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Latest reports on the Coronavirus

(Various Sources: 4th February 2020)

To read nine, short articles from various sources about how the coronavirus is impacting many markets, click here

Coronavirus: China admits ‘shortcomings and deficiencies’

(Source: BBC News UK, 4th February 2020)

China’s top leadership has admitted “shortcomings and deficiencies” in the country’s response to the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

The rare admission came from the Politburo Standing Committee, which called for an improvement in China’s emergency management system.

It also ordered a “severe” crackdown on illegal wildlife markets – where the virus is thought to have emerged.

The death toll has risen to 425, with more than 20,000 confirmed cases.

“In response to the shortcomings and deficiencies… we must improve our national emergency management system and improve our abilities in handling urgent and dangerous tasks,” the report said.

“It is necessary to strengthen market supervision, resolutely ban and severely crack down on illegal wildlife markets and trade.”

The government’s initial handling of the outbreak has been widely criticised.

Officials have been accused of downplaying the severity of the virus at the start of the outbreak and in some cases, attempting to keep news of it secret.

One doctor in Wuhan who tried to warn his fellow colleagues about the outbreak late last year was accused of “making false comments” and told by police to stop the “illegal activity”.

It was only later in January that the government ordered the virtual lockdown of Hubei province, where the virus is believed to have originated.

Other regions close to the mainland are also feeling the effects of the virus first-hand.

On Tuesday, Hong Kong confirmed its first death from the coronavirus. Broadcaster RTHK said the 39-year-old man, who suffered from an underlying illness, had visited Wuhan on 21 January.

Hong Kong, which has 15 confirmed cases, has suspended 10 out of 13 border crossings with mainland China.

Taiwan announced that starting Friday, it would deny entry to all foreign nationals who have been to mainland China in the past 14 days.

Macau – one of Asia’s biggest gambling hubs – also announced that it would temporarily close down all the casinos in the region.

The closure is set to last two weeks but could be extended.

The new coronavirus causes severe acute respiratory infection and symptoms usually start with a fever, followed by a dry cough.

The number of deaths in China, excluding Hong Kong, now exceeds the 349 killed on the mainland in the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) outbreak of 2002-03.

But the mortality rate of the new virus is about 2.1% – much lower than that of Sars at around 9.6% – suggesting it is not as deadly.

What’s the latest on the virus outside China?

(Source: BBC News UK, 4th February 2020)

There are more than 150 cases in other countries, with one death in the Philippines.

On Tuesday, South Korea announced that one of its citizens had tested positive for coronavirus after visiting Thailand.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said the 42-year-old woman flew back to Korea on 19 January after visiting Thailand. She showed symptoms on 25 January and her conditions did not improve.

The Thai Department of Disease Control said it was “possible” that she contracted the virus in Thailand, which has one of the highest number of virus cases outside of China.

It is not clear if she had visited China at all.

Many nations have evacuated their citizens from affected areas of China, often placing them in quarantine on arrival home.

The US ordered the departure of all US personnel family members under the age of 21, and any US citizen who has been in Hubei province will be subject to 14 days’ quarantine.

US bars foreigners who recently visited China

(Source: BBC News, 1st February 2020)

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the US measures were “excessive” and contrary to WHO recommendations, accusing the US of “spreading fear”.

The WHO has warned that closing borders could even accelerate the spread of the virus, if travellers enter countries unofficially.

More than 20 countries have recorded confirmed cases.

The latest on travel restrictions:

  • Denying entry to all foreign visitors who have recently been to China: US, Australia, Singapore
  • Denying entry to foreigners travelling from mainland China: New Zealand, Israel. (Russia will also apply these restrictions, though not through Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport)
  • Denying entry to foreigners who have visited Hubei province: Japan, South Korea
  • Temporarily suspending all flights to mainland China: Egypt, Finland, Indonesia, Italy
  • Closing the border with China: Mongolia, Russia (partially)
  • The body that represents some of the world’s largest cruise ship operators, the Cruise Lines International Association, announced on Monday that passengers and crew members who had recently travelled to China would not be allowed to board vessels

How deadly is the virus?

More than 75,000 people may have been infected in Wuhan, experts say.

But estimates by the University of Hong Kong suggest the total number of cases could be far higher than official figures.

Around 80% of those who have died from the virus are over the age of 60, said a report by state media quoting the National Health Commission.

The national health body added that 75% of them had suffered from underlying conditions such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

Most people infected are likely to fully recover – just as they would from a normal flu.

An expert at China’s National Health Commission (NHC) said that one week was sufficient for a recovery from mild coronavirus symptoms.

NYT warns coronavirus is menace to global economy 

(Source: Undercurrent News, 29th January 2020)

The New York Times has drawn comparisons between the coronavirus and 2002’s SARS outbreak, noting that at that time, China’s factories were “mostly churning out low-cost goods like T-shirts and sneakers for customers around the world”.

Now, China has evolved into a principal element of the global economy, making the epidemic a substantially more potent threat to fortunes, it said.

China’s economic growth is expected to slip this year to 5.6%, down from 6.1% last year, according to a conservative forecast from Oxford Economics that is based on the impact of the virus so far. That would, in turn, reduce global economic growth for the year by 0.2%, to an annual rate of 2.3% — the slowest pace since the global financial crisis a decade ago.

Returning from a long holiday for the first time since the coronavirus’s threat became clear, Chinese investors sent shares in China down about 8% on Feb. 3. Stock markets around the world have plunged in recent days as the sense takes hold that a public health crisis could morph into an economic shock.

In a sign of deepening concern, China’s leaders on Sunday outlined plans to inject fresh credit into the economy. That will include a net $22 billion to shore up money markets as well as looser borrowing terms for Chinese companies, the NYT wrote.

