Health and Science

Trump heaps praise on Xi, Singapore raises coronavirus alert to SARS level

Key Points
  • China says the total number of deaths in the country rose to 636 and the cumulative number of confirmed cases reached 31,161.
  • The death of Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang ignited a public outpouring of grief and criticism of the government on social media. The hashtag #IWantFreedomOfSpeech has been censored on Chinese social media, Weibo.
  • On Friday morning, the two most popular hashtags on Weibo, China's version of Twitter, were about the death of Dr. Li Wenliang, the doctor who first sounded the alarm on the coronavirus.
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The coverage on this live blog has ended — but 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.

9:15 pm: L'Oreal CEO says coronavirus will hamper demand over coming weeks, but e-commerce can help offset crisis

The chief executive of L'Oreal believes e-commerce sales will "really help" to offset the impact of China's coronavirus, while warning the outbreak is likely to hamper demand over the coming weeks.

"We are very strong on e-commerce," Jean-Paul Agon, CEO of L'Oreal, told CNBC's Charlotte Reed on Friday.

Agon said e-commerce had accounted for almost 50% of the company's sales in China last year and "we think that this will really help us in the (coronavirus) crisis."

Shares of the Paris-listed stock were slightly higher during afternoon deals. — Meredith

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L'Oreal CEO: E-commerce growth will help offset coronavirus crisis

8:20 pm: Ericsson withdraws from major Barcelona conference over coronavirus concerns

Sweden's Ericsson has announced it will not attend Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain later this month, saying it cannot ensure the safety of employees and customers amid concerns over the coronavirus.

"The health and safety of our employees, customers and other stakeholders are our highest priority. This is not a decision we have taken lightly," Borje Ekholm, president and CEO of Ericsson, said in a statement on Friday.

"We were looking forward to showcasing our latest innovations at MWC in Barcelona. It is very unfortunate, but we strongly believe the most responsible business decision is to withdraw our participation from this year's event," he added.

MWC is scheduled to run from Feb. 24 to Feb. 27. It is the world's largest telecom industry event and attracts more than 100,000 visitors each year.

Separately, the U.S. Attorney General has said America should consider taking a controlling stake in European telecom equipment makers Ericsson and Nokia in order to "blunt" Chinese firm Huawei's "drive to domination."

Shares of Ericsson were up almost 4% during early afternoon deals. — Meredith

7:35 pm: WHO director-general warns of a chronic shortage of personnel protective equipment

The director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) has reportedly warned about the risk of a chronic shortage of protective equipment as countries work to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.

Speaking at an executive board meeting at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was concerned about a lack of masks, gloves and other protective equipment, Reuters reported.

Tedros also said there had been fewer reported coronavirus infections in China over the last two days. However, "the numbers could go up again," he cautioned.

China's National Health Commission on Friday confirmed 31,131 cases of the deadly pneumonia-like virus in the country, with 636 deaths. (See 8:16 am update).

Late last month, health experts told CNBC that the panic buying of face masks to protect against the coronavirus was "completely understandable," but ultimately unwarranted. They also warned a shortage of masks could pose a risk to health workers. — Meredith

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a press conference following an emergency talks over the new SARS-like virus spreading in China and other nations in Geneva on January 22, 2020.
Pierre Albouy | AFP | Getty Images

6:55 pm: Trump hails 'great discipline' in China to tackle coronavirus

President Donald Trump has heaped praise on Chinese President Xi Jinping for "leading the counterattack" against the coronavirus.

The U.S. president said via Twitter that he had recently had a "very good" conversation with Xi, adding that the White House was "working closely" with Beijing to help tackle the outbreak.

"Great discipline is taking place in China, as President Xi strongly leads what will be a very successful operation. We are working closely with China to help!" Trump said on Friday. — Meredith

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6:15 pm: Singapore reports three more coronavirus cases, raises virus alert to SARS level

Singapore on Friday confirmed three more cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total number of people infected in the city-state to 33.

The new cases are not thought to have any link to previous infections or travel to China. It has prompted Singapore's authorities to raise its virus alert level to orange, up from yellow, as new cases show the deadly pneumonia-like virus spreading.

The alert level of orange was also declared during the SARS outbreak of 2003. It is one below the highest alert level of red, which would indicate the virus is spreading widely.

"As there are now a few local cases without any links to previous cases or travel history to China, we have stepped up our risk assessment," Singapore's Ministry of Health said in a statement.

The ministry has urged event organizers to cancel or defer non-essential large-scale events. — Meredith

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Singapore is much more prepared to handle outbreaks today compared to SARS, expert says

5:10 pm: Chinese authorities emphasize their ability to support economic growth

The effect of the new coronavirus on China is temporary, and the economy will continue to show great resilience, Pan Gongsheng, deputy governor of the People's Bank of China, said Friday at a press conference in Beijing.

