at Cambridge University warned of the reality of race-specific bioweapons.

Cambridge University’s Center for the Study of Existential Risk released their report last summer to tell world governments that they urgently need to prepare for this threat, or otherwise they would potentially deal with its lethal ramifications after it’s already too late.

They called for independent groups to be formed to study technology and how it can be used as a weapon to target populations, and come up with ways to solve them through rules, regulations and other protocols.

“The technology is becoming increasingly sophisticated at ever cheaper prices, democratizing the ability to harm more quickly and lethally,” the authors of the report wrote. “In a particularly bad case, a bio-weapon could be built to target a specific ethnic group based on its genomic profile.”

The coronavirus pandemic may signal that the worst fears of these researchers has come to life. Although globalist authority figures, Chinese communist tyrants, and social media commissars want to mute the concerns, whistleblowers have sounded the alarm about coronavirus strain possibly being a bioweapon.

ZeroHedge posted a report regarding a study by Indian scientists which indicated that “HIV” insertions appeared in the coronavirus, and they were quickly removed from Twitter after releasing the information.

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“To our surprise, these sequence insertions were not only absent in S protein of SARS but were also not observed in any other member of the Coronaviridae family (Supplementary figure). This is startling as it is quite unlikely for a virus to have acquired such unique insertions naturally in a short duration of time,” the Indian scientists determined.

However, following a panic from the globalists, the Indian scientists disavowed their report under the pressure.

Harvard public health scientist Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding made the announcement on Twitter and deleted all of his analysis about the report from the Indian scientists.

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In addition, University of Illinois College of Law professor Dr. Francis Boyle, the man who drafted the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, has stated on the record that he believes coronavirus is the bioweapon.

An in-depth interview with Boyle discussing his expert opinion can be seen here:

 

Big League Politics has also reported about how a controversial research facility into some of the world’s dangerous pathogens was opened in Wuhan, China shortly before the coronavirus pandemic started out of that city.

The Orwellian world of race-specific bioweapons has arrived, and the coronavirus pandemic may be the start of a dangerous trend that could result in an unspeakably deadly age of chemical warfare.

HONG KONGERS EMPTY STORE SHELVES OF FOOD, SUPPLIES AMID CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK

Hong Kongers Empty Store Shelves of Food, Supplies Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Stores running out of rice, toilet paper and surgical masks

Kit Daniels  – FEBRUARY 6, 2020

Hong Kong residents are emptying store shelves of storable food and household supplies out of fears China will seal its borders, thus stopping exports to Hong Kong.

Residents have already wiped out supermarkets of rice, toilet paper and cleaning wipes in addition to surgical masks and sanitizers which were already running in short supply.

If China stops exporting stuff here, where would we get our necessities from?” Asked an elderly lady in front of empty shelves, as reported by Voice of America.

The outlet also reported that there’s a “there is also panic buying on rice — a staple food for Hong Kongers — packet noodles and vitamins, leaving the shelves eerily empty, although there was no shortage of meat and vegetables in shops,” suggesting that residents are stocking up on food that won’t spoil.

“There has been a severe shortage of surgical masks and sanitizing agents such as alcohol hand rubs and wipes, with many pharmacies posting notes on their windows saying ‘No masks, alcohol sanitizing agents or wipes available,’” stated Voice of America. “Long queues quickly form outside any shops that announce they have a supply of masks.”

“Thousands braved chilly winds and camped overnight Tuesday outside an outlet at Kowloon Bay that said it had procured a supply of masks from Dubai.”

Additionally, 10 clinics have closed in Hong Kong due to the lack of surgical masks, and another 400 clinics may soon close if more mask shipments are not received.

China’s economic output has slowed down significantly due to the unprecedented quarantine of millions of mainland residents, which has also contributed to the stockpiling in Hong Kong.

Coronavirus death toll surpasses SARS numbers in China, traces of disease found on door handle

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More people in China have already died from the ongoing coronavirus outbreak than from the SARS epidemic 17 years ago, Chinese officials said. Meanwhile, traces of the disease were spotted on a door handle used by the patient.

