American and Japanese deaths from coronavirus

6:46 pm on 9 February 2020

An American man and a Japanese man have died of the new coronavirus, officials have confirmed.

Nurse Sun Chun reads medical records at a hospital in Wuhan, yesterday.

Nurse Sun Chun reads medical records at a hospital in Wuhan, yesterday. Photo: AFP

US officials said a 60-year-old American who has died of the new coronavirus, is the first confirmed non-Chinese death of the illness, as millions of Chinese began returning home after a Lunar New Year break that was extended to try to contain the outbreak.

The American man died on Thursday in Wuhan, epicenter of the virus outbreak in the central Chinese province of Hubei, a U.S. embassy spokesman said in Beijing on Saturday. He did not elaborate.

A Japanese man in his sixties who was hospitalized with pneumonia in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, also died after suffering symptoms consistent with the new coronavirus, Japan's foreign ministry has said.

While the vast majority of cases have been in China, the virus has spread to some two dozen countries abroad, including five British nationals infected in a French mountain resort.

The virus has been a blow to China's already-slowing economy, with Goldman Sachs cutting its first-quarter GDP growth target to 4 per cent from 5.6 per cent previously and saying a deeper hit is possible.

"It's certainly not going to be a return to normal next week," said Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist at Capital Economics in Singapore.

Most of the deaths in China have occurred in and around Wuhan, where regional health officials say 780 people have died.

(200127) -- BEIJING, Jan. 27, 2020 (Xinhua) -- Aerial photo taken on Jan. 26, 2020 shows the Yellow Crane Pavilion and the Yangtze River Bridge in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province.

The city of Wuhan. Photo: AFP

The virus has spread to 27 countries and regions, according to a Reuters count based on official reports, infecting more than 330 people. Two deaths have been reported outside mainland China - in Hong Kong and the Philippines. Both victims were Chinese nationals.

WHO expert Mike Ryan told a news conference in Geneva that the number of new cases in Hubei had stabilized over the last four days, "which may reflect the impact of control measures put in place".

Speaking later to Reuters he cautioned, however, that "it's not a decline. That can just mean four days of relative calm before it accelerates."

The latest patients outside China include five British nationals staying in the same chalet at a ski village in Haute-Savoie in the Alps, French health officials said, raising fears of further infections at a busy period in the ski season.

The five, including a child, had been lodged in the same chalet with a British man believed to have contracted the virus in Singapore. They were not in a serious condition, the officials said.

France issued a new travel advisory for its citizens, saying it did not recommend traveling to China unless there was an "imperative" reason. Italy asked children traveling from China to stay away from school for two weeks voluntarily.

'Stay strong'

Hidden among the statistics are poignant tales of grief and frustration. Canadian mother Amelia Pan is at home while her two-year-old daughter, Cerena, is running a fever and stranded in Hubei where her father has contracted the virus.

"I am just hanging in there," Pan said in a Skype interview. "I need to stay strong so I can fight for my family."

China's Communist Party rulers have sealed off cities, canceled flights and closed factories, a response that has dented the world's second-biggest economy and had ripple effects globally for financial markets and businesses dependent on China.

A monitor shows the Nikkei stock average rate and Shanghai Stock Exchange, SSE, falling in Tokyo on February 3, 2020 afternoon.( The Yomiuri Shimbun )

Photo: Yomiuri/AFP

China's economy will sputter toward normal on Monday, as millions return to the big cities after the biggest holiday of the year. The holiday was extended, but many workplaces will remain closed and many white-collar workers will continue to work from home.

U.S. electric carmaker Tesla's factory in Shanghai will resume production on Monday, a government official said on Saturday. Apple said it was working to reopen its China corporate offices and call centers and was making preparations to reopen retail stores there.

But Chinese authorities have blocked a plan by Apple supplier Foxconn to resume production from 10 February over concerns about the spread of the virus, Japan's Nikkei business daily reported on Saturday.

News of the death on Friday of Li Wenliang, a doctor who was reprimanded by police for raising the alarm about the new coronavirus, sparked outrage on Chinese social media.

Chinese-ruled Hong Kong introduced a two-week quarantine on Saturday for all people arriving from the mainland, or who have been there during the previous 14 days.

Singapore has 40 coronavirus infections.

Another three people on a cruise liner off Japan tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases from the ship to 64, Japan's health ministry said.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd on Friday banned "any guests holding Chinese, Hong Kong or Macau passports, regardless of when they were there last" from boarding the company's ships.

The WHO warned on Friday against the "unnecessary, unhelpful profiling of individuals based on ethnicity".

-REUTERS

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