Cluster Of Coronavirus Cases Reported Aboard Italian Cruise Ship Docked In Nagasaki: Live Updates

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by Tyler Durden
Wednesday, Apr 22, 2020 - 09:33 PM


  • German biotech company begins clinical trials for vaccine
  • Oxford U. begins human testing for vaccine
  • FT says UK coronavirus deaths 2x+ official number
  • NY death toll passes 15k
  • Trump: "Our Country is starting to OPEN FOR BUSINESS"
  • Outbreak reported aboard Italian cruise ship docked in Japan
  • Middle East coronavirus cases continue to climb everywhere except Iran
  • Texas drops controversial temporary abortion ban
  • FDA director "clarifies" WaPo story
  • WHO's Dr. Tedros asks US to reconsider cutting funding
  • 2 cats become first pets in US to catch the virus
  • Chinese scientist finds deadly new coronavirus mutations
  • Cali officials reveal first US coronavirus death occurred weeks earlier than realized
  • Dominic Raab says at least 69 health-care workers have died in the UK
  • South Korea unveils 'New Deal'-style stimulus

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Update (2130ET): Here we go again...

Outbreaks aboard cruise ships have become a tiresome cliche since the novel coronavirus first left Wuhan back in December, and amazingly, despite the fact that most major cruise operators have had their operations suspended for going on six weeks, shipboard outbreaks are still happening.

A Japanese television station reported Thursday morning that an outbreak has been reported aboard a ship that has been docked for repairs since January. Apparently, hundreds of crew members were still living aboard the ship, despite the fact that it has been docked all this time.

NHK reports that 48 crew members on an Italian cruise ship docked in Nagasaki have tested positive for coronavirus, NHK reports, citing an unidentified local official. The Italy-owned Costa Atlantica has been docked at Mitsubishi Heavy’s Koyagi shipyard for repairs since Jan. 29; 623 crew members were apparently still living on board the ship. No passengers have been present during the outbreak.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday that the Health Ministry sent officials and experts to the ship after a request from the Italian government.

Japan of course was home to the original cruise ship "nightmare at sea" when the "Diamond Princess" docked in Yokohama with thousands of passengers and crew aboard. Hundreds were sickened and nearly 2 dozen died.

Since then, there have been a handful of outbreaks involving cruise ships, including one aboard the "Ruby Princess" in Sydney that has triggered a criminal investigation down under.

Given the wave of repatriations and evacuations that have taken place since the outbreak began, one can't help but wonder: Why are these 600+ sailors still living on this ship in presumably cramped crewmen's quarters?

In a rare win for abortion-rights advocates, Texas has reportedly dropped its order banning abortions while the pandemic is ongoing.

Finally, some good news for liberals to enjoy.

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Update (1900ET): We imagine FDA Director Dr. Stephen Hahn found himself on the ass-end of a classic President Trump rage-fueled shitstorm earlier when the Washington Post quoted him in a story warning that the second wave of the virus would be "even more devastating".

Trump tweeted earlier that the article was "false," however, in a statement during Wednesday evening's press conference, Dr. Hahn walked all that back, admitted that his quote was accurate, but accused the Washington Post of omitting some context - namely that he had clarified the reason it would be deadlier is because it would coincide with the entirety of the next flu season.

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Update (1850ET): Now that President Trump has done pretty much everything possible to convince the public to blame him for the coronavirus fallout, despite having delegated all genuine authority to the states, he is moving to ensure the public understands that, if he had his druthers, the whole country would be reopened by now, by reopening the only pieces of land for which he has retained the authority to reopen: the National Parks.

He added during tonight's press caution that the reopening would be done "as we take reasonable precaution."

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Update (1805ET): With the CDC remaining mostly tight-lipped about the breakdown of coronavirus patients in the US (a ploy that critics say began as an effort to conceal the lack of testing in the US), more states are releasing breakdowns of COVID-19 patients including those who died in hospital settings, and those who died in managed-care facilities like nursing homes, clusters of vicious disease.

And a recent analysis of these data by WSJ found that facilities that primarily house older people who are often in frail health have been the source of roughly 25% of the deaths linked to the coronavirus in the US. A WSJ survey has found at least 10,783 fatalities among more than 35 states that either report data online, or responded to requests for information.

And that's only with 70% of states (and zero territories) reporting.

