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WHO to Mull Emergency Declaration as Deaths Rise: Virus Update

Bryce Baschuk, James Paton and Michelle Fay Cortez
WHO to Mull Emergency Declaration as Deaths Rise: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) -- The World Health Organization called a meeting of its Emergency Committee Thursday to consider issuing a global alarm as China announced more deaths from the spreading coronavirus.

Governments tightened international travel and border crossings with China as they ramped up efforts to stop the spread of the disease. Airlines across the world suspended more flights to the country, as the U.S., the U.K., Japan and other countries moved to evacuate citizens from the outbreak’s epicenter, Wuhan.

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Here are the latest developments.

Hubei Province Reports More Deaths (6:22 a.m. HKT)

China’s Hubei province reported 37 additional deaths from the novel coronavirus for Jan. 29, bringing total nationwide fatalities to at least 169, according to a statement Thursday from the Health Commission of Hubei Province.

The province at the center of the outbreak reported 1,032 new confirmed cases over the 24-hour period. There have been more than 6,000 cases reported previously for mainland China.

CDC Says Flight Bringing Back U.S. Citizens From Wuhan Has Arrived (2:30 p.m. New York time)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said more than 200 U.S. citizens have returned on a flight from Wuhan, China. They are being monitored at March Air Reserve Base in California.

One of the citizens wasn’t allowed on the flight due to a fever, officials said at a briefing Wednesday. Passengers included State Department personnel and other Americans, including children.

“We are going to monitor them for the full extent of their incubation period,” said Cameron Kaiser, public health officer for Riverside County, California, where the base is located. “Everyone has agreed to do that.”

The passengers will be kept at the base for three days while tests are run. If any want to return to their home state or town after three days, the CDC said it would pass along information to local health departments so they can be monitored for the maximum 14-day incubation period.

WHO to Consider Global Emergency Declaration (11:15 a.m. New York time)

The World Health Organization’s Emergency Committee will meet Thursday to consider declaring the coronavirus a global crisis.

“The whole world needs to be on alert now,” Michael Ryan, executive director of the UN agency’s Health Emergencies Program, said at a press conference in Geneva. “‘The whole world needs to take action and be ready for any cases that come” in China or beyond.

The WHO last week stopped short of calling the outbreak a global health emergency, saying it remained a local crisis for the time being. Declaring a global emergency would allow the WHO to coordinate government responses to the crisis. Since last week, China has taken unprecedented measures to try to slow the spread of the virus.

British Airways Halts China Bookings (2:50 a.m.):

British Airways said it will halt flights to Beijing and Shanghai, joining other carriers in announcing the cutting or suspension of flights to China following the coronavirus outbreak.

The moves come as the U.S. and U.K. said residents should avoid all non-essential travel to China. United Airlines Holdings Inc., the biggest U.S. carrier to the Asian nation, said it would cut flight service after a drop in demand.

The U.S. government is considering several options to combat the emergence of the coronavirus, including a ban on flights to and from China, though no decision has been made, a person familiar with the deliberations said on Tuesday night.

Toyota Halting China Production Until Feb. 9 (00:57 a.m.):

Toyota Motor Corp. is halting operations in China until Feb. 9, joining a growing list of global companies that have cut back on business activities in China.

“Given the various factors including the guidelines by the local and region governments and parts supply situation, as of Jan. 29, we have decided to halt operations in our plants in China until Feb. 9,” said Maki Niimi, a spokesman for the Japanese automaker. “We will monitor the situation and make further decisions on operations from Feb. 10.”

U.A.E. Reports First Confirmed Middle East Cases (1:08 p.m. Hong Kong):

The United Arab Emirates reported the first cases of the novel coronavirus in the Middle East.

The disease was diagnosed among members of a family that arrived from the Chinese city of Wuhan, state-run WAM news agency reported, citing the Ministry of Health and Prevention. The patients are in stable condition and are under medical observation, it said.

The ministry didn’t specify the number of diagnosed cases.

Macau’s China Visitors Plunge, Hurting Casinos (12:25 p.m. Hong Kong)

Visitor arrivals to Macau from mainland China have plunged 79% during the Lunar New Year holiday, as the impact from the virus outbreak deals a major blow to casino operators.

The number of Chinese visitors from Jan. 24-28 slumped to 127,149, according to data from Macau Government Tourist Office. While casinos in the world’s largest gambling hub remain open for now, the region has been effectively shut down. Nearby Hong Kong has restricted transportation from the mainland, while Beijing has stopped issuing visas for individual travel to both Hong Kong and Macau.

A Bloomberg Intelligence index of Macau casino operators dropped as much as 5.1% on Wednesday, the most intraday in almost six months.

Evacuation Begins for U.S. Citizens in Wuhan (9:58 a.m. Hong Kong):

A plane taking U.S. citizens out of Wuhan has taken off from the city at the center of the coronavirus outbreak, according to a U.S. government official.

The U.S. State Department has been working with Chinese authorities to bring back American consulate personnel and other citizens from Wuhan. The plane is expected to land in Ontario, California. The state department said travelers would be screened and monitored.

Hong Kong Stocks Tumble as Trading Resumes (9:36 a.m. Hong Kong):

Investors in Hong Kong caught up with the rapidly spreading virus outbreak, as the Hang Seng Index dropped as much as 3% in early trading. Financial markets in Hong Kong opened for the first time this week following the Lunar New Year break.

Financial markets in China will reopen on Monday after the central government extended the holidays on the mainland. China pledged to provide abundant liquidity for money markets and urged investors to evaluate the impact of the coronavirus objectively.

Australian Scientists Growing Virus (Earlier Wednesday):

Scientists in Melbourne are growing the virus from a patient sample, the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity said Wednesday. Information gleaned from the research will provide other laboratories with data needed to help combat the virus, they said.

Research labs in various cities, including Hong Kong, are already growing the virus to study and characterize its properties, including where in the body it’s likely to replicate and cause infection.

China Virus Cases Surpass Those From SARS (8:09 a.m. Hong Kong):

The number of infected cases in mainland China soared to 5,974, the National Health Commission said Wednesday. That’s more than the 5,327 cases officially reported in the country during in the SARS epidemic 17 years ago.

The death toll climbed to 132, with most of the cases in Hubei, the epicenter of the outbreak. The province added 25 fatalities on Wednesday. Almost 60,000 patients are under observations, the NHC said, double the number from earlier in the week.

--With assistance from Allen Wan, Yinan Zhao, Isabel Reynolds, Jason Scott, Farah Elbahrawy, Chester Dawson, Jason Gale and Thomas Penny.

To contact the reporters on this story: Bryce Baschuk in Geneva at bbaschuk2@bloomberg.net;James Paton in London at jpaton4@bloomberg.net;Michelle Fay Cortez in Minneapolis at mcortez@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kazunori Takada at ktakada17@bloomberg.net, ;Kenneth Wong at kwong11@bloomberg.net, ;Drew Armstrong at darmstrong17@bloomberg.net, Eric Pfanner, Mark Schoifet

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