Health and Science

WHO chief says coronavirus outbreak 'holds a very grave threat' for world

Key Points
  • China's National Health Commission said there were 2,478 confirmed new cases in the mainland and 108 additional deaths, most of them in Hubei province.
  • As of Monday night, the government said a total of 42,638 cases have been confirmed and 1,016 people have died in the country.
  • The Singapore Tourism Board on Tuesday said tourism arrivals and receipts for the current calendar year in the city-state will take a "significant hit" due to the new coronavirus outbreak.
  • China's smartphone shipments for the three months ending in March could decline by more than 30% from the same period a year ago, International Data Corporation said on Tuesday.
Containing the spread of the coronavirus
Containing the spread of the coronavirus

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All times below are in Beijing time.

8:30 pm: Under Armour shares dive in pre-market trade after warning 2020 sales could be hit by outbreak

Under Armour shares tumbled nearly 12% in pre-market trade Tuesday morning, after it warned the coronavirus outbreak could hamper sales in 2020.

"The company's initial 2020 outlook currently includes an estimated negative impact of the coronavirus outbreak in China of approximately $50 million to $60 million in sales related to the first quarter of 2020," Under Armour said in a statement, adding this outlook does not contemplate additional financial or operational impacts beyond the first three months of the year.

The athletic apparel company also warned that "given the significant level of uncertainty with this dynamic and evolving situation, full-year results could be further materially impacted."

Pedestrians walk past an Under Armour Inc. store in Shanghai, China, on Monday, Dec. 21, 2015.
Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images

7:45 pm: Malaysia prepares stimulus package to offset virus' impact on travel, retail and tourism

Malaysia is preparing to unveil a stimulus package for aviation, retailing and tourism to help offset the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, the country's economic affairs ministry said Tuesday.

The aim is to "introduce initiatives to encourage domestic spending and tourism to generate growth through higher local demand," the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry did not provide a specific timeline for the stimulus measures, but said they would be implemented in the "near future."

6:30 pm: China's top virus expert reportedly says outbreak may peak this month

China's fast-spreading coronavirus may peak in February, before cases then start to plateau and ease over the coming months, Beijing's top economic adviser told Reuters on Tuesday.

Zhong Nanshan, a leading epidemiologist who become known around the world for his role tackling the SARS epidemic in 2003, said the situation in China was already showing signs of improving, pointing to the number of new cases falling overnight.

He added that he believes the outbreak would peak either by the middle or the end of February before the number of cases would then start to fall.

Zhong had previously predicted an earlier peak for the coronavirus, Reuters reported.

5:25 pm: WHO chief says coronavirus outbreak 'holds a very grave threat' for world

The director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) has reportedly warned that while almost all of the confirmed coronavirus cases are in China, the outbreak constitutes a "very grave threat" for the rest of the world.

"With 99% of cases in China, this remains very much an emergency for that country, but one that holds a very grave threat for the rest of the world," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during opening remarks of a meeting between more than 400 researchers and national authorities, Reuters reported Tuesday.

His comments come less than 24 hours after he told reporters at the UN health agency's headquarters in Geneva that cases detected outside China "could be the spark that becomes a bigger fire."

As of Monday night, China's National Health Commission reported that a total of 42,638 cases had been confirmed in the country, with 1,016 deaths. (See 8:17 a.m. update).

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

5 pm: Some Chinese tech companies, including Megvii, get back to work

Employees for Chinese artificial intelligence company Megvii are working from home until Feb. 17, Sun Guannan, general manager of government affairs, said in a release from the Beijing municipal government on Tuesday.

Megvii's research and development team worked overtime during the Lunar New Year holiday to develop a machine that uses artificial intelligence to quickly determine whether people in public areas, such as subway stations, have a high temperature, the release said.

The company is based in Beijing's technology start-up hub, Zhongguancun.

As of Feb. 10, employees at more than 7,000 companies in the science park have returned to work, and 88% of employees at China's largest chipmaker, SMIC, are back on duty, according to the government announcement. — Cheng.

4:06 pm: Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group to temporarily close more than 40 stores in Hong Kong, Macao

The Hong Kong-based jewelry operator said more than 40 stores in Hong Kong and Macao would "suspend their operations temporarily" while other outlets would shorten their hours until further notice.

All outlets in affected regions, with about 80% of stores in mainland China, have already responded to the calls of local governments and shopping mall operators to suspend operations temporarily, the company said in an emailed statement.

"The Group has NO plan to cut staff, yet we will undertake flexible staff deployment, arranging frontline staff to take annual leaves and those of the affected stores to work in other ones," the company said. — Kam

4:02 pm: No new confirmed cases of foreigners with coronavirus in China

No additional cases of foreign nationals infected with the new coronavirus have emerged in the last day, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, Geng Shuang, said at a daily press conference on Tuesday.

