Korea Cases Top 2,000; Nigeria Confirms Infection: Virus Update

Bloomberg News
Korea Cases Top 2,000; Nigeria Confirms Infection: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) -- The number of coronavirus cases in South Korea crossed 2,000. Japan is closing schools to limit the spread of the outbreak. New cases continue to appear outside of China with New Zealand and Lithuania reporting their first infections. Nigeria confirmed its first case, the first reported in sub-Saharan Africa.

Equity markets in Hong Kong, Japan and Australia all tumbled. U.S. health authorities moved to greatly expand the number of people who will be tested, adding travelers from several new countries and people with unexplained, severe respiratory illnesses. California is monitoring 8,400 people for signs of the virus after they traveled to Asia. The virus has spread “very slowly” in the U.S., President Donald Trump said in a tweet.

Key Developments

Confirmed cases worldwide pass 83,000; global deaths more than 2,800China death toll at 2,788, up 44; cases climb to 78,824, up 327South Korea confirms 256 more cases, bringing total to 2,022Singapore emerges as litmus test for coronavirus containmentHong Kong dog found to have ‘low level’ of virusCoronavirus crisis seeds chaos in Washington and on Wall Street

Click VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus and here for maps and charts. For analysis of the impact from Bloomberg Economics, click here.

Finnair Warns on Profit Due to Virus (3:47 p.m. HK)

Finnair Oyj revised its outlook and warned on profit due to the “fast-developing situation with the coronavirus and its wider than originally estimated impact on the global aviation market,” the company said in a statement.

Fast Retailing Reopens More Than 100 China Stores: Reuters (3:43 p.m. HK)

Fast Retailing Co., the owner of the Uniqlo clothing brand, reopened more than 100 stores in China in the past week, Reuters reported, citing a statement. Almost all partner factories restarted work, while 125 stores in China are still closed because of the virus.

Alitalia Plans About 4,000 Temporary Layoffs: Ansa (3:11 p.m. HK)

Alitalia SpA plans to extend temporary layoffs for about 4,000 workers following the coronavirus outbreak in Italy, Ansa reported. Alitalia will extend by seven months to the end of October a temporary layoff plan already in place for 1,175 workers to an additional 2,785 employees.

British Airways Parent Says Virus Makes Profit Uncertain (3:10 p.m. HK)

British Airways parent IAG SA said the spread of the coronavirus made it impossible to predict earnings this year, as demand weakens in Asia and Europe and companies cut back on businesses travel across the globe.

The airline group, which also includes Spain’s Iberia and Aer Lingus of Ireland, said it will reduce capacity by 1% to 2% this year, as industry events are canceled and companies impose restrictions on travel.

Germany Quarantines About 1,000 People in Heinsberg: Bild (3:03 p.m. HK)

An estimated 1,000 people are isolated in the German district of Heinsberg in North Rhine-Westphalia after an outbreak in the region, German newspaper Bild reported.

Sweden Reports Five New Cases (2:23 p.m. HK)

Five new cases have been confirmed in Sweden, the country’s Public Health Agency said in a statement. That brings the total confirmed cases in the country to seven.

BOE’s Carney Says Virus May Impact U.K. Economy: Sky (2:10 p.m. HK)

The Bank of England’s Mark Carney said the virus could result in an economic-growth downgrade for the U.K., Sky News reported, citing an interview with the central bank governor. Carney said the bank has already seen a drop in activity, though it’s too early to tell how badly the U.K. would be affected.

BASF Says Chemical Industry Taking Hit From Virus (2:01 p.m. HK)

The chemical industry became the latest sector to be hit by the coronavirus after German giant BASF SE warned the outbreak could help lead to the lowest growth in production since the financial crisis more than a decade ago.

The slump in demand may see the German supplier of plastics and additives slide to a second straight year of falling profit, BASF said in a statement on Friday. The epidemic will have a significant impact worldwide, particularly in the first and second quarters, which won’t be fully offset during the remainder of the year.

Trump Says Virus Has Spread ‘Very Slowly’ in U.S. (1:14 p.m. HK)

The coronavirus has spread “very slowly” in the U.S., President Donald Trump said in a tweet.

“So, the Coronavirus, which started in China and spread to various countries throughout the world, but very slowly in the U.S. because President Trump closed our border, and ended flights, VERY EARLY, is now being blamed, by the Do Nothing Democrats, to be the fault of ‘Trump,’” he said.

