Via Financial Times

Japanese coronavirus case may have caused meningitis

By Kana Inagaki in Tokyo

Japan has reported a rare case where the coronavirus is believed to have caused meningitis in a male patient in his twenties.

The man, who lives in Yamanashi prefecture, west of Tokyo, visited a medical institution on Feb 28 and March 2 before being taken to another hospital on Friday. He is in serious condition after testing positive for coronavirus on Saturday, according to Yamanashi prefecture.

Officials at the prefecture said they had been unable to determine how the man got infected since he is currently unconscious and cannot be questioned.

According to NHK, doctors at the hospital where the man is being treated said it was extremely rare for the new coronavirus to trigger meningitis.

On Sunday, Seven-Eleven Japan also said one of its workers at a convenience store in the same prefecture has contracted coronavirus, prompting the company to shut it down for cleaning and disinfection.

Japan pledges support for small businesses hit by virus

By Kana Inagaki in Tokyo

Prime minister Shinzo Abe has pledged to offer financial assistance to small businesses that are facing cash shortages as the coronavirus outbreak hits their revenue.

The measure was announced over the weekend as part of a second round of emergency measures the Japanese government is planning to finalise by Tuesday to offset the blow from school closures and temporary shutdown of other facilities caused by the global epidemic.

Japan Finance and other government-backed organisations will create a special lending facility that will offer interest-free loans to small and medium-sized companies that have suffered a sharp drop in revenue.

The economic package comes as the Japanese government faces rising public angst over its handling of the outbreak even as it has taken more drastic measures in recent weeks such as the school closures and new travel restrictions against travelers from China and South Korea.

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Shoppers fighting over toilet paper as panic buying takes hold

Jamie Smyth in Sydney

Australian police have charged two women with offences linked to a fight over toilet paper in a Sydney supermarket, as authorities appealed to the public on Sunday not to panic over the spread of the coronavirus.

The physical altercation occurred at a Woolworths’ supermarket on Saturday and was caught on camera. The footage has been viewed more than 4m times on social media and has drawn attention to panic buying of toilet rolls, pain killers and canned food at shops around the world.

“There is no need for people to go out and panic buy at supermarkets, Paracetamol and canned food or toilet paper,” said Andrew New, acting inspector at NSW Police. “It isn’t the Thunderdome, it isn’t Mad Max, we don’t need to do that.”

The two women, aged 23 years and 60 years, and who lived in the Sydney suburb of Bankstown, were issued with court attendance notices for affray, said police.

The disturbance at Woolworths was one of several altercations across Australia, where many supermarket shelves have been cleared bare of toilet paper.

Greg Hunt, Australia’s health minister, urged people on Sunday to be “their best selves” as the nation responds to the health emergency.

Meanwhile, authorities said there were 74 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia and a third person who tested positive for the disease has died.

Cathay Pacific to suspend flights between Hong Kong and Japan for 3 weeks

Sue-Lin Wong in Hong Kong

Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong’s de facto flag carrier, will suspend flights between Hong Kong and Japanese airports Tokyo-Haneda, Nagoya, Sapporo and Fukuoka from 9 March until 28 March.

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Flights between Hong Kong and Tokyo-Narita, Osaka-Kansai as well as between Taipei and Tokyo-Narita and Osaka-Kansai will also be suspended from 13 March until 28 March, the company said in a statement on its website.

Cathay’s global flight capacity plummeted by 40 per cent last month and its workforce of nearly 30,000 people was asked to take unpaid leave on a voluntary basis.

The company will report its full year earnings for 2019 on Wednesday and warned last month that “financial results for the first half of 2020 will be significantly down on the same period last year.”

China quarantine hotel collapses

Sue-Lin Wong in Hong Kong

Four people have died in China after the collapse of a hotel that was repurposed as a quarantine site for people who are suspected of having coronavirus.

One person is in a critical condition and four others are seriously injured, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday.

Rescue crews have pulled out 42 people from the rubble of the Xinjia Hotel in the southeastern province of Fujian, but dozens more remain trapped inside.

The World Health Organisation has confirmed the global number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has now surpassed 100,000.

In a statement, the WHO reminded all countries that the spread of the virus could be “significantly slowed or even reversed” through robust containment measures:

WHO calls on all countries to continue efforts that have been effective in limiting the number of cases and slowing the spread of the virus.

Every effort to contain the virus and slow the spread saves lives. These efforts give health systems and all of society much needed time to prepare, and researchers more time to identify effective treatments and develop vaccines.

Allowing uncontrolled spread should not be a choice of any government, as it will harm not only the citizens of that country but affect other countries as well.

We must stop, contain, control, delay and reduce the impact of this virus at every opportunity. Every person has the capacity to contribute, to protect themselves, to protect others, whether in the home, the community, the healthcare system, the workplace or the transport system.

Leaders at all levels and in all walks of life must step forward to bring about this commitment across society.

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London 10.20 GMT

Welcome to the Financial Times live blog, where our reporters around the world will be bringing you the latest breaking news about the coronavirus as it happens.

In summary:

• Italy has locked down the entire region of Lombardy quarantining around 16m people in a drastic bid to contain the spread of the virus. Italian prime minister Guiseppe Conte said the country faces a “national emergency”

• Chinese exports have plunged by 17 per cent in the first two months of the year as the virus takes its toll, the latest trade data has shown, reflecting the shutdown of manufacturing production and logistics facilities.Imports have also slowed, raising doubts that China will be able to meet targets for its trade deal with the US.

• The White House said president Donald Trump had not been in “close proximity” to a person who tested positive for the coronavirus after returning from a four-day conference in Washington .

• In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency after the number of cases in the state rose to 76, out of more than 300 in the US. The District of Columbia reported its first two cases.