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Coronavirus death toll has overtaken SARS
Published on: 2020-02-03
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The number of Wuhan coronavirus deaths in mainland China has overtaken the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic in the country, as Beijing injected billions of dollars into an economy hit by weeks of effective shutdowns to major cities.

More than 360 people have died of the disease in China, the country's health authorities said Monday. The total number of cases in mainland China stood at 17,205 as of Sunday evening, an increase of over 2,800 on the previous day, or almost 20%. The 2003 outbreak of SARS infected 5,327 people in mainland China, with 349 deaths.

060The first death from the virus outside China was confirmed over the weekend. Philippine health officials said that a 44-year-old Chinese man died Saturday after flying into the country from Wuhan.

061So far, more than 175 cases have been reported outside of China - the majority of them with a direct link to the country - across more than 25 countries and territories worldwide. Many countries have begun closing their borders to visitors from China, with major airlines canceling flights to and from the country.

Germany confirmed its 10th case on Sunday, and there were also new cases reported in South Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, Macao and Hong Kong. The United States, Australia and New Zealand have all announced that they will not allow foreign nationals who have traveled from or transited through China to enter. Nationals from those countries will face mandatory quarantine on arrival.

062TODAY in China is supposed to be the first day back at work after an extended Lunar New Year holiday ended on February 2. However much of the country will not be returning, with multiple local authorities extending the break in an attempt to avoid further spread of the virus.

Hubei, the central Chinese province of which Wuhan is the capital, will lengthen its holiday by an "appropriate extent," authorities said Saturday, while Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing and the manufacturing provinces of Guangdong and Zhejiang will also reportedly remain on holiday until at least next week.

With much of China's economic heartland still closed, concerns are growing over the impact to the Chinese economy. The Shanghai and Shenzhen stock markets - which have been closed since January 24 - plunged by around 10% on opening Monday.

063The People's Bank of China said Sunday it would inject 1.2 trillion yuan ($173 billion) into the Chinese markets in order to ensure "reasonably ample liquidity" in the banking system and keep currency markets stable.

The net amount of liquidity being injected into the markets will be much lower, however. According to Reuters calculations using central bank data, more than 1 trillion yuan worth of other short-term bond sales will mature Monday. That brings the net amount of cash flooding into the markets down to 150 billion yuan ($21.4 billion).

In Wuhan itself, the epicenter of the virus outbreak where most of the deaths have been reported, there was a glimmer of hope Monday, as the first of two purpose-built hospitals opened for business.

The hospitals, built in about a week by thousands of workers on round-the-clock shifts and based on a similar plan used during the 2003 SARS outbreak, will be run by People's Liberation Army medical personnel.

They will add thousands of extra beds to Wuhan's extremely strained medical system. Thousands of health workers, including PLA medics, have also been dispatched to help out in ordinary hospitals in the city and other parts of Hubei.

Studying infection

Many countries have begun evacuating their citizens out of the worst hit areas of Hubei, while other nations, in addition to closing their borders to all visitors from China, are ordering mandatory quarantines of nationals returning home.

Major airlines - including British Airways, American Airlines, Air Canada and Lufthansa - have canceled or slashed routes to China for the foreseeable future.

Much of the concern is driven by the lack of a confirmed cure or treatment protocol for the virus, which appears to be far more contagious -- though not as deadly -- as SARS. About 10% of SARS cases resulted in death, while the toll from Wuhan coronavirus cases stands at about 2%.

On Sunday, doctors in Thailand said they had successfully treated one Wuhan coronavirus patient with a combination of antiviral drugs. Dr. Kriangsak Atipornwanich, a doctor at Rajavithi Hospital in Bangkok, said at a Ministry of Health news conference that he had treated a 71-year-old woman patient from China with a combination of drugs used in HIV and flu treatments. He said the patient had previously been treated only with anti-HIV drugs.

Officials at the news conference said the latest lab test showed there was no trace of the virus in the patient's respiratory system.

Hospitals in Beijing have previously reported using HIV drugs to treat coronavirus patients, though it is unclear if they have been successful.

