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Coronavirus Update: death toll rises to 41; first cases confirmed

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Publisher’s Note: Given the serious implications of the coronavirus outbreak for the aviation, tourism and travel retail sectors, The Moodie Davitt Report is updating this page throughout each day with the latest news from around the world.

Although the Chinese authorities are tackling the issue with a welcome vigour and transparency, there is no doubt that the outbreak of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) offers clear and present danger for all travel-related business sectors, aviation and travel retail being high on that list.

Our tone is objective and factual, not sensationalist nor scare-mongering. We will bring you the latest information on cases, deaths and countries affected. We will bring you news of how the travel sector is being affected and how it is responding. We will examine investment community sentiment and see how key travel retail-related stocks are being impacted.

All this at a time that normally represents an exuberant global celebration of the Lunar New Year, one that coincides with an extraordinary number of travel journeys both within and from China – the epicentre of travel retail 2020-style.

JANUARY 25

CHINA (HONG KONG). Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has this afternoon declared the highest level of emergency, with schools to remain closed and the Hong Kong marathon (due to take place on 8 February) cancelled. Lam also announced the implementation of health declarations at all entry points to Hong Kong.

Five cases have been confirmed in Hong Kong, along with 107 suspected cases. All individuals affected had been to Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.[Source: South China Morning Post]

JAPAN. A third case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has been confirmed. The patient is a Chinese woman in her 30s who travelled from Wuhan to Japan.

The Japanese government has boosted border control checks at airports, handing out cards that detail health examinations and requesting arriving passengers to report symptoms.On Friday, Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Kazuyoshi Akaba said that cruiseline passengers from China will also face tighter controls to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.[Source: Japan Today]

CHINA. 22 provinces and municipalities, covering over 1.1 billion people, have raised a major emergency public health alert to the highest level. Northeast China’s Heilongjiang and Central China’s Henan are the latest to implement the measure. Amid muted Lunar New Year celebrations, Chinese national health authority officials confirm that the coronavirus death toll has risen to 41, with 1,287 confirmed cases as of Saturday morning. [Source: Global Times].

AUSTRALIA. The country’s first coronavirus case has been confirmed. A Chinese man in his 50s who recently spent time in Wuhan is being held under isolation in Monash Medical Centre, Melbourne. Health authorities warn that more people are likely to be carrying the disease. Two suspected cases in New South Wales are likely to be confirmed by this evening, according to local media.

INTERNATIONAL. Airports Council International (ACI) World, the voice of the world’s airports, has highlighted guidance for airports following the coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak. It noted that, as the global response continues, it is expected that national regulators and health authorities will introduce measures directly affecting airports and the aviation industry.

ACI said: “The Advisory Bulletin: Transmission of Communicable Diseases is intended as guidance for airports that can be modified to the local situation as necessary and used in discussion with local authorities and national regulators when determining appropriate actions. The top priority should be the swift agreement between the airport and the relevant authority of responsibility and accountability for measures.”

ACI World’s guidance complements region-specific advice issued by ACI Asia-Pacific to its members this week.

“The health and welfare of travellers, staff and the public, and to reduce the opportunities for dissemination of communicable diseases, are the priorities for the aviation industry following the recent novel coronavirus outbreak,” ACI World Director General Angela Gittens said.

“The guidance we have issued today reiterates a number of options and best practices that airports and national authorities can use to protect against communicable diseases that might pose a serious risk to public health.

“The recommendations are designed to reduce exposure to an infectious agent at airports and to improve the response to health-related emergencies by establishing standards and procedures for rapid decision-making and action.”

Airport members are advised to refer to the following guidelines as necessary, that can be found in the Airport preparedness guidelines for outbreaks of communicable disease.

MALAYSIA. Three people have been diagnosed, the country’s first confirmed cases.

The scale of the outbreak at midnight (EST) at the beginning of 25 January, according to John Hopkins University (click to enlarge)

JANUARY 24

FRANCE. The first two European cases have been confirmed in France, the first in Bordeaux, the second in the Paris area. French Ministerfor Solidarity and Health Agnès Buzyn made the announcement this evening.

EUROPE. The European Tourism Association today issued a statement on the outbreak, highlighting its concerns but also saying that the threat – so far – has not become reality in the European travel market.

“While there is much that is unknown about this new virus,” said CEO Tom Jenkins, “we do know that the factors that led to the rapid spread of SARS are not being repeated.

“The Chinese authorities have been prompt in highlighting the problem, and are supplying daily updates on the situation. President Xi Jinping called upon all officials to tackle the issue as a national crisis. The Chinese may be far more mobile than they were in 2002, but the country is far better prepared and determined that the virus will be contained. Draconian measures are being put in place to halt any spread, including the banning of all outbound public transport from Wuhan.

“SARS was spread by people not knowing about the infection and, consequently, unaware that they were travelling from an infected area. This is not the case in 2020.”

He added: “In Europe, precautions are in place. Airports are installing monitoring. Major public information campaigns are being initiated. All health officials are on alert. The virus is of major international concern, but it remains a remote threat for any traveller in Europe.”

Only time will tell whether that rather rose-tinted view will prevail.

