Coronavirus Live Updates: China Seeks to Restart Economy While Fighting Outbreak

The Chinese authorities have approved a broad strategy for trying to bring the coronavirus outbreak under control while restarting economic production, state news outlets reported Wednesday evening.

President Xi Jinping ordered that tax cuts be drafted and put into effect.

Premier Li Keqiang, the country’s No. 2 official, and the country’s cabinet called for major construction projects to begin across the country as soon as possible.

State-owned enterprises were told to cut rents. Banks were ordered to keep interest rates low.

City governments were told to make sure that workers who went home for the Lunar New Year holiday could reach their jobs.

The two most powerful political bodies in China — the Standing Committee of the Communist Party Politburo and the government’s cabinet of ministers — each issued similar orders. Both groups produced hints of the fairly broad stimulus program that many economists expect soon.

None of the announcements directly addressed the difficult balancing act that China now faces: how to put more than 700 million workers back on the job without creating conditions that could allow the virus to spread.

The coronavirus has jumped from ship to shore, officials in Japan said on Wednesday, after an employee of the country’s Health Ministry who had surveyed passengers on a quarantined cruise ship tested positive for the virus.

In addition, 39 new confirmed cases were announced among the more than 3,600 crew and passengers on the ship, bringing the total number of infected people to 175.

The ship, known as the Diamond Princess, has been under quarantine for more than a week in the port of Yokohama. The quarantine began after a passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Japanese authorities have been slowly moving those with the illness off the ship and to hospitals. But onboard, many passengers are complaining that they lack information and have poor access to medicines.

A cruise ship carrying 1,400 passengers that had been refused permission to stop in Japan, Guam, Taiwan and the Philippines even though no cases of the coronavirus had been diagnosed onboard may have found a place to dock.

On Wednesday, Cambodia said it would allow the ship, the Westerdam, to dock on Thursday morning and the passengers to disembark, according to a statement from the cruise line Holland America, which owns the ship.

“Westerdam is now sailing for Sihanoukville, Cambodia, where the current cruise will end. We will arrive at 7:00 a.m. local time on Thursday, Feb. 13, and will remain in port for several days for disembarkation. Guests will be able to go ashore,” the company, which is owned by the cruise giant Carnival, said in the statement.

“We are extremely grateful to the Cambodian authorities for their support,” the statement added.

The cruise ship, which had been on a 14-day voyage after departing from Hong Kong on Feb. 1, was to stop on Feb. 15 in Yokohama, Japan. But it was turned away at every turn.

  • Updated Feb. 10, 2020

    • What is a Coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people, and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is possibly transmitted through the air. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • How worried should I be?
      While the virus is a serious public health concern, the risk to most people outside China remains very low, and seasonal flu is a more immediate threat.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have praised China’s aggressive response to the virus by closing transportation, schools and markets. This week, a team of experts from the W.H.O. arrived in Beijing to offer assistance.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The United States and Australia are temporarily denying entry to noncitizens who recently traveled to China and several airlines have canceled flights.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.

On Wednesday, Holland America said, “All guests on board are healthy, and despite erroneous reports, there are no known or suspected cases of coronavirus on board, nor have there ever been.”

The death toll from the coronavirus in China reached a new high on Wednesday, at least 1,113, even as Chinese officials said that the rate of new infections showed signs of slowing.

Nationwide, 97 new deaths and 2,015 new cases have emerged in the previous 24 hours, the national health authorities said.

The newly reported infections on Tuesday represented the lowest in China in a single day since Jan. 30, when there were 1,982 new confirmed cases.

The total number of confirmed cases rose to 44,653. Most of the newly reported deaths, 94, occurred in Hubei Province, the heart of the outbreak.

There are 393 cases of the new coronavirus disease outside China, in 24 countries.

The World Health Organization on Tuesday proposed an official name for the illness caused by the new coronavirus: COVID-19. The acronym stands for coronavirus disease 2019, as the illness was first detected toward the end of last year.

The director general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, noted that the new name made no reference to any of the people, places or animals associated with the coronavirus. The goal was to avoid stigma.

Under international guidelines, the W.H.O. “had to find a name that did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people, and which is also pronounceable and related to the disease,” he said on Twitter.

The Ministry of Education in China instructed schools on Wednesday to find ways to keep the country’s 190 million primary and secondary students busy during the suspension of the school year, but it discouraged any significant efforts to provide classes online.

In a notice posted on its website, the ministry urged provincial school administrators to draw up detailed study plans for students who, like everyone else, are largely confined to their homes.

The ministry encouraged reading and physical exercises and, if possible, online tutoring, though it also warned that primary-school students especially should not spend too much time online. It also announced that special programing on China’s national education television channel, CETV 4, would begin next week; the network had a similar role during the SARS epidemic in 2003.

“We must resolutely prevent the home study from completely replacing the normal classroom teaching of the school,” Lu Yugang, the ministry’s director of elementary education, said at a briefing in Beijing.

The coronavirus epidemic that began in Wuhan has now thrown the country’s schools and universities into chaos. Some provinces, including Liaoning and Sichuan, plan to reopen primary and secondary schools on Feb. 17, at least for now, while others have already postponed the school year until at least March, including Shanghai, Zhejiang and Guangdong.