Demand crash collapses prices for Florida’s spiny lobster

(Source: Undercurrent News, 29th January 2020)

Spiny lobster caught in the US’ Florida Keys is one of the many global seafood items to have been hit by a collapse in import demand as China essentially canceled its New Year celebrations, reports Key News.

That brought prices for the lobster crashing down by $4, from $10 a pound to $6/lb, at a time when Chinese seafood dealers had paid as much as $20 a pound in previous seasons.

Roughly four days before New Year, the Chinese completely stopped buying spiny lobster.

The good news for fishermen is that it comes at the end of the season, which closes in March, and production has already dropped off. However, the crash comes at the end of a production-poor season.

Diversified doesn’t see Boston impact, but monitoring situation

(Source: Undercurrent News, 29th January 2020) 

Diversified Communications, the organizer of the Seafood Expo North America trade show, is “monitoring the situation” with the spread of coronavirus from China, the company said in a statement.

The health and safety of our attendees and exhibitors is our primary concern,” said Diversified.

However, “the current situation has not impacted attendee and exhibitor registration and we look forward to a successful event on March 15-17, 2020”, at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in Boston, Massachusetts, the company said.

Canadian wholesaler Tradex protects staff in China

(Source: Undercurrent News, 29th January 2020) 

Tradex, a seafood wholesaler based in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, reported in a bulletin emailed Friday that it has made some moves to protect its eight to 10 employees stationed in China from the coronavirus outbreak.

The company is having its staff work out of their homes or relocate in satellite stations instead of the usual plants or corporate offices in Qingdao, Robert Reierson, Tradex’s CEO and president, clarified to Undercurrent News, adding that the goal is to keep them from moving around in public as much as possible.

“Our single most important focus in terms of the coronavirus is the safety of our customers and employees,” the company declared.

Processing plants in China were closed for the Chinese New Year and are scheduled to re-open between February 3 and February 10, the company said adding: “At this time we expect minimal disruption to the supply chain.”

“Our [quality control] team will be monitoring the processing plants once they reopen after the Chinese New Year holiday to make sure our high quality and sanitation standards are maintained,” Tradex said.

Also, it added, that “there is currently no indication or evidence that our products produced in China pose any risk to handling or consumption. The average time it takes our products to reach the closest US port is four weeks after production.”

“In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures,” Nancy Messonnier, director of the US’ Center for Disease Control’s Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, is quoting as saying.

Flight suspensions cut seafood airlift

(Source: Undercurrent News, 29th January 2020)

Seafood companies that use commercial flights to ship their seafood to China now have fewer options to do so as airlines are canceling their schedules due to the coronavirus outbreak.

According to Market Watch, Companies including Virgin Atlantic, Air Canada, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Air France, Lufthansa and American Airlines, among others, have temporarily canceled or reduced flights.

Meanwhile, the Canadian government has cautioned against non-essential travel to China and the US has issued a similar warning.

“Do not travel to China due to the novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China,” the US State Department advised.

Map tracking coronavirus’ spread around world with over 9,700 cases recorded; Death toll tops 200 

(Source: Undercurrent News, 29th January 2020)

An interactive map published by a US university is tracking the spread of coronavirus around the world from the outbreak’s origin in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

The map produced by Johns Hopkins University’s Centre for Systems Science and Engineering lists over 9,700 confirmed cases of the virus worldwide as of 9:30 a.m., Pacific Standard Time, (Jan. 31).

That includes over 9,650 in mainland China, with 14 in Thailand, 12 in Hong Kong, 11 in Japan and a small handful in other Asian, European and North American countries. Six cases have been recorded in the US, according to the website.

According to the UK’s Guardian newspaper, the death toll stands at 213 inside China.

Russian crab prices dive, pollock also dropping  

(Source: Undercurrent News, 29 January 2020) 

Prices for Russian crabs have halved due to the impact of the virus on purchasing, according to a report from business daily Kommersant.

Meanwhile, pollock prices are also dropping. Although a drop in the headed and gutted (H&G) pollock price is typical of this time of year, as fishing ramps up in the Sea of Okhotsk, executives are worried about demand from Chinese plants.

German Zverev, the president of the Russian association of fisheries (known by the acronym WARPE), said Chinese demand for crab has fallen significantly, leading to a drop in prices from $ 15-18/kg last year to $7/kg. The article does not specify the type of crabs, but Russia has been selling big volumes of king crab to China, live.

According to preliminary estimates, the export volume of Russian crab in the first quarter of 2020 may decrease to 7,000-8,000 metric tons, with export revenue dropping more than twice to $60 million-$70m, said Zverev.

Long-term losses, taking into account the time for market recovery could exceed $ 150m, he calculated. According to the WARPE, some Russian crab fishing firms are already halting fishing.

The president of the pollock catchers’ association, Alexey Buglak, notes that H&G pollock prices have already fallen by about 15%, to $1,420-$1,520/t.

“If the situation with coronavirus does not stabilize in a week, more negative consequences for Russian fish exports are also likely,” said Buglak. Chinese whitefish plants are set to delay their return to work until Feb. 10.

Alexander Efremov, managing director of the Dobroflot Group of Companies, notes that difficulties have already arisen with the sale of raw materials into China.

So, he is aware of the detention of at least two shipments of fish from Russia, which was intended for Chinese processing plants. “Perhaps the enterprises are idle due to quarantine. Or, China’s manufacturers fear that because of the situation with coronavirus, their products will not be bought in the world, ” he said.

In any case, the situation with the export of fish is extremely alarming, said Efremov. He adds that the Chinese side seems to have stopped all negotiations with the company on the supply of fish raw materials and has not yet announced new ones.

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