Number Of Coronavirus Cases Surpasses SARS As China Holds 60k Under 'Observation'


  • Japan, Germany confirm human-to-human transmission
  • US, UK warn citizens to avoid all non-essential travel to China
  • 6,049 cases confirmed; 131 deaths
  • President Xi said China is taking the "devil virus" very seriously and will contain it
  • Governors and mayors across US bracing for viral outbreaks
  • Reports that China has refused US offer of assistance, and that Beijing is withholding data from CDC
  • Thailand reports 6 new cases, bringing total number to 14

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Update (1915ET): It's only 8:15 am in Beijing and health officials have already confirmed more than 840 new cases in Hubei Province.

That brings the toll to  6,049, including 263 cases deemed "severe." The death toll has climbed to 132, according to SCMP.

Those who have been closely comparing this outbreak with the 2003 SARS outbreak may notice that the coronavirus has achieved an important milestone. Barely a week into global response to the outbreak, the number of confirmed cases has already passed the number of SARS cases reported during the entire monthslong ordeal.

Sars infected 5,327 people in mainland China in nine months and killed 349 people, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Another 60k people are said to be under observation across China, with 20k in Hubei alone.

Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory diseases expert who spoke with the SCMP on Tuesday, the outbreak hasn't yet reached its peak, though he thinks the number of new cases will plateau within the next ten days.

Back in the US, the Trump Administration is denying reports that it's considering a total ban on passenger travel between the US and China.

Will the fact that the coronavirus has already surpassed SARS - and is on track to achieve some of the more dire projections shared by epidemiologists - shake the market's confidence?

Or will a few soothing words from Jerome Powell save the day?

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Update (1824ET): Adding additional pressure to American airlines, CNBC just reported that the White House warned airline executives that it's considering suspending all flights between China and the US.

This comes on the heels of United Airlines, the US carrier with the most exposure to China, which has about a dozen daily flights to Hong Kong and the mainland, said it was cancelling dozens of flights. The Chicago-based airline said it has experienced a "significant decline in demand for travel to China."

Administration officials warned that this could impact flights into and out of China.

Several countries, including the US, have been expanding airport screenings for possible virus-carrying travelers. But a complete shutdown of passenger plane traffic would be even more draconian than Hong Kong's strict border controls implemented Tuesday.

In a sign that the Communist Party may have overplayed its hand, more videos depicting violent clashes between Chinese citizens and police have surfaced on social media.

One video, likely taken somewhere in Hubei Province (where the most strict travel bans are being enforced), shows a car ramming a roadblock.


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Update (1750ET): Reuters just reported that Thailand has confirmed another six cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total to 14. All six are under observation in a hospital. Five of the six are members of the same CHinese family who traveled from Hubei provine to Thailand for the LNY holiday together.

No. 6 is also a Chinese tourist.

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Update (1710ET): Minutes ago, as dawn nears in China, state-controlled TV station CCTV reported 25 new deaths in Hubei, and another 840 new confirmed cases (and this time only 315 were in Wuhan). Of the dead, 19 died in Wuhan, 2 in Xiaogan, and 1 each in Jingmen, Ezhou, Huanggang, and Tianmen.

Per CCTV, 3349 patients have been hospitalized in the province. More than 20,000 are still under medical observation.

When we look back on the coronavirus outbreak, Tuesday might be the day people remember as the jumping off point for the pandemic. more than 1,000 new cases were confirmed today. And today, the death toll jumped above 100 for the first time, and possibly featured the first death from the virus outside China.

Across China, the tensions of the LNY cancellations, the holiday extension and the travel bans, and lockdowns, combined with a general sense of hysteria, are leading to civil unrest in some areas.

American officials confirmed that the first flight evacuating about 240 diplomats and other Americans from Wuhan took off without a hitch. There are still roughly 800 Americans in Wuhan, and more flights are expected - though some have elected to stay behind with family. Tuesday is also the day that officials confirmed, without a doubt, that the virus is spreading from human to human outside of China. We imagine we'll get another dump of confirmed cases out of China around midnight, or around midday in Asia.

In the meantime, we leave you with another disturbing video taken in a Wuhan hospital: this time, an angry patient can be seen destroying a room with a chair.

And if that wasn't unsettling enough, we present...the birds...

And there's plenty more where that came from.

