Cases Spike Outside China; More Deaths in Italy: Virus Update
People wearing protective masks embrace while standing against the city skyline at night in the Tsim Sha Tsui district of Hong Kong. (Photographer: Justin Chin/Bloomberg)

Cases Spike Outside China; More Deaths in Italy: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) -- The coronavirus outbreak spread further outside China, sparking concerns about a pandemic. Italy reported at least six deaths, and the country’s financial hub is in virtual lockdown.

While the head of the World Health Organization called the new cases “deeply concerning,” he said the outbreak isn’t yet a global pandemic.

Infections spiked again in South Korea and Iran, while Afghanistan, Bahrain and Kuwait all reported their first cases. That dented markets globally -- European equities fell the most since June 2016 and the yield on 10-year Treasuries dropped to the lowest since that year. U.S. stocks plunged the most since August.

The WHO said China’s unprecedented lockdown may have averted hundreds of thousands of cases. The United Nations agency also said that Gilead Sciences Inc.’s experimental drug that is being tested for coronavirus may be the only one that will work.

Key Developments

  • Worldwide death toll 2,624; total cases 79,440
  • Italy reports more than 200 cases. At least six deaths
  • Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait confirm first cases; At least 12 dead in Iran
  • Wuhan retracts statement on quarantine easing measure
  • Xi’s response to virus foreshadows an even tighter grip on China

Click VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus and here for maps and charts. For analysis of the impact from Bloomberg Economics, click here.

Cases Spike Outside China; More Deaths in Italy: Virus Update

U.S. Cases Now at 53, CDC Says (2:30 p.m. NY)

There are now 53 people in the U.S. with the novel coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday

The American cases include 12 people who tested positive for the condition known as Covid-19 after traveling to areas where the virus is spreading widely. Additionally, two spouses of people in that group contracted it from direct human-to-human transmission.

Three others were diagnosed after being repatriated from Wuhan, China, the outbreak’s epicenter, on State Department flights, while 36 had previously been aboard the contaminated Diamond Princess cruise ship.

Games in Japan, South Korea Postponed (11:35 a.m. NY)

The Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association postponed a three-game series in Japan as a result of the virus. A collection of North American players was scheduled to spend a week in Japan and play three exhibitions against the Japanese national team in Tokyo. The teams are hoping to reschedule for later this year or early next year.

Elsewhere, the Overwatch League, a competitive video-gaming circuit operated by Activision Blizzard Inc. canceled three weeks of matches in South Korea, including home games for its Seoul Dynasty franchise. The league said the events will be rescheduled, and possibly relocated, for a different date.

French Phone Carrier Gets Warning on Supply (10:48 a.m.)

Mobile-phone manufacturers warned a carrier in France that deliveries to its stores could be disrupted by supply-chain problems linked to the coronavirus, according to a person familiar with the situation who declined to be identified because the matter is confidential.

Another French operator is already experiencing delayed deliveries and may soon run out of some smartphone models, said a second person familiar with the matter.

Virus Not Yet a Pandemic, WHO Chief Says (10:25 a.m. NY)

The increase in the number of cases in Italy, Iran and South Korea is “deeply concerning,” the head of the World Health Organization said at a press briefing in Geneva.

Countries need to do everything they can to prepare for a potential pandemic, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. The disease hasn’t reached that stage, which is defined by an uncontrollable geographical spread.

Outbreak Could Reach Germany, Health Minister Says (9:35 a.m. NY)

The coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy shows that the virus “can also spread in Germany,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn said in Berlin.

While the virus may become a global pandemic, Germany is very well-prepared because its health system is one of the best in the world, Spahn said.

White House’s Philipson Says Virus ‘Real Threat’ (9:35 a.m. NY)

The Trump administration’s top economist called the coronavirus a “real threat” this year, but said it’s too early to tell how seriously it will affect the U.S. economy.

Tomas Philipson, the acting director of the Council of Economic Advisers, said that at the moment seasonal flu has a greater impact in the U.S. He said the White House will continue to monitor the outbreak.

Austria Ready for Immediate Border Closures If Needed (8:30 a.m. NY)

Austria is tightening cooperation with neighboring countries and is ready for immediate border closures if needed, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told journalists in Vienna Monday. He cited the temporary stop of the train traffic via the Brenner pass late Sunday as an example. The administration is also preparing to be able to roll out fever checks like those currently done at Vienna airport if needed.

Health ministers from Italy and neighboring countries will meet in Rome Tuesday to coordinate their actions, health minister Rudolf Anschober said.

