Caixin
Feb 18, 2020 10:54 PM
SOCIETY & CULTURE

Coronavirus Tuesday Update: Cabinet Waives Employers’ Welfare Contribution, First Biopsy Study Unveils How Covid-19 Hurts Patients

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China is grappling with an outbreak of infections from a new coronavirus that began in December. Caixin Global will continue covering this story as it develops. Please check back regularly for updates.

Caixin’s coverage of the new coronavirus

1

Tuesday, Feb. 18 11:30 p.m.

China is taking measures to bolster businesses as the coronavirus outbreak weighs on its already slowing economy. The State Council Tuesday offered temporary exemptions (link in Chinese) of companies’ social welfare contributions as a relief for employers.

At a meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang, the cabinet decided to offer waivers to companies’ payments for employees’ pension, unemployment and vocational injury insurance. From February to June, all companies in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, as well as small and medium-sized enterprises outside Hubei will be exempted from the payments. Larger companies outside Hubei will receive a waiver of half of payments from February to April, according to the State Council.

The cabinet also vowed to use taxation and financial policies to support companies to resume production and maintain stability in the job market.

China is confident of achieving economic development targets set for this year, President Xi Jinping told U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron in separate phone calls (link in Chinese) Tuesday.

However, fears of the epidemic’s impact on the world’s second-largest economy continue rattling global investors. A February survey by Bank of America Corp. found that investor expectations for world economic expansion fell for the first time since October. A net 18% of respondents forecast stronger growth over the next 12 months, down from 36% in January’s survey.

After Apple warned it might miss its revenue target because of the epidemic, Walmart Inc.’s CFO said the virus could lower the retailer’s first-quarter earnings per share by a few cents, as it had closed “less than a handful” of stores in China.

On the research front, the first pathology report based on the lung biopsy (link in Chinese) of a Chinese coronavirus patient provides new insight into how the virus hurts patients.

Doctors studying a 50-year-old man who died last month found that the disease caused lung damage reminiscent of two prior coronavirus-related outbreaks, SARS and MERS, according to an essay publishing the findings in The Lancet medical journal on Monday.

Blood tests showed an over-activation of a type of infection-fighting cell that accounted for part of the severe immune injury the patient sustained, according to the essay. The case study might be useful to other physicians treating patients with the new illness, the authors said.

In other coronavirus related news

• Singapore confirmed four new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 81. Of these, three are linked to the Grace Assembly of God church and one is linked to a previous case, according to the country’s Ministry of Health.

Meanwhile, five more patients were discharged from hospitals, including a one-year-old boy. The total number of recoveries reached 29 in Singapore.

• The Word Health Organization in its daily briefing said it shipped supplies of personal protective equipment to 21 countries for Covid-19 and will ship to an additional 106 countries in coming weeks.

By the end of this week, 40 countries in Africa and 29 in the Americas are due to have the ability to detect the virus, the organization said.

• Hubei province said it will use recent purchase records of fever and cough medicines to trace unidentified coronavirus patients. The government will investigate anyone who bought fever or cough medicines since Jan. 20, both from brick-and-mortar stores or online. It will also track down people who sought treatment for a fever since then.

Compiled by Han Wei

Tuesday, Feb. 18, 7 p.m.

The major focus of today’s news involves the frontline workers in the fight against the coronavirus. The director of a hospital in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, died of the virus Tuesday morning, arousing a massive show of support on social media. Meanwhile, a trending video showed how female medical workers were forced to have their heads shaved in order to help them work more efficiently and avoid being infected, which sparked fury online.

The fast-moving virus has continued to rage across China, though new cases outside Central China’s Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, fell for a 14th consecutive day on Tuesday. News that a high-speed train worker was infected with the coronavirus has fueled concerns that the disease could be spreading among passengers and train staff members.

Elsewhere, Japan has reported 88 new cases on a quarantined cruise ship. U.S. smartphone giant Apple has warned it may fail to meet its revenue target in the quarter ending in March, as the outbreak has forced the company to cut production in China. Singapore has unveiled a $4 billion economic package to support businesses and households amid the outbreak.

A hospital director in Wuhan dies

Liu Zhiming, 51, the head of Wuchang Hospital in Wuhan, died of the virus at 10:54 a.m. Tuesday, according to a statement (link in Chinese) released by the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission. A person with knowledge of the matter told Caixin (link in Chinese) that Liu was infected with the coronavirus in late January.

Wuchang Hospital is one of more than 40 hospitals in the city designated to treat the coronavirus. The death followed that of Liu Fan, a nurse at Wuchang Hospital, who died from the coronavirus on Friday, days after her father and mother died from the same illness. Her younger brother also died from the disease earlier that day.

A Chinese government official disclosed Friday that more than 1,700 medical workers were confirmed to have the disease nationwide. However, a study by a team from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, found that as of Feb. 11 almost twice as many Chinese medical workers had been infected as officially reported. The study covered more than 72,000 confirmed, suspected and clinically diagnosed cases as well as those who had tested positive for the virus but had not developed symptoms.

Infected high-speed train employee

A worker at a Beijing high-speed railway maintenance station has been infected with Covid-19, fueling fears that the virus might be spreading among staff and passengers on dozens of trains.

The worker came down with a fever on Thursday. On Saturday, the worker was confirmed to have been infected with the virus by the Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control, according to an internal document (link in Chinese) from China Railway Beijing Group Co. Ltd., which was obtained by Caixin.

The railway station, located in Beijing’s Fengtai district, was responsible for handling regular maintenance on at least 157 trains (link in Chinese) each day during the Lunar New Year holiday, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency. According to the internal document, dozens of train employees were under medical monitoring, including five janitors.