Meanwhile, as twitter users debate whether jokes about "bat soup" constitute a display of racism, the New York Times would like to remind readers that this virus is unequivocally humanity's fault.

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Update (1515ET): Virus-related newsflow slowed Tuesday afternoon, though there have been one or two interesting developments. 

SCMP said US HHS Secretary Alex Azar (don't get him confused with Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, the one who cut Jeffrey Epstein a sweetheart deal) said Tuesday that he hoped the Chinese government "will take us up" on an offer of aid.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier said it was seeking information from China about the transmission rates for the virus, and the US government asked Beijing if the CDC could send a team of experts after President Trump offered China unfettered access to America's top-notch "experts."

Azar said that he had personally extended "the offer...which we do hope that the Chinese government will take us up on that CDC experts are standing by ready, willing, able to go immediately to China either on a bilateral basis or under the auspices of the World Health Organisation."

Reports earlier claimed that Beijing had rejected American help. While it's not entirely clear what's going on, it's worth noting that the US arrested three suspected Chinese spies on Tuesday, while China accused the American Navy of more "deliberate provocations" in the South China Sea," per SCMP.

In other news, a few new cases of the virus have been confirmed. Three more coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the southern German state of Bavaria. Notably, it's believed that all three cases contracted the virus from the first case discovered in Germany, more evidence of human-to-human transmission outside China. Canada confirmed another case in Vancouver after an earlier cases was treated in Toronto.

China kept evidence of human to human transmission under wraps until last week, allowing the virus to spread unfettered for weeks before doing anything to confront it.

Now, the CDC is asking for more information about how the virus spreads, but Beijing is being somewhat less than "transparent."

"The Chinese have reported evidence of transmission in the asymptomatic phase, based on data that they have reviewed. The CDC has not been given an opportunity to review that data," Redfield said. "What we say is that we have not been able to confirm by data the impact of transmission during the asymptomatic phase."

The case count hasn't budged in a few hours, though we imagine the new cases in Germany and Canada will soon be included.

Oddly enough, even though local authorities claimed they were shutting down air traffic out of Wuhan (except for emergency evacuations and deliveries of supplies and personnel).

Still, a flight tracker is showing that a handful of flights departed from the Wuhan international airport on Tuesday.

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Update (1450ET): Governors and mayors across the US are bracing for containing any possible outbreaks of coronavirus. Earlier today, the NYC Department of Public Health warned residents that it expected the virus to eventually make its way to the largest city in America.

In the Greater New York area, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said that the state is "continuing to closely monitor the outbreak of coronavirus in China" after the CDC confirmed several cases in the US.

Lamont added that two suspected cases of the virus have been found in Connecticut, one in Middlesex County and one in New Haven County. Both cases are  under observation.

Lamont urged the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to declare a public health emergency to guarantee that the CDC is able to access the money it needs to combat outbreaks.

Read the full statement below:

(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont today said that the State of Connecticut is continuing to closely monitor the outbreak of coronavirus in China after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced several confirmed cases in the United States, none of which are in Connecticut.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) has two persons under investigation for the new coronavirus, one in Middlesex County who is a student at Wesleyan University and the other in New Haven County. The Wesleyan student has tested negative for corona virus. Both persons have tested positive for influenza type A and the cause of their illness is most likely the flu. As a precaution, both persons remain in isolation. DPH is awaiting final testing results for coronavirus at the CDC for the New Haven County patient. At the present time, testing for this new coronavirus strain is only available at the CDC.

"The state is closely monitoring reported cases and remaining cautious on behalf of the public," Governor Lamont said. "We want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to provide updated information on these developments to the people of our state. We ask that the public not panic but take possible symptoms seriously and consult a healthcare professional."

"I want to assure all residents of Connecticut that we are taking this new virus very seriously and have been closely coordinating our response with local health departments and medical providers throughout the state," DPH Commissioner Renée D. Coleman-Mitchell said. "So far, we have no confirmed cases of this coronavirus in Connecticut. It is also the height of the flu season, and hundreds of Connecticut residents have already been hospitalized for influenza. I want to make sure everyone takes precautions to keep themselves healthy during this season, and if you experience any symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, fever or others, please contact your doctor and get treated sooner rather than later."