The delays could have the greatest impact on those students preparing for the major national exams for high school and college held at the end of spring.

The United States will allow nonemergency consulate employees in Hong Kong and their families to leave because of the coronavirus outbreak, a State Department official said on Wednesday.

The decision to allow voluntary departures was made in response to continuing uncertainty surrounding the outbreak and practical considerations such as school closings, the official said.

The consulate in Hong Kong will remain open and continue to provide regular services.

A similar decision was made to allow nonemergency State Department personnel and their families to leave mainland China in late January.

The State Department chartered flights and evacuated about 850 people from Wuhan, where the outbreak began late last year, including employees of the United States Consulate in the city.

Hong Kong has 50 confirmed coronavirus cases and one death. The State Department’s travel advisory for the city is at Level 2, the second-lowest of four levels, and recommends that visitors to Hong Kong “exercise increased caution” because of the outbreak.

This month, the warning for mainland China was raised to 4, the highest level.

“Do not travel to China due to the novel coronavirus,” it said.

Formula One’s governing body said on Wednesday that it would postpone the Shanghai Grand Prix, which was scheduled to take place on April 19, the latest sporting event to be canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The International Automobile Federation said it had taken the measure “to ensure the health and safety of the traveling staff, championship participants and fans,” after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global health concern.

The federation said it was studying alternative dates later in the year in case the situation improved.

The Hong Kong marathon, which was scheduled for Sunday, has also been canceled, as well as the Chinese Formula-E Grand Prix, which was scheduled for March 23 on the southern island of Hainan.

China has also suspended its soccer league, and the players of its national women’s team found themselves in quarantine upon their arrival in Australia for an Olympic qualifying event.

The coronavirus outbreak in China has generated economic waves that are rocking commodities markets and disrupting the supply networks that act as the backbone of the global economy.

In Australia, after hauling hundreds of thousands of tons of iron ore to China, returning freighters can face a 14-day quarantine.

BHP, one of the world’s largest copper mining companies, which has headquarters in London and Melbourne, Australia, has been in talks to possibly delay shipments to Chinese ports.

And from Qatar to Indonesia, exporters of liquefied natural gas face the prospect of disrupted shipments because China, a crucial importer, is turning back deliveries.

“We’re seeing a rippling out,” said Ed Morse, global head of commodities research at Citigroup in New York. “And we don’t see it stopping.”

Prices for key industrial raw materials such as copper, iron ore, nickel, aluminum and liquid natural gas have plummeted since the virus emerged. Countries that export those goods at high rates, including Australia, Brazil and South Africa, are near their lowest levels in recent memory.

And manufacturers, mining companies and commodity producers of all stripes are weighing whether they will be forced to cut back on production for fear of adding to a growing inventory glut.

Airbnb will suspend bookings in the Chinese capital until May 1, the company said on Wednesday.

The decision was made “in accordance with guidance issued by the government to all companies in the short-term rental industry,” a spokesman for the company said. He added that existing reservations would be refunded.

Airbnb has also waived cancellation fees for travel to and from mainland China until the end of February. Travelers who had booked stays in Hubei, the province at the center of the outbreak, can cancel reservations without charge until April 1.

The company had continued to accept reservations throughout China during the busy travel season before and after the Lunar New Year holiday, even as the government started to lock down cities and impose road restrictions to stop the spread of the virus.

The company also said it would set aside $10 million “to support hosts in the next few years, during the recovery period of the local tourism industry.”

A British businessman believed to be the source of a number of coronavirus cases in Britain and France has been released from the hospital, he said in a statement on Wednesday, even as public health officials continue to try to trace the contacts of some of the people he is believed to have infected.

The man, Steve Walsh, said that he had been discharged from the hospital and had returned home. And the strategic incident director of Britain’s National Health Service, Prof. Keith Willett, said Mr. Walsh had developed only “mild” symptoms of the virus and had made a full recovery.

Credit…Via FTI Consulting

“He is no longer contagious and poses no risk to the public,” Professor Willett said in a statement. “He is keen to return to his normal life and spend time with his family out of the media spotlight.”

Britain has confirmed eight cases of infection by coronavirus, with five believed to be linked to Mr. Walsh. Five additional cases in France have also been traced to Mr. Walsh, who is believed to have contracted the virus in Singapore before spending time at a ski chalet in France with several other Britons.

Two of the cases are health care workers in Britain, and several others are centered in the coastal town of Brighton, England.

The National Health Service said on Wednesday that one of the health care providers worked in the emergency unit of Worthing Hospital in West Sussex, but that all services at the hospital were continuing to function normally.

Reports of the transmissions linked to Mr. Walsh caused some British news outlets to label him a “superspreader,” a term that drew caution from health officials. Experts said that the health authorities do not refer to individuals as “superspreaders,” but an event can be considered a superspreading episode when multiple cases of a virus occur in a specific setting.

So far, there is not enough evidence to confirm a coronavirus superspreading case in Britain.

Reporting and research was contributed by Amber Wang, Zoe Mou, Albee Zhang, Yiwei Wang, Claire Fu, Amy Qin, Sui-Lee Wee, Steven Lee Myers, Keith Bradsher, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Matt Phillips, Austin Ramzy, Tiffany May, Elian Peltier, Yonette Joseph, Megan Specia and Ceylan Yeginsu.

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