Germany quarantines 1,000, stocks tumble: Virus update

Germany quarantines 1,000, stocks tumble: Virus update

Briton from Diamond Princess cruise ship dies of infection

People wearing face masks walk at a park in Daegu, South Korea on Friday. (AFP photo)
People wearing face masks walk at a park in Daegu, South Korea on Friday. (AFP photo)

Germany quarantined about 1,000 people, Switzerland banned big events, while Britain and Netherlands reported new cases. South Korea revealed 571 more coronavirus infections and Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, confirmed the first infection south of the Sahara desert.

Equity markets tumbled in Asia and Europe and US futures weakened, while yields on Treasuries maturing in two and five years slid to the lowest level since 2016. Brent crude dipped below $50 a barrel for the first time since December 2018.

The number of cases in Thailand rose by one to 41, with two of those serious.

Key Developments

- Confirmed cases worldwide pass 83,000; deaths top 2,800
- JPMorgan joins rush to curb global travel as virus spreads
- China is making progress in the battle to get back to work
- South Korea reveals 571 more cases
- Limited virus testing in Japan masks true scale of infection
- Hong Kong dog found to have ‘low level’ of virus

Briton from cruise ship dies 

A British man who was aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, docked in Yokohama, Japan, has died from coronavirus, Kyodo News reported on Friday night. He was the sixth person to die from the stricken ship, on which nearly 700 people came down with the virus.

Mexico reports first case

Mexico’s Health Ministry confirmed the country’s first case of coronavirus on Friday, saying a young man had tested positive for it in the capital.

“The individual is in stable condition,” said Hugo Lopez-Gatell, a senior ministry official. “He has a mild, mild illness” with symptoms “similar to that of a cold. He is a young individudal and so he is at very low risk.”

Abu Dhabi hotel quarantine

Guests at two Abu Dhabi hotels who interacted with two Italian professional cyclists with coronavirus have been placed under quarantine in the hotels. The final two stages of the UAE Tour, featuring some of the world’s leading riders, was cancelled after the two Italian participants tested positive on Thursday. Other people who also interacted with the two Italians on Yas island have been isolated at home.

Nine guests leave virus-hit hotel in Tenerife 

The first nine guests of about 700 isolated since Tuesday at a Tenerife hotel have been allowed to leave, La Provincia newspaper reported, citing people in the Canary Islands government it didn’t identify by name.

UK, Netherlands report new cases 

Two further patients in England have tested positive, taking the total number of cases in England to 17. The virus was passed on in Iran and the patients have been transferred to specialist infection centres. Following confirmed cases in Northern Ireland and Wales, the total number of UK cases is 19.

Separately, Netherlands reported its second confirmed infection. Five new cases were earlier confirmed in Sweden, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to seven.

Switzerland cancels large events 

Public and private gatherings with more than 1,000 people won’t be allowed until March 15, the Swiss government said. The next big event in the country is the Geneva Motor Show, which was set to open to the public on March 5.

The move comes alongside a German quarantine of 1,000 people. Authorities in Heinsberg, near the Dutch border, asked people who came into contact with a married couple with the disease to stay at home.

Cases in Italy soared to 650 on Thursday from 400 a day earlier, bringing the European total to more than 700. South Korea has raised its travel advisory for Italy’s Lombardy, Veneto, and Emilia-Romagna regions to level 2.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Thursday called for European cooperation and rejected calls for suspending the Schengen Treaty that allows for border-free travel within the European Union.

Hokkaido declares state of emergency 

Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido has declared a state of emergency due to the outbreak of coronavirus there, national broadcaster NHK said. Residents have been asked to stay indoors over the weekend.

South Korea confirms more cases 

South Korea’s Centres for Disease Control said an additional 315 cases of the novel coronavirus had been confirmed as of 4pm local time, in addition to the 256 additional cases as of 9am earlier in the day. The death toll is unchanged at 13.

President Moon Jae-in and political party leaders agreed on the need for “bold and swift extraordinary measures,” including a bigger budget, to combat the outbreak and revitalise the economy, Yonhap News reported.

Separately, Malaysia will temporarily bar visitors who have been in South Korea’s Daegu city and Cheongdo area in the 14 days before arriving in the country.

China, Japan agree Xi visit to go ahead

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi agreed at a meeting Friday that President Xi Jinping’s visit to Tokyo would go ahead as planned, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Airlines Warn on Outlook 

Ahares of the British Airways parent IAG slumped after saying it couldn’t provide an earnings forecast this year, as weak demand in Asia rippled across to Europe and companies cut back on business travel. EasyJet Plc said that it had seen a softening in demand and made plans to cancel flights.

