8 February 2020
XI, TRUMP DISCUSS OUTBREAK, TRADE
President Xi Jinping urged the United States on Friday to evaluate the novel coronavirus outbreak in a calm manner, and reasonably formulate and adjust its measures in dealing with the epidemic.
Xi made the remark while speaking with US President Donald Trump over the phone. He told Trump that the trend of China's economy to maintain sound development over the long term remains unchanged despite the challenges of the outbreak.
Xi said that since the start of the outbreak, the Chinese government and people have made all-out efforts in the prevention and control of the contagion.
China has taken the most comprehensive and rigorous measures to control the virus, and has launched a people's war against the contagion, he said, adding the prevention and control efforts are producing positive results.
China has the confidence and capability to win the battle against the epidemic, Xi said.
The country has been endeavoring to protect the safety and health of both the Chinese people and people around the world, Xi said. He added that the Chinese government informed the World Health Organization as well as other countries and regions, including the US, in a timely fashion about the disease and in an open, transparent and responsible manner, and it also invited WHO experts to visit Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak in Hubei province.
Xi said that the decisive and strong measures the country has adopted to combat the contagion have been fully recognized and praised by the WHO and many countries around the world.
He appreciated Trump's positive remarks about China's epidemic prevention and control efforts, and thanked people from various circles in the US for their donations of medical supplies.
Dealing with the epidemic requires united efforts from various countries, Xi said, and the prevention and control of the contagion remains at a crucial stage.
Trump appreciated China's prominent capabilities in organizing its fight against the virus, and said Washington fully supports China in battling the contagion and is willing to provide various kinds of assistance to the country.
He is confident that under Xi's leadership, the Chinese people will undoubtedly win the battle against the virus, adding that Washington has full confidence in China's economic growth.
Trump told Xi that the US will consider and deal with the outbreak in a calm manner and stands ready to maintain communication and cooperation with China through bilateral means and the WHO.
The phone conversation between Xi and Trump came as the US Department of State raised its travel advisory for China to the highest warning level — in disregard of the WHO's recommendations against travel restrictions. The Trump administration has also temporarily banned foreign nationals who have traveled to China from entering the US.
NATION MOURNS DOCTOR WHO SUCCUMBED TO VIRUS
Condolences and sadness filled the hearts of people across the country on Friday after a doctor in Wuhan — who had originally been reprimanded for sounding an early alarm on the novel coronavirus — died of the very same pathogen early in the morning.
The National Supervisory Commission on Friday said it would dispatch a team to Wuhan to investigate issues regarding the death of Li Wenliang amid a public outcry.
The National Health Commission, the country's top health authority, called for joint efforts nationwide at this critical moment for epidemic control while expressing deep condolences over Li's passing.
Li, a 34-year-old ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital in Hubei province, died after being infected with the virus. Attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful, the hospital said.
Li was among a group of people who tried to warn about the novel coronavirus when it first emerged in Wuhan, the epidemic center of the disease, but was reprimanded by local police for "spreading rumors online".
On Dec 30, Li said in an online WeChat group that he had seen a report that showed positive test results of severe acute respiratory syndrome for seven patients and told colleagues and friends to be careful.
On Jan 3, Li was summoned by Wuhan police for "spreading fake information on the internet". He was reprimanded but not fined or detained, according to the police.
Li carried on his normal work in the hospital until Jan 10 when he came down with a cough and fever, symptoms of the novel coronavirus. On Feb 1, he posted on his Weibo account, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, that he was confirmed as having the infection.
Li's death led to a massive outpouring of grief all across society.
The NHC, the Hubei health commission, the Chinese Medical Doctor Association and the Wuhan government all expressed condolences over Li's death and extended sympathy to his family.
In a news briefing on Friday, Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization's Health Emergencies Program, also expressed condolences over Li's death.
On China's social media platforms, condolences poured in with hundreds of millions of views.
A large number of netizens began to pray for Li since Thursday night after hearing he was sick. "I won't sleep tonight!" said one comment that received 350,000 thumbs-up emojis by Friday morning.