CHINA (HONG KONG). Hong Kong has today reported two more cases of patients testing positive, potentially doubling the number of cases to four. Suspected cases in the Special Administrative Region rose to 236 by Friday morning according to the South China Morning Post.

CHINA. Beijing and Shanghai today raised their public health emergency levels to the highest possible status in light of the coronavirus threat. They join Hubei, Hunan, Zhejiang, Anhui and Guangdong provinces [Source: Global Times]

CHINA. The number of deaths has increased to 26, with the number of confirmed cases across China rising to over 900, Global Times is reporting. The latest fatality is in Heilongjiang Province, making it the second death outside of Hubei Province.

Importantly too, 34 diagnosed patients had been cured and released from hospital. Four new infections have been confirmed in Beijing, bringing the tally to 26 in the Chinese capital. Tibet Autonomous Region and Qinghai Province are the only two Chinese regions to have not reported any cases. [Source: Global Times].

CHINA. As revealed yesterday, the famed Palace Museum in Beijing has been closed from tomorrow (the first day of the Lunar New Year) until further notice in order to avoid cross-infection. The Palace Museum is one of China’s most popular tourist attractions.

INTERNATIONAL. Swiss travel retail research agency m1nd-set states that Thailand will be the most-affected destination market, by quite a long margin, in terms of curtailed flights into and out of Wuhan. The agency has drawn on data from its Business 1ntelligence Service (B1S), which sources actual and forecast traffic information from IATA’s comprehensive traffic database [see below chart for more details and click to enlarge].
In a timely study on the destinations likely to be most affected by the cessation of flights to and from Wuhan (based on the past 12 months of traffic data and taking only international flights into account), m1nd-set noted that Thailand is the final destination for 33% of passengers that fly internationally from Wuhan Tianhe International Airport.

Japan follows with 12% while Malaysia accounts for 10% of final destination international traffic from the Chinese city, Singapore 9%, Hong Kong 8% and Indonesia 7%. Taiwan and South Korea both account for 6% of international traffic from Wuhan.

In terms of city destinations, the top final international destination for Wuhan origin traffic is Bangkok, where both international airports (Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang) collectively account for 21% of international traffic from Wuhan. Singapore follows with 9% then Hong Kong with 7%, Narita and Seoul both with 6%, and Denpasar and Phuket each with around 5% of Wuhan origin traffic. China Southern Airlines is the leading airline operating from Wuhan, accounting for 34% of outbound international traffic, followed by Thai AirAsia with 12%. Cathay Dragon, which yesterday announced it was temporarily suspending all flights to and from Wuhan, accounts for 7%.

With Chinese travellers being among the top nationalities for duty free shopping when travelling internationally, spend at the destination airports will inevitably be affected, m1nd-set noted. Over 50% of Chinese shop at airports, which is more than double the global average, it said.

Beauty will be the most-affected category, as it accounts for 60% of the collective Chinese spend when travelling. Alcohol and fashion & accessories are the next most popular categories.

M1nd-set Owner & CEO Peter Mohn said, “A number of clients have expressed deep concern and want to understand the overall impact the virus will have on the business. Our traffic analysis tool enables us to identify all affected destinations, not only the direct destinations but also the final destinations as many passengers from Wuhan transit at a regional hub airport to reach their final destination.

“We can see that of the 56 airlines which operate out of Wuhan, they serve 450 direct destinations and 1055 final destinations. The impact of the coronavirus will inevitably be felt well beyond Wuhan’s direct connection airports.”

The top direct destinations for passengers taking international flights from Wuhan. This differs slightly from the other graphic, which accounts for the final destination of passengers travelling internationally from Wuhan

Contact: info@m1nd-set.com; www.m1nd-set.com

JAPAN. A second case of the coronavirus (full name 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was confirmed today. The 40-year-old male patient has been living in Wuhan and recently visited Tokyo.

UK. 14 people have so far been tested for the virus, BBC reported, citing government body Public Health England statistics. Five have tested negative and nine are awaiting results. The report said that a further six individuals are being tested in hospitals in Scotland and Northern Ireland after displaying symptoms.

All those tested had been in Wuhan – the Chinese city where the new strain of the virus emerged.

The scale of the outbreak at midnight (EST) at the beginning of 24 January, according to John Hopkins University (click to enlarge)

23 JANUARY

CHINA. Global Times reports there has been the first death outside of Hubei Province, bringing the confirmed number of fatalities from the coronavirus to 18. The 80-year-old, who had lived in Wuhan for two months, died in Cangzhou in Hebei Province.

Meanwhile, a further city in Hubei has shut its train stations. Ezhou, which has a population of more than 1 million, has become the third city to take the action.

INTERNATIONAL. After what was billed by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom as “a very complex deliberation”, the Emergency Committee convened by the organisation has chosen not to declare the outbreak an emergency of international concern.

Didier Houssin, who chaired the Emergency Committee, said the decision had been taken “because of [the] limited number of cases abroad and the efforts which are presently being made [by] Chinese authorities in order to try and contain the disease”.

Adding a note of caution, Adhanom said: “This is an emergency in China, but it has not yet become a global health emergency. It may yet become one.”

