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Confirmed COVID-19 Cases Double Overnight In South Korea To 204; China Reveals Alarming Prison Outbreak, 500+ Already Infected

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Summary:

  • South Korea reported 142 new cases, up 70% in one day, to 346; The country also reported its second death.
  • China reported 397 new cases, bringing the total cases to 76,288, and an additional 109 new deaths or 2,345 in total.
  • Italy reports 1st virus death, 15 additional cases, 10 cities on lockdown
  • 34 cases in USA.
  • China pledges to build 19 new hospitals in Wuhan
  • Hawaii hasn’t tested any suspected cases in the state
  • 253 more passengers depart the diamond princess as 11 of 13 American evacuees in Nebraska test positive
  • Local authorities in China warn people will be punished for not returning to work if ordered
  • WHO’s Tedros: Window for confronting virus rapidly closing
  • CDC says virus tremendous health threat, warns more human to human transmission of the virus in the US likely
  • First case declared in Lebanon
  • Iran confirms 9 more cases as virus reaches Tehran
  • South Korea reported massive jump in cases on Friday as total climbed to 204
  • Global Times insinuates that US might be covering up coronavirus cases
  • Health officials in Hubei ‘apologize’ for changing case confirmation ‘criteria’

*  *  *

Update (2020ET): Earlier today, when describing the ludicrous lengths to which China has gone to mask the severity of the Coronavirus pandemic, after five definition changes of what a Coronavirus infection means, and which saw another major jump in the last two days’ cases after Hubei admitted it hadn’t tracked the recently unveiled prison cases, we said that there was a certain irony to China’s data massaging, namely that the more China manipulates the data, the less anyone will believe a positive outcome for the epidemic as a result of lower cases and will instead claim that this is just the result of Chinese propaganda: “It points to a rather concerning confusion over how best to officially report the number of cases, leading to a loss of confidence in the true numbers,” Oanda analyst Jeffrey Halley told Bloomberg. “That could mean that internationally, the rest of the world keeps China in lockdown for longer, which will not be good for the ‘V-shaped recovery’ projections.”

We then said that as China scrambles to goal seek its propaganda number, the world’s attention has shifted to what has emerged as the second coronavirus hotspot, South Korea, where the number of cases is certainly not doctored, pardon the bad pun, and where there is a truly exponential increase in new cases, which are now doubling with every passing day in a terrible, if accurate, representation of what indeed happens when there is a viral epidemic.

Late on Friday we got painfully clear example of just this when China reported that on Feb 21, there were just 397 new Coronavirus cases bringing the total to 76,288, a plunge of more than 50% from the previous day’s adjusted increase of 889 and a number which is now completely meaningless in light of what has become a daily adjustment by China. Meanwhile, the number of deaths, which China has so far failed to revise (but will surely try before this is all over), rose by 109 to 2345, and with the number of cases barely rising, it also means that the mortality rate his now hit a new lifetime high of 3.0%. Which also means that China has to pick: keep fabricating the number of cases while the real deaths keep rising and the mortality rate creep ever higher, or change the definition of death.

So if Chinese data is now meaningless (and the only thing that matters is if and when its economy will come back on line), there is South Korea, and it is here that things have turned south quick. Or rather north if one follows the latest number of cases, because one day after total South Korean cases doubled (having doubled the day before that, and again the day prior), on Saturday South Korea reported that there was another stunning increase in the total number of cases which rose by 142 in one day, a 70% increase from the prior day, to a new high of 346; Putting this stunning increase in context, China, which officially has over 76,000 cases, had just 397 cases, while South Korea with just 204 cases, had an increase of 142, or about a third of all of China’s new cases!

South Korea also reported its second coronavirus linked death.

With the number of people in South Korea being tested for coronavirus surging to 5,481, up from 3,180 last night, it is virtually certain that this exponential increase in new confirmed cases will last for quite a while, perhaps even longer than China’s, unless of course, South Korea learns from Beijing just how to change the “definition” of cases and fast.

