Watch: 1 Kilometer Line For Face Masks In Taiwan

Watch: 1 Kilometer Line For Face Masks In Taiwan

Update (0950ET): Germany’s Lufthansa and American Airlines are the latest airlines to suspend flights to China. American is cancelling flights from LAX to Shanghai and Beijing beginning Feb. 9 through late March. Other airlines that have cancelled some or all flights to China since earlier this morning include Air Canada, Lion Air, Seoul Air and a handful of others around the world.

Representatives for Lufthansa are reportedly denying reports that it plans to suspend flights. It seems only time will tell. BBC reports that Britons who have been evacuated from Wuhan will be kept in quarantine for two weeks. Japan and the US have also evacuated citizens from Wuhan via chartered plane. Australia and New Zealand are also planning evacuations.

Mark Woolhouse, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, told the AP the UK’s steps are justified.

“There’s always a balance between the draconian measures of public health and what people might want to do, and obviously it’s regrettable if people who turn out not to have the virus are quarantined unnecessarily,” he said.

We’re still waiting on confirmation regarding whether the White House will ban flights into and out of China.

* * *

Update (0910ET): You had to know it was coming.

As more local governments on the mainland (including Beijing and Wuhan) mandate that facemasks be worn at all times, price gouging throughout Asia and even in certain parts of the US has become extremely common. Locals say Chinese everywhere are snapping up masks and mailing them to family in the mianland.

Of course, stores around China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau can’t get their hands on more facemasks fast enough (Japan is reportedly preparing a shipment to assist the Chinese government). As a result, lines outside shops and factories are growing to a staggering degree.

One line outside a factory in in Changhua City reportedly stretched for more than a kilometer (0.62 miles).

Lines were everywhere across China – Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau – as well as Australia, New Zealand and the US.

One video from Sichuan depicts an angry mob crowding the home of a family that allegedly ignored a case of the virus, allowing it to spread. The scene was reminiscent of something out of ‘Lord of the Flies’, a book that we imagine is probably banned in China.

In Hong Kong, where SARS killed roughly 300 people back in 2003, public-transit workers are threatening to strike if the city government doesn’t widen its closures.

The New York Times Beijing bureau chief shared photos from across China and Hong Kong, depicting empty public transit stations and barren streets.

In other news, after the White House denied weighing a complete shutdown of all passenger air traffic between the US and China, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has confirmed that a complete ban is, in fact, one of several options being considered.

Different governments have been throwing out estimates for the timeline of developing a usable vaccine for the virus. According to CNBC, the latest estimate comes from Swiss drug giant Novartis, which said finding a vaccine will take “over a year” – much longer than the timeline for developing a vaccine for SARS, 17 years ago. But clearly, the market isn’t worried, even as SocGen recommended to clients that they wait until the virus situation has “stabilized” before taking on more risk.

Back in China, health officials in Guangdong confirmed that two Australians and one Pakistan student have contracted the virus – making them the first confirmed foreigners to contract the virus in China. Another report claims four other Pakistanis have been diagnosed in Wuhan.

In the UK, a gathering of regional leaders from the UK and China that was set to take place in Birmingham in February has been cancelled, according to the SCMP. Following British Airways decision to close all flights to China, Germany’s Focus Magazine has reported that Lufthansa plans to follow suit.

A few more cases have been confirmed, as the global total approaches 6,200.

More cases are gradually being announced as airlines and governments around the world tighten travel restrictions in response to the virus. The WHO is expected to hold a press conference shortly.

* * *

Update (1925ET): Though it still far outpaced all of its western rivals, China’s annual GDP growth rate decelerated to its slowest level in 29 years last year, a factor, economists said, of the destabilizing trade war with the US.

Now, a senior economist with the Chinese government in Beijng is warning that annualized GDP growth for 2020 could dip below 5% if the virus isn’t contained. This is based on an assumption that the virus will peak before March.


Remember: China’s econ data is notoriously unreliable. When they announce 7% growth, skeptics claim the reality is closer to 4%. A break below 5% could, in reality, be a break below 3%.

Such an announcement is hardly a surprise…

…but Beijing’s promise to “step up policy support for the economy” means China will embark on another round of massive fiscal stimulus (at a time when economists have been begging Germany to consider loosening its purse strings to revive a sluggish Europe).

* * *

As the Trump Administration denies plans to shut down all passenger air traffic to China, more airlines around the world are suspending routes, a sign that the coronavirus outbreak could do permanent damage to the industry.