The WHO added that it does not recommend any broader restrictions on travel or trade, but that it does advise exit screening at airports as part of a comprehensive set of containment measures.

VIETNAM. Two male Chinese patients have tested positive for the coronavirus at Cho Ray Hospital in Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese Ministry of Health has announced.

One of the Chinese men was infected by his father, who travelled to Vietnam from Wuhan on 13 January and also tested positive. Both have been quarantined and doctors say their fever has abated.

INTERNATIONAL. Drinks data and intelligence analyst IWSR has raised concerns over the outbreak’s possible impact on the travel retail liquor market – and offered a reminder of how the sector was hit by SARS in 2003.

IWSR noted: “The coronavirus recalls memories of the 2003 SARS epidemic that primarily hit Southeast Asia, and that was also caused by a coronavirus, killing approximately 800 people. Although these are relatively few deaths in a global context, the SARS virus did have a negative impact on international travel. Figures from International Air Transport Association show a -2.4% drop in international passenger traffic for 2003, with a -9% decline in Asia Pacific.

“Translating this to travel retail sales, IWSR figures show spirits volumes in the travel retail channel in Asia Pacific fell by -1.6% in 2003, picking up again by +5.9% in 2004 and +5.2% in 2005. Cognac and Scotch, key categories for the Asia Pacific travel retail market, suffered similar fates; Cognac volumes fell by -7.3% and Scotch fell by -1.5% in 2003. Both categories picked up considerably in 2004, with volumes increasing by +7.0% and +6.1% respectively.”

IWSR Director Alastair Smith said: “’Restrictions on travel during this Chinese New Year won’t have a big impact on the travel retail liquor sector. The real threat will be felt by international travel. Fear was a key motivator in decreased international travel during the SARS epidemic. What is difficult to judge right now is whether the coronavirus will be contained, in which case, the impact will likely be minimal. However, if consumer fear and uncertainty around the spread of the virus rises, we may be poised to see a repeat of something closer to the scale of 2003.”

A snapshot of performance in travel retail liquor volumes in 2003 amid the SARS crisis, with a strong recovery in the two years that followed (Source: IWSR)

SINGAPORE. The Ministry of Health has confirmed the first case of the coronavirus in Singapore. A 66-year-old Chinese national from Wuhan, who arrived with his family on 20 January, has tested positive. He is currently in an isolation room at Singapore General Hospital and his condition is stable.

In its latest update, the Ministry of Health added: “Singapore will expand our travel advisory to recommend that Singaporeans avoid travel to the whole of Hubei Province, in view of the travel restrictions that China has imposed on Huanggang and Ezhou. [The] Ministry of Health also advises Singaporeans to continue to exercise caution and attention to personal hygiene when travelling to the rest of China.”

CHINA. Some major cultural events that were set to take place over the Spring Festival in Beijing have been cancelled, Global Times reports. These include two big temple fairs that were due to run during the holiday period. One of the most popular visitor sites in the city, the Palace Museum (housed in the Forbidden City at the heart of Beijing) will close from 25 January, the state-owned media confirmed.

Other museums also announced plans to cancel certain activities to reduce the number of visitors during the period.

CHINA (HONG KONG). Cathay Dragon, the subsidiary of Cathay Pacific, is temporarily suspending flights to and from Wuhan from tomorrow (24 January) until the end of February.

“We are monitoring the situation closely and will continue to coordinate with the health authorities in Hong Kong and in all the ports to which we operate flights,” the airline said in a statement.

CHINA. Xinjiang has reported its first two cases of coronavirus infections. Both individuals had travelled to Wuhan, Global Times reports. Shaanxi Province in Northwest China has reported its first three confirmed cases.

CHINA. State media in China has announced that Huanggang, a city located 75 kilometres from Wuhan, will become the second city (after Wuhan) to suspend all public transport services.

Global Times reported that at midnight (local time) all subways, train stations and roads out of the urban area of Huanggang will be suspended.

Meanwhile, People’s Daily has updated the number of confirmed cases in China to 631, with new cases across multiple districts.

ASIA. Uncertainty prevailed in the Asian stock markets today, The Moodie Davitt Report Senior Retail and Commercial Analyst Min Yong Jung reports.

The Hang Seng Index slipped -1.7%, the Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index was down -1.5%, the KOSPI dropped -0.8% and the Nikkei 225 was down -1%.

Investors are risk-averse and, reacting to news of the coronavirus, companies dependent on China and tourism saw higher outflows. Among the share price of companies we monitored, Amorepacific (down -4.9%) and Korean Air (down -4.2) suffered the worst losses.

However, most of the stocks are trading well above their 52-week low and companies reporting their earnings in the coming weeks will hope their results will be enough to attract bargain-hunting investors.

The day-on-day percentage change of stocks for key Asian companies on 23 January

EUROPE. International payments provider Planet has warned about the impact on the luxury goods industry worldwide if the coronavirus strain continues to spread.

Planet noted: “The talk of potential travel restrictions comes at a time when luxury retailers would typically be expecting a windfall in sales to Chinese shoppers, with major national holiday Chinese New Year just days away. Luxury retailers in Europe are bracing themselves for potential hit to their sales.