Thanks to South Korea, the number of cases in the top 7 countries outside China with the most cases, including Iran, and excluding the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship, is close to turning exponential as well.

h/t @jodigraphics15

And so, as at least one cluster of new coronavirus cases has emerged in South Korea, and many are waiting for a similar emergence in Japan where the fallout from the early breach of the Diamond Princess quarantine will hit the hardest in the coming days, more and more are finally asking: “can it still be contained?

If the answer is no, Rabobank’s “unthinkable” coronavirus scenario comes into play, which for those who may have missed it, is the following:

This scenario is very short. The virus spreads globally and also mutates, with its transmissibility increasing and its lethality  increasing too. The numbers infected would skyrocket, as would casualties. We could be looking at a global pandemic, and at scenarios more akin to dystopian Hollywood films than the realms of economic analysis. Let’s all pray it does not come to pass and just remains a very fat tail risk.

* * *

Update (1735ET)Italy’s Corriere has just reported the first death from Covid-19 – a 77 year old man in Padua, Veneto region.

Authorities in northern Italy on Friday ordered the closure of schools, bars and other public spaces in 10 towns following a flurry of new coronavirus cases.

After 5 doctors and 10 other people tested positive for the virus in Lombardy,  IBTimes reports that over 50,000 people have been asked to stay at home while all public activities such as carnival celebrations, church masses and sporting events have been banned for up to a week.

In a desperate attempt to reassure a public beginning to panic, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said “everything is under control”, and stressed the government was maintaining “an extremely high level of precaution”.

In Casalpusterlengo, a large electronic message board outside the town hall read:

“Coronavirus: the population is invited to remain indoors as a precaution”.

More polite than the full martial law forced upon the people of Wuhan for sure.

*  *  *

Update (1645ET): Earlier this week, we reported that a Japanese man who had recently visited the US state of Hawaii, a popular destination among Chinese and Japanese tourists.

Since then, things have been oddly quiet. For those who have been hoping that this is because authorities found no evidence that the patient was infected in Hawaii or spread the virus to anyone else he came into contact with, well, we’re sorry to disappoint you.

Because journalists with the Star Advertiser discovered that the reason that officials haven’t had any news is because nobody has been tested.

And nobody has been tested, because the state doesn’t have any kits.

This report hit before today’s CDC press conference, where the agency once again noted the shortage of tests, and the lack of preparedness among most US states (only three: Cali, Texas and Illinois are sufficiently prepared they said). Until this changes, the CDC said it will centralize ‘surge’ testing at the CDC.

More likely than not, this means there’s probably a huuuuuge backlog of cases from around the country waiting to be tested.

The surge in cases reported earlier today was due to new cases from the Diamond Princess. Perhaps the next round of infections might involve human-to-human transmission in the US.

* * *

Update (1615ET): As the week draws to a close, we’d like to share a video with readers that we found particularly helpful while trying to put the outbreak in context:

Additionally, we’d like to add a little levity for readers who have grown weary of all the videos depicting terrifying scenes on mainland China, we saw this report in the People’s Daily.

Apparently, the only thing a cruise ship is good for right now is transporting doctors to coronavirus hot spots.

*  *  *

Update (1455ET)The New York Times is reporting that at least 34 people in the United States are infected with the new coronavirus spreading from China, federal health officials said on Friday.

These include 21 cases among repatriated individuals, as well as 13 US cases.

This is a dramatic increase from the last reported case count of 16, and Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said at a news briefing, more infections are expected.

“This new virus represents a tremendous public health threat,” Dr. Messonnier said.

*  *  *

Update (1315ET): The scapegoating continues.

The Epoch Times reports that 8 CCP leaders were removed from their positions following the discovery of 207 cases of the virus inside Rencheng Prison in Shandong, one of three provinces where prison cases have been detected.

