The coronavirus fatality rate may change over the coming weeks as those who were infected at the start of the epidemic come to the end of their illness.
Adam Kucharski, a mathematician and epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the potential under-reporting of cases in China, and the fact that fatalities will continue as the number of new cases slows down, meant the death rate could vary over time.
The mortality rate for the new coronavirus is estimated to be around 2.5%. For comparison, seasonal flu typically has a mortality rate below 1%.
In a explanatory thread on Twitter, Kucharski said:
It’s well established there are likely far more symptomatic cases in China than have been detected/confirmed. If we are calculating ‘deaths/cases’, and we underestimate number of cases, it will cause us to *overestimate* fatality risk.
However, he said another factor might mean the current mortality rate of 2% is an underestimate.
As the number of cases starts to slow down, fatalities will climb faster than cases (because they were infected when the epidemic was growing faster).
He concludes by saying the two factors could cancel each other out and mean that current estimates for the mortality rate are actually accurate.
The widely quoted 2% fatality for China is calculated incorrectly, because it’s based on data that is under-reported and doesn’t account for delays. But, confusingly, these errors may actually cancel out, leading to an estimate that is right for the wrong reasons.
Russia will continue to issue official, business, humanitarian and transit visas to Chinese nationals, the country’s foreign ministry has said, clarifying the conditions of a sweeping entry ban for Chinese citizens announced yesterday.
The ban comes into effect on Thursday at midnight Moscow time.
It was imposed due to the worsening epidemiological situation in China, the office of the deputy prime minister, Tatyana Golikova, said in a statement.
Russia’s foreign ministry clarified that the ban is temporary and only applies to visitors with tourist, private, student and work visas. It said in a statement:
We reiterate our willingness to continue close cooperation with China in order to efficiently eradicate this common threat.
Russia has had three confirmed cases of the Covid-19 disease. These were two Chinese citizens in Russia who were treated and released, and a Russian national infected on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.
Russian authorities have taken significant steps to try to keep the virus from spreading, including keeping hundreds of people in hospital as a precaution and monitoring more than 14,000 people after they returned from China.
Russia halted most air traffic to China, suspended all trains to China and North Korea, and temporarily stopped issuing work visas to Chinese citizens. Chinese students studying in Russia were told not to return until 1 March.
This month Russia’s prime minister, Mikhail Mishustin, said Russia might start deporting foreigners infected with the virus.
Summary of global cases
The Covid-19 virus has now infected more than 75,000 people globally.
Three more people in Singapore have tested positive for the virus, one of whom was first admitted to hospital as a Dengue patient. South Korea reported 20 new cases.
Here’s a summary of the latest figures reported by each government’s health authority, as of Wednesday in Beijing:
Mainland China: 2,004 deaths among 74,185 cases, mostly in Hubei province Hong Kong: 63 cases, two deathsMacau: 10 casesJapan: 693 cases, including 621 from a cruise ship docked in Yokohama, one deathSingapore: 81South Korea: 51Thailand: 35Malaysia: 22Taiwan: 22 cases, one deathVietnam: 16Germany: 16United States: 15 cases; separately, one US citizen died in ChinaAustralia: 14France: 12 cases, one deathUnited Kingdom: 9United Arab Emirates: 9Canada: 8Philippines: three cases, one deathIndia: 3Italy: 3Russia: 2Spain: 2Iran: 2Belgium: 1Nepal: 1Sri Lanka: 1Sweden: 1Cambodia: 1Finland: 1
There is no need for people to panic about the coronavirus, said Scotland’s public health minister as he visited one of the country’s two testing laboratories.
Joe FitzPatrick said there was no current evidence to suggest it is necessary for people in Scotland to wear masks to protect against the Covid-19 virus.
Screening laboratories in Glasgow and Edinburgh have tested 202 possible cases since testing began in Scotland on 10 February, with all proving negative.
Combined with the previous tests at the Public Health England facility in Colindale, London, 290 tests from Scotland have been carried out since the outbreak began, with none coming back positive.
