2nd Coronavirus Case Confirmed In San Diego As China Sends 2,600 Army "Medical Staff" To Wuhan

Summary:

  • China's Hubei province admits a massive spike in virus cases and deaths (14,840 additional cases and  242 additional deaths)
  • CDC confirms second case in San Diego
  • The Sun reports first case confirmed in London, bringing UK total to 9
  • China Grand Prix cancelled
  • Couple onboard 'Diamond Princess' tell CNBC situation is "frankly terrifying".
  • AFP publishes report exposing worsening shortages of food and supplies in Wuhan
  • Cruise ship rejected by four countries allowed to dock in Cambodia
  • Rumors of 10k in Wuhan not included in official count of cases
  • NYT follows WSJ in exploring problems with Chinese testing kits
  • Global Times says US should restart travel to China
  • US officials complain about China still denying American help
  • First ship-to-shore infection occurs in Japan from 'Diamond Princess'
  • State Department lets non-essential personnel and their families leave Hong Kong because of outbreak

* * *

Update (2050ET): Here comes martial law with Chinese characteristics. Moments ago, Bloomberg reported that China is sending 2,600 medical staff from the military to Wuhan, two weeks after it first deployed 450 "military medical staff" to Wuhan just as the pandemic was starting to spread.

It wasn't quite clear just what "medical staff from military" means, but what is clear is that nearly 3,000 military personnel are going to Wuhan to make sure that there are no more incidents, like someone leaking another deadly pandemic from China's only Level 4 biohazard lab, which just happens to be in Wuhan. That, or someone actually escaping alive from the quarantine zone for 11 million people.

* * *

Update (1950ET): CDC officials confirmed to a local TV station that a second case of the virus has been confirmed in San Diego, bringing the total in the US to 14.

The patient was under quarantine at the same U.S. airbase in San Diego where another repatriated American was previously diagnosed with the disease known as Covid-19. There had been no contact between the two patients, who were on different flights coming out of China and were housed in separate facilities, indicating that the virus hadn’t spread between them. That suggests that more cases are highly likely as one case likely didn't infect the other.

* * *

Update (1855ET): Hubei just released its latest round of coronavirus outbreak figures, and in a clear confirmation of the 'conspiracy theory' that China had altered the way it was reporting Covid-19 deaths and cases - clearly in order to suggest that things were improving and you should go back to work, while ideally buying stocks, the province at the epicenter of the Coronavirus pandemic just came clean and the numbers are stunning.

The number of cases exploded by 14,840, resulting in a total of 48,206 cases, including 13,332 clinically diagnose cases:

What happened? Recall that on Monday we published "This Is How China Is Rigging The Number Of Coronavirus Infections" in which we explained that China on Feb 7 moved the goalposts by changing the definition of the term "infection" and that "going forward patients who tested positive for the virus but have no symptoms will no longer be regarded as confirmed."

Well, it appears that a few days later, China changed its mind and has reverted to the original definition of "infection" while also including "clinical diagonisis" to determine if a new infection had take place. This is how Hubei explained the change:.

With the deepening of understanding of new coronavirus pneumonia and the accumulation of experience in diagnosis and treatment, in view of the characteristics of the epidemic in Hubei Province, the General Office of the National Health and Health Commission and the Office of the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine issued the "Diagnosis and Treatment Plan for New Coronavirus Infected Pneumonia (Trial (Version) "adds" clinical diagnosis "to the case diagnosis classification in Hubei Province, so that patients can receive standardized treatment according to confirmed cases as early as possible to further improve the success rate of treatment.

According to the plan, Hubei Province has recently conducted investigations on suspected cases and revised the diagnosis results, and newly diagnosed patients were diagnosed according to the new diagnosis classification. In order to be consistent with the classification of case diagnosis issued by other provinces across the country, starting today, Hubei Province will include the number of clinically diagnosed cases into the number of confirmed cases for publication.

Of course, the real reason for the original change as noted above was to give the impression that China was succeeding in containing the infection, which helped boost stocks - both in China and globally - sharply higher, and in the case of the S&P, to new all time highs.

And while China can now claim it wants a more comprehensive definition of "infection" because it is suddenly so concerned about all those people it ordered to go back to work on Monday (with new cases now emerging in people's workplaces forcing an immediate quarantine of all workers and co-workers), it somehow also changed the definition of "death", because at the same time as the explosion in new cases, which clearly indicates that the pandemic is now clearly out of control, the number of reported deaths in Hubei alone spiked by 242 to 1,310 (we are still waiting for the official number of deaths across all of China which will likely add quite a few more cases to the Hubei total).