Just the latest reminder that officials can only hide things for so long with the coronavirus. Any lies or dissembling will be exposed by the onslaught of COVID-19.

* * *

Update (1240ET): As we mentioned below, the CDC had some pretty chilling words for the American public during a press conference on Friday. During the 12:15pm ET update, the organization warned that it had centralized ‘surge’ virus response due to a lack of testing kits and the fact that every state but three is unprepared for the epidemic.

During the press conference, the CDC described the virus as a “tremendous public healht threat” and warned that human to human transmission in the US is “very possible, even likely.”

The announcement comes after the Washington Post reported last night that the CDC opposed the State Department’s decision to bring the 14 Americans confirmed to have been infected with the virus aboard the ‘Diamond Princess’ back to the US with the other ~300 evacuees – thereby breaking the quarantine and risking a broader outbreak, and exposing many of the passengers on the flight who hadn’t been infected to the virus.

The CDC was so mad, it reportedly asked for its name to be removed from a press release about the evacuation.

We also noted at the time that the decision to break the quarantine and bring the 14 infected persons back seemed idiotic.

So far, it’s looking like that’s exactly what’s happening: As we noted earlier, 11 of 13 people quarantined in Nebraska have now tested positive.

Just imagine what happens if it hits Omaha, or Chicago. Or New York (which has already had a few scares):

Earlier, WHO Director General Dr. Tedros warned that the “window is narrowing” to suppress the virus before it’s too late. That’s in contrast to the language he used during the press conference late last month where the organization finally declared the virus a global pandemic. At the time, he assured the public that the number of cases was still small. “Even now there’s a window of opportunity,” he said.”

Soon, it’ll be a missed opportunity.

Update (1230ET): Remember those two hospitals that China slapped together in Wuhan that some have compared to prisons, and which have reportedly been rife with problems?

Well, now China is planning to build another 19 makeshift hospitals to quarantine more infected patients in Wuhan.

So far, the city of 11 million has converted 13 existing venues into hospitals, with a total of 13,348 beds. The 19 new hospitals would create 30,000 beds, according to China’s Global Times.

In other news, minutes ago, two more coronavirus cases were confirmed in northern Italian region of Lombardy, bringing the country’s total announced on Friday to 16. Italy now has some 19 cases.

It’s unclear whether the patients were infected in Italy, or abroad. Some 250 others are in isolation awaiting testing results. Most of the cases have been found in northern Italy.

In the US, the CDC has warned that only three states, California, Nevada and Illinois, have the testing capacity needed to confront a coronavirus outbreak. Until more become available, the CDC will be handling any necessary ‘surge testing’. They added that future human to human transmission in the US is possible, even ‘likely’ (which is why the US probably should have left those ‘DP’ passengers in Japan).

Meanwhile, here’s what we’re looking at so far for cases ex-China in Asia.

* * *

Update (1215ET): It looks like Beijing is adopting a new media strategy: Imply that the US is concealing a massive outbreak.

The US is actually using some pretty scary surveillance tech to screen flu patients who seek treatment in American hospitals to root out any possible coronavirus cases that might have slipped through.

* * *

Update (1140ET): Japanese health officials and Carnival Japan announced that 253 more individuals – a mix of passengers and crew, presumably – who tested negative for the virus have disembarked from the ‘Diamond Princess’ on Friday.

It looks like the company has extended the de-boarding process by a day, as there are still some passengers on the ship who won’t leave until tomorrow.

Health experts and local officials (probably all the way up to PM Shinzo Abe) have been fretting about the possibility of an outbreak in Japan, especially with the Tokyo Olympics this summer.

You can’t just cancel the Olympics like you can cancel the Tokyo Marathon.

This comes after US media reported earlier on Friday that 11 of the 13 ‘Diamond Princess’ evacuees taken to the University of Nebraska Medical Center ended up testing positive for the virus, which means more individuals must’ve caught it either just before departing, or in transit, as 14 individuals who tested positive at the last minute were allowed aboard the flight that some say broke the quarantine.

