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Coronavirus Panic Goes Global: S.Korea Warns Of “Watershed Moment” As Italy Confirms 3rd Death, Cancels Venice Carnival: Live Updates

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Summary:

  • Italy confirms 3rd death
  • 4 more cases confirmed in UK
  • 200 Israelis quarantined
  • Japan confirms more cases
  • Japanese Emperor expresses hope for Tokyo Games
  • Italy cancels last 2 days of carnivale in Venice as cases soar above 100
  • SK total cases above 600, rivals ‘Diamond Princess’ for biggest outbreak outside China
  • Trump says US has everything ‘under control’ as he asks Congress for more money
  • EU’s Gentiloni says he has ‘full confidence’ In Italian health officials
  • Turkey, Pakistan close borders with Iran as confirmed cases soar
  • Global Times says virus may not have originated at Hunan seafood market
  • Axios reports shortages of 150 essential drugs likely.

* * *

Update (1345ET): G-20 finance ministers and central bankers who met in Riyadh yesterday for the latest G-20 summit said their countries stand ready to take action if the outbreak drags on the global economy. At this point, a massive hit to global GDP is looking inevitable.

* * *

Update (1230ET): The number of new coronavirus cases in Japan has risen to 135, while 57 new ‘Diamond Princess’ cases have been confirmed days after hundreds were released from a two-week quarantine. As we mentioned earlier, a third passenger has also died, according to Japan’s NHK.

One of the cases, according to the Japan Times, is a woman who was reportedly let off the cruise ship as the quarantine ended. Of course, every expert in the world including the CDC warned Japan that this would happen since health officials didn’t seem to have m much of an after-care plan. Alas, here we are.

Three boys who have been confirmed to be infected with the virus are now Japan’s youngest cases. They include a preschooler in Saitama and two brothers in a Hokkaido elementary school. It’s the first time people under the age of 10 have caught the virus in Japan. While the younger boy had recently traveled to Wuhan with his father, authorities have no explanation for how the two brothers in Hokkaido became infected.

Emperor Naruhito cancelled a public event on Sunday, and also reportedly expressed some alarm about the virus and the Tokyo Olympics. Naruhito, who turned 60 on Sunday, ascended to the throne last spring after his father became the first Japanese emperor in 2 centuries to abdicate.

He said he was looking forward to this summer’s games, adding that the ’64 Tokyo games were a special memory in his childhood, Reuters reports.

“This new coronavirus is a concern. I would like to send my sympathies to those who are infected and their families,” he said.

“At the same time, my thoughts are with the efforts of those who are treating them and working hard to prevent the spread of the infection. I hope their efforts will bear fruit soon.”

Tokyo will host the Summer Olympics from July 24 for the second time, and Naruhito said the first Tokyo games, held in October 1964 when he was four years old, were one of the highlights of his childhood.

The Tokyo Olympics are the major barometer right now. If they get cancelled, then the world will know: This outbreak is out of control.

* * *

Update (1220ET): Let’s check in with one country that we neglected to mention earlier in today’s roundup of outbreak-related news.

Haaertz reports that 200 Israelis are under quarantine after nine Korean tourists tested positive for the virus following a return trip from Israel. Yesterday, Tel Aviv issued travel warnings for South Korea and Japan (they’ve also barred foreigners who’ve recently been to either country from entering Israel).

Those under quarantine include people who came into contact with the Koreans.

* * *

Update (1145ET): Italian authorities have confirmed a third coronavirus-linked death in northern Italy. Officials confirmed that 50,000 remain under lockdown across 12 villages in the north.

As a reminder, Italy’s first cases surfaced in early February, when a Chinese couple on vacation in Rome fell ill. Now, priests celebrating mass on Sunday across Italy have been ordered by the bishops to make a few changes to procedure, for safety’s sake.

Bishops in several dioceses in northern Italy issued directives that holy water fonts be kept empty, that communion wafers be placed in the hands of the faithful and not directly into their mouths by priests celebrating Mass and that congregants refrain from shaking hands or exchanging kisses during the symbolic Sign of the Peace ritual.

* * *

Update (1130ET): The BBC reports that four of the 32 British passengers aboard the ‘Diamond Princess’ cruise ship that have been taken to the quarantine at Arrowe Park have tested positive for the virus, the UK’s Chief Medical Officer said.

