20 March 2020
MORE RETURNEES INDICATE OUTBREAK IN CONTROL
Despite the sudden jump in imported infections in the past few days, the number of inbound trips has been 120,000 on average a day since the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a pandemic on March 11, which is an 80 percent drop year-on-year, according to the National Immigration Administration.
That a number of Chinese living abroad are returning to China regardless of the huge economic cost and difficulties involved reflect the effectiveness of the prevention and control measures. Compared with its foreign counterparts, the Chinese government's resolute and comprehensive response has met the expectations of the Chinese people.
Therefore, the returnees' choice should be respected provided they fulfill the prevention and control requirements of both China and their host country.
The wrongdoings of a few returnees who hid their symptoms at airports and thus forced their close contacts into quarantine, too, should not prompt the government to close the door to its own people. Albeit the stricter border health and quarantine regulations that criminalize those acts are expected to help prevent such cases.
As for the returnees paying their own quarantine cost, it is an understandable trade-off between individuals' interests and public good.
The rise of populism in the West in the wake of the pandemic, especially the discrimination against Chinese, even other Asians, and US politicians' attempt to discredit China for its anti-epidemic measures reveal deep-rooted social prejudices. One of the reasons for it could be that locals, especially blue-collar workers, feel threatened by newcomers.
But such issues can be resolved by systemic reform, effective allocation of labor and introduction of advanced technology. Also, the fact that China's approach, which has always been aimed at joint and peaceful development and common good, has proved effective in the fight against the pandemic shows it can be used as reference by other countries.
CHINA MOVES HELP AVERT FINANCIAL CRISIS
Policy commitments and timely intervention by monetary authorities in China have helped douse the fires of another global financial crisis and calmed the jittery financial markets, amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, experts said on Thursday.
Global equity and commercial markets were in turmoil this week despite the market stabilization measures announced by several governments as the outbreak spread to more regions and geographies.
"It is still too early to say if a global financial crisis has broken out, or it may be just a prelude," said Yu Yongding, a member of the China Finance 40 Forum and a global council member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
China had announced expansionary monetary and fiscal policies to curb the downturn risks at a very early stage of the virus outbreak. Most of these measures were quite different from the traditional methods to stimulate demand.
However, additional action is still required by China to offset the possible disruptions to external supplies due to the rising anti-globalization sentiment and deteriorating global economic outlook, said Yu.
Though economic growth fell in China last month, most of the experts expect it to rebound quickly. The epidemic is expected to have shaved off nearly 1.2 percent of the country's annual GDP, due to the sharp decline in consumption during the first two months, Zhu Min, head of Tsinghua University's National Institute of Financial Research and former IMF deputy managing director, said at a meeting of the China Development Forum on Thursday.
Policymakers should focus on boosting GDP growth and stabilizing asset prices and maintaining relatively steady interest rate spreads. Such measures will benefit the Chinese yuan and A shares, said Huang Haizhou, managing director at China International Capital Corp.
"Obviously, China needs to consider a new round of supportive policies, but should not be in a hurry to cut interest rates like other global central banks," said Robin Xing, chief economist for China at Morgan Stanley.
Additional actions that policymakers could consider are steps to shore up fiscal deficit and increase financing through special bonds issued by central and local governments. The higher deficit could support tax exemptions, issue of consumption coupons or increase infrastructure investment, he said.
"When major central banks are cutting interest rates nearly to zero, the higher returns offered by Chinese sovereign assets will become more attractive to investors. This means that it is an opportune time to issue special Treasury bonds," said Xing.
ZERO NEW CASE IN WUHAN; 39 NEW CASES ACROSS CHINA, ALL IMPORTED
New infections of the novel coronavirus remained at zero in the hardest-hit city Wuhan during the past week while all the new cases were imported, the National Health Commission said on Friday.
As of Thursday midnight, Chinese mainland reported 39 new infections, bringing the total number of cases to 80,967.
To date, 228 imported infections have been reported.
New imported infections in the past 24 hours were found in 12 regions, including Shanghai, Guangdong, Beijing, Tianjin, as well as Zhejiang and Sichuan province.
As of Thursday midnight, the commission reported three new deaths, bringing the death toll to 3,248.
Of the new deaths, two were in Hubei and the other one was in Northeast China's Liaoning province.
The commission also reported 31 new suspected cases. On the same day, a total of 730 people were discharged from hospitals after recovering.