China said Monday the virus had killed two foreigners, a U.S. citizen and a Japanese national, and that there were a total of 27 confirmed foreign cases in the country. — Cheng

2:54 pm: Chinese officials emphasize need to help businesses resume operations

More than half of China delayed the resumption of work after the Lunar New Year holiday by at least a week, in an effort to limit the spread of the virus. Many businesses are slowly restoring operations, but some have encountered challenges from local authorities.

On Tuesday, officials at a national level pushed back on those practices.

"We want to make it clear here, we will strictly stop oversimplified and crude methods such as requiring approval that prevent businesses from resuming work and production," Ou Xiaoli, director-general of the social development department of the National Development and Reform Commission, said Tuesday at a press conference. That's according to a CNBC translation of his Mandarin-language remarks.

In addition, Cong Liang, secretary general, of the commission's leading party group, said that as of Monday, data from 22 key provinces showed the percentage of work resumed for various industries stands at:

  • Face mask companies: +76%
  • Protective suits: 77%
  • Major food producers and processing companies: 94.6%
  • Coal mines: 57.8% — Cheng

2:09 pm: IDC says virus outbreak could sink Q1 smartphone shipments in China

China's smartphone shipments for the three months ending in March could decline by more than 30% from the same period a year ago, International Data Corporation said on Tuesday.

The outbreak affected the Lunar New Year's shopping season in late January and is also expected to have adverse effects in the following months, IDC said in a statement, adding that it expects "China's smartphone shipments to drop more than 30% year-on-year in 2020Q1."

2:01 pm: Beijing scrambles to support Chinese economy as outbreak batters business

China's movie theaters were ramping up for one of their biggest sales seasons of the year – hiring extra staff and buying more supplies — when the new coronavirus hit. Now most theaters have been closed for about two weeks, and it may be months before consumers have enough confidence to see the movies in theaters again.

One theater manager says it's the biggest shutdown in 20 years – even SARS in 2003 didn't have such a great impact.

Theater operators now have to negotiate with landlords over potentially tens of thousands of yuan a month in rent, and manage other costs without any income in the meantime.

It's just one example of how businesses are getting hit by virus-related disruptions, and how the Chinese government is now rushing to announce policies to support the privately run, small businesses that contribute to more than half of economic growth. — Cheng

12:48 pm: Impact on Chinese gas demand will depend on severity and time taken to contain virus outbreak: Wood Mackenzie

Global energy research and consultancy group Wood Mackenzie said it estimated gas demand loss in China had reached 2 billion cubic meters (bcm) by the end of the first week of February. More than half of that loss was concentrated in the industrial sector, according to research director Robert Sims. Many factories had shut down production for an extended period after the Lunar New Year holidays as part of China's efforts to stop the virus from spreading further.

Experts have agreed that there will be a significant economic impact on China as well as the rest of the world for at least the three-months that end in March. Sims said the impact on Chinese gas demand will depend on both the severity and length of time required to contain the outbreak.

"With a resumption in economic activity, although limited, we estimate a full-year gas demand reduction of between 6 bcm and 14 bcm in 2020," he said in a report. Year-on-year growth rates are expected to also drop from the 8% outlook predicted prior to the outbreak.

12:31 pm: AIIB says is discussing longer-term infrastructure investments to tackle future epidemics

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, an Asia-centric multilateral development bank, said it is beginning discussions about medium to longer-term infrastructure investments to help prevent and control future epidemics.

"We are discussing with the Chinese authorities what is needed to strengthen the overall system once this crisis is over, (when) it's (the) moment to step up and learn the lessons, ask what kind of investments can help in the future to prevent outbreaks, reduce the impact and help to contain them," Joachim von Amsberg, vice president for policy and strategy at the Beijing-headquartered AIIB, told CNBC.

"We are talking about hospital infrastructure. We're talking about laboratories. We're talking about animal health," von Amsberg added. — Tan

11:45 am: Singapore's tourism board predicts 2020 visitor arrivals will drop by about 25% to 30%

The Singapore Tourism Board on Tuesday said tourism arrivals and receipts for the current calendar year in the city-state will take a "significant hit" due to the new coronavirus outbreak. Many countries, including Singapore, have imposed strict travel restrictions to contain the virus' spread.

While arrivals from China — about 20% of international visitors to the country — will be particularly affected, the tourism board said other main markets are also expected to decline due to lower travel confidence globally.

For 2020, the STB said it expects visitor arrivals to fall by about 25 to 30%. STB Chief Executive Keith Tan said Singapore's tourism sector is "facing its biggest challenge since SARS in 2003," and noted that the country is now better prepared and more resilient.

10:51 am: Vietnam reports its 15th confirmed case — a 3-month-old baby

Vietnam's health ministry on Tuesday reported a 15th confirmed case of the new coronavirus. It said the patient is a three-month-old baby residing in the Binh Xuyen District in Vinh Phuc province and was likely infected by her grandparent. She tested positive on Feb. 9, according to the ministry. Most of the reported confirmed cases of infection were from the same province. On Monday, the ministry said that a total of six patients had been cured and discharged.

