Health and Science

WHO plays down media reports of coronavirus drug breakthroughs, US futures jump

Key Points
  • China National Health Commission said that as of Tuesday night, a total of 24,324 cases have been confirmed and 490 people have died in the country.
Workers preparing the Wuhan International Conference and Exhibition Center on February 4, 2020 in Wuhan, China. It is understood that the first and second floors of Wuhan International Convention and Exhibition Center have been converted into temporary hospitals with a total of 1,000 beds, which are specially used to treat patients with mild new-type coronavirus.
Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The coverage on this live blog has ended. For up-to-the-minute coverage on the coronavirus, visit the live blog from CNBC's U.S. team.

All times below are in Beijing time.

9:00 pm: ECB chief says coronavirus outbreak 'adds a new layer of uncertainty' to global growth

The president of the European Central Bank has expressed concern that China's coronavirus outbreak is fueling global economic uncertainty, according to a Reuters report.

"The short-term uncertainties are mainly related to global risks — trade, geopolitical and now the outbreak of the coronavirus and its potential effect on global growth," Christine Lagarde reportedly said during a speech in Paris, France on Wednesday.

"While the threat of a trade war between the United States and China appears to have receded, the coronavirus adds a new layer of uncertainty," she added.

8:25 pm: WHO says there are 'no known' effective drug treatments against coronavirus

The World Health Organization (WHO) has played down media reports of a drug breakthrough against the coronavirus outbreak, saying there are "no known" drug treatments against the virus.

"There are no known effective therapeutics against this 2019-nCoV and WHO recommends enrollment into a randomized controlled trial to test efficacy and safety," WHO said in a statement on Wednesday.

"A master global clinical trial protocol for research and prioritization of therapeutics is ongoing at the WHO," it added.

Earlier in the day (See 7:00 p.m. update), Reuters said a Chinese TV media outlet had reported that a research team at Zhejiang University had found an effective drug to treat people with the new coronavirus. The news agency, citing traders, suggested this was a reason for the move higher in stocks.

Separately, Sky News reported Wednesday that a scientist from Imperial College London had made a significant breakthrough in the race to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus. The vaccine is thought to be able to reduce the development time from "two to three years to just 14 days," Sky said.

CNBC has not been able to verify the media reports.

7:20 pm: China's Xi says the country must crack down on coronavirus misinformation

Chinese President Xi Jinping has said the government will crack down on misinformation about the coronavirus, Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday.

He reportedly added that the world's second-largest economy must report information about the virus in a timely and accurate manner, with the outbreak at a crucial stage.

Xi's reported comments come as the World Health Organization continues to warn against fast-spreading rumors about the virus online.

"There is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from 2019-nCoV," the WHO posted on its official Twitter account last week, along with the hashtag #KnowtheFacts.

The United Nations health agency has repeatedly sought to caution against fake alerts and posts circulating on social media.

Here's how Big Tech companies are combating coronavirus misinformation
Here's how Big Tech companies are combating coronavirus misinformation

7:00 pm: US futures rally amid media reports of a drug breakthrough for coronavirus

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Wednesday.

It comes after Reuters said a Chinese TV media outlet had reported that a research team at Zhejiang University had found an effective drug to treat people with the new coronavirus. The news agency, citing traders, suggested this was a reason for the move higher in stocks.

Separately, Sky News reported Wednesday that a scientist from Imperial College London had made a significant breakthrough in the race to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus. The vaccine is thought to be able to reduce the development time from "two to three years to just 14 days," Sky said.

CNBC has not been able to verify the media reports.

At around 6 a.m. ET, Dow futures indicated an implied open of nearly 300 points, while futures in the S&P 500 and Nasdaq also pointed higher.

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6:30 pm: Oil prices climb more than 3% on reports of effective coronavirus drug

Oil prices jumped more than 3% on Wednesday, following media reports that scientists may have developed an effective drug to prevent China's fast-spreading coronavirus.

International benchmark Brent crude traded at $55.40 Wednesday evening, up around 2.7%, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) stood at $50.82, almost 2.5% higher.

Both crude benchmarks had climbed more than 3% earlier in the session. Brent and WTI have fallen more than 20% since climbing to a peak in early January.

OPEC and non-OPEC partners, sometimes referred to as OPEC+, are thought to be considering further output cuts this month, with energy market participants increasingly concerned that the virus outbreak could squeeze oil demand growth.

5:30 pm: Hong Kong's Carrie Lam says visitors from mainland China must be quarantined for two weeks

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has said those coming from mainland China will be put into compulsory quarantine for 14 days.

