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President Xi Admits "Grave" Coronavirus Is Accelerating" As Hong Kong Declares State Of Emergency

Summary

  • 1497 Cases Worldwide; 42 Deaths: 3% official mortality rate (SARS was 11%)
  • 18 Chinese cities – 56 million people – quarantined
  • President Xi said China faces a ‘grave situation’ as the spread is ‘accelerating’
  • US and Russia planning evacuation of citizens from Wuhan
  • Australia and Malaysia join the list of global nations with CoV cases, in addition to France, Pakistan, Singapore, the US and Nepal
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping empowered local governments and said teams from Beijing will be sent to severely impacted areas to strengthen front-line prevention and containment
  • The US and France chartered planes to evacuate diplomats and nationals in containment zones
  • The director of the CDC says she expects cases of human-to-human transmission in the US
  • China banned all domestic tour groups immediately and overseas group tours from Jan 27
  • Starbucks and China said they were closing some stores in China
  • Wuhan is building a second emergency hospital, this one with 1300 beds
  • 3 doctors in Beijing who visited Wuhan are confirmed to have the virus

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Update (1530ET): Now that the market is closed, local authorities apparently feel it’s safe to start dribbling out the real numbers. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases soared on Saturday as China confirmed roughly 500 new cases. The number of cases outside China has also grown as Japan, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia have all confirmed new cases. Meanwhile, another death has been confirmed, bringing the total to 42.

According to the South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong newspaper that has been keeping probably the most comprehensive tally of confirmed CoV cases around the world, put the total number at 1,497 Saturday afternoon in New York.

During a meeting of China’ Politburo on Saturday, President Xi not only urged disparate ethnic groups to work together and suppress the virus, but added that the “grave situation” seemed to be “accelerating,” according to the BBC and SCMP.

“Party committees and governments at different levels have to make proper plans to contain the virus under the guidance of the Central Committee,” he was quoted as saying.

“Hubei province has to regard virus prevention work as the most important task, and enforce stricter measures to stop the virus from spreading inside the province and spilling out into other areas. Isolation treatment should be provided for all infected patients.”

Wuhan will soon be under complete lock down: Beginning Sunday private vehicles will be banned from its streets. All events have been canceled, travel into and out of the city has been shut down, and, as we showed below, crude roadblocks have been set up to essentially seal off the city – a city of 11 million people – off from the rest of China. At least some form of travel restrictions are in place in some 18 cities in central Hubei. Restrictions include cutting off access to public transit and highways. Already, the economic fallout from the outbreak is being estimated in percentage points of local GDP, as we’ve previously discussed. The disruption of the holiday travel season will hammer China’s tourism industry, possibly even worse than 17 years ago during the SARS outbreak. 

Horrifying images of patients infected with the virus have popped up on Twitter.

As the situation grows increasingly serious, the senior Communist Party leadership, which has formed a group of top officials to oversee the crisis response, is giving local authorities carte blanche to take any necessary action to ensure hospitals remain fully staffed and supplied. There has reportedly been talk of punishing local officials who may have been slow to respond to the crisis during its early days.

After confirming its fifth case, Hong Kong has declared a state of emergency – the highest tier of public alert, according to the HKFP.

“Today I declare the lifting of the response level to emergency,” chief executive Carrie Lam told reporters. She is under pressure to limit arrivals from the Chinese mainland. Right now, anybody arriving from the mainland in Hong Kong must sign a”health declaration form”, though it’s not clear how that will stop patients carrying the virus who may be asymptomatic.However, schools in the city will not reopen until at least Feb. 17 and transportation to and from Wuhan will be canceled until further notice. Oh, and so much for that mask ban Lam declared that the city will invest necessary to prevent the spread of disease, including increasing the supply of surgical masks after several cases of extreme price gouging were reported.

South Korea, which has confirmed at least two cases of the virus, said Saturday that it would declare all of China a “coronavirus watch zone” as local public health officials work to protect the public and suppress the virus. Several dozen people have already been tested for the virus in SK and come back negative, per Korea Times.

What a way to kick off the four-day lunar new year holiday.

* * *

As we move into Saturday evening on the ground in Wuhan, it’s becoming increasingly obvious to the broader global community that China’s authoritarian government has failed to contain this viral outbreak.

Chinese authorities expanded the travel restrictions on Saturday to cover 56 million Chinese, Al Jazeera reports. At least 18 cities in central Hubei are now dealing with at least some level of travel restrictions.

