Bangkok ‘most at risk’ for spread: Virus update

Bangkok ‘most at risk’ for spread: Virus update

People with protective facemasks wait at a crossroad in downtown Bangkok on Monday. (AFP photo)
People with protective facemasks wait at a crossroad in downtown Bangkok on Monday. (AFP photo)

China tried to come to grips with the expanding coronavirus outbreak, with the death toll climbing as residents returned from the Lunar New Year holidays.

Bangkok and Hong Kong are most at-risk from the spread of coronavirus based on air travellers expected to arrive from affected cities in China, population mapping experts at the University of Southampton concluded. 

Chinese stocks plunged the most since 2015 and commodity markets collapsed as trading resumed from the break. US equity futures rose as China’s government took steps to cushion the financial blow.

Global efforts to contain the virus escalated as the Philippines reported the first death outside of China and the US confirmed more infections. Airlines in Asia, Europe and the Middle East stopped service to the mainland, while the US began limiting the entry of travellers from China.

Timeline:

WHO director-general says coronavirus must be fought at source (4.57pm)

The spread of the new virus can remain “minimal and slow” if the outbreak is fought at the source and countries cooperate, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “There is no reason for any measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade,” he said.

Hong Kong to close more checkpoints (4.23pm)

Hong Kong will close more checkpoints, including two major land ports on the border with the mainland, from midnight, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at briefing. Only three out of the 13 checkpoints will stay open, including Shenzhen Bay port, Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge port and Hong Kong airport. Striking Hong Kong health workers had demanded that all entry points be shut.

China Lunar New Year passenger volume falls 73% (3.40pm)

Passenger volume by train, road, ship and air during the 10-day Lunar New Year holiday totalled 190 million. Airborne passenger volume decreased by 57%.

Indonesia to temporarily stop food, beverages imports from China (3.22pm)

The government will find alternative suppliers to replace goods from China, according to a senior official. Details of the suspension will be discussed in a coordinating meeting.

China Blasts US for ‘overreaction’ (2.56pm)

China said the US had “inappropriately overreacted” to the deadly virus originating on the mainland and hasn’t provided much help to counter the outbreak.

“The US government hasn’t provided any substantial assistance to us, but it was the first to evacuate personnel from its consulate in Wuhan, the first to suggest partial withdrawal of its embassy staff, and the first to impose a travel ban on Chinese travellers,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Monday.

PBOC says stock plunge caused by “herd effect” (2.46pm)

There were some “irrational” factors in Monday’s stock slump, PBOC-backed Financial News said in commentary published on the People’s Bank of China WeChat account. The post says the impact from the epidemic on China’s economy is temporary and limited.

Russia may deport foreigners with coronavirus (2.45pm)

Russia may deport foreign citizens who are infected with the coronavirus as part of a national plan against the outbreak signed by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.

The government will also postpone the flagship Sochi Economic Forum due to be held Feb 12-14 as a precaution, Mishustin said at a televised meeting with his deputies. Russia reported its first two cases of coronavirus on Friday.

Germany says it’s ready for an epidemic (2.09pm)

Germany has sufficient quarantine facilities to handle an epidemic, but the outbreak of the coronavirus is below that threshold, Health Minister Jens Spahn said in an interview with public broadcaster ARD.

“We’re prepared for the current situation,” said Spahn. “We have plans for every development. Even if there was a flu epidemic, we’d have plans.”

He said it’s important to take precautions because the virus is still being researched and isn’t well understood, but “with 10 cases of corona virus in Germany, we’re far away” from an epidemic. Spahn added that all infected patients are in good condition.

Thailand sees results from drug mixture (1.45pm)

A cocktail of antiviral drugs appeared effective in treating a seriously ill coronavirus patient, a Thai health official said.

The HIV medicines lopinavir and ritonavir, which are sold by AbbVie Inc as the product Kaletra, was used on three patients in conjunction with the anti-flu medication oseltamivir, sold by Roche Holding AG and Chugai Pharmaceutical Co as Tamiflu, Somkiat Lalitwongsa, director of the Rajavithi Hospital in Bangkok, told reporters.

Separately, China has kick-started a clinical trial to test a drug as the nation rushes therapies for those afflicted and scours for vaccines to protect the rest.

Remdesivir, a new antiviral drug by Gilead Sciences Inc aimed at infectious diseases such Ebola and SARS, will be tested by a medical team from Beijing-based China-Japan Friendship Hospital for efficacy in treating the coronavirus, a hospital spokeswoman said.

 The US will be sending a “handful more” flights to bring citizens back from China’s Hubei province, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo told reporters, according to a pool report. The US may bring citizens from other countries as well, the report said.

Hong Kong Medical Workers Strike (1.16pm)

Hong Kong medical professionals began a five-day strike Monday after the government refused their demand to shut all entry points from China.

More than a thousand medical workers had signed up to strike as of Monday morning, Winnie Yu, chairwoman of the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance, told reporters. Talks between the union and the Hospital Authority failed after the city’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam decided not to attend negotiations on Sunday, Radio Television Hong Kong reported, citing Yu.

Deacons Yeung, the Hospital Authority’s Director of Cluster Services, said emergency services remained normal and authorities had activated a “major incident control centre” to monitor the situation, according to RTHK. The impact on emergency services appeared limited on Monday.

Virus is most deadly in Hubei province (11.45am)

The number of official cases from the coronavirus is still highly concentrated in Hubei province. Of the 17,205 confirmed infections in mainland China so far, 65% are in Hubei, where the outbreak originated and where residents are in effective lockdown because of travel restrictions.

The virus also appears to be more deadly in Hubei, accounting for 97% of the 361 total deaths reported in the country.

The mortality rate is likely being magnified in Hubei because of the strains on the province’s health system. Hospitals and clinics are inundated with hundreds of severely ill patients, with overworked staff hampered by a shortage of testing kits.

China sees temporary hit on virus: NDRC (10.40am)

The impact from the coronavirus outbreak on China’s consumption is getting worse, especially on transport, tourism and the movie box office, according to Lian Weiliang, vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission.

But the economic hit from the coronavirus outbreak is temporary, Lian said at a briefing in Beijing. He said China will encourage big projects to resume if possible, while the country will ensure the stability of prices and prevent a shortage of necessities.

China still needs to focus on resuming production of test kits and face masks, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology official Tian Yulong said at the briefing.

US Reports Additional Cases (10.20am)

California confirmed two new cases of coronavirus in San Benito County, bringing the total of infected patients in the US to 11.

The two cases are a married couple, one of whom travelled to China. Earlier Sunday, Santa Clara’s public health department reported an additional coronavirus patient. The woman had travelled to Wuhan and visited the US on Jan 23. It’s the second case in the county, which is just south of San Francisco.

Chinese stocks, commodities plummet as markets reopen (8.38am)

Chinese stocks plummeted the most since an equity bubble burst in 2015, with the CSI 300 Index dropping as much as 9.1%, as onshore financial markets opened for the first time since Jan 23.

China’s three major commodity exchanges were hit by a wave of selling as investors returned to markets gripped by fear over the impact the coronavirus will have on demand in the world’s biggest consumer of raw materials. China’s benchmark iron ore contract fell by its daily limit of 8%, while copper, crude and palm oil also sank by the maximum allowed.

China reduced rates as it injected cash into the financial system, with the central bank seeking to ensure ample liquidity as markets plunge. It cut borrowing costs on the funds by 10 basis points.

China virus cases climb above 17,000 (7.12am)

China’s death toll increased by 57 to reach 361 as of Feb 2, according to a statement from the Ministry of Health. Total confirmed infections climbed to 17,205, with the addition of 2,829 cases in the past 24 hours. There are 2,296 severe cases, the ministry said.

US adds airports for virus screening (7.01am)

The US expanded to 11 the number of airports accepting flights carrying citizens who visited China. The airports will conduct enhanced screening for possible coronavirus symptoms, as part of new restrictions that took effect Sunday to stem the outbreak.

The Transportation Security Administration said airports in Dallas, Detroit, Newark and Washington will accept flights starting Monday. Previously, flights with passengers who visited China were being sent only to Atlanta, Chicago, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Seattle.

Trump on virus: US ‘shut it down’ (4am)

President Donald Trump said the US has offered China help with the outbreak, but that steps have been taken to prevent the coronavirus from entering the country.

“We pretty much shut it down coming in from China,” he said on Fox TV’s Super Bowl pregame broadcast. “We’ve offered China help, but we can’t have thousands of people coming in who may have this problem, the coronavirus. So we’re gonna see what happens, but we did shut it down, yes.”

Bangkok, Hong Kong most at risk (3.45am)

Bangkok and Hong Kong are most at-risk from the spread of coronavirus based on air travellers expected to arrive from affected cities in China, population mapping experts at the University of Southampton concluded. Taipei ranked third.

Sydney is 12th, New York 16th and London 19th among 30 major cities, the researchers said. Thailand and Japan are the most at-risk countries, followed by the US (6th), Australia (10th) and UK (17th).

The research is based 2013-15 data on typical patterns of movement by people in China during the long Lunar New Year celebrations, including the public holiday that was extended a week ago.


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