February 3 coronavirus news
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Monday announced new border closures over the Wuhan virus, amid intense public pressure to stop anyone crossing into the city from mainland China.
Lam said further measures were being taken "to ensure the control of the boundary control points to reduce people movement across the border," but fell short of a complete sealing off of the city.
Lam said the main land borders at Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau would shut as of midnight tonight, as would the Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal.
That will leave all but three border crossings between Hong Kong and mainland China closed. Those which remain open are the city's international airport, the Shenzhen Bay border and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge.
Lam's announcement comes after health workers in Hong Kong began a five-day strike on Monday, demanding a full border closure and greater support from the government.
"This has nothing to do with the five-day strike by healthcare workers," Lam said, however. "If anyone thinks that by resorting to such extreme measures the government will be made to do something that is not rational or something that will only harm the public they will not get anywhere."
The number of Chinese citizens entering Hong Kong has fallen since the initial closures, the government said earlier, with the vast majority of those continuing to cross the mainland border being Hong Kong residents. It is unclear how the new closures will affect those who work in the city but live across the border, and vice versa.
The G7 nations will hold a joint telephone conference to discuss how to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, German Health Minister Jens Spahn announced after talking with his American counterpart Alex Azar on Sunday.
A call will take place at 9 a.m ET on Monday, according to a spokesperson for the Italian Health Ministry.
The G7, a group of seven leading industrialized democracies, includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Months of increasingly violent protests and a bruising US-China trade war pushed Hong Kong into a recession last year for the first time in a decade. Now the coronavirus outbreak threatens to derail things once again.
Officials on Monday said Hong Kong's economy shrank 1.2% last year as massive pro-democracy protests paralyzed the city's streets and scared away tourists. GDP shrank 2.9% in the fourth quarter alone. The trade spat between Washington and Beijing compounded the problem, as did concerns about China's economic growth.
Until recently, the Asian financial hub had reason to hope that 2020 would be better. The demonstrations were becoming less frequent, while an initial trade deal provided some hope that the relationship between the United States and China could improve.
"The US-China phase one trade deal and growth stabilization in China should have been positive for Hong Kong's near-term economic outlook," said Tommy Wu, a senior economist at Oxford Economics. "But it has been overshadowed by the coronavirus outbreak."
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The Maldivian government has announced a series of new precautionary measures against the Wuhan coronavirus that include denying entry for passengers arriving from mainland China.
In a statement released on Sunday, the Maldives Civil Aviation Authority said that airlines and aircraft operating flights to the Maldives shall suspend the carriage of passengers originating or transiting through mainland China. The new measure took effect today and will be enforced until further notice.
In 2019, Chinese tourists accounted for 16.7% of all tourist arrivals to the Maldives, according to the country's Ministry of Tourism.
Chinese stocks recorded their worst day in years on Monday as investors finally got a chance to react to the worsening coronavirus outbreak.
The Shanghai Composite (SHCOMP) plummeted 7.7% and the Shenzhen Component Index fell nearly 8.5% on their first day of trading after an extended Lunar New Year holiday. They had been closed since January 24.
The losses on each index have wiped out a combined $445 billion in market value.
The plunge delivered Shanghai its worst day since August 2015's "Black Monday," when global markets were rattled by China slowdown fears. Shenzhen, meanwhile, hasn't recorded a single-day percentage drop this bad since 2007.
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Hg Kong's main public hospital medical workers union, the Hospital Authority Employee Alliance, began a strike Monday with at least 2,400 people participating in the first day, the group said on its Facebook page.
The union says it is asking the government to meet five demands:
- Stop all travelers from entering Hong Kong from mainland China.
- Implement measures to ensure sufficient supply of face masks.
- Provide isolation wards and stop all non-emergency services.
- Provide sufficient support for health care staff caring for those in isolation.
- Investigate reports of patients escaping hospital in order to ensure a safe environment for all medical staff.
The Hospital Authority Employee Alliance says it has 9,000 members in total who have pledged to join the strike, which is currently scheduled for five days
The union said if its demands are not met by Monday, they will ask all members regardless of rank or specialties to participate in a second stage strike that will limit health services to emergency care. The union threatened to further escalate its strike actions if its demands are still not met by the end of February 7.
A second Wuhan coronavirus patient is being treated with a combination of HIV/AIDS and flu drugs that officials from Thailand’s Ministry of Health say were successful in treating another infected patient, Thai officials said at a news conference Monday.
Dr. Kriangsak Atipornwanich, one of the physicians treating the coronavirus patients, told reporters that authorities were awaiting test results to determine the status of the second patient treated with this combination of drugs.
Thailand Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said at the same news conference that first case involved a 71-year-old woman who was presenting the "most severe" symptoms of all 19 coronavirus patients confirmed in Thailand. She responded positively to a combination of drugs at higher doses and her medical tests are no longer showing signs of the virus.
She is still recovering in the hospital.
Charnvirakul said information about her case will be shared. "Other academic, medical or research institutions can take this treatment result and find more facts," he said.
"If it turned out the dosage and method of treatment we applied could cure every case, it will be beneficial to humanity," Charnvirakul said.
A third case of the Wuhan coronavirus has been confirmed in India, authorities said.
The case was identified in the southern state of Kerala, according to a Facebook post from Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja.
Shailaja said the patient is a student who had returned from Wuhan. The individual has been admitted to a district hospital in Kerala and is in stable condition.
China Eastern Airlines has become the first major Chinese carrier to suspend flights to and from the United States, as the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak has infected thousands of people and prompted several countries to advise their citizens not to travel to mainland China.
The carrier is canceling flights from Shanghai to Los Angeles and New York from February 2 through February 10, citing "the recent public health incident," according to a notice circulated to travel agents and seen by CNN Business.
China Eastern did not respond to a request for comment. The country's two other major carriers, Air China and China Southern, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
China Eastern is also canceling flights from Shanghai to San Francisco on February 6 and February 9, to Chicago on February 8 and to Honolulu from February 3 until March 27, according to the notice.
Several flights to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Vancouver that originate in Chengdu or Kunming with layovers in Nanjing or Qingdao have also been canceled this week.
"In the days to come, China Eastern will pay close attention to the epidemic, and may further adjust the arrangements of flights," the notice said.
Major international airlines including Air Canada, British Airways, Delta, Lufthansa and Qatar have also suspended all flights to mainland China until the end of February or longer.