- Stocks slide as CDC releases new US case numbers
- Italy reports 7th death, 200+ confirmed cases
- Spain reports 3rd case
- WHO says outbreak not yet a 'pandemic'
- WH reportedly considering expulsion of Chinese journalists in retaliation for WSJ reporters
- US consulate in Milan temporarily halts visas
- Italian finance minister suspends tax payments in virus-hit areas
- First cases reported in Oman, Bahrain
- WHO kowtows to China in statement
- Wuhan issues order to loosen lockdown, then U-turns
- NHC says outbreak is fading, though situation remains "grim"
- 2 new cases confirmed in Canada
- China approves crackdown on wildlife trade after WHO says virus likely came from bats
- Iranian lawmaker says more than 50 deaths in Qom; officials say 12
- Hong Kong bars South Koreans
- more cases reported in SK
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Update (1745ET): In the latest virus-related update out of Europe, Spain just reported its third case, according to Spanish newspaper El Pais.
According the report, the individual is a "traveler" from Italy.
- SPAIN REPORTS 3RD CASE OF COVID-19 TRAVELER FROM ITALY - EL PAIS NEWS
In other virus news, two companies, UAL withdrew its 2020 forecasts on Monday night, citing a "~100%" decline in near-term demand from China. Mastercard also forecast lower revenue growth, citing the virus impact.
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Update (1450ET): We spotted an interesting tidbit at the bottom of a recent update to the Monday's NYT coronavirus liveblog:
The new virus presents Europe with perhaps its greatest challenge since the 2015 migration crisis. It could test the principle of open borders within much of Europe and the vaunted but strained European public health systems.
Could the outbreak present an opening for Matteo Salvini as he struggles to displace the Five Star-PD coalition and become prime minister?
In a country as badly in need of revenue as Italy, it would take a true disaster to suspend tax collection. Alas, it looks like that has finally happened, as Italy's finance minister suspended tax payments in regions hard-hit by the virus.
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Update (1425ET): Following the CDC confirming 18 new cases in the US, including two that were non-Diamond Princess related, Canadian public health officials have just confirmed that two individuals have tested positive for the virus, bringing the total number of infected in the US's northern neighbor to 11, the Washington Post reports.
Like their American counterparts, Canadian officials insisted that the overall risk to the population remains "low".
In British Columbia, a man in his 40s tested positive for the virus, provincial health officer Bonnie Henry told reporters. He is a close contact of a woman who health officials said last week tested positive for the virus after traveling to Iran, and is in stable condition at home.
Henry described the woman’s case as a “sentinel event” because it indicated that there could be “more widespread transmission” of the virus since she had not traveled to China or its neighboring countries.
Earlier Monday, Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, said that a woman in her 20s who recently traveled to China also tested positive for the virus. She arrived in Toronto on Friday and had spent some time in Wuhan, the city at the epicenter of the outbreak.
Earlier, WaPo reported that the White House is alarmed by gaps in the American supply chain that could impact the response to the coronavirus if the outbreak becomes an out-of-control catastrophe.
The US insists that all of the cases in the country so far were infected in China, excerpt for 2, according to the NYT:
All the new cases reported Monday occurred among people who were flown back from Asia to the United States by the State Department, the C.D.C. reported, and nearly all involve former passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan. They are in quarantine on military bases in California and Texas.
Twelve other cases occurred in people who had traveled to China, returned on their own and became ill after arriving back in the United States. Two of their close contacts also became infected.
Those 14 people are either isolating at home (under supervision from health officials), being treated at hospitals, or have already done so. Four of those infected people have recovered, been through the quarantine periods and are back out in the world.
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Update (1420ET): We're noting some new info from the CDC about the latest cases diagnosed in the US. Of the 14 non-Diamond Princess-related cases cited earlier, two of them are new: One is in Humboldt County, and the other in Sacramento County, both in California, per the Guardian.
The CDC added that it's preparing for outbreaks that could warrant the closure of schools and universities in the US.
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Update (1350ET): Reports claim Washington is weighing a decision to expel Chinese journalists after Beijing cancelled the press credentials of 3 WSJ reporters over an allegedly 'racist' opinion column.
In response to Beijing's decision, the State Department published an official condemnation.