Many were also questioning the possibility of a dereliction of duty by Hubei officials for ignoring Li's early warning and questioning him for so-called rumors, which later turned out to be true.
After being approved by the Communist Party of China Central Committee, the National Supervisory Commission made a quick response on Friday by deciding to send a special group to Wuhan to conduct a comprehensive probe over issues regarding Li, according to a brief release on the joint website of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the NSC.
FASTER DETECTION KEY TO SUCCESS
Addressing medical shortages in Hubei province, the center of the novel coronavirus epidemic, and speeding up overall detection of infections nationwide are key to combating the contagion's spread, health officials said.
The number of newly confirmed infections on the Chinese mainland rose by 3,143 on Thursday — a second-consecutive daily slowdown — bringing the total to 31,161 cases, according to the National Health Commission.
"The slowdown in newly confirmed cases reflects the outcome from previous disease control measures," commission spokeswoman Song Shuli said on Friday.
The mainland death toll rose by 73 on Thursday to 636, including 69 new fatalities reported in Hubei province. The total death toll in Hubei rose to 618, the commission said.
Meanwhile, a total of 1,540 former patients have been cured and discharged from hospitals as of late Thursday night. "The growth rate of newly-discharged patients has been increasing since January 30, including a small proportion of severely ill and elderly patients," said Guo Yanhong, an official with the commission's medical administration and supervision department.
However, Zhong Nanshan, a renowned Chinese respiratory expert, said it might still take a few days for the novel coronavirus outbreak to reach its peak, Nanfang Daily reported.
It's good that confirmed cases are decreasing, which means that early detection and early isolation have worked. Yet it is still too early to say that the epidemic has reached a turning point, Zhong said at a conference in Guangdong province on Friday.
As the fight against the viral outbreak has entered a critical period, health officials are working on boosting admission capacity of medical facilities that are under severe strain in Hubei and enhancing intensive care capability.
"The most pressing issue in the province is the discrepancy between the rising number of patients and limited medical resources in the region," Guo said.
One approach to relieve pressure and reduce further transmission in Wuhan, the provincial capital where the virus first appeared, is to establish hospitals converted from gymnasiums, exhibition centers and sports centers in the city, she said.
"These temporary treatment centers work to maximize admission capacity while preventing infected patients from transmitting the virus further," Guo said, adding that by implementing rigorous management to prevent cross-infection risks and introducing psychological support services, these temporary hospitals will be effective in resolving resource bottlenecks at a rapid pace.
The acute shortage of medical staff also exacerbates treatment of patients in severe condition, resulting in mortality rates in Wuhan that are much higher than the national average.
POST-EPIDEMIC RECOVERY EXPECTED
The Chinese economy will witness a recovery once the novel coronavirus epidemic is controlled, and policy tools are sufficient to shore up growth and help enterprises endure the difficult situation, officials and analysts said on Friday.
"Once the epidemic eases, China's economy will rapidly return to stable growth", driven by a recovery in consumption and investment activities, said Pan Gongsheng, vice-governor of the People's Bank of China, the central bank, at a news conference. The economy will have a "compensatory recovery" afterward, Pan said.
Economists and officials are still analyzing data to gauge the exact impact of the novel coronavirus outbreak on the economy, with some research institutions having revised their predictions on China's GDP growth for the first quarter. To ease the slowdown, the government is ramping up measures to bolster the economy, especially for more fragile private and small businesses hit by the epidemic.
The central bank is assessing the impact of the epidemic and preparing policy tools accordingly, and specific measures include targeted reserve requirement ratio cuts and lowering real lending rates, he added.
Amid downward pressure, monetary policy will focus more on maintaining stable economic growth, which needs to balance deleveraging with credit policies. "The Chinese economy will continue to demonstrate strong resilience and the government has enough policy tools to maintain stable growth momentum," Pan said.
Moody's Investors Service said in a report on Friday that during the period of virus-related disruption, funding will remain favorable for most rated State-owned companies as well as for local government financing vehicles and industrial and property companies with sound financial strength.
To support corporate financing, the central bank and the Ministry of Finance have jointly lent 300 billion yuan ($43 billion) in funds to financial institutions to boost credit, and the ministry has provided loan interest subsidies to cover half of the lending interest of certain key enterprises."