States including Massachusetts, West Virginia are trying to ramp up testing in nursing homes in their states, and while Cuomo has tried to do the same in NY, he did say earlier that "it's not our job" to provide PPE to nursing homes" - meaning Americans private and public corporations, entities that, despite their tremendous economic power, have proved just as impotent as the federal government in helping alleviate the crisis. In fact, as we explained earlier, one could argue that corporations are actively hurting the rest of the economy by sucking up resources that should be flowing to small business owners who are in danger of shutting down.

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Update (1550ET): Earlier in the afternoon, remarks made by WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus drew the attention of the international press as he asked the US to "reconsider" cutting funding to the organization, insisting that the organization acts to combat discrimination and fight for human rights everywhere (except China). The organization also released a list of six conditions that should be met before countries begin to reopen.

Earlier, Saudi Arabia reported 1,141 new cases of coronavirus and 5 new deaths for a total of 12,772 cases and 114 deaths, while the UAE reported 483 new cases of coronavirus and 6 new deaths for a total of 8,238 cases and 52 deaths.

Meanwhile, the state of California said it recorded 86 new COVID-19-linked deaths since yesterday, an increase of 6.8% to nearly 1,300 deaths.

Earlier, two cats in the US tested positive for the coronavirus, becoming the first household pets in the country to be confirmed positive for the virus after at least one tiger at the Bronx Zoo was found to be carrying strains of the virus. At least one of the cats was experiencing mild symptoms, per the CDC.

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Update (1330ET): New York has reached another grim milestone: the state's death toll has surpassed 15k on Wednesday, though the pace of deaths continued to slow. Deaths climbed to 15,302.

Texas, meanwhile, reported another 18% jump in new cases. France reported 3,201 new cases on Wednesday, the highest number in four days, to right around 160k cases. The WHO noted that in the Middle East, cases are rising everywhere except Iran.

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Update (1205ET): Though it sounded almost as if he was speaking to his fellow governors, Cuomo urged local officials in his state to "resist political pressure" to reopen their towns too early, warning that they might risk ruining all the hard work of the American people. "We make a bad move, it's going to set us back...Frankly, this is no time to act stupidly. Period. I don't know how else to say it," Cuomo said.

Cuomo added: "This is not the time for confusion or disagreement among government..."local laws can’t counteract state laws, anyway."

"We can't have people lose their life because we acted imprudently."

In other news, Italy reported a jump in new cases, while the pace of new deaths continued to slow. 3,370 new patients tested positive yesterday, said Italy's Civil Protection Service, compared with an increase of 2,729 the day before (Italy's countrywide total is 187,327). Deaths continued to slow, with another 437 new deaths reported, compared with 534 new deaths a day ago, as the curve continues to slow at a rate that's even surprising some of Italy's leading scientists. In total, 25,085 Italians have died - with deaths in the country moving above 25k, becoming only the second country to hit this number after the US.

Another 54,543 Italians have recovered, including another 2,943 declared "recovered" over the last day, an increase of +5.7% as more patients finally recover from the illness. Of course, as we've noted, many patients who struggle in serious condition for days or weeks have a higher likelihood of suffering long-term consequences. Finally, the number of tests run in the country has surpassed 1.5 million.

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Update (1130ET): One day after Singapore extended its lockdown until the end of June amid a stunning resurgence in coronavirus infections involving the city's migrant workers, the city-state has reported another record jump in new cases.

The Health Ministry reported 1,016 new cases of coronavirus, bringing its total to 10,141 cases in total. Of the new cases confirmed over the last day, 1,001 of them were foreigners, likely mostly migrant workers.

Meanwhile, during Wednesday's press conference, NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned "what we do today, we will see the results in 3, or 4, or 5 days", since most of the worst viral cases tend to manifest within 10 or 11 days, tops, though some cases have taken far longer.

His big theme is that New Yorkers have arrived at a "profound moment" in history, where everybody will be judged for their actions during the reopening. "If we get reckless today, we'll suffer the consequences tomorrow."

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Update (0810ET): President Trump is starting the day by once again encouraging the 'reopen now' protesters and courting even more responsibility for the eventual outcome of the reopening - something that we've repeatedly argued is a boneheaded political strategy.

The president also affirmed plans to sign his executive order prohibiting immigration into the US for 60 days.

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Now that the Senate has passed the $484 billion relief bill to top off the 'Paycheck Protection Program' (which hasn't been able to make any new loans in five days), Washington reporters claim that the House should follow that up with a vote on Thursday, before hopefully sending it to the president's desk.