“Earlier this week, major luxury brands Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Cartier have all experienced stock market declines ranging between -5% and -6%. Chinese consumers are these brands biggest customers, with a recent Bain & Company report predicting that China represents around 35% of the global income of the sector.”

According to Planet’s data, sales to Chinese shoppers in Europe grow by +6% compared with the previous year, with the average spend per purchase rising by +10%.

Referring to the UK market alone, Planet said that in 2019, the average Chinese spend on watches and jewellery rose by +19% to €2,854 on average.

Planet UK Country Manager David Perrotta expressed concern but sounded a balanced note. He said:Chinese New Year is a time marked by travel and spend abroad. This is typically a major opportunity for retailers in Europe. Travel restrictions could have a significant impact on sales during this crucial two-week spending period. Of course, we need to wait and see whether the Chinese government will take steps to control the virus, so in the meantime we will all be holding tight. Not all is lost, as a big part of sales from Chinese shoppers comes towards the second half of the year during another national celebration, Golden Week, which could aid a recovery of the sector.”

CHINA. The situation has deteriorated considerably today. State-controlled media Global Times has been providing real-time updates on the crisis. Here are some of the key developments so far today:

    • 17 more coronavirus cases confirmed in Zhejiang Province; 3 more reported in Fujian Province, 1 in Jilin Province
    • Jiangsu Province in East China confirmed its first case
    • A female railroad employee on a Wuhan-bound high speed train from Northeast China’s Liaoning Province infected
    • First Hong Kong case confirmed this morning following two highly-suspected cases reported on Wednesday and Thursday
    • A second case has been reported in Macau, a hotbed for travel retail. Local tourism authorities have cancelled all Spring Festival activities, Global Times reported

The Macau Daily Times website dedicates home page coverage to the coronavirus crisis

    • According to The Macau Daily Times, the latest case involves a 52-year-old woman from Wuhan who arrived via the Border Gate, having travelled by train from Wuhan to Zhuhai first. An investigation revealed that she took a casino shuttle bus to the Landmark Macau and met with two friends before checking in. During her stay in Macau, besides dining out in restaurants near her hotel, she also gambled inside the property’s casino, the media reported.
    • Seven new cases confirmed in Shanghai as of Wednesday midnight
    • By 08.18 Beijing time, 571 coronavirus cases confirmed in China, with 17 deaths
    • This was the scene at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport earlier today as passengers looked to catch flights before the airport suspended operations at 10am (local time)

22 JANUARY

CHINA. All outbound transport from Wuhan will be suspended from 10am (local time) on 23 January, according to The People’s Daily.

The publication, which is the official newspaper of the Committee of the Communist Party of China, is reporting that train stations and Wuhan Tianhe International Airport will shut down, as will buses, subways and ferries.

INTERNATIONAL. The Emergency Committee convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) has said it will need more information to determine whether to declare a public health emergency of international concern.

“The decision about whether or not to declare a public health emergency of international concern is one I take extremely seriously, and one I am only prepared to make with appropriate consideration of all the evidence,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom said.

The Emergency Committee will meet again tomorrow (23 January) to continue their discussion and look at further evidence.

HONG KONG. The first “preliminary positive” case of the virus has been diagnosed in Hong Kong, confirming earlier news reports (see below). A 39-year-old man was quarantined after arriving from Wuhan to Hong Kong on Tuesday via high-speed rail from Shenzhen, and was detected with a fever at the border crossing. Health Minister Sophia Chan said he was in a stable condition in an isolation ward at Princess Margaret Hospital.

The government said it would be contacting and testing passengers who sat near him. They will also be observed in isolation wards, according to reports in Reuters, Bloomberg and the South China Morning Post, citing local officials.

Minister Chan did not confirm local media reports of a second person with similar test results, Bloomberg reports.

Also in Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific Airways has said crew members and front line employees are permitted to wear surgical masks on mainland China flights, after the flight attendants union raised concerns this week.

CHINA. The Hubei Provincial Health Commission has confirmed eight new deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the total number of fatalities to 17. The number of confirmed cases in Hubei (in which Wuhan is located) has also risen to 444, bringing the total across Mainland China to 509 and the total globally to 517.

INTERNATIONAL. The Moodie Davitt Report Senior Retail and Commercial Analyst Min Yong Jung has assembled data from the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission to give a timeline on the outbreak of the coronavirus.

The number of confirmed cases has increased rapidly in recent days (click to enlarge)

Key data to watch for include infections among medical staff infections and case fatality rates. During the SARS crisis in 2003, cases among medical staff treating patients helped to spread the outbreak. To date, confirmed numbers of infections among hospital staff from this new coronavirus strain have not yet been released, but authorities say that some hospital workers have been infected.

Meanwhile, the case fatality rate for SARS was 9.6%; the fatality rate of this coronavirus is not nearly as severe currently, as the chart above underlines.

The most recent figures on confirmed cases outside of Hubei Province show the current global spread of the coronavirus

INTERNATIONAL. The World Health Organization (WHO) is today holding an emergency meeting to establish if the outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern and what recommendations should be put in place, including possible travel restrictions.