This brings the UK’s total case number to 13.

* * *

Bernie Sanders has won the Nevada caucus, and coronavirus outbreaks are taking root in a handful of countries outside China, threatening a genuine pandemic and threatening to pop the market’s dismissive bubble by proving unequivocally that this is not ‘just another flu’.

We’re starting our Sunday roundup with South Korea which, along with Italy and Japan, is one of a handful of countries outside China that is genuinely in crisis. On Sunday, the South Korean government raised the national threat level to “red alert”, its highest threat level (like, North Korean troops on the move to Seoul-level) after 169 new cases were confirmed on Sunday, raising the national toll total to 602.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in warned on Sunday that the outbreak had reached a “critical watershed” moment, and that “the next few days will be a very important critical moment.” He then asked health authorities to take “unprecedented, powerful” steps to contain the virus – and it appears they’re already starting to do just that, as the FT reports.

As one can see from this chart, the bulk of new cases confirmed over the weekend have been in the ex-China, ex-Diamond Princess category:

The Italian government is taking similar steps after confirming 133 cases, up from just three less than 72 hours ago. In that time, Italy has become host to the largest coronavirus outbreak outside Asia.

As Rome scrambles to contain the outbreak, authorities on Sunday banned all public gatherings, including Venice’s famed carnival celebrations that honor the beginning of Lent. The last two days of the carnival have been cancelled as fashion week in Milan was also cancelled, forcing the cancellation of the famed Giorgio Armani show, which had been scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

Carnivale drew tens of thousands of revelers to the region which unfortunately is home to one of several clusters of outbreaks in Northern Italy.

While Italy’s impoverished south has so far done little to prepare for the outbreak, in the north, museums, schools, universities and other public venues will be closed in Venice, as well as the rest of the Veneto region, through March 1.

According to ABC, three patients in Venice have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, all of them in their late 80s and who are hospitalized in critical condition.

Most of Italy’s cases are clustered in the north, where the most extreme lockdowns are being implemented. 25 cases have been isolated in Veneto, and the rest in Lombardy, with authorities still unable to track down the source of the virus. The first case was discovered last week when an Italian man in Codogno in his late 30s became seriously ill.

In Turin, the biggest and most economically vital city of the Piedmont region, three cases have now been diagnosed, and a family of three are being tested, according to authorities.

“The health officials haven’t been yet able to pinpoint Patient Zero,”Angelo Borrelli, head of the national Civil Protection agency, told reporters in Rome.

Initially, authorities believed this man was infected by an Italian friend with whom he had recently dined, and who also had just returned from Shanghai.  When the friend tested negative for the virus, attention turned to several Chinese who live in town and who frequent the same restaurant. Regional Gov. Attilio Fontana said they tested negative, too.

And they’re still not sure if he’s ‘patient zero’.

Across Italy, millions of Italians are preparing to be on lockdown for weeks, as many are hoarding essential supplies.

If legitimate, some signs of panic buying in Milan’s supermarkets. And new travel attire too! #COVID19italia https://t.co/Kh1uZqi5lG

— News from Italy (@newsfromitaly) February 23, 2020

With 90 confirmed cases in Lombardy, the region has closed schools and universities, sporting events, other public events – and even catholic mass.

More bad news out of Hubei followed on Sunday, as Wuhan’s Union Jiangbei Hospital confirmed the death of a 29-year-old doctor.  That’s the second death of a young doctor in Hubei in a matter of days (another doctor died late last week). Their deaths have stirred up memories of Dr. Li, a martyr of the virus and symbol of Beijing’s missteps.

As we noted last night, Hubei reported ~600 new cases on Saturday but nobody really believes the Chinese numbers anymore.

As Beijing tries to convince the world and its population that everything is under control, European Commission finance chief Paolo Gentiloni said the EU recently delivered 25 tonnes of protective equipment to China to help it contain the outbreak.

Looking inward, Gentiloni warned there is “no need to panic” about the outbreak in Italy, even though 2 people have died and more than 100 have been confirmed to be infected. “The EU has full confidence in the Italian authorities and the decisions they are taking,” he said.