"I urge the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to declare a public health emergency so we can ensure that the Center for Disease Control is able to access the additional funding it may need to expedite the development of a vaccine and to prepare to contain any outbreak in our country," Senator Richard Blumenthal said. "The recent coronavirus strain exploding in China has resulted in many deaths and therefore proactive steps must be taken at the federal and state levels. My office is in constant contact with Connecticut state public health officials and I stand ready to assist state officials to protect the health of Connecticut residents."

Connecticut is at the height of respiratory virus season. Influenza activity in Connecticut is widespread. A total of 784 influenza-associated hospitalizations have been reported since the beginning of the 2019-20 season. Seven new influenza-associated deaths were reported last week, resulting in a total of 20 influenza-associated deaths reported since the beginning of the 2019-20 season.

CDC believes at this time that symptoms of the coronavirus may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. No vaccine or specific treatment for the infection is available, however care is supportive. When person-to-person spread has occurred with MERS and SARS, it is thought to have happened via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, like how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. Spread of SARS and MERS between people has generally occurred between close contacts.

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Update (1400ET): The UK has jumped on the bandwagon of nations that are advising their citizens to avoid traveling to China at all costs until this epidemic passes.

According to the BBC, the UK Foreign Office has warned Britons to avoid all non-essential travel to mainland China. It also warned against all travel to Hubei Province, saying any Britons who are there should leave ASAP.

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Update (1245ET): France has confirmed the fourth case of novel coronavirus, according to French news station BFM TV. Although the confirmation of yet another case in Europe sounds like it would add to the market's anxieties, stocks have been drifting higher since researchers in Hong Kong announced that they had developed a vaccine for the new virus - but with one critical catch.

They expect it will take about a year until its ready to use on humans.

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Update (0900ET): In what might be the first coronavirus death recorded outside China and a major development in the ongoing epidemic - which the WHO has refused to label a pandemic for fear of spooking the market -  Indian health officials reportedly said Tuesday that a Thai woman who was living in Kolkata may have succumbed to the coronavirus.

Authorities said she was hospitalized on Jan. 21 for fever, nausea and stomach problems. No cases of the virus have been confirmed, but three suspected cases in Delhi have been reported, according to News18.

So far, the evidence that nCoV was responsible for her death is pretty slim. We now await confirmation from India's top health officials.

But if it's true, it will become extremely difficult for the WHO to avoid declaring a global pandemic emergency.

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Update (0700ET): Minutes ago, CNBC reported that the White House has held multiple meetings about the coronavirus led by Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger.

The consensus: The problem is getting worse, though the true extent is unclear.

Are we about to learn about a new rash of infections inside the US? Considering that more than 100 people were under observation as recently as yesterday, we wouldn't be surprised.

* * *

On Tuesday morning, China's top health officials shared some grim statistics essentially confirming that the novel coronavirus believed to have emerged from a shady food market in Wuhan is on track to confirm some of the more dire projections shared by epidemiologists.

As we reported late yesterday, the death toll in China has soared past 100 while the number of confirmed cases doubled overnight. Health officials around the world have confirmed more than 4,500 cases, more than triple the number from Friday. All but a few of the deaths recorded so far have been in Wuhan or the surrounding Hubei province, per the SCMP.

Panic has swept across the region as border closures appear to be the overarching theme of Tuesday's sessions. Even North Korea, which relies on China for 90% of its foreign trade, has closed the border with its patron. More than 50 million remain on lockdown in Hubei, and transit restrictions have been imposed by cities and regions around the country. An 'extension' of the Lunar New Year holiday is threatening GDP growth, as economists try to size up the knock-on potential impact on the global economy. The virus has now spread across China and another 17 countries/autonomous territories globally, according to BBG.

But the most important announcement made overnight - at least as far as global markets are concerned - was Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam's decision to suspend high-speed rail and ferry service, while halving the number of flights between HK and the mainland. This news helped send US stock futures higher in early trade, after health experts yesterday urged Lam to use 'draconian' measures to curb the spread, for fear of a repeat of the SARS epidemic, which killed some 300 people, according to the BBC.

"The flow of people between the two places needs to be drastically reduced" amid the outbreak, Ms Lam told the South China Morning Post.

China, meanwhile, said it would stop individuals from traveling to Hong Kong to try and curb the virus.

Jiao Yahui, deputy head of the NHC’s medical administration bureau, said during a press conference Tuesday that shortages of medical supplies in Wuhan were still a serious problem.