With some apparent good news came another worrying development, however. Scientists in China discovered over the weekend that fecal samples from patients infected with the Wuhan coronavirus tested positive for the pathogen.

This means it is highly possible the virus can exist in and spread through contaminated fecal matter. Previously it had been thought the virus mainly spread through droplets emitted when a person coughs or sneezes, or through other direct contact.

One of the major SARS outbreaks during the 2003 epidemic was in the Hong Kong housing estate of Amoy Gardens. There, the virus is believed to have spread "via aerosolized fecal matter through the internal sewer system," according to a report by the US National Institute of Medicine.

Chinese stocks worst day in years, plunging 8%

064One of the major SARS outbreaks during the 2003 epidemic was in the Hong Kong housing estate of Amoy Gardens. There, the virus is believed to have spread "via aerosolized fecal matter through the internal sewer system," according to a report by the US National Institute of Medicine.

Chinese stocks are having their worst day in years as investors finally get a chance to react to the worsening coronavirus outbreak. The Shanghai Composite (SHCOMP) plummeted 7.7% and the Shenzhen Component Index fell nearly 8.5% on their first day of trading after an extended Lunar New Year holiday. They've been closed since January 24.

The losses on each index have wiped out a combined $445 billion in market value. The plunge puts Shanghai on pace for its worst day since August 2015's "Black Monday," when global markets were rattled by China slowdown fears. Shenzhen, meanwhile, hasn't recorded a single-day percentage drop this bad since 2007.

065China's currency also fell. The onshore yuan sank 1.5%, dropping below seven yuan to one US dollar in its first day back from the holiday break. The yuan also weakened below the seven mark offshore, where it moves more freely and has been trading since last week.

While global markets have had several days to weigh the rapid spread of the coronavirus, this is the first chance that mainland China has had to react in more than a week. Before the holiday, the number of cases numbered roughly 800 - now, there are more than 17,000.

Markets were originally scheduled to reopen last Friday, but the Chinese government extended the holiday as it worked to control the outbreak.

First major Chinese airline suspends China - USA flights

066China Eastern Airlines has become the first major Chinese carrier to suspend flights to and from the United States, as the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak has infected thousands of people and prompted several countries to advise their citizens not to travel to mainland China.

The carrier is canceling flights from Shanghai to Los Angeles and New York from February 2 through February 10, citing "the recent public health incident" according to a notice circulated to travel agents.

China Eastern did not respond to a request for comment. The country's two other major carriers, Air China and China Southern, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

China Eastern is also canceling flights from Shanghai to San Francisco on February 6 and February 9, to Chicago on February 8 and to Honolulu from February 3 until March 27, according to the notice.

Several flights to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Vancouver that originate in Chengdu or Kunming with layovers in Nanjing or Qingdao have also been canceled this week.

"In the days to come, China Eastern will pay close attention to the epidemic, and may further adjust the arrangements of flights," the notice said.

Major international airlines including Air Canada, British Airways, Delta, Lufthansa and Qatar have also suspended all flights to mainland China until the end of February or longer.

More Airlines Suspend China Flights

050More airlines around the world have suspended flights to China amid fears about the deadly coronavirus.

Lufthansa, Swiss and Austrian Airlines were some of the latest to cancel all flights to mainland China, with their joint owner Lufthansa Group announcing on Twitter the suspension of China trips until Feb. 9.

On Thursday, Scandinavian Airlines, the flag carrier of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, said it was canceling all of its flights to and from China from Jan. 31 until Feb. 9.

Air Canada said Wednesday that it would suspend all direct flights to Beijing and Shanghai from Thursday until the end of February, citing advice from the Canadian government. The company said a day before that it would scale back the number of flights.

067Several other airlines have suspended routes to virus-affected cities.

U.K. flag carrier British Airways (BA) indefinitely suspended all flights to and from the Chinese mainland on Wednesday, in what was then the most dramatic action taken by an airline over the outbreak.

068BA and Air Canada cited advice from their home governments about the dangers of coronavirus, whereas United Airlines, which cancelled some flights to Wuhan and three other cities for a week from Feb. 1, cited a “significant decline in demand for travel to China.”

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