The move will ensure their real financing costs will be reduced to 1.6 percent or lower," said Vice-Minister of Finance Yu Weiping.
The nation's banking and insurance regulator will also tolerate higher nonperforming loan ratios for small and micro companies, especially in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, caused by holiday extensions and lockdowns of affected regions to curb the virus.
"We expect the NPL ratio to rise, but not too high," said Zhou Liang, vice-chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission.
The commission has already urged banks to support industries that are having difficulties due to the outbreak.
Some big banks also said they will lower lending rates to affected businesses.
Financial watchdogs are considering delaying the implementation of new regulations on asset management products, as the weaker business sector needs stronger credit support, Zhou said.
China's financial market showed resilience in trading after the Lunar New Year holiday, despite temporary panic-driven sell-offs on the first post-holiday trading day.
The key Shanghai Composite Index rebounded for the fourth straight day on Friday, recovering from a 7.72 percent dive on Monday, ending 0.33 percent higher than Thursday at 2,875.96 points.
The Chinese yuan, which weakened beyond 7 per US dollar on Monday, also appreciated to 6.98 by 4:30 pm in the offshore market on Friday.
By the end of January, China's foreign exchange reserves increased to $3.115 trillion, up by $7.57 billion from the end of 2019, the central bank said on Friday, indicating a strong foundation for a stable currency and cross-border capital flows.
"After short-term fluctuations at the market opening, stock and foreign exchange markets have almost returned to normal," said Pan.
"The economic impact of the outbreak will mainly be felt in the first quarter, followed by an expected rebound in subsequent quarters," said Louis Kuijs, head of Asia Economics at Oxford Economics.
"We expect policymakers to take some measures to support the broader economy and facilitate an economic recovery, especially after the virus outbreak is under control."
HENAN EATERY REOPENS TO MAKE FREE MEALS FOR HOSPITALS
A restaurant run by Zhao Guodong and Ding Wan, a couple in Tanghe county, Nanyang city, Henan province, suspended business on Jan 24. When they learned that medical workers and patients from nearby hospitals were in urgent need of meals, they decided to make free meal boxes for them. Presently, the restaurant provides about 600 meal boxes every day for Tanghe County People's Hospital and Tanghe County TCM Hospital.
DRONES TAKE TO THE AIR TO COMBAT VIRUS
Drones have stepped forward as efficient tools in promoting knowledge about preventing infection and taking up tasks including checking body temperatures and spraying disinfectant amid the novel coronavirus epidemic in China.
A picture taken by Xinhua News Agency showed an operator using his drone to check the temperatures of residents in a community in Yichun, Jiangxi province, on Jan 29.
The drone, equipped with an infrared thermal imaging lens and a loudspeaker, can detect people with fever at a certain distance and broadcast messages about protective measures to residents, a Xinhua report said.
That way, the spread of the virus could be thwarted, it said, since people did not need to be in close contact.
In other places, drones are being used to patrol villages and urban roads to check for any behavior that might contribute to the spread of the virus, such as people not wearing masks in public.
"Grandma, do not go out without wearing a protective mask, and you better stay at home to be safe," an operator said via a drone flying over the head of an elderly woman in a village in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia autonomous region, in an online short video that has gone viral in recent days. The woman went back home after the drone reminded her how to protect herself from being infected by the virus.
Since the novel coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan, Hubei province, rural villages and communities in cities across the country have been distributing information to the public about the dangers of the virus and recommending protective measures.
"The drones can easily draw people's attention and are more effective than traditional ways of dissemination like warning with horns," Qian Xue, a traffic police officer in Shuyang county, Jiangsu province, told the media.
She said people would stop when a drone was flying over their heads and listen to its instructions to wear a mask and avoid crowded places, among other "orders".
In Dongbaizhuang village in Zhengding county, Hebei province, several drones have been tasked with spraying disinfectant in recent days.
"Using drones to spray sanitizer over the whole village is a good idea because it's very convenient," a villager said in a video interview with Beijing News.