China Confirms 70 New Deaths, Raising Global Total To 562, As 10 More Cases Confirmed Aboard 'Diamond Princess'

Summary:

  • More than 28,266 cases, 565 deaths globally

  • President Xi says China 'capable of suppressing outbreak

  • Wisconsin confirms first case of coronavirus, bringing US total to 12

  • First babies born infected with coronavirus

  • Hong Kong closes borders with mainland

  • Doctors say death rate exaggerated by Wuhan fatalities

  • Cruise ship quarantined in Hong Kong

  • WHO asks for more money as it 'confirms' China's numbers

  • 2 planeloads of Americans evacuated from Wuhan landed in California early Wednesday

  • CDC says a total of 4 evacuations flights from Wuhan either have returned, or will return, to the US this week.

  • US Coast Guard checking ships arriving in US

  • 10 more cases identified aboard 'Diamond Princess'

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Update (1850ET): 10 more nCoV cases have been confirmed among the ~3,000 passengers of the Princess Diamond cruise ship, which is being quarantined in Yokohama.

Though authorities haven't said much, it's pretty clear that all of these cases - 20 so far - were transmitted via human-to-human contact with the passenger who was diagnosed with the virus in Hong Kong.

After Japanese authorities assured the public that everything would be fine and that they had the virus contained, this cruise ship has just dropped a nasty problem in their lap.

* * *

Update (1817ET): South Korea just confirmed four more cases of the virus, bringing their total to 23.

That moves them into fifth place in front of Hong Kong...

...not that it's a race.

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Update (1715ET): The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak has passed 560 after Chinese authorities announced 70 new deaths and more than 3,000 new cases.

Hubei alone reported 2,987 new cases and 70 new deaths, the largest single-day death toll yet. There are now just below 20,000 confirmed cases in Hubei alone.

Earlier, the SCMP pointed out that China has reported a significant drop in new suspected cases and a rise in both the number of confirmed cases, and the number of cases in life-threatening condition since Tuesday, a sign that the epidemic is speeding up. The number of new suspected cases dropped from 5,173 on Sunday and 5,072 on Monday to 3,971 on Tuesday. In Hubei alone, new suspected cases dropped from 3,260 on Sunday, and 3,182 on Monday to 1,957 cases on Tuesday.

Here's the latest count from the SCMP:

Suspiciously, the death toll has been curiously steady at around 2.1% even as more and more cases have been confirmed every day.

* * *

Update (1415ET): It hasn't even been two hours since the CDC affirmed that no new cases of the virus had been confirmed since the weekend, and Wisconsin Health Authorities have just confirmed the first case in their state - bringing the national total to 12.

Earlier, a spokesperson for the Coast Guard said it will begin checking passengers and crew of ships arriving in the US for symptoms of the virus, particularly if they're from certain parts of China.

"These are pretty tight as far as advance notice of arrivals, the Coast Guard’s screening every vessel coming in," said Coast Guard spokesman Kurt Fredrickson. "We have very good visibility on where ships have been, where the crew are from."

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Update (1330ET): Just the other day, a spokesperson for the government in Beijing blasted the US for spreading panic about the coronavirus outbreak. Now, another mouthpiece for the regime is hinting that the US should offer China some "leniency" on fulfilling its obligations under the 'Phase 1' trade deal, confirming the suspicions of some analysts who anticipated a problem after the White House said it still expected China to adhere to its commitments.

So the virus is now threatening both the global growth and trade detente narratives. We suspect the market will start pricing in more rate cuts in the not too distant future.

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Update (1300ET): The CDC held a 'brief' press briefing on Wednesday to discuss the ongoing effort to evacuate Americans from Wuhan, and to offer an update on the status of the outbreak in the US.

There have been no new confirmed cases in the US since the last update, the CDC said. 206 people have tested negative, and 76 more patients remain under observation. All of the confirmed US cases are recovering and are expected to survive.