The United States condemns the move by China to expel three @WSJ journalists. Mature, responsible countries understand that a free press reports facts and expresses opinions. China should not restrict #freespeech. https://t.co/szm0ujq2Ua— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) February 19, 2020
Looks like Bloomberg got the scoop:
By expelling Chinese journalists, the US would be seeking to show Beijing that it won't stand idly by and tolerate these press restrictions. For President Trump, whose administration has been characterized by a deep and abiding animosity toward the press, it marks an unusual example of Trump siding with the American media.
It also comes after the State Department last week designed five Chinese media organizations as "foreign missions": these included Xinhua and the PD.
Also, it's notable that the meeting where the administration officials reportedly discussed the retaliation was led by Matt Pottinger, a deputy national security advisor and former WSJ reporter who is purportedly the administration's point man on Asia policy.
The administration’s options were to be discussed in a meeting of senior administration leaders at the White House later Monday led by Matt Pottinger, the deputy national security adviser who was once a Wall Street Journal reporter in Beijing, according to U.S. officials familiar with the deliberations.
There’s an intense debate over how severely to respond to the expulsions last week. Some advocate ordering dozens -- and perhaps hundreds -- of Chinese reporters to leave, while others say that’s not legally possible or in keeping with American values on freedom of the press, according to several of the officials.
While declining to comment on specific actions under consideration, John Ullyot, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said Friday that China’s move against the American reporters was an “egregious act.”
It's also notable that WSJ is owned by Trump ally Rupert Murdoch.
In other news, the American consulate in Milan has said it will halt visa approvals until March 2 as the outbreak in Italy worsens.
Can't say we blame them: Here's an update of our chart of the cases in four of the countries with the largest outbreaks outside China.
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Update (1340ET): A Chinese airline is reopening domestic flights as Chinese officials start to lower their crisis-level outbreak standards, while UAL said Monday that it wouldn't cancel flights between the US and South Korea.
As China tries to encourage its people to get back to work, it looks like the CCP is now telling villagers that only obedience to The Party will cure the virus.
This #CCP cop tells you, if #CoronavirusOutbreak happens in any other country, apart from praying to heaven, they really can't do anything else. But in #China, as long as you listen to the party, the #virus will be conquered very soon. #COVID2019 #Coronavirus pic.twitter.com/4lEIAjaa1s— 曾錚 Jennifer Zeng (@jenniferatntd) February 24, 2020
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Update (1220ET): US stocks took another leg lower, falling to their lowest levels of the session with the Dow down 1,000 points, following the latest headlines out of the CDC confirming 39 cases of the virus have been detected among the rest of the ~300 individuals from the 'Diamond Princess'.
The CDC reportedly opposed the State Department's decision to allow 14 individuals who were confirmed to be infected to travel on the evac flight after their cases were confirmed just before takeoff, thanks to one of the many botched, drop-the-ball moments attributed to Japanese health officials.
This is exactly what they warned about: In addition to the 14 people who were already infected, it appears another 25 were infected on the flight back - where the sick individuals were separated by the rest using duct tape and a thin tarp-like sheet.
That brings total US cases to 53.
Meanwhile, the CD isolated 14 cases outside those who caught the virus aboard the DP.
- U.S. CDC SAYS 14 CONFIRMED CASES OF COVID-19 AS OF FEB. 24, 39 CASES AMONG THOSE REPATRIATED TO U.S.
Six of these cases are believed to be in San Antonio, according to local press reports.
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Update (1215ET): Just figured we'd point out: While WHO warns that there's nothing to fear, Beijing is trying to force its population back to work after six provinces outside Hubei lowered their emergency ratings earlier.
That push has led to more scenes like this one:
Mother dragged away in front of child.— 曾錚 Jennifer Zeng (@jenniferatntd) February 24, 2020
Click here for more 更多视频: https://t.co/fSwmxEsPYp#COVID2019 #Coronavirus #CoronavirusOutbreak #coronaviruschina #武汉肺炎 #新冠肺炎 #新冠病毒 #全民反抗 #全民自救 #全民互救 #戰勝恐懼 #傳播真相 pic.twitter.com/cJUp1FrF70
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Update (1115ET): Shortly before it voted to postpone its annual national congress, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress in China passed legislation approving a crackdown on the illegal wildlife trade on Monday.
Though SJWs have insisted that criticizing Chinese practices like eating 'bat soup' is 'racist', WHO scientists warned Monday morning that initial research suggests that the virus was transmitted to the first human cases via consumption of a bat, or possibly a pangolin that had been exposed to the virus via a bat, WaPo reports.
We published an explainer about how the wildlife trade, which has been illegal on paper for years, managed to flourish in the Chinese countryside as a king of grey market due to its immense profitability.
