Caixin
Apr 19, 2020 11:16 AM
CHINA BUSINESS DIGEST

China Business Digest: Wuhan Revises Death Toll Up by More Than 1,000; Gilead Stock Surges on Promising Remdesivir News

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Wuhan on Friday revised upward its official death toll from the coronavirus outbreak by 50%, citing missed deaths at the start of the outbreak. Report suggesting drug may work on Covid-19 lifted overall U.S. market Friday though Gilead said findings aren’t complete. It was revealed that the top body of China’s national legislature will hold a meeting later this month. Meanwhile, China’s GDP shrank 6.8% year-on-year in the first quarter, the first such contraction since quarterly record-keeping began in 1992. China's central bank confirmed tests of a digital yuan.

By Denise Jia (huijuanjia@caixin.com)

** ON THE CORONAVIRUS

Wuhan sharply raises death toll

The city of Wuhan, epicenter of China’s outbreak, has revised its death toll from the virus to 3,869, after 1,454 deaths were added and 164 were subtracted, a local official said on Friday, the Xinhua News Agency reported (link in Chinese).

The additional deaths had been concealed by some medical organizations, or were linked to deaths of patients who weren’t hospitalized, the official said. The 164 cases were subtracted after officials found that they weren’t related to the virus. Confirmed cases in the city were also revised to 50,333, up by more than 300 from the previous figure.

Following the revisions, the total accumulated Covid-19 cases for the Chinese mainland amounted to 82,692, and the death toll reached 4,632 as of the end of Thursday, an official at the country’s health ministry said in a news briefing Friday afternoon.

Gilead stock surges on promising remdesivir report

An unconfirmed report (link in Chinese) on positive clinical trial results of Gilead Sciences’ experimental drug to treat Covid-19 fueled a 10% surge for the company’s stock, lifting the overall market higher Friday.

Stat, an online medical news publication, reported late Thursday that most severe patients in the clinical trial at a Chicago hospital treated with Gilead's remdesivir went home within days and only two patients died.

The report was based on a leaked video in which a doctor discussed the trial results with colleagues. Official results from the trial are not expected until later this month, with further data to come in May.

In a statement released Friday, Gilead made clear that it is too soon to consider remdesivir a game changer.

“Anecdotal reports, while encouraging, do not provide the statistical power necessary to determine the safety and efficacy profile of remdesivir as a treatment for Covid-19,” the company said.

Heilongjiang requires Covid-19 tests for all inpatients in major hospitals

Starting from Thursday, patients will have to test negative for Covid-19 before they can become inpatients in major hospitals in Northeast China’s Heilongjiang province, a local health official said (link in Chinese). The move came after six medical staff were confirmed with the virus in the provincial capital of Harbin on Wednesday, raising concerns about the risk of patients bringing the disease and spreading it within hospitals.

Japan declares nationwide state of emergency as virus spread

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced on Thursday (link in Chinese) that the state of emergency, currently covering Tokyo, Osaka and five prefectures, will expand to all of 47 of Japan’s prefectures. Abe also said the government was looking to create a supplementary budget to distribute 100,000 yen ($926) to each citizen amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Singapore records another daily high in new cases

The country added a 728 new infections on Thursday with most linked to immigrant laborers residing in crowded dormitories, marking the second day in a row the city-state has seen a record jump in caseload. Singapore has recorded 4,427 cases since the disease appeared earlier this year, according to its Ministry of Health.

Trump unveils plan to reopen states in phases

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday rolled out guidelines for reopening the U.S. economy. The guidelines recommend that states should first document a “downward trajectory” in coronavirus cases for two weeks before beginning a three-phase process to return to near normal work and social life, Bloomberg reported.

Other virus news

• Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund said (link in Chinese) the agency was still looking to offer support for developing countries in their fight with the virus, after a plan to create liquidity through issuance of its Special Drawing Rights was dropped in face of U.S. opposition.

• The U.S. has asked China to revise its new export quality control rules for protective medical equipment so they are not an obstacle to timely supply, Reuters reported, citing a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department.

• Shares of Gilead Sciences rallied Thursday after a report said that its remdesivir drug showed promising results in treating Covid-19 patients.

• As of Friday afternoon Beijing time, global infections reached over 2.16 million, with over 145,000 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

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Caixin’s coverage of the new coronavirus

** TOP STORIES OF THE DAY

China’s GDP shrinks 6.8% on pandemic impact

China’s GDP shrank 6.8% year-on-year in the first three months of this year, marking the first such contraction since quarterly record keeping began in 1992, as the coronavirus pandemic took a heavy toll, official data showed Friday.

The decline in the world’s second-largest economy was milder than the median forecast for a 7% drop in a Caixin survey of economists.

China’s urban unemployment rate in March was 5.9%, down from a record high of 6.2% in February, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed (link in Chinese).

National legislature’s top body to meet this month

Members of the standing committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature, will hold a meeting in Beijing from April 26 to April 29, the official Xinhua News Agency reported (link in Chinese) on Friday.

The committee will deliberate on a series of proposals, including an amendment to a law on the prevention and control of environmental pollution caused by solid waste and an amendment to the current copyright law, Xinhua said.

The Xinhua report didn’t say whether the meeting will set a date for the “Two Sessions,” the annual meetings of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, which were delayed due to coronavirus pandemic.

China starts trial of digital currency in four cities

China’s central bank confirmed that some state-owned banks are conducting internal tests of a digital currency in four cities and hypothetical use for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

A mobile app for the currency, tested internally by state-owned Agricultural Bank of China, displays the new digital currency features, including allowing people to make payments using a QR Code and sending and receiving funds simply by touching another phone.

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) confirmed that the tests are underway but said that doesn’t mean the digital currency is being officially launched.

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** OTHER STORIES MAKING THE HEADLINES

• Following the crash in the price of aluminum, nearly 90% of companies in the sector had reported losses, according to a survey.

• Global oil demand will drop by 6.8 million barrels a day in 2020, hitting a five-year low (link in Chinese), OPEC said Thursday.

• Hong Kong expects 25% (link in Chinese) of retail stores to shut down by the end of this year, according to a survey.

• The value of private equity deals in Greater China plummeted by 55% in the first quarter, exacerbating a broader downturn since last year, according to (link in Chinese) consultancy Bain & Co.

• On Thursday, U.S. chipmaker Nvidia Corp. said its $6.9 billion acquisition of Israeli chip designer Mellanox Technologies Ltd. was approved by China, clearing the last regulatory hurdle for a deal that was announced over a year ago.

•During the first quarter, China imported 951,000 tons of pork, up by 274,000 tons from the previous quarter and the highest since data was made available in 2016, data from the country’s customs bureau showed.

** AND FINALLY

China’s cinema industry has been crushed by the coronavirus pandemic. Since Jan. 24, nearly every theater in the country has been shut down due to a government effort to prevent the outbreak from flaring back up .

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A worker disinfects a screening room on March 25 at a movie theater in Shenyang, Northeast China’s Liaoning province. Two days later, the National Film Administration ordered all cinemas in the country to shut down.

Contact reporter Mo Yelin (yelinmo@caixin.com) and editor Yang Ge (geyang@caixin.com)

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