CDC has issued new travel recommendations urging people to avoid all non-essential trips. Still, the WHO remained reluctant to declare the outbreak a global emergency. Instead, the international health organization's director-general insisted that this is merely an emergency "in China". But after yesterday's brutal pullback in US stocks, the WHO can't risk spooking the market.

The big piece of evidence that the WHO is purportedly looking for is human-to-human transmission outside China. However, while several cases of H2H transmission outside China have been documented in Vietnam, Japan, as well as possibly Canada and Germany, the WHO so far has only recognized the Vietnam case.

Zhong Nanshan, a leading expert on SARS and other communicable diseases in China, confirmed human-to-human transmission in at least one case in Wuhan and two cases in Guangdong Province.

During a meeting in Beijing, President Xi told World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus that the safety of the people is his government's first priority, and that he recognizes the situation is "very serious," but that he's confident his government will defeat the "devil virus," Reuters reports.

"This was supposed to be a time for rest, but because of the pneumonia outbreak caused by the novel coronavirus, the Chinese people right now are faced with a very serious battle," Xi said. "This is something we take very seriously because in our view nothing matters more than people’s safety and health. That is why I myself have been personally deploying, planning, and guiding all the efforts related to containment and mitigation of the outbreak."

That's ironic, considering Beijing's sluggish response after the first cases were discovered in December. After all, Wuhan Mayor Zhou Xianwang on Tuesday spoke out against the deluge of criticism he has faced to accuse Beijing of tying his hands. This comes after President Xi and the party tried to scapegoat him and other local party officials for the crisis.

This was supposed to be a time for rest, but because of the pneumonia outbreak caused by the novel coronavirus, the Chinese people right now are faced with a very serious battle,” Chinese President Xi Jinping tells in Beijing.

Speaking at a press briefing in Beijing on Tuesday, Jiao Yahui, deputy head of the NHC’s medical administration bureau, said shortage of medical supplies was a major constraint in China’s efforts to contain the outbreak and treat infected people.

Tens of thousands of patients are under observation in China after displaying one or more symptoms of the virus. In the US, roughly 100 people are in isolation. But former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CNBC that China is obscuring the true number of cases - a suspicion that's widely held among American infectous-disease experts.

According to some projections, there might be up to 300,000 cases in China, and there are likely dozens of people who have died of pneumonia who in reality died from nCoV - but those deaths will never be recorded. Although China is "behaving better" than it did during the SARS outbreak, they're still concealing information from the international community.

"They're still not behaving well. They're concealing information, including the spread to health care workers, which we didn't know until last week" Gottlieb said.

China is already in a "full-blown epidemic." The US will likely face some limited outbreaks, but Gottlieb said we have the tools to suppress the virus and prevent the same thing from happening in the US. The FDA, meanwhile, announced plans to advance development of "medical countermeasures" against the virus.

Jiao said China was sending about 6,000 medical personnel to Hubei from around the country – with more than 4,000 already there and 1,800 more due to arrive by Tuesday evening – to work in Wuhan and seven other cities in the province. In Wuhan, more than 10,000 hospital beds have been made available for patients, he said, while another 100,000 are being prepared.

In Beijing, CNBC's Eunice Yoon reported that the local government is strongly encouraging the wearing of facemasks in public. Police guarding Beijing's public transit are wearing full hazmat suits, and anybody hoping to board a train must be wearing a mask, and must submit to a temperature check via infrared thermometer. If an individual is found to have a fever, they're sent to a hospital to be quarantined.

As Beijing tries to telegraph to the world that it has the situation under control, health experts have raised new questions about the government's response. One infectious disease specialist told the NYT that they were skeptical about the Wuhan quarantine's ability contain the virus (unsurprising considering that 5 million left the city before the lockdown began). Beijing and Guangzhou, a port city northwest of Hong Kong, have broken ground on new hospitals, mimicking the speedy construction of not one but two new hospitals in Wuhan to treat patients infected with the virus. Beijing is also reopening a hospital used to fight the SARS outbreak in 2003, while 6,000 medical staff have been sent to Hubei.

“At this stage of the outbreak, the things that make the most difference are finding people, diagnosing people, and getting them isolated,” said Dr. Tom Inglesby, an infectious diseases specialist and director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. "If you isolate the city, then my question and my concern is that you’re making it harder in a number of ways to do those things you need to do," including ferrying critical supplies and ensuring that infected victims receive adequate treatment.