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Cruise Ship Stranded At Sea Over Coronavirus Fears To Dock In Cambodia

Topline: A cruise ship that was turned away from several ports in Asia over coronavirus fears—despite no cases onboard—will now dock in Cambodia after days of uncertainty and mounting anxiety among passengers.

  • The Holland America Line’s MS Westerdam was banned from docking by Thailand earlier this week, over concerns about coronavirus on the ship. Holland America Line, which is owned by Carnival Cruise, says nobody onboard has reported symptoms.
  • It will now dock in Sihanoukville in Cambodia on Thursday, where passengers will disembark over a few day and will be transported to the capital, Phnom Penh, and flown home. Holland America Line says it will pay for the flight sand refund passengers their entire trip.
  • The MS Westerdam had planned to disembark its passengers in Thailand after Japan, The Philippines and Guam turned away the cruise ship. The Thai government on Tuesday offered fuel, food, and medicine to the cruise ship.
  • Stephen Hansen and his wife are two of the 1,500 passengers stuck on the vessel, which sailed from Hong Kong on February 1st and had been scheduled to end its cruise in Japan on February 15.
  • Hansen told Forbes: “While I can understand that countries want to protect their own citizens first before helping us their decisions to turn us away are based more on misinformation and fear than facts.”
  • Holland America said in a statement on Wednesday: “All approvals have been received and we are extremely grateful to the Cambodian authorities for their support…All guests on board are healthy and despite erroneous reports there are no known or suspected cases of coronavirus on board, nor have their ever been.”
  • Passengers had been calling for political intervention, with Hansen saying that the countries’ decision to reject the vessel was down to “misinformation and fear,” rather than facts.

Key background: Cruise ships have become an unlikely flashpoint in the battle to stop the international spread of the coronavirus. The British-owned Diamond Princess cruise was quarantined in Tokyo last Monday, with 174 out of the 3,700 passengers on board now ill with the pneumonia-like illness. Around 3,600 passengers and crew were held aboard the World Dream cruise ship for four days in Hong Kong over concerns the ship staff had contracted the virus from infected passengers on an earlier cruise. Cruise Lines International Association, the industry’s trade organization, announced last week its members would bar passengers who had visited China, Hong Kong, or Macau, 14 days before their cruise, from boarding.

News peg: Coronavirus, this week renamed Covid-19, has now killed more than 1,000 people and infected at least 42,000 more. The outbreak is concentrated in mainland China, after the virus was first detected in patients who are thought to have visited a Wuhan market in December. Airlines have also been badly disrupted, with some international carriers suspended their flights to and from China, and a number of international companies and manufacturers have been impacted by the Chinese government’s move to extend the Lunar new year holiday in a bid to restrict the spread of the virus. Tens of millions were placed under lockdown by Chinese health authorities in cities like Wuhan that have seen the highest number of reported cases.

Further reading: Thailand Turns Away Cruise Ship Rejected By Three Nations Over Coronavirus Fears

Crew Members Plead For Rescue As Coronavirus Outbreak On Cruise Ship Grows To 135 Cases (Rachel Sandler)

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I am a breaking news reporter for Forbes in London, covering Europe and the U.S. Previously I was a news reporter for HuffPost UK, the Press Association and a night reporter at the Guardian. I studied Social Anthropology at the London School of Economics, where I was a writer and editor for one of the university’s global affairs magazines, the London Globalist. That led me to Goldsmiths, University of London, where I completed my M.A. in Journalism. Got a story? Get in touch at isabel.togoh@forbes.com, or follow me on Twitter @bissieness. I look forward to hearing from you.