Singapore Ministers to Take Pay Cut on Virus: CNA (1:03 p.m. HK)

All political-office holders in Singapore will take a one-month salary cut in light of the coronavirus outbreak, CNA reported, citing comments from the country’s Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat. The government’s actions follow recent moves by some of Singapore’s top companies to freeze pay and cut bonuses as the country attempts to combat the impact of the virus.

U.A.E. Cancels Rest of Cycling Tour (Correct) (12:47 p.m. HK)

The United Arab Emirates has decided to scrap the remaining rounds of the 2020 U.A.E. Tour after two Italian team members tested positive for the coronavirus.

All remaining participants, organizers and administrative staff will be screened and some quarantined, according to the state-run Emirates News Agency. Other people who were in contact with the two cyclists will also be placed under observation.

(Corrects to clarify two Italian team members tested positive.)

New Zealand, Lithuania Report First Cases (12:38 p.m. HK)

New Zealand confirmed its first case after a person who recently returned from Iran was diagnosed with the illness, the Ministry of Health said Friday. The person in their 60s is in isolation in Auckland hospital, the ministry said in an emailed statement.

Separately, Lithuania reported its first case. The person was infected in the Italian city of Verona, RIA Novosti said.

Abe Adviser Says Japan Needs $45 Billion of Extra Spending (11:45 a.m. HK)

An adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan should compile another economic package with fresh spending of at least 5 trillion yen ($45 billion) to respond to a severe hit from the coronavirus outbreak.

“We should take it very seriously that this is terrible timing, coming right after the sales tax hike,” Etsuro Honda, one of the key architects of Abenomics, said in an interview. “The impact could be devastating in the short term.”

FDA Confirms First Drug Shortage Relating to Virus (11:40 a.m. HK)

The Food and Drug Administration confirmed the first drug shortage relating to the coronavirus, Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a statement. The announcement didn’t name the manufacturer but said “there are other alternatives that can be used by patients.” The shortage is due to an active ingredient used to make the drug, the FDA said.

South Korea Completes More Tests of Sect Members (11:31 a.m. HK)

South Korea’s health ministry completed tests for 1,299 members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus who showed symptoms of fever and coughing, among 9,334 members of the sect in Daegu, Vice Health Minister Kim Ganglip said at a briefing.

The results of the tests will be available during the weekend. So far, the ratio of confirmed cases to suspected cases is “very high.”

JPMorgan Restricts All Non-Essential Travel Globally (11:29 a.m. HK)

JPMorgan Chase & Co. issued global restrictions on non-essential travel to protect its employees and its business against the spreading coronavirus.

Because of the continuing spread of the virus, it’s now “restricting all international travel to essential travel only,” the New York-based bank said in a memo distributed to staff. The memo was confirmed by spokespeople at the bank.

Hyundai Halts Korea Plant as Worker Infected (10:34 a.m. HK)

Hyundai Motor Co. halted operations at its No. 2 plant in Ulsan for disinfection after a worker tested positive, Maeil Business Newspaper reported, without citing anyone.

Tokyo Disney to Shut (10:31 a.m. HK)

Tokyo Disney Resort will close for two weeks starting Saturday as a precaution to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, operator Oriental Land Co. said.

Two parks, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, will not accept visitors from Feb. 29 to March 15, the company said in a statement Friday. With Disney parks in Hong Kong and Shanghai already closed, this means all of the entertainment company’s resorts in Asia have shut down for the time being due to the spread of the virus.

South Korea’s Moon Sees Disapproval Rating Top 50% (9:53 a.m. HK)

South Korea President Moon Jae-in’s disapproval rating rose to 51%, the highest level since October, as the virus spreads in the country, a Gallup Korea poll showed. That’s up from 46% a week earlier. The poll showed 51% of respondents aren’t satisfied with the government’s response to the virus.

China to Resume Road Traffic in Lower-Risk Regions (9:16 a.m. HK)

China will resume buses, subways and taxis in urban and rural areas with lower coronavirus risk, the transport ministry said in a statement. The move is aimed at supporting factory resumptions and stabilizing the economy.

Nigeria Confirms First Infection (9:10 a.m. HK)

Nigeria confirmed its first case of the coronavirus in Lagos, the West African country’s biggest city and commercial capital, the Health Ministry said. It’s also the first reported in sub-Saharan Africa.

Algeria has also reported a case. Health experts have voiced concerns over the possible spread of the virus in places like Africa that may be ill-equipped to handle such a crisis.