"The Chinese government has sufficient policy space to stabilize economic growth," Pan said, according to a CNBC translation of his Mandarin-language remarks.

He added that the recovery in the stock market and movement of the yuan's exchange rate in both directions, indicate that China's financial market Is becoming more resilient and more mature.

Also on Friday, the Ministry of Finance announced that in an effort to alleviate the tax burden, for businesses in industries affected by the virus, the maximum period for which losses can be carried over is extended to eight years from five years . — Cheng

4:20 pm: Finland's national airline says it cannot provide a full-year revenue estimate due to coronavirus outbreak

Finland's national airline said Friday that it is unable to provide investors with a full-year revenue estimate "due to the situation with coronavirus."

Finnair said the direct financial impact of the outbreak during the first three months of 2020 was expected to be "relatively limited," even if mainland China cancellations continued to the end of the first quarter.

The airline reported full-year revenue for 2019 increased by more than 9% in 2019, with shares up more than 5% during early morning deals. — Meredith

4:05 pm: Over 300,000 people sign petition calling for WHO director-general's immediate resignation

An online petition calling for the immediate resignation of Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), has received more than 300,000 signatures in one week.

The petition, which was created on Jan. 31, argues Tedros is "not fit for his role" as director-general of the United Nations health agency. It cites frustration that the coronavirus outbreak was not declared a global health emergency on Jan. 23 and a refusal to recognize Taiwan as a WHO member.

The WHO was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

WHO recognized the deadly pneumonia-like virus as an international emergency on Jan. 30.

Taiwan is not a member of the WHO due to China's objections. Beijing considers self-governing Taiwan a wayward province to be brought under its control. — Meredith

3:07 pm: Shanghai passes new law to punish those who hide their illness

The Shanghai Municipal People's Congress voted to pass a new law that stipulates that those who conceal their medical history and their visits to sick people or key infected areas, and who avoid medical isolation, can be placed on the municipal blacklist.

It's not clear what these punishments are, though typically they include bans on air and high-speed rail travel, and luxury spending. This may be more an effort to emphasize the need to self-report and comply with authorities. — Cheng

2:08 pm: China to send team to Wuhan amid public outcry over whistleblower doctor's death

China will be sending a team to Wuhan city, the epicenter of the outbreak, "to comprehensively investigate the matters regarding Dr. Li Wenliang raised by the public," according to China's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

Dr. Li Wenliang, a 34-year-old Chinese doctor in Wuhan, died early Friday morning after being infected by the virus, according to the Wuhan Central Hospital where he worked. The ophthalmologist was one of the first people to warn about the dangers of the virus, but was reprimanded by authorities for "spreading rumors."

His death has ignited a public outpouring of grief and criticism of the government on social media. The hashtag #IWantFreedomOfSpeech has been censored on Chinese social media, Weibo. — Tan

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1:03 pm: Uniqlo suspends operations in half its stores in China

Uniqlo has temporarily shut down nearly half its stores in China, Reuters reported, saying the Japanese clothes retailer will suspend operations of 370 of its 750 stores there.

China has been a major growth market for its parent company, Fast Retailing. — Tan

12:38 pm: S&P slashes China GDP forecast for 2020

Ratings agency S&P has revised lower China's GDP forecast for this year — from 5.7% before the virus outbreak to 5%.

"Most of the economic impact of coronavirus will be felt in the first quarter, and China's recovery will be firmly in place by the third quarter of this year," S&P Global Ratings APAC Chief Economist Shaun Roache said in a Friday report.

Looking ahead, S&P expects an "above-trend" growth of 6.4% versus a previous forecast of 5.6% for 2021. — Roy

11:43 am: Trump says he is confident of China's 'strength and resilience'

Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump spoke on the phone Friday morning Beijing time.

"President Trump expressed confidence in China's strength and resilience in confronting the challenge of the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak," said White House spokesperson Judd Deere in a tweet.

Deere tweet: Today, @realDonaldTrump spoke with President Xi Jinping of China. President Trump expressed confidence in China's strength and resilience in confronting the challenge of the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak.

The two leaders talked about the spread of the virus, and Xi said China is doing all it can to fight the outbreak, according to the state-owned broadcaster CCTV.

"(Xi said) we have full confidence and full ability to overcome the epidemic. The long-term good prospects of China's economic development will not change," the report said, according to a CNBC translation of the Chinese text. — Cheng, Tan

Medical staff are seen at a makeshift hospital converted from an exhibition center in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province on Feb. 5, 2020. The hospital can provide about 1,600 beds to infected patients.
Xiong Qi | Xinhua News Agency | Getty

10:55 am: Japan's Abe wants government to pull out all stops to limit economic impact

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has reportedly called on his government to take "all necessary steps" in order to limit the economic impact of the virus outbreak. That could include dipping into budget reserves, Reuters said.