The city's chief executive said Wednesday that two cruise terminals would also be closed in an attempt to limit the cross-border flow of people.

Some medical staff have been on strike for three days, demanding a full border closer.

Lam said there have now been 21 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Hong Kong.

4:11 pm: China's Foreign Ministry says China, US in close contact over virus

A batch of supplies from the U.S. arrived in Wuhan on Feb. 4, and some American businesses and institutions have also offered support, Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry said during a daily briefing on Wednesday, according to an official translation.

"We have come to a crucial stage in terms of epidemic prevention and control," the spokeswoman said. She noted both China and the U.S. are in close communication through diplomatic and health channels.

On trade, Hua said China hoped the U.S. would "work with" the Asian country on implementing the consensus that their leaders have reached.

3:50 pm: Cathay Pacific appeals to employees to take unpaid leave

Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific has appealed to all of its employees to take three weeks of unpaid leave, as the airline carrier struggles with falling demand caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Employees "have the option to take three weeks of unpaid leave" in the period between March 1 and June 30, the airline said in a statement to CNBC.

"In view of the Novel Coronavirus outbreak and also significant drop in market demand, we just announced massive capacity cuts yesterday," the statement said.

"Preserving cash is the key to protecting our business. We have already been taking multiple measures to achieve this. Today, we are appealing to all employees to participate in the special leave scheme," the airline said.

3:30 pm: Taiwan suspends entry for mainland Chinese citizens

Taiwan has temporarily suspended entry for all Chinese citizens who live in mainland China, effective from Thursday.

Taiwan, which is not a member of the World Health Organization due to China's objections, has 11 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

China considers self-governing Taiwan a wayward province to be brought under its control.

3:15 pm: China markets close more than 1% higher

Mainland Chinese markets closed higher on Wednesday, building on gains in the previous session after a sharp fall at the start of the week.

The Shanghai composite closed up 1.25% on Wednesday, while the Shenzhen component jumped over 2.4%.

Other major Asia-Pacific markets also rose, while European markets were predicted to edge higher.

3:00 pm: Passengers on cruise ship in Hong Kong being tested for virus

Over 1,800 passengers on a Dream Cruises ship docked in Hong Kong are being tested for the new coronavirus, after some crew members reported they have fevers and other symptoms, according to the city's health authorities.

Passengers and crew members are not allowed to get off the World Dream ship without permission, authorities said.

More than 90% of the passengers are Hong Kong residents. The ship had traveled from Nansha, China to Vietnam between Jan. 19-24 — a group of mainland Chinese tourists on that trip was confirmed to be infected, according to authorities.

Separately, Princess Cruises on Tuesday confirmed that ten passengers on a ship in Japan have the virus.

2:50 pm: Singapore says outbreak is 'a very good lesson' on diversifying supply chains

The ongoing spread of a new coronavirus — which shut down major business hubs in China — serves as "a very good lesson" for companies and economies on the importance of diversifying their supply chains, said Singapore's trade minister on Wednesday.

2:20 pm: Schools in Shanghai not to reopen before end February

Shanghai authorities announced on Wednesday that all schools are not to reopen before the end of February.

1:20 pm: Two new cases in South Korea

South Korea on Wednesday confirmed two new coronavirus cases. One of them is a 38-year-old male who was in Singapore for a conference from Jan. 18 to Jan. 24, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There was an infected Malaysian patient at the conference, it said.

1:00 pm: Healthcare workers in Hong Kong strike for third day

Medical workers in Hong Kong went on strike for a third day, in a bid to pressure the city's government to shut down all borders with mainland China.

They said they are doing so as the coronavirus is spreading rapidly in Hong Kong, which reported its first death due to the virus. The city has confirmed 18 cases so far.

Hong Kong's chief executive Carrie Lam has closed some borders but left three open, arguing that to close the entire border would be impractical and discriminatory, according to a Reuters report.

12:15 pm: Trump says 'working closely' with China on outbreak

U.S. President Donald Trump said during his State of the Union address that the U.S. is coordinating with the Chinese government on the coronavirus outbreak.

"Protecting Americans' health also means fighting infectious diseases. We are coordinating with the Chinese government and working closely together on the coronavirus outbreak in China. My Administration will take all necessary steps to safeguard our citizens from this threat," he said, without giving further details.

The White House said earlier this week that China accepted its offer to allow U.S. experts into the country as part of a World Health Organization effort to fight the outbreak. Earlier, China accused the U.S. of spreading fear and panic amid the outbreak instead of providing assistance.