South Korea Cases Top 2,000 (9:01 a.m. HK)

South Korea confirmed 256 more infections, bringing the total in the country to 2,022, the health ministry said in a statement. Among the 256, 182 cases are from Daegu, at the center of the outbreak, and 49 are from the neighboring North Gyeongsang province.

Hong Kong Dog Found to Have ‘Low Level’ of Virus (8:49 a.m. HK)

The pet dog of a coronavirus patient in Hong Kong has been found to have a “low level” of the virus, the Hong Kong government said.

The dog tested “weak positive,” the city’s agricultural and fisheries department said in a statement, without giving further details. Officials will carry out further tests to confirm whether the dog has really been infected, or if it was a result of environmental contamination of its mouth and nose.

Japan Children’s Day-Care Centers to Stay Open (8:06 a.m. HK)

Japan’s children’s day-care centers and after-school clubs will stay open, even as schools nationwide close for at least a month in a bid to control the outbreak, Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said. Japan wants to make it easy for people to take time off work, Kato said. This is an important time for controlling the domestic spread of the virus, he said.

Plague Inc. Removed From Apple’s Chinese Store (8:04 a.m. HK)

Plague Inc. -- the mobile simulation of a global pandemic that topped download charts in February after the outbreak -- has been removed from Apple Inc.’s Chinese app store. The eight-year-old game’s developers said on their website Chinese regulators determined it contained “illegal” content. The developers say they’re trying to contact the Cyberspace Administration of China to get the game back online.

Plague Inc. became the most downloaded paid game on iPhones in at least 80 countries early this month, according to research firm App Annie.

China Death Toll Rises to 2,788, Up 44 (7:53 a.m. HK)

China’s death toll rose to 2,788 by the end of Thursday as it reported 44 new fatalities, according to a statement from the country’s National Health Commission. The number of cases climbed to 78,824 as 327 additional infections were reported. Discharged patients increased by 3,622 to 36,117.

Hubei, the province at the center of the outbreak, had 318 additional cases and 41 new deaths.

Trump Says He’s Doing ‘Incredible Job’ (7:13 a.m. HK)

President Donald Trump said his administration has done an “incredible job” preventing the spread of coronavirus after California’s governor said the state is monitoring 8,400 for signs of exposure.

Limited Testing in Japan Masks Scale of Infection (6:57 a.m. HK)

Japan is becoming a center of concern, with the country’s official infection tally suspected to be the tip of the iceberg of a much wider outbreak.

“For every one who tests positive there are probably hundreds with mild symptoms,” said Masahiro Kami, chair of the Medical Governance Research Institute in Tokyo, and a practicing doctor. “Those with mild symptoms are not being tested.”

Read more here.

U.S. Workers Didn’t Get Protective Gear: Report (5:05 p.m. NY)

Federal employees who helped evacuate people from the center of the coronavirus outbreak in China didn’t get protective gear or training, the Washington Post said, citing a whistleblower’s complaint.

Trump administration officials disputed the report.

“Every precaution has been taken,” said William Walters, a health official with the U.S. State Department. “I can say unequivocally that everyone involved with those evacuations was appropriately equipped and trained.”

One member of Congress called the situation deeply concerning. “Finding out that the U.S. government might have put its own personnel in harm’s way is deeply concerning to me,” said Representative Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat from Virginia.

Mask Prices and Interest Spike on Amazon (4:52 p.m. NY)

Prices for face masks spiked on Amazon.com Inc. in early February, with many items sold out, according to a firm that tracks traffic on the website.

Searches over the past 30 days for N95 masks, which are tighter fitting and filter out smaller particles than surgical masks, surged to 1.3 million on Feb. 10, up from 23,000 on Jan. 10, according to Helium 10, the monitoring company.

Daily sales of a 20-pack of popular N95 masks from 3M jumped to more than 1,000 in February, from roughly 25 in December, according to Helium. Prices for the product, which typically sells for $29.99, climbed as high as $99.

“Many third-party sellers appear to be outright price-gouging, likely due to low stock and high demand,” Lee said. “Even Amazon, which has kept pricing mostly stable across products, has had to increase prices on some products.”

Amazon’s pricing policies suggest the company monitors for gouging and can punish merchants with irregular prices, but the policies lack specifics. “Setting a price on a product or service that is significantly higher than recent prices offered on or off Amazon” is a potential violation, the company says on its policy page.