Source: Cruise Ship Stranded At Sea Over Coronavirus Fears To Dock In Cambodia

A luxury liner has been stranded for days after been denied entry in the Philippines and Japan. The Westerdam, owned by Holland America Line, has not reported any cases of coronavirus among the 2,200 passengers and crew. Subscribe to our channel here: https://cna.asia/youtubesub Subscribe to our news service on Telegram: https://cna.asia/telegram Follow us: CNA: https://cna.asia CNA Lifestyle: http://www.cnalifestyle.com Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/channelnewsasia Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/channelnews… Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/channelnewsasia

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Hundreds of Americans Are in Quarantine. Here’s Why That’s Rare

RIVERSIDE, CA – JANUARY 29: A team in white biohazard suits watch as some of the approximately 200 passengers walk to waiting buses upon arriving on a charter flight from Wuhan, China, after landing at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, Calif. Wednesday morning Jan. 29, 2020. The flight originated from the area where the coronavirus outbreak started. All the passengers will be held in quarantine for an unknown duration. (Photo by Will Lester/MediaNews Group/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin via Getty Images)

 A typical room has a ceiling fan, striped wallpaper and floral curtains. Above a neatly made bed is a chintzy print showcasing a cobblestone alley. In communal areas, residents have space to watch big-screen TVs or throw around a football or read a book under a tree, and the U.S. Marshals Service is providing security.

Such are the conditions at the March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, Calif., where 195 people are subject to the first mandatory quarantine orders issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in more than 50 years. Like more than 600 other people assigned to five other military bases around the country, these Americans were recently evacuated from China’s Hubei province, the site of the novel coronavirus outbreak that has now claimed more than 600 lives.

All but two of those deaths have occurred in mainland China, where more than 31,000 cases have been confirmed. The crisis is now creeping around the world, with cases reported in more than 24 other countries, including 12 in the U.S.

There is widespread anxiety about sickness, and much is still unknown about the virus, including whether people without symptoms are capable of spreading it. Facing such uncertainty, the CDC took the extraordinary measure on January 31 of drawing on legal authority that the department hasn’t used since the 1960s — when officials were combatting smallpox — to impose a mandatory, 14-day quarantine on recently repatriated Americans who had been in Hubei. Two weeks is the likely incubation period for the virus.

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“We are taking measures to minimize any contact. We expect confirmed infections among these and other returning travelers from Hubei province,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a briefing on Feb. 5. “Now is the time to act so that we can slow the introduction and impact of this virus in the U.S.”

A few days earlier, when the federal government announced the quarantine, Messonnier called the action “unprecedented.”

There are several good reasons that ordering a quarantine is something that U.S. public health officials rarely do.

Finding quarters can be a challenge

For starters, the government does not have dedicated quarantine facilities just waiting to be used, explains Arthur Reingold, professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health.

Quarantine refers to the containment of apparently healthy people who may be incubating a virus they’ve come in contact with. (Isolation is the term for confining someone who is already sick.) In previous eras, this was often done on sea-going vessels. Passengers who might have a sickness like the plague would wait out the likely incubation period on a ship before being allowed to land. “But quarantine vessels went out of business a long time ago,” Reingold says.

Faced with a need to suddenly house hundreds of people, the Department of Health and Human Services turned to the Department of Defense, and six military bases were made available. The main criteria in choosing them, a DoD spokesman says, was their ability to comfortably house approximately 250 people in one or two buildings, like an on-base motel where everyone has their own bathroom, and close proximity to a hospital. Locations in the West, given the shorter flight distance from China, were also preferable, which is why half of the bases are in California, with one more in each of Colorado, Texas and Nebraska.

Quarantines are expensive

Even with locations secured, executing humane quarantines involves a lot of logistics, and that doesn’t come cheap. There are transportation and ongoing housing costs. Individuals need to be fed and regularly checked for symptoms. It requires medical care on-demand. And there’s security and maintenance to consider.

The CDC and HHS have not responded to requests from TIME asking about cost estimates for the current quarantines or whether the department will cover all costs. The HHS, which oversees the CDC, announced on Feb. 3 that it was making $250 million in emergency funds available to generally cover response, including screening and monitoring of U.S. citizens returning from various parts of China.

Tabulating the bills may also be a messy business. The DoD, for example, tells TIME that it expects full reimbursement for all costs from HHS. So does the state of California. A spokesman for Riverside County, meanwhile, says that while they hope to get reimbursed, it’s not been made clear if it will be.

