- China finally allows US experts in
- Singapore reports 3 new cases, DP reports 90
- Beijing weighs postponing National Congress
- Japan delays Tokyo Marathon, raising concerns about the Olympics
- 14 Americans aboard evacuation flight found to have virus
- 5 virus-linked deaths rumored in Tibet
- WHO reiterates that signs of slowdown in new China cases doesn’t mean outbreak is slowing
- Wuhan hospital boss dies
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Update (1515ET): State media reports have confirmed that Liu Zhiming, the boss of one of the Wuhan hospitals battling the coronavirus, has died.
It’s the first death of a major figure on the front lines of the epidemic since Dr. Li Wanliang succumbed to the virus last week.
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Update (1030ET): For what seemed like weeks after the outbreak began, Tibet repeatedly reported that it had zero confirmed cases of the virus, even after it had spread to every other Chinese province (there are 31 in total).
Now, online rumors might shed some light on why: It’s not that the virus hadn’t arrived, it’s that party leaders in Tibet – for whatever reason (lack of resources, a motivation to impress Beijing) – didn’t report the full breadth of the problem.
Unconfirmed reports claim 5 have died in Tibet from the virus.
It’s just another reminder that…
We wonder what the ‘real’ North Korea numbers are looking like?
Meanwhile, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros reiterated on Monday a sentiment he first expressed over the weekend: That though Chinese data appear to show a decline in the number of new cases, this isn’t necessarily a guarantee that the virus is slowing: “Every scenario is still on the table.”
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Update (1000ET): As the velocity of the outbreak moves toward ‘exponential’ territory – it’s doubling every six days…
…here are some updates on the latest cases confirmed outside of China.
First, we’d just like to comment on the numbers above and explain why we think they’re important for investors and the general public to keep in mind.
Though deaths and confirmed cases outside China are still far below the number confirmed inside China, since nobody trust’s China’s numbers given the current state of the economy (why would so many people – 760 million – need to be on lockdown for a problem that’s mostly localized to Hubei?) the trajectory of these numbers is probably the best barometer for how the outbreak is going.
It’s just the latest sign that it will be up to the international community to ascertain how bad this outbreak could really get, despite the WHO’s praises of China, which – surprise, surprise – likely were motivated by an “ulterior motive” (like China’s enormous contribution to the annual WHO budget).
Singapore has reported two additional confirmed cases, taking the country’s total to 77.
Japan says 454 passengers and crew from the ‘Diamond Princess’ have been confirmed infected – that’s another 90 cases.
Last night, Reuters reported that police across China have carried out raids on homes, restaurants and makeshift markets and arrested more than 700 people accused of violating the nationwide ban on the selling or consumption of wild animals. This is part of the reason why Beijing wants to reconsider its regulations on the trade and consumption of wildlife.
Though leftists denounced criticisms of food items like “bat soup” and “three squeaks” as racist, the Chinese government and the bulk of the Chinese people now view the consumption of animals like reptiles, civet cats and hedgehogs as “fundamentally unsafe,” per the NYT.
Beijing is considering postponing its annual meeting of top Communist Party officials, sources said.
In Cambodia, health authorities have stopped more passengers from disembarking from the Westerdam cruise ship after one elderly passenger was found to be infected with the virus.
The Politburo Standing Committee, the highest authority in the country, will meet on Feb. 24 to discuss whether to delay the National People’s Congress, an annual meeting of 3,000 party leaders from across the country descend on Beijing to pass new laws and discuss government plans and the national budget. The meeting typically takes place in early March “like clockwork” and postponing it would be a gesture packed with symbolism for the Chinese people. The NYT said the delay is now “virtually certain.”
After a host of unsettling outbreak-related developments, the PBOC swooped in to rescue markets on Monday by cutting a key medium-term lending rate as it attempts to prop up the economy. China’s yuan climbed on the news for the first time in four sessions.
Finally, the SCMP reports that a WHO team of medical experts set to depart for China to assist in research and response to the crisis will include several Americans, though no exact numbers were given.
Many suspected that Beijing’s refusal to allow Americans to help with the epidemic was a sign that the government was hiding something about the virus, probably the true number of cases and deaths, which many feared might be much higher than the official numbers.
Here’s the latest count on global cases/deaths from the SCMP:
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It’s like the ‘Alien’ franchise: The evacuation ship always carries the monster.
Unfortunately, in this instance, the monster is an invisible, inaudible yet highly infectious virus. And instead of the Nostromo, we have two chartered Boeing 747s.
According to the New York Post, 14 Americans among the more than 300 US citizen passengers being evacuated from the cruise ship ‘Diamond Princess’ after nearly two weeks of quarantine have tested positive for the virus. Officials said they didn’t learn of the positive tests until the flight was about to take off.
Ahead of the flight, the State Department said that 40 Americans who had tested positive wouldn’t be eligible for the evacuation flight, and would instead be entrusted to Japanese authorities. Of course, all of the Americans who traveled on the evacuation flights had to agree to a two week quarantine after returning to the US.
The sick individuals were reportedly “isolated” during the flight (but in a closed environment like an airplane during flight, how secure could they possibly be?).
“These individuals were moved in the most expeditious and safe manner to a specialized containment area on the evacuation aircraft to isolate them in accordance with standard protocols,” the statement said. “During the flights, these individuals will continue to be isolated from the other passengers.”
One of the evacuation flights is headed to Travis Air Force Base in California, and another for Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. At this time, it’s unclear which plane the infected are traveling on, where they are going, or where they’ll be treated.
In other news, Japanese health authorities have decided to cancel a major public sporting event despite there only being 65 confirmed cases of the virus in Japan (outside the Diamond Princess): The Tokyo Marathon, which was set to begin later this month, has been cancelled
The annual event attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators to watch more than 20,000 runners compete in one of the six ‘World Marathon Majors’.
Many international events and trade shows have been cancelled because of the outbreak, including events like the Mobile world Conference in Barcelona, an area with zero confirmed COVID-19 infections, and the Beijing Autoshow, which was cancelled Monday morning, according to Reuters.
But the Tokyo Marathon is an important attraction for Tokyo’s tourism industry. Furthermore, it doesn’t bode well for another high-profile sporting event: The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
At this point, we suspect the biggest tail risk for global markets involving Japan would be a decision to cancel or postpone the Olympics (it’s not like they can simply pick another venue). That would ignite a wave of hysteria and uproar that even these Fed-assisted markets likely wouldn’t be able to withstand.