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A death from the coronavirus was reported in Hong Kong in what would be the second fatality outside mainland China, where the number of cases has topped 20,000.
The U.S. said it’s preparing for a possible pandemic, though a heavy majority of cases remain in China’s Hubei province. The spread of the new virus can remain “minimal and slow” if the outbreak is fought at the source and countries cooperate, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
As Beijing tries to contain the damage, officials are evaluating whether the target for economic growth this year should be softened. China is hoping the U.S. will agree to some flexibility on pledges in their phase-one trade deal, people familiar with the situation said.
Bloomberg is tracking the outbreak on the terminal and online.
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First Death in Hong Kong Reported (10:27 a.m. HK)
A 39-year-old man died of the coronavirus, marking the first death in Hong Kong, Cable Televison reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
The man, who had an underlying illness, hadn’t visited any health-care facilities, wet or seafood markets, and had no exposure to wild animals during the incubation period, according to a government statement on Jan. 31.
The case would be the second fatality outside of mainland China. A 44-year-old Chinese male from Wuhan died in the Philippines on Feb. 1.
The Hong Kong Hospital Authority didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Hong Kong has 15 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.
Cruise Passengers Remain Quarantined (9:59 a.m. HK)
Carnival Corp.’s Princess Cruises said it will delay disembarking passengers on board a ship in Japan by as much as 24 more hours, after a passenger tested positive for coronavirus on Feb. 1.
Japan’s health authority is currently testing the health of the 2,666 passengers and 1,045 crew.
The Diamond Princess cruise ship arrived in Yokohama Monday morning after 16 days of sailing. The passenger embarked in Yokohama on Jan. 20 and disembarked in Hong Kong on Jan. 25. The ship then continued its round-trip journey to ultimately take other passengers back to Yokohama.
On Saturday, the passenger, who was from Hong Kong, tested positive for coronavirus at a local hospital there, according to Princess Cruises.
Iron Ore Leads China Commodity Sell-Off (9:40 a.m. HK)
China’s benchmark commodity futures plunged for a second day amid a rush by traders to exit positions as the coronavirus impact raises questions about materials and energy demand.
Iron ore tumbled by 5.9% after trading limit-down on Monday. Crude oil, rubber and PTA also extended losses as the country’s three major commodity exchanges opened for a second day of trading following the Lunar New Year holiday. China is a behemoth in global commodities, as the leading importer of oil, gas and coal, the biggest producer of steel and refined copper and the biggest consumer of vegetable oil and animal feed.
Chinese equities fared better, with the CSI 300 Index climbing as much as 1.7% after plunging the most since 2015 on Monday.
H.K Hospital Services “Severely Affected”: RTHK (9:39 a.m. HK)
Some hospital emergency services are “severely affected” as a “large” number of health workers are absent from duty, Radio Television Hong Kong reported, citing the Hospital Authority.
The authority urged patients with mild illness to consult private hospitals or clinics.
Hong Kong medical professionals began a five-day strike Monday after the government refused their demand to shut all entry points from China.
Japan’s Economy at Risk in Olympic Year (9:05 a.m. HK)
Olympic construction projects have propped up Japan’s economy through slumping global demand, a destructive super typhoon and a sales tax hike that whacked consumers. Now, just as officials were anticipating a surge in tourism, the coronavirus threatens to keep people away.
While most analysts say the outbreak will be under control before the Olympics begin on July 24, there’s a risk that economic growth in 2020 could be wiped out if it lasts longer than SARS, according to calculations by Bloomberg economist Yuki Masujima.
He now sees the economy taking a 0.5 percentage point hit from the virus impact in his worst-case view. Since economists expect Japan’s gross domestic product to expand 0.5% in 2020, his scenario could result in stalled growth in a year supposed to showcase Japan’s burgeoning status as a must-go destination.
China Cases Top 20,000 (7:57 a.m. HK)
China’s death toll from the virus rose to 425 as of Feb. 3, according to the National Health Commission, while there are now 20,438 confirmed infections in the country. The commission said 2,788 of the cases are severe.
A heavy proportion of the cases are in Hubei, the province at the center of the outbreak. It earlier reported an additional 64 deaths over the past 24 hours. Hubei’s health commission said confirmed cases increased by 2,345, bringing the total in the province to 13,522.
Coronavirus Likely Began in Bats, Scientists Say (4:13 p.m. NY)
Scientists increasingly believe the coronavirus originated in bats, which can harbor hundreds of diseases. As people and wild animals come into increasing contact because of human expansion, future outbreaks are likely.
Peter Daszak, a disease ecologist at nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance, would know. He and his team have suited up and ventured into caves all over China and the rest of world in search of bats and the pathogens they carry. “We go into caves,” said Daszak. “We don’t just walk in. We wear a full-body suit: breathing masks, gloves and all the correct equipment.”
Read the full story here.
U.S.: No Request From China on Trade Deal Changes (3 p.m. NY)
A spokesman for U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Washington hasn’t received any request from China to discuss changes in Beijing’s purchase commitments as part of the phase-one trade deal set to take effect this month.
Chinese officials are hoping the U.S. will agree to some flexibility on pledges in their pact, people familiar with the situation said. Beijing is trying to contain the coronavirus crisis, which threatens to slow domestic growth with repercussions around the world.
The trade deal has a clause that states the U.S. and China will consult “in the event that a natural disaster or other unforeseeable event” delays either from complying with the agreement.
Vaccine Could Take Year or More, Glaxo Says (12:32 p.m. NY)
Developing a vaccine against the coronavirus could take 12 to 18 months, Thomas Breuer, GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s chief medical officer for vaccines, said in an interview with Bloomberg TV Monday.
While technology could enable researchers to come up with new vaccine candidates within a few months, they will then have to undergo human safety and efficacy trials that may last about a year, Breuer said.
Read more about efforts to develop a vaccine here.
CDC Seeks Emergency Approval for Virus Test (11:58 a.m. NY)
U.S. health officials are seeking emergency approval to roll out a test for the coronavirus that can be used by hospitals and state health authorities, instead of having samples shipped to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for analysis.
The agency is preparing for the outbreak as if it will be a pandemic that spreads widely from China to other countries, including the U.S., said Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. The goal of public health officials is to slow the virus’s entry into the U.S., she said.
Federal and local health authorities have been monitoring people who have displayed symptoms and have a travel history that puts them at risk. The vast majority have tested negative: There are 11 confirmed cases in the U.S., and 167 people who have a negative test. It’s possible that some people can test negative and then have a positive result later, depending on how far along their illness is.
The severity of the U.S. cases has varied, with some people becoming more severely ill, Messonnier said. Some have needed oxygen, she said.
China Considers Lowering 2020 Growth Expectations (6:30 a.m. NY)
Officials are evaluating whether the target for economic growth this year should be softened as part of a broader review. Further measures to shore up the economy are being considered, including increasing the planned cap on the budget deficit-to-GDP ratio and selling more special government bonds.
Economists had expected China would aim for output growth of “around 6%” this year after seeking a range of 6% to 6.5% in 2019.
Hong Kong to Close More Checkpoints (5:23 p.m. HK)
Hong Kong will close more checkpoints, including two major land ports on the border with the mainland, from midnight, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at briefing. Only three out of the 13 checkpoints will stay open, including Shenzhen Bay port, Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge port and Hong Kong airport. Striking Hong Kong health workers had demanded that all entry points be shut.
–With assistance from Linly Lin, Jonathan Levin, Steven Yang, Stephen Tan, Natalie Lung, Alfred Liu and Fion Li.
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