With five county departments supporting the quarantine at March Air Reserve Base, including the provision of staff that includes doctors, nurses, behavioral health specialists and epidemiologists, as well a mobile health clinic that is at the base in case individuals get a migraine or scrape a knee, the estimated costs for the county alone are an estimated $115,000 per day.

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“Clearly the cost element of it is not a factor when we’re asked to provide services on an urgent basis. Our first priority is to figure out how to do it and then do it,” Riverside County spokesman Jose Arballo, Jr., says. That said, he adds, “The county isn’t in a situation where it’s flush.”

Putting aside the incalculable value of preventing an outbreak of the coronavirus, quarantines can potentially be cost-saving in the long run. “While expensive it’s more than worth it,” Larry Gostin, an expert in public health law and professor at Georgetown University, writes in an email. “It prevents spread of disease and serious illnesses. And it’s far less costly than having to hospitalize many patients who could contract the coronavirus infection.”

People’s freedom must be limited carefully

Another reason mandatory quarantines are uncommon in America is that they are, of course, coercive. Though federal and state governments have the legal ability to impose quarantines in the name of public safety, the ACLU has raised concerns about the government controlling people’s freedom of movement and noted that individuals’ livelihoods can be put at risk if they’re unable to work for weeks at a time. (The CDC has not responded to a request from TIME about whether the department will cover lost wages for individuals under quarantine orders.) It can also cause disruptions in childcare.

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Soon after the 195 people arrived at March Air Reserve Base, one individual did attempt to leave and was ordered back. Otherwise, Arballo says, the individuals in quarantine have been cooperative and “appreciative of the work being done.” Attitudes may have been tempered by gratitude that the U.S. government helped them escape the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, as well as knowledge that spread of the disease would be harmful. The U.S. Marshals Service says that agents have not had to stop anyone from leaving — that no one is revolting — but in the unlikely event that someone did, they would intervene.

Georgetown’s Gostin has noted that there is a world of difference between today’s relatively small quarantines at American military bases, where people are housed in the equivalent of a modest hotel room, and what is happening in China, where the government has essentially put 56 million people on lockdown in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Such extreme actions can cause panic, drive the epidemic underground and potentially make it worse, leading to cross-infection and social isolation, he explains. People may have difficulty accessing basic necessities, much less sufficient medical care.

The Americans quarantined at the March Air Reserve Base, in contrast, requested and were brought beer to enjoy while watching the Super Bowl.

The efficacy is unclear

Even when quarantines are imposed on narrow populations and rolled out compassionately, it’s not clear how effective it is to limit the movement of people who aren’t showing symptoms, Berkeley’s Reingold says. “For many infectious diseases, transmission basically is limited entirely or almost entirely to people who are symptomatic,” he explains. “Quarantining asymptomatic individuals has generally been viewed as a low priority.”

Yet, in the case of the new coronavirus, there has been conflicting evidence about whether asymptomatic people are contagious. “Until we know more, given the concerns, given the anxiety, this is a reasonable measure to take,” Reingold adds.

W. Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University, recently traveled to Beijing and Guangzhou. Upon returning to the U.S., he was mandated by the government to self-quarantine for 14 days because the CDC views those areas of China as medium risk, he says. He is currently in his cabin in upstate New York, writing in to the government with temperature and status reports.

When asked for his thoughts on the quarantines, he responded with concerns about being objective given that he has been personally affected. “The new coronavirus is highly transmissible,” he wrote in an email. “Thus, I appreciate the concern underlying the decision to impose quarantines. I’m not sure that we need 14 days.”

While mandating quarantines could be an expensive and cumbersome overreaction, CDC’s Messonier suggested the department would rather be remembered for doing too much rather than doing too little as scientists race to learn more about the virus. And experts say Americans should feel reassured that they live in a wealthy country where expensive overreactions are an option. Populations who live in poor countries in Asia or Africa, where officials have more limited capabilities of response, are at higher risk if the coronavirus starts to spread.