“Based on currently available information, there is no justification for any restriction of travel or trade. Should this situation escalate, WHO may provide guidance on the risk of travel to affected areas,” a WHO spokesperson said.

The organisation added that more cases should be expected in other parts of China and possibly additional countries in the coming days.

CHINA (HONG KONG). Local broadcasters in Hong Kong (RTHK, Cable TV and TVB) are reporting a first case of the coronavirus in the territory. The patient took the high-speed rail line from Wuhan to Shenzhen and then to Hong Kong, according to the reports.

RTHK breaks the news of the first case in Hong Kong

INTERNATIONAL. Our Senior Retail and Commercial Analyst Min Yong Jung has looked at the impact of the outbreak on the global stock market. While yesterday was a tough day for benchmark stocks in the US and Asia, Asian markets did recover during trading today. Read his full analysis here.

CHINA (MACAU). Macau officials today confirmed the first case of the new coronavirus strain: a 52-year-old businesswoman from Wuhan who arrived on Sunday and checked into hospital on Tuesday, officials said. Details were provided by Macau Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Ao Leong Lu, who heads a task force set up to respond to the virus threat.

Casinos and hotels have tightened temperature screening measures around the city and according to media reports locally, all casino staff and civil servants have been ordered to wear face masks.

Macau is a popular Lunar New Year destination for many Mainland Chinese.

CHINA. Chinese National Health Commission officials said today that the coronavirus could mutate with a risk of the epidemic spreading to other regions. The news was reported by state-owned Global Times, which added that 440 cases of infection have been confirmed and nine deaths reported.

In a press conference in Beijing today, National Health Commission Vice Head Li Bin said that confirmed cases are mostly confined to Wuhan (although there are a limited number of cases elsewhere in China and overseas).

How Global Times reported the news today of the virus spread and the risk of further mutation

The sudden rise in confirmed cases, said Li, is due to improved and effective diagnosis. Overall, Li said, 2,197 people who were in close contact with infected patients have been tracked; among them 1,394 are being observed by medical teams.

To prevent the virus strain from spreading, the local government has urged people not to travel to the city and discouraged Wuhan residents from travelling outside. The report said that reducing the flow of people should decrease the chances of the virus spreading.

In Wuhan, body temperature screening devices have been deployed in the airport, train stations and long-distance bus stations to monitor people as they leave, Global Times reported.

The source of the new coronavirus has yet to be confirmed and the transmission route of the virus is yet to be fully understood, according to officials. But the Chinese government is confident of winning this fight, Li said.

GERMANY. German airports association ADV has issued a statement on the coronavirus outbreak, saying that its members are giving the unfolding situation their “highest attention”. The ADV stressed that the WHO had not issued any guidelines about travel restrictions, though it is in close contact with the relevant authorities.

Five major German airports – Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich und Berlin – have emergency plans and capacity in place. Any flight with a suspected case arriving in Germany will be diverted to one of these locations. ADV said it was confident that the processes that have been established for many years at airports to cope with an infection outbreak would robustly protect public health.

CHINA. OAG, which provides digital flight information, intelligence and analytics for airports, airlines and travel tech companies, has assessed the possible impact on air travel to and from Wuhan. As reported, some airports have introduced screening for flight arrivals from the city.

OAG schedules data for Q1 2020 show that nearly 90% of flights go to other cities in China. The largest international markets are Thailand with nearly 107,000 seats, Japan with 67,000 seats and Singapore with 42,000 seats. (The table shows Q1 2019 bookings by key destination, which OAG says represents a proxy for likely travel patterns this year).

The leading destinations from Wuhan by country and city in this period last year (click to enlarge)

Many travellers from China’s regions connect through the country’s international hubs to travel overseas. From Wuhan, Guangzhou is the key gateway to other destinations, says OAG, followed by Shanghai Pudong, Beijing Capital, Hong Kong International and Kunming (based on Q1 2019 seat figures).

21 JANUARY

US. The country has revealed its first confirmed diagnosis of the coronavirus strain, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced today.

How CNN reported the first diagnosed US case of the new coronavirus strain

According to CNN, the male patient is in isolation at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Washington. The resident of Snohomish County in Washington travelled from Wuhan to Washington. CNN said that the officials are compiling a list of people the patient may have had contact with since his return to the US.

CHINA. President Xi Jinping has ordered “resolute” efforts to curb the spread of the new strain of coronavirus that has led to a mounting number of pneumonia cases and four deaths.

State-owned media Global Times reported the leader’s call today, noting that as of 6 p.m Monday, 224 cases of pneumonia caused by the coronavirus strain had been reported in China. Of those, 217 had been confirmed and seven remained suspected.

Overseas, the report said, one case has been confirmed in Japan, two in Thailand, and one in the Republic of Korea.

In a reflection of much greater transparency than during the SARS outbreak of 2003, Chinese state media titles are dedicating widespread coverage to the latest crisis

In a separate report, Global Times said that Wuhan has established headquarters for the control and treatment of the pneumonia. A meeting on Monday of involved groups requested a range of protective measures, including body temperature checks at airports, railway stations and ports.

