Death toll passes 2,000 as Hubei reports 132 deaths for Tuesday
Japan to release first wave of 500 passengers + crew at 10:30 am in Tokyo
Florida health officials mysteriously refuse to share virus info with reporters
Russia bars all Chinese from entering
NYT notes signs of impending economic distress
South Korea announces "emergency steps" to prepare for outbreak.
South Korea announces 15 new cases
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Update (1940ET): It's Wednesday morning in Yokohama. So you know what that means.
Japanese health authorities are beginning the process of offloading the remaining 2,000+ passengers and crew aboard the 'Diamond Princess', a ship that has been under quarantine for 14 days.
The offloading will take place in phases over three days, finally wrapping up on Friday. The first 500 people are set to leave at around 10:30 am Tokyo time on Wednesday. There will be no preference given to different nationalities, according to Japan's Ministry of Health.
Many who depart will be subject to another 14 days of quarantine, including any Americans who elected to stay on the ship instead of traveling back to the US on the evac flight. Roughly 40 Americans were also excluded from that flight because they were being treated for the virus in a Japanese hospital.
So far, 542 people - including at least 14 of the 300 or so Americans who traveled back to the US on Monday in Japan - have tested positive for the virus. And while Japan says it has tested everybody aboard, doctors and experts say there's no way to certain that people being released won't be carrying the virus - hence the quarantines when they return home.
But where will they go between now and then? And with no immediate after-care plans - at least none that have been publicly disclosed, it looks like Japan is about to set thousands of people aboard the most infected environment outside China loose in Tokyo.
Of course, Japanese authorities are so paranoid about the Olympics, one would think they would be doing everything in their power to stop an outbreak in Tokyo, especially at such a sensitive time.
About 500 people are set to leave the ship from around 10:30 a.m. Tokyo time on Wednesday, with no preference given to any particular nationality, Japan’s Health Ministry said.
Hopefully, health officials will manage to convince the world that they successfully screened for the virus.
The ship was first quarantined on Feb. 5 more than a week after a man who tested positive for the virus in Hong Kong disembarked. Journalists have shared stories of desperation and paranoia from those trapped on the ship, making it sound like such a nightmare that many who read those stories may never want to travel on a cruise.
In other news, Yonhap reported minutes ago that South Korea has another 15 cases, increasing the countries total by roughly one-third to 46 one day after the country's president warned of an "economic emergency" as companies like Hyundai suffer from supply shortages from China. The South Korean government has already announced a fiscal stimulus package to help companies hurt by the virus.
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Update (1720ET): Health officials in Hubei reported a big jump in deaths on Tuesday, shattering the state's narrative that the virus is being beaten because the number of confirmed cases and deaths were falling.
And with the new figures, the China death toll has hit 2,000 exactly, up from 1,868 deaths as of the end of Monday, according to China's NHC.
- HUBEI REPORTS 1,693 NEW CORONAVIRUS CASES, 132 DEATHS FEB. 18
- CHINA'S CORONAVIRUS DEATH TOLL HITS 2,000
Meanwhile, state officials in Florida are refusing to release any information about the state's efforts to contain a coronavirus outbreak, including data about the number of patients who have been tested for the virus, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
"The goal of this public health response is containment," said state Surgeon General Scott Rivkees, who presented to the Senate Health Policy committee Tuesday. "And if there’s a confirmed case, it will absolutely be reported."
Rivkees added that the state wasn't allowed to release the information because of "privacy concerns" - likely a rule about patient confidentiality codified in the federal HIPPA guidelines.
However, veteran journalists in the state pressed the surgeon general: These numbers were shared with the public during Zika, and since the numbers don't include any personalized details, there shouldn't be any conflict with HIPPA.
Despite their protests, the state simply deferred to the Department of Health, which has created a 700-person incident management team to liaise with states and help the country prepare for the potential outbreak. Certain protocols have been shared with officials in every state.
Though if not sharing this information is part of some kind of federal 'protocol', then how come Washington State is sharing some of this information directly on a Department of Public Health website?
Also in the US: the CDC said earlier that the State Department is planning to bar any Americans who were aboard the Diamond Princess but didn't return with the evacuees from returning to the country until next month.
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Update (1600ET): Writing in the latest update to its coronavirus live blog, the New York Times points out that more signs of economic pain from the outbreak have emerged on Tuesday. It cites HSBC's bloodletting, Jaguar's warning about looming production problems and Apple's latest production warning as worrying signs of corporate blowback even as the Nasdaq closed at a record high.
