Closed Coronavirus: China says 259 dead, 11,791 cases confirmed – as it happened


Live coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

Welcome to the FT’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus outbreak.

There is mounting anger in China over the official response to the crisis, as the number of people infected has surpassed the worldwide total of the Sars virus. An air evacuation of British citizens from the centre of the outbreak is under way, while the US has warned its nationals not to travel to China at all.

We will have the latest from the FT’s teams in China and around the world throughout the day.

The situation as it stands in China

The FT’s Ryan McMorrow in Beijing has the latest:

The death toll from the coronavirus epidemic that originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan has risen to 213 with another 1,527 people in a serious condition, the country’s National Health Commission said on Friday.

China has another 15,238 suspected cases, while 102,427 people who have had close contact with infected people are being monitored.

The rapid spread of the virus has fuelled discontent over the Communist party’s management of the outbreak, especially claims that local authorities concealed information on the disease in the early weeks of the epidemic.

You can read more here.

Emoticon First confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK

Two patients in England, who are members of the same family, have tested positive for coronavirus, the chief medical officer has said. These are the first confirmed cases of the illness in the UK.

Professor Chris Whitty said: “The patients are receiving specialist NHS care and we are using tried and tested infection control procedures to prevent further spread of the virus.”

The government has said it will not confirm the exact location of the outbreak to protect patient confidentiality.

UK is ‘extremely well prepared’ for virus

The chief medical officer has assured the public that the British health service is “extremely well prepared” to deal with the coronavirus.

As he announced the UK’s first cases, Professor Chris Whitty said:

The NHS is extremely well prepared and used to managing infections and we are already working rapidly to identify any contacts the patients had, to prevent further spread. We have been preparing for UK cases of novel coronavirus and we have robust infection control measures in place to respond immediately.

Hong Kong to extend school break as it ramps up precautions

Alice Woodhouse reports from Hong Kong:

Carrie Lam , Hong Kong chief executive, said the territory will extend the school break until at least March 2 and that civil servants will be asked to work from home until next Sunday as she appealed to the private sector to also reduce the need for commuting to work and reduce the chance of infection.

Ms Lam noted the lack of protective equipment such as masks and said the public should reduce social contact.

The Hong Kong government said on Thursday that 8m surgical masks would arrive in Hong Kong for sale soon.

Ms Lam also cautioned against travel to the mainland for Hong Kong residents. The city’s immigration department has tracked down 48 Hubei residents visiting the city, Ms Lam said.

The government is considering electronic tracking bracelets to keep tabs on people returning from Hubei who would need to undergo home isolation.

Ms Lam dismissed the suggestion that the government seal the border with mainland China to stem the spread of disease, as requested by a series of trade unions, including healthcare workers. She said many of those using the crossing were in fact from the city and that “we must not target a particular group of people”.

Emoticon Italy is set to discuss declaration of state of emergency

Italy is considering declaring a national emergency after confirming its first two cases of the virus, the Reuters news agency is reporting, citing a government statement.

The cabinet will discuss the declaration of an emergency due to the health risks associated with the virus, the statement said.

South Africa on high alert as two citizens quarantined in China

Joseph Cotterill reports from Johannesburg:

South Africa said it had moved to high alert in monitoring for signs of coronavirus infection, as two of its citizens were quarantined in China as a precaution.

Zweli Mkhize, South Africa’s health minister, said on Friday that there had been no confirmed cases in Africa’s most industrialised country as the government steps up checks on international travellers.

No South Africans have tested positive for the virus but two of its citizens who left Wuhan, the centre of the outbreak, have been quarantined by Chinese authorities for 14 days in Tianjin, Mr Mkhize added.

“At the moment, there is no evidence compelling us to repatriate our citizens from China,” Mr Mkhize said.

South African laboratories have been used to test samples from suspected coronavirus cases across Africa in recent days. Fourteen samples sent to the country in the past 24 hours were negative, Mr Mkhize said.

