U.S. Raises China Criticism; Details on New Cases: Virus Update
A worker wearing a protective face mask walks outside the Fira Gran Via venue for the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. (Photographer: Angel Garcia/Bloomberg)

U.S. Raises China Criticism; Details on New Cases: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) -- Total cases in China jumped by almost 15,000 after Hubei province, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, revised its method for counting infections. A top WHO official said many of the added cases date back days and weeks.

Two top Chinese officials were removed in the biggest political fallout so far from the epidemic, and a report said China may delay its annual political meeting. A senior Trump administration official raised doubts about China’s transparency over the virus.

Japan reported its first death from the illness. The European Commission singled out the outbreak as a “key downside risk,” and the International Energy Agency warned global oil demand will drop this quarter for the first time in more than a decade.

Bloomberg is tracking the outbreak on the terminal and online. For analysis of the impact from Bloomberg Economics, click here

Key Developments

Kudlow Criticizes China Transparency Over Virus (1:27 p.m. NY)

The White House’s top economic adviser heightened U.S. criticism of China’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, echoing ongoing doubts about the accuracy of counts of new cases and deaths.

“We thought there was better transparency coming out of China, but it doesn’t appear to be,” Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, told reporters at the White House Thursday.

Kudlow said the U.S. was disappointed that American health experts still hadn’t been allowed in, and questioned the details behind the more than 13,000 cases China added to its total Thursday.

“We don’t know if it’s contained in China. We thought they were tailing off in their headcount. It turns out that might not be the case,” Kudlow said. “On this particular matter, we are quite disappointed in China’s response.“

China Considers Delaying Parliament Meeting, Kyodo Says (12:04 p.m. NY)

China is considering whether it will postpone its national political meeting that is slated for March 5, the Japanese news organization Kyodo reported, citing unidentified sources close to the matter.

The National People’s Congress gathering is China’s biggest annual political event, and any delay would be the first in decades.

China’s economic targets for the year are usually published after the meeting. A final decision will be made based on when the coronavirus spread reaches its peak, Kyodo said.

White House Raises Doubts About China Counts: Reports (11:56 a.m. NY)

The Trump administration isn’t confident in the information coming out of China about the coronavirus, according to reports from Fox News and CNBC citing anonymous administration sources.

Current counts from China put the number of cases of the new coronavirus at about 60,000, as of Thursday morning. Estimates by outside experts have for several weeks now suggested far higher figures that China’s numbers, and hospitals and health workers at the center of the outbreak in the province of Hubei have been overwhelmed.

In public, Trump has repeatedly praised the Chinese government’s response, and tweeted last week to say he was impressed by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s leadership. At least 1,300 people have died from the virus, tens of millions of people have been put into a regional quarantine, and world governments have limited travel to China.

The U.S. has offered to send health experts to the front lines of the outbreak, as part of a World Health Organization-led delegation to study the coronavirus and the illness it causes. U.S. officials have said those offers have been ignored so far, and the WHO declined to comment Thursday on whether Americans would be included.

WHO Says Added Group of Cases Date Back Days, Weeks (10:45 a.m. NY)

A top World Health Organization official said that the more than 13,000 new Chinese cases reported Thursday are older and don’t represent a sudden surge in new infections.

“Most of these cases relate to a period going back over days and weeks, in some cases back to beginning out of the outbreak itself,” said Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme. “This increase you’ve seen in the last 24 hours is largely down to how cases are being diagnosed and reported.”

Early Thursday morning, authorities in Hubei province, where the outbreak is centered, said they could count cases diagnosed through clinical symptoms such as a cough, and a chest scan showing signs of pneumonia. The new criteria allow cases to be added without a positive diagnostic test.

To read more on the increase in total cases, click here for Bloomberg’s explainer.

Alibaba Warns of Impact on Chinese Economy (9:53 a.m. NY)

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., the Chinese e-commerce giant, warned that the coronavirus is exerting a fundamental impact on the country’s consumers and merchants, and will hurt its revenue growth in the current quarter.

Alibaba, the first major Chinese technology corporation to report results since the epidemic emerged in January, said the virus is undermining production because many workers can’t get to or perform their jobs. It’s also changed buying patterns with consumers pulling back on discretionary spending, including travel and restaurants.

Ralph Lauren Sees Sales Hit From Virus (8:08 a.m. NY)

The apparel maker said its fourth quarter will take a sales hit of as much as $70 million because of the virus, while operating income from Asia will be as much as $45 million lower. Supply-chain disruptions in China could also affect a “small portion” of the company’s fourth-quarter orders globally. About two-thirds of Ralph Lauren’s stores in mainland China have been temporarily closed over the past week.