Last night, we reported on a new study out of China authored by the same scientist who first proposed Beijing's lockdown plan that highlighted some troubling new discoveries that might complicate the quest for a vaccine. The researchers isolated and analyzed new mutant strains of the virus that appeared to be much more 'aggressive' (i.e. likely deadlier) than earlier strains. Furthermore, these deadlier strains were not only found to carry higher viral loads - making them much more infectious - but they were also found to have genetic similarities to strains isolated in New York and Europe, potentially explaining the strikingly high mortality rates.

During the early days of the US response, Dr. Fauci and others insisted that there was "no evidence" of any significant mutations in the virus that might impede research into a possible vaccine. While that might have been true given the evidence at the time, clearly, it no longer is.

Whether this leads to a revision in vaccine timeline targets remains to be seen, but we would be surprised to see any such information released through official channels.

Curiously, the only vaccine-related news we're seeing on Wednesday are reports about two companies, one German, one British, that have just received a 'green light' to move on to the next phase of vaccine-related study.

German biotech company BioNTech will become the first European company to proceed to clinical trials of a potential COVID-19 vaccine after receiving regulatory approval to accelerate the firm's testing. Presumably, the firm's experimental vaccine has already shown some success in preliminary human studies - typically a prerequisite before moving on to clinical trials. The German Federal Institute for Vaccines was responsible for issuing the approval.

The Times of London reported last night that the first British human trials of a coronavirus vaccine will start on Wednesday as Britain 'throws everything it has' at developing a vaccine, according to Health Secretary Matt Hancock. Scientists in Oxford are expected to begin to test the safety of their experimental vaccine. Hancock also announcing another £20 million in funding to speed the quasi-public project through larger-scale human trials over the summer, as well as £22.5 million for a parallel vaccine project at Imperial College London.

For anybody hoping that these early-stage triumphs might herald an even earlier time-frame for a vaccine, try not to get too excited: Remember the words of Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK's chief scientific adviser, who once warned that every vaccine is a "long shot".

However, the biggest bombshell to drop overnight was probably a statement from health authorities in California that the first coronavirus deaths in the US likely occurred weeks earlier than initially thought. Officials told the local press that forensic scientists in Santa Clara had discovered two autopsies on people who had died undiagnosed at home on Feb. 6 and Feb. 17 that showed signs of COVID-19.

A third death on March 6 was also found to be caused by COVID-19. The first virus-related death in the US was reported in California on Feb. 26.

"These three people died at home at a time when testing was very limited and only possible to get via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," the forensics department said. Tests at that time were only available to people who returned from high-risk areas, or those who went to a doctor with serious and obvious coronavirus symptoms. Notably, a recent study in Santa Clara County also found that the viral penetration in the area was "50-80x higher" than official statistics suggested.

As India begins the process of reopening its economy, a new issue is arising: Indian doctors and nurses report that they have been subjected to horrifying treatment at the hands of their fellow townspeople and community members, as family members of dead patients have, in some cases, attacked doctors for failing to save their family member. The situation has gotten so bad that a funeral procession for a doctor who died fighting the virus was attacked by an angry mob, forcing the doctor's family and colleagues to flee. A colleague returned later to dig a grave for his friend.

To try and stop doctors from simply walking off the job as India's rate of confirmed infections climbs above 20k and the bodies continue to pile up, the Indian government has, at the behest of the Indian Medical Association, issued an emergency order making violence against health-care professionals a serious crime. Doctors around the country have said they will observe a "Black Day" on Friday, with any opting to wear black armbands to identify themselves as health-care workers.

Spain announced a slight relaxation of its five-week lockdown earlier this week when the government caved to popular demands that children under the age of 14 be allowed to leave their homes unaccompanied by an adult.

And now, as Spain's rate of deaths ticks higher, PM Pedro Sanchez is pushing ahead with his plan to extend the lockdown until May 9, asking his country's parliament to approve the extension, which he first announced days ago. Sanchez said that the lifting of the quarantine order must be "slow and gradual" to save lives.

"The general requirement to stay at home will not be lifted until we are prepared," he said, although he added that in future the conditions of the lockdown "will not be the same as up to now," with shifts in the rules in the second half of May.

Finally, an FT analysis of data released by the ONS has determined that the actual death toll from COVID-19 across the UK might be as high as 41k, more than double the roughly 17.5k 'official' death toll according to the Department of Health and Social Care. Here's more on that from FT reporter Chris Giles.

Following the report's release, UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab announced that the death toll of UK health care workers has climbed to 69, significantly higher than the previous number.

And in South Korea, while the world waits to learn more about what's going on with KJU, South Korean President Moon Jae-in unveiled a $32.4 billion relief package for hard-hit businesses, while pushing for a New Deal-style program that would put out-of-work South Koreans to work building new national projects.