118 more China deaths, South Korea cases spike

118 more China deaths, South Korea cases spike

A medical staff takes temperature of a patient at a temporary hospital converted from “Wuhan Livingroom” in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei Province, Feb. 10, 2020.

Xiong Qi | Xinhua | Getty Images

This is a live blog. Please check back for updates.

All times below are in Beijing time.

2:20 pm: Retail sales of passenger vehicles in China plunge

Sales of China’s passenger vehicles tumbled 92% in the first 16 days of February, as compared to the same period last year, data from the China Passenger Car Association showed, according to Reuters.

“Very few dealerships opened in the first weeks of February and they have had very little customer traffic,” it said, according to Reuters. — Weizhen Tan

12:55 pm: Singapore still has financial buffer to help economy if needed, minister says

Singapore still has some financial buffer if more measures are needed to tide the economy through the current coronavirus outbreak, said Indranee Rajah, the country’s second minister for finance and education.

“What we’ve done is to prepare on the basis that it may go on for some months, and to make sure that we can stabilize and support businesses as well as our households during that period,” Rajah, who’s also a minister in the prime minister’s office, told CNBC on Friday.

“And we do still have some buffer in case any additional measures are needed,” she said.

The Singapore government has set aside 5.6 billion Singapore dollars ($4.02 billion) in its latest budget to help businesses, workers and households weather the economic hit from the spread of the new coronavirus called COVID-19. — Lee

12:05 pm: China says foreign companies speeding up return to work

Overall, for foreign-invested enterprises in Shanghai, Shandong, Hunan and other areas, the rate of resumption of work has topped 80%, a representative for China’s Ministry of Commerce said Friday at a press conference, according to a CNBC translation of his Mandarin remarks.

For Guangdong, Jiangsu and other major foreign trade provinces, the resumption of work has been rapidly increasing, the ministry said, noting that key businesses in foreign trade in provinces such as Zhejiang and Shandong have a resumption of work rate of around 70%.

Guangdong was the top source of China’s exports by far in 2019, followed in order by Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Shanghai and Shandong, according to official data accessed through Wind Information.

By the end of the month, many places will have essentially have resumed work and production, the ministry said, without stating if it was referring just to foreign-invested enterprises. — Cheng

11:15 am: China’s commerce ministry expects growth rate of Jan/Feb trade data to fall sharply

China’s January/February growth rate of imports and exports are expected to fall sharply.

“It’s expected that the growth rate of imports and exports in January and February will fall sharply,” due to blockages in logistics, delays in the resumption of work and other factors such as the Lunar New Year, Li Xinggan, director of the department of foreign trade at the Ministry of Commerce, said Friday at a press conference, according to a CNBC translation of his Chinese remarks.

Analysts have said the economic fallout from the outbreak on China’s economy would be notable for at least one quarter, or more, if the spread of the disease is not meaningfully contained by March. Li added that preparation for the Canton Fair, a key event in Guangdong province for China’s international trade, is still progressing as scheduled. The fair is set to begin in mid-April.

China often groups January and February data together to account for Lunar New Year volatility. The country’s customs office abruptly announced earlier this month shortly before the scheduled release of trade data for January that it would be combined with February’s data. — Cheng

10:07 am: China virus response group calls for greater protection of medical staff

A national-level meeting of China’s leading virus response group on Thursday called for greater protection of medical staff.

A press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted that “unfortunate infections” in health care workers mostly occurred before Feb. 1 and in Hubei province, the epicenter of the coronavirus. “All-out efforts must be made to treat the infected medical workers and effective steps taken to forestall further cases in their ranks,” the English-language release said. — Cheng

9:20 am: China reports 118 additional deaths

China said another 118 people have died, with most of them in Hubei province. That brings the total number of deaths in the mainland to 2,236 people, the National Health Commission said.

There were 889 new confirmed cases as of Feb. 20, bringing the total confirmed cases to 75,465, the commission said. More than 2,000 people were also cured and discharged on the same day. — Roy Choudhury

9:13 am: China consumers may be ready to spend when outbreak subsides

One strategist told CNBC that bored Chinese consumers will be ready to splash some cash once they can get out of their homes after the outbreak subsides.

“I’m quite optimistic that with most of the consumer part of the economy, people who’ve been cooped up in their apartments for the last several weeks are going to be ready to spend when they get out,” said
Andy Rothman, investment strategist at Matthews Asia.

Many Chinese cities have turned into ghost towns as quarantines kick in and people stay away from crowds to reduce the risk of infection. “If there’s demand for goods — which there certainly seems to be — factories will be running full-time to try and up for lost time,” he said. – Huileng Tan

Thousands of couples attend a mass wedding held by the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, aka Unification Church despite the spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus also known as Wuhan Coronavirus on February 7, 2020 in Gapyeong-gun, South Korea.

