Singapore PM warns of recession due to outbreak as cases rise to more than 64,000 globally

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A Russian woman who escaped a hospital ward where she was under quarantine for novel coronavirus is facing a lawsuit filed by heath authorities for endangering the public, according to Russian state media.

The woman had returned from China in early February and was undergoing observation at the Botkin Hospital for Infectious Diseases in St. Petersburg, according to state news agency TASS.

She fled the hospital without permission by short-circuiting the electronic lock on the door to her ward, St. Petersburg’s chief sanitary physician said in a statement Thursday.

Nearly 230 Russian citizens are currently waiting to return from China, according to Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency.

Two coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Russia, according to the country’s consumer watchdog, the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Well-Being. The two patients were Chinese nationals who traveled to Russia; one of them has recovered and left the hospital, TASS said.

Read the full story here.

Voluntary disembarkations from the Diamond Princess cruise ship have ended for the day, Captain Stefano Ravera told passengers on Friday.

The Diamond Princess has been quarantined in the Japanese port of Yokohama, but certain passengers have been allowed to leave the ship and complete their isolation period in Japanese government housing.

“Virus-free guests who met the criteria met by the Japanese ministry of health and who decided to spend the remainder of their quarantine ashore have disembarked this afternoon,” he said over the ship’s public address system.

Those eligible for disembarkation include:

  • Passengers aged 80 or over with a chronic medical condition who test negative for the virus.
  • Passengers aged 80 or over in an inside cabin who test negative for the virus.
  • Other passengers under 80 who have been given a test for any other reason, and tested negative.
Police officers wearing protective gear are seen near a cordon outside Hong Mei House in Hong Kong on February 11, where some coronavirus cases were confirmed.
Police officers wearing protective gear are seen near a cordon outside Hong Mei House in Hong Kong on February 11, where some coronavirus cases were confirmed. Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

Health officials in Hong Kong have confirmed three additional novel coronavirus cases, bringing the city-wide total to 56.

The 54th confirmed case had a family gathering with the 52nd and 53rd case in January, said Chuang Shuk-Kwan of the Center for Health Protection at a Friday press conference.

The 55th case involves a 70-year-old woman who visited mainland China in January and is now in critical condition, while the 56th case is a 61-year-old woman who developed a fever and breathing problems on January 12. She was hospitalized on February 3.

Thirty-six suspected cases have been reported over the past 24 hours and 114 patients remain in hospital, according to Sarah Ho of the hospital authority.

Five confirmed cases are in critical condition and a further four are in a serious condition, added Ho. So far only one patient has been discharged.

A worker wears a face mask, as a preventative measure against the coronavirus, as he takes a rest in a storeroom of a public toilet in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong on February 12, 2020.
A worker wears a face mask, as a preventative measure against the coronavirus, as he takes a rest in a storeroom of a public toilet in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong on February 12, 2020. PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images

The Hong Kong Tourism Board announced that the city received 3.2 million visitors in January 2020, representing a 53% drop in the daily average from the first half of 2019.

In a news release published on Friday, the Tourism Board said the daily average number of visitors in January was 100,000, down from a 200,000 daily average prior to the start of last year’s political protests. The statement added that the “Mainland (Chinese) and short-haul markets were the most affected, recording a drop of over 50%.”

The Tourism Board said “the outbreak of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) aggravated the declines, as some airlines have suspended flights to Hong Kong” while the government’s implementation “of measures restricting the flow of people between Hong Kong and the Mainland” also impacted cross border visitor figures.

The Tourism Board added that “Preliminary data in February suggests that the arrivals have continued to decline, with average daily arrivals falling below 3,000, of which 75% were non-Mainland visitors.”

Throughout January and February the Hong Kong government implemented a series of travel restrictions with mainland China which included partially closing the border and mandating that all travelers arriving from mainland China undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine. As of February 14, Hong Kong has more than 50 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus.

An aerial view shows Saiseikai Arida Hospital in Yuasa, Japan, where a doctor was confirmed to have been infected with the novel coronavirus.
An aerial view shows Saiseikai Arida Hospital in Yuasa, Japan, where a doctor was confirmed to have been infected with the novel coronavirus. Credit: Kyodo News/Getty Images

Four more people in Japan — not from the Diamond Princess cruise ship — have tested positive for novel coronavirus, the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare said on Friday.

That brings the total in Japan to 254, of which:

  • 219 cases are from the Diamond Princess, including one quarantine officer
  • 35 cases have occurred on land
  • One woman aged in her 80s has died from the virus

The latest cases on land include a woman in her 60s who is a taxi driver in Okinawa. She had given rides to passengers from the Diamond Princess during its stop at the island on February 1, prior to the quarantine.