University of Nebraska Medical Center representative Taylor Wilson said 10 of them are currently in isolation in the facility’s National Quarantine Unit, while three others are in the biocontainment unit, according to USA Today.

Earlier this week, before they tested positive, Dr. Mike Wadman, the co-medical director of the National Quarantine Unit, said that all 13 would spend at least 2 weeks quarantined in Omaha.

By that time, one male patient had already been transferred to the hospital’s biocontainment unit because of severe symptoms including cough, fever and shortness of breath. At the time, officials said some of the evacuees were exhibiting ‘minor symptoms’.

As of last night, there were 634 confirmed cases of the virus stemming from the ‘DP’, while 2 Japanese passengers passed away in Japan.

* * *

Update (1130ET): Epidemiologist had already warned that patients could be reinfected with the virus. But the Epoch Times’ Jennifer Zeng is sharing a report about a patient in Sichuan (notably one of the provinces visited by WHO experts) who was reinfected with the virus after recovering.

UPI reported earlier that everal patients in China who were discharged from hospitals after making a full recovery have been reinfected, citing reports in the People’s Daily on Friday.

One patient in Chengdu was discharged from a local hospital and was quarantined for 14 days at home, but somehow became reinfected. And doctors quoted in the story said her case isn’t unique.

It’s also possible to catch the flu twice in one season, but that is rare.

* * *

Update (1100ET): Epoch Times’ Jennifer Zeng is reporting that in parts of China, the government has signaled to workers that they will be “punished” if they don’t report back to work.

And for everyone who gets infected, don’t expect your employer to deal with it, Zeng adds. “if you get infected, it is not a work-related injury. You are on your own.”

That’s pretty chilling stuff, but as we pointed out yesterday, there’s an ongoing debate in parts of the country where case numbers aren’t as high (not that anybody trusts the government’s figures) about whether keeping the economy on lockdown might be doing more harm then good. And in order to prevent a repeat of what happened last time (when millions just simply didn’t show up), it’s upping the ante for citizens who don’t abide by the state’s command.

The New York Times is reporting that, for the first time since the outbreak began, Chinese health officials acknowledged on Friday that their constant changes to the ‘criteria’ for what constitutes a ‘confirmed case’ have sown confusion and mistrust.

As we have assiduously reported, officials in Hubei have revised their case tallies three times now because of these shifting definitions.

in the province hardest hit by the coronavirus acknowledged for the first time on Friday that their methods of confirming and reporting infection numbers had sown confusion and mistrust. They added that they would no longer subtract cases from the total. The message comes just hours after state media reported new breakouts in a handful of Chinese prisons.

Moving over to the WHO’s daily press conference from Switzerland, Director-General Dr. Tedros commented on the new cases and deaths reported in Iran, as well as Lebanon, which reported its first case this morning though hasn’t yet recorded a death.

Asked whether the situation is at a “tipping point,” Dr. Tedros replied that the “window of opportunity” for humanity to prevent an even more massive outbreak is rapidly closing.

“The window of opportunity is narrowing,” Dr. Tedros said, and humanity is running out of time to stop this virus before things get much, much worse.

You know, just some reassuring words to kick off the weekend with a little levity.

We’re starting to suspect that Dr. Tedros may have recently purchased some out-of-the-money S&P puts.

Seemingly responding to the growing number of ‘armchair cranks’ and ‘conspiracy theorists’ questioning why a WHO team of experts – a team that includes two Americans – hasn’t yet traveled to Wuhan, Dr. Tedros added that the team is planning to travel to the epicenter of the outbreak on Saturday.

So far, the team has traveled to Beijing, Sichuan and Guangdong provinces.

* * *

Update (1000ET): Check this out.

The NYT has published an interesting interactive illustrating the huge drop in flights departing from China to the US and other major economies.