At the March Air Reserve Base, two individuals — both children — have been found to have fevers. One was transported to a nearby hospital on Feb. 3, with a parent, and was transported back to the base when tests for the virus came back negative. A second was transported on Feb. 5. As of Friday morning, they remained in isolation at the hospital awaiting test results.

By Katy Steinmetz February 7, 2020

Source: Hundreds of Americans Are in Quarantine. Here’s Why That’s Rare

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195 Americans are under quarantine as blood samples and throat cultures get tested by the CDC after the group was evacuated to California from the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in China. 6,000 passengers stuck on cruise ship over coronavirus fears READ MORE: https://abcn.ws/392BsP1 #ABCNews #Coronavirus #China

WHO Warns of Global Shortage of Protective Equipment Due to Coronavirus as Death Toll Hits 638

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the world is facing “severe disruption” in the market for personal protective equipment due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“Demand is up to 100 times higher than normal and prices are up to 20 times higher,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a Friday press conference.

General Ghebreyesus says there are depleted stockpiles of equipment like masks and respirators and a 4-6 month backlog of orders for necessary supplies.

“We need to make sure we get it [supplies] to the people who need it most in the places that need it most,” General Ghebreyesus said.

The State Department announced that they are offering $100 million to help China and other countries dealing with the virus.

Meanwhile, a Chinese doctor who tried to warn others about the coronavirus outbreak and was subsequently punished by police died of the virus Thursday in Wuhan.

The Wuhan Central Hospital reported Dr. Li Wenliang’s death on social media, saying that he was “unfortunately infected during the fight against the pneumonia epidemic of the new coronavirus infection,” the Associated Press reported.

After initial reports of Li’s death, WHO offered its condolences. “We’re very sorry to hear of the loss of any frontline worker who has attempted to care for patients,” said Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme.

The coronavirus—known as 2019-nCoV—has infected 31,530 patients globally, according to Johns Hopkins University’s virus tracker.

The virus has also killed one person in the Philippines, and another in Hong Kong.

In Japan, officials said Friday that 41 new cases of the virus had been found on a cruise ship that’s been quarantined in Yokohama harbor, bringing the total number of infections onboard to 61. The ship was quarantined after the company learned that a passenger from Hong Kong who had been diagnosed with the coronavirus sailed on the ship, the Diamond Princess, last month.

Japan and Singapore have reported the most patients outside of China, with 45 and 28 respectively.

The number of cases in Japan rose significantly after 10 more people tested positive on a quarantined cruise ship that docked in Yokohama Wednesday,local media reported. The ship was quarantined after the cruise company learned that a passenger from Hong Kong who has been diagnosed with the coronavirus was on board last month.

So far, 99% of confirmed cases are in China and 80% of the cases in China are in Hubei Province, the WHO stated on Wednesday. Excluding China, there are more than 190 cases across 24 countries. At least 31 of those cases involve people with no travel history to China, but all of those cases involve people considered in close contact of a confirmed case or of someone from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.

On Friday morning, 27 passengers aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship were screened for possible coronavirus sickness when the ship was docked in Bayonne, New Jersey. No cases were confirmed from the screening

On Wednesday, authorities in Hong Kong announced that all arrivals from mainland China would be quarantined for 14 days starting Saturday, acknowledging that there is risk of an outbreak in the city. However, Chief Executive Carrie Lam once again stopped short of closing the border, despite demands from many Hong Kong residents, including thousands of medical workers who went on strike in an attempt to force the action.

Chinese state media said Thursday that the second hospital in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, officially opened on Thursday. A rush-built hospital with 1,000 beds was completed earlier in the week. Both hospitals were constructed in a matter of days to treat coronavirus patients, an attempt by authorities to contain the deadly outbreak.

Medical experts are suggesting that the illness could be passed from mother-to-fetus as two newborn babies tested positive for the illness, according to Chinese state media.

World Health Organization coordinates global response

The WHO has announced plans to raise at least $675 million for a strategic plan to respond to the outbreak and a forum to convene global researchers to fast-track solutions.

