Coronavirus Health Update


China’s National Health Commission reported 143 new cases of COVID-19 in China yesterday (March 5), most of them in Hubei province (there were 17 new cases confirmed outside the province). The aggregate number of confirmed cases in China has risen to 80,552.

One imported case of the coronavirus was reported in Shanghai on Thursday. The newly diagnosed patient is a Qinghai province native who was studying in Iran.

The graphs below show the trend for the number of daily new cases in China (graph 1) and the aggregate number of confirmed cases versus suspected cases (graph 2).

Gansu province has reported 11 new patients infected with COVID-19, all of whom entered the country via commercial flights from Iran, raising fears that infections in China will spike again from “imported” cases.

China is using antibody tests in a bid to strengthen diagnosis of the deadly new coronavirus, after concerns that screening mechanisms were failing to catch large numbers of infections and patients were being prematurely discharged. This decision follows reports from provinces like Hubei, Hunan, Guangdong and Sichuan as well as the municipality of Tianjin that discharged patients had tested positive again for the virus.

In possibly positive news, Chinese health experts are now saying that there could be zero new infections in Wuhan by the end of March. Zhang Boli, an expert on China’s National Health Commission, claimed in the People’s Daily that other cities in Hubei province are likely to hit that target by mid-March.

Hong Kong’s response to the coronavirus has not only kept infections down but also led to fewer instances of seasonal flu than normal. The city’s experience with SARS may have helped condition its citizens to become cautious and careful.   


Policy Update


China’s State Council Calls for Streamlined Procedures to Restore Work: The State Council released its latest circular on March 3 to simplify procedures and further encourage work resumption. The 10-item document, which applies to areas outside Hubei province and the city of Beijing, calls for streamlined approvals and eased restrictions for companies’ work resumption applications, further digitalization of administrative services and removal of unreasonable control measures on the flow of workers and goods. Read more.

Beijing Moves to Subsidize Ailing Aviation Sector: The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) announced on Wednesday that it would begin offering subsidies to airlines to reinvigorate the ailing aviation sector. Both domestic and international carriers are eligible to apply for the subsidies for inbound and outbound flights. According to Reuters: “For every available seat kilometer, Beijing will award 0.0176 yuan ($0.0025) for routes that are shared by multiple carriers and 0.0528 yuan for routes that are only operated by one carrier the Civil Aviation Administration of China said in a statement on its website.” The subsidies will be available between January 23 and June 30. The announcement from the CAAC can be read here.


Economic Impact


Railroads Lose Their Loco-Motive: Cancelled ship sailings from Chinese ports due to snarled supply chains are now having a knock-on effect: railroad shipments from Los Angeles to Chicago have dropped from about 50 to 25 per week, reports the Financial Times. 


Swine Flu Secrecy Has Echoes in Coronavirus: Reuters has an in-depth investigatory piece that shows worrying parallels between the Chinese government’s efforts to hide the gravity of the African swine epidemic and the quashing of early news about the coronavirus epidemic. Both have led to human and economic consequences.


Domino Effect: One Korean supplier of smartphone parts to Apple and Samsung is being dealt “blow after blow” as the coronavirus spreads across Asia, travel restrictions impede worker mobility and worker quarantines limit production capacity, writes Reuters. 


Shipping Container Imbalance: An imbalance in ships sailing across the Pacific has led to “cutthroat” demand for 40-foot long refrigerated containers, reports the Wall Street Journal. The number of Chinese truck drivers still quarantined in their hometowns is adding to shippers’ travails.


Resumption Rate: Searching for clues to China’s economic revival? Pay attention to the resumption rate as a measure of the post-coronavirus rebound, says Bloomberg.


China’s Aviation Ambitions Temporarily Grounded: China’s aim to become a world-class aviation center and for Beijing’s new airport to rival London Heathrow as a transit hub has been temporarily grounded by the coronavirus, proposes the South China Morning Post. But the implosion of Hainan Airlines owner HNA is unlikely to thwart the country’s ambitions, with state money still expected to keep the sector aloft. 

Doomsday for the World’s Airlines: New data from the trade group Airlines for America shows just how badly the airline industry is hurting, predicting that that the outbreak could slash global airline revenues by between $63 billion and $113 billion USD this year. Analysts say the scale of the problem is unseen since the aftermath of 9/11, a downturn that took the industry years to recover from.