The CDC added that two planes landed in California Wednesday (as we noted earlier), and two more tomorrow. The planes will land/landed at Travis Air Force Base in Sacramento, CA, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, CA, Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX Eppley Airfield in Omaha, NE.

Passengers will be screened upon landing and if there is reason to suspect they have been infected they will be quarantined for 14 days.

But with a larger outbreak expected, the CDC said it started shipping its coronavirus test kits to more than 100 public health labs nationwide. Each kit services 700-800 patient samples. After states validate the tests, which could take a few days, they'll start reporting any new cases directly.

The mandatory quarantine orders - the first in 50 years - are the beginning of what could be a "long response," according to the CDC's Nancy Messonnier.

"This could be the beginning of what could be a long response,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier said.

She also described the threat as an "unprecedented" public health threat.

"While we recognize this is an unprecedented action, we are facing an unprecedented public health threat," Messonnier said last week.

The four latest evacuation flights come after the first government-chartered flight from Wuhan landed at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, California last week. The flight’s 195 passengers remain under quarantine at the base.
 

Travel to China from the U.S. is restricted, and U.S. residents in China are encouraged to leave as soon as possible, following CDC and Chinese authority prevention guidance.

If you're looking for an easy primer on the virus and its history, the CDC recently tweeted this video.

Around the world, the march of suspected cases continues on. Brazil just announced 11 suspected cases - what would be the first cases in South America, if confirmed. In Cali, the state with the most confirmed cases in the US, five health care workers at Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose were exposed to the new coronavirus while treating a patient there, and have now been sent home and told to remain isolated until Feb. 11.

Those workers sure are lucky they aren't in China.

* * *

Update (1100ET): At this point, most people who have been paying attention probably understand that the coronavirus pandemic probably won't be 'contained' within China

But in case you had not yet been disabused of that notion, we'd like to turn things over to the WHO, which has repeatedly defended China's response and transparency. In what looks like an attempt to shore up confidence in the numbers being released by Beijing, the WHO have "confirmed" that more than 3,100 new cases of the virus were discovered in China over the last 24 hours.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a Wednesday afternoon news conference in Switzerland that the reported cases are "the most cases in a single day since the outbreak started."

Now that nCoV has been declared a global pandemic, the WHO said it needs more resources to fight it: So Dr. Tedros announced a response plan and is requesting additional funding to the tune of more than half a billion dollars.

"We are requesting $675 million (in) U.S. dollars to fund the plan for the next 3 months," he said on a call with reporters, explaining that only $60 million of that will fund WHO operations while the rest will go toward supporting countries fighting to contain. "Our message to the international community is invest today or pay more later." The WHO has already tapped $9 million of funding from its contingency fund for emergencies, Tedros said.

Perhaps China wasn't pleased with the WHO's admission that the virus is a dangerous pandemic. They can't simply turn to Beijing for money to clean up a global mess that China made?

In what might be a preview of a CDC presser expected early Wednesday afternoon, BBG reports that top American infectious disease experts now fully expect a major outbreak in the US.

"It is not a matter of if—it is a matter of when," said Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security and a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America. "There is not a doubt this is going to end up in most countries eventually."

At this point, the best-case scenario is mitigation: preventing every country from turning into Wuhan.

"This is about mitigation at this point, and keeping the global spread as minimal as possible," said Rebecca Katz, a professor and director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University.

Only 11 cases have been confirmed in the US so far, even as more Americans evacuated from Wuhan arrived in California early Wednesday.

Two planes carrying coronavirus evacuees landed at Travis Air Force Base in Solano County early Wednesday morning. The second plane arrived around 4:25 am, according to ABC News.

The second plane carrying remaining coronavirus evacuees departed from Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield for Southern California.

Both planes came from Wuhan, China filled with Americans evacuated from the country due to the growing outbreak.

One of these planes will refuel and fly to San Diego in Southern California to take some evacuees there.

