Hundreds of medical personnel are rushing to Wuhan following yesterday’s tragic death of Doctor Liang Wudong, of the ENT department of Hubei Xinhua Hospital, who died Saturday while fighting to suppress the virus. The South China Morning Post reports that 1,350 medics (presumably from the PLA) have already arrived in the city, and another 1,000 are expected to arrive soon.
As the number of confirmed cases surges past 2,000, China is scrambling to build not one, but two, SARS treatment-model hospitals in Wuhan (remember, Wuhan is a massive city of 11 million). Authorities have told the press that they expect both hospitals and their combined 2,300 beds to be operational within half a month.
Even though researchers have purportedly cast doubt on the theory that the coronavirus didn’t make the jump from animals to humans thanks to a shady food market that trafficking in live wild animals, officials in Beijing announced Sunday that the sale of live wild animals, including bats and snakes, at markets, supermarkets, restaurants and e-commerce platforms. But we thought eating bats was a delicacy and an ingrained cultural practice not to be criticized or stifled?
As we reported last night (Sunday morning in Beijing), health officials in Hubei Province confirmed thirteen more deaths on Saturday, while another was reported in Henan Province. Perhaps most alarmingly, last night, we learned that a patient has reportedly succumbed to the virus in Shanghai as well. In that case, the victim was an 88-year-old man who was suffering from preexisting health issues. AFP adds that 40 cases have been confirmed in the city: 37 stable, one critical, one recovered, and one (88yo man with comorbidities) died. They are also investigating 95 additional suspected cases. These weren’t the first deaths outside of Hubei, but, according to the New York Times, “the death in Shanghai, which is among China’s most populous cities and a major commercial hub, is likely to add to anxieties about the disease’s spread.”
Over in the US, officials confirmed a third case of nCoV early Sunday. The patient is being treated in isolation at a hospital in Orange County, Calif., a wealthy suburban California county known for its (relative) conservatism. The CDC notified health officials in the county that the patient had tested positive on Saturday, according to a statement obtained by CNN. The individual is said to be in “good condition”. State and federal officials are tracking down anybody who might have had contact with the patient, who recently traveled from Wuhan to the US. Two previous cases were confirmed in Illinois and Washington state.
Additionally, Japan confirmed its fourth case of infection, Thailand confirmed its 8th case, Hong Kong confirmed its sixth case and Macau confirmed three new cases overnight. Paris has cancelled a Lunar New Year parade
AFP reported the Shanghai cases late yesterday in the US, but the American press has, for some reason, neglected to emphasize, or even mention, this alarming factoid. We suspect it could have something to do with the stock market.
Across China, 688 new cases of the virus were diagnosed on Saturday. Some experts suspect that Beijing is concealing the true number of confirmed cases for fear of sparking ‘social panic’, just like the leadership did during the SARS outbreak in 2003 (which is what necessitated all of their promises of “transparency” in the first place).
This would also partially explain the vast discrepancies in case counts between the WHO, and media organizations like SCMP, which has consistently led the world in confirming new cases.
Regardless of the circumstances, Beijing’s first priority will always be ‘maintain social stability’ – no matter the cost, in lives or money. As one twitter wit argued, it looks like the medical field is going to have to learn this lesson the hard way.
Nobody trusts Chinese economic data but everybody is now relying on their healthcare data…
the medical field is going to learn this the hard way, the same way the finance community has had to
— THE LONG VIEW ⚫️ (@HayekAndKeynes) January 25, 2020
Despite all this, Pope Francis weighed in on the outbreak on Sunday, praising China’s efforts to contain the outbreak, and praying for the dead and the sick.
“I would like also to be close and to pray for the people who are sick because of the virus that has spread through China,” Francis told tens of thousands of onlookers gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly homily and blessing. “May the Lord welcome the dead into his peace, comfort families and sustain the great commitment by the Chinese community that has already been put in place to combat the epidemic.”
Across Asia, prices of protective facemasks have stayed elevated amid rampant price-gouging.
There were a few updates on China’s expanding lockdown overnight. The eastern province of Shandong, with a population of 100 million, is the latest to announce that it will suspend long-distance bus service, following similar announcements in Tianjin, Beijing and Xi’an. Sunday marks the beginning of a ban on all private vehicles traveling through Wuhan as authorities expand the quarantine/lockdown, which will remain in place indefinitely until the outbreak is truly ‘contained’. Amid the lockdown, South Korea, the US, Russia, France and other governments have hatched plans to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan.
At least two Chinese provinces and three cities have ordered citizens to wear face masks in public, according to Al Jazeera.
And as Wuhan continues to suffer from a withering shortage of medical supplies, one resident told the AFP that the entire city has been infected with a pervasive despair.
“In the past week, we’ve not been able to go out and buy anything to eat,” Mashal Jamalzai, a political science student from Afghanistan told AFP. “We want to be evacuated as soon as possible, because their the virus, the hunger or the fear will kill us.”
The measure is required in the provinces of Guangdong in the south and Jiangxi in the centre, plus the eastern city of Nanjing, Ma’anshan city in Anhui province and Xinyang city in Henan, according to local authorities.
After Friday’s selloff, we imagine investors will be paying close attention to news out of Wuhan as it completely overshadows other ‘important’ domestic news stories, like the Dems impeachment debacle, or the fact that Bernie Sanders is now on track to win Iowa and New Hampshire.