Finnair dropped after it revised outlook, citing the coronavirus and its wider than originally estimated impact. Alitalia plans to extend temporary layoffs for about 4,000 workers following the outbreak in Italy, Ansa reported. Amadeus IT Group SA, which operates software for flight bookings, fell 5% after saying that airline travel sales are slowing globally.

Singapore Airlines said it would reduce management pay, with the CEO taking a 15% cut effective March 1, and Philippine Air cut 300 jobs. 

Fast Retailing reopens more than 100 China stores

Fast Retailing Co, the owner of the Uniqlo clothing brand, reopened more than 100 stores in China in the past week, Reuters reported, citing a statement. Almost all partner factories restarted work, while 125 stores in China are still closed because of the virus.

Germany quarantines about 1,000 people 

An estimated 1,000 people are isolated in the German district of Heinsberg in North Rhine-Westphalia after an outbreak in the region, the newspaper Bild reported.

Sweden reports five new cases

Five new cases have been confirmed in Sweden, the country’s Public Health Agency said. That brings the total confirmed cases in the country to seven.

BoE says virus may hurt UK economy 

Bank of England’ chief Mark Carney said the virus could result in an economic-growth downgrade for the UK, Sky News reported, citing an interview with the central bank governor. Carney said the bank has already seen a drop in activity, though it’s too early to tell how badly the UK would be affected.

Singapore ministers to take pay cut on virus

All political-office holders in Singapore will take a one-month salary cut in light of the coronavirus outbreak, CNA reported, citing comments from Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat. The government’s actions follow recent moves by some of Singapore’s top companies to freeze pay and cut bonuses as the country attempts to combat the impact of the virus.

New Zealand, Lithuania report first cases 

New Zealand confirmed its first case after a person who recently returned from Iran was diagnosed with the illness, the Ministry of Health said Friday. The person in their 60s is in isolation in Auckland hospital, the ministry said in an emailed statement.

Separately, Lithuania reported its first case. The person was infected in the Italian city of Verona, RIA Novosti said.Abe adviser says Japan needs $45 billion of extra spending 

US FDA confirms drug shortage relating to virus 

The US Food and Drug Administration confirmed the first drug shortage relating to the coronavirus, Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a statement. The announcement didn’t name the manufacturer but said “there are other alternatives that can be used by patients.” The shortage is due to an active ingredient used to make the drug, the FDA said.

South Korea completes more tests of sect members 

South Korea’s health ministry completed tests for 1,299 members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus who showed symptoms of fever and coughing, among 9,334 members of the sect in Daegu, Vice Health Minister Kim Ganglip said at a briefing.

The results of the tests will be available during the weekend. So far, the ratio of confirmed cases to suspected cases is “very high”.

Hyundai halts Korea plant as worker infected 

Hyundai Motor Co halted operations at its No. 2 plant in Ulsan for disinfection after a worker tested positive, Maeil Business Newspaper reported, without citing anyone.

Tokyo Disney to shut 

Tokyo Disney Resort will close for two weeks starting Saturday as a precaution to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, operator Oriental Land Co said.

Two parks, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, will not accept visitors from Feb 29 to March 15, the company said in a statement Friday. With Disney parks in Hong Kong and Shanghai already closed, this means all of the entertainment company’s resorts in Asia have shut down for the time being due to the spread of the virus.

China to resume road traffic in lower-risk regions 

China will resume buses, subways and taxis in urban and rural areas with lower coronavirus risk, the transport ministry said in a statement. The move is aimed at supporting factory resumptions and stabilizing the economy.

Nigeria confirms first infection 

Nigeria confirmed its first case of the coronavirus in Lagos, the West African country’s biggest city and commercial capital, the Health Ministry said. It’s also the first reported in sub-Saharan Africa.

Algeria has also reported a case. Health experts have voiced concerns over the possible spread of the virus in places like Africa that may be ill-equipped to handle such a crisis.

Hong Kong dog found to have ‘low level’ of virus 

The pet dog of a coronavirus patient in Hong Kong has been found to have a “low level” of the virus, the Hong Kong government said.

The dog tested “weak positive”, the city’s agricultural and fisheries department said in a statement, without giving further details. Officials will carry out further tests to confirm whether the dog has really been infected, or if it was a result of environmental contamination of its mouth and nose.

Japan children’s day-care centres to stay open 

Japan’s children’s day-care centres and after-school clubs will stay open, even as schools nationwide close for at least a month in a bid to control the outbreak, Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said. Japan wants to make it easy for people to take time off work, Kato said. This is an important time for controlling the domestic spread of the virus, he said.