In kneejerk reaction to the shocking surge in both new cases and deaths, Dow futures immediately plunged...

And yuan is tumbling...

Who could have seen that coming? The stock market wanted so badly to believe the Chinese data... bonds and commodities knew better.

But of course, smart traders who were paying attention yesterday might have been able to deduce that something was up. Beijing dismissed some of the top health officials in Wuhan and Hubei earlier this week, and last week it administered administrative punishments to hundreds of lower-level bureaucrats.

They have already been set up to take the fall for President Xi and his inner circle. Let the scapegoating begin.

*  *  *

Update (1515ET): What are they hiding? Well, isn't it obvious?

Yesterday, Dr. Tedros revealed at a WHO press conference that China had finally agreed to allow a team of international experts to study the outbreak on the mainland. This ended weeks of Beijing steadfastly refusing any international aid as more than a thousand people died in Hubei's overwhelmed hospitals.

Now, US health officials are complaining that Beijing is still blocking them from visiting China by refusing to allow Americans to join the WHO team traveling to China. US officials affirmed Wednesday afternoon in New York that they still hadn't been given a reason for the refusal, and we strongly doubt one will be offered. After all, the Politburo certainly isn't in the habit of explaining its decisions.

In the US, the CDC warned during a press conference too early to know if warm spring weather will slow or stop the coronavirus outbreak, as it usually is enough to bring the annual North American flu season to an end.

Contradicting President Trump, Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said Wednesday that she hopes “it will go down as the weather warms up, but it’s premature to assume that."

The CDC also revealed earlier that some of the test kits it had distributed to state health officials might be defective, amid broader scrutiny of the tests that have so often failed to detect the virus in infected patients.

On Monday, Trump once again said from the White House that "heat" would kill the virus. President Trump promised China any help it needs weeks ago, and the CDC has repeatedly offered to send doctors and nurses, but China has repeatedly refused.

In other news, Treasury Secretary Steven Muchin said during a Wednesday interview that the virus outbreak would likely slow implementation of the US-China trade deal, the latest warning about the viability of the pact. We still need three to four more weeks of data from the outbreak to really begin to understand what the impact will be, Mnuchin added.

After a senior regime economist assured the Chinese public that the hit to economic growth as a result of the virus would be minimal, President Xi and the Communist Party's senior leaders have ordered local officials to accelerate the reopening of China's economy, including ordering local factories and offices back to work.

Earlier, President Xi and the leadership announced a slate of monetary and fiscal policy measures to support the Chinese economy, including tax cuts and yet more monetary easing.

But as markets found some degree of comfort in today's news out of China (despite looming doubts about Beijing's ability to contain the outbreak and whether the numbers released by the regime are legitimate), the 'Diamond Princess', a cruise ship quarantined at a port in Yokohama, has become the site of the first confirmed ship-to-shore transmission, as a Japanese government official who boarded the ship to survey the situation has been diagnosed with the virus, according to the New York Times. That brings the number of coronavirus cases stemming from the ship to 176.

In Hong Kong, the US State Department is allowing all nonemergency consulate employees and their families to leave because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Not long after China's top officials pledged to stabilize the Chinese economy and restore the world's confidence in the Middle Kingdom, WSJ reports that a survey of economists found 83% believe the outbreak will hurt Q1 growth in the US, where only 13 cases have been identified.

"The negative demand shock from coronavirus is significant," said Constance Hunter, chief economist at KPMG. China’s GDP will be impacted significantly and this will show up in everything from commodity prices to demand for global goods and services," she said.

Not to worry, though. We're sure that the patriotic socialist values of the Chinese people (or perhaps some badly goalseeked economic data) will come through in a pinch to save the Chinese economy from a house of cards style liquidity crisis.

* * *

Update (1325ET): As Twitter digests reports of the first confirmed case in London, adding to Wednesday's torrent of coronavirus outbreak-related news, WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is speaking from Lausanne, delivering the WHO's latest update on the outbreak, briefings that have become a daily occurrence.

Sounding uncharacteristically pessimistic, Dr. Tedros warned that the outbreak could still go in any direction, suggesting that Beijng's heroic efforts aren't really the "model for emerging nations", as he once described it.

