The Communist Party secretaries for Hubei and the city of Wuhan were removed in the biggest political fallout so far from the epidemic. Fatalities in Hubei climbed by 242, with total deaths in China rising to 1,367. The number of infections in Hubei jumped by 14,840, sending the total number of cases in China toward 60,000.
Japan confirmed 44 more cases on a quarantined cruise ship. Hong Kong extended the closure of schools until at least March 16, while the wireless industry scrapped its biggest annual showcase
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.
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.
Pernod Cuts Outlook as China Sales Suffer (2:35 p.m. HK)
Pernod Ricard SA, the maker of Jameson whiskey and Beefeater gin, cut its full-year earnings forecast due to an expected “severe impact” from the coronavirus during the third quarter of its fiscal year.
The coronavirus is hurting demand for liquor brands in China, where Pernod Ricard is the largest seller of international spirits. In January, rival Remy Cointreau SA abandoned its 2020 forecasts as the outbreak threatened its business in the country.
Pernod Ricard estimates the impact from the virus to be about 2% of full-year sales and 3% of earnings, including the effect of bar and store closures in the Hubei province.
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.
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.
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.
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 (CCL,) 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.
MGM Resorts Withdraws Outlook as Casinos Suffer (6:14 a.m HK)
MGM Resorts International (MGM) withdrew its earnings forecast for 2020, citing the impact of the virus on its casinos in Macau and Las Vegas. The company said the virus has made its outlook “unpredictable.”
MGM said it’s losing $1.5 million a day in Macau. Last year, MGM got about 27% of its revenue from Macau, the largest gambling market in the world.
Like other casino owners in the Chinese enclave of Macau, MGM Resorts shut its operations there this month under a government order. That’s led to a loss of business — all while the company has to keep paying staff and maintaining its properties.
China Keeps U.S. Experts Waiting (2:39 p.m. NY)
Top U.S. health experts seeking to join an international group heading to the center of the coronavirus outbreak in China said they still have no answer on whether they’ll be allowed into the country.
U.S. officials have said they’ve offered for weeks to send front-line disease experts to China to study the outbreak, which originated in the city of Wuhan, and consult with colleagues there on how to stop it.
“We haven’t been invited yet,” Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters Wednesday.
Mobile World Congress Is Canceled (1:45 p.m. NY)
Mobile World Congress, the premier mobile-industry conference scheduled this month in Spain, was canceled over concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.
“With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, the GSMA has canceled MWC Barcelona 2020 because the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event” John Hoffman, the chief executive officer of conference organizer GSMA Ltd., said in a statement to Bloomberg News.
CDC Says Warm Weather May Not Slow Outbreak (1:06 p.m. NY)
It’s too early to know if warm spring weather that typically heralds the end of cold and flu season will also slow the coronavirus, said a top official from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said Wednesday that she hopes “it will go down as the weather warms up, but it’s premature to assume that.”
Messonnier’s remarks Wednesday run counter to a theory put forward by President Donald Trump that heat would stop the new coronavirus.
“The heat, generally speaking, kills this kind of virus,” Trump said Monday at the White House. “A lot of people think that goes away in April as the heat comes in.” At a campaign rally this week, he went further, according to a CNN report on his remarks, saying, “in theory when it gets a little warmer it miraculously goes away.”
During a call with reporters Wednesday Messonnier said, “I would caution against over-interpreting that hypothesis.”
The theory that the coronavirus will slow down when warm weather sets in is mostly based on the fact that other respiratory viruses such as influenza exhibit seasonal patterns, not specific data about this new virus, she said.
Carnival Sees Material Impact on Results (9:28 a.m. NY)
Carnival Corp. said it foresees a slowdown in global bookings and an increase in canceled voyages that will have a material impact on financial results that wasn’t anticipated because of the coronavirus outbreak.
“As a result of coronavirus, the company believes the impact on its global bookings and canceled voyages will have a material impact on its financial results which was not anticipated in the company’s previous 2020 earnings guidance,” the Miami-based cruise ship operator said in a statement Wednesday.
The company said it was unable to determine the full financial impact on the current fiscal year.
Hong Kong Sevens to Be Postponed, TVB Says (6:21 a.m. NY)
The Hong Kong Sevens, an annual international rugby tournament that has been running since 1976, is set to be postponed, local broadcaster TVB reported. It was set to start in April.
A formal announcement will be made this week.