490 dead, 25,000 sick, 2 newborns infected: Virus update

490 dead, 25,000 sick, 2 newborns infected: Virus update

A man is transferred from the World Dream cruise ship to an ambulance at the Kai Tak cruise terminal in Hong Kong on Wednesday, as health officials conduct inspections in the wake of the SARS-like virus outbreak across China. (AFP photo)
A man is transferred from the World Dream cruise ship to an ambulance at the Kai Tak cruise terminal in Hong Kong on Wednesday, as health officials conduct inspections in the wake of the SARS-like virus outbreak across China. (AFP photo)

The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak climbed toward 500 as confirmed cases worldwide reached almost 25,000 and two newborn babies born to infected mothers tested positive, while 684 infected people have fully recovered.

Hong Kong announced plans to quarantine travellers coming from the mainland, while thousands remained stuck on cruise ships.

Japan said 10 people on a cruise liner tested positive for the disease. In Hong Kong, 3,600 passengers and crew from another ship were quarantined after three travellers were found to have the virus. China said it would cut some fees and taxes to companies contending with the outbreak.

Meanwhile, European stocks and US futures rebounded following reports on possible vaccines and treatments.

Latest reports:

China offers firms fighting virus lower rates, tax cuts (6.58pm)

China will eliminate fees, reduce value-added taxes and support banks to offer loan rates under 1.6% to key enterprises involved in the fight against the coronavirus, according to China Central Television.

Vietnam sees lower GDP growth rate due to virus (6.47pm)

Vietnam’s government expects the spread of coronavirus to slow gross domestic product growth to as low as 6.09% in 2020, even if the epidemic is under control by the second quarter. Growth may be at 6.27% if the virus is controlled within the first quarter, Mai Tien Dung, chairman of the government office, said at a briefing in Hanoi.

Two babies born with coronavirus after mothers infected (5.42pm)

Two newborn babies tested positive for coronavirus in Wuhan after their mothers were infected, China Central Television reported.

Markets gain on Chinese report of research progress (4.50pm)

Stocks surged, industrial metals advanced and oil gained after Chinese television reported possible progress in the hunt for a coronavirus treatment. The report said a drug being tested by researchers at Zhejiang University in China was effective against the virus. The treatment was tested on cells outside the human body, meaning it would be a long way from any clinical trials on people, let alone approval as a marketable drug.

Separately, China kick-started a clinical trial to test Gilead Sciences Inc’s Remdesivir, an antiviral developed for Ebola and SARS. China’s health regulator also recommended AbbVie Inc.’s Kaletra, already approved as an HIV medicine, as an ad-hoc antiviral drug for the coronavirus.

Foxconn cuts outlook, quarantines IPhone base (4.43pm)

Hon Hai Precision Industry Co, Apple Inc’s main production partner, announced plans to isolate workers for up to weeks at its main iPhone-making base. The company earlier cut its 2020 revenue growth outlook after assessing the potential impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Hon Hai, known also as Foxconn, makes the vast majority of the world’s iPhones from Zhengzhou, central China. The contagion will likely disrupt Apple’s carefully calibrated production chain.

Hong Kong will quarantine china arrivals (3.50pm)

The city will quarantine people arriving from mainland China, including Hong Kong residents and visitors entering via its international airport, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said.

The policy will go into effect on Feb 8 at midnight. Lam also said Hong Kong will close the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in its Victoria Harbour, and announced a HK$10 billion fund for those affected.

Cathay Pacific asks staff to take unpaid leave (2.45pm)

The airline asked staff to take unpaid leave from March 1 to June 30 as it tries to preserve cash. Cathay has said demand dropped following the outbreak and announced deep cuts to flight capacity on Tuesday. South Korean budget carrier Tway Air also asked staff to take unpaid leave.

Separately, Airbus SE shut its plant in Tianjin that builds about six A320-series jets a month, corresponding to almost 10% of the company’s global single-aisle output.

Virus cases linked to Singapore spur multinational inquiry (1.41pm)

Coronavirus cases in South Korea and Malaysia tied to a business meeting in Singapore attended by visitors from China have prompted an investigation into the infection’s international spread.

A 41-year-old man in Malaysia and a 38-year-old man in South Korea were infected with the virus after attending a meeting at a Singapore hotel in the third week of January, health authorities said. The World Health Organization is coordinating with Singapore’s Ministry of Health in relation to the event, said Olivia Lawe Davies, the agency’s Manila-based regional communications manager.

Hong Kong cruise passengers under quarantine (12.53pm)

Hong Kong authorities are keeping 3,600 passengers and crew members under quarantine on the cruise ship World Dream after three previous travellers were diagnosed with the novel coronavirus.