Economic fallout from the new coronavirus epidemic continued to spread on Tuesday, with new evidence emerging in manufacturing, financial markets, commodities, banking and other sectors.
HSBC, one of the most important banks in Hong Kong, said it plans to cut 35,000 jobs and $4.5 billion in costs as it faces headwinds that include the coronavirus outbreak and months of political strife in Hong Kong. The bank, based in London, had come to depend increasingly on China for growth.
Jaguar Land Rover warned that the coronavirus could soon begin to create production problems at its assembly plants in Britain. Like many carmakers, Jaguar Land Rover uses parts made in China, where many factories have shut down or slowed production; Fiat Chrysler, Renault and Hyundai have already reported interruptions as a result.
U.S. stocks declined on Tuesday, a day after Apple warned that it would miss its sales forecasts due to disruption in China, as concerns about the impact of the outbreak weighed on the outlook for the global economy.
Stocks tied to the near-term ups and downs of the economy slumped, with energy, financials and industrial shares the leading losers. The S&P 500 index was down 0.5 percent at midafternoon in New York trading.
Bond yields declined, with the 10-year Treasury note yielding 1.55 percent, suggesting investors are lowering their expectations for economic growth and inflation. With much of the Chinese economy stalled, demand for oil has fallen and prices were down on Tuesday, with a barrel of West Texas Intermediate selling for roughly $52.
In Germany, where the economy depends heavily on global demand for machinery and automobiles, a key indicator showed economic sentiment has tumbled this month, as the economic outlook has weakened.
You know it's bad when CNBC's unspoken economics 'Word of the Day' is 'one-off'.
Meanwhile, America's 'paper of record' reported that at least 150 million people in China are living under severe lockdown restrictions confining them largely to their homes. That's one-tenth of China's population, and 1% of the global population.
Kind of hard to work and consume when you can't leave the house.
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Update (1410ET): In an interview with Fox News, the CDC's Dr. Anthony Fauci said the risk to Americans of contracting COVID-19 is relatively low right now, but that "could change" given the chaotic and unpredictable situation.
"The risk clearly is relatively low right now, but that could change. So we're telling our American citizens to not be fearful, to not be afraid, but to keep an eye on it."
Dr. Fauci added that the federal government has quarantined every known case of the virus.
"The people in this country that were aware of being infected they've been contacted, isolated and made aware that this is the case."
Just in case any get through, the US is starting 'sentinel surveillance' of patients around the country who go to the hospital to report flu-like symptoms, as we reported yesterday.
"That will give us a better idea of whether there are any cases that we haven't identified or noticed," the doctor added.
Watch the clip below:
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Update (1300ET): In a landmark decision, Russia has temporarily banned Chinese from entry as of Feb. 20, becoming the first country to ban all Chinese from entry in response to the coronavirus outbreak, according to Russian news agency TASS.
This is only the latest step from Russia, which has already closed most entry points along its 4,200-kilometer border, suspended e-visas and work visas for Chinese nationals.
Russia has already reported two cases of coronavirus - the only cases confirmed in the country so far - both involving Chinese nationals.
Though there haven't been many cases, there have been a number of interesting virus-related headlines out of Russia in recent weeks. Two men in the city of Chelyabinsk were fined for hooliganism after they filmed a prank video where they pretended to shoot a man infected with the virus in a park. The men wore white hazmat suits and face masks while simulating the shooting of the third person, who wasn't actually infected.
— Russia discharged a Chinese national from the hospital in the Siberian city of Chita on Wednesday after he recovered from a coronavirus infection, the second of Russia's two confirmed cases of coronavirus to recover. The other victim, also a Chinese national, was also said by authorities to have recovered and been released from quarantine in Siberia's Tyumen region.
Meanwhile,apropos of nothing, BNO News shared one of the latest videos out of Hubei Province, which we'd like to now share with you.
Video from Hubei province shows doctors running across the street to take patients who are critically ill with coronavirus to a new ICU unit. It took 30 minutes per patient, 10 in total - Xinhua pic.twitter.com/16XLrYzB8l— BNO Newsroom (@BNODesk) February 18, 2020
This could be an Olympic Sport (if they don't cancel the Olympics, that is).
As a handful of brave foreign correspondents continue to report on the outbreak inside mainland China, the Epoch Times' reporter Jennifer Zeng revealed on Tuesday that 71 people from one workplace in Beijing have been placed under quarantine after one employee was infected by COVID-19.
We're glad to see China's shift back to work is going so well.