In other news, Global Times editor Hu Xijin, a longtime mouthpiece for the Communist regime on Twitter, also took the next step in Beijing's carefully crafted narrative (which CNBC's Eunice Yoon unravels in a string of tweets included below): He demanded that Western airlines reopen travel to China.

This comes as a senior economist for the regime said Wednesday that China can still hit its growth targets for 2020, and that the outbreak would likely be only a temporary bump.

As evidence, Hu cites a drop in new cases outside Hubei, ignoring all the other frightening stats that his own regime has voluntarily shared with the press.

* * *

Update (1310ET): After a relatively slow day for coronavirus news, the Murdoch-owned UK tabloid the Sun reported Wednesday afternoon that the first coronavirus case has been confirmed in London.

The infected individual is a Chinese national. The paper said officials will now be scrambling to trace his steps and find and test everybody whom he came in contact with.

The news comes as 12 Sussex schools have been placed on infection alert as some teachers and students have been asked to quarantine themselves.

The paper is citing a source as city hall.

BBC reports all 83 people who were being held in quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral have tested negative.

This case in London is the UK's ninth.

The news hits just as the WHO's is beginning its latest press update at its headquarters in Switzerland.

* * *
Update (0955ET): CNBC's Eunice Yoon, one of the most reliable western journalists covering the coronavirus outbreak from Beijing, just perfectly summed up the current state of things in China, as the regime projects a message of optimism to appease markets and investors...while many remain skeptical of China's numbers.

Late last night, Reuters reported on remarks from an influential economist at a top regime-controlled think tank. Cai Fang, the vice head of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, insisted in a column published in the People's Daily, the Communist Party's main newspaper, that the impact of the virus-inspired lockdown would be a "one off", and that China's economy will quickly recover and meet the government's growth goals for the year.

Everybody knows China's economic data are ruthlessly goalseeked, so we suspect that these remarks will prove a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And don't forget - as Reuters reminds us - this year is critical for the Communist Party to fulfill its goal of doubling GDP in the ten years to 2020. They're just about on track, but a pullback now could ruin the whole enterprise and make them look weak. Which is why we suspect the data will be as doctored as it can reasonably be without it being immediately dismissed as unreliable.

* * *

Update (0824ET): At this point, some of the world's most prestigious media organizations, including WSJ and NYT, have reported that health officials are probably undercounting the number of coronavirus cases in Wuhan.

After WSJ spotlighted the issue in a story published online last night recounting how officials turned away seriously ill patients who failed to pass swabtests, the NYT followed up this morning with a piece about Beijing's efforts to speed up testing.

Dr. Zhang Xiaochun, who works in a hospital in Wuhan, was in dismay. Her patient had been running a fever for nine days, and a CT scan showed signs of pneumonia — symptoms of the new coronavirus sweeping across the central Chinese city.

But a test to confirm the diagnosis would take at least two days. To Dr. Zhang, that meant a delay in isolating her patient — and getting potentially lifesaving treatment.

This past week, Dr. Zhang started a social media campaign with an urgent call to simplify screening for the new coronavirus. It was an unusually public effort that quickly found support among public health experts and the government as China grapples with one of the deadliest epidemics in its recent history.

"The purpose is to isolate and treat quickly," Dr. Zhang said in a telephone interview. "It amounts to extraordinary measures taken in extraordinary times."

To fix the issue, Chinese health officials are trying to increase the supply of nucleic acid coronavirus tests, which they believe to be more reliable than swap tests, which often don't go deep enough into a patient's chest to find evidence of the virus.

A major bottleneck has been a shortage of nucleic acid testing kits used to confirm the presence of the coronavirus. So Dr. Zhang proposed that doctors could first use CT scans to detect pneumonia and quickly isolate and treat patients who have it.

CT scans are convenient and can produce immediate results, Dr. Zhang said. Experts say people infected with the coronavirus would be likely to have lesions in both lungs.

Following a week of Chinese police rounding up anyone suspected to be infected and locking them away in an official quarantine, the rumors are that there are 10,000 cases in Wuhan who have been clinically diagnosed via CAT scans of their chest (as we explained earlier, swab tests being used in viral tests are notoriously unreliable), but haven't been included in the official statistics, as twitter user @fxmacro reminds us.

Even the WHO has warned that we're only seeing "the tip of the iceberg."

It's definitely something worth thinking about.

