World Newsletter

4 February 2020


Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, urged concrete efforts on Monday to race against time in combating the novel coronavirus and winning the battle of prevention and control of the contagion.

Xi made the remark while presiding over a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee in Beijing. It was the second such meeting in 10 days regarding the battle against the outbreak, with the number of cumulative confirmed cases on the Chinese mainland reaching 17,205, including 361 deaths as of Sunday.

Xi stressed that the epidemic prevention and control efforts directly matter to people's lives, health, overall socioeconomic stability and the country's opening-up drive. He said the key to the issue is to earnestly implement relevant measures and policies.

The epidemic's prevention and control is not only a matter of medical treatment, but involves all-around efforts, so all work should support fighting the virus, Xi said, urging local governments and Party committees at various levels to obey the command of the CPC Central Committee.

Xi warned that officials who fail to honestly implement decisions and policies made by the CPC Central Committee and shirk their responsibilities will be held accountable, and those who neglect their duties will be punished in accordance with Party discipline and the law.

He also commended the all-around efforts in the prevention and control of the contagion and expressed respect for medical workers fighting on the front line, saying the nation has launched a people's war against the epidemic.

Participants at the meeting stressed that further efforts should be focused on curbing the spread of the virus in Wuhan, Hubei province, and the province at large, so as to better contain the epidemic, according to a statement released after the meeting.

All-out efforts should be made to treat infected people, ensure adequate supply of protective materials and endeavor to raise the recovery rate and decrease the mortality rate, it said.

Participants stressed the importance of scientific research in identifying the sources of the novel coronavirus and its mode of transmission, and they called for efforts to research and develop effective drugs and vaccines.

Coordinated efforts are needed to allocate the resources of medical treatment and personal protective gear to the front line and priority should be given to medics and infected people, the statement said.

Market oversight should be intensified to eliminate and crack down on trading of wild animals to safeguard public health, it said.

The novel coronavirus outbreak may reach its peak in the next 10 to 14 days, Zhong Nanshan, a leading expert tackling the virus, said on Sunday, amending his previous prediction on Jan 28 that the epidemic would peak in seven or 10 days.

Zhong stressed the most effective preventive measures are still early detection and quarantine. "The outbreak is still at its growth phase, but we believe it won't lead to a massive nationwide epidemic, only regional ones if they occur."



The ongoing coronavirus outbreak will have temporary, limited economic effects, but it won't leave a permanent mark on the Chinese economy due to the country's strong economic fundamentals, according to the nation's top economic regulator.

"We are fully capable and confident of winning the battle against the epidemic caused by the novel coronavirus, and we have confidence in minimizing its impact on the economy," said Lian Weiliang, deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission.

The spread of the virus has sparked concerns among Chinese investors and sent China's A-share market tumbling on Monday, the first trading day after the extended Lunar New Year holiday.

The key Shanghai Composite Index slumped by 7.72 percent, or 229.92 points, to close at 2,746.61, the largest single-day point loss since 2016.

Despite the market plunge on Monday, a net total of nearly 18.2 billion yuan ($2.6 billion) in foreign capital flowed into the A-share market via stock connects between the mainland and Hong Kong bourses, the second-highest amount in history, pointing to global investors' confidence in the long-term prospects of the Chinese economy.

Xu Gao, chief economist at BOC International (China), said economic fallout from the outbreak should be short-lived as stringent control measures may help curb the epidemic's nationwide spread as early as this month.

"What concerns the market most is the uncertainty over future developments of the outbreak," Xu said. "Once there is a clear trend that the epidemic is being contained, the market should see a palpable recovery."

The epidemic may drag down year-on-year GDP growth for the first quarter by about 1 percentage point and cost full-year growth around 0.2 percentage point, contingent on effective policy measures to combat the epidemic, Xu added.

The People's Bank of China, the nation's central bank, injected 1.2 trillion yuan into the financial system on Monday and lowered interest rates for financial institutions to procure the funding by 0.1 percentage point. Analysts said the move signaled more monetary easing measures in the future to help the economy ride out the virus.

"To cope with the current situation, fiscal policies should focus on providing tax breaks and financial subsidies for sectors impacted by the coronavirus, and more efforts are needed to boost consumption and resume production," said Tang Jianwei, a senior economist at Bank of Communications in Shanghai.

"Economic growth in the first quarter is likely to get hurt since the outbreak coincides with the period surrounding the Spring Festival holiday," Tang said. "The coronavirus will hit tourism, lodging, catering, transportation and other related sectors hard. Sales of clothing, furniture, home appliances and cosmetics may also be affected to some extent. Despite the temporary impact on the Chinese economy, the outbreak won't affect the economy's mid-to-long-term fundamentals," Tang added.

Looking into 2020, major factors influencing the economy are domestic macroeconomic policies and the external environment of economic and trade relations with the United States, he said.



Huoshenshan Hospital, one of two hospitals in Wuhan being built to contain the novel coronavirus outbreak, started to treat patients infected on Tuesday morning.

The first group of 50 patients from three hospitals, including Wuchang Hospital and Hankou Hospital, has been transferred to the new hospital and the patients are currently under treatment.

Those patients were transported by negative pressure isolation ambulances starting from Monday evening, according to videos posted online.

Huoshenshan Hospital, which was built in 10 days, was delivered on Sunday in Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus outbreak in central China’s Hubei province.

The makeshift hospital now has a capacity of 1,000 beds.

A total of 1,400 medical staff from the armed forces have been tasked with treating patients in Huoshenshan Hospital starting from Monday.