"There's a risk the coronavirus outbreak could hurt consumption, so we need to watch developments carefully," Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura was quoted as saying on Friday, reported Reuters citing Jiji Press.

Japan, which is preparing to host the 2020 Summer Olympics in July and August, is also concerned about the impact on inbound tourism, the report said. — Tan

9:42 am: 41 new cases from Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan

An additional 41 people on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which arrived at the Japanese port of Yokohama earlier this week, have tested positive.

This brings the total number of confirmed cases from the cruise ship to 61, said Japan's health ministry.

About 3,700 passengers and crew were placed under mandatory quarantine for two weeks after 10 people aboard the cruise liner tested positive. — Tan

9:22 am: Newborn in China becomes youngest case

A baby in Wuhan, who was born on Saturday, tested positive for the virus 36 hours after he was delivered, the Associated Press reported. Authorities said he was the youngest person known to be infected with the new coronavirus, according to the report.

"The baby was immediately separated from the mother after the birth and has been under artificial feeding. There was no close contact with the parents, yet it was diagnosed with the disease," Zeng Lingkong, director of neonatal diseases at Wuhan Children's Hospital, told Chinese TV.

It was not clear how the child got infected, AP said. — Tan

9:08 am: Moody's warns that Australian universities could be hit harder than their global peers

Moody's Investors Service said Australia's universities could face more immediate credit risks compared to their global peers, as travel restrictions on Chinese citizens will impact international enrolments and exchange programs.

Chinese students make up about 60% of the international students at Australia's top universities, and international students account for about 33% of the total student intake Down Under, the report said.

"While the impact will remain manageable if the coronavirus is contained within the next few months, a longer outbreak has the potential to materially dent revenue and cash reserves for Australian universities," according to Moody's. — Tan

8:40 am: Chinese social media erupts with condolences and anger over whistleblower doctor's death

On Friday morning, the two most popular hashtags on Weibo, China's version of Twitter, were about the death of Dr. Li Wenliang, the doctor who was reprimanded by the government when he first sounded the alarm on the coronavirus.

Users of WeChat, China's ubiquitous messaging app, also poured out condolences in their "moments" feed, which is akin to Facebook's news feed.

The comments ranged from respect and sadness over the loss of a "hero," to references of "Do you hear the People Sing" from Les Misérables and a remark from Li to Caixin news that, "A healthy society should not only have one voice." — Cheng

A sign reminding people to wash their hands is pictured outside a dormitory at the Washington State Patrol Fire Training Academy which has been designated as quarantine site for travelers from the Chinese province of Hubei on February 6, 2020 in North Bend, Washington.
Jason Redmond | AFP | Getty Images

8:16 am: China says death toll rises to 636, as total cases cross 31,000

China says there were an additional 73 deaths and 3,143 new cases of the coronavirus in China as of the end of Feb. 6, the National Health Commission said in its daily update on Friday.

This brings the total number of deaths in China to 636 and the cumulative number of confirmed cases to 31,161, the government said.

Most of those who died on Thursday were from Hubei — the epicenter of the outbreak. — Tan

All times below are in Eastern time.

6:15 pm: Pentagon sets up more military bases to take in quarantined Americans

The Pentagon identified 11 military installations near major airports that can support those evacuated from China, where the current outbreak originated. Department of Defense personnel won't be in direct contact with the evacuees and will minimize contact with personnel supporting the evacuees, officials said. The bases are in Hawaii, Illinois, Texas, California, Georgia, New York, Washington state, New Jersey, Michigan and the District of Columbia. — Macias

Pedestrians wearing protective face masks walk though the Chinatown neighborhood of New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020.
Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images

5:25 pm: Hubei reports an additional 2,447 cases, 69 deaths

China's Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, reported an additional 69 deaths and 2,447 cases over the previous 24-hour period. The Hubei Provincial Health Committee said that this brings the total confirmed cases in the province to 22,112 and totals deaths in the province to 618. — Feuer

3:55 pm: Hit to global economy will be worse than SARS

The new coronavirus outbreak will be worse for the global economy than the 2003 SARS outbreak, IHS Markit predicts. Though estimates vary, economists say that the SARS outbreak in China cost the global economy about $40 billion. But during that 2003 outbreak, China was just the sixth-largest economy in the world, IHS Markit's report says, accounting for 4.2% of the global economy. There's more at stake now. Today, China is the second-largest economy, making up 16.3% of the world's GDP. — Feuer

Read CNBC's coverage from the U.S. overnight: Airlines cancel flights amid coronavirus outbreak, Pentagon sets up more bases for evacuees

— CNBC's Saheli Roy Choudhury, William Feuer and Amanda Macias contributed to this report.