In other news, millions of Africans were probably relieved to hear that five people in Botswana tested negative for the virus on Wednesday. But across the continent, African countries are rallying their "fragile" medical infrastructure to face the task of containing the virus. According to Reuters, isolation wards stand ready inside hospitals in Khartoum, labs in Senegal and Madagascar have stocked up on testing equipment and passengers arriving in Gambia, Cameroon and Guinea are being screened for fever and other symptoms.

The African CDCP has activated an emergency operation center to coordinate the response to the virus across more than 54 governments. They know early detection will be critical to preventing a full-blown outbreak.

John Nkengasong, Africa’s CDC director, told a briefing in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa this week that the activation of the emergency operation centre would create a single incident system to manage the outbreak across the continent.

The Africa CDC will also hold a training workshop in Senegal for 15 African countries on laboratory diagnosis, he said.

The continent has more than doubled the number of laboratories now equipped to diagnose the viral infection, this week adding facilities in Ghana, Madagascar and Nigeria and to established testing labs in South Africa and Sierra Leone.

"By the end of the week we expect that an additional 24 countries (in Africa) will receive the reagents needed to conduct the tests and will have the test running," a spokeswoman for the WHO’s Africa Region told Reuters.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has barred its citizens from traveling to China, Burkina Faso has asked Chinese citizens to stay away for now, and Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda have all suspended flights to China. We're surprised more of their neighbors haven't followed suit.

* * *

Two days ago, Chinese health authorities breathed a sigh of relief as a newborn tested negative for the hyper-contagious virus, which bears suspicious similarities to HIV.

Unfortunately, another newborn hasn't been so lucky: media reports claimed the first case of mother-to-child transmission has been confirmed in Wuhan.

Picking up on reports in Chinese media, the Daily Mail reported Wednesday that the newborn baby of a coronavirus patient in Wuhan had been diagnosed with the deadly disease just 30 hours after birth, prompting doctors to reckon with the possibility that the virus could be routinely passed from pregnant mother to child, in addition to feces and aerosol transfer. The gender of the infected child, who was born on Sunday, has not been released. The baby's condition is said to be 'stable' and it is being closely monitored.

"This reminds us to pay attention to a potential new transmission route of the coronavirus - vertical transmission from mothers to babies," said Dr Zeng Lingkong, chief physician from the hospital's Department of Neonatal Medicine.

The newborn is one of the two babies at Wuhan Children's Hospital that have been found to carry the coronavirus. The other baby was infected by a wet nurse after being born healthy. In Wuhan, babies are being delivered by doctors in hazmat suits.

Funny thing is...

Meanwhile, after reporting dozens of new deaths late Tuesday evening in New York, total coronavirus cases remained at 24,628 Wednesday morning after a few new cases were reported around the world overnight. The global death toll remains at 492, according to SCMP.

Now that Wuhan has finished the first of two new coronavirus hospitals adding 1,000 beds, the city has started setting up three modular hospitals to provide another 3,800 beds for patients with mild symptoms of infection. A second hospital under construction is expected to be finished in the coming days.

As Beijing struggles to battle anti-Chinese sentiment around the world, Bloomberg reports that "Indonesia's scariest market" has just taken bat soup off the menu.

* * *

During an emergency meeting of China's highest policy-setting body on Monday, President Xi reportedly called on all Communist Party officials to work together to fight the viral outbreak, which has grown into a serious threat to stability on the mainland. In addition to emphasizing the seriousness of the virus, Xi also threatened to punish any local officials caught slacking (hundreds have already been published as part of his scapegoating efforts). 

But after eight days of radio silence outside of the state-controlled media reports, Xi appeared in public on Wednesday for the first time since the outbreak caught the world's attention.

During an appearance alongside Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in Beijing, Xi said China had imposed strict measures to contain the outbreak, and promised to look after Cambodian students in Wuhan.