Singapore clamps down on travel by Chinese citizens

Stefania Palma, Singapore Correspondent, reports:

Singapore has suspended the issuance of new visas as well as previously issued short term and multiple visit visas for China passport holders, the ministry of health said in a statement on Friday.

It has also suspended Singapore’s visa free transit facilities for those with Chinese passports. Starting at 11:59pm tomorrow, visitors who have travelled to mainland China in the past 14 days will not be allowed to enter or transit through Singapore.

The government will also issue advisories to all residents or long-term permit holders returning to Singapore from China, requesting they go on a 14-day leave of absence.

This is a step up in Singapore’s preventive measures. The government on Tuesday said it would quarantine returning residents with passports issued in Hubei or who had visited Hubei in the 14 days prior. It also said it was contacting individuals who were already in the country and either have a Hubei passport or had been to the province in the previous fortnight. Singapore would then quarantine those deemed “higher risk” cases.

Those who do not comply with quarantine orders face fines of up to S$10,000 and imprisonment not exceeding six months.

Singapore has so far reported 13 confirmed “imported” coronavirus cases, all of whom are Chinese nationals.

Update: In a clarification statement, the government said Singapore’s permanent residents and long term pass holders with Chinese passports are still allowed to enter the city state.

European markets turn negative as UK reports first cases

European stock markets have turned lower as investors weighed new cases of the coronavirus and weak economic data.

The Stoxx Europe 600 gave up earlier gains to trade 0.5 per cent lower and is on course for its first monthly decline since August, while London’s FTSE 100 was down 0.7 per cent.

Global markets have taken a hit from escalating concerns over the economic impact of the virus this month, although moves have been measured so far.

Virus wreaks havoc on world supply chains

Ryan McMorrow in Beijing and Richard Milne in Oslo report:

China’s major inland production base of Henan has delayed a return to work for more than a week, joining at least six other provinces as the new coronavirus hits supply chains and production in the world’s second-largest economy.

Zhengzhou, Henan’s provincial capital, hosts a major Foxconn manufacturing complex where the contract manufacturer pieces together many of the iPhones it makes for Apple. Companies in the province must delay resuming work until February 9, state media said.

Swedish home appliance group Electrolux warned of a potential impact from the supply chain disruption. The delay will hit “our sourcing and if Chinese suppliers are further affected it could potentially have a material financial impact”, the company said on Friday in its latest quarterly report, noting it was “implementing contingency plans”.

Huawei, which this week received the go-ahead for a limited role in the UK’s 5G mobile phone networks, is one of the few tech companies in China planning to return to work on Monday. Provincial authorities in many areas allowed companies providing essential services such as telecommunications to resume operations, though its smartphone competitors like Oppo and Vivo have to stay out of their offices until February 10.

Huawei employees will be required to wear face masks at the office and the company is taking measures to avoid large gatherings such as in its corporate cafeterias, according to a person familiar with the matter.

What you need to know about the new coronavirus

If you are just joining us this morning, or need a refresher on the coronavirus, its significance and what steps to take to avoid it, FT reporters have been digging into the key questions for those in China and beyond.

How dangerous is the coronavirus and how does it spread?

In this explainer, the FT’s Science Editor Clive Cookson looks at how dangerous the disease is, how it spreads and whether masks can help protect against infection.

Planning a visit to China? Tips to avoid the coronavirus outbreak

Yuan Yang, Beijing Correspondent, gives a rundown in this piece on what to do if you have a work trip planned to China, whether you should travel for leisure and how to navigate the country’s transport system.

UK cases treated in Newcastle

The FT’s Bethan Staton has been at a UK government briefing on the coronavirus, and has the latest:

Two members of the same family are being treated for coronavirus at a specialist unit in Newcastle. It is not known how many people they have been in contact with.

Sharon Peacock, national infection service director at Public Health England, said an outbreak investigation team had been immediately deployed to identify those who had been involved in the cases.

Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, said the government was “confident” of its ability to contain the spread of the virus.

“All developed health services that have had cases have managed to avoid transmission,” he said.

The government is now advising anyone who has been to the city of Wuhan, where the outbreak started, to self-isolate for 14 days regardless of whether they have symptoms. Anyone returning from elsewhere in China should self-isolate if they experience symptoms, however minor.