The three confirmed virus patients had disembarked in China on Jan 24, according to Chief Port Health Officer Leung Yiu-hong at a briefing at the cruise terminal. The cruise ship, owned by Genting HK’s Dream Cruises, docked in Hong Kong on Wednesday morning.

Health officials are collecting samples from about 30 crew members who reported symptoms including cough and fever for coronavirus tests. Three crew members who earlier reported fever will be sent to the hospital for isolation. The development follows a separate case in Japan in which 10 people on Carnival Corp’s Diamond Princess cruise ship tested positive for the coronavirus.

China seeks patent for Gilead’s experimental drug (12.01pm)

China has applied for a new patent on an experimental Gilead Sciences Inc drug that its scientists believe might fight the coronavirus.

It has applied for a patent for the use of the drug, know as remdesivir, to treat the novel coronavirus. The move is a sign that China views Gilead’s therapy as one of the most promising candidates to fight the outbreak. A patent battle may affect Gilead’s control over the drug in China.

While Gilead’s experimental drug isn’t licensed or approved anywhere in the world, it is being rushed into human trials in China on coronavirus patients after showing early signs of being highly effective.

Credit Suisse scraps Hong Kong conference (10.05am)

Credit Suisse Group AG scrapped its annual Asia investment conference next month, adding to a string of cancellations or delay for similar gatherings in Hong Kong and China.

The decision marks the biggest cancellation in Hong Kong’s financial industry after the outbreak of the virus. The city on Tuesday reported its first confirmed death from the virus. Neighbouring Macau, the world’s biggest gambling hub, has asked its casinos to shut down for half a month.

Apple supplier Hon Hai cuts sales outlook (8.59am)

Hon Hai Precision Industry Co, Apple Inc’s main production partner, cut its 2020 revenue growth outlook after assessing the potential impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Hon Hai, which makes the vast majority of the world’s iPhones from the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou, is now projecting a sales increase of 1% to 3% this year, Chairman Young Liu told Bloomberg News in a text message. That’s down from a Jan 22 forecast of 3% to 5% before the epidemic spread further around the globe.

The contagion is expected to disrupt Apple’s carefully calibrated production chain centred on China, while also damp consumer demand and overall economic growth.

Disney sees virus hurting profits (7.24am)

Walt Disney Co is feeling the impact of the virus after temporarily closing its Shanghai and Hong Kong parks due to the outbreak.

On a call to discuss the company’s earnings, Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy said Disney expects the Shanghai park closure alone to crimp profits in the current quarter by $135 million, assuming it is shuttered for two months. With Hong Kong closing, Disney expects the coronavirus to reduce profit there by another $40 million.

China cases rise above 24,000 (7am)

The number of total confirmed cases of coronavirus in mainland China rose to 24,324 as of Feb. 4, according to the National Health Commission. The death toll is at 490, it said in a statement.

Most of the fatalities -- 479 -- have occurred in the province of Hubei, the Chinese province at the centre of the outbreak. Hubei reported 3,156 new confirmed cases, bringing the total in Hubei to 16,678.

Outside the mainland, Hong Kong reported a death on Tuesday. A man from Wuhan died in the Philippines on Feb 1.

Ten passengers on Japan cruise have virus (6.33am)

Ten people on a Carnival Corp cruise ship moored near Yokohama with about 3,700 crew and passengers aboard have tested positive for the new coronavirus and taken to hospital, Japan’s Health Ministry announced Wednesday.

The Diamond Princess was placed under quarantine this week before it reached Japan and checks were conducted after a passenger from Hong Kong who had been on the ship tested positive for the virus. Of 31 people whose test results have come through, 10 were confirmed as infected, the ministry said.

The new infections come in addition to 23 people already confirmed to have contracted the disease in Japan.

US FDA grants emergency use of rapid test for virus (5.34am)

The US Food and Drug Administration cleared the way for the widespread use of a new test to detect the novel coronavirus at laboratories across the country, removing the need for doctors to send samples out for analysis.

The test was designed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and can be used at any of the agency’s approved labs across the country. Until now, samples taken from patients had to be sent for analysis at the agency’s laboratories in Atlanta.

Nike says virus will hurt China operations (4.48am)

Shoe and apparel giant Nike Inc said the coronavirus will materially impact its China operations. It’s closed about half of its stores in the country, and had cut hours and is seeing lower retail traffic in stores that are still open.

WHO says 684 people have recovered from coronavirus (12.21am)

Six hundred eighty-four people have recovered from coronavirus infections, according to Maria Van Kerkhove, an epidemiologist serving on the World Health Organization’s emergency committee. The death toll has climbed to at least 425, the group said Tuesday.

The UN agency plans to hold a research meeting on the virus next week, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a briefing in Geneva. The outbreak was declared an international public health emergency by the WHO last week.

The WHO estimated the cost of supporting member countries during the outbreak at $676 million.


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