The disappearance of tens of thousands of flights leaving China shows “how the coronavirus has hobbled a nation,” the NYT said.

Jan. 23:

Feb. 13:

Put another way:

As the NYT reports, Oxford Economics said in a recent report that the outbreak could wipe $1.1 trillion from global output, which kind of undercuts Larry Kudlow’s stammering on CNBC about this not being a ‘US story’: It’s difficult to imagine a scenario where the US economy would walk away unaffected by this.

See it here.

In other news, Beijing continues to push the ‘everything’s fine; we’re winning’ narrative.

* * *

Update (0725ET): Lebanon has confirmed its first case of COVID-9.

The tiny Levantine state, which has swollen with refugees from nearby Syria in recent years, is in the middle of an economic crisis, and its government is presently weighing whether to default on an upcoming loan payment, which could lead to deeply unpopular austerity measures, as Al Jazeera reports.

Earlier, Israel’s Health Ministry confirmed that an Israeli citizen contracted the virus while aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship (1 of 11 Israeli passengers). She is currently under supervision and isolation in Israel. All 11 were flown out of Japan and sent directly Friday into isolation at Sheba Tel Hashomer Hospital, where they will remain during a 2-week quarantine period. Earlier this week, Israel’s government announced a temporary travel ban on all foreign nationals who had traveled to Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macao during the past 2 weeks.

Following reports yesterday that two Beijing hospitals had been put under quarantine amid fears of a wider outbreak, WaPo reported that one district in Beijing has been found to have an “infection density” second only to Wuhan on mainland China. This has served to further intensify concerns about what might happen when millions of Chinese return to work next week.

* * *

When historians look back at the COVID-19 outbreak, they’ll remember this week as an important turning point in the crisis, when international public-health experts and investors started to focus their attention on South Korea, Japan and other countries in the region that have seen the number of new cases accelerate markedly in recent days.

Put another way, evidence that the virus is spreading more rapidly within other Asian countries outside mainland China has become impossible to ignore, which is probably why US futures are pointing to a lower open for a second straight day.

As Bloomberg reminds us, South Korea has seen its total cases soar past 200 as the number of infections doubled in 24 hours.

Meanwhile, cases in Singapore and Japan have topped 85, and let’s not forget the 600+ from the ‘Diamond Princess’ who have been excluded from the ‘Japan’ total.

At least as far as deaths are concerned, the numbers outside of China remain small: out of 2,247 deaths, only 13 have occurred in other regions (this includes 2 more deaths in Iran announced just minutes ago).

But there’s no getting around it: the spread of the virus will undoubtedly worsen the economic blowback, as one economist explained to BBG.

“The sudden jump in infections in other parts of Asia, notably in Japan and South Korea, has sparked renewed concerns,” said Khoon Goh, Singapore-based head of Asia research at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. “This points to a new phase in the outbreak, and one which will see continued disruption and more economic impact than previously thought.”

Last night, we reported on the latest case numbers out of South Korea, and more have already been recorded. The current total is 204. Earlier this month, the WHO said China’s approach to tackling the virus should be a “model” for other governments facing similar outbreaks. At the time, experts criticized the organization for appearing to parrot Chinese propaganda. But it looks like they might have been on to something. Because as we reported late last night, the Blue House has ordered a ‘special management zones’ in the cities of Daegu and Cheongdo, or what appears to be a kind of ‘soft’ quarantine. The government said that since they’ve failed to prevent an outbreak, they’re pivoting decidedly to a strategy of containment.

Just a few hours ago, Chinese state media reported that 500 cases – roughly half of the new cases reported in China on Friday – involved prisoners at a handful of jails across the country, according to the Washington Post.

Infections have been confirmed at five prisons in Shandong, Hubei and Zhejiang, according to China’s Ministry of Justice. A prison in eastern Shandong province showed 207 out of 2,077 inmates and staff were infected, and the provincial justice department’s Communist Party secretary was dismissed as a result, the province announced. Another jail in Zhejiang province found 34 cases. Hubei province, at the center of the outbreak, said Friday it found 220 new cases inside penitentiaries.