The commission added that the number of patients in severe condition fell by 178 in the past 24 hours.
It also revealed that 684,331 close contacts had been traced as of Thursday midnight. Also, 1,197 were discharged from medical observation in the past 24 hours.
Meanwhile, another 8,989 close contacts are still under medical observation.
Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan have reported a total of 333 confirmed cases, with four deaths in Hong Kong and one death in Taiwan, according to the commission.
In Hubei, the total confirmed cases reached 67,800 by Thursday. Of them, about three quarters were reported in its capital Wuhan.
It also reported 703 new recovered cases in the province on the same day. A total of 2,098 patients are still in severe condition.
CAPITAL REDIRECTS SOME INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS
Beijing will redirect some inbound flights scheduled to land at Beijing Capital International Airport to airports in nearby cities to ease the increasing number of imported cases of the novel coronavirus.
According to a notice issued on Thursday by five government departments, including the Civil Aviation Administration and the General Administration of Customs, four international flights scheduled to land in Beijing within the next three days will be diverted to nearby airports.
Flight CA910 on March 20 from Moscow will be diverted to neighboring Tianjin, as well as flight CA934 on March 22 from Paris. Flight CA926 between March 20 and 22 from Tokyo and flight HU7976 on March 21 and 22 from Toronto will be landing at Hohhot, Inner Mongolia autonomous region, and Taiyuan, Shanxi province, respectively, it said.
Passengers on such flights will be subject to the health and quarantine process at the airports, and those who don't exhibit any symptoms will be allowed to reboard the plane to Beijing, it added.
It also noted that the authorities will adopt dynamic adjustment to divert international flights that terminate in Beijing in light of the changing epidemic situations.
The measures were taken as imported cases of the new virus have become a major challenge for epidemic prevention and control work in the city.
According to aviation statistics provider VariFlight, nearly 30 inbound flights were terminated in Beijing on a daily basis recently, with about one-fourth from hard-hit countries including South Korea and Spain.
Against this backdrop, Beijing rolled out a policy requiring anyone arriving from abroad to be put under observation at designated sites for 14 days, which has placed formidable pressure on the city's quarantine capacity.
An average of 20,000 people fly into China every day, the National Immigration Administration said on Monday.
Many airports across the country have been cutting the number of inbound flights as international travel demands dwindle amid the pandemic.
Shanghai-another international aviation hub in the country-has also been grappling with a rising number of imported cases amid the rush of returnees. On Tuesday, Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines canceled a number of its international flights into the city, including flights from North America and European countries.
STEPS TARGET IMPORTATION OF INFECTIONS
China will suspend cross-border road transportation for passengers and hold back inbound and outbound tourist services as part of a broader effort to curb the importation of novel coronavirus pneumonia cases, according to a decision made at a meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday.
The leading group of the Communist Party of China Central Committee's meeting on coping with the COVID-19 outbreak also highlighted the importance of epidemic containment on international flights through stronger cooperation and coordination with other countries.
The country will arrange special parking pads, boarding bridges and passages for all incoming flights from regions hit hard by the pandemic and designate special regions for quarantine at ports to minimize the risks of infection, the group said in a statement.
It also called for seamlessly coordinated efforts in transferring, treating and isolating confirmed and suspected cases and those people's close contacts, saying that individuals who falsify or conceal their infections will be held accountable.
The quick spread of COVID-19 outside China has posed mounting pressure for containment of the outbreak in the country, which is seeing a growing number of imported cases, the group said.
China reported no new locally contracted coronavirus cases for Wednesday, for the first time since the pandemic began months ago, while the spread of the virus accelerated worldwide with the total number of confirmed cases hitting 207,855 on Wednesday, the World Health Organization said.
The meeting pledged stronger management for international passenger ships and more warnings about cross-border movement of people to reduce unnecessary outbound trips.
Local authorities, especially in regions with a large volume of incoming trips, must beef up preparations in pharmaceuticals, protective materials, emergency treatment facilities, special hospitals and isolation wards, the statement said.
China will better guide and support its citizens overseas in guarding against infection and continue to do its best to assist epidemic containment abroad, especially in sharing its experience and facilitating other nations' commercial procurement of medical resources, it added.
With the majority of provincial areas lowering the level of coronavirus response and most of the country becoming low-risk areas, it is important to restore the normal order of life and work across the board by provincial areas, the statement said.