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Update (0840ET): Global Times editor Hu Xijin, a government mouthpiece whose tweets were closely followed during the 'Phase 1' trade-deal negotiations, is touting China's dubious data as a sign that the Communist Party is winning the 'People's War' against COVID-19.
Daily new infection cases outside Hubei fell below 100 for the first time according to data released on Tuesday. We are on the way to the victory. People are in a better mood and cities are recovering the vitality. I myself is also very happy. pic.twitter.com/nTlxIhOwF4— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) February 18, 2020
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Last night, the western press exposed the Americans for breaking Japan's quarantine on the 'Diamond Princess' by ferrying some 14 infected individuals to the US. But with one day left to go before the Japanese government ends its quarantine and releases thousands of terrified and paranoid passengers into the streets of Tokyo.
On Tuesday, another 88 passengers from the Diamond Princess were diagnosed with the virus, bringing the total to 542.
Japan has completed tests for all passengers and crew aboard the ship as of Monday, but the results for the last batch of tests aren't expected until Wednesday, the day that the quarantine is slated to end. So far, results are back for 2,404 passengers and crew, out of the 3,711 who were on board the ship when the quarantine began on Feb. 5.
Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said Tuesday that people who have tested negative for the virus would start leaving on Wednesday, but that the process of releasing passengers and crew won't be finished until Friday, according to the Washington Post.
The remaining 61 American passengers on the DP who opted not to join the evacuation will not be allowed to return to the US until March 4, according to the American embassy in Tokyo. The governments of Australia, Hong Kong and Canada have also said they would evacuate passengers.
Elsewhere, Japan confirmed three more cases of the virus. This time, they were confirmed in Wakayama, a prefecture in eastern Japan.
In the latest indication that the 14-day quarantine simply wasn't enough to kill the virus, a British couple has tested positive for the virus just one day before Japanese authorities are set to release everybody from quarantine, according to the Guardian.
"David and Sally Abel, a British couple onboard the Diamond Princess cruise liner in Japan, have tested positive for coronavirus, a day before passengers who tested negative were due to start leaving the ship after spending two weeks in quarantine."
Including all of the cases announced overnight, there are now 73,336 confirmed cases of the virus worldwide, compared with 1,874 deaths.
As the battle against the virus rages in Wuhan, Liu Zhiming, 51, a neurosurgeon and the director of the Wuchang Hospital in Wuhan, became the latest high-profile medical worker to succumb to the virus, as we noted last night. Late last week, China confirmed that nearly 2,000 medical workers had been infected.
The Commission overseeing China's virus response has released a statement commemorating Liu's life and honoring his death.
"From the start of the outbreak, Comrade Liu Zhiming, without regard to his personal safety, led the medical staff of Wuchang Hospital at the front lines of the fight against the epidemic," the commission said. Dr. Liu "made significant contributions to our city’s fight to prevent and control the novel coronavirus," it added.
In Beijing, senior officials including President Xi continued to play down the economic blowback from the virus. During remarks on Tuesday, Xi insisted that China could still meet its 2020 economic targets - which called for a doubling of the size of the Chinese economy in 10 years - despite the outbreak.
We cross live to the Chinese Statistics Bureau as President Xi says China can still meet 2020 economic targets despite coronavirus pic.twitter.com/JJeqvbWJCZ— RANsquawk (@RANsquawk) February 18, 2020
Of course, China' goalseeked economic data has never offered a truly accurate reflection of the world's second-largest economy. And a report by PitchBook warns that Chinese startups are struggling to raise money as the epidemic complicates deal talks an deals a serious blow to the country's 'venture capital' scene.
From the start of the year through Feb. 12, venture capital activity in China fell from 381 to 137 deals, and the capital raised declined from $4.05 billion to $1.37 billion, compared to the same period last year.
Prior outbreaks like SARS and swine flu also weighed on investment activity.
Moving south to Seoul, South Korean President Moon Jae-in called for South Korea to take "emergency steps" to prepare for a more widespread outbreak of COVID-19.
In contrast to Xi, Moon warned the coronavirus could have a "bigger and longer-lasting impact" on his country's economy than the 2015 MERS outbreak, which prompted South Korea to roll out a supplemental budget while the central bank cut rates, WaPo reports. Speculators are now betting on a rate cut at the Bank of Korea's meeting next week. Singapore also announced on Tuesday that it had earmarked $2.8 billion for virus relief measures to help stabilize its economy and assist workers.