Now, it appears local farmers will be forced to return to growing crops, a far less lucrative trade than hawking bats and snakes, apparently.
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Update (1015ET): As the White House prepares to request an emergency spending package from Congress as soon as this week - a package that could seek close to $1 billion, as we've previously noted - WHO's Dr. Tedros said during the organization's Monday morning press briefing that the outbreak isn't yet a true "pandemic" because the world hasn't seen "large-scale deaths".
That's right: On the same morning that the Chinese government is marching people back to work, warning them that if they get infected, they're on their own, as if the entire country was one giant concentration camp, the WHO - which has repeatedly run interference for the regime - is insisting that the outbreak isn't really that bad.
The cases in Italy and South Korea are definitely concerning he said, but are we seeing an uncontrolled outbreak? No.
An Iranian lawmaker just blew the whistle on some 50 deaths in Iran, and now suddenly cases are popping up all over the Middle East and Europe, and the situation isn't really that bad.
But Tedros says we're not witnessing "uncontained global spread" and that "using the word pandemic does not fit the facts. We must focus on containment while preparing for a potential pandemic."
All nations battling the outbreak should prioritize three areas, Dr. Tedros added. These include: the safety of hospital workers, communities most at risk like the elderly, and others with co-occurring health conditions.
"This is a shared threat," Tedros said. "We can only face it together, and we can only overcome it together."
This comes nearly one month after the WHO declared the outbreak a global public-health emergency.
And this is what the curve looks like for cases outside China:
Confirmed cases in Italy:
Confirmed cases in South Korea:
Nothing to see here, gentlemen. Please, focus on the excellent dip-buying opportunity in front of you.
Finally, repeating some of his florid praise from the early days of the outbreak, Tedros said "other countries need to learn from China's response". Which we presume means that medieval lockdown is the way to go - but if you can tweak one thing, maybe try to get on top of the situation a little sooner.
Meanwhile, as Stars & Stripes reported earlier, US soldiers in South Korea are doing everything in their power to prevent an outbreak on an American base - a huge risk for US national security officials and the Pentagon - after the widow of a retired soldier who recently visited stores on a base in the southeastern part of South Korea.
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Update (1000ET): Following this morning's WHO circle-jerk, where the team of foreign doctors and experts refused to challenge Beijing's narrative despite widespread skepticism and criticism of the government's early decision to censor information about the outbreak, the Global Times editor-in-chief has just declared that the "risk of the virus spreading widely in China" has passed.
The risk of virus spreading widely in China has passed. Wuhan is still in lockdown while new infection cases are steadily decreasing,even disappearing, in other areas. Situation in countries such as S. Korea is worse than China. Global trade&travel could fall to large scale chaos— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) February 24, 2020
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Update (0925ET): ANSA reports a 7th death in Italy as the situation looks increasingly grim.
Here's the latest chart:
* * *
Update (0910ET): The coronavirus is already forcing Iranians to tweak certain practices, including their daily greetings.
Meanwhile, the first indications that the virus has already spread from Iran to some of its regional neighbors have already emerged: Oman has reported the first two confirmed coronavirus cases. The two cases are individuals who recently visited Iran.
This follows Bahrain reporting its first case overnight.
* * *
Update (0835ET): As the WHO team wrapped up its Monday press conference with what was essentially tantamount to a global confidence-building exercise in China's response, a senior official from China's National Health Commission said the coronavirus risk from Wuhan had gone 'way down.'
Of course, if that's true, then why did officials cancel a planned easing of the lockdown?
The official added that China has managed to stop the 'rapid rise' of infections in Wuhan, though they haven't stopped the epidemic yet, and that the situation remains "grim and complex" - as President Xi said over the weekend.
Meanwhile, over in Italy, ANSA reports that a sixth person has died.
Even more alarming for futbal fans across the country: Four Serie A matches were postponed on Sunday, while others on Saturday went ahead.
* * *
When American traders logged off on Friday, they might have noticed a few suspicious headlines out of Italy reporting a sudden spike in cases. But anybody who spent the weekend away from their desks and Twitter might be surprised to find that the Europe's third-largest economy is now host to a genuine crisis.
As we reported over the weekend, more than a dozen towns in Lombardy - the hardest hit region with 167 confirmed cases and 4 deaths - are on complete lockdown. According to the latest update, there are now 219 confirmed cases in Italy, as well as five deaths.