It also highlighted the need to speed up help for more businesses to get back to work. Health certificates that facilitate the flow of people and goods between low-risk areas must be nationally recognizable, and no more barriers, including isolation measures for individuals, are required, the statement said.
3 CHINESE EPEE FENCING TEAM MEMBERS TEST POSITIVE FOR COVID-19
Three athletes of the Chinese epee fencing team tested positive for the novel coronavirus. They are being treated in Beijing and are recovering from their mild symptoms, the Chinese Fencing Association said on Friday.
The athletes were competing in a tournament in Hungary from March 6 to 8 and returned home on March 16. Three athletes out of the 13-member sport delegation tested positive for the virus when entering the Chinese border.
This marked the first reported infected cases of athletes from the Chinese mainland. Earlier this week, Hong Kong karateka Lee Chun Ho also tested positive for the virus.
The fencing team was touring around the world in the past few months and planned to return home after finishing the qualifying match for the Olympics that runs from March 22 to 24. However, the match was cancelled due to the spread of COVID-19.
MINISTRY PLANNING MORE STEPS TO INCREASE FOREIGN INVESTMENT AND TRADE
China will beef up efforts to further stabilize foreign investment and foreign trade, and strengthen international cooperation in fighting off the coronavirus, the Ministry of Commerce said on Thursday.
The outbreak will inevitably have an impact on cross-border investment, Ye Wei, deputy director-general of the ministry's department of foreign investment administration, said at a news conference.
The outbreak could cause global foreign direct investment to shrink by 5 percent to 15 percent, Ye said, citing a recent report prepared by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
To ensure the steady growth of FDI, the ministry will further open up market access and optimize the foreign investment environment, Ye said.
The country will speed up the process to shorten the negative lists−which identify sectors where foreign participation is restricted, continuously widen the market access to foreign investment, and revise the catalog of industries where foreign capital is encouraged and increase the number of encouraged items, he said.
Overall, China's long-term economic improvement and the market's attraction will not change, Ye said.
The COVID-19 outbreak was effectively contained in China, but the outbreak has been spreading rapidly in the rest of the world.
The epidemic has hit some of China's important trading partners such as the European Union, the United States, South Korea and Japan, and put pressure on the normal development of their bilateral trade with China, said Jiang Fan, an official with the ministry's foreign trade department.
Jiang urged the global community to join hands to rein in the epidemic. China will continue to expand international partnership in fighting off the virus, and to deepen economic and trade cooperation with countries around the world, she said.
According to Jiang, the country will also make great efforts to accurately implement supportive policies to help enterprises stabilize the international market.
China's foreign trade development is resilient, has enough room for development, and the ministry is confident of stabilizing the foreign trade, Jiang said.
CHINESE STOCKS WITHSTAND GLOBAL FINANCIAL TURMOIL
China's stock market withstood another round of overseas sell-offs on Thursday, pointing to growing market resilience against the current global financial turmoil, analysts said.
The key Shanghai Composite Index ended down by 0.98 percent to close at 2,702.13, while the ChiNext Index, which tracks Shenzhen's innovative startup-heavy board, rose by 0.42 percent to 1,894.94.
This came after the global market rout triggered by the worsening spread of novel coronavirus pneumonia, with stock trading in South Korea, the Philippines and Indonesia halted after plunging on Thursday.
The S&P 500 in the United States slid by 7 percent amid Wednesday's trading and tripped an automatic trading halt, the fourth time since last week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended 6.3 percent lower, closing below 20,000 for the first time in three years.
The relatively stable performance of China's A-share market on Thursday has reflected its resilience against the recent global market turmoil caused by uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, said Xu Gao, chief economist at BOC International (China) Co.
"The A-share market is wobbling, but it has gained its footing from fundamentals," Xu said, citing that the outlook of epidemic control and economic rebound is clearer in China than in the US and European economies.
Investors are betting on the rebound of the Chinese economy, as retailers and listed firms engaging in internet data center construction led the market on Thursday.
Authorities at different levels have been working to facilitate consumption recovery and infrastructure investment in high-tech sectors including data centers to shore up economic growth.
The country's top leadership also called for strengthening research and analysis of the global economic situation.
Targeted policies and measures should be formed in a timely manner, the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee said after a meeting on Wednesday.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
Great leaders are not the best at everything. They find people who are the best at different things and get them all on the same team. - Eileen Bistrisky