Deaths in China Rise, With No Sign of Slowdown

The Four Percent


The death toll from the monthlong coronavirus outbreak has continued to climb, rising to 490. New cases have surged by double-digit percentages in the past 11 days, with no sign of a slowdown.

More people have now died in this epidemic than in the severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, outbreak of 2002-2003 in mainland China. During that outbreak, 349 people died.

The new figures from China’s Health Commission on Wednesday showed that 65 people died on Tuesday and that 3,887 more people had been infected. So far, 24,324 people have been infected.

Health experts say the death toll is likely to rise because of the large number of infections. The mortality rate of the coronavirus, about 2 percent so far, appears to be far lower than SARS, which has a mortality rate of about 10 percent.

Experts warn they still lack full data to say definitively how lethal the new coronavirus is. Many residents in Wuhan believe the death toll is much higher than the official tally because people with flulike symptoms are being turned away by overstretched hospitals. The health care system there is so overwhelmed that many cases are not diagnosed because of a shortage of testing kits.

The number of people recovering from the virus is also rising, suggesting that the treatment plan is working. On Tuesday, 262 people left the hospitals. The number of suspected cases has dropped for two days in a row. Officials said they were tracking 3,971 suspected cases, compared with 5,173 cases the day before.

On Tuesday, health officials released details of the deaths so far, saying that two-thirds of them were men. More than 80 percent were over 60 years old, and they typically had pre-existing health conditions such as cardiovascular diseases or diabetes.

The central province of Hubei has been hardest hit by the virus. The epicenter of the outbreak is home to the bulk of deaths (479) and infections (16,678). Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, in particular has borne the brunt of the deaths and infections.

The government said it has put 252,154 people under surveillance.

The United States has begun its second airlift of American citizens out of China.

“Two planes have departed Wuhan en route to the United States,” the State Department said in a statement Wednesday night.

Little information was immediately available on the planes’ destination.

But it was believed that like the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan, the passengers will be taken to a military base and directed to remain there pending medical tests.

The first evacuees were flown from Wuhan on Jan. 29, and their plane stopped in Anchorage to refuel and for the passengers to be given initial screenings. The Boeing 747 then continued on to March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, Calif.

Britain and France intensified warnings to their citizens in China on Tuesday, urging all who could do so to vacate the mainland to minimize the risk of infection.

China’s consul general in New York, Huang Ping, publicly thanked the Chinese-American community and other concerned Americans on Tuesday for their aid in battling the coronavirus outbreak.

But Mr. Huang, a veteran diplomat, also criticized what he described as an overreaction by the American government in severely restricting travel to and from China. He singled out in particular the decision to evacuate the American Consulate in Wuhan, the city of 11 million in Hubei where the outbreak was first detected.

“I personally don’t quite get it,” Mr. Huang said at a news conference at the Chinese Consulate in Manhattan. “It’s not the practice of Chinese diplomats. I myself did a few evacuations, and at a difficult time of something like that, the diplomats of China would be sent in, rather than pulling out, because you might get people there who need you.”

Mr. Huang, whose consular operations cover 10 states where 130,000 Chinese students are enrolled in universities, also said he had no clarity on how many of them were from Hubei or how recently they had been there, partly because of American privacy rules.

“We’ve been trying our best to find out this information,” he said. “But it’s not that easy.”

Mr. Huang spoke a day after visiting Boston, where a University of Massachusetts student tested positive for the coronavirus last week after returning from China. School officials said the student was recovering, and remained in isolation.

Asked about instances of anti-Chinese bigotry in the United States that have been tied to the coronavirus outbreak, Mr. Huang said that “I really don’t want to see this,” and that he had expressed his concern to Massachusetts officials that the Boston case not incite such behavior.

“I said, ‘The virus is the enemy, not the Chinese,’” Mr. Huang said.

[Have you or someone you know faced prejudice in the United States as a result of coronavirus fears? Please contact us at if you are willing to share your story.]

“Those who disobey the unified command or shirk off responsibilities will be punished,” Mr. Xi said, the Xinhua news agency reported.

There is also confusion for those with itineraries via China to other destinations.

InsureMyTrip, a travel insurance comparison site, has experienced “at least a 30 percent increase in call volume,” said Julie Loffredi, the media relations manager. Most calls concern the coronavirus.

For some, it is unclear who is responsible for issuing refunds, and travel insurance does not always cover the cost of a canceled trip, since policies differ and refund eligibility may depend on when an insurance policy was bought.

On Tuesday, United Airlines said that it would suspend flights from Feb. 8 until Feb. 20 in light of a “continued drop in demand.” In 2018, United carried 14.5 percent of the 3.9 million passengers who took nonstop flights between the United States and Hong Kong.

Cathay Pacific, the flagship airline of Hong Kong, said it was temporarily cutting its flight capacity 30 percent, including suspending 90 percent of its flights into mainland China.

American Airlines said it had suspended flights to Hong Kong from both Dallas/Fort Worth and Los Angeles through Feb. 20 “due to demand.”

And Japan Airlines said it was suspending several flights to mainland China, and the British authorities said that British Airways and Virgin Atlantic had suspended their mainland China flights.

The drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline has joined the global hunt for a vaccine for the new coronavirus, aiming to develop a type of treatment that increases the protection offered by a vaccine.

That approach relies on using an agent known as an adjuvant, which helps create stronger and longer-lasting immunity against infections than a vaccine can provide on its own.

