Xi Jinping appears in public as WHO warns of ‘tip of the iceberg’
China's leader appoints Premier Li Keqiang to lead a working group tackling the outbreak
Beijing — Chinese President Xi Jinping donned a face mask and had his temperature checked on Monday while visiting medical workers and patients affected by the deadly coronavirus that has killed more than 900 people.
Calling the spread of the coronavirus “still very grave”, Xi urged “more decisive measures” to contain the spread of the epidemic, said state broadcaster CCTV.
Xi has largely kept out of the public eye since the virus outbreak spread from the epicentre in Hubei province to infect 40,626 people so far. The death toll was at 908 people.
He appointed Premier Li Keqiang to lead a working group tackling the outbreak, and it was Li who visited ground zero in Wuhan in January.
The death last week of the 34-year-old doctor, Li Wenliang, who was sanctioned by local authorities after warning about the disease, unleashed a torrent of grief and anger on social media. Beijing has moved quickly to try to stem the outrage, employing familiar censorship tools and sending a team from the Communist Party’s top disciplinary body to investigate his death.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday it is closely watching Chinese regions outside Hubei province, where first reports emerged, for signs that new infection hot spots. WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a tweet on Sunday that there have been concerning instances of coronavirus being spread from people with no travel history to China, saying “we may only be seeing the tip of the iceberg”.
The outbreak has prompted unprecedented action by the Chinese government, including locking down entire cities in Hubei province as well as cutting transport links nationwide, closing tourist attractions and telling hundreds of millions of people to stay indoors.
In other developments:
• Capital Economics said on Monday the outbreak will cost the global economy more than $280bn in the first three months of the year, putting an end to a 43-quarter global growth streak. Based on those forecasts “global GDP will not grow in quarter-on-quarter terms for the first time since 2009”, the firm said.
• Britain reported four more cases, warned of an imminent threat to public health and tightened quarantine rules. The move came as the UK government called the novel coronavirus a “serious and imminent” threat to public health.
• British Airways extended a halt to flights to mainland China until March 31. All flights to and from Beijing and Shanghai are now cancelled, while trips to Hong Kong remain unaffected.
• Amazon.com has pulled out of February's Mobile World Congress in Spain because of reported cases there. The announcement is another blow to one of the telecom industry’s biggest gatherings which attracts more than 100,000 visitors to Barcelona.
• Hon Hai Precision Industry has told some employees at its main iPhone-making unit that it is postponing the resumption of production. Hon Hai, known also as Foxconn, sent a message via its internal app on Sunday that it wouldn’t be able to decide on a back-to-work date “until further notice” for its iDPBG business unit, according to a version reviewed by Bloomberg News. That division makes gadgets for Apple at a factory in the so-called iPhone city of Zhengzhou and two other plants in Shenzhen.
• Jaguar Land Rover updated a presentation to investors late Sunday, saying its supply chains outside China could be affected. The luxury-car maker said on Friday that it expects the virus to affect its fiscal fourth quarter but that it’s too early to quantify.
• Nissan Motor is suspending work at a Japanese assembly plant for two days in the coming week because of disruption to the supply of automobile parts due to the outbreak.
• General Motors says it will restart production in China from February 15, according to a company representative. Plans to restart production in plants with local partners would be based on preparedness of supply chain and product inventory, Reuters reported earlier.
• Hong Kong’s Li Ka Shing Foundation donated HK$100m ($13m) to help Wuhan. The money will be distributed via the Red Cross Society of China. Li Ka-shing, 91, has a net worth of about $28.3bn, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
• Residents from Hong Kong and Macau are barred from entering Taiwan starting from February 11 as the island tries to contain the coronavirus. Those approved for entry will be quarantined or 14 days on arrival. Taipei-Hong Kong is one of the busiest international flight routes.
• Singapore’s coronavirus outbreak has spread to its financial centre, with some staff at major companies being told to work from home for at least the next few days and temperature screening checkpoints set up at the front doors of several towers. A worker at an unnamed firm in Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 1 has been confirmed as being infected with the virus over the weekend, according to a circular to tenants by the building’s manager.
• The operator of the cruise ship quarantined off Japan confirmed more cases of coronavirus, nearly doubling to more than 130 the number of people on the vessel who have contracted the disease. The increasing number of patients on Carnival Corporation’s Diamond Princess has raised worries about a possible spread among the people still aboard.
• Airbnb said it had suspending check-ins at all of its Beijing listings until March to comply with local regulations intended to curb the coronavirus outbreak. The San Francisco-based company said in a statement that it will offer refunds to all those affected or that cancel their bookings.