As the number of new cases of coronavirus infections in China continues to fall – currently totalling 76,204 infections and 2,144 deaths – the World Health Organisation (WHO) warns that infections outside the country could still grow.
“We are encouraged by this trend but this is no time for complacency,” the WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told a media briefing in Geneva.
A total of 634 cases exist outside of China with 103 deaths as of Friday morning Shanghai time. Tedros notes that this total is very low compared to inside China, but adds: “That may not stay the same for long.”
In particular the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan Holland America cruise line’s Westerdam which was turned away from several ports until Cambodia allowed it to dock have become focal points over concern of new global spread.
A Turkish airline charted by Holland America to evacuate passengers from the Westerdam was abruptly turned around mid-flight Thursday, according to flight data and multiple sources says ABC News.
The flight was carrying 268 citizens from multiple countries, including the US, when it was forced to land in Karachi, Pakistan, instead of Istanbul, Turkey – its original destination.
An 83-year old American woman who disembarked the cruise ship last weekend and flew to Malaysia was confirmed to have the virus. She and her husband have been hospitalised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia sparking concerns that others on board the ship may have the virus, formally known as COVID-19.
Additionally, there are now fears that the Diamond Princess served as a virtual Petri dish, incubating the virus after at least a dozen passengers allowed off the ship have now tested positive.
Two passengers on the cruise ship which has been quarantined for weeks in Japan have died from the coronavirus, a Japanese health ministry official said Thursday. Hundreds of passengers were trapped on the ship after Japanese authorities imposed a two-week quarantine.
The cruise ship and Japan’s handling of the situation came under intense global when the quarantine appeared to fail, with an uptick of cases on the ship and more than 620 people ultimately testing positive for the coronavirus.
A Japanese infectious-diseases expert who inspected the Diamond Princess cruise ship said the hygiene conditions and infection controls on board were “completely inadequate” and that he was “so scared” of contracting the novel coronavirus.
Meanwhile, the South Korean city of Daegu has seen a spike in infections linked to a church congregation.
Tedros, noting that South Korean authorities have reported a total of 104 confirmed cases, including 22 on Thursday, said: “With measures they can take, which is proportionate to the public health risk they have, I think the number of cases is really manageable.”
Chinese scientists are testing two antiviral drugs (ritonavir and lopinavir) against the new coronavirus and preliminary clinical trial results are expected in three weeks, according to Tedros.
Supply chain pinch
Meanwhile, companies around the world are starting to feel the impact of supply chain slow downs and closures in China. With every sector from food and beverage, to high tech, automotive and even luxury goods being impacted, global tech giant Apple this week warned of a shortage of its new iPhones due to factory closures.
Apple had reportedly tasked its suppliers to produce 80 million iPhones in the first half of this year – 65 million iPhone 11 models and 15 million of the forthcoming budget model.
Nearly 17 per cent of Chinese exports are considered ‘intermediate’ goods, according to World Bank data, meaning that they are inputs that other manufacturers use to produce their finished goods.
While factories are slowly coming back on line in China, ground transportation has hampered efforts to get not just supply chains moving, but workers back to their cities of employment.
In its most recent update, logistics company Dimerco notes that in Hubei Province, the Chinese New Year holiday will extend to 10 March with neighbouring areas on a three tier recovery schedule.