Coronavirus update: China deaths top 3,000; California calls emergency
Deaths from the coronavirus have surpassed 3,000 in China, though the first country hit by the disease also announced progress on discharging people after treatment. California called a state of emergency, underscoring the global spread of the disease.
The declaration in the most populous U.S. state followed passage in the House of Representatives of a $7.8 billion spending package to fund measures to combat the outbreak, showcasing a strengthening response in the world’s largest economy. In South Korea, cases have dropped three days in a row. Cases are climbing in the U.S. and Europe, and the first confirmed human-to-animal transmission of the coronavirus was reported in Hong Kong.
Travel bans spread
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga separately said Thursday that his country has expressed strong concern to India over the South Asian nation’s suspension of visas to Japanese citizens. India, which has seen a rise in cases thanks in part to visiting tourists from Italy, earlier this week also canceled visas for Italians, Iranians and South Koreans issued on or before March 3, according to India Today.
South Korean cases slow
Asia’s fourth-largest economy reported a total of 5,766 coronavirus cases as of midnight between March 4-5, according to a statement from South Korea’s Health Ministry. That marks an increase of 438 for Wednesday, compared with 516 in the previous 24 hours and 600 the day before that.
Incheon airport, a major hub in northeast Asia near Seoul, plans to check temperatures on all departing passengers, according to South Korea’s transport ministry. Starting March 9, at 9 a.m. local time, temperatures will be checked for passengers when they enter the terminals, and again before entering the transit area. Passengers will be checked one last time at the boarding gate if departing to countries that requested this step.
Chinese deaths moderate
China on Wednesday reported an additional 31 coronavirus deaths by March 4, bringing the total to 3,012, with all of the newest fatalities coming from Hubei province, the original source of the outbreak. The country also reported an additional 139 confirmed cases of the virus, bringing the total to 80,409. Discharged patients climbed by 2,189 to 52045.
While doubts remain over whether the Chinese statistics show the full picture, the surging number of recovering patients has spurred optimism. Sixty-two percent of those who’ve been officially diagnosed with the disease are now better and out of hospital, according to the data from the National Health Commission on Wednesday.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency to make more resources available and loosen regulations. The state had its first death Wednesday from a resident in Placer County, whose case was linked to travel on a cruise ship from San Francisco to Mexico last month.
More than 50 percent of the roughly 2,500 people on that cruise were Californians, Newsom said. The state is sending people up and down the state to find passengers for monitoring. The ship, the Grand Princess, is now being rerouted from a separate sailing and is being held off the coast of San Francisco as the state prepares to test guests on board, Newsom said. Twenty-one passengers and crew members are showing symptoms.
Qantas accused of sub-standard cleaning practices
Substandard plane-cleaning practices on a Qantas Airways Ltd. plane may have put workers and passengers at risk of catching the new coronavirus, according to a workplace safety watchdog.
The airline’s method of cleaning planes that could have carried infected passengers is “inadequate,” SafeWork NSW said in a March 2 notice to Qantas that was released by a trade union Thursday. “Workers and other persons may be exposed to a risk of injury or illness,” the state government body said in its report.
A spokesman for the airline said it’s considering appealing the notice. “Qantas is not known for being complacent when it comes to safety or the cleanliness of our aircraft,” it said in a statement.
CDC lifts most restrictions on testing
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted most restrictions on coronavirus testing on Wednesday, saying in a new set of guidelines that doctors could use their judgment in deciding what patients to test.
“This expands testing to a wider group of symptomatic patients,” the agency said in a document posted on its website. Testing decisions should be based on how the virus is spreading in a given community, as well as whether a patient has symptoms consistent with possible coronavirus infection.
The CDC has been criticized by local doctors and health officials over overly restrictive testing criteria that had prevented physicians from testing sick people who hadn’t traveled to affected areas or had contact with known patients. Also, the original test kit the CDC produced had flaws that led to shortages of testing capacity, which are only now being resolved.
Drugmakers promise affordable vaccines, treatments
Executives from Sanofi, Johnson & Johnson and other drugmakers committed to affordable access of potential coronavirus vaccines and treatments, at a briefing with reporters Wednesday.
“We’re keenly aware of what’s at stake here,” said Stephen Ubl, head of PhRMA, the industry’s lobbying arm.
Daniel O’Day, chief executive officer of Gilead Sciences Inc., said there are many factors that need to be considered when pricing a drug, such as what other treatments are available and how to ensure there’s an ability to reinvest into medicines for other potential pandemics.
United to reduce flights, freeze hiring
United Airlines Holdings Inc. plans to cut back on flights, freeze hiring and halt merit pay raises as it grapples with a rapid decline in travel demand. The domestic schedule will be pared 10 percent in April and international flying will be chopped 20 percent, United said in a message to employees. Similar reductions will probably be necessary for May, Chief Executive Oscar Munoz and President Scott Kirby said in the memo.
United has also imposed a hiring freeze through June and deferred merit-based salary increases for management until July 1, in an effort to prepare the company financially for a steep downturn in business. The Chicago-based carrier will also offer employees voluntary unpaid leaves of absence.
Italy closes schools until March 15
Italy said it would close its schools until March 15 as it redoubles efforts to curb the worst outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic in Europe.
The decision came after Italian emergency chief Angelo Borrelli reported an additional 28 deaths, bringing the total to 107. The number of coronavirus cases increased to 3,086 from 2,502 on Tuesday in an outbreak that has crippled activity in the rich northern regions.
U.S. business leaders caution against overreacting
U.S. Chamber of Commerce officials and travel industry leaders urged businesses and consumers not to overreact to the spread of coronavirus and to take precautions while going about business as usual.
“Fear and panic undermine our ability to contain the virus, to minimize disruptions to daily life and to keep our economy humming along,” the chamber’s chief executive officer, Tom Donohue, said at a press conference in Washington.
France reports 45 new cases; total is 257:
France has 45 new cases, public health authority Sante Publique France said on its website. The number of fatalities is unchanged at four.
U.K. coronavirus cases jump by 34 to 85
The U.K.’s Department of Health and Social Care said in a tweet that the number of confirmed positive coronavirus cases stands at 85 people as of 9 a.m. local time on March 4.
EU fears cascading effects on economy from virus
The coronavirus is threatening to plunge both France and Italy into recession, and a prolonged epidemic could ripple through the region’s economy and financial markets and cause a “vicious sovereign-bank loop,” European finance ministers were warned by officials on Wednesday.
“A longer and more widespread epidemic could have a disproportionate negative impact through uncertainty and financial-market channels,” according to a European Commission briefing note on the economic impact, seen by Bloomberg. “Cascading effects could stem from liquidity shortages in firms that have to stop production, amplified and spread out by financial markets.’”