WHO Says Gilead’s Remdesivir May Be Only Drug for Virus (8 a.m. NY)

Gilead’s experimental drug may be the best bet to find a treatment for the new coronavirus, Bruce Aylward, an assistant director-general at the World Health Organization, said at a briefing in Beijing.

Gilead’s compound, remdesivir, has been rushed into a clinical trial in China. WHO officials have said results could be available within weeks.

Cases Spike Outside China; More Deaths in Italy: Virus Update

WHO Says China Lockdown Blunted New Epidemic (7:36 a.m. NY)

China’s unprecedented lockdown and restrictions may have blunted the coronavirus’s spread and averted hundreds of thousands of cases, according to a team of medical experts that visited the outbreak’s epicenter last week. Fewer patients are crowding hospitals in Wuhan and are consulting doctors for fevers, Bruce Aylward, an assistant director-general at the World Health Organization, said in Beijing.

But the outbreak could gain ground again as schools reopen and work resumes, Aylward warned. More broadly, he called for China’s experience in turning around the outbreak to help battle the virus elsewhere.

Hong Kong Issues ‘Red’ Travel Alert on South Korea (7:36 a.m. NY)

Hong Kong urged public planning to travel to South Korea to adjust their travel plans and avoid non-essential travel, according to a statement on Monday. It will stop non-residents from entering from South Korea starting Tuesday, local broadcaster Now TV said.

Cases Spike Outside China; More Deaths in Italy: Virus Update

Buffett Says Virus Shouldn’t Affect Investment Views (7:14 a.m. NY)

Berkshire Hathaway Inc CEO Warren Buffett said he thinks the coronavirus won’t die off with warmer weather. “It is scary stuff -- I don’t think it should affect what you do in stocks. In terms of the human race, it is scary,” he said.

Traders Supercharge Global Rate-Cut Bets (7:13 a.m. NY)

The global economic disruption caused by the coronavirus has prompted traders to load up on bets that central banks will have to ride to the rescue. They’re pricing in a total of 205 basis points of interest-rate cuts from seven major central banks by the end of the year, up three fold from the end of 2019, according to calculations based on Bloomberg’s World Interest Rate Probability.

China to Keep Monetary Policy Flexible, Mull New Moves (7 a.m. NY)

China’s central bank said it will place more emphasis on keeping monetary policy flexible as it steps up support to the real economy, according to a statement on its website. The People’s Bank of China said also it will consider new measures at the proper time to counter the impact from the coronavirus outbreak.

U.S. Drugmakers Working on Coronavirus Surge (6:33 a.m. NY)

U.S. drug developers Novavax and Inovio, as well as diagnostic test maker Co-Diagnostics, rose in pre-market trading as the coronavirus continues to spread outside of China.

Italy Has More Than 200 Virus Cases, Six Deaths (6:22 a.m. NY)

There are more than 200 confirmed coronavirus cases in Italy. Six patients have died, according to Ansa. One has been declared free from infection.

Italy is grappling with Europe’s largest coronavirus outbreak. Milan, the country’s financial hub, and the productive regions of Lombardy and Veneto are in virtual lockdown. The government has imposed sweeping measures limiting travel to and from affected areas.

Cases Spike Outside China; More Deaths in Italy: Virus Update

Italian Passengers Stuck on Plane, Coach Blocked (6:18 a.m. NY)

Italy’s Foreign Ministry said it is monitoring the situation of an Alitalia flight that is being held at Mauritius airport. The Alitalia flight departed from Fiumicino Sunday evening. Some passengers coming from the northern Italian regions of Lombardy and Veneto, where an outbreak is under way, have been prevented from disembarking.

Separately, a coach coming from northern Italy has been blocked at Lyon’s Perrache station in southeast France because of a suspected case of coronavirus, regional newspaper Le Progres reported.

European Stocks Tumble Most Since 2016 (5:57 p.m. HK)

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index fell as much as 3.6%, the most since June 2016, led by the auto, mining and travel sectors. Luxury companies tumbled on fears that the epidemic will hurt sales.

EU Won’t Restrict Schengen Travel Yet (5:30 pm. HK)

The European Union has no plans yet for blanket restrictions in its free-travel rules in the so-called Schengen area following the surge in cases in Italy. The bloc called the Italian response was swift and effective, despite ever louder criticism at home and abroad.

EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides has asked the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control to update their risk assessment to take into consideration the situation in Italy. A joint WHO-ECDC expert mission will be sent to Italy on Tuesday to assess the situation.