Just hours after the UK Foreign Office warned Britons against traveling to China, British Airways, Britain’s flag carrier, and its second-largest airline in the UK. British Airways operates direct flights from Heathrow to Beijing and Shanghai, but right now, passengers can’t book flights on those lines until Feb. 29. CNN called it “the most drastic action yet by a major airline” in response to the crisis. The decision comes after United Airlines said it would temporarily reduce the number of flights between the US and China.

“We have suspended all flights to and from mainland China with immediate effect following advice from the Foreign Office against all but essential travel,” British Airways said in a statement Wednesday.

This comes after United said Tuesday that it had seen a “significant decline in demand” and been forced it to suspend flights from Feb. 1 through Feb. 8 between its US hubs and Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai. In total, 24 round trips have been impacted between Hong Kong to San Francisco and Newark; Beijing to Dulles, O’Hare and Newark; and Shanghai to San Francisco, Newark and O’Hare.

Some airlines have cancelled flights as far out as March.

American Airlines, Delta and United all extended change fee waivers through the end of February, while Hong Kong flagship carrier Cathay Pacific said it will reduce the capacity of flights to and from mainland China by half or more until the end of March.

Finland’s Finnair is canceling three weekly flights between Helsinki and Beijing between Feb. 5 and March 29, and two weekly flights between Helsinki and Nanjing between Feb. 8 and March 29, because of the suspension of group travel by Chinese authorities. It will continue to operate flights to Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Guangzhou.

There are now 5,974 cases in China, with 1,239 of whom are severely ill, according to state media on Wednesday. Initial theories, put forward by some infectious disease experts, that the mortality rate of the virus is much lower than reflected in press reports because thousands with mild cases are likely toughing it out in their homes. If anything, it looks like the virus is more lethal than we previously believed.

And it’s certainly more infectious.

Per the SCMP, a 48-hour span of no new nCoV infections came to an end Wednesday when Hong Kong authorities announced two more patients tested positive for the potentially deadly illness, bringing the local total to 10, as the HK government suspends high-speed rail travel between the Special Administrative Region and the mainland. The HK Department of Health said the two new patients, an elderly couple, aged 72 and 73, tested positive at Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam, and, because of their age, fall into the high-risk category of infections. More than 100 people are still in isolation in HK.

The situation is growing increasingly worrisome in Guangdong province, which is centered around the city of Guangzhou, the fifth-largest in China.

Guangzhou is at the center of a massive conurbation stretching out all the way to Shenzen, and to the other neighboring cities of Foshan, Dongguan, Zhongshan and several other neighboring provinces. This agglomeration is one of the largest of its kind on Earth, home to more than 100 million. City officials announced five new infections, two locals and three foreigners. With more than 270 confirmed cases, this well-connected and economically important province is behind only Hubei and Zhejiang in terms of number of cases.

Now that several countries have copies of the coronavirus genome, the race for a workable vaccine is intensifying. Russia joined that race on Wednesday after receiving a copy of the virus genome from China, Russian state media reported on Wednesday. The US said on Tuesday that it would take three months to start initial trials for a vaccine that it’s developing, and three further months to gather data.

In Hong Kong, infectious diseases expert Professor Yuen Kwok-yung said on Tuesday that the city’s researchers had stumbled on a vaccine, but that it would take months to test on animals and at least another year to conduct trials on humans before it could be confirmed ready for human use. Scientists in Melbourne said they grew the virus from a patient sample, which could prove a “game-changer” in combating the outbreak. It was the first time the virus had been grown in a cell culture outside China (here’s hoping it isn’t misused as a potential bioweapon).

After confirming the first case of human-to-human transmission in Japan, health officials in Tokyo have shared more information about the case with the press: The man did not travel to Wuhan but drove buses with tour groups from the city twice this month. The man is in his 60s and lives in Nara Prefecture, according to the Japan Times.

Overnight, the first case of the virus in the Middle East have been confirmed in the United Arab Emirates, according to the country’s Ministry of Health and Community Protection. The 4 infected patients are members of a family that had traveled from Wuhan. In its statement, the health ministry reported the family as being in a stable condition under medical observation, according to CNBC.

As hysteria surrounding the outbreak grows, SCMP reports that resentment toward people from Wuhan is growing across China, as provincial authorities ramp up screenings of those from Wuhan, and citizens build unauthorized roadblocks to keep strangers out of their towns.

Meanwhile, President Xi said Wednesday that “preventing and containing the virus remains a severe and complex task,” a follow up to his claims that China would do whatever is necessary to contain the “demon” virus.

Tyler Durden

Wed, 01/29/2020 – 09:58

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Author: Tyler Durden