Two other new cases are people from Tokyo who had close contact with a taxi driver who has previously been confirmed to have the virus.

The fourth person is a man in his 70s who was treated at the same hospital where a doctor tested positive for the virus on Thursday. That man, in turn, a surgeon in his 50s, was the first doctor to have been confirmed to have the virus; his case was announced on Thursday. The local government suspects that the hospital connection may be coincidental, because the man whose case was announced today developed symptoms before visiting the hospital on February 6.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on November 30, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on November 30, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Photo by Amilcar Orfali/Getty Images

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said that a recession “is possible” due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Speaking during a visit to the Changi Airport, Prime Minister Lee described the novel coronavirus “as a very intense outbreak” adding that the economic impact ” is already much more than SARS (severe acute respiratory disease).”

Lee added that the “travel industry has been substantially impacted, flights are down by a third and shops here are hard hit.”

“I can’t say whether we will have a recession or not,” he said. “It’s possible, but definitely our economy will take a hit.”

As of February 13, Singapore has confirmed 58 cases of the novel coronavirus in the city.

Chinese commuters wear protective masks as they wait for a bus at a usually busy stop on February 13, in Beijing, China.
Chinese commuters wear protective masks as they wait for a bus at a usually busy stop on February 13, in Beijing, China. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

More than 5,000 new cases of the novel coronavirus have been confirmed in China under the country’s new broader definition, bringing the global total to 64,435.

The number of deaths from Covid-19, the official name of the virus, has now risen to over 1,380 worldwide. All but three of those deaths took place in China.

A partial purge of officials in Hubei, the Chinese province at the center of the outbreak, began Thursday. The top provincial official has been replaced by a key ally of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Outside of mainland China, new cases were confirmed in Hong Kong and Malaysia, and a Japanese woman in her 80s died of Covid-19. The woman was not connected to the Diamond Princess cruise ship currently under quarantine at the Japanese port of Yokohama. The ship remains the largest single outbreak outside of China, with more than 200 confirmed cases onboard.

Health officials in China say 1,716 medical workers have contracted the novel coronavirus so far, including six who have died of Covid-19.

Concerns remain over the potential drag of the virus on the Chinese economy, and knock on effects that could have worldwide. Speaking Thursday, Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua called for “all-out efforts to ensure stable employment” and instructed companies to avoid mass layoffs as the quarantines in place across much of the country cause a major downturn.

Tokyo's New National Stadium, the main venue for the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, on December 15, 2019.
Tokyo’s New National Stadium, the main venue for the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, on December 15, 2019. Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

A top Olympic official told reporters in Tokyo on Friday that the Summer Games remain “on track” despite the outbreak of novel coronavirus.

Advice from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that “there’s no case for any contingency plans of cancelling the Games or moving the Games,” said John Coates, chairman of the Coordination Commission for the Games of the XXXII Olympiad Tokyo.

Asked by CNN’s Matt Rivers if he had 100% confidence that things would move forward smoothly and the Games would go ahead, Coates said, “yes I do.”

“We continue to monitor particularly the Chinese that will be coming here,” Coates said, adding that “the Chinese team are mostly out of China now – the athletes and officials” for training and qualifying events.

“If they are planning to come, I don’t see a problem with them coming from another country other than China.”

He said that any Chinese athletes or fans coming from China, particularly affected provinces, would have to adhere to any Japanese government protocols.

Meetings over the past two days in Tokyo “reinforced our confidence” that the Japanese government is properly addressing the virus, he said. “We’re going to be very reliant on the communications coming from the organizing committee, but also the national government.”

Yoshiro Mori, president of Tokyo 2020, said that the Japanese government had set up a headquarters to take “full and thorough measures” to address the outbreak, and “meetings have already been held and we are working to share information.”

Workers convert the Wuhan International Conference and Exhibition Center into a field hospital amid the novel coronavirus outbreak on February 4.
Workers convert the Wuhan International Conference and Exhibition Center into a field hospital amid the novel coronavirus outbreak on February 4. Getty Images

Health officials in China say 1,716 medical workers have contracted the novel coronavirus so far, including six who have died of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Speaking to reporters in Beijing, Zeng Yixin, vice minister of China’s National Health Commission, said that “As of February 11, 1,716 medical workers have been infected,” adding that “unfortunately we have lost six medical workers.”

Of those cases, around 1,500 cases — or 87.5% — are in Hubei, the province at the center of the outbreak.

Zeng added that several new measures have been put in place to better protect medical workers including providing better conditions for medical workers to rest and ensuring they have enough equipment to treat patients.

Frontline workers will also receive $28 to $42 in daily allowances, China’s finance ministry said.

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