Via CNBC

This is a live blog. Please check back for updates.

All times below are in Beijing time.

12:46 pm: China’s after-school activities are moving online, industry players under pressure to deliver

As local governments in China delay the re-opening of schools to limit the spread of the new virus, parents and institutions are turning to online education, putting pressure on industry players to deliver.

For one after-school operator in Beijing, it means moving all classes online, even though the courses come at a discount to offline sessions. But “it’s just a choice between zero and something,” department headmaster Lü Fei, said, according to a CNBC translation of his Mandarin-language remarks.

Investors are also paying attention. Shares of after-school operator New Oriental’s Hong Kong-listed online education subsidiary Koolearn have surged about 75% for the year so far through midday Wednesday. Wendy Ye and Cheng

12:08 pm: Passengers to begin disembarkation from quarantined cruise ship in Japan

Passengers and crew members on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship who are not taking government repatriation flights will begin the process of disembarking, ship operator Princess Cruises said, citing the Japanese health ministry. The disembarkation will happen over several consecutive days, the operator said, as people need certificates indicating they tested negative for the virus before they can leave. It said the testing process alone can take two to three days to complete.

Kyodo News reported that the first batch of people to disembark would primarily include around 500 elderly passengers who have tested negative. The ship had been quarantined since early February after a previous guest tested positive six days after disembarking. Japan said there were a total of 542 cases confirmed aboard thus far. — Roy Choudhury

11:16 am: Xi holds calls with leaders of the UK and France

Chinese President Xi Jinping held phone calls with leaders of the U.K. and France on Tuesday to express gratitude for their sympathies and support in China’s fight against the virus.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “he loves China,” according to the English-language text of Chinese state-owned agency Xinhua. The U.K. government only said on its website that the prime minister “offered his sympathies” and resolved to strengthen the relationship between the two countries.

Separately, Xi thanked French President Emmanuel Macron for calling again to support China at this time, according to Xinhua. The article added that Macron expressed “appreciation for China’s timely and effective measures and its high degree of openness and transparency.” The English-language version of the French government’s website did not have a statement as of Wednesday morning Beijing time.

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The two calls, in addition to Xi’s congratulatory message to Zoran Milanovic on assuming the presidency of Croatia (which also holds the presidency of the EU Council through June), made the front page of China’s Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily on Wednesday. — Cheng

10:51 am: Hong Kong reports second death

A second person, a 70-year-old man, has died in Hong Kong from the infection, a spokeswoman at the Princess Margaret Hospital told CNBC. When asked for more information about the patient, the spokeswoman said further details would be shared at an afternoon press conference. This would mark the sixth fatality outside the Chinese mainland, where the death toll has surpassed 2,000. — Roy Choudhury

10:13 am: China plans measures to cut costs for companies

The State Council decided on a series of measures to cut costs for businesses, in the wake of the virus disruptions to economic activity. A Tuesday meeting, led by Premier Li Keqiang, announced that all medium, small and micro-sized businesses will not need to make contributions to employees’ old-age pension, unemployment and workplace safety insurance plans from February to June, according to a release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Larger companies will only need to pay half from February to April, the release said.

“In deciding on these policies, full consideration has been given to the sustainability of the social security fund, the balance of which is sufficient to support the full and timely payments of old-age pensions and other social security benefits nationwide,” the English-language text said.

The State Council also said companies can defer payments to a housing fund, and emphasized employment as the priority, according to the release. In addition, the statement said Chinese leaders had made plans for boosting agricultural production with the onset of spring, including enhancement of pest prevention. — Cheng

9:44 am: South Korea reports 15 new cases

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that 15 new patients were confirmed to have been infected. That brings the total number of cases in the country to 46. Most of the new cases were identified in the city of Daegu and the Gyengbuk province, and 11 of them were tied to an earlier patient, according to the KCDC’s statement. — Roy Choudhury

9:02 am: Confirmed cases in Singapore surpass 80

A total of 81 people have been confirmed to be infected as of Tuesday noon, Singapore’s health ministry said adding that among them, 29 have been discharged. Outside mainland China, the city-state has one of the highest number of cases, with a few of them occurring through human-to-human transmission. Singapore has announced plans to set aside $4 billion to help businesses and households weather the outbreak. — Roy Choudhury

8:37 am: Indian start-up Oyo fights to keep hotels in China open

Oyo CEO Ritesh Agarwal told CNBC’s “Squawk Alley” that his company is trying to keep as many of its hotels in China open as possible, at reduced prices in provinces most affected by the virus to support doctors and people stranded by travel restrictions. Like its peers in the hospitality industry, the Indian budget hotel chain start-up has seen a drop in occupancy. China is one of its biggest markets and Oyo works with about 9,000 hotels there. — Mody

8:09 am: China says total fatalities top 2,000

China’s National Health Commission said there were 1,749 confirmed new cases on the mainland and 136 additional deaths as of Feb. 18. Most of them occurred in the Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak. (see 7:03 a.m. update). Health authorities reported a total of 74,185 confirmed cases and 2,004 cumulative deaths so far. — Roy Choudhury

7:03 am: Hubei province reports an additional 132 deaths

Hubei province in China reported an additional 132 deaths and 1,693 newly confirmed cases related to the pneumonia-like coronavirus as of the end of Tuesday. Most of the fatalities occurred in the city of Wuhan, where the disease was first detected in late December.

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That brings the total death toll in China to at least 2,000. China’s National Health Commission is due to report nation-wide numbers later today.

According to the Hubei Provincial Health Committee, 1,921 people have died in the region from the infection and there have been a total of 61,682 confirmed cases so far. Around 9,128 people have also been discharged from hospitals. — Roy Choudhury

A man (C) wearing a facemask as a preventative measure following a coronavirus outbreak which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan, offers money as he reacts after being refused purchase of a box of face masks, after he claimed to have lost his sales registration ticket while queueing up to buy them, in Hong Kong on February 5, 2020.

Anthony Wallace | AFP | Getty Images

All times below are in Eastern time.

5:48 pm: CDC places travel restrictions on Princess Cruise passengers

The CDC said it is prohibiting any passengers or crew from the Princess Cruise ship that was quarantined off the coast of Japan from returning to the U.S. for at least 14 days. There are still more than 100 of the original 3,700 people still aboard the Diamond Princess ship or in hospitals in Japan.

They will need to wait 14 days after disembarking from the ship — without showing symptoms or testing positive for COVID-19 — before they will be allowed to fly back to the U.S., the CDC said.

“While the quarantine potentially conferred a significant public health benefit in slowing transmission, CDC’s assessment is that it may not have been sufficient to prevent transmission among individuals on the ship,” the agency said. “CDC believes the rate of new infections on board, especially among those without symptoms, represents an ongoing risk.” — Kopecki

5:26 pm: Too early to tell whether the outbreak is slowing in China

China may be reporting fewer new cases of coronavirus and fewer COVID-19 deaths, but it does not mean the country’s outbreak is slowing, immunologist Anthony Fauci told CNBC on Tuesday.

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“I think we need to give it a few more days to determine if that’s real or if that’s the variability that you generally see,” Fauci, a member of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, said on “Closing Bell.” Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, was referencing reports Tuesday that the number of new daily cases in China fell below 2,000 for the first time since Jan. 30.

Chinese officials also reported 98 deaths, the first time the daily toll was below 100 since Feb. 11. — Stankiewicz

Read CNBC’s coverage from the U.S. overnight: Stocks fall after Apple’s virus warning, analyst says ‘worst is yet to come’ for markets

— CNBC’s Evelyn Cheng, Seema Mody, Dawn Kopecki and Kevin Stankiewicz contributed to this report.