Wuhan is enforcing strict entry and exit health controls ahead of the peak travel season later this week as the Chinese New Year holidays begin.

Airports and medical authorites overseas are introducing protective measures. The Ministry of Health in Singapore is expanding temperature screening at Changi Airport and issuing Health Advisory Notices for all inbound travellers on flights arriving from China from tomorrow, 22 January

Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, is the epicentre of the outbreak (Image: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

The outbreak has spurred unwelcome memories of the SARS crisis of 2003 which resulted in 8,098 cases and 774 deaths across 37 countries and had severe repercussions for the global travel retail industry.

Traffic slumped at airports across the world, with passenger volumes at key locations such as Singapore Changi and Hong Kong International down by -50% to -70% during the worst of the crisis in April and May of that year.

However, Zhong Nanshan, the head of the National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China told reporters that there was no danger of a repeat of the SARS epidemic as long as suitable precautions are taken. The travel retail industry worldwide will be hoping he is right.

The Ministry of Health in Singapore is expanding temperature screening at Changi Airport and issuing Health Advisory Notices for all inbound travellers on flights arriving from China from tomorrow, 22 January

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Fauci predicts U.S. will not return to lockdowns despite Delta variant risks | Saltwire – SaltWire Network

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By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Sunday he does not expect the United States will return to lockdowns, despite the growing risks of COVID-19 infections posed by the Delta variant.

“I don’t think we’re going to see lockdowns,” Fauci, who is also director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“I think we have enough of the percentage of people in the country – not enough to crush the outbreak – but I believe enough to not allow us to get into the situation we were in last winter.”

Although Fauci does not think the United States will need to shut down again as it did last year, he warned on ABC that “things are going to get worse” as the Delta variant continues to spread.

“We have 100 million people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated who are not getting vaccinated,” he said.

The average number of new cases reported each day has nearly doubled in the past 10 days and the number of hospitalized patients in many states is surging, according to a Reuters analysis. https://tmsnrt.rs/2WTOZDR

At the same time, the number of Americans getting vaccinated has increased. (Graphic on global vaccinations) https://tmsnrt.rs/3tUM8ta

“The silver lining of this is that people are waking up to this and this may be a tipping point for those who have been hesitant,” National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins told CNN on Sunday. “That’s what desperately needs to happen if we’re going to get this Delta variant put back in its place, because right now it’s having a pretty big party in the middle of the country.”

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and David Lawder; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Lisa Shumaker)

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A look at COVID-19 reopening plans across the country – North Shore News

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As COVID-19 vaccination rates increase and case numbers drop across the country, the provinces and territories have begun releasing the reopening plans for businesses, events and recreational facilities.

Most of the plans are based on each jurisdiction reaching vaccination targets at certain dates, while also keeping the number of cases and hospitalizations down. 

Here’s a look at what reopening plans look like across the country:

Newfoundland and Labrador:

Newfoundland and Labrador is moving to the second step of its reopening plan two weeks ahead of schedule.

Beginning today (Aug. 1), fully and partially vaccinated travellers from Canada no longer have to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test, nor will they have to self-isolate.

With 52 per cent of residents aged 12 and over now fully vaccinated, the province says its mandatory mask requirements will be up for review during the week of Aug. 9.

If case counts, hospitalization and vaccination targets are met, the province expects to reopen dance floors as early as Aug. 15, and lift capacity restrictions on businesses, restaurants and lounges while maintaining physical distancing between tables.

Nova Scotia:

Nova Scotia has further reduced COVID-19 public health orders after entering the fourth phase of its reopening.

Under the new rules, retail stores can operate at full capacity, churches and other venues can operate at half capacity or with a maximum of 150 people, and up to 50 people can attend outdoor family gatherings.

Capacity limits for dance classes, music lessons and indoor play spaces have also been lifted.

Organized sports practices, games, league play, competitions and recreation programs can involve up to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors without physical distancing.

Day camps can operate with 30 campers per group plus staff and volunteers, following the day camp guidelines. In addition, professional and amateur arts and culture rehearsals and performances can involve up to 25 people indoors and 50 outdoors without physical distancing.

Meanwhile, fully vaccinated residents of long-term care homes can now have visitors in their rooms and visit their family’s homes, including for overnight stays.

New Brunswick:

The province has lifted all public health orders and its mask mandate has also expired. 

That means all limits on gatherings are now removed, including in theatres and stores. 

Restaurants, gyms and salons can also operate at full capacity, as long as customer contact lists are kept.

New Brunswick had earlier moved into the second phase of its reopening plan, which opened travel without the need to isolate to all of Nova Scotia after earlier opening to P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Travellers from elsewhere in Canada who’ve had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine can enter the province without the need to isolate, while those who haven’t had a shot must still isolate and produce a negative test before being released from quarantine.

Prince Edward Island: 

Prince Edward Island has dropped its requirement that non-medical masks be worn in public indoor spaces.

Chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison says masks are still encouraged to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and businesses are free to adopt stricter rules.

Officials say those who serve the public, such as in restaurants, retail stores and hair salons, should continue to wear a mask.