In other coronavirus news

• An additional 88 people have tested positive for the coronavirus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which has been quarantined off the coast of Yokohama, Japan, the country’s health ministry said Tuesday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases on the ship to 542.

• The Singaporean government has set aside S$5.6 billion ($4 billion) in the coming year to help workers, families and businesses weather the epidemic, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said in a speech (link in Chinese) on Tuesday. The minister also announced another S$800 million would be earmarked to support frontline agencies in the fight against the virus.

Apple Inc. said it didn’t expect to meet the revenue guidance it provided last month for the upcoming quarter ending in March, due to worse-than-expected production conditions. The smartphone giant said its global iPhone supply would be “temporarily constrained” and demand in the Chinese market had also been impacted. China produces over 99% (link in Chinese) of Apple’s iPhones and is the company’s third-largest market globally, after North America and Europe.

• About one-third of migrant workers in China will still not have returned to work by March. Currently, about 80 million of the country’s 300 million migrant laborers have returned to the cities where they work, and another 120 million will return by the end of February, Liu Xiaoming, a deputy minister of transportation, said Saturday.

• The novel coronavirus appears to be much more infectious than severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), according to a study (link in Chinese) by Jason S. McLellan, a professor of molecular biosciences at the University of Texas at Austin. Interaction between the new coronavirus and the body’s angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) — which has been identified as a functional entry point for the new coronavirus and SARS in human cells — has around a 10- to 20-times greater affinity than that of SARS, according to the study, published on bioRxiv, a free online distribution platform for research that has not been peer-reviewed.

Macao’s casinos are set to reopen on Thursday after being temporarily closed down since Feb. 5 due to the outbreak, authorities said on Monday. Visitors will be required to wear a mask and to have their temperature checked when they enter, said (link in Chinese) Lei Wai Nong, the territory’s secretary for economy and finance.

A report (link in Chinese) by the China Wealth Management 50 Forum, a think tank, suggested China’s government could raise its fiscal debt-to-GDP ratio to 3.5% this year and issue at least 1 trillion yuan ($140 billion) in special government bonds. The measures could help China to reach its economic growth target this year, the report said.

• As of Tuesday afternoon, at least 896 infections, including three deaths, had been reported outside China in a total of 25 countries.

Compiled by Tang Ziyi

Tuesday, Feb. 18, noon

• On China’s social media, people are heaping scorn on a state media-produced video of 14 female medical workers’ heads being shaved before they departed for Central China’s Hubei province, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. The video, produced by a state-run newspaper in Lanzhou, Gansu province, showed the women, many in tears, as they got their hair cut, presumably to help them avoid getting infected while working. The newspaper described the women as “the most beautiful,” which was met with anger online by people who accused the newspaper of sexism and making use of the women’s distress for propaganda purposes. The online critics pointed out that the heads of men heading to Hubei weren’t being shaved. They suggested state media try actually advocating for the women on the frontlines of the battle against the disease, where more than 50% of doctors and 90% of nurses are women.

Compiled by Lu Zhenhua

Tuesday, Feb. 18, 10 a.m.

• As of the end of Monday, China had reported 72,528 infections with Covid-19, according to the latest data (link in Chinese) from the country’s top health body.

The total death toll in China rose by 98 on Monday to 1,870, including 93 new deaths in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak. The number of new deaths in China fell for the third straight day.

• On Monday, over 1,890 new cases of infection were reported in China — including 1,807 in Hubei province. New cases outside of Hubei declined for a 14th consecutive day.

• As of the end of Monday, among the existing 58,016 cases on the Chinese mainland, about 20% (11,741 cases) were in critical condition.

A total of 12,552 people had recovered on the mainland.

• Hong Kong had reported 60 cases, with one death and two recoveries, as of the end of Monday. Macao had reported 10 infections with five recoveries. Taiwan had reported 22 cases, with one death and two recoveries.

Compiled by Tang Ziyi

Tuesday, Feb. 18, noon

• On China’s social media, people are heaping scorn on a state media-produced video of 14 female medical workers’ heads being shaved before they departed for Central China’s Hubei province, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. The video, produced by a state-run newspaper in Lanzhou, Gansu province, showed the women, many in tears, as they got their hair cut, presumably to help them avoid getting infected while working. The newspaper described the women as “the most beautiful,” which was met with anger online by people who accused the newspaper of sexism and making use of the women’s distress for propaganda purposes. The online critics pointed out that the heads of men heading to Hubei weren’t being shaved. They suggested state media try actually advocating for the women on the frontlines of the battle against the disease, where more than 50% of doctors and 90% of nurses are women.

Compiled by Lu Zhenhua

Tuesday, Feb. 18, 10 a.m.

• As of the end of Monday, China had reported 72,528 infections with Covid-19, according to the latest data (link in Chinese) from the country’s top health body.

The total death toll in China rose by 98 on Monday to 1,870, including 93 new deaths in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak. The number of new deaths in China fell for the third straight day.

• On Monday, over 1,890 new cases of infection were reported in China — including 1,807 in Hubei province. New cases outside of Hubei declined for a 14th consecutive day.

• As of the end of Monday, among the existing 58,016 cases on the Chinese mainland, about 20% (11,741 cases) were in critical condition.

A total of 12,552 people had recovered on the mainland.

• Hong Kong had reported 60 cases, with one death and two recoveries, as of the end of Monday. Macao had reported 10 infections with five recoveries. Taiwan had reported 22 cases, with one death and two recoveries.

 Read More 
Coronavirus Monday Update: China Mulls Postponing Annual Meeting of Legislature, WHO-Led Team of Experts Arrives in China

Compiled by Tang Ziyi

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