Room to room

By Dr. John Campbell – 2/21/2020

My son is in South Korea with the US Army at a base in Daegu. He said the generals are taking this very seriously. Thank you for the updates. It’s lack of information that causes fear for some of us.

 

Report: Coronavirus-Infected Americans Were Flown Home Despite CDC Objections

Infected Americans flown Home, coronavirus

By Joshua Caplan – 2/21/2020

Over a dozen coronavirus-stricken Americans who were flown back to the United States with others who tested negative for the deadly illness were transported against the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to a Thursday report.

Earlier this week, 14 Americans with the virus flew stateside along with around 300 others after they were evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, Japan.

Upon confirmation of the cases, the State Department and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials opted to greenlight the fight despite CDC objecting to the move amid concerns of the disease spreading on the aircraft, the Washington Post reported.

In a statement, both agencies explain the rationale behind returning the infected Americans home, but left out the CDC’s advice against the move. The federal public health agency requested that it be removed from the explanation.

The statement read:

These individuals were moved in the most expeditious and safe manner to a specialized containment area on the evacuation aircraft to isolate them in accordance with standard protocols. Every precaution to ensure proper isolation and community protection measures are being taken, driven by the most up-to-date risk assessments by U.S. health authorities.

The 14 infected evacuees were transported to Travis Air Force Base in California and Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. Thirteen of them were then transferred to the University of Nebraska Medical Center for treatment.

“Those who have tested positive for this novel coronavirus, are only showing mild symptoms of the disease,” Nebraska Medicine said in a statement.

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.

* * *

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?

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.

Coronavirus pandemic could wipe $1.1 TRILLION off global economy — Oxford Economics

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China’s GDP growth is expected to fall from six percent last year to 5.4 percent in 2020 due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus, said the latest report by Oxford Economics.

It has modeled two scenarios on the coronavirus outbreak morphing into pandemic. Under the first scenario, if it spreads more widely in Asia, world GDP would fall by $400 billion this year, or 0.5 percent. The second scenario foresees the global GDP dropping $1.1 trillion or 1.3 percent, if the virus outbreak becomes a pandemic and a disruption to manufacturing in Asia spreads worldwide. Such a decline would be the same as losing the entire annual output of Indonesia, which is the world’s 16th largest economy.

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“Our scenarios see world GDP hit as a result of declines in discretionary consumption and travel and tourism, with some knock-on financial market effects and weaker investment,” wrote the analysts.

Oxford Economics said it still expected the impact of the virus to be limited to China and to have a significant, but short-term impact, bringing world GDP growth just 0.2 percent lower than January at 2.3 percent.

The growth of new confirmed cases of the deadly coronavirus has slowed down this week, but experts warn it is too early to call the all-clear for the risk of a pandemic. So far, there are over 75,500 confirmed cases and more than 2,100 deaths.

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.

* * *

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”.

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