Part of that money — $60 million — is to fund WHO’s operations, while the remainder is for “countries that are especially at risk,” said WHO Director-General Tedros at a press conference on Wednesday.

Tedros had reiterated that the agency’s “greatest concern” is the potential for the respiratory illness to spread to countries with weak health systems.

“Our message to the international community is: invest today or pay more later,” Tedros said. “$675 million U.S. dollars is a lot of money, but it’s much less than the bill we will face if we do not invest in preparedness now during the window of opportunity that we have.”

Tedros thanked the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for already pledging up to $100 million and Japan for contributing $10 million.

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The WHO is monitoring all public health measures taken by all member states, and will “try and bring some cohesion and order to that process in the coming days,” Ryan said.

Tedros also downplayed criticism from John Mackenzie, a member of WHO’s coronavirus emergency committee, who said that China’s initial response to the outbreak was “reprehensible” and that they did not report cases quickly enough. Tedros said he would expect more cases to spread from China to the rest of the world if China was hiding cases, but noted that the WHO would still have a retrospective review in the future.

American response

The State Department announced on Friday that they are sending medical supplies, including masks, gowns and respirators to China to assist with the virus.

The United States is also prepared to spend up to $100 million in funds to help China and other countries impacted by the spread.

A second wave of American evacuations from Wuhan took place Wednesday as a plane with 178 passengers landed at Travis Air Force Base in California, the U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control confirmed. Those on board are now subject to a 14-day federal quarantine and will stay at the air force base temporarily.

Those entering the U.S. within 12 days of having been in Hubei or the rest of mainland China will be directed to one of 11 U.S. airports for an additional health assessment, according to the CDC. They include Los Angeles International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Honolulu International Airport, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

Americans traveling back to the U.S. from Hubei province 14 days before returning to the country will be subject to up to 14 days of a mandatory quarantine, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar told reporters at a White House press briefing. Any American citizens who were in mainland China 14 days before returning to the U.S. will have to undergo a “self-imposed” quarantine for 14 days.

International cases and response

At least 191 patients have tested positive for the illness across 24 countries, according to the WHO.

A 44-year-old man died in the Philippines on Saturday, the country’s Department of Health confirmed, marking the first person to succumb to the virus outside of China. The man, a resident of Wuhan, China, had arrived in the Philippines on Jan. 21 with a 38-year-old woman, who was also infected.

A 39-year-old man in Hong Kong died on Tuesday, making him the second death outside of mainland China. The patient reportedly had an underlying illness.

There are 24 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Hong Kong, which was hard-hit by the 2002-2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). More than one-third of the nearly 800 deaths from SARS worldwide were in Hong Kong, and the semi-autonomous Chinese territory had more than 1,700 of the 8,000 confirmed cases of the virus.

Hong Kong’s neighbor, the gambling hub of Macau, confirmed its 10th case of the virus Tuesday. Macau announced the same day that it would be shutting its casinos for two weeks. (The city’s casinos are overwhelmingly reliant on mainland Chinese tourists.)

Russia, Sweden, Spain, the Philippines, Italy, India and the U.K. confirmed their first cases of coronavirus last week.

There are also at least 25 confirmed cases in Japan, 30 in Singapore, 25 in Thailand, 25 in Hong Kong and 24 in South Korea, according to Johns Hopkins University’s virus tracker. Governments and health officials in Nepal, Canada,Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia,Sri Lanka, UAE, France, the U.K., Italy, Russia, Sweden, Spain and Germany have also reported patients testing positive for the virus.

Several countries have tightened their borders to restrict the flow of mainland Chinese visitors.

In Hong Kong, the government has closed all but two entry points, leaving a cross-border bridge and a port in a northwestern part of the territory open. (Visitors can still fly to Hong Kong, though flights between mainland China and Hong Kong have been cut by half.) All travelers coming from China will be quarantined for 14 days starting Feb 8.

Singapore has said it is banning visitors with recent travel history to mainland China and has also banned the entry and transfer of travelers holding passports issued by China’s Hubei Province.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said Thursday that Russia would be closing its land border with China from Friday at least until March 1, the Associated Press reported.