"China is confident and capable of containing the outbreak," he said. He added that the Cambodian students stuck in Wuhan would be well taken care of by the Chinese government.

The president added that Chinese laws against eating wild animals (like...bats) must be fully enforced, along with all other strictures imposed to fight the virus (like all of those lockdowns requiring millions of terrified Chinese to stay inside).

"Currently we are at the critical moment of controlling the epidemic," he said. "Offences jeopardising disease control, including resistance to control measures, violence towards medical staff, counterfeiting medical materials and the spreading of rumours must be severely curtailed."

Despite Xi's optimistic words, another Chinese official told state media that the situation in places like Wuhan is still "severe", and that the city faces many "challenges and pressures."

In other news, yet another cruise ship has been waylaid by the outbreak: After Japanese officials confirmed last night that nearly a dozen passengers aboard the "Diamond Princess", a cruise ship presently being quarantined in Yokohama, had tested positive for the virus.

Now, Reuters reports that Hong Kong is testing more than 1,800 passengers and crew aboard a cruise ship for coronavirus after some crew members reported fevers and other suspicious symptoms. Authorities were not letting anyone leave the ship without explicit permission.

In the latest round of speculation about the virus's fatality rate, doctors told Reuters that the fatality rate has been exaggerated because overwhelmed Wuhan is struggling with many more preventable deaths, along with underreporting of mild cases.

"In an outbreak your really have to interpret fatality rates with a very skeptical eye, because often it’s only the very severe cases that are coming to people’s attention," said Amesh Adalja, an expert in pandemic preparedness at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore.

"It’s very hard to say those numbers represent anything like the true burden of infection" said Adalja, who estimates current fatality rates are likely below 1%.

That's probably true, but still...one death in 23? The virus is clearly more of a threat to healthy people than Chinese authorities were initially willing to admit (remember when they said the virus only killed the elderly and those with serious co-occurring conditions?).

As people reflect on China's extensive lockdowns forcing millions to remain inside Wuhan and other cities. In the central Chinese city, which has been on lockdown for more than a week, found a 43-year-old native of Wuhan who climbed up rusty pipes to the third-floor balcony of an apartment to gain entry into the home of a middle-aged couple - to feed 2 starving cats trapped inside 10 days. Locals have said they're afraid to leave their houses for fear of being targeted by drones, or by police.

Reuters reports that many in Wuhan are taking drastic steps to feed starving pets.

In the latest sign of how the virus is impacting airlines, Cathay Pacific has asked employees to take unpaid leave. On Tuesday, the airline, which is partially owned by the Chinese government, said it plans to cut about 30% of capacity over the next two months, including about 90% of flights to mainland China.

Dozens of airlines have suspended some or all of their routes to China. Jefferies analysts warned clients in a note that Cathay would report a loss in the first half of 2020 thanks to the outbreak, though they expect performance to rebound strongly in the second half.

In the US, former FDA Director Dr. Scott Gottlieb reiterated on CNBC that an outbreak in the US is inevitable (indeed it's already started).

After China accused the US of provoking unnecessary panic over the virus (why won't everyone just listen to the WHO?), State TV published a report declaring racism to be "the most dangerous" aspect of the outbreak.

More severe than a fast-spreading virus that shares characteristics of the flu, pneumonia and HIV?

In other virus news, earlier, Hong Kong acquiesced to striking health care workers and authorized the closure of all borders with China. Meanwhile, a WHO spokesperson said there are "no effective remedies" proven to treat coronavirus - this amid reports that AIDS meds and some flu meds had been found to be effective for some patients.

As rescue operations continue with Canada becoming the latest to dispatch a plane to evacuate citizens trapped in Wuhan, Canadian media reported that the plane sent for the evacuation is awaiting permission from Chinese authorities, mirroring delays that afflicted previous missions carried out by the British and others.

Finally, have you been dreading that inevitable conversation where you have to explain the coronavirus outbreak to your kids? Don't worry - Time Magazine has got you covered.