BLOOMBERG, February 29, 2020, 12:32 PM AST
Iran and South Korea reported hundreds of new coronavirus cases while unexplained infections in California, Oregon and Washington indicated the disease is spreading on the U.S. West Coast.
Iran reported another 205 cases, including five lawmakers, while the number of infections in South Korea soared 35%, or by more than 800, in 24 hours. China’s factory activity fell to a record low after weeks of closures caused by the virus. The U.S. took steps to expedite lab testing of the virus.
More events were canceled and postponed, from a Paris half-marathon to a French Riviera property conference to Greece’s Delphi Economic Forum, as companies and nations try to discourage travel. Chinese President Xi Jinping canceled a rare state visit to Japan in April, Sankei reported.
- Confirmed cases worldwide pass 85,000; deaths top 2,900
- Cases jump in South Korea and Iran, including lawmakers
- New U.S. cases point to outbreak along the western seaboard
- Chinese manufacturing activity contracts sharply
FDA Issues Guidance for Labs (11:15 a.m. NY)
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared the way Saturday for some laboratories to conduct diagnostic tests on the coronavirus before an emergency process is fully approved.
The FDA issued guidance to help rapidly expand testing capacity using molecular coronavirus diagnostic examinations. For a period of time while labs submit formal applications, the FDA does not intend to object to the tests for specimen testing, according to a statement.
“This guidance describes an accelerated policy enabling laboratories to use tests they develop faster in order to achieve more rapid testing capacity,” the FDA said. “This guidance is being implemented without prior public comment because the FDA has determined that prior public participation for this guidance is not feasible or appropriate.”
The drug agency said that to effectively respond to the outbreak, rapid detection, appropriate clinical management and infection control are critical along with community mitigation efforts. The FDA said the new test policy “will help address these urgent public health concerns by helping to expand available testing capabilities in health-care settings, and reference and commercial laboratories.”
The FDA’s action covers laboratories certified to perform high-complexity testing.
Swiss Cuts Growth Forecast (11:15 a.m. NY)
Switzerland plans to lower its economic growth forecast because of the coronavirus outbreak, Reuters said, citing an official from the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs. The new forecast will be issued March 17, Eric Scheidegger, head of SECO’s economic policy directorate, said during a government news conference, according to Reuters.
SECO predicted GDP growth of 1.7% this year in its most recent forecast in December.
Xi’s Japan Trip Set for Delay (10:30 a.m. NY)
The governments of Japan and China are set to delay the state visit to Japan by Chinese President Xi Jinping, which was planned for early April, Sankei reports, citing multiple unidentified people.
The governments have concluded that the spread of coronavirus means the environment is not suitable for a visit. The trip is likely to be rescheduled for the autumn or later.
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi agreed at a meeting on Friday that the visit to Tokyo would go ahead as planned.
Biden Blasts Trump for ‘Hoax’ Comment (9:50 a.m. NY)
Joe Biden criticized Donald Trump for describing the coronavirus as a “hoax” by Democrats to derail his presidency.
“The president of the United States said it’s a hoax?” Biden said Saturday in Greenville, South Carolina, as Democrats voted in a primary. “For him to start talking about it being a hoax is absolutely dangerous. It’s just not a decent way to act.”
Trump, at a South Carolina rally Friday, said Democrats were “politicizing the coronavirus” after he overcame the “impeachment hoax” and allegations about his campaign’s ties with Russia. “This is their new hoax,” Trump said.
Biden told reporters: “When you say things like that it just so diminishes the faith that people around the world have in the United States.”
France Cancels Large Gatherings (8:53 a.m. NY)
France has banned indoor gatherings of more than 5,000 people and canceled the Paris half-marathon that was expected to attract 40,000 runners on Sunday, Health Minister Olivier Veran said. The country reported 16 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total to 73.
Schools in two clusters stricken by the coronavirus, in the Alps and north of Paris, won’t reopen Monday. The government asked people to restrict journeys as much as they can, and to work from home when possible.
The new measures aim to prevent or delay a wider spread of the virus “to win as much time as possible” and avoid an overlap with the flu epidemic, which has started to recede, Veran said.
Greek Economic Forum Delayed (8:30 a.m. NY)
Greece’s Delphi Economic Forum is being postponed until late May or early June from March 5 to 8, following recent developments with coronavirus. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Eurogroup President Mario Centeno, ESM’s head Klaus Regling and many other international speakers had been scheduled to speak.