There have so far been 9,692 reported cases in China and 213 deaths, the government said. There has been no sustained transmission of the virus or deaths outside China.

Mr Whitty said it would become clear “in the next few weeks” if the outbreak in China would be brought under control, during which time the government would be focused on treating and limiting the spread of a small number of cases of the virus in the UK.

If the rate of transmission does not fall within China, however, the virus would be likely to spread globally, presenting a greater risk. Mr Whitty said the UK had “established systems” and was “well prepared” for either circumstance.

Experts reassure UK public

The FT’s science editor Clive Cookson reports:

Virologists and public health experts in the UK have been making reassuring statements following confirmation of the country’s first two cases of the new coronavirus – members of the same family who are being treated at a specialist centre in Newcastle.

Ian Jones, professor of virology at the University of Reading, said:

As these cases have been caught early, the possibility of further spread is minimal. For the majority of those who contract this virus the outcome will be a mild respiratory illness from which they will recover. It is a situation that can be managed and should not cause undue alarm.

Professor Tom Solomon, an expert in emerging infections at the University of Liverpool, said:

We have had experience before in the UK of containing the spread of highly infectious and dangerous respiratory pathogens, including most recently Mers coronavirus. So all the systems are in place to stop this becoming an outbreak in the UK.”

The UK health authorities have not yet said where they think the two patients were infected nor indicated how serious their symptoms are.

Populist backdrop sets up damaging ‘lurch’ towards border closures

A rush by global authorities to shut borders could have far-reaching negative economic impacts, one economist has suggested.

As many populist governments question the benefits of open borders anyway, countries could seize on the opportunity to impose travel barriers to their economic detriment, said Claus Vistesen at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

“The ground is now much more ripe for a lurch towards closed borders than in the case of any previous epidemics of this kind,” he said.

Any such reaction could cause significant economic damage, he told the FT: “If we close up shop here, the metrics that we use to measure our success — growth, markets etc — are going to take a huge knock.”

Anti-migrant sentiment means many countries – notably the UK and US, but also across Europe – may be more predisposed to closing their frontiers, Mr Vistesen said, adding:

Before the virus, the idea of a free flow of people across borders was already under serious strain, and it isn’t difficult to see why this could tilt the balance towards a very draconian response to this virus, which may, incidentally, be completely unwarranted.

Goldman warns of coronavirus ‘spillover’ to US economy

US GDP growth is set to take a hit this year as the effects of a coronavirus-driven slowdown in China ripple across international markets, according to Goldman Sachs.

Economists at the bank said they anticipate a 0.4 percentage point drag on US annualised growth during the current quarter, on the back of a halving of tourism from China and a knock to the country’s imports of US goods.

Goldman expects US growth to rebound in the second quarter once travel restrictions are eased, leaving full-year growth down around half a percentage point.

This “baseline scenario” could worsen, however, should the virus spread significantly in the US – or if people become afraid it might – which would in turn knock travel, commuting and shopping within the country.

China, meanwhile, is on track for a sharper 6 to 7 percentage point drag on its annualised growth during the quarter leading to a 0.4 percentage point slowdown to growth of 5.5 per cent over the year as a whole.

That forecast assumes infections will slow “substantially” by the end of the quarter and travel restrictions and quarantine measures are subsequently lifted.

Russia weighs cancelling major conference

Max Seddon in Moscow reports:

The Kremlin says it is considering cancelling a major economic conference because of fears over the spread of coronavirus from China.

Dmitry Peskov, spokesman to President Vladimir Putin, said that officials were discussing moving the mid-February conference in Sochi, planned as the first major showcase for new prime minister Mikhail Mishustin.

Mr Putin discussed the virus threat with his security council earlier in the day, while Mr Mishustin’s cabinet set up a rapid reaction centre.

Russia has already closed its more than 4,000km-long land border with China on Thursday and stopped issuing Chinese tourists electronic visas. Moscow also banned visits by Chinese tour groups, hitherto a booming source of income, earlier this week.