FitzPatrick said although it is likely there will be a case of coronavirus in Scotland, the country is well prepared to deal with the situation.
There is no need for people to be panicked.
We are clear that this is a serious threat that we are taking seriously and we’re preparing for worst case scenarios but right now the risk in Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, remains low so there’s no evidence to suggest that people should be walking around Scotland wearing face masks at this time.
He added: “Although all Scottish tests have so far been negative, we are prepared for the high likelihood that we will also see a positive case.
We have a proven track record of dealing with challenging health issues and have been preparing for this possibility since the beginning of the outbreak.
The coronavirus outbreak has temporarily reduced China’s CO2 emissions by a quarter, according to analysis by Carbon Brief.
Electricity demand and industrial output remain far below usual levels after authorities introduced stringent measures to stop the spread of the disease.
Daily data of coal use at power stations is at a four-year low, while oil refinery operating rates in Shandong province are at the lowest level since 2015, the report said.
Carried out by Lauri Myllyvirta, an analyst at Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air who covers air quality and energy trends in China, the analysis found levels of NO2 air pollution over China are down 36% on the same period last year.
Over the same two-week period in 2019, China released around 400m tonnes of CO2 (MtCO2), meaning the measures introduced to control the virus could have cut global emissions by 100MtCO2 to date.
However, the report notes that this is likely to only have a short-term impact and shutdowns of a week or more are not uncommon in China.
Cutting energy consumption and emissions by 25% for two weeks would only reduce annual figures by around 1%, it states.
However, reduced consumer demand – potentially caused by unpaid wages during the outbreak – could have a more significant long-term effect.
For instance, car sales are set to fall by 25-30% in the January-February period, according to preliminary forecasts.
In total, containment measures have resulted in reductions of 15% to 40% in output across key industrial sectors, according to the report.
The virus has had a severe impact on China’s economy, with Shanghai making a list of companies eligible for millions of dollars in subsidised loans to help keep them afloat.
In recent days, Chinese industrial hubs have taken measures to stimulate production again, after factories remained closed for around 10 days after the Lunar New year holiday to help with infection control.
China expels Wall Street Journal reporters over ‘racist’ headline
China has ordered three reporters from American newspaper the Wall Street Journal to leave the country, over what Beijing deemed a racist headline.
The expulsion came as Beijing slammed Washington’s decision to tighten rules on Chinese state media organisations in the United States, calling the move “unreasonable and unacceptable”, AFP reports.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the Journal op-ed - titled “China is the Real Sick Man of Asia” - had a “racially discriminatory” and “sensational” headline, and slammed the newspaper for not issuing an official apology.
Geng told a press briefing:
As such, China has decided that from today, the press cards of three Wall Street Journal reporters in Beijing will be revoked.
The Journal reported that deputy bureau chief Josh Chin and reporter Chao Deng, both US nationals, as well as reporter Philip Wen, an Australian, had been ordered to leave the country in five days.
The three journalists are in the Wall Street Journal’s news section, which is not linked to the editorial and opinion section.
The op-ed, written by Bard College professor Walter Russell Mead, criticised the Chinese government’s initial response to the new coronavirus outbreak.
It called the Wuhan city government “secretive and self-serving”, while dismissing national efforts as ineffective.
The phrase “sick man of Asia” originally referred to China in the late 19th and early 20th century, when it was exploited by foreign powers during a period sometimes called the country’s “century of humiliation”.
The 3 February piece “slandered the efforts of the Chinese government and the Chinese people to fight the epidemic”, said Geng.
The new coronavirus epidemic has killed over 2,000 people in China and infected more than 74,000, and has spread to at least two dozen countries.
“The editors of the Wall Street Journal have nailed themselves to the pillar of shame,” wrote the nationalistic Global Times in an op-ed on Tuesday before the reporters were expelled.
The WSJ’s remarks “sound like gloating, and they disgust Chinese people”, it said.
The expulsions come a day after the United States angered China for classifying five state media outlets, including Xinhua news agency and the China Global Television Network, as foreign missions, with State Department officials saying they were part of Beijing’s growing “propaganda” apparatus.