Europe Debt Risk Jumps Most Since March 2018 (4:47 p.m. HK)

The Markit iTraxx Europe Crossover index of credit-default swaps on high-yield companies rose 14.5bps to about 234bps, the most since March 2018.

China Bans Wildlife Trading and Consumption (4:47 p.m. HK)

China’s top legislature imposed a total ban on trade and consumption of wild animals, according to state-run China Central Television, a move that aims to curb activities that scientists say may have caused the deadly coronavirus to jump from animals to humans.

China Postpones Annual Legislative Meetings (4:23 p.m. HK)

Top legislature decided to delay the annual meetings, which were originally scheduled to start early March, state-run China Central Television said. New dates will be announced later. The legislative meeting is one of the most important political meetings held every year in Beijing, at which officials will discuss China’s major economic targets including for GDP growth, inflation and announce the country’s budget plan. It’s the first time in decades that the NPC has been postponed.

Italy Studies Tax Relief, Financial Support (4:23 p.m. HK)

The government is studying emergency measures to support companies and families affected by the outbreak in the country’s northern regions. Possible steps include suspending local tax payments and delaying mortgage payments, according to a draft decree seen by Bloomberg.

Italy was already on the brink of recession after an 0.3 percentage point contraction in the fourth quarter. Bond yields spiked and equities slumped after the country emerged as Europe’s most-affected nation, with over 200 cases reported.

Wuhan to Keep Quarantine Measures (3:10 p.m. HK)

The local government in Wuhan said it would keep quarantine measures, walking back an earlier statement that said people who weren’t currently residents of the city would be allowed to leave from Monday for reasons including medical need. It said the earlier statement was ineffective.

The statement had said those leaving should be healthy, with no symptoms of fever, cough or asthma. It added that Wuhan residents and their vehicles were now allowed to enter the city after procedures including identity and health checks.

Hours after the statement was released, it was deleted off state media and the local government’s Weibo account and replaced with a statement saying top officials had not approved the easing.

China has in recent weeks locked down some 50 million people in more than a dozen cities to try and stop the virus, which originated in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province.

Kuwait, Bahrain Confirm First Cases (2:21 p.m. HK)

The virus continued its spread in the Middle East, with Kuwait reporting three cases and Bahrain one, according to their respective state-run news agencies. The infections in Kuwait were linked to people returning from the Muslim pilgrim site of Mashhad, in Iran.

Iran has eight deaths so far, giving it the highest number of coronavirus cases in the region. Other neighboring countries that have reported cases of the virus are the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Egypt and Israel.

Cases Spike Outside China; More Deaths in Italy: Virus Update

Austria Eases Halt on Trains from Italy (2:20 p.m. HK)

Austria lifted the temporary ban on train traffic from Italy via the Brenner pass overnight. The two suspect cases on board the Venice-Munich train that had triggered the halt were tested negative for the coronavirus, Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said on public radio Oe1.

Another Chinese Province Lowers Emergency Level (11:33 a.m. HK)

State-run CCTV said Guangdong -- which has the most confirmed infections after Hubei -- has become the latest Chinese province to lower its coronavirus emergency response level from its highest.

Gansu, Liaoning, Guizhou, Shanxi and Yunnan also have, the state-run People’s Daily reported earlier, citing local governments. Shanxi’s was lowered to its second-highest, and the other four to the third-highest levels, the newspaper said.

South Korea Widens Virus Screening (11:05 a.m. HK)

With the country at the highest alert level in nearly a decade, South Korea will expand coronavirus screening to all residents of the city of Daegu who show symptoms of the infection, and ship 1,000 hospital beds to the region, a health ministry official said at a briefing.

The additional beds are being expedited as health officials said they had identified 37,000 people in the city with symptoms of the virus. The moves came a day after President Moon Jae-in raised the alert level in South Korea to its highest.

Cases Spike Outside China; More Deaths in Italy: Virus Update

By elevating the alert level, the government can restrict air travel, allocate additional resources to public and private hospitals and impose stricter measures on foreigners entering the country. South Korea on Sunday postponed the resumption of schools, which were scheduled to reopen next Monday after a winter break and restricted military personnel from leaving their base or facility.

When the last alert level was raised to “red” in 2009, the number of H1N1 cases in South Korea doubled to almost 9,000 in a week’s time, with about 40 deaths attributed to the influenza during the same period.

Separately, South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention informed United States Forces Korea that a USFK dependent living in Daegu had tested positive.

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