Replicating Beijing’s SARS treatment model in 2003, Wuhan started building two makeshift hospitals: Leishenshan Hospital and Huoshenshan Hospital.



When fighting a new viral outbreak, scientists often spend months determining the microorganism's pathogenesis before developing a targeted drug or vaccine. But as the novel coronavirus rampages through China, time is of the essence and researchers around the world are joining forces to find a speedy cure.

While there is not yet an effective medication or vaccine for the virus, scientists from the United States, the United Kingdom, China and elsewhere are making substantial progress and many existing drugs are being tested in clinical trials for potency against the novel coronavirus.

The World Laureates Association Shanghai Center said it has gathered an all-star team of experts, including Nobel laureates in chemistry Roger Kornberg and Michael Levitt, noted antibody expert Richard Lerner and biologist Raymond Dewk, to help investigate the virus and propose new solutions.

"They're willing to actively exert international scientific talent to support China in combating the epidemic," the center said in a statement on Monday.

There are two typical ways of treating a viral infection. One is using small-molecule drugs that can stop the virus from replicating by interfering with its proteins. The other way is to use antibodies that bind to the virus and cause it to self-destruct, according to the World Health Organization.

Zhong Nanshan, one of the leading experts tackling the outbreak in China, told Xinhua News Agency on Sunday that there are at least seven existing small-molecule drugs going through various stages of clinical trials in China.

On Sunday, Beijing's China-Japan Friendship Hospital announced it will begin clinical trials on 270 mildly and moderately ill patients infected with the novel coronavirus in the epicenter of the outbreak in Central China using an experimental drug from the US called remdesivir, which was originally developed as an Ebola cure.

China's Center for Drug Evaluation of the National Medical Products Administration approved the trials on Sunday to be carried out in Wuhan, Hubei province, from Monday to April 27, its official website said.

The drug is developed by US biotech company Gilead Sciences. It was provided on compassionate grounds to a 35-year-old man in the US infected with the novel coronavirus, and his symptoms noticeably improved within a day with no obvious side effects, according to a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week.

The US drugmaker said in an online statement last week that it is working closely with health authorities in China and around the world to respond to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

However, it stressed that remdesivir has "not yet been licensed or approved anywhere globally and has not been demonstrated to be safe or effective".



The Chinese government's move to inject liquidity into financial markets amid an outbreak of coronavirus was applauded and supported by international financial agencies around the world.

The World Bank tweeted on Monday, "The Chinese authorities have policy space to respond & have announced a sizeable injection of liquidity, which should help mitigate the costs of economic growth."

In a statement on Twitter on Monday, Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said: "We support China's efforts to respond, including recent fiscal, monetary, and financial actions. We are confident that China's economy remains resilient."

China's central bank announced it would inject 1.2 trillion yuan ($174 billion) worth of liquidity into the markets on Monday to ensure economic stabilization.



The construction of three mobile cabin hospitals in Wuhan, Hubei province has picked up steam on Monday night as part of the efforts to contain and treat patients suspected of contracting the novel coronavirus.

The city will make use of the city's sports stadium and two convention centers and renovate them into three mobile hospitals to offer a total of 3,400 beds to treat novel coronavirus infected patients with mild symptoms.

Ma Guoqiang, Party chief of Wuhan, said at a video conference on Monday night that local authorities should make every effort to transform the city's exhibition venues into cabin hospitals to increase isolation space and designated hospital beds.

Medical staff will be dispatched to the three hospitals to take care of patients who test positive for the virus — but show no severe symptoms — as soon as they are completed. Once a patient's symptoms worsen, he or she will be transferred to Jinyintan Hospital, one of the city's designated hospitals to admit patients infected with the new virus, in a timely manner.

With the rapid building underway, the hospital in Wuhan Parlor convention center, with a capacity of 2,000 patients will be the first to become operational on Tuesday night.



The governor of Hubei province urged local authorities to have all samples of the novel coronavirus tested within two days.

The procedures for sending samples must be streamlined to ensure speedy diagnosis, and third party centers will play a more important role. Those that cannot diagnose remaining samples within two days will be held accountable, Hubei Daily quoted Governor Wang Xiaodong as saying during a meeting on Sunday.

Delays in diagnoses in Hubeithe epicenter of the outbreakhave become a key obstacle in controlling the epidemic, Liu Ziying, director of the Health Commission of Hubei province, said during a news conference held in the provincial capital of Wuhan on Thursday.

There are 89 places in Hubei that can diagnose samples, including provincial and city level disease control and prevention centers as well as 41 hospitals and third party diagnosis centers, she added. "Their maximum capacity is 6,000 diagnoses a day."

Meanwhile, biopharmaceutical companies around China have been working around the clock to produce testing kits.

"The production of the diagnostic kits can basically meet the demand while the manufacturers continue to increase production capacity that is about 60 to 70 percent currently due to the Spring Festival holiday," said Tian Yulong, chief engineer of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

There are mainly two types of diagnostic kits that are being developed and used for the novel coronavirus: one that directly tests for the antibody that human bodies produce to fight the virus; and the other that tests for the nucleic acid of the virus, which is more accurate, but extracting the nucleic acid from blood samples is relatively time consuming.

Two diagnostic kits for the antibody of the novel coronavirus jointly developed by the Wuhan Institute of Virology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and a biopharmaceutical company are in production and soon will be released to the market, Wang Wei, a leading official of the Hubei Department of Science and Technology, said during a news conference held in Wuhan on Sunday evening.

"The kits are easy to operate and can protect the users from getting infected," Wang said.



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