Sheremetyevo airport, Moscow’s largest, said on Friday that it would move all flights to and from China to a single terminal to deal with any possibly infected passengers.

Germany set to evacuate 100 citizens from virus-struck Wuhan

Guy Chazan reports from Berlin:

German authorities have said they are ready to evacuate around 100 citizens from Wuhan following a similar move on Friday by the UK.

“We now have all the permits we need from the Chinese authorities in order to evacuate our compatriots,” said Heiko Maas, the German foreign minister. “A Bundeswehr plane is about to take off for China to fly out the German nationals.”

German officials said preparations had been made to evacuate more than 100 people and that 90 had so far said they would take up the offer.

On their return to Germany, the evacuees — none of whom are thought to be infected with the virus — will be taken as a precaution into quarantine for two weeks at a military facility.

Mr Maas thanked the Chinese government for its co-operation and said that at this point Germany had no reason to believe that evacuation from other parts of China was necessary.

Italy declares state of emergency after first cases of virus emerge

Miles Johnson reports from Rome:

Italy’s government has declared a state of emergency after the country discovered its first two cases of coronavirus in Rome.

Two Chinese tourists were confirmed by the Italian authorities to have been diagnosed with the virus, and have been put into an isolation unit in a local hospital.

On Friday, Italy’s civil aviation authority said all air traffic to and from China had been halted.

Thailand reports first human-to-human transmission of virus

John Reed reports from Bangkok:

Thailand has reported its first case of domestic human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus, after a taxi driver was hospitalised with the disease.

Tanarak Plipat, deputy director-general of the Department of Disease Control, said on Friday in remarks quoted by Reuters that the unnamed driver, a Thai citizen, did not have a record of travelling to China “and it is likely that he was infected by a sick traveller from China”.

Earlier on Friday, Sopon Iamsirithavorn, director of the Bureau of General Communicable Diseases, said that two taxi drivers who had picked up Chinese tourists had fallen ill and sought medical treatment two days previously.

The taxi driver was one of five new confirmed cases of infection reported in Thailand on Friday, bringing the total to 19, the second-largest number after China, where the outbreak began.

Repatriated French arrive and head for quarantine in Med resort

The first aircraft repatriating 200 French citizens from Wuhan landed at a military airport in the south of France on Friday, reports Victor Mallet in Paris.

The passengers, none of whom shows signs of infection with the coronavirus, will be quarantined in a nearby holiday resort on the Mediterranean for 14 days.

Jean Montagnac, mayor of Carry-le-Rouet where the people will be staying, told AFP that the inhabitants were “in anguish, asking me: ‘Are we sure they are not infected?’”.

Meanwhile, the sixth case of infection for France – and the first transfer of the virus known to have happened on French soil – was announced on Friday. The victim is a doctor who treated a patient who subsequently returned to China, but officials said the doctor’s condition was not worrying.

Russia launches new restrictions on travel to and from China

Max Seddon reports from Moscow:

Russia said on Friday it would evacuate its nationals from two Chinese cities and introduced new restrictions on travel to and from China after the first two cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the country.

Deputy prime minister Tatiana Golikova said that two people, both Chinese citizens, had been diagnosed with the virus in the western Siberian city of Tyumen and the area surrounding Lake Baikal, which is near the Chinese border.

“They are isolated under strict control and being provided with necessary care,” she said, according to Russian news agencies.

Anna Popova, head of Russia’s health watchdog, said there was no risk of the virus spreading further in Russia.

A day after closing its more than 4,000-km land border with China, Russia will now ban all flights to and from China starting on Saturday, except for state carrier Aeroflot routes to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong, and some by national carrier Air China.

Ms Golikova added that Russia would send planes to evacuate 300 Russians from Wuhan, the centre of the outbreak, and a further 341 from other places in Hubei province. The returnees will be placed in quarantine for two weeks.

Emoticon Wuhan evacuation flight lands in UK

The chartered flight carrying British nationals out of Wuhan, the centre of the coronavirus outbreak in China, has landed at a military base in Oxfordshire.