The number of cases and deaths hasn't changed since Tuesday night in the US, with the number of confirmed cases around the world topping 45,000, with 44,653 of those in mainland China, according to the SCMP.

We leave you with this clip shared by reporter Jennifer Zeng of hazmat-suit-wearing workers loading bodies into a van...horrifying scenes that have become common in Wuhan.

* * *

Stock markets across the globe are back on the front foot Wednesday morning after officials in Hubei reported a lower number of confirmed cases, and a lower number of deaths, in their morning update, inspiring optimism that the "People's War" - as President Xi put it - against Covid-19 can be won.

Interestingly enough, while the market felt satisfied that Chinese health authorities are finally getting a handle on the virus now that Beijing and Shanghai have joined the ranks of cities suffering 'partial lockdowns', most of the major newsflow concerning the outbreak shifted to Britain, where a 'super spreader' who picked up the virus in Singapore has apparently wreaked havoc on the country's national health system, having infected at least two medical personnel.

Officials at Worthing Hospital in West Sussex confirmed late Tuesday that a member of their hospital staff was among the eight confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK announced earlier this week. The Worthing staff member is different from a locum doctor working in Brighton who is also among the eight confirmed cases.

Yesterday, it was reported that two prisoners at HMP Bullingdon - including one who was recently extradited from Thailand - are being tested for the virus and being held in isolation. They are both reported to be suffering flu-like symptoms.

As of Tuesday evening, a total of 1,358 people have been tested for coronavirus in the UK, of which 1,350 were confirmed negative and eight positive, the Department of Health said. But as the WSJ reminded us last night, virus tests are often inaccurate and can even rule out patients who are obviously suffering from symptoms of viral pneumonia.

The health-care worker at Worthing went on to treat "a small number" of patients over two days before he was pulled into a quarantine.

As Worthing hospital posted signs calling for patients to immediately report any mysterious flu-like symptoms, the seventh Brighton and Hove schools issued warnings to parents about the coronavirus outbreak on the south coast, prompting some to keep their children home. Two families with children at Carden Primary School have been told to isolate in place.

The Guardian also reported some details about the British man and alleged druggie who was expatriated back from Thailand and may have carried the virus with him.

The 31-year-old man's name is Mark Rumble, was flown back to the UK on Jan. 27. He was arrested in Pattaya, Thailand, last November

In other news, CNBC conducted an interview with a couple stuck aboard the Diamond Princess, two of more than two dozen Americans stuck on board the ship. The couple said the experience of watching people get carted off the ship day to day has been "frankly terrifying", and they questioned why authorities have been evacuating healthy people in recent days.

"They say [Feb. 19] - if we're healthy on that date we can go. They say we're all safest here quarantining in place. If that's true, then why are they offloading buses of people who they don't want to get sick? We've had 100 new cases since the quarantine started. This is not making sense."

Will they ever go on another cruise? "It'll be a while."

The couple added that they had found a hospital in Fla. that would take them under quarantine conditions, and aren't sure why they need to stay here on a cruise ship moored in Japan if they haven't tested positive for the virus.

Since being quarantined eight days ago, 136 passengers and crew aboard the 'Diamond Princess' have been found to have contracted the virus, making it the center of the largest outbreak outside mainland China.

In Wuhan, intensifying supply shortages of food, medicine, fuel and other critical supplies are beginning to weigh on the local population, who have been trapped in place for more than two weeks, according to an Epoch Times reporter.

A brave team of AFP reporters who have been documenting the effort to combat the virus on the frontlines of the outbreak published a sweeping report on Tuesday exposing how truly isolated Wuhan had become.

Racing fans received some disappointing news last night when it was reported that the Chinese Grand Prix is expected to be postponed because of the outbreak. The Formula-1 race was scheduled to be held in Shanghai on April 19.

In other news, Indonesia has rejected experts suspicions that health officials might be hiding instances of viral infection. In Russia, two Chinese who were found to be infected and quarantined in Siberia last month have recovered, and been released. Both had 'mild' forms of the virus. Russia has closed its border with China and North Korea because of the outbreak and suspended

Last night, we reported that the death toll from the virus had climbed above 1,000 as Hubei reported another 94 deaths.

Finally, we leave readers with a sliver of good news: A cruise ship with no coronavirus patients that had been denied by four countries, and was in danger of running out of food and fuel in the next day or two, has been allowed to dock in Cambodia.