According to the Washington Post, the prison outbreaks underscore the virus’s easy transmissibility in confined spaces.

Even the Global Times acknowledged that the prison outbreaks have “weakened” Beijing’s claims that the virus is receding…

…Even as local officials adopt ever-more bizarre and draconian restrictions on individual movement.

Tests at a prison in eastern Shandong province showed 207 out of 2,077 inmates and staff were infected, and the provincial justice department’s Communist Party secretary was dismissed as a result, the province announced. Another jail in Zhejiang province found 34 cases. Hubei province, at the center of the outbreak, said Friday it found 220 new cases inside penitentiaries.

The prison outbreaks underscored the SARS-CoV-2 virus’s high transmissibility in confined spaces after the disease ravaged the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan.

While overall numbers remain low, thousands who fear they may have come into contact with a ‘super-spreader’ in Daegu, a city of 2.5 million about 2 hours south of Seoul. The woman, who believed she was suffering from a simple cold because she had not traveled abroad, reportedly attended four church services at a “cult-like” church with 1,100 members in the city, as well as branches in other cities, including Seoul, where the mayor has ordered the local church closed until further notice.

Communist Party leaders made yet another public misstep overnight when health officials said they would once again change their ‘criteria’ for what constitutes a ‘confirmed’ case of COVID-19 back to the more inclusive and accurate definition. Officials said they decided on the switch because they couldn’t subtract already confirmed cases from the total, which sounds…almost plausible.

On CNBC Friday morning, Eunice Yoon, the network’s reporter on the ground in Beijing, interviewed the owner of a Beijing restaurant discussing his fears about going out of business. But as China slouches back to work, millions are worried that Beijing might sacrifice the public welfare to get a few factories up and running.

Looks like the cat’s out of the bag: North Korea has cancelled the Pyongyang Marathon, the country’s largest tourism money-maker, because of COVID-19, according to the operators of several tour companies who spoke with AFP.

Beijing-based Koryo Tours, the official partner of the marathon, said on its website it had “received official confirmation today that the Pyongyang Marathon 2020 is cancelled”.

“This is due to the ongoing closure of the North Korean border and COVID-19 virus situation in China and the greater region,” it added.

North Korean officials have vehemently denied reports that the virus had crossed the Yalu River, evening becoming enraged at the US in response to an offer of assistance from the State Department. Recently, a WHO official said there are “no indications” that the virus has arrived in North Korea, but considering that we’re talking about North Korea, that’s hardly surprising.

As the lockdowns in Beijing, Tianjin and other cities intensified over the last week, more Chinese were subjected to displays like this:

On Friday, Japanese health officials and Carnival Japan will release the last batch of passengers and crew from their 14-day quarantine aboard the ‘Diamond Princess’ despite criticisms from the CDC that Japanese officials had failed to maintain the quarantine. Right now, infectious disease experts see Japan as one of the riskiest places outside China, according to BBG. Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said on Sunday that Japan had lost track of the route of some of the infection cases, which have tripled in the past week to more than 90.

Iran just confirmed 13 more cases and 2 new deaths, mostly in Qoms, the same city where some earlier cases had been detected, while also reporting that the virus has reached Tehran, according to Reuters. So far, seven Iranians have been diagnosed in Qom, four in Tehran and two in Gilan, according to a tweet from the Iranian health ministry. Iranian officials have acknowledged the possibility that the virus might have arrived in every major Iranian city.

Even in Korea, health officials say they their investigators can’t figure out how some of the outbreaks started. That’s not exactly reassuring.

Right now, the focus is on South Korea. Last week, it briefly shifted to the UK before moving on to Japan. Italy just reported another three cases, doubling its count from 3 to six. Will they be next? Maybe Africa?

via zerohedge

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