The U.K. confirmed its first two cases of coronavirus on Friday, while the U.S. and Japan advised citizens to avoid traveling to China. Singapore suspended visas issued to Chinese citizens. Stocks fell in Europe and Asia as the virus continued to spread.
The World Health Organization had on Thursday declared the outbreak a global health emergency, and cases have now soared to more than 9,950 globally. That is higher than the number of officially reported cases during the SARS epidemic.
U.K. Confirms Two Cases of Coronavirus (6 a.m. NY)
Two patients in England, who are members of the same family, tested positive for coronavirus, the government said. The patients are receiving specialist care in Newcastle.
“We are already working rapidly to identify any contacts the patients had, to prevent further spread,” Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said. The government put the mortality rate from the new coronavirus at 2%.
Meanwhile, all passengers who boarded a flight from Wuhan are well, the U.K. government said. Travelers from China with symptoms are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days.
Singapore Restricts Visitors From China (6 p.m. HK)
Singapore has suspended visas of Chinese citizens with immediate effect. This includes those already issued, according to government officials at a briefing Friday.
Hong Kong Schools to Stay Closed Until March 2: (5 p.m. HK)
Hong Kong is extending school holidays till March 2, depending on the coronavirus situation, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said in a briefing. The government will step up scrutiny of tourists from Hubei province, including sending them into quarantine.
Lam again dismissed calls to close Hong Kong’s borders with China, and asked the city’s medical staff to reconsider any plans to strike.
Goldman Sees Hit to U.S. Growth (4:05 p.m. HK)
The coronavirus outbreak will cut U.S. economic growth by 0.4 percentage point in the first quarter as the number of tourists from China declines and exports to the Asian nation slow, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said.
Trapped Italian Cruise Ship Passengers Allowed to Disembark (3:44 p.m. HK)
About 7,000 passengers who’ve been kept on a cruise ship near Rome over fears of a virus outbreak on board were allowed to disembark on Friday morning.
Passengers on the ship owned by Carnival Corp., had been held in the port of Civitavecchia since Thursday morning, after one of them came down with fever and respiratory symptoms. Subsequent examinations showed the illness was not the new coronavirus.
Japan Raises Travel Warning After Criticism Over Virus Gaps (1:11 p.m. HK)
Japan moved to strengthen its travel warning for China and to bar patients infected with the new coronavirus from entering the country, after criticism that its initial response to the deadly outbreak was too lax.
The government is set to advise that non-urgent trips to China should be canceled. It also plans to bring forward an order allowing compulsory hospitalization to Feb. 1, earlier than Feb. 7 as originally planned, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told parliament. Patients will be barred from entering the country from the same date, he added.
Countries Worry About Evacuee Contagion, Economic Impact (11:53 a.m. HK)
Tensions are rising across the region as governments bring their citizens home from the outbreak epicenter in China, risking greater exposure among domestic populations.
Australia plans to isolate its evacuees from Wuhan on Christmas Island, better known for its grim history as a detention center for would-be asylum seekers, while the U.S. flew its citizens from the virus-stricken Chinese city to an isolated military base in California.
Taiwan President Seeks Inclusion in WHO Efforts (11:15 a.m. HK)
Taiwan is afraid of being left out after the WHO declared a global health emergency.
“As a major transportation hub in the Asia Pacific region, Taiwan must be included in efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus outbreak,” President Tsai Ing-wen said in a Twitter post Friday. Taiwan has nine confirmed cases of the virus.
The United Nations agency has excluded Taiwan from its annual summit for the past several years amid pressure from China.
Economist Sees Far Bigger Impact Than During SARS (7:35 a.m. HK)
The global cost of the coronavirus could be three or four times that of the 2003 SARS outbreak that sapped the world’s economy by $40 billion, according to the economist who calculated that figure.
The sheer growth in the Chinese economy over the last 17 years means the global health emergency triggered by the coronavirus outbreak has far greater potential to gouge global growth, according to Warwick McKibbin, professor of economics at the Australian National University in Canberra.
U.S. Tells Americans to Leave China (9:59 a.m. HK)
The U.S. State Department on Thursday night warned Americans not to travel to China because of the spreading coronavirus outbreak. “Those currently in China should consider departing using commercial means,” the department said in the advisory, which was Level 4, the most severe travel warning category.
The advisory puts China among several nations that the U.S. warns its citizens to avoid, including North Korea, Venezuela, Iran, Iran and Somalia.
Study Sees Early Signs of Human Transmission (8:38 a.m. HK)
The coronavirus was spreading from person to person earlier than reported, according to a study by Chinese scientists.
Among 47 cases that occurred during 2019, 14 had been in contact with another person with respiratory symptoms, indicating likely human-to-human transmission, researchers from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said in a study published Jan. 29 in the New England Journal of Medicine. Their analysis of the first 425 cases in Wuhan found that in its early stages, the epidemic doubled in size every 7.4 days.
“There is evidence that human-to-human transmission has occurred among close contacts since the middle of December,” Qun Li and colleagues said. Official confirmation of such transmissions wasn’t reported until weeks later.
Global Virus Cases Now Top Official SARS Count (7:58 a.m. HK)
The total number of coronavirus cases around the world has reached more than 9,800. That tops the count from the SARS epidemic, which in 2003 saw 8,096 officially reported cases, according to the WHO.
The latest tally shows the speed with which the new virus has spread in a short period of time, from the first case in December. It’s reached the same level that SARS did during its span of about eight months.
An overwhelming number of the cases, as with SARS, are in China. The country has 9,692 confirmed cases, while there are about 100 cases outside Greater China across 18 nations.
The numbers come with a footnote, however. SARS cases were widely considered to be under-reported, as possibly thousands went undocumented in the first few months. At the same time, the official count for the current virus is likely to be below the actual number of cases, as health officials scramble to widen testing.
WHO Calls Coronavirus International Emergency (3:06 p.m. NY)
The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak centered in China a public health emergency of international concern, a step that will let public health authorities aid countries with less-robust health systems to stop the spread of the virus.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised China‘s efforts to contain the outbreak, saying he had never seen a nation respond so aggressively to a disease, including building a new hospital in just 10 days. It’s a contrast to the criticism China faced for a lack to transparency during SARS.
Tedros said there’s no need at this time for measures that interfere with travel and trade, even though many governments, airlines and businesses have already taken such steps.
U.S. Has First Human-to-Human Transmission (12:43 p.m. NY)
A woman in Chicago who had been diagnosed last week with the coronavirus infected her husband, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday, the first case of human-to-human transmission to occur in the U.S.
Both patients are in their 60s and are doing well while being kept in isolation, CDC officials said on the call. The agency said the virus is not spreading widely and that the risk to the U.S. public remains low.
Disease experts are still trying to understand exactly how the virus spreads, and at what point after a person has become infected they become contagious. It’s also not clear, said CDC officials, how long a person has to be sick before testing positive. Both factors can present a challenge for health workers keeping tabs on contacts of people considered at risk.