All health-care facilities will continue to require masks until 80 per cent of eligible P.E.I. residents are fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the province has allowed personal gatherings to increase so that up to 20 people can get together indoors and outdoors. Restaurants are allowed to have tables of up to 20. Special occasion events like backyard weddings and anniversary parties of up to 50 people hosted by individuals are permitted with a reviewed operational plan.

Organized gatherings hosted by a business or other organization are permitted with groups of up to 200 people outdoors or 100 people indoors.

On Sept. 12, the province expects physical distancing measures to be eased, as well as allowing personal and organized gatherings to go ahead without limits. 

Quebec: 

Quebec’s government has removed capacity restrictions in retail stores across the province and reduced the two-metre physical distancing health order to one metre.

Quebecers from separate households are now required to keep a one-metre distance from one another indoors and outdoors instead of two metres. 

The previous two-metre distance now applies only at places characterized by physical activity or singing.

Outdoor events are limited to a maximum of 5,000 people, while Indoor events are capped at 3,500 spectators.

Fans and those attending theatres or other performance venues must keep at least one empty seat between each other, and wearing a mask in public spaces remains mandatory.

All of Quebec is now at the lowest green alert level under the province’s COVID-19 response plan as public health restrictions continue to ease.

The province permitted gyms and restaurant dining rooms to reopen in June. Supervised outdoor sports and recreation are also allowed in groups of up to 25 people.

Quebec ended its nightly curfew on May 28, and also lifted travel bans between regions.

Ontario:

Ontario has moved to the third step of its reopening plan, allowing for more indoor activities including restaurant dining and gym use, while larger crowds are permitted for outdoor activities. 

Masking and physical distancing rules, however, remain in place.

Social gatherings are limited to 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. Religious services and other ceremonies are allowed indoors with larger groups of people who are physically distanced.

Nightclubs and similar establishments are open to 25 per cent capacity. Crowd limits have expanded for retail stores and salons, which can offer services that require masks to be removed.

Spectators are permitted at sporting events, concert venues, cinemas and theatres, with larger limits on crowds for outdoor events. 

Museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos, bingo halls and amusement parks are also open with larger crowd limits on outdoor attractions. 

Manitoba:

Manitoba is loosening restrictions and allowing extra freedoms for people who have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine as it moves into the second phase of its reopening plan.

Indoor gatherings are now allowed for up to five people, on top of those who live in a household, and 25 people in indoor public spaces. Outdoor gatherings are expanded to 25 people on private property and 150 in public spaces. 

Restaurants and bars are allowed up to 50 per cent capacity and opening hours are extended until midnight. Retail stores can run at 50 per cent capacity or 500 people, whichever is lower. Fitness centres can open at 50 per cent capacity, but masks are still required.

Outdoor weddings and funerals can have up to 150 people and indoor events now have a limit of 25. Faith-based gatherings can expand to half capacity or 150 people indoors.

Businesses, such as casinos, museums and movie theatres, can open at 50 per cent capacity but only fully vaccinated Manitobans can take part. An upcoming Blue Bombers CFL game will also be open fully to fans who are double-vaccinated.

Saskatchewan:

Saskatchewan has removed all public health orders — including the province-wide mandatory masking order, as well as capacity limits on events and gathering sizes.

Premier Scott Moe says the province decided to go ahead with full implementation of Step 3 of its Reopening Roadmap because more than 70 per cent of residents over the age of 18 and 69 per cent of those over 12 have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Despite the lifting of the health orders, Regina and Saskatoon say they will still keep up extra cleaning in municipal facilities.

Alberta: 

All remaining COVID-19 restrictions were lifted on July 1.

There are no longer limits on weddings, funerals or bans on indoor social gatherings. In addition, there are no more limits on gyms, sports or fitness activities, no more capacity limits at restaurants, in retail stores or in places of worship.

Anyone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 will still be required to self-isolate and protective measures at continuing care centres may remain.

Alberta, meanwhile, has announced that close contacts of people who test positive for COVID-19 are no longer legally required to isolate, nor are they notified by contact tracers.

And as of Aug. 16, infected individuals won’t need to isolate. Testing will also be curtailed.

The overall requirement for masks in public indoor spaces has ended, but masks may still be required in taxis, on public transit and on ride shares.

Some remaining COVID-19 health restrictions in continuing-care centres have also been eased.

The province says it is no longer limiting the number of visitors, since vaccination rates are rising and there have been few cases in care homes.

Visitors, however, still need to be screened for COVID-19 symptoms or known exposure, and masks are still required in common areas.

The province recommends people wear a mask at all times when visiting a care home if they have not been fully vaccinated, including children under 12.

Limits on dining and recreation activities have been eliminated, and residents are not required to be screened if they are re-entering the building or go into quarantine if they have gone off site.

British Columbia:

The province took the next step in its reopening plan on Canada Day when most COVID-19 restrictions were removed and outdoor gatherings of up to 5,000 people got the go ahead.

Restaurants and pubs no longer have limits on the number of diners, but people are still not allowed to mingle with those at other tables. Masks are no longer mandatory and recreational travel outside the province can resume.