Angelo Borrelli, head of the country's civil protection agency, said Monday during a press briefing that another 91 people are currently in isolation inside their homes.
Following the weekend spike, Italy's neighbors are getting nervous. Austria is exploring border controls, though Germany said Monday that it's not currently considering closing its borders with Italy, an obvious attempt by the de facto leader of the EU to try and quell a continent-wide panic.
Elsewhere, more countries are tightening restrictions on South Koera. Hong Kong on Monday declared that it would stop non-residents from South Korea from entering Hong Kong.
This has sparked a bemused response from Hong Kongers on twitter:
Our fucking Hong Kong government has just announced that South Koreans will not be allowed to enter HK starting at 6 am tomorrow, but our fucking government has always allowed people from China to enter. What the hell is this going on?— 邱師奶 CLai.Y (@yauszelai) February 24, 2020
lmao Hong Kong is banning South Koreans from entering Hong Kong as if they'd come to this shithole and get infected with the china virus— 👼いかす😷 (@ikasu0) February 24, 2020
A recent poll showed that a majority of the people in Hong Kong don't trust the data provided by the Chinese government or the WHO.
* * *
In Italy, it seems like most of the dead fit the profile of elderly patients with co-occurring health problems. One of the two most recent deaths was reported to be a man from the village of Val Alzano Lombardo. He died at the Papa Giovanni XXIII hospital in Bergamo, near Milan. The hospital said the 83-year-old man (reports on his age differ) had a serious underlying health problem, but it didn't specify what it was, according to CNN.
As WHO officials finished off preparations for their big press conference Monday morning, Beijing announced that it would delay the National People's Congress, which had been set for early March. The move was telegraphed by leaked media reports well in advance.
Officials said Monday the key political meetings, originally due to take place from March 5, would be rescheduled. Analysts said the government in Beijing was worried about the optics of holding a large-scale public event while millions are living under lockdown. We agree - that would not be a good look for the CCP right now, especially after all of those videos of police rounding up violators of the lockdown who were probably just trying to find something to eat.
President Xi said one day earlier that China is in a "crisis" that would inevitably impact the country's economy. But whatever the fallout, he promised it would be brief and manageable.
Following the departure of the WHO team from Wuhan, local authorities made an extraordinary decision: all of a sudden, the cities' most senior officials announced a loosening of the city's lockdown. Millions rejoiced.
But they were soon disappointed: Because three hours later, the order was reversed, we assume, after Beijing caught wind of it.
According to the SCMP, the retracted announcement was issued by a 'subordinate working group' that didn't have official approval from their superiors. The individuals responsible will be 'reprimanded'. The lockdown has been in effect since Jan. 23.
The order would have allowed non-residents with no symptoms and no contact with infected patients to leave, a decision that would have freed thousands of foreign students.
In other news, Guangdong, China's second worst-hit province, has downgraded its level of alert, with local officials saying the outbreak has mostly been contained to Hubei.
As we reported last night, figures released early Monday in China reported 409 new cases of the novel coronavirus and 150 new deaths from the outbreak on Sunday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases to 77,150, with a death toll of 2,592 (which will be higher if the Iran deaths are confirmed). The majority of new cases, 398, were in Hubei.
In Israel, PM Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting for his political future in a critical upcoming election that could see him jailed if he doesn't hang on to power. So the heavy-handed measures to contain foreigners suspected of carrying the virus are hardly a surprise. In the latest step to contain the virus, Israel will send hundreds of East Asian nationals back to their home countries in the coming days, according to the Israel Airport Authority.
While Iran remains the epicenter of the outbreak in the Middle East, and several neighbors have already closed their borders, the first confirmed case was detected in Bahrain overnight.
Now, just imagine if Trump did that.
Vietnamese airline Bamboo Airways is suspending all flights to South Korea starting from Feb. 26.
In closing, we bring you comments made by Warren Buffett in an interview with CNBC, a clip of which was released on Monday. The 'Oracle of Omaha' said the virus is 'scary stuff'. But it shouldn't impact humans' decisions about whether to buy or sell stocks, Buffett said, alluding to the old Ben Graham axiom that stocks should be bought and held based on the fundamental value of the underlying company.
But as twitter's Mark Spiegel joked, Buffett's remarks had an unexpected connotation:
Translation: "It shouldn't affect what you do in stocks because 'the human race' no longer controls those." https://t.co/EK5TKcO6kg— Mark B. Spiegel (@markbspiegel) February 24, 2020
Humans don't buy stocks anymore, dummy!