“We share concern for possible contagion, but there is no need to panic.”

We suspect he will soon eat those words.

As the Trump administration confronts the unavoidable reality that it badly miscalculated by bringing those 14 sick passengers on the evacuation flight with ~300 seemingly healthy Americans from the Diamond Princess, Japanese officials confirmed on Sunday the third death among the ~2,600 passengers who traveled on the ship (along with another 1,000 crew).

The ‘Diamond Princes’ remains the largest outbreak outside mainland China – but South Korea has probably already surpassed it, health authorities just haven’t been able to test sick patients fast enough.

Meanwhile, President Trump assured the public that the virus is “under control” in the US just as he reportedly asked Congress to authorize federal funds to combat the virus as the CDC warns only three states are truly prepared. This after 25 Senate Dems sent him a letter demanding that he act – a superficial political ploy – some are worried that the $1 billion Trump is asking for is ‘too small’. Seems to us that it makes sense to start small, then increase the ask as the situation evolves.

Elsewhere in the US, reports on Sunday claimed 325 People in Michigan were being monitored, all of whom had recently been to mainland China, according to local health authorities.

Nearly all of South Korea’s coronavirus cases have been linked to two clusters at a church in southern city of Daegu and a nearby hospital in Cheongdo County – though cases have popped up seemingly without explanation, a phenomenon that is unnerving health officials around the world (Japan has faced a similar problem).

Yonhap reports scenes familiar to those who watched Wuhan’s initial virus response: Exhausted health-care workers sleeping on benches outside hospitals.

The South Korean government has declared ‘special management zones’ in both areas – a kind of voluntary lockdown order. From what observers can tell, it seems to be working, because Daegu’s streets are abandoned, according to seemingly every report.

As the public searches for somebody to blame for the outbreak, the public fury appears to be pointed at the cult-like church where a ‘super-spreader member who thought she just had a bad cold infected dozens of others, kicking of the outbreak in earnest.

Rumors and reports are circulating claiming the church isn’t cooperating with the South Korean government.

Shincheonji cult is the epicenter of the breakout in Korea. The church is not cooperating and is not giving the list of members who were in Daegu.

9,336 members were tested and 1,261 see suspected if carrying the virus. This cult needs to be shutdown.https://t.co/urr2aRdcYK

— DJ Jino (@jinoreacts) February 23, 2020

But nowhere outside of Hubei is the outbreak worse than in Iran. The country’s utter lack of health-care resources combined with a bitter and oppressive regime already struggling with an US-manufactured economic crisis and a leadership that just accidentally killed ~200 innocent people, including dozens of students, has left it completely vulnerable.

Alarmed by their neighbors’ outbreak, Turkey and Pakistan have closed their borders with Iran in an effort to stop the spread.

In just a matter of days, the death toll in Iran has climbed to 8 on Sunday. Assuming a mortality rate of 2%, that would imply Iran had ~400 cases one month ago when these patients were likely infected. That means there could be thousands of cases roaming around the country already. The biggest clusters so far have been reported in Qoms and in Tehran, the capital. In response, all schools in Tehran have been shuttered until further notice, and the government is telling citizens to avoid any gatherings or leaving their homes at all, if possible.

As medical workers literally throw everything they have at the virus, using AIDS drugs that have been found to be effective as well as therapies that work on flu patients, Axios reports that the global outbreak could soon cause shortages of 150 prescription drugs.

Before we go, we’d like to point out one interesting piece that we found in the Global Times – literally the most unlikeliest of places. As Beijing begins to push a narrative blaming the US for the outbreak (we know, we know), Chinese propaganda is already sowing the seeds of doubt. The virus didn’t originate in the Hunan seafood market where an illegal wildlife trade helped it pass from bats or snakes to humans. No, it was ‘introduced’ to workers at the market via human-to-human transmission via an unknown third party.

This according to Chinese “researchers”.

So much for Mike Bloomberg’s insistence that nothing can stop the inexorable march of globalization.

In 2016 when we started the populist revolution against globalism many people didn’t even know what that actually meant

China is now unintentionally revealing the dirty truth of globalism to a massive audience

— Jack Posobiec ?? (@JackPosobiec) February 23, 2020

We’ll see about that.