Unsurprisingly, some of the roadblocks remind us of ‘Mad Max’.

In Wuhan, the situation looks grim. The number of confirmed cases is exploding: another 300 were announced on Saturday, while the death toll is steady at 41. Yesterday, videos flooded western social media (after being assiduously removed from Weibo and the rest of the Chinese Internet) purporting to show bodies piling up in hallways in Wuhan, with rumors that a doctor had succumbed to the virus.

Those rumors have now been confirmed: A doctor who worked at a hospital in Wuhan, China, where coronavirus patients are being treated died Saturday morning, according to the Wall Street Journal. Meanwhile, a two-year-old Chinese girl has become the youngest to be diagnosed with the virus.

As it has all week, the South China Morning Post has kept an up-to-date running total of the confirmed cases & deaths. As of 10 am ET on Saturday, the total number stood at exactly 1400.

A map of the various cases shows the spread, though even the most up-to-date maps by Western news agencies appear to already be out of date, including this one by BBG.

Though China has pledged transparency, some suspect that the true tally of cases within Wuhan is much higher. With the epidemic spiraling out of control, President Xi called a meeting of the Politburo Standing Committee, a group of China’s top leaders, to discuss a response to the virus. At the meeting, the Communist Party set up a group to manage the response to the virus. The group will comprise members of the Party’s Central Committee, while being directed by the Standing Committee. During the meeting, President Xi said various ethnic groups must work together to contain the spread of the deadly virus. Xi also ordered party authorities to ensure that there are enough medical supplies in Wuhan – the capital of Hubei province and a city of 11 million five times the size of London and bigger than any US city.

“Party committees and governments at different levels have to make proper plans to contain the virus under the guidance of the Central Committee,” he was quoted as saying.

China’s National Health Commission announced on Saturday a nationwide plan to identify suspected cases of the deadly virus on trains, airplanes and buses. Inspection stations will be set up and passengers with suspected pneumonia will be “immediately transported” to a medical center. In the city of Haikou, the authorities said they would set up a 14-day observation center for all tourists who came from Hubei. They will not be allowed to leave the hotels where they are staying. At least 450 additional military and medical personnel have been deployed in Hubei to help with the situation.

Following reports last night of a suspected case in Sydney, Australian authorities have confirmed the first case of the virus. Yesterday, several cases were also identified in France. But that’s not all: Malaysia has confirmed that three cases of the virus have been detected. Japan is now up to three cases, all Chinese nationals, according to the Nikkei Asian Review.

Following reports that the virus may have originated from people eating bats or rats, the party has ordered more inspections of agricultural products, and has temporarily banned the trade in wild animals. It has also shut down movie theaters, LNY-related events and other mass gatherings across the country, warning that people should avoid coming together en mass until the outbreak is contained.

Qinghai province in northwestern China confirmed its first case on Saturday, leaving Tibet as the only administrative area of China that remains virus-free.

In Wuhan, the horror stories are getting worse: One woman told the SCMP that her husband was turned away by several hospitals despite coughing up blood, a sign of very advanced pneumonia.

“I have nothing. No protective clothing, only a raincoat, and I am standing outside the hospital in the rain,” said the woman, who gave her name as Xiaoxi.

“I am desperate, I have lost count of time and days. I don’t know if we will both live to see the new year.”

The rapid rise in the number of cases doesn’t necessarily mean the outbreak is getting worse, according to a spokesman from the WHO. Instead, it could reflect better monitoring and intervention by government authorities. As far as determining the severity of the epidemic, it’s still too early to say.

“It’s still too early to draw conclusions about how severe the virus is because, at the beginning of any outbreak, you would focus more on the severe cases,” said Tarik Jasarevic, a spokesman for the World Health Organization in Geneva.

Video from inside Wuhan, a city that has been nearly entirely sealed off from the outside world, the situation appears increasingly dire.

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A lot of attention has been paid in the Western press about the effort to build a new, 1,000 bed hospital in Wuhan as the city’s current health-care infrastructure has been completely overwhelmed. They’re hoping to finish the building in under a week, an astonishing pace. State media reported Saturday that a second hospital will also be built.

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Foreign governments including the US and Russia are hatching plans to air-lift their citizens out of Wuhan. This could include journalists covering the outbreak, meaning the flow of information out of the city could soon slow to a trickle. Meanwhile, scientists are scrambling to determine the virus’s infectious potential before victims start showing symptoms. If it’s confirmed that the virus spreads in this way, than that would make full containment virtually impossible.

Source: Zerohedge.com

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