Voicing China’s “strong dissatisfaction”, Geng added cryptically: “We reserve the right to respond further to this matter.”
Cases on Diamond Princess cruise ship rise to 621
First coronavirus cases confirmed in Iran
Iranian authorities have confirmed two cases of coronavirus, the first in the country, the Associated Press has reported.
Citing the semi-official Isna news agency, the report states there was also an unspecified number of other suspected cases and that those individuals have been quarantined.
Their are currently no details on the nationality of the two people infected by the virus or the state of their health.
Isna quoted an official in the country’s health ministry, Kiyanoush Jahanpour, as saying two confirmed cases were detected in the central province of Qom.
Subsequent tests were in progress and the results of these tests will be released to the public, once they are finalised, Jahanpour said.
A total of 781 guests who disembarked from the Westerdam cruise ship in Cambodia have tested negative for Covid-19, Holland America, the ship’s operator, said.
Testing of passengers is now complete, while testing of 747 crew members is expected to continue for the next few days, the company said.
The Foreign Office previously confirmed Britons were among those tested.
A number of guests and crew had previously flown home, triggering international concern after an American passenger was diagnosed with the virus in Malaysia.
Holland America said: “These results provide the required clearance for remaining guests in Cambodia to begin their onward journey home.
“Those who travelled home previously will be contacted by their local health department and provided further information.”
The are no indications the new coronavirus has spread to North Korea, the World Health Organization said, after South Korean media suggested there were cases and deaths there being covered up by the Pyongyang authorities.
Experts have raised concerns that the disease, which has now killed over 2,000 people in neighbouring China, could be devastating for North Korea’s under-resourced health system.
Aid agencies have called for exceptions to international trading sanctions to make it easier if needed to help Pyongyang fight the disease.
Dr Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s emergencies programme, said: “At the moment there are no signals, there are no indications we are dealing with any Covid-19 there.”
A WHO spokesman, Tarik Jasarevic, said North Korea had reported checking nearly 7,300 travellers entering the country over a six-week period to 9 February.
He also said 141 travellers with fevers had been tested for the virus and all had tested negative.
Jasarevic said the WHO would provide North Korea with supplies including laboratory reagents for tests and protective equipment such as goggles, gloves, masks and gowns for health workers.
A former North Korean diplomat, Thae Yong-ho, who defected to South Korea in 2016 said the ability of the WHO to evaluate the situation in North Korea was probably limited, as its staff and other foreigners would mostly be confined in the capital Pyongyang.
Already one of the world’s most closed-off countries, North Korea has stopped flights and train services with its neighbours, established month-long mandatory quarantines, suspended international tourism and imposed a near-complete lockdown on cross-border travel.
Number of new coronavirus cases in South Korea rises to 20
South Korea has now confirmed 20 new cases of the coronavirus, including 14 people involved in an outbreak traced to several church services in the central city of Daegu.
The jump in new cases is unprecedented so far in South Korea and brings the number of people infected in the country to 51.
Including the cases announced on Wednesday, 19 have been reported in Daegu and the surrounding North Gyeongsang province, with 16 of them tied to an earlier confirmed carrier, Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said in a statement.
The earlier case was confirmed on Tuesday in a 61-year-old woman known as ‘Patient 31’. She had no recent record of overseas travel but had attended church services and sought care at a hospital before being tested for the virus, the agency said.
According to a Reuters report, at least 15 people who attended religious services with ‘Patient 31’ have tested positive for the virus.
One other person, who came in contact with her at a hospital, has also come down with the disease.
Hundreds of people are believed to have attended services with ‘Patient 31’ in recent weeks at a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony, a religious movement founded in 1984 by South Korean Lee Man-hee, who is revered as a messiah by followers.
On Tuesday, Shincheonji Church posted a statement on its website confirming the woman had attended services and advised its members to stay home. It encouraged members who had attended meetings on 9 and 16 February to be tested and quarantine themselves.
