Coronavirus Live Updates | Saturday: China PMIs Hits Historic Low, Iran and South Korea Outbreaks Grow
China is grappling with a new coronavirus epidemic that began in December and has since spread to countries around the world. While the country has made headway in controlling the virus’s spread, the picture abroad is less positive as hotspots emerge in a number of other nations, including Japan, South Korea, Italy and Iran.
Caixin Global will continue covering this story as it develops. Please check back regularly for updates.
Saturday, Feb. 29, 9:00 p.m.
There was ugly economic news today from China’s top statistics bureau, which reported that its purchasing managers indexes had fallen to their lowest levels on record.
Meanwhile, worrying outbreaks in Iran and South Korea continued to spiral, researchers in Wuhan released new data from autopsies, and HNA Group’s debt was taken over by the Hainan provincial government as the outbreak’s impact on the travel industry brought the once powerful grey rhino to its knees.
Chinese purchasing indexes drop to historic lows
Chinese factory activity fell off a cliff in February, figures released by China’s National Bureau of Statistics on Feb. 29 show (link in Chinese).
The manufacturing purchasing managers’ index tumbled to 35.7 in February from 50 the previous month, far lower than economists had expected. The gauge for non-manufacturing sectors fell even further — down 24.5 points to 29.6.
The indexes for both sectors fell to their lowest point since the purchasing manager survey was launched in 2005, dragging the comprehensive index down 24.1 points to 28.9.
Beijing suspends taxi services out of city
Beijing has banned taxi and ride-hailing services from transporting passengers out of the city until further notice to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The city transport commission said it would focus on unlicensed taxis, saying it had seized 51 such vehicles carrying passengers between provinces between Feb. 9 and 27.
Ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing had suspended interprovincial operations on Jan. 26 in response to new regulations, but other companies such as Tida Chuxing, as well as unlicensed taxis, had continued to provide rides across city borders.
In other coronavirus news
• The total number of cases in Iran jumped by more than 50% to 593 with the death toll climbing to 43 today, Bloomberg reported. Among those who have tested positive were five members of the Iranian parliament, which indefinitely suspended all sessions Friday.
• Early Saturday morning a five-member Chinese Red Cross volunteer team arrived in the Iranian capital of Tehran with medical aid, according to China’s embassy in the city. Iranian Health Minister Saeed Namaki said Iran’s outbreak would peak in the coming week as he called on people in the country to reduce travel, and said schools would stay closed until at least March 2.
• Researchers from Tongji Medical College in quarantined Wuhan say autopsies have found large amounts of mucus deep in the lungs of patients who died of Covid-19. The team believes the mucus impairs the ability of patients to breathe and must be dissolved or removed during treatment (link in Chinese).
• The government of Hainan has taken over the management of HNA Group’s debt after coronavirus fears and travel bans eroded its airline business (link in Chinese), the group’s main remaining source of income.
• The number of people diagnosed in South Korea climbed more than 35% over the past 24 hours, with the Korean Centers for Disease Control adding 813 cases on Saturday.
• China's National Health Commission said (link in Chinese) hospitals and other areas most impacted by the new coronavirus should prioritize prevention and treatment, but must also ensure provision of medical services for cancer patients and kidney disease as well as those with other issues. Lower risk regions should shift their focus back to provision of basic medical services. Caixin previously reported on patients with life-threatening kidney disease going without care in virus-ravaged Wuhan.
• International oil prices plummeted, representing the biggest weekly drop in four years on worries about the slowdown in growth in demand for crude oil as planes are grounded and factories grind to a halt (link in Chinese).
Compiled by Flynn Murphy
Saturday, Feb. 29, 12:00 p.m.
China’s official coronavirus infection count edged up to 79,389 on Saturday as more than 400 new cases were added, representing a significant slowing in the rate of infection.
Authorities say only four new cases of coronavirus were diagnosed outside of Hubei province in its most recent one-day count for Feb. 28. The China-wide total was 427, remaining under 500 for the fourth consecutive day.
Forty-seven more people died from the respiratory disease in China, meaning 2,838 people have now succumbed to it since the first cases were identified in December. The number of new deaths from the virus has remained in double digits in recent days.
ASEAN meeting in Las Vegas cancelled
The U.S. has canceled a meeting between President Donald Trump and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Las Vegas planned for March 14 over coronavirus fears, multiple U.S. news outlets are reporting.
“As the international community works together to defeat the novel coronavirus, the United States, in consultation with ASEAN partners, has made the difficult decision to postpone the ASEAN leaders meeting previously scheduled for mid-March. The United States values our relationships with the nations of this critical region, and looks forward to future meetings,” CNN reported a senior Trump official as saying.
The meeting was announced after the U.S. president failed to attend a November summit with the group in Bangkok.
According to CNN, no specific plans have been announced but President Trump may hold bilateral meetings in Las Vegas.
In other coronavirus news
• Iranian Ministry of Health spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour accused the BBC of spreading lies after the broadcaster reported 210 people in Iran have died as a result of coronavirus, citing health system sources. That's six times Iran's official death toll of 34, already the highest of any country outside China.
• A third case of Covid-19 was diagnosed Friday in the Los Angeles, California county of Santa Clara. The patient had no known exposure to the virus through travel or contact with an infected person, raising concerns about possible community transmission. The elderly woman was hospitalized with respiratory symptoms.
• Health authorities in the Australian state of Queensland have asked patrons of a Gold Coast beauty salon to come forward after a 63-year-old woman who worked there fell ill with the coronavirus. Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeanette Young told a press conference the woman had recently returned from Iran.
• Google will ban business travel to and from Japan and South Korea starting March 2, Bloomberg reported citing a company memo. Amazon has also asked its employees to defer non-essential travel.
• U.S. stocks saw their worst week since the 2008 global financial crisis, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping to its lowest point since June, and S&P500 plunging 11%, according to Bloomberg.
• A Caixin feature shows how civil society has stepped in to help Wuhan’s coronavirus relief effort. University alumni groups, dedicated disaster relief teams and volunteers organizing online have played a key role in fighting the epidemic.
Compiled by Flynn Murphy
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