Plague Inc removed from Apple’s Chinese store 

Plague Inc, the mobile simulation of a global pandemic that topped download charts in February after the outbreak, has been removed from Apple Inc’s Chinese app store. The eight-year-old game’s developers said on their website Chinese regulators determined it contained “illegal” content. The developers say they’re trying to contact the Cyberspace Administration of China to get the game back online.

Plague Inc became the most downloaded paid game on iPhones in at least 80 countries early this month, according to the research firm App Annie.

China death toll rises to 2,788, Up 44 

China’s death toll rose to 2,788 by the end of Thursday as it reported 44 new fatalities, according to a statement from the country’s National Health Commission. The number of cases climbed to 78,824 as 327 additional infections were reported. Discharged patients increased by 3,622 to 36,117.

Hubei, the province at the centre of the outbreak, had 318 additional cases and 41 new deaths.

Trump says he’s doing ‘incredible job’

President Donald Trump said his administration has done an “incredible job” preventing the spread of coronavirus after California’s governor said the state is monitoring 8,400 for signs of exposure. The state has reported 33 cases of infection so far.

US workers didn’t get protective gear: Report 

Federal employees who helped evacuate people from the centre of the coronavirus outbreak in China didn’t get protective gear or training, the Washington Post said, citing a whistleblower’s complaint.

Trump administration officials disputed the report.

“Every precaution has been taken,” said William Walters, a health official with the US State Department. “I can say unequivocally that everyone involved with those evacuations was appropriately equipped and trained.”

One member of Congress called the situation deeply concerning. “Finding out that the US government might have put its own personnel in harm’s way is deeply concerning to me,” said Representative Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat from Virginia.

Mask prices and interest spike on Amazon 

Prices for face masks spiked on Amazon.comin early February, with many items sold out, according to a firm that tracks traffic on the website.

Searches over the past 30 days for N95 masks, which are tighter fitting and filter out smaller particles than surgical masks, surged to 1.3 million on Feb 10, up from 23,000 on Jan 10, according to Helium 10, the monitoring company.

Daily sales of a 20-pack of popular N95 masks from 3M jumped to more than 1,000 in February, from roughly 25 in December, according to Helium. Prices for the product, which typically sells for $29.99, climbed as high as $99.

“Many third-party sellers appear to be outright price-gouging, likely due to low stock and high demand,” Lee said. “Even Amazon, which has kept pricing mostly stable across products, has had to increase prices on some products.”

Amazon’s pricing policies suggest the company monitors for gouging and can punish merchants with irregular prices, but the policies lack specifics. “Setting a price on a product or service that is significantly higher than recent prices offered on or off Amazon” is a potential violation, the company says on its policy page.

CDC expands coronavirus testing to more patients 

US health authorities moved to greatly expand the number of people who will be tested for the coronavirus, adding travellers from several new countries with outbreaks as well as people with unexplained, severe respiratory illnesses.

People showing respiratory symptoms and who have been in China, Iran, Italy, Japan or South Korea within the past 14 days will be screened for the virus under the new guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC is also calling for testing of patients who have unexplained, severe lower-respiratory illnesses that require hospitalization, but no other history of potential exposure to coronavirus. The expansion comes after a patient in California, who had no known ties to an infected area, was confirmed to have the virus after a long delay to get tested.

Lagarde: ECB response not required yet 

European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde said the coronavirus outbreak isn’t yet at the stage that would require a monetary-policy response, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.

Lagarde said the ECB would have to determine whether the coronavirus could become a “long-lasting shock” that would affect inflation. “But we are certainly not at that point yet,” Lagarde told the FT.

Outbreak is at decisive stage, WHO Says 

The novel coronavirus has the potential to become a pandemic and is at a decisive stage, the head of the World Health Organization said Thursday.

“The outbreak can go in any direction based on how we handle it,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during the group’s daily briefing in Geneva.

China’s efforts show that containment can work, while clusters of infections in Iran, Italy and South Korea are cause for concern, he said. For a second day, there were fewer new cases in China than in the rest of the world.

Several countries that have reported cases previously -- including India, Russia and Vietnam -- haven’t had any new infections in two weeks, Tedros said. However, Finland and Sweden, which had gone without infections for a prolonged period, reported cases Wednesday.

Middle East cases rise 

Iran reported 87 new cases on Thursday, bringing the total to 245 including 26 deaths. The number of patients in Kuwait almost doubled to 43, with all the cases linked to Iran. The United Arab Emirates, which has 13 cases and hasn’t given an update since Saturday, said it’s setting up a medical facility to quarantine patients.

Italy coronavirus cases rise to 528, with 14 possible deaths 

Total cases increased from the 400 reported late Wednesday, civil protection head and emergency chief Angelo Borrelli said. Forty people have recovered. The number of possible virus-linked deaths reached 14.

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