11:25 am: Second hospital in Wuhan due to be completed on Wednesday

A second, 1,600-bed hospital for coronavirus patients in Wuhan is set to be completed on Wednesday, according to Chinese state media.

China nears completion of hospital to treat coronavirus patients
China nears completion of hospital to treat coronavirus patients

That follows the city's first, 1,000-bed hospital which was completed and started admitting patients on Monday. Both hospitals were constructed rapidly in a roughly week-long process, watched by millions of viewers via live-streaming.

Wuhan will also convert another eight venues into temporary hospitals to receive coronavirus patients, state media Xinhua reported.

To make more beds available, some hotels, stadiums and training centers may be used to admit suspected and mild cases, according to authorities.

10:35 am: One American among ten passengers on Princess Cruises ship who tested positive

An American is among ten passengers who tested positive for coronavirus, Princess Cruises confirmed to CNBC.

The other infected passengers are from Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, according to Princess Cruises.

"We were notified that amongst the samples that have completed testing, 10 people have tested positive for Coronavirus," Princess Cruises said in an earlier statement after the first phase of health screening for guests and crew onboard the Diamond Princess.

There are more than 3,700 people onboard, and about half of the 2,666 guests are from Japan, the cruise liner said.

10:18 am: Passenger flights, rail trips in China plummet

Passenger flights in China, excluding foreign flyovers, fell 12.1% year-on-year from the first day of the Lunar New Year travel period (Jan. 10) to Feb. 4, according to state news agency Xinhua, citing China's aviation authority. For Feb. 4 alone, the drop was 63.8%, the report said.

China's railway operator said in an online post Tuesday night that 1.3 million passenger rail trips were expected for that day, a year-on-year decline of 88.5%. That followed a drop of 86.1% to 1.6 million trips on Monday.

The Lunar New Year is one of the busiest times for Chinese to travel. This year, authorities encouraged people to stay home in an effort to limit the spread of the virus.

10:05 am: China markets jump

Mainland Chinese stocks jumped for a second day running after plunging more than 7% on Monday in their return to trade. The Shenzhen component and the Shenzhen composite rose more than 2%, while the Shanghai composite climbed about 1%.

9:45 am: Global economy is more vulnerable now than during SARS

China's economy has changed since the SARS epidemic in 2003 that killed some 800 people worldwide, and shaved 0.5 to 1 percentage points off the country's growth that year.

Here are five charts that show why the global economy is more vulnerable today than during SARS.

8:09 am: United Airlines to suspend Hong Kong flights

United Airlines on Tuesday said it will suspend its Hong Kong service, days after it cut its mainland China flights as coronavirus spreads. The suspension starts on Feb. 8 and will last until Feb. 20 but more changes are possible.

A security guard wearing protective gear checks the temperature of the visitor at the entrance of Accident & Emergency at Princess Margaret Hospital in Hong Kong, China, on Feb. 4, 2020.

8:02 am: China reports total deaths of 490, and 24,324 cases

China National Health Commission said that as of Tuesday night, a total of 24,324 cases have been confirmed and 490 people have died in the country.

There were 65 additional deaths and all of them came from Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak.

7:23 am: Hubei reports 65 additional deaths

Hubei province reports an additional 65 deaths and 3,156 new cases related to the mysterious coronavirus as of the end of Tuesday.

The Hubei Provincial Health Committee on Wednesday reported that 479 people have died and a total of 16,678 cases have been confirmed so far. To date, the province — the epicenter of the pneumonia-like virus — has accounted for most of the deaths from the new coronavirus.

CNBC Special Report: Coronavirus
CNBC Special Report: Coronavirus

All times below are in Eastern time.

5:24 pm: Outbreak costing Disney theme parks $175 million

Disney said it is expecting to take a $175 million hit from the recent coronavirus outbreak if its Hong Kong and Shanghai Disney parks remain closed for two months. Christine McCarthy, chief financial officer at Disney, said the company expects an impact of $135 million on second-quarter operating income from the Shanghai park and about $40 million from the closure of the Hong Kong park.

4:48 pm: Nike expects 'material impact' on operations in China

Nike has closed half of its stores in China, saying the outbreak will have a "material impact" on its operations there. "This situation was not contemplated at the time we provided Q3 guidance during our Q2 fiscal year 2020 earnings call," the company said in a statement. "Dynamics continue to evolve and accordingly we will provide an update on the operational and financial impacts on our Q3 earnings call."

Read CNBC's coverage from the U.S. overnight: Nike expects 'material impact,' virus costs Disney $175 million

— CNBC's Vivian Kam, Ryan Ruggiero, Berkeley Lovelace Jr. and William Feuer contributed to this report.