As of Friday morning the global confirmed cases of the coronavirus exceed 31,000 – the vast majority of which are in China – with the death toll climbing to 638. A useful John Hopkins University real-time coronavirus tracker can be found here.
The first deaths outside of China have occurred, in Manila, Philippines followed by a second in Hong Kong. All arrivals from mainland China to Hong Kong are now being immediately quarantined, a further step following the closure of 10 of 13 border crossings with mainland China and further reduced mainland flights.
Health authorities have put the coronavirus mortality rate at 2.1 per cent currently, consistent with normal influenza. For comparison, the case fatality rate for SARS was 10 per cent and for MERS 34 per cent.
Coronavirus whistleblower Li Wenliang also became a victim of the disease, dying in the early hours of Friday in Wuhan. The 34-year-old doctor was among the whistleblowers silenced by police for trying to warn the world about the new strain of coronavirus. Li confirmed on 1 February he had been diagnosed with the virus, most likely the result of treating patients.
China has also reported an outbreak of the deadly H5N1 bird flu in Hunan province, which lies on the southern border of Hubei province, the epicenter of the rapidly spreading coronavirus. Local authorities have culled 17,828 poultry after the outbreak and no human cases of the H5N1 virus have been reported.
An unverified Wuhan medic says coronavirus infection figures are inaccurate as patients who die prior to being tested are not considered as cases. The medic estimates real case numbers being nearer to 90,000 in Wuhan alone, according to media reports.
The Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has asked for USD 675 million to help countries address the expected spread of the virus.
China’s finance ministry has created a special fund of billions of yuan to target lending for companies involved in the manufacture of key medical supplies such as safety goggles, face masks and disinfectant, officials have said at a media conference in Beijing, according to Reuters.
A list of companies will be drawn up by the government and banks will be expected to hand over cash to them to enable them to keep production flowing.
Wuhan health officials say that 28 hospitals designated to treat coronavirus patients alongside two newly built quarantine hospitals built in mere days, plus makeshift hospitals normally used mainly for patients suffering mild symptoms comprise nearly 14,645 beds. Putting those patients under quarantine and treating them according to their symptoms could be effective at controlling the virus, Chinese doctors say.
A Chinese infant was diagnosed with coronavirus just 30 hours after birth on Sunday in Wuhan to a woman who had tested positive for the disease, according to state broadcaster CCTV. Doctors at the Wuhan Children’s Hospital cited the case Wednesday as evidence that pregnant women infected with the virus may be able to pass it to unborn children.
Four more infections were reported Wednesday in Singapore, including the case of a 6-month-old who is the child of an infected couple. One Malaysian and two South Koreans who attended a conference at Singapore tested positive for the coronavirus, Malaysian and South Korean authorities said Wednesday.
Crucially, these cases appear to indicate that the virus is now being transmitted via human-to-human contact outside China. The World Health Organisation is investigating.
In India 5,123 suspected cases nationally are under home surveillance with three confirmed cases in the country.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said it will spend as much as USD 100 million to improve detection, isolation and treatment efforts for the new coronavirus. The world’s largest private charitable foundation said it also hopes to accelerate the development of vaccines, drugs and diagnostics. Jack Ma, Alibaba founder and China’s richest man, has donated CNY 100 million (USD 14.4 million) through his foundation to help find a vaccine for the Wuhan coronavirus.
Health authorities have put the coronavirus mortality rate at 2.1 per cent currently, consistent with normal influenza. For comparison, the case fatality rate for SARS-CoV was 10 per cent and for MERS-CoV 34 per cent.
While the economic impacts of the viral outbreak are largely unknown at this stage there are increasing indications the impacts could be widespread. While passenger airlines are already feeling the pinch of service cancellations to China and slowing bookings, the worst is likely still to come.
Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific is asking 27,000 employees to take up to three weeks of unpaid leave between March and June as its network – with a heavy focus on China connections – has been particularly hit hard.
On the cargo side, by way of example, while Chile has managed to avoid cases of the deadly virus, the South American nation’s food exporters could not escape the virus’ impact.
Chinese purchases of Chilean food items have slumped 50 to 60 per cent since the outbreak of coronavirus, according to government export promotion agency ProChile. Cherries, wine and seafood are among the most affected items. About a third of all Chilean exports go to China.
And on the high-tech front, Apple’s manufacturing partner Foxconn says it may not resume full production at its China factories for several more weeks in the latest signal that China’s travel restrictions could disrupt global tech supply chains.
“Nobody knows for sure if some workers could get back in time,” a source familiar with Foxconn’s current situation told Reuters. The source said the company’s management has applied to reopen factories and is scrambling to meet requirements by local governments, but things are “chaotic,” according to Reuters.
And the car industry is also under pressure, with South Korea’s Hyundai Auto suspending production after it was unable to source parts from China.
Official data released Monday shows China’s industrial profits declined 3.3 per cent, year-on-year, to RMB 6.2 trillion (USD 898 billion) in 2019. It was the first full-year decline since 2015 when profits fell 2.3 per cent and are being largely attributed to the US-China trade war.
China’s factory activity expanded at its slowest pace in five months according to January PMI data from Caixin. However, the data does not reflect the early impact of the public health crises caused by coronavirus outbreak.
The Caixin data is considered ‘normal’ for this time of year, taking into Chinese New Year. However, analysts expect “a big plunge” in February PMI numbers – to a range between 40 and 45 – due to the virus outbreak. China’s non-manufacturing PMI rose from 53.5 in December to 54.1 in January, showing expansion.