“The Daegu branch has been shut down since this morning and is conducting prevention measures,” the statement said.
Health authorities view the Daegu case as a “super-spreading event”, The KCDC director, Jeong Eun-kyeong, told briefings on Wednesday.
Besides the church, ‘Patient 31’ also visited a hotel and, eventually, a hospital, the Daegu mayor, Kwon Young-jin, said in a Facebook post.
None of the woman’s family members has shown symptoms, while taxi drivers who were in contact with her are now in self-quarantine, Kwon said.
A clinic that treated Patient 31 after a traffic accident on 6 February said she refused to be tested for the virus at that time, despite a fever, because she had not travelled abroad recently or been in contact with known patients.
KCDC officials said they were reviewing policies governing people who refuse to be tested, and added police could be involved in such cases.
After her symptoms worsened, she was finally tested for the virus on 17 February, according to the KCDC.
The South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, has called for stringent infection control measures and every possible action to boost the economy, which he said was in an emergency situation as the result of the epidemic.
As the quarantine of the Diamond Princess cruise ship ends today, questions continue to swirl over how the virus spread so readily on the ship.
Via Japan’s state broadcaster NHK, health minister Katsunobu Kato defended Japan’s efforts to halt the outbreak:
Unfortunately, cases of infection have emerged, but we have to the extent possible taken appropriate steps to prevent serious cases, including sending infected people to hospital
But some health experts have criticised the measures taken to control the disease on board.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Japan’s efforts might have slowed down the virus but were not enough. In a statement it said:
CDC’s assessment is that it may not have been sufficient to prevent transmission among individuals on the ship.
From the start, experts raised questions about quarantine on the ship. Passengers weren’t confined to their rooms until 5 February. The day before, as officials screened them, onboard events continued, including dances, quiz games and an exercise class, one passenger said.
A number of readers have asked about the air conditioning employed on the ship, and whether this could have contributed to the spread of the virus.
Previously health authorities said the air conditioning was not a problem. However, Princess Cruises’ executive vice-president, Rai Caluori ,said that, “in an abundance of caution”, the amount of fresh air going through the system was maximised.
Dr Richard Darwood, a medical director and specialist in travel medicine, told Metro.co.uk: “If air is being ducted between one part of the ship to another then that could possibly be a factor.”
A video by Prof Kentaro Iwata, a specialist in infectious diseases at Kobe University Hospital, has been circulated widely on social media.
He doesn’t mention the air conditioning system, but he says the cruise ship was completely inadequate in terms of infection control, with no distinction between the green zone (which is free of infection) and the red zone (which is potentially contaminated by the virus).
“It was completely chaotic. I was so scared of getting Covid-19, because there was no way to tell where the virus is,” he said. He said there was no professional infection control person in charge on the ship and the bureaucrats in control were violating all infection control principles.
He said he met a health worker who had completely given up wearing protection because they said they had already been infected with the coronavirus.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, Iwata said:
I felt much safer when I was in Africa [during the Ebola crisis] because you know where the virus exists and you know where the patient is. But inside the Diamond Princess you have no idea where the virus is.”
The remaining passengers who were stuck onboard a cruise ship docked in Cambodia for almost a week have left the vessel after testing negative for the coronavirus.
The MS Westerdam arrived in the port of Sihanoukville on 13 February having been turned away from five other ports after leaving Hong Kong, which has reported more than 60 cases of the virus and two deaths.
The ship came under renewed scrutiny following Cambodia’s quick clearance for passengers to fly home, a move which was criticised after one American woman who had been on the cruise ship tested positive for the virus over the weekend in Malaysia.
On Wednesday, a series of cheers went up from people lining the lower deck of the cruise ship and there were several loud blasts of the ship’s horn as passengers began disembarking, 18 days after the ship first left Hong Kong.
Kheang Phearum, spokesman for Preah Sihanouk province, where Sihanoukville is located, said:
The last 233 passengers on MS Westerdam are disembarked and will continue to Phnom Penh by buses.