There are around 83 British citizens and 27 other nationals on board. The British passengers will be quarantined for two weeks at a medical facility.

On board the evacuation flight

The FT’s Tom Hancock is on board the flight from Wuhan that has just landed in the UK. Here is his report:

The British evacuation flight from Wuhan landed in the UK at 13.30 GMT.

No passengers showed symptoms of the coronavirus at the time of boarding. None became ill during the 12 hour flight, flight attendants said.

British citizens on the flight have been told that after a wait of around two hours they will be transferred by bus to accommodation at Arrowe Park hospital on the Wirral. They were told that the journey will take four hours.

The plane is expected to travel on to Madrid where about 20 Spanish nationals will get off.

Speed and spread of coronavirus outbreak — in charts

These charts track the growth and spread of the nCoV coronavirus, which was first detected in Wuhan, and compare the number of patients infected globally and in China with those hit by the Sars outbreak of 2003. The charts were based on ones from Enodo Economics:

Wall Street opens lower

US stocks have opened lower on Wall Street, as escalating concerns over the coronavirus’s impact on the global economy weighed on investor sentiment.

Still, moves have been measured today. The S&P 500 was down 0.5 per cent a few moments ago, while the Dow fell 0.7 per cent. Strong earnings from Amazon supported the tech-weighted Nasdaq which slipped 0.2 per cent.

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 index was 0.6 per cent down while traditional haven assets including gold and US government bonds gained.

Delta to cancel China flights

US airline Delta is to suspend flights to mainland China until the end of April, becoming the latest global carrier to change its schedules in response to coronavirus.

The carrier will cancel flights between February 6 and April 30 due to ongoing concerns over the outbreak, but will continue to operate flights until then in order to give passengers the chance to leave China if they would like to.

“The airline will continue to monitor the situation closely and may make additional adjustments as the situation continues to evolve,” Delta said in a statement.

Sweden reports first coronavirus case

Sweden has become the latest country to confirm that it has a case of coronavirus, writes Richard Milne, Nordic and Baltic Correspondent.

Public health authorities said on Friday evening that a woman who returned from a visit to Wuhan a week ago had the virus and was being held in isolation in Jonkoping, a city in southern Sweden 150km east of Gothenburg.

The woman had no symptoms when she landed in Sweden on January 24 but has since developed a cough and contacted health authorities herself.

Karin Tegmark Wisell of Sweden’s Public Health Agency said:

It is important to remember that individual cases is not the same thing as the infection spreading in Sweden. We currently consider this risk to be very low based on experience from other countries.

Wall Street falls 1 per cent

Global stocks have steepened their declines in the last few minutes, with the S&P 500 in New York now down 1 per cent.

London’s FTSE 100 is 1.1 per cent lower and has now given back nearly all of its post-election gains, while in Italy the FTSE MIB has shed as much as 2.1 per cent.

Analysts at Capital Economics said they expect the efforts to contain the coronavirus to cause GDP growth in China and other parts of emerging Asia to slow sharply in the first quarter.

We still hope the economic and market disruption will prove temporary. But, given China’s prominent position in global supply chains and some financial assets’ stretched valuations, there could be global economic fallout if factory closures are extended further and the market sell-off deepens.

American Airlines cancels mainland China flights

American Airlines has cancelled flights to mainland China for the next month, joining an ever-growing list of carriers halting flights to the country.

American’s decision follows hot on the heels of a similar move by rival Delta and a spate of cancellations from European airlines from British Airways to Lufthansa.

In a statement, the carrier said:

American is suspending its operations to and from the Chinese mainland beginning today through March 27. Our teams are contacting affected customers directly to accommodate their needs. We will continue to evaluate the schedule for March 28 and beyond and make any adjustments as necessary.

UK ramps up preparations to deal with coronavirus outbreak

Chris Tighe, Northeast Correspondent, reports:

On the advice of the UK’s four Chief Medical Officers, covering England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the UK’s risk level for the coronavirus was raised from low to moderate last night (Thursday), meaning an escalation in planning and preparation in case of a more widespread outbreak.