Casinos and nightclubs are open again, but some barriers remain in place and socializing between tables is not allowed.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says some businesses may want people to continue wearing masks for now, and everyone should comply with those requirements or face the potential of fines.

Some restrictions have been reinstated in part of a health region in the Interior after an outbreak led to rapidly spreading infection in that area of the province. 

That means masks are mandatory in all indoor public places in central Okanagan communities including Peachland, West Kelowna, Kelowna, Lake Country and West Bank First Nations lands. Gyms and exercise facilities must also require patrons to wear masks and reintroduce enhanced cleaning and physical distancing.

The face coverings are recommended outdoors in the region if residents are unable to physically distance, but they will be optional for children under the age of 12 when they’re attending summer camps or similar settings.

Nunavut:

Nunavut’s chief public health officer says people living in the territory are no longer required to wear masks, but they are still strongly encouraged. 

Dr. Michael Patterson says indoor public gatherings — such as in community halls — are now allowed to have 75 per cent capacity.

Restaurants, bars, theatres and places of worship can open to 75 per cent capacity and there are no limits on outdoor gatherings.

Northwest Territories:

Up to 25 people are allowed in a business that is following an approved COVID-19 plan. Households can have up to 10 people with a maximum of five guests from another household.

Non-essential travel outside the territory is not recommended, and leisure travel into the territory is not permitted.

The territory is no longer requiring masks to be worn in public places in Yellowknife and three other communities.

Chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola says it’s still a good idea to wear a mask indoors when there is a crowd, poor ventilation, or shouting or singing.

Yukon:

Yukon has expanded the rules for gatherings, allowing up to 200 people to get together, as long as masks are worn indoors and other health protocols are followed. 

Fully vaccinated people can have personal gatherings of up to 20 people indoors and 50 outdoors, but the unvaccinated are encouraged to stick with their “safe six” because they are at significantly higher risk. 

Bars and restaurants are allowed to operate at full capacity with restrictions.  

The government says starting Aug. 4, people returning to the territory will not be required to self-isolate and masks in indoor public places will not be required.

Bars and restaurants will also be allowed to return to full capacity without the need for physical distancing.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 1, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Why an Israeli company is developing an oral Covid vaccine – MENAFN.COM

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(MENAFN – AFP)

Imagine a Covid-19 vaccine that came as a pill: no needles, no medical professionals required to administer it, potentially delivered directly to people’s homes.

Israeli pharmaceutical Oramed is attempting to accomplish just that, and is poised to start its first clinical trial in early August, CEO Nadav Kidron told AFP in an interview.

With just 15 percent of the world’s population fully vaccinated, the global fight to end the pandemic is far from over.

Oral vaccines are particularly attractive for the developing world, because they reduce the logistical burden of immunization campaigns, said Kidron.

But they could also increase uptake in wealthy countries where needle aversion is an often missed factor in hesitancy.

A recent survey found nearly 19 million Americans who decline vaccines would take them if they had a pill option.

“In order for the vaccine to really work well, we need as many people to take it as possible,” said Kidron.

Other benefits include reduced syringe and plastic waste, and potentially fewer side effects.

– Challenges for oral delivery –

Despite many theoretical advantages, there have been few successful oral vaccines because the active ingredients tend not to survive the journey through the gastro-intestinal tract.

Exceptions include vaccines for diseases that are themselves transmitted through the mouth and digestive system — for example there is an effective oral polio vaccine.

Oramed, which was founded in 2006, believes it has overcome the technical hurdles by designing a capsule that survives the highly acidic environment of the gut.

It invented its technology for a previous product, an experimental oral form of insulin, the lifesaving drug required by diabetics that has until now been only administered by injection.

Developed with Nobel Prize winning biochemist Avram Hershko who is on Oramed’s scientific advisory board, the company’s capsule has a highly protective coating that makes it slow to degrade.

It also releases molecules called protease inhibitors that stop enzymes in the small intestine from breaking down the insulin, and an absorption enhancer to help the insulin cross into the bloodstream.

This drug has been dosed in hundreds of patients in late stage clinical trials in the US, with results expected in September 2022.

Oramed has now launched a new majority-owned company called Oravax, which takes the capsule technology from the oral insulin product and uses it for an oral Covid-19 vaccine.

– Virus-like particle –

To evoke an immune response, the company’s scientists have designed synthetic coronavirus-like particles.

These mimic three key structures of the pathogen: the spike protein, the envelope protein and the membrane protein.

Most currently authorized vaccines, like Pfizer or AstraZeneca, are based on the spike protein alone, making them less protective over time as the spike protein of the coronavirus mutates.

By targeting multiple parts of the virus, including structures that mutate less, the Oravax vaccine could be more variant-proof, Kidron said.

The company has applied to begin trials in multiple countries and expects to begin its first in Israel within weeks, pending approval from the health ministry.

Kidron said he foresaw a role for the vaccine initially in developing countries which haven’t yet bought up enough supply of current vaccines — before eventually developed markets.

A vaccine pill could become especially attractive if ongoing boosters are required.

If it’s successful, it would also represent a proof of concept for future orally administered vaccines, he added.

“Imagine… the flu vaccine comes to you in the mail, you take it, you’re done.”

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