Property Summit Postponed (8:14 a.m. NY)
The world’s biggest property event held annually on the French Riviera has been pushed back to June over concerns about the epidemic, the summit organizers said. The four day-event, known as MIPIM, will now take place June 2 to 5 in Cannes instead of its usual March slot. The conference, which usually attracts 10s of thousands of bankers, brokers and developers, to the luxury hotels and super yachts of the French Riviera.
Chevron Employee in London Negative (7:46 a.m. NY)
A Chevron Corp. employee in London has tested negative for the coronavirus, the company said in a statement. It asked traders and other staff at its Canary Wharf office to work from home this week as a precaution after an employee had flu-like symptoms.
Iraq Oil Conference Postponed (7:36 a.m. NY)
Organizers postponed an oil conference that was scheduled to take place March 2 and 3 in Baghdad, Frontier Exchange Co.’s Baghdad branch manager, Ahmed Al Jadr, said in phone interview. The move is based on a recommendation from Iraq’s health ministry to avoid public gatherings after the country reported eight coronavirus cases. Organizers plan to reschedule the event in early April.
Azerbaijan Closes Iran Border (7:15 a.m. NY)
Azerbaijan closed its border with Iran for two weeks and said two more Azeri nationals have coronavirus after visiting the country’s southern neighbor, bringing the nation’s total cases to three. Azeris currently in Iran and Iranians visiting Azerbaijan will be allowed to return home, it said. The restrictions also apply to flights between the Azeri and Iranian capitals, state-owned Azerbaijan Airlines said in a Facebook statement.
Iran Implements Travel Measures (7 a.m. NY)
Iran Air says it’s restricting flights for Iranians to Germany, Azerbaijan, the Netherlands and U.K. Only Iranian nationals with residency or citizenship of these countries and health certificates will be allowed to fly, the semi-official Iranians Students’ News Agency reported, citing an interview with Masoumeh Asgharzadeh, Iran Air’s director of public affairs. People suspected of coronavirus in Qom, the epicenter of the outbreak there, will be prevented from leaving, according to ILNA.
The semi-official Tasnim news agency reported the death of MP Mohammad Ali Ramezani Dastak by influenza, though denying that he had contracted the coronavirus.
Inter Milan, Juventus Game Postponed (6:52 a.m. NY)
In Italy, the soccer game between Juventus and Inter Milan has been postponed until May 13 in compliance with urgent measures to contain Covid-19, the Turin-based team said on Twitter. Five Serie A games in Italy’s top league have been postponed.
Spain’s El Clasico match between Barcelona and Real Madrid is still set to go ahead tomorrow. The country has 46 infections, including two serious cases, Fernando Simon, the head of the the country’s health emergency center, said in a news conference.
Case Identified Near Rome (6:50 a.m. NY)
Cases have popped up elsewhere in Italy, including on the fringes of the capital. A woman from Fiumicino, the town that borders Rome’s main airport, tested positive after traveling to the Bergamo area in Lombardy, regional health authorities said in a statement. Her husband and one of her two children were also positive in preliminary tests conducted Saturday.
Iran Cases Jump More Than 50% (6 p.m. HK)
The total number of cases in the country rose by more than 50% to 593 with 43 deaths, the highest number of deaths from the disease outside of China. Five members of Iran’s parliament have tested positive out of 100 who were tested, spokesman Asadollah Abbasi said. Iran has 290 MPs. Parliament on Friday suspended all sessions indefinitely in response to the outbreak.
Japan Plans More Measures (5:55 p.m. HK)
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he was planning a second round of measures to tackle the new coronavirus outbreak, using 270 billion yen ($2.5 billion) in remaining reserves from this year’s budget.
Subsidies will be introduced for those who lose income due to measures like school closures and the package is to be drawn up within about the next 10 days, Abe said at a press conference in Tokyo.
Panic Buying in the U.K. (5 p.m. HK)
U.K. retailers are already reporting panic buying as consumers fear a mass outbreak of coronavirus in the country, the Daily Telegraph reports. Online grocer Ocado said it has seen a spike in “particularly large orders” as customers stockpile food and health products. Boots, the pharmacy, has had to resort to rationing hand sanitizer, the newspaper said. There have been 20 confirmed cases of the virus and no fatalities in the U.K.
China Could Have Vaccine by April (4:45 p.m. HK)
China’s vaccine research experts told premier Li Keqiang that a vaccine for coronavirus could be introduced for emergency use as early as April.
Researchers said some coronavirus vaccines could be used under certain conditions, according to a statement posted on government website Saturday, citing a trip Li made to the coronavirus national medical equipment emergency platform on Friday. The statement didn’t give details on the vaccine or the conditions.
