- Wuhan revises citywide coronavirus death toll 50% higher
- Beijing blames ‘overwhelmed’ health care system for the error
- Foreign Ministry says new numbers “can stand the test of history”
- Report on Chicago remdesivir trial stokes hopes for new “miracle drug” to fight the virus
- Iran holds ‘military parade’ with equipment used to fight the virus
- FT trend analysis shows deaths in Italy, Spain have slowed, while US and UK see continued acceleration
- Switzerland’s small-business loan program sees resounding success
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Update (0740ET): As we await another day of numbers out of Europe and the US, the FT’s latest analysis of confirmed numbers and deaths across the world found that while Italy and Spain have seen deaths continue to slow, the US and the UK have continued to see fatalities trend upward.
Yesterday, Switzerland announced plans to start reopening its economy in mid-May (though most restaurants and bars won’t be open again until mid-June). The Swiss have also reported a resounding success with a government-backed small business loan program that has doled out more than $16.6 billion (16.1 Swiss francs) to small businesses around the country. That’s far more than the £1.1 billion doled out by the UK’s program (while the US’s ‘PPP’ has purportedly loaned out all of the $350 billion allocated by Congress).
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Update (0722ET): With sports and most other forms of group entertainment unavailable for the time being, the world is gasping for viral content. Fortunately, some moments of levity – like this video of nuns playing basketball taken at a convent in Spain – have emerged to take the public’s mind off the horrors that lie just outside their door.
Nuns playing basketball at a monastery in Sevilla, Spain while sheltered in place for the coronavirus. Hoops makes the world go around.pic.twitter.com/53oKV5GnNU
— Michael Dolan (@mikedolanny) April 16, 2020
But that’s not all: Friday was Iran’s annual “army day”, an annual holiday that – not unlike memorial day in the US – is typically celebrated with a parade – though in Iran it’s a military parade.
However, this year, since group large numbers of soldiers together didn’t seem like a good idea considering that the coronavirus has nearly brought the Iranian regime to its knees, the military instead decided to show off equipment for tackling the coronavirus, including equipment used to sanitize public places and set up makeshift hospitals, according to the Jerusalem Post. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any photos.
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Shortly after 11pmET Thursday night, a headline came trundling across the wire that caught our eye: Health authorities in Wuhan raised the official death toll from the city’s coronavirus outbreak by 50%, equivalent to 1,290 patients, to a still-too-low-to-be-believed 3,869.
An anonymous city official told China’s Xinhua that the new deaths and newly announced cases (officials confirmed another 325 non-fatal cases, raising the total number of “confirmed” cases to 50,333) were undercounted during the “early stages” of the outbreak, according to the Associated Press.
Echoing NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s reasoning for adding thousands of new deaths to the city death toll earlier this week, Chinese officials said the new cases include people who died at home, as well as those who died in a hospital without their deaths being officially added to the toll (during the first weeks after the Wuhan shutdown, Chinese officials refused to include patients who hadn’t officially tested positive in their case numbers, an issue that was supposed to have been fixed by one of the early revisions announced by the Chinese back in February).
The new figures were reportedly discovered after Chinese officials tried to reconcile numbers from their hospital database, with numbers from the city funeral service and its nucleic acid-testing.
The official Xinhua News Agency quoted an unidentified official with Wuhan’s epidemic and prevention and control headquarters as saying that during the early stages of the outbreak, “due to the insufficiency in admission and treatment capability, a few medical institutions failed to connect with the disease prevention and control system in time, while hospitals were overloaded and medics were overwhelmed with patients.
“As a result, belated, missed and mistaken reporting occurred,” the official was quoted as saying.
The new figures were compiled by comparing data from Wuhan’s epidemic prevention and control system, the city funeral service, the municipal hospital authority, and nucleic acid testing to “remove double-counted cases and fill in missed cases,” the official was quoted as saying.
Deaths occurring outside hospitals had not been registered previously and some medical institutions had confirmed cases but reported them late or not at all, the official said.
By adding these 1,290 patients to the rolls, China raised its national death toll to 4,632, from the 3,342 announced by the NHC earlier. After their release, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian insisted that these new numbers “can stand the test of history.”
Why would China even bother with this latest ‘revision’ – it’s at least the 4th time they’ve tweaked the numbers, and the first time in roughly 2 months – of the Wuhan numbers? Well, it just so happens that the official statistics agency also published the first reading of China’s Q1 GDP, which confirmed a massive contraction, as was expected.
Twitter’s Melissa Chen jokingly compared China’s ‘50%’ revision to when a student purposefully marks wrong answers on their homework to cover up the fact that they’ve been cheating.
When you realize that the teacher would be suspicious because you did too good of a job cheating on your homework, so you threw in some errors:https://t.co/tlHASEudVV
— Melissa Chen (@MsMelChen) April 17, 2020
But Wuhan is slightly larger than NYC population-wise, and the outbreak in Wuhan was even more vicious than the outbreak in NYC, which has reported more than 10k deaths. So imagine what that must mean for Wuhan, where the hospital system was completely overwhelmed during the early weeks of the outbreak, leaving some elderly patients to drop dead on the street (something that, as far as we know, hasn’t happened in the US).
The other big news overnight – and the reason why Dow futs are up nearly 800 points in the green Friday morning – has actually been percolating in investors’ minds since shortly after yesterday’s close of cash trading. In the early evening on Thursday, a report claiming ‘miraculous’ efficacy for Gilead’s remdesivir during a University of Chicago study, helped revive hopes that a “miracle drug” might be around the corner. The results were first reported last night by STAT News.
Here’s more from that STAT News report, which we also cited last night.
Remdesivir was one of the first medicines identified as having the potential to impact SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19, in lab tests. The entire world has been waiting for results from Gilead’s clinical trials, and positive results would likely lead to fast approvals by the Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory agencies. If safe and effective, it could become the first approved treatment against the disease.
The University of Chicago Medicine recruited 125 people with Covid-19 into Gilead’s two Phase 3 clinical trials. Of those people, 113 had severe disease. All the patients have been treated with daily infusions of remdesivir.
“The best news is that most of our patients have already been discharged, which is great. We’ve only had two patients perish,” said Kathleen Mullane, the University of Chicago infectious disease specialist overseeing the remdesivir studies for the hospital.
However, a statement from Gilead warned that the drug is still in the trial phase, and these results still need to be confirmed. And as we noted earlier this week, officials in China suspiciously shuttered 2 separate trials – one in Wuhan and one in Beijing – of the global remdesivir study, claiming there weren’t enough severely ill patients to run the trials, which sounds like a not-very-believable ruse to us.
Even Gilead, whose shares are up nearly 20% in premarket trade, warned that the U.Chicago trial is just one of many, and these numbers are simply “anecdotal”.
Finally, the number of confirmed cases surpassed 2.1 million during the early hours of Friday in the US, while the number of confirmed deaths neared 150k.