Wuhan mayor expects 1,000 new infections to surface; 2,200 suspected patients await tests
— Coronavirus update:
- Mayor of Wuhan expects 1,000 new infections to surface as 2,200 suspected patients await tests. Wuhan Mayor Zhou Xianwang made the announcement just hours after the national health commission said that the number of confirmed infections had soared 50% over the prior 24 hours to 1,975 people across 30 provinces. “We are now in a critical period of prevention and control,” Ma Xiaowei, head of China’s cabinet-level National Health Commission, said at a news briefing in Beijing on Sunday to deal with the unnamed coronavirus that has infected more than 2,000 people and killed at least 56, the vast majority of them in central China’s Hubei province. Several health experts say the tally is likely a fraction of the actual cases.
- The World Health Organization says it’s too early to declare a global health emergency. Cities with a combined population over 36 million are in lockdown over the key Lunar New Year’s holiday. The Lunar New Year break is the critical period to prevent the spread of the virus, authorities said at a press conference Sunday. More than 1,600 people will be sent to Wuhan, epicenter of the outbreak, over the next two days to assist in efforts to contain the spread. Hong Kong announced that it was closing its schools for several weeks.
- With the disease spreading to nearly 10 other countries, including the U.S., airports around the world are screening passengers from China.
- California became the third U.S. state to confirm an infection from coronavirus as China said the pneumonia-like illness is spreading more quickly. The person, who traveled from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, is in isolation in a local hospital and in good condition, according to a statement from the Orange County Health Care Agency’s Communicable Disease Control Division. It’s the third case in the U.S.
- Wuhan, the city in which the coronavirus began, is geographically 10 times the size of Dallas or San Diego, and contains 11 million residents. At least eight other cities in the region are under transport lockdown, meaning some 40 million people are restricted from traveling, according to Chinese state media reports.
- China banned wildlife trade across the country. Officials told reporters Sunday that information on the new virus is limited even though the pathogen was identified relatively quickly, and its transmission is increasing. The shipping and sale of wild animals won’t be allowed, and breeding sites will be quarantined, the government said in a separate statement, warning against the consumption of wild animals.
- Chinese authorities have banned events, including its major new year festival, and have shuttered major tourist attractions, including the Forbidden City, the National Museum, and parts of the Great Wall. Shanghai has shut down several events as well, including some of its river cruises, but the major one catching most attention arose online Friday when Shanghai Disneyland announced it was closing its doors for an unspecified duration.
- Scientists in China are ramping up efforts to develop a vaccine against the deadly coronavirus. Initial focus is on an enzyme that different kinds of coronaviruses need to replicate themselves. Gao Fu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said the virus wasn’t showing signs of mutating into a more deadly form. “As it transmits from human to human, it would evolve and mutate based on our past knowledge,” he said. Gao said a vaccine would be available soon, though he didn’t give a timeline for its availability. There is no known cure for the new virus, which causes pneumonia symptoms and is particularly dangerous to the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. It is similar to the coronavirus that caused an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, in 2002 and 2003, which killed nearly 800 people after emerging in southern China. Link to a Bloomberg opinion item on the topic.
- Investment strategy. While most are noting the potential overall impact on China's economy. If the virus continues to spread, “the economic impact for China — and potentially elsewhere — will be significant,” according to a study by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which said up to one percentage point could be shaved off the country’s 2020 real GDP growth rate. Other analysts were more pessimistic. Meanwhile, investors are waiting to see what, if any, stimulus measures are rolled out for various sectors once the disease is better understood and contained.