10:10 am: China Premier Li chairs meeting on China's response to the virus outbreak

China Premier Li Keqiang chaired a meeting on Monday of a national-level virus response group tasked with addressing the novel coronavirus pneumonia outbreak that has killed more than 1,000 people on the mainland. (see 8:17 am update)

The meeting emphasized that all sub-national governments and relevant departments must step up efforts to control the epidemic by working on early detection, reporting, quarantine and treatment of confirmed cases, according to China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Other provinces should send more medical workers to Hubei, and local governments should increase their support for local production of protective suits and masks, the ministry said.

Close to 20,000 medical workers so far have been sent to Wuhan and other parts of Hubei province, according to a press release. The meeting called for lowering the case-fatality rate, increasing the sharing of scientific information and ensuring the supply of vegetables and other essential goods. — Cheng

10:02 am: Here's how another coronavirus epidemic affected China's economy nearly 20 years ago

Investors and analysts often look to the SARS epidemic in 2003 to gauge the potential impact the latest coronavirus outbreak will have on the world's second-largest economy. SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, was also a strain of coronavirus that killed hundreds nearly 20 years ago. But, recently, the death toll related to the new disease surpassed that.

In 2003, the spread of SARS dragged down China's growth from 11.1% year over year in the first quarter of the calendar year to 9.1% in the following three months, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics of China. The then-sixth largest economy in the world also saw slower growth in retail sales and industrial production, but expansion in its exports remained steady throughout 2003. — Lee

9:17 am: Thailand bans cruise passengers from disembarking

Thailand refused permission for passengers onboard the MS Westerdam cruise ship, belonging to Holland America Line, from disembarking, Reuters reported, citing the country's health minister. Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said in a Facebook post, "I have issued orders. Permission to disembark refused," according to the news wire.

On Monday, the cruise operator posted a travel advisory that the ship was sailing for Laem Chabang, Bangkok, Thailand where passengers would disembark on Thursday, Feb. 13. "The ship is not in quarantine and we have no reason to believe there are any cases of coronavirus on board despite media reports," the company said in its travel advisory.

8:30 am: Australia's Cochlear slashes guidance, says it expects a decline in Greater China sales due to coronavirus outbreak

Hearing implants maker Cochlear said Tuesday it is reducing its outlook for fiscal year 2020 due to the outbreak's impact in the Greater China region, one of the main markets for the company. It slashed underlying net profit for the year from 290 million - 300 million Australian dollars (about $194 million-200 million) to A$270 million - 290 million.

Hospitals are "currently deferring surgeries, including cochlear implants, to limit the risk of infection from the coronavirus," the company said in a filing with the Australian Securities Exchange. CEO Dig Howitt said the company's guidance factors in a "significant decline in sales" for the China region in the second half. Australia's fiscal year starts on Jul. 1 and ends next June. 30.

Cochlear said it assumed there will not be any "material disruption" to the supply chain, including importing components from China.

8:17 am: China reports additional 108 deaths and 2,478 confirmed new cases

China's National Health Commission said there were 2,478 confirmed new cases in the mainland and 108 additional deaths, most of them in Hubei province. As of Monday night, the government said a total of 42,638 cases have been confirmed and 1,016 people have died in the country.

7:07 am: Hubei reports an additional 103 deaths

China's Hubei province reported an additional 103 deaths and 2,097 new confirmed cases related to the deadly pneumonia-like coronavirus as of the end of Monday.

According to the Hubei Provincial Health Committee, 974 people have died in the province, with most of them in the city of Wuhan where the virus was first detected. There have been a total of 31,728 confirmed cases thus far in the province.

All times below are in Eastern time.

4:48 pm: Coronavirus is a 'black swan' for oil and energy markets

The coronavirus is a "true black swan" for the oil and energy market, and as crude prices continue to move lower the worst may not be over yet, Ned David Research said in a note to clients. Analyst Warren Pies noted that the outbreak has reduced Chinese demand for oil by 2 million to 3 million barrels per day, which means "the oil market is looking down the barrel at no demand growth for the calendar year, and outright demand contraction is now on the table." — Stevens

4:40 pm: XPO Logistics watches for virus impact

XPO Logistics operates 8 million square feet of warehouse space in Asia, including more than 1 million square feet in China alone. However, CEO Bradley Jacobs said the coronavirus outbreak and travel restrictions haven't dampened demand for logistics yet. "We have not seen a noticeable impact as of now," Jacobs said, "We are watching it. Anything that slows down the global economy is not good for the transport and logistics industry." — Holland

Read CNBC's coverage from the U.S. overnight: China's death toll exceeds 1,000, US GDP takes a hit

— CNBC's Evelyn Cheng, Huileng Tan, