Coronavirus: Death toll rises to 81 as China extends holiday – BBC News
The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in China rose to 81 on Monday. The government has extended the New Year holidays, more and more large businesses have closed or ordered staff to work from home to limit the spread of the epidemic.
Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang visits Wuhan, epicenter of outbreak, government makes it clear that it is responding to the threat as seriously as possible.
Asian stocks tumbled, Japan’s Nikkei plunged 2.0%, its biggest one-day fall in five months as investors became increasingly worried. Topix fell 1.6%. Demand rose for safe haven assets such as the Japanese yen and Treasuries.
Pan-European Stoxx 600 dropped 1.7% in early trading, while US Dow futures dropped nearly 400 points at the Wall Street open.
The total number of confirmed cases in China rose by about 30% to 2,744, with about half in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital. But some experts suspect that the number of people infected is much higher..
As anxiety grew in the world, Hong Kong, which has eight confirmed cases, has banned people who have visited Hubei in the past 14 days from entering. The ban does not apply to Hong Kong residents.
The nearby Macau gambling center, which has recorded one case of the flu-like virus, has similarly banned those arriving from Hubei, unless they can prove they are not infected..
In the city of Haikou on the island of Hainan in southern China, tourists from Hubei will be quarantined for 14 days.
«Hubei people are discriminated against», – complained a resident of Wuhan on the social network Weibo.
The number of virus deaths in Hubei has risen to 76 from 56, health officials said, with five deaths in other regions of China..
Although a small number of cases involving people who have traveled from Wuhan have been confirmed in over 10 countries, including Thailand, France, Japan and the United States, no deaths have been reported elsewhere..
Li is the most senior executive to have visited Wuhan since the outbreak began. Dressed in a blue protective suit and mask, he reviewed the implementation of the epidemic containment measures and spoke with patients and medical staff..
Wuhan, a city with a population of 11 million, is effectively locked down and some other cities in China have strict travel restrictions. Most of Hubei province, home to nearly 60 million people, is under travel restrictions.
The government is extending the weekly Lunar New Year holiday by three days until February 2 to slow the spread of the virus. Lunar New Year – usually becomes a time for millions of people to travel, but many had to cancel plans.
Investors are worried about the drawdown in travel, tourism and economic activity in general.
During the 2002-2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), a coronavirus that originated in China and killed nearly 800 people worldwide, the demand for air travel in Asia fell 45%. The tourism industry is now more dependent on Chinese travelers than it was then.
The newly identified coronavirus virus is believed to have originated late last year at a market in Wuhan where bushmeat was illegally sold..
Much is still unknown, including how easily the virus spreads and how dangerous it is. It is only clear that it can cause pneumonia, which in some cases was fatal..
National Health Commission Minister Ma Xiaowei said the incubation period on Sunday can range from one to 14 days, and the virus can be contracted during the incubation period, unlike SARS..
The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated the incubation period to be two to ten days. It is also unclear if an infected person can transmit it before they develop symptoms..
Wendy Barclay, professor and virologist at Imperial College London, says that many of the respiratory viruses that spread among humans are transmitted even in the absence of symptoms, and it’s no surprise if the new coronavirus works the same way..
«If this is the case, then controlling the spread is becoming an increasingly difficult task, and measures such as screening at the airport are unlikely to effectively stop the virus.», – she said.
Australia confirmed its fifth case on Monday with a woman on the last flight from Wuhan to Sydney before China’s travel ban.
Health Minister Greg Hunt told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) authorities that the goal was to move about a hundred Australian children and young people out of Wuhan. Other countries, including the United States, are also working to evacuate their citizens..
Social media photos show hospital corridors overcrowded with people seeking treatment.
Airports around the world have stepped up screening of passengers from China, although some health experts have questioned its effectiveness.
Last week, WHO did not call the outbreak a global health emergency, but some health experts are wondering if China can contain the epidemic..
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyes to arrive in Beijing to meet with health officials and experts.
Some of China’s Biggest Companies Affected: Haidilao International Holding, a hot-spot restaurant chain, has closed branches nationwide from Sunday to Friday..
Gaming giant Tencent Holdings Ltd has advised employees to work from home until February 7, and e-commerce giant Alibaba is removing overpriced seller offerings for face masks from Taobao’s online marketplace as prices rise..
Allen von Mehren, chief analyst at Danske Bank, said Monday morning that China’s economy is likely to receive a short-term blow and a possible 1 percentage point GDP contraction in the first half of 2020..
«The SARS epidemic lasted three to four months, but it’s hard to say if this is any guide to action. While the government’s response is quite swift, the new virus appears to be spreading faster. It’s too early to tell when he’ll be in control», – said von Mehren.
Traditional so-called safe-haven assets rose on Monday. Spot gold traded 0.78% higher, just below $ 1,582.6 a troy ounce in the early European session, while the Japanese yen reversed 109 to the dollar. The Swiss franc was also one of the strongest currencies.
Government debt prices also rose, leading to a drop in bond yields. The yield on 10-year US Treasuries fell to 1.6218%, hitting a low since October, while the yield on 30-year US Treasuries fell to 2.0825%.
10-year German Bund yield dropped to -0.3550%, while 10-year UK Gilt yield fell to 0.543%, its lowest level since 10 October.
Danske Bank analysts predict that this time the main blow is likely to receive the Chinese service sector, and it is much larger than during the SARS epidemic, now it accounts for 54% of GDP against 42% in 2003..
Globally, China currently accounts for 19% of the global economy in adjusted purchasing power parity terms, up from 9% in 2003.
A mitigating factor could be that the volume of imports in the service sector is much smaller than in the manufacturing industry, but the uncertainty is likely to lead to some global economic effect, suggested von Mehren..
«Therefore, there is a clear risk that the expected recovery in growth and PMI (Purchasing Managers Index) could be somewhat delayed, or at least more modest. As in China, the effect should be temporary, he added. We are in uncharted waters as this kind of virus did not occur in a more modern economy than China today, with much wider transport networks and greater integration into the global economy».