The Department of Health and Social Care said: “This does not mean we think the risk to individuals in the UK has changed at this stage, but that government should plan for all eventualities.”

It says the coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease. Typical symptoms include fever and a cough that may progress to a severe pneumonia causing shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

The current evidence is, it says, that most cases appear to be mild. Those who have died in Wuhan appear to have had pre-existing health conditions.

It is advising those returning to the UK from Wuhan in the last 14 days – whether or not they have symptoms of the virus – to stay indoors, avoid contact with other people and call NHS111 to inform them of recent travel to the city. They should not go to work, school or into public areas, nor use public transport or taxis.

Investors reach for safety as sell-off deepens

US bonds and other haven assets have rallied as investors try to price the likely disruption from the coronavirus outbreak.

The yield on the US 30-year government bond has fallen below 2 per cent for the first time since October. The yield on the shorter-dated 2-year note, meanwhile, fell to its lowest level since September 2017 earlier today.

Other traditional haven assets are also rallying, with the Swiss franc, Japanese yen and gold all trading higher.

European stocks close 1 per cent lower

European stocks have recorded their first monthly decline since August, as the Stoxx 600 index closed down 1.1 per cent today.

The index tracking the region’s 600 largest listed companies lost 1.2 per cent of its value this month, with autos, oil and gas and travel and leisure among the worst hit sectors.

Utilities, a traditionally defensive play, outperformed with a gain of more than 8 per cent.

Video: How far will coronavirus spread?

To predict how the virus will spread, scientists need to look at a range of factors, including reproduction rates and the incubation period.

In this video explainer, FT science writer Anjana Ahuja takes a look at what we currently know.

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Explainer: Are drugs and vaccines being developed?

Clive Cookson, science editor, writes:

No existing drugs are designed to treat coronaviruses, though some antiviral medicines may alleviate the symptoms.

Chinese doctors are giving patients HIV drugs, and another antiviral developed to treat Ebola has shown promise against coronavirus in animal tests. Clinical experience in China will show whether any of these help against nCoV, the name given to this particular outbreak.

A crash programme to develop a vaccine to prevent nCoV infection is also underway under the auspices of the Oslo-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (Cepi) — a $750m partnership set up in 2017 by governments, industry and charities to prevent future pandemics.

Cepi has launched four projects using different technologies to prepare nCoV vaccine candidates. Richard Hatchett, chief executive, said the aim was to have one ready for preliminary testing on human volunteers within 16 weeks.

But even if the programme goes well, a vaccine is unlikely to be ready for mass administration in less than a year.

US stocks down more than 1 per cent

Wall Street’s main equities gauges are down more than 1 per cent just after midday on Friday and trading close to their lows of the session.

In addition to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, investors were unnerved by disappointing earnings results from energy companies ExxonMobil and Chevron, as well as industrial bellwether Caterpillar.

The S&P 500 was down 1.3 per cent, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 1.5 per cent. The Nasdsaq Composite fell 1.1 per cent.

On Monday, the S&P 500 closed 1.6 per cent lower in what was its first move of 1 per cent or more in either direction since mid-October.

Investors clung to haven assets, such as government bonds. The yield on the benchmark 10-year US Treasury was down 2.4 basis points at 1.5307 per cent.

What difference will the WHO declaration of an international emergency make?

Clive Cookson, Science Editor, writes:

The World Health Organisation resisted calls to declare a so-called public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) until Thursday, when its experts agreed that the disease had spread beyond China sufficiently to justify a global emergency.

Such a measure has been announced five times over the past decade, including over last year’s Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said: “Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems, and which are ill-prepared to deal with it.”

Dr Bharat Pankhania of the University of Exeter Medical School explained the consequences:

WHO member states are obliged to work together in managing the outbreak, release resources and share diagnostics as well as logistics expertise — thus it now formalises what would have been going on in the background among member states. Under the 2005 International Health Regulations, member states have a legal duty to respond promptly to a PHEIC.