Woohae Cho | Getty Images

9:11 am: South Korea reports 52 new cases, total exceeds 150

The Korea Centers for Disease Control & Prevention said another 52 people were infected, bringing the total cases in the country to 156. Most of the new cases came from the city of Daegu, and 33 of them were linked to a church. Seoul also reported three additional cases. South Korea now has one of the highest number of cases outside mainland China. (see update 7:05 am) — Roy Choudhury

8:22 am: 2 Australian passengers from quarantined cruise ship test positive

Two out of 164 Australians who were flown back from the Diamond Princess cruise ship — that had been quarantined in Japan since early February — have tested positive, said Australia’s chief medical officer, Professor Brendan Murphy.

The passengers were flown from Japan to a quarantine facility in Australia. None of them displayed any symptoms and did not test positive for the virus in Japan. After they were screened again in Australia, six of them began to display minor respiratory symptoms and fever, and two were subsequently confirmed. — Roy Choudhury

7:23 am: Hubei reports 115 new deaths, most of them in Wuhan

China’s Hubei province said there were 115 additional deaths as of Feb. 20, which brought the total number of fatalities in the region to 2,144.

The Hubei Provincial Health Committee reported there were 411 new cases on Feb. 20, bringing the cumulative number of infections to 62,422. For the second day in a row, the number of confirmed new cases dropped significantly lower than 1,000 cases.

It is unclear if the steep decline is linked to a change in diagnosis protocol. What was previously termed “clinically diagnosed,” or those confirmed through CT scans and symptoms, will now fall under the “suspected” category. They will no longer be counted as “confirmed” cases like they were in the previous diagnosis protocol.

The virus, first detected in Hubei capital Wuhan, has killed more than 2,000 people so far — about 10 people outside the mainland have died. — Roy Choudhury

Correction: This post has been updated to reflect that the number of new cases fell significantly below 1,000 in the last two days. It was originally misstated due to an editing error.

7:20 am: Amazon tells sellers it will take down listings for products that claim to kill coronavirus

Amazon is removing listings from its online marketplace that claim to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. The company notified third-party merchants this week that it was taking down listings claiming to be a treatment, cure or remedy for the coronavirus, according to an email obtained by CNBC.

Last week, CNBC reported that Amazon was one of several tech giants that met with the World Health Organization at Facebook’s Menlo Park, Calif. offices to discuss how to stop misinformation about the coronavirus on their platforms. Bad actors have attempted to make money off of fears around the coronavirus. On Amazon, sellers have offered books that stoke fears about the virus, while vitamin C products have increasingly surfaced because of false reports it can cure the coronavirus. — Palmer

7:05 am: South Korea’s confirmed cases balloon, with 22 additional ones reported

The total number of confirmed cases in South Korea is now 104 after 22 new patients were confirmed to have caught the infection, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. That makes South Korea one of the worst affected places outside mainland China, where more than 70,000 people have been infected sp far. Most of the new cases in South Korea were identified in the city of Daegu and the surrounding Gyeongbuk province. One person is also said to have died from the illness. — Roy Choudhury

All times below are in Eastern time.

4:21 pm: Facebook pulls out of Game Developers Conference

Facebook is pulling out of next month’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco due to on-going concerns with the coronavirus outbreak. “GDC is always a highlight of our gaming event lineup, however the health of our employees and the wider games community comes before anything else,” the company said in a blog post. “Due to the evolving health concerns surrounding COVID-19, Facebook’s AR/VR and Gaming teams will not be attending GDC this year.”

Facebook typically uses the Game Developers Conference each year to make announcements for its Oculus virtual reality division and its other endeavors in gaming. A company spokesman said Facebook will still make its planned announcements, but it will do so in a digital format. — Rodriguez

3:52 pm: S&P Global says Chinese banks could see bad loans double

Chinese banks may face increasing pressure from a rise in bad loans, according to a new report from S&P Global Ratings. The coronavirus epidemic could nearly double the number of questionable loans on the books of Chinese banks. The Chinese government has much of the country under lockdown to try to contain the outbreak, pressuring the finances of companies and consumers alike. Most of that economic impact will likely be felt in the first quarter of this year, the report said, with a recovery firmly in place by the third quarter.

Based on that slowdown, S&P Global estimates that the share of questionable loans could rise from 6.5% to 7.5% of all loans before the outbreak to a peak of about 10.5% to 11.5% in the aftermath of the epidemic. The rise in bad loans comes as Chinese bank regulators have been working to tighten accounting standards. S&P Global analysts said the coronavirus crisis will likely slow those reforms, as authorities focus instead on financial and social stability. — Schoen

Read CNBC’s coverage from the U.S. overnight: Global air travel set for first decline since 2009, FBI stocks up on hand sanitizer and masks

— CNBC’s Yen Nee Lee, Evelyn Cheng, Huileng Tan, Annie Palmer, Salvador Rodriguez and John Schoen contributed to this report.

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