Multiple countries are also warning against unnecessary travel to China, and many have already started evacuating their citizens from Wuhan.

Evacuees from Spain, Japan, the U.S. and Europe are among those who have been flown out of Wuhan on government planes.

China travel restricted

Chinese officials have shut down travel in and out of Wuhan — home to 11 million people — and enacted similar, strict transportation restrictions in a number of other cities. Wuhan has suspended immigration administration services, local authorities said Monday, according to Chinese state media.

People in China have started going back to work after an extended Lunar New Year holiday ended, according to the South China Morning Post.

China’s Hubei Province has also suspended services to apply for passports and exit-entry permits.

Apple said Saturday it would close stores, corporate offices and contact centers in China “out of an abundance of caution,” the New York Times reported.

Royal Caribbean also announced restrictions, including the cancellation of eight cruises out of China due to the outbreak, according to the AP. The cruise line announced Monday that it would also prohibit any guest or crew member, regardless of nationality, to board a ship if they traveled through mainland China or Hong Kong less than 15 days prior.

Japanese officials said that Japan would ban foreign nationals who have been to Hubei province within two weeks before their arrival. Those carrying Chinese passports issued in Hubei are also banned from entering the country, although special exceptions may be made, government officials said, according to Japan Times.

Australia said it would ban travelers who have visited or transited through mainland China from Saturday onwards for the next two weeks. The restrictions will not apply to Australian citizens, permanent residents and members of their immediate family, although these groups will be asked to isolate themselves for two weeks from when they departed China, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Saturday, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Additionally, Singapore has banned all travelers arriving from mainland China who had been there in the past 14 days from entry and transit by Sunday morning. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration says that Vietnam has suspended almost all flights from and to mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau until May 1, according to the New York Times.

As the deadly virus spreads, a growing number of airlines including British Airways, Air France, Delta and Lufthansa are suspending all flights to China. Many have cut down the number of flights, and some have stopped flying to major cities.

China organized at least three flights to bring home more than 300 Hubei residents from abroad and plans to dispatch nine flights to bring home about 2,000 Chinese tourists in the Philippines., according to Chinese state media.

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CDC confirms second human-to-human transmission in the U.S.

On Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the second case of the disease transmitting from person-to-person within the U.S. The first American patient diagnosed with the new coronavirus was also discharged from hospital.

A patient in California, who had not recently traveled to China, tested positive for the virus. The patient is married to a person who had previously traveled to China and tested positive for the respiratory illness, according to the California Department of Public Health.

On Monday, hospital officials at the Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Washington, said the 35-year-old man who was the first to test positive for the new coronavirus in the U.S. has left the facility, the Associated Press reported. The unidentified man is recovering and looking forward to life returning to normal, he told the AP.

The CDC has now confirmed at least 12 cases of the coronavirus infection in the U.S. across Wisconsin, Arizona, Massachusetts, California, Washington state and Illinois. On Wednesday, Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services reported an additional confirmed case of the virus in an adult “with a history of travel to Beijing.”

“The individual is isolated at home, and is doing well,” the agency said.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, maintained that the risk to the American public continued to be low, but that the CDC expects to find additional cases in the U.S.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for the first 2019 new coronavirus diagnostic Tuesday, before which the test had been limited to being used at CDC’s laboratories. The authorization now allows the test to be used at any CDC-qualified lab in the U.S.

The CDC said as of Wednesday morning that 293 individuals across 36 states were considered to be “persons under investigation.” Of those, more than 200 had so far tested negative for the disease. The status of another 76 cases is currently pending.

By Hillary Leung , Sanya Mansoor , Amy Gunia , Jasmine Aguilera , Tara Law and Josiah Bates

Source: WHO Warns of Global Shortage of Protective Equipment Due to Coronavirus as Death Toll Hits 638

Coronavirus Strikes Korea’s Motor-Vehicle Industry As Hyundai, Kia Begin Suspending Lines

Beijing Hyundai Plant Tour

The coronavirus is endangering South Korea’s automotive industry—its biggest and most visible export after semiconductors.

