When historians look back at this time, we suspect that California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s landmark decision to order more than 40 million Californians to remain at home on Thursday night will be remembered as an important demarcation point – the beginning of a more heavy handed response as it becomes increasingly clear that too many Americans are simply ignoring the government.
So far, NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo and President Trump have insisted that they have no plans to issue lockdown orders. But with the number of confirmed cases expected to soar in the coming days and over the weekend, the situation is certainly evolving rapidly, and rumors about other states considering preemptive lockdowns (remember, the whole point is to stay “ahead of the curve”) continue to circulate.
Over the past week, central bankers around the world have slashed rates, stepped up bond buying programs, promised to expand their back-stopping of credit markets and – most importantly – urged the politicians in charge to do their part and pass massive fiscal stimulus. Late last night, the Senate unveiled a $1 trillion package that will feature direct transfers to many Americans.
In the US, futures are pointing higher amid mounting hopes for a second straight close in the green. The improved sentiment is ostensibly due to the latest wave of central bank interventions. But that didn’t stop a team of economists at Bank of America from releasing a new note calling for a global recession, with GDP growth dropping to 0% for the year in 2020. Explaining the shift in their thinking, the team wrote: “Our first piece on the virus shock was titled ‘Bad or worse’; now we amend that to ‘Really bad or much worse.'”
The World breathed a sigh of relief Thursday night when China reported no new domestically-transmitted cases of the coronavirus for a second straight day. Meanwhile, Reuters just reported that the foreign ministers of South Korea, China and Japan have held a video conference on Friday to discuss cooperation on the coronavirus pandemic as concerns grow about the number of infected people arriving in their countries from overseas, threatening to set off a second wave of infection. The State Department is doing its part: It issued a ‘Level 4’ travel warning last night advising Americans not to travel abroad, and for any Americans still outside of the country to either come home, or ‘shelter in place’.
Unfortunately, it appears the dreaded ‘second wave’ of infections is already looming over Hong Kong.
After reporting 14 new cases in a single day earlier this week, a surprisingly large jump for a city that was widely praised for its swift and heavy handed response to the outbreak (proving that the city had retained the hard-learned lessons of SARS), Hong Kong on Friday reported a record jump in new cases as the city-state braces for a wave of new illnesses, many involving travelers from abroad and the HK residents they’ve infected.
Friday’s surge of 48 cases is the largest daily jump since the outbreak began; it’s equivalent to roughly a quarter of all cases confirmed in the city previously, according to the SCMP.
Even as the virus swept through parts of China and elsewhere in the region, Hong Kong managed to largely control its outbreak. Now, as life in the financial center had begun to return somewhat to normal, the wave of new cases is worrying experts who say it could lead to widespread community transmission. The city now has more than 250 confirmed infections.
The new confirmed cases take the city’s total number to 256, and a top microbiologist said Hong Kong might be on the edge of an all-out “war” against an explosion in infections.
The Centre for Health Protection said 36 of the latest round of infected people, aged between four and 69, had a travel history. One of the local cases is a taxi driver who had picked up passengers from the airport.
When asked whether the government should ban non-locals from entering the city, Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the centre’s communicable disease branch, said all the fresh infections were residents, except one – an Australian who had been to the United States and Portugal. He was transiting at the airport and sent to hospital after feeling unwell.
As the paper explained, thousands of people returned to the city this week, and the spike in new cases prompted the city’s government to announce new quarantine measures requiring anyone arriving from abroad to self-isolate for 14 days, measures that have also been implemented by China. Also in China, the People’s Daily reports that catering halls and shopping malls are reopening in Beijing.
Whether you trust the Chinese numbers or not, there’s no question that the CCP leadership has reason to be cautious after saving President Xi from a historic embarrassment: According to Johns Hopkins, the number of confirmed cases ROW is now 2x the number from mainland China.
Meanwhile, Spanish authorities announced Friday morning that the death toll in the country has broken above 1,000 as citizens near the end of their first full week under an enforced lockdown.
The country reported 1,903 new cases, and 169 new deaths, raising its total to 19,980 cases and 1,002 dead.
Meanwhile, on social media, snippets of video have circulated offering glimpses into the life on lockdown in Madrid and elsewhere around Spain.
— RΛMIN NΛSIBOV (@RaminNasibov) March 20, 2020
Since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the US, there has been no shortage of bitterly ironic headlines during this outbreak (remember when Rudy Gobert licked all those microphones?). But overnight, Altria Group – one of the largest tobacco companies in the world (it was better known as Phillip Morris before it rebranded a few years back) – said Howard A. Willard III, its Chairman and CEO, has tested positive for COVID-19.
Let’s hope he’s not a smoker.