Casino shares under pressure as Macau tourism plummets

Alice Hancock, leisure industries correspondent, reports:

Casino company stocks have been hit hard by the spread of coronavirus as visitor numbers to Macau, the world’s largest gambling hub, have fallen by as much as 90 per cent on key days over the holiday period.

MGM China’s stock fell 10 per cent in the past week, while Galaxy Entertainment, which owns six casino resorts on the Macau peninsula, fell 8 per cent and SJM Holdings was down 5 per cent.

On Thursday afternoon, Macau’s chief executive Ho Iat Seng said that the city would keep its borders open, as it did during the SARS outbreak in 2013.

He said:

At the time of the SARS virus outbreak, we also did not prohibit the entry of people from Hong Kong and we refused to think of establishing a quota for entries from the neighbouring Special Administrative Region for the time being.

According to local press reports of government figures, there are currently around 5,000 people from Wuhan province in Macau but authorities in Macau have advised that they do not yet return to their homes.

During the week covering the Chinese New Year period, visitor numbers were on average down 78 per cent compared with 2019. Arrivals from mainland China, which account for the majority of Macau’s tourist trade, were down 83 per cent.

New details in UK cases

Public Health England has issued an update on the two confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, and confirmed that the duo had been in York when they became ill.

Prof Sharon Peacock, director of the National Infection Service, Public Health England, said:

Public Health England is contacting people who had close contact with the confirmed cases. The two cases were staying in York when they became unwell. Close contacts will be given health advice about symptoms and emergency contact details to use if they become unwell in the 14 days after contact with the confirmed cases.

S&P 500 turns negative for 2020

US stocks continued to drop, and hit session lows during lunchtime trade that meant some gauges wiped out their gains for 2020.

The S&P 500 dropped as much as 1.7 per cent, taking it marginally into negative territory for the year. At its highest close this month, the index had gained 3.1 per cent.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down about two-thirds of 1 per cent year-to-date, while the Nasdaq Composite’s 2020 has been trimmed to 2.4 per cent.

United Airlines suspends flights to China

Three of the world’s biggest four airlines have now announced they will suspend flights to China, with United Airlines the latest to take action to guard itself against the escalating coronavirus outbreak.

United said in an emailed statement:

In response to the continued drop in demand for travel to China and the U.S. Department of State’s decision to raise its China travel advisory to a Level 4, we are suspending operations between our hub cities and Beijing, Chengdu and Shanghai beginning February 6 until March 28.

The carrier said that until that date, it would keep operating select flights to help ensure its US-based employees, as well as customers, have options to return to the US. It also said it would continue to operate one daily flight between San Francisco and Hong Kong.

American Airlines and Delta Air Lines earlier on Friday joined a growing list of global carriers to suspend flights to mainland China. The pair, and United, comprise three of the world’s four biggest airlines by passengers flown. Southwest Airlines is a member of that quartet, but only flies to the Americas.

US health officials issue rare quarantine order

US health officials have taken the rare step of issuing a mandatory quarantine order for nearly 200 US passengers who were evacuated from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak.

It was the first time in half a century the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had taken such action, which will see those passengers quarantined for 14 days from when they departed Wuhan.

“We are preparing as if this is the next pandemic,” Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters during a conference call on Friday.

The 195 US passengers evacuated from Wuhan have been held at the March Air Reserve Base since a chartered flight carrying them arrived there on Wednesday. They had been monitored for symptoms, but it is not clear whether any of them have the virus.

Biotech group experiments with possible coronavirus treatment

Gilead Sciences is pursuing a trial programme for a possible treatment for coronavirus.

The company’s chief medical officer Dr Merdad Parsey said in a statement on Friday it is working with health authorities in China to “establish a randomized, controlled trial to determine whether remdesivir can safely and effectively be used to treat 2019-nCoV”, the designation for the strain of coronavirus. Gilead is expediting lab testing against 2019-nCoV samples.

It has also provided the experimental drug for use as an emergency treatment for a small number of patients, “at the request of treating physicians” and with support from regulatory agencies.

Remdesivir is not yet licensed or approved anywhere in the world.

Read this story for more on the race to develop a coronavirus vaccine.