Japan Reports First Death (7:22 a.m. NY)

Japan confirmed its first death from the virus. The woman, in her 80s, resided in Kanagawa prefecture outside of Tokyo, Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told a press conference. She was being treated for a separate condition. Kyodo News reported that she had no known links to Wuhan. The case would be the third death outside mainland China.

Chinese EV Maker NIO Delays Salary Payments (6:17 a.m. NY)

Chairman William Li told employees that the cash-strapped electric-car maker will pay January salaries on Friday, six days behind schedule, because of difficulties stemming from the outbreak of the virus. NIO posted losses of more than $300 million in the quarter ended September -- the latest period for which the company’s financials are available.

European Commission Calls Virus Key Downside Risk (6 p.m. HK)

The virus risks further damping the outlook for European economic growth. The commission said the euro-area economy remains on a “steady path,” partly because its baseline assumption is that the outbreak peaks in the first quarter.

The ECB is already on alert over the newly emerged threats. Spanish policy maker Pablo Hernandez de Cos added to the chorus of officials, saying the coronavirus is compounding risks for the region after some earlier signs of stabilization. Chief Economist Philip Lane said on Wednesday the economy could experience a “pretty serious short-term hit.”

India Has Almost 16,000 Under Surveillance (5:24 p.m. HK)

A community surveillance program is underway across 34 Indian states and union territories, Indian government said. India is screening passengers at 21 airports, international seaports and border crossings.

H.K., Singapore Rugby Sevens Postponed (5:10 p.m. HK)

Hong Kong Rugby Union and Sport Singapore confirmed plans to reschedule the World Rugby Sevens Series 2020 to October from April due to concerns related to novel coronavirus outbreak.

IEA Sees First Global Oil Demand Drop in a Decade (5 p.m. HK)

World fuel consumption -- which had previously been expected to grow by 800,000 barrels a day during the three-month period, compared with a year earlier -- will instead contract by 435,000 a day, the IEA said in its monthly oil market report.

For 2020 as a whole, the virus will curb annual growth in global consumption by about 30% to 825,000 barrels a day, the lowest since 2011. The effects will be more significant than those of the 2003 SARS epidemic.

Japanese Bank Quarantines Some Hong Kong Staff (4:59 p.m. HK)

An employee of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. has been quarantined at home in Hong Kong after a family member was suspected of being infected with the new coronavirus, according to company memos seen by Bloomberg News.

The employee, who is from the Japanese bank’s Quarry Bay office, is not infected. As a precautionary measure, other colleagues in the same office were also quarantined.

China’s Confirmed Cases Climb Toward 60,000 (4:11 p.m. HK)

China reported 15,152 additional coronavirus cases as of Feb. 12, with Hubei’s new method for counting infections accounting for the bulk of the additions.

The death toll rose by 254, the National Health Commission said at briefing. That brings the total fatality rate in mainland China to 1,367.

The NHC said there are 8,030 severe cases, while 5,911 have recovered or been discharged.

Outside of mainland China, two deaths have been reported, one in Hong Kong and the other in the Philippines.

Pernod Cuts Forecast as Coronavirus Hits Sales (4 p.m. HK)

U.S. Raises China Criticism; Details on New Cases: Virus Update

Pernod Ricard SA cut its forecast for full-year profit growth by about half, citing the effect of the coronavirus on sales of drinks including Jameson whiskey in the key Chinese market.

It cited the “severe impact” of the virus, including bar and store closures in the outbreak’s epicenter, Hubei province. The maker of Martell Cognac joins a growing number of companies to lower their outlook for 2020 to account for the spread of the virus.

Australia Extends Entry Ban From China (3:03 p.m. HK)

Australia will extend its ban on people entering the country from mainland China due to the coronavirus for an extra week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said. The original 14-day ban was due to expire on Saturday. Australia’s National Security Committee will review the need for the ban on a week-by-week basis, Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

Hubei Province Extends Work Suspension (2:54 p.m. HK)

China’s Hubei province, at the center of the coronavirus outbreak, is requiring that enterprises not resume work before Feb. 20, according to the local government.

China Car Sales Plunge by Most in Eight Years (2:19 p.m. HK)

Car sales in China plunged to fresh lows in January as the coronavirus kept buyers away from showrooms, intensifying the gloom hanging over the industry.

Sales to dealerships fell 20% to 1.61 million cars last month, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said. That’s the biggest monthly drop since January 2012.

