Coronavirus: 28,299 people infected; 565 dead
The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus rose above 28,000 by the end of Tuesday, and Hong Kong reported its first death from the virus, which has killed at least 565, all but two of them in mainland China.
Japan said Wednesday that 10 people on a cruise ship with about 3,700 passengers and crew aboard tested positive for the virus, and the health minister said everyone is likely to be kept on the ship for two weeks.
The Diamond Princess has been quarantined since Monday night in Yokohama, a port city just south of Tokyo after an 80-year-old man from Hong Kong who had been on the ship tested positive for the virus. The man disembarked in Hong Kong and is no longer on the ship.
Belgium reported its first confirmed case, one of the nine Belgian nationals repatriated on Sunday from Wuhan, Health Minister Maggie De Block said on Tuesday at a press conference. The patient had no symptoms and was being quarantined in a hospital.
Gambling center Macau, whose casinos racked up revenue roughly six times that of the Las Vegas Strip last year, is closing casinos for 15 days because of the coronavirus, Chief Executive Ho Iat-seng said Tuesday. Two local residents confirmed to have the virus Tuesday worked for casinos, health authorities said. The city had 10 cases as of Tuesday afternoon.
The Chinese special territory had previously restricted only entry to the casinos by people who had been to China’s Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital.
In China, a member of the National Health Commission’s group to study the virus acknowledged in an interview with state broadcaster China Central television that resources in Wuhan weren’t adequate to handle the high number of cases there. Jiang Rongmen said that was part of the reason there is a higher death rate in the city. The death rate from the virus is 4.9% in the city but 2.1% nationwide, according to the health commission.
Another official with the health commission sought to offer reassurance at a press conference on Tuesday. Most infected patients have only mild symptoms, Jiao Yahui said.
Still, the list of local governments restricting movement also grew. Hangzhou, home to tech giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and the world’s No. 1 maker of surveillance cameras, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology, said it was closing all public places other than markets and pharmacies. It also joined other cities in allowing each household to send out only one person every two days for basic necessities, according to a government notice published Tuesday. Hangzhou has more than 100 confirmed cases of the virus.
The city of about 10 million people is a popular tourist destination about two hours’ drive from Shanghai and the capital of Zhejiang province. Wenzhou, about 200 miles south in the same province, had previously imposed similar movement restrictions. Several other cities across China—including Harbin, more than 1,500 miles north of Wuhan, with 63 confirmed cases— introduced similar controls.
Nike Inc. on Tuesday said it had closed about half of its stores in China, joining other retailers in responding to the outbreak.
Hong Kong, a special territory that neighbours Macau, recorded its first death from the coronavirus, a 39-year-old man who had been to the central city of Wuhan in January. It was the second coronavirus death outside mainland China, following the death in the Philippines of a 44-year-old man from Wuhan on Saturday.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has faced calls from some politicians and medical professionals in the city to fully close the border with the mainland. The city, which has 18 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, is set to shut some of its busiest checkpoints with mainland China late Tuesday night, tightening the border for the second time since the outbreak began.
Singapore’s Ministry of Health reported six new cases, four of them resulting from local human-to-human transmission, but said there was no evidence of sustained community transmission. The city-state, among the first countries to impose travel restrictions on people from mainland China, has more than 20 confirmed cases.
Meanwhile, the U.K. upgraded its travel warning, telling citizens who were in China to leave if they were able. Previously, the advisory had applied only to Hubei. New Zealand issued a similar advisory.
India said it had banned all Chinese citizens and others who had recently been in the virus-stricken country, from entering the country, and Taiwan said on Tuesday that it would refuse entry starting Friday to foreigners who had been to mainland China in the past two weeks. Chinese nationals largely aren’t permitted by their own government to travel to the self-ruling island as tourists.
Taiwan also imposed limits on purchasing face masks, which are in short supply in the region as people try to protect themselves against infection. South Korea was set to implement a law on Wednesday that would punish hoarding protective masks with up to two years in prison and a fine of more than $40,000.
The Macau government’s website had a page that updated every 15 minutes to track which stores had face masks in stock and how many.
In South Korea, Hyundai Motor Co. said it would suspend production at all of its plants in Korea as its supply chain had been crippled by the outbreak in China. Suspension schedules would vary by line, as it sought suppliers outside China. Hyundai had to shut down one of its major assembly lines in the southern city of Ulsan on Tuesday amid a lack of auto components after its China-based parts suppliers suspended work. The carmaker has seven major factories in South Korea, including five in Ulsan, and 10 plants overseas.
The United Arab Emirates followed several other Middle Eastern countries, including Qatar and Iran, in restricting travel to China. Flights, except those going to Beijing, will be suspended indefinitely starting Wednesday, the aviation authority there said on Monday.
Chinese stock markets steadied Tuesday, after plunging on the first day of trading after the Lunar New Year holiday, despite liquidity injections from the central bank and vows to support financial institutions. The People’s Bank of China injected a further $71.2 billion of liquidity through reverse repurchase agreements into the financial system Tuesday, adding to the $171 billion injected Monday.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index closed up 1.3% Tuesday, one day after falling 7.7% and notching its steepest one-day decline since August 2015.
According to the state-run People’s Daily newspaper, China has spent roughly $6.7 billion on epidemic prevention, with the majority going to patient treatment and subsidies for medical workers.