“Sellers set their own product prices in our store and we have policies to help ensure sellers are pricing products competitively,” Amazon said in an emailed statement. “We actively monitor our store and remove offers that violate our policies.”

CDC Expands Coronavirus Testing to More Patients (4:38 p.m. NY)

U.S. health authorities moved to greatly expand the number of people who will be tested for the coronavirus, adding travelers from several new countries with outbreaks as well as people with unexplained, severe respiratory illnesses.

People showing respiratory symptoms and who have been in China, Iran, Italy, Japan or South Korea within the past 14 days will be screened for the virus under the new guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC is also calling for testing of patients who have unexplained, severe lower-respiratory illnesses that require hospitalization, but no other history of potential exposure to coronavirus. The expansion comes after a patient in California, who had no known ties to an infected area, was confirmed to have the virus after a long delay to get tested.

Pence Says He’s In Charge, Not Azar (3:36 p.m. NY)

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said he’s now leading the government’s coronavirus task force instead of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

“I’m leading the task force,” Pence said Thursday at a meeting on the virus at HHS headquarters. “We’ll continue to rely on the secretary’s role as chairman of the task force.”

Trump initially appointed Azar to lead the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, but on Wednesday, he named Pence to the role at a news conference. The Washington Post reported that Azar was blindsided by the decision, though Azar told lawmakers that he thought Pence’s appointment was “genius.”

California Monitoring 8,400 Travelers and Contacts (2:16 p.m.)

California is monitoring 8,400 people who flew into its airports from Asia and their close contacts for possible infection from the novel coronavirus, Governor Gavin Newsom said Thursday. Thousands of people around the U.S. have been asked to self-isolate or check themselves for symptoms since the U.S. put new limits on travel earlier this month.Those people are scattered across 49 local jurisdictions, he said. There have been 33 people confirmed to be infected with the virus in California.

Earlier, health officials said a woman from Northern California has the virus and hadn’t traveled to China. She also didn’t have any close contact with anyone who did and appears to be the first case of community transmission in the U.S.

Lagarde: ECB Response Not Required Yet (11:30 a.m. NY)

European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde said the coronavirus outbreak carefully isn’t yet at the stage that would require a monetary-policy response, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.

Lagarde said the ECB would have to determine whether the coronavirus could become a “long-lasting shock” that would affect inflation. “But we are certainly not at that point yet,” Lagarde told the FT.

Outbreak Is At Decisive Stage, WHO Says (10:10 a.m. NY)

The novel coronavirus has the potential to become a pandemic and is at a decisive stage, the head of the World Health Organization said Thursday.

“The outbreak can go in any direction based on how we handle it,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during the group’s daily briefing in Geneva.

China’s efforts show that containment can work, while clusters of infections in Iran, Italy and South Korea are cause for concern, he said. For a second day, there were fewer new cases in China than in the rest of the world.

Several countries that have reported cases previously -- including India, Russia and Vietnam -- haven’t had any new infections in two weeks, Tedros said. However, Finland and Sweden, which had gone without infections for a prolonged period, reported cases Wednesday.

Middle East Cases Rise (7:30 a.m. NY)

Iran reported 87 new cases on Thursday, bringing the total to 245 including 26 deaths. The number of patients in Kuwait almost doubled to 43, with all the cases linked to Iran. The United Arab Emirates, which has 13 cases and hasn’t given an update since Saturday, said it’s setting up a medical facility to quarantine patients.

Italy Coronavirus Cases Rise to 528, With 14 Possible Deaths (7:09 a.m. NY)

Total cases increased from the 400 reported late Wednesday, civil protection head and emergency chief Angelo Borrelli said. Forty people have recovered. The number of possible virus-linked deaths reached 14.

(An earlier version was corrected to say the number of cases in South Korea crossed 2,000.)

--With assistance from Isabel Reynolds, Emi Nobuhiro, Dominic Lau, Edwin Chan, Zheping Huang, Josh Wingrove, Shiho Takezawa, Li Liu, Dulue Mbachu, Shinhye Kang, Kanga Kong, Lily Nonomiya, Reed Stevenson, Alfred Liu, Chelsea Mes, Toru Fujioka, Emi Urabe, Eduard Gismatullin, Matthew Brockett, Farah Elbahrawy and Melissa Cheok.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Jeff Sutherland in Tokyo at jsutherlan13@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Stuart Wallace at swallace6@bloomberg.net, ;Drew Armstrong at darmstrong17@bloomberg.net, Tom Redmond, Jeff Sutherland

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