Virus outbreak erases January gains for US stocks

Concerns about the spread of the coronavirus handed Wall Street its biggest one-day drop in four months, and wiped out year-to-date gains for major US stocks.

The S&P 500 finished 1.8 per cent lower on Friday, its biggest daily drop since early October. Down 2.1 per cent for the week, it was the benchmark’s largest weekly drop since early August.

Friday’s decline was enough to take the S&P 500 down 0.2 per cent for 2020.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 2.1 per cent lower, its largest one-day drop since August 23. Disappointing earnings from ExxonMobil, Chevron and Caterpillar did little to help sentiment.

The Nasdaq Composite’s 1.6 per cent fall was its worst since Monday. A 7.4 per cent jump for Amazon following its results helped mitigate declines for the overall index.

Investors flocked to haven assets, such as government bonds. That helped push the yield on the benchmark 10-year US Treasury 4.5 basis points lower to 1.5102 per cent.

US announces new border restrictions due to coronavirus

Foreign nationals who had recently travelled to China will be barred from entering the US, the Trump administration said.

The move is one of several measures, announced during a press conference at the White House, that US officials said were aimed at limiting the risks posed by the coronavirus outbreak.

The president’s temporary order will prohibit foreign nationals — aside from immediate family of US citizens and permanent residents — who have traveled to China in the prior 14 days from entering the US.

Separately, officials said all flights from China will be limited to seven airports.

Alex Azar, US secretary of health and human services, said American citizens returning to the US who have travelled to Hubei province in the previous 14 days will be subject to as many as 14 days under quarantine. Citizens who have been to other areas in mainland China will undergo health screenings at ports of entry and up to 14 days of monitored self-quarantine.

The measures will take effect on Sunday at 5pm eastern time.

Mr Azar on Friday declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency in the US, following a similar declaration by the World Health Organisation.

Hubei reports 45 new deaths from coronavirus

A further 45 people have died from, and more than 1,300 new patients have been infected by, coronavirus in the Chinese province at the centre of the disease outbreak, according to the local health commission.

The province of Hubei reported 45 new coronavirus deaths by the end of January 31, taking the total number of deaths there to 249, state media reported.

The local health commission reported 1,347 new cases of the infection on January 31, taking the total since the outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei’s provincial capital, began to 7,153.

In its situation report dated January 31, released before news of the updated Chinese numbers, the World Health Organization counted 9,826 confirmed cases worldwide, with 9,720 in China, and 213 deaths, all on the mainland.

Walmart joins list of companies limiting travel to China

The US’s biggest retailer said it was temporarily limiting all non-business critical travel to, from, and within mainland China owing to rising concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.

Walmart said it would conduct all planned meetings virtually, and that it would work closely with authorities in China, as well as the company’s associates and suppliers, on a response plan.

Earlier this afternoon, tractor maker John Deere said it would close its facilities in China until an appropriate time to reopen them. It also said it would restrict travel of its employees to and from China until a later time, and that many of its employees there would now work remotely.

China confirms 259 deaths from coronavirus

Chinese health officials said a total of 259 people had died as a result of the coronavirus and the number of confirmed cases was approaching 12,000.

The National Health Commission said on Saturday morning, local time, that 11,791 people were confirmed as being infected, including 10 in Taiwan, as at January 31.

Officials said the number of suspected cases had reached 17,988 and that they were monitoring about 137,000 people who had close contact with infected individuals.

South Korea completes evacuation of 700 nationals from Wuhan

Ed White in Seoul

South Korea has completed the evacuation of around 700 nationals from the virus-hit Chinese city of Wuhan, as the number of people infected with the disease in the country continues to rise.

A chartered plane carrying 330 South Koreans touched down in Seoul, the capital, on Saturday morning, a day after an earlier flight brought 368 citizens out of Wuhan, according to state news agency Yonhap.

Health officials have set up two quarantine areas for the evacuees south of Seoul, prompting some fears this week among locals over concerns of the virus spreading.

The increasing public angst over infections comes as the country also reported its 12th confirmed case on Saturday.