The outbreak is exacerbating manufacturer and dealership woes in the world’s biggest market, which is also being hit by a slowing economy and trade tensions. Sales were heading for an unprecedented third straight annual decline even before the virus forced authorities to lock down the epicenter of Wuhan and beyond.

China Replaces Officials in Hubei, Wuhan (12:15 p.m. HK)

Jiang Chaoliang was removed from his post as Communist Party secretary for the central province of Hubei, the official Xinhua News Agency said. He was replaced by Ying Yong, the mayor of the financial hub Shanghai.

At the same time, Ma Guoqiang was dismissed as party secretary of Wuhan, the city in Hubei where the outbreak originated. He was replaced by Wang Zhonglin, CCTV reported.

U.S. Raises China Criticism; Details on New Cases: Virus Update

The shakeup -- following Beijing’s decision to dispatch top officials to the hardest hit province of Hubei -- comes amid deepening concerns about early efforts to suppress information about the severity of the health crisis.

Ma, the Communist Party’s highest ranking member in Wuhan, has said he was full of guilt and regret for not acting faster.

China also replaced the head of its top agency overseeing Hong Kong. Authorities there have faced public criticism over their handling of the coronavirus outbreak, which has led to runs on surgical masks and toilet paper, shuttered schools through March and further deepened mistrust of the government after months of violent demonstrations.

Japan Finds 44 More Cases on Cruise Ship (11:32 a.m. HK)

Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said another 44 people on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship off Yokohama have tested positive for coronavirus infection.

The new cases bring the total number of infections to 218 from the ship, which had about 3,700 people aboard when it was placed in quarantine last week. Kato said five people from the cruise ship are in serious condition after being infected with the virus.

Kato said passengers will begin priority disembarkation on Friday. The Health Ministry said in a separate statement that passengers over 80 years old, those in rooms without windows and those with underlying conditions will be prioritized for being let off the ship.

The Diamond Princess was placed under quarantine last week and checks were conducted after a passenger from Hong Kong who had been on the ship tested positive for the virus. The ship has become a case of concern because of the possibility of more infections in the vessel’s confined spaces, and the increased risks to elderly passengers.

U.S. Raises China Criticism; Details on New Cases: Virus Update

Hong Kong to Extend School Closure (10:31 a.m. HK)

Hong Kong will extend the temporary closure of non-tertiary schools until March 16, Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung said in a briefing. Schools had been scheduled to resume March 2.

Yeung said Hong Kong would decide on when to reopen schools with experts’ advice. Students are advised to make use of e-learning during campus closures.

China’s Cases Jump by 15,000 After Counting Change (10 a.m. HK)

The number of officially diagnosed coronavirus cases in the Chinese province of Hubei surged by 45% to nearly 50,000 after the Hubei provincial government began adding cases that were confirmed via imaging scans, alongside those confirmed with the previous method of nucleic acid testing kits.

The abrupt spike reversed the declining growth trend of previous days. The Hubei national health commission said it would now start including cases confirmed by “clinical diagnosis,” which refers to using CT imaging scans to diagnose patients.

Previously, many patients with pneumonia-like symptoms found via CT scans could not be diagnosed as positive without an additional nucleic acid test.

Of 14,840 new cases, 13,332 are from the new category of clinical diagnosis using CT scans, said the statement. The death toll in Hubei rose by 242, of which 135 cases are from the new method of diagnosis, it said.

It is unclear over which time period the number of cases in the new category were detected. In a press conference in Beijing Thursday afternoon, officials only took questions from state media, and no one asked about the data revisions.

U.S. Raises China Criticism; Details on New Cases: Virus Update

Outcast Cruise Ship to Moor in Cambodia (9:57 a.m. HK)

The 2,257 passengers and crew aboard a luxury cruise liner that was barred by many ports over coronavirus fears will finally set foot on dry land, ending their ordeal.

The outcast Westerdam was set to arrive in Cambodia’s Sihanoukville early Thursday, Holland America Line, part of Miami-based Carnival Corp., said in a statement. Thailand was the latest country to turn it away even after the operator said it had no reason to believe there were any cases of the deadly virus on board.

U.S. Confirms 14th Coronavirus Case (8:48 a.m. HK)

An American who was brought home on a State Department flight from central China became the 14th person with the infection in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The patient was under quarantine at the same U.S. airbase in San Diego where another repatriated American was previously diagnosed with the disease known as Covid-19. There had been no contact between the two patients, who were on different flights coming out of China and were housed in separate facilities, indicating that the virus hadn’t spread between them.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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