Over in the Philippines, 25,000 stranded workers can now return to work.
French Health Minister Olivier Veran said Tuesday there was a "credible risk" that the virus could transform into a pandemic, Reuters reports.
"This is both a working assumption and a credible risk," Veran told France Info radio, when asked about the possibility of the coronavirus spreading globally.
Taking a brief break from the news, our disturbing video of the day comes from Xinjiang, the far-flung province that's home to millions of Uyghur Muslims.
In this video, shared by the Epoch Times' Jennifer Zeng, a police officer suddenly collapses while walking. His current status is unknown.
Zhou Shunxin, a police officer in #Xinjiang, suddenly collaspes while walking. Officail report says vaguely that he "passed out" at the frone line of #COVID2019 control, and sent to the hospital, but doesn't talke about why he collasped or his current status. #Coronavirus pic.twitter.com/CYfUi259Pt— 曾錚 Jennifer Zeng (@jenniferatntd) February 18, 2020
Offering a lesson in contrasts, the Global Times, a mainland tabloid, has continued to tweet lighthearted human interest stories from the heart of the outbreak. Today's story: A health-care worker getting married in the heart of the outbreak.
Wedding dress, bridal veil and confetti made from a hospital bedsheet with a rubber glove bridal bouquet. Watch this medical staff member's wedding in the battleground against the novel #coronavirus in #Wuhan. https://t.co/GwDguZKfe0 pic.twitter.com/BZt3KprGAI— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) February 18, 2020
The GT also reported that officials in Hubei are continuing with a "comprehensive search" for patients with fevers, and have even started tracking down every individual who has purchased fever or cough medicine since Jan. 20.
Central China’s Hubei Province, where epicenter #Wuhan is located, launched a comprehensive search of fever patients on Tuesday. Authorities are tracking down people with symptoms of fever or those who bought fever and cough medicines since January 20. #COVID2019 #coronavirus pic.twitter.com/6hwEYzymtM— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) February 18, 2020
As we reported last night, Apple published a press release admitting it "does not expect to meet the revenue guidance we provided for the March quarter" due to coronavirus-related issues.
Since we haven't reported a full breakdown of cases in a while, here's a complete list and breakdown of infections by country and territory, courtesy of the AP:
Mainland China: 1,868 deaths among 72,436 cases, chiefly in Hubei
Hong Kong: 58 cases, 1 death
Japan: 607 cases, including 542 from a cruise ship docked in Yokohama, 1 death
Singapore: 77 cases
South Korea: 31
Taiwan: 22 cases, 1 death
Vietnam: 16 cases
United States: 15 cases; separately, 1 US citizen died in China
Australia: 14 cases
France: 12 cases, 1 death
United Kingdom: 9 cases
United Arab Emirates: 9
Philippines: 3 cases, 1 death
India: 3 cases
Sri Lanka: 1
In a recent study, China's CCDC found that the virus's fatality rate - 14.8% - is for people aged 80 or older with co-occurring medical conditions. Young and healthy people, meanwhile, typically experience much more mild symptoms, according to the BBC. Along those same lines, the WHO confirmed on Tuesday that the virus manifests as only a minor infection in four out of five people who contract it, according to the Guardian.
For everybody still saying that the virus is no more dangerous than the annual flu outbreak, here's some food for thought: An analysis of 44,672 coronavirus patients in China whose diagnoses were confirmed by laboratory testing has found that 1,023 had died by Feb. 11, a fatality rate of 2.3%. That's far higher than the mortality rate for the seasonal flu.
Finally, the New York Times has reviewed lockdown conditions across China, and confirmed that more than 760 million people are living in neighborhoods or villages with at least some imposed strictures regulating residents' comings and goings. That represents half of China's population, and one out of every ten people on the planet.
Some neighborhoods only require residents to show ID, sign in and have their temperature checked. Other villages prohibit bringing in guests. In places with more stringent restrictions, households are only allowed to send one person out at a time - and often not even every day.
Last night, Zeng reported that in some parts of Wuhan the lockdown has become so strict that people aren't allowed to come outside at all.
The locking down in #Wuhan is getting tighter. No coming out at all now. #武汉 小区封锁加剧。从七天可出一次门变为任何时候不得出门。#COVID2019 #Coronavirus #CoronavirusOutbreak #coronaviruschina #武汉肺炎 #新冠肺炎 #新冠病毒 #少年译制 pic.twitter.com/kpbNgZAAjj— 曾錚 Jennifer Zeng (@jenniferatntd) February 17, 2020