More Cases in South Korea, Taiwan (4 p.m. HK)
In South Korea’s second update of the day, it said total infections there jumped to 3,150 from 2,931 earlier on Saturday. That’s more than 810 cases in just a day.
The number of cases in Taiwan jumped by five to 39, as the newly infected included three nurses and a hospital janitor. Denmark and Thailand also reported additional cases.
Austrian Chancellor U.S. Visit Postponed (3 p.m. HK)
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz‘s planned White House visit next week was postponed by the U.S. because of the coronavirus situation, the Austrian chancellery said. Kurz was due to meet Trump on Tuesday.
The number of cases in Austria jumped to seven.
No Protests Please, Thai Authorities Say (2 p.m. HK)
Thailand’s military-backed government said pro-democracy protests risk spreading the coronavirus and asked people to avoid rallies. People gathering in crowds could make it harder to control the spread of the disease, Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said in a briefing Saturday.
Thousands of students have rallied across the country in the past week after the enforced breakup of Future Forward, a popular pro-democracy party. Anutin asked the organizers of protests to postpone or cancel them, and instead find other ways to express their views.
Australia Bans Iran Arrivals (1:49 p.m. HK)
Australia imposed a travel ban on foreign nationals arriving from Iran and advised its own citizens not to travel there. Australians coming back from Iran must isolate themselves because the country poses “a very high risk,” said Brendan Murphy, Australia’s chief medical offer. A woman earlier tested positive for the virus after returning from Iran this week. She’s in isolation at Gold Coast University Hospital.
Washington State Reports New Cases (12:08 p.m. HK)
Health officials in the west coast state identified two new cases, including a school-aged adolescent who has no known connection to an outbreak-hit country or anyone who has visited such an area. The other patient had traveled to South Korea.
Mexico Gets Cases From Same Source (11:36 a.m. HK)
Health officials confirmed three coronavirus cases in Mexico, all with mild symptoms and probably from the same source. The first patient was a 35-year-old resident of Mexico City who took a trip to Italy in February, officials said.
Oregon Case Likely Spread by Community (10:44 a.m. HK)
The first reported coronavirus patient in Oregon was probably infected within the community, according to the state’s health authority. The patient, who is from Washington County, had no known recent travel history to a country with a large virus outbreak, nor close contact with a confirmed case.
The person works at a school in the adjoining Clackamas County and may have exposed students and staff to the virus, the Oregon Health Authority said.
South Korean Infections Jump 25% (9:16 a.m. HK)
Confirmed coronavirus cases in South Korea leapt by 594 in less than 24 hours, bringing the total to 2,931, according to data from the Korea Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. The jump followed the previous update from the CDC on Friday afternoon.
China Factory Activity at Record Low (9 a.m. HK)
China’s manufacturing purchasing managers’ index plunged to 35.7 in February from 50 the previous month, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics.
The figure was well below the median estimate among economists of 45 and is perhaps the biggest insight yet into how much the coronavirus is hurting China’s economy. The non-manufacturing gauge also dropped to a record 29.6 from 54.1 in January. Values below 50 denote worsening conditions.
China Reports Just Four Cases Outside Hubei (8:33 a.m. HK)
China reported 427 new coronavirus cases for Feb. 28, of which 423 were in Hubei, according to China’s National Health Commission. That takes total confirmed cases in the country to 79,251.
There were 47 deaths from the infection in China on Feb. 28, of which 45 were in Hubei. Some 39,000 people in China have now been discharged from hospital.
U.S. Postpones Meeting with Asian Leaders (8:21 a.m. HK)
The Trump administration postponed a meeting with Asian leaders that was set to be held next month in Las Vegas, citing efforts to contain the coronavirus. The U.S. made the decision in consultation with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a White House official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
ASEAN includes 10 countries in Southeast Asia. China, the epicenter of the outbreak, is not among the members.
California Has Case of Unknown Origin (7:32 a.m. HK)
A second person in California was diagnosed with the coronavirus despite a lack of known ties to other infected patients or areas. It’s a further sign that the disease is likely spreading in some parts of the U.S.
The patient “had no known exposure to the virus through travel or close contact with a known infected individual,” the Santa Clara County Public Health Department said in a statement Friday
— With assistance by Michelle Cortez, David R Baker, Sophie Alexander, John Harney, Kanga Kong, Adam Haigh, Isabel Reynolds, Yasna Haghdoost, Vernon Silver, Charles Penty, Zulfugar Agayev, Khalid Al Ansary, Francois De Beaupuy, and Jennifer Epstein