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China reports fall in coronavirus cases

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There has been a decrease in the number of new deaths and new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday.

Shanghai/Beijing – China reported a

decrease in the number of new deaths and new cases of the

coronavirus on Saturday, while its central bank predicted a

limited short-term economic impact and said the country was

confident in winning the fight against the epidemic.

Mainland China had 397 new confirmed cases of coronavirus

infections on Friday, down from 889 a day earlier, the national

health authority said.

But the number of infections continued to rise elsewhere,

with outbreaks worsening in South Korea, Italy and Iran and

Lebanon. The World Health Organisation warned that the window of

opportunity to contain the international spread was closing.

Concerns about the virus weighed on U.S. stocks and the

Nasdaq had its worst daily percentage decline in about three

weeks on Friday, driven by an earlier spike in new cases and

data showing stalling U.S. business activity in

February.

South Korea reported another spike in infections with 142

confirmed cases on Saturday, taking its tally to 346, about half

related to those who attended a church service in Daegu. Cases

in one hospital jumped from 16 to 108 overnight.

An official in protective suits measure the temperature of the foreign passengers disembarked from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship before boarding to buses at a port in Yokohama. Picture: Eugene Hoshiko/AP

The virus has spread to some 26 countries and territories

outside mainland China, killing 11 people, according to a

Reuters tally.

“We still have a chance to contain it,” Tedros Adhanom

Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said on Friday.

“If we don’t, if we squander the opportunity, then there

will be a serious problem on our hands.”

An outbreak in northern Italy worsened, with its first

death, an elderly man, among 17 confirmed cases including its

first known instance of local transmission.

The total number of confirmed cases in mainland China rose

to 76,288, with the death toll at 2,345 as of the end of Friday.

The central province of Hubei, the epicentre of the outbreak,

reported 106 new deaths of which 90 were in its capital Wuhan.

Chinese scientists on Friday reported that a woman from

Wuhan had travelled 400 miles (675km) and infected five

relatives without ever showing signs of infection, offering new

evidence of asymptomatical spreading.

A worker wearing protective gears sprays disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus at a subway station in Seoul, South Korea. Picture: Ahn Young-joon/AP

Senior Chinese central bank officials sought to ease global

investors’ worries about the potential damage to the world’s

second-largest economy from the outbreak, saying interest rates

would be guided lower and that the country’s financial system

and currency were resilient.

Chen Yulu, a deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China,

said policymakers had plenty of tools to support the economy,

and that they were fully confident of winning the war against

the epidemic, according to China Central Television (CCTV).

“We believe that after this epidemic is over, pent-up demand

for consumption and investment will be fully released, and

China’s economy will rebound swiftly,” Chen said.

China has recently cut several of its key lending rates,

including the benchmark lending rate on Thursday, and has urged

banks to extend cheap loans to the worst-hit companies which are

struggling to resume production and are running out of cash.

Some analysts believe China’s economy could contract in the

first quarter from the previous three months due to the combined

supply and demand shocks caused by the fast-spreading epidemic

and strict government containment measures. On an annual basis,

some warn that growth could fall by as much as half from 6% in

the fourth quarter.

Most expect a rebound in economic activity in the spring,

providing the outbreak can be contained soon and factories hit

by staff and raw material shortages can return to normal

production in the next few weeks.

However, transportation restrictions remain in place in

large parts of the country. While more firms are reopening, the

limited data available so far suggests manufacturing is still

running at levels far below those in the same period last year,

and disruptions are starting to spillover into global supply

chains as far away as the United States.

Finance leaders from the Group of 20 major economies

were set to discuss risks to the world economy in Saudi Arabia

this weekend. The International Monetary Fund said it was too

soon to assess what the virus impact would be on global

growth.

A bus transports British passengers after they left the coronavirus-hit cruise ship Diamond Princess at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, Japan. Picture: Reuters

Another centre of infection has been the Diamond Princess

cruise ship quarantined in Japan since February 3, with more than

630 cases accounting for the biggest cluster outside China.

Australia said on Saturday that four more of its nationals

evacuated from the ship tested positive for coronavirus, in

addition to two individuals previously identified.

A second plane with 82 Hong Kong residents who were on the

ship landed in the Asian financial hub, where they will face a

further 14 days of quarantine, and some 35 British passengers

were due to arrive back home on Saturday, where they would be

quarantined.

U.S. authorities said that of 329 Americans evacuated from

the ship, 18 tested positive.

Ukraine’s health minister joined evacuees from China for two

weeks’ quarantine in a sanatorium on Friday in a show of

solidarity after fears over the possible spread of coronavirus

led to clashes.

Reuters