Holland America Line, the ship’s operator, confirmed in a statement the last passengers had been given health clearances to leave the ship and make their way home.
Upon leaving the vessel, passengers received traditional checkered Cambodian scarves as souvenirs.
The passengers will spend a night in capital Phnom Penh and then fly home, said Sun Chan Thol, Cambodia’s minister of public transport.
Holland America said the ship would remain at dock in Sihanoukville while hundreds of crew members were being tested.
Shanghai has compiled a list of firms, including local units of multi-nationals Unilever PLC and 3M Co, as eligible for millions of dollars in subsidised loans to ease any blow from the coronavirus outbreak, according to bankers and documents seen by Reuters.
In an economically bruising three weeks, China has cordoned off cities and suspended transport links in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
“Every bank in Shanghai is rushing to lend to the companies on its list, to earn political goodwill,” said one banker who had seen a list with 194 firms, including restaurant operators and property developers.
Companies have the option to nominate themselves to be added to the overall list. Each lender then determines independently whether to approach a company on its list and offer finance, according to the bankers.
Companies producing medical supplies and which are “backbone enterprises” providing daily necessities are eligible for the special loans, according to a notice on the Shanghai MIIT’s website.
China is trying to deal with a nationwide shortage of medical supplies, from face masks to protective suits, while hospitals in central Hubei province - the epicentre of the outbreak - struggle to manage hundreds of new cases a day.
There is no indication from the list that loans offered will necessarily be sought, or that such firms are in any financial need.
The Bank of Shanghai Co Ltd told Reuters it will lend 5.5 billion yuan ($786 million) to 57 firms on its list.
The aim of the loans is to ensure financial support to key companies helping prevent and fight the epidemic, the Shanghai government notice said.
A spokeswoman from Unilever said it had “no current plans to apply for any financing support”. 3M and other companies listed including Shanghai Kindly Enterprise Development Group and Tellgen did not respond to requests for comment.
Big Chinese manufacturing hubs are starting to ease curbs on the movement of people and traffic, Reuters reports, as local governments prod factories to restart production following weeks of stoppages due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The tough restriction measures slowed the sprawling industrial sector to a crawl, with companies unable to resume production or restore output to normal levels due to a lack of workers after the Lunar New Year holiday which was extended by around 10 days.
Many have also been unable to take delivery of raw materials or send products to clients due to logistical hurdles, with the disruptions spilling over into supply chains worldwide.
Beijing is trying to balance stamping out the epidemic which has infected more than 70,000 people and killed over 2,000, while also shielding the already weakened economy from more damage.
The city of Foshan, a large manufacturer of electronics and household appliances in southern Guangdong province, said late on Tuesday that businesses no longer need to seek prior approval before resuming operations and they returning workers will not need to provide proof of their health.
On Monday, the nearby city of Zhongshan similarly lowered administrative barriers.
In eastern Zhejiang province over the weekend, the cities of Hangzhou and Ningbo also pared back the approval process for companies looking to restart.
Morgan Stanley research said:
Macro and micro data suggest production activities are resuming at a slow pace in China, reaching 60-80% of normal levels by end-Feb and normalising only by mid-to-late March,” Morgan Stanley wrote in a research noted.
If the spread of the virus is not contained within the next two weeks, the disruption to production could extend into the second quarter.
Some cities in Guangdong and Zhejiang this week organised buses and trains to ferry workers back from their hometowns.
The city of Taizhou, in Zhejiang, even arranged for several planes to pick up migrant workers from Chongqing, Guiyang, Chengdu, Kunming and Xian, with the local government of Taizhou footing a third of the bill.
The outbreak has also chilled consumer demand and hammered the services sector, with restaurants, hotels, cinemas and travel agents among the segments most visibly hit.
In a bid to revive consumption, Foshan announced stimulus measures for its auto market, the first city in China to do so amid the outbreak.
The city government will offer subsidies of 2,000 yuan ($285) for purchases of new cars and 3,000 ($429) yuan for replacement of existing cars, according to a document published on its website.