The use of this technology allows scientists to produce vaccines much faster and make them available to more people, said Dr. Richard Hatchett, the chief executive of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which is partnering with GSK. GSK also used adjuvant technology to develop vaccines against pandemic influenza in 2009.

More than a dozen biotech companies and academic groups are working on coronavirus vaccines.

Ever since the coronavirus outbreak was first reported, investors have been trying to handicap its impact on the global economy.

Last week, the concern was that the travel shutdowns and shuttered factories would hurt growth both in China and elsewhere.

This week, the sentiment seems to be that maybe the big picture won’t be so bad after all.

Stocks shot higher on Tuesday, with the S&P 500 on track for its best day of the year, after China took further measures to bolster its economy amid the still-expanding outbreak.

The People’s Bank of China said that it pumped a further 500 billion yuan (roughly $71 billion) into the country’s financial system on Tuesday, following an injection of 1.2 trillion yuan (over $170 billion) into its financial markets the day before.

It wasn’t just Wall Street that rallied on the news. In Asia, stocks in Shanghai and Hong Kong were also sharply higher. Major European markets in France, Germany and Italy rose more than 1 percent.

Other recent updates on corporate earnings and the economy have also given investors a lift.

On Monday, a closely watched gauge of manufacturing showed that factory activity expanded in the United States in January, after five straight months of contraction in the industrial sector. The report suggested that the manufacturing turndown — a reflection of a global factory slowdown widely linked to the trade war — that had hampered the American economy might have been easing, at least before the outbreak in China hit.

The recent round of fourth-quarter corporate earning reports have also been better than expected.

Of course, investors can change their minds quickly, and the mood in stock markets may well sour if traders are confronted with evidence of the coronavirus impact that they had not anticipated.

But for now, even those companies that are certain to be affected by the shutdowns are rebounding. For example, after officials in the city of Macau asked its 41 casinos to close for half a month — a move that will shut down the world’s gambling capital — shares of the big casinos operators Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands rose.

Ten passengers on a cruise ship quarantined in Yokohama, Japan, have tested positive for the coronavirus, Japan’s health minister said on Wednesday.

The ship, carrying around 3,700 people, arrived in Yokohama on Tuesday, but the authorities did not allow anyone off. An 80-year-old Hong Kong resident who had disembarked earlier in his home city was found to be infected.

In all, 273 passengers were tested for the virus after everyone on board underwent an initial health screening. Twenty-one were cleared, and officials were awaiting the other results.

The passengers who tested positive were being transported by a Japanese Coast Guard ship to a hospital. The other passengers are to remain quarantined on board the Princess Cruises ship.

Also on Wednesday, the American military, which has a large presence in Japan, said that anyone under its jurisdiction who was returning to the country from China would undergo a 14-day quarantine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the negative test results to the city authorities on Tuesday, officials said. Test results for the other two patients are pending, officials said.

“We’re relieved to hear that the person in question does not have the novel coronavirus,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “I can’t say this enough: If you have the symptoms and recent travel history, please see your health provider immediately.”

There has yet to be a confirmed case of the new illness in New York City or anywhere in New York State.

But like other cities, New York is starting to experience the economic fallout of a precipitous drop in Chinese visitors because of travel restrictions. Tour operators and travel agents in the New York area are bracing for empty rooms in hotels and empty seats on tour buses.

Chinese tourists represent the second-largest group of foreign travelers to New York.

A company that arranges Chinese-language bus tours of the sights in Manhattan is dealing with as many as 300 cancellations from Chinese tourists. And the owner of a Queens travel agency who had booked trips for 200 Chinese tourists in the next two weeks said he might have to lay off two of his five employees.

Restaurant and store owners in New York’s three main Chinatowns say business has been hurt. In restaurants in the Manhattan Chinatown, workers and owners said business had dropped 50 to 70 percent in the last 10 days.

The semiautonomous enclave, which neighbors Hong Kong and is the world’s largest gambling hub, has reported 10 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with a worker in the gambling industry among those infected. The shutdown was announced on Tuesday by Ho Iat Seng, the chief executive.

“Of course this was a difficult decision, but we must do it for the health of Macau’s residents,” Mr. Ho said.

Macau’s casinos have struggled as the coronavirus outbreak led to growing travel restrictions for visitors from the mainland. Macau, the only place in China where casino gambling is legal, derives a significant portion of its revenue from gamblers from the mainland.

Mr. Ho also said the city’s basic public services — except for emergency ones — would be suspended, and he urged Macau residents to “not go outside” except to get food.

Health experts say they are encouraged by the steady rise in the number of recoveries. They take it as evidence that the treatments meted out have been effective and that the virus does not appear to be as deadly as SARS.

SARS had a mortality rate of 9.6 percent, and about 2 percent of those reported to have been infected with the new coronavirus have died.

Reporting was contributed by Daniel Victor, Elaine Yu, Tiffany May, Steven Lee Myers, Raymond Zhong, Geneva Abdul, Li Yuan, Tess Felder, Knvul Sheikh, Damien Cave, Paul Mozur, Ben Dooley, Hisako Ueno, Kate Conger, Isabella Kwai, Tariro Mzezewa, Alexandra Stevenson, Christopher F. Schuetze, Julie Bosman, Denise Grady, Mitch Smith, James Barron, Donald F. McNeil Jr., Benjamin Mueller, Rick Gladstone and Clifford Krauss.


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