The death toll from the previously-unknown coronavirus in China has grown to 361 on Sunday, the country’s National Health Commission said. This number exceeds the 349 fatalities from the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic in mainland China in 2003.

Out of 57 newly reported deaths, 56 were in central Hubei Province, whose capital Wuhan remains the epicenter of the outbreak, and one in the city of Chongqing in China’s southwest. So far, the only death from the virus outside mainland China was registered in the Philippines.

Overall, 17,205 cases of the virus have now been registered in China since the outbreak started in late December.

During a press briefing in Beijing on Monday, Deputy Director of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) Lian Weiliang announced that China will step up measures to supply Wuhan with basic goods as it remains quarantined along with several other major cities.

China’s first ‘instant’ coronavirus hospital accepting patients, second facility days from opening

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Army troops stationed in Wuhan have taken over the delivery of food and basic necessities, using military trucks to stock local supermarkets. The authorities also ordered to boost the production of face masks and test kits after the Lunar New Year holidays in response to shortages in Wuhan and some other areas in Hubei.

Zhang Zhoubin, deputy head of a disease prevention center in the southeastern city of Guangzhou, said coronavirus was “found” on the door handle at a patient’s home. “This reminds me that we have to do well in keeping hygiene at home, and it is important to frequently wash our hands,” he said. Zhang warned that other areas prone to contamination include mobile phones, keyboards, and faucet handles.

Meanwhile, biotech companies in Wuhan have been conducting experiments on rats and monkeys, in hope of developing vaccines. The scientists identified three drugs “effective” in slowing down the spread of the virus in the cell structure, however, they have not been tested on humans yet, Wang Wei, director of Hubei’s Science and Technology Department, said.

China’s first ‘instant’ coronavirus hospital accepting patients, second facility days from opening

 

World Health Organization Chief Blames ‘Human Error’ on Calling Coronavirus Threat ‘Moderate’

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus briefs the press on evolution of new coronavirus epidemic on January 29, 2020 in Geneva. (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

By JOSHUA CAPLAN

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus blamed “human error” on Wednesday for the United Nations agency initially downplaying the global threat of the deadly coronavirus.

WHO is walking back its assessment after publishing a report this week, in which it called the risk surrounding the killer Chinese illness “moderate.”

WHO deeply regrets the error in this week’s situation report, which inserted the word ‘moderate’ inaccurately in the #coronavirus global risk assessment,” Ghebreyesus wrote on Twitter Wednesday. “This was a human error in preparing the report. I have repeatedly stated the high risk of the outbreak.”

CAP

The striking admission comes after Ghebreyesus met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and praised the communist government’s measures against the killer virus. 

Breitbart News reported:

Ghebreyesus said his organization is advising foreign countries that evacuating their citizens from Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province is unnecessary. Chinese state media eagerly promoted his remarks in a bid to control the political fallout from the outbreak.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi acted quickly to capitalize politically on the WHO director’s comments.

“With the strong leadership of comrade Xi Jinping and the advantage of the socialist system, as well as the experience from SARS, we are more resolute in tackling this epidemic with more forceful and quicker action. We are totally confident that we have the ability and resources to defeat this epidemic,” he said.

While the WHO has been quick to praise China over its handling of the coronavirus, Republican lawmakers such as Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) have expressed doubt about Beijing’s quarantine measures and transparency. In a Tuesday letter to top Trump administration officials, Cotton urged the federal government to institute a “target travel ban” on China.

“Given the latest developments and the many unknowns about this virus, we ought to follow Benjamin Franklin’s maxim: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. America is blessed with world-leading researchers and laboratories on the cutting edge of medical science and epidemiology,” he wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, and acting Homeland Security Director Chad Wolfe. “Working in tandem with them, I’m confident our federal research agencies can develop a vaccine in record time.”

The U.S. has expanded screenings to 20 airports around the country and CDC officials said they are racing to develop a vaccine to treat the virus.

United Airlines and American Airlines announced this week that the airlines have canceled several flights from the U.S. to China, citing health concerns and a sharp decline in demand.

 

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