The reason is simple. Hyundai Motor and its sister company Kia Motors, as well as three smaller competitors, are not getting wiring that’s made in China by the Korean subsidiary of Leoni, a German car-parts maker. Leoni, like many other companies, has shut down operations in China at least until next week.

The first Hyundai vehicle to suffer was the top-of-the-line Genesis, a luxury sedan that’s manufactured at the company’s historic plant in Ulsan, on the southeastern coast of South Korea, about 190 miles southeast of Seoul.

Hyundai said its plants in Ulsan and two other cities would be slowing down and possibly halting operations until early next week or unless wiring production resumed in China or domestic Korean companies could begin to fill the need. The company asked workers not to report for normal overtime shifts producing its Palisade sports utility vehicle.

There were also concerns that other components might soon be in short supply. Bosch, the German manufacturer, has had to close its two plants in Wuhan until next week. Volkmar Denner, Bosch’s CEO, told reporters in Stuttgart there had been “no disruptions” so far. But “if this situation continues, supply chains will be disrupted,” he added.

Similarly, Kia, which manufactures a number of vehicles on similar platforms as Hyundai vehicles, has had to cut down production at its plants in Korea while suspending work in China.

Together, Hyundai and Kia theoretically produce more than 9 million vehicles a year at plants in Korea and abroad—5.5 million produced by Hyundai and 3.8 million by Kia, according to Yonhap. Their goal this year has been 7.5 million, up from 7.2 million last year, but the coronavirus is already cutting into production and sales in China and may lower expectations elsewhere.

Hyundai Motor, South Korea’s second-largest conglomerate after the Samsung empire, revealed the problems as South Korea counted 16 people so far stricken by the coronavirus, which has claimed more than 400 lives in China. The latest case here was that of a 42-year-old woman who had returned from a trip to Thailand, where 25 people have been diagnosed with the disease, the most outside China.

Besides Hyundai and Kia, Ssangyong Motor, already troubled by severe losses, had to suspend production at its plant at Pyeongtaek, 40 miles southwest of Seoul. GM Korea, Korea’s third-largest motor-vehicle maker, and Renault Samsung Motors both said they were watching to see what to do next, though the latter said it could obtain wiring from its Japanese partners, Nissan and Mitsubishi, reported Yonhap.

The virus is also hitting Korea’s tourism industry. The government stopped granting visa-free entry to foreign travelers wishing to visit the highly popular tourist destination of Jeju, a scenic island province off Korea’s southern coast that’s connected directly by air to major Chinese cities; Chinese nationals accounted for almost all the foreign visitors to the island without visas last year. Lotte Duty Free and Shilla Duty Free, immense attractions for Chinese tourists, have both had to suspend operations on Jeju.

Just as devastating, Samsung Electronics has had to suspend its newly opened flagship store in Shanghai after rival Apple already closed most of its operations in China. Yonhap quoted a Samsung official as saying the store, which opened in October, had closed “for safety.”

Check out my website.

I have reported from Asia since covering the “Year of Living Dangerously” in Indonesia, 1965-66, and the war in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in the late 1960s-early 1970s for newspapers and magazines, including the Chicago Tribune and the old Washington (DC) Star. I also wrote two books from that period, “Wider War: the Struggle for Cambodia, Thailand and Laos” and “Tell it to the Dead.” In recent years I’ve reported from Korea for the Christian Science Monitor, International Herald Tribune, Forbes Asia, etc. while writing “Korean Dynasty: Hyundai and Chung Ju-yung,” “Korea Betrayed: Kim Dae-jung and Sunshine” and, in 2013, “Okinawa and Jeju: Bases of Discontent.” I’ve also reported a lot from Japan, the Philippines and Iraq and spent much of 2013 as a Fulbright-Nehru senior research scholar in India.

Source: Coronavirus Strikes Korea’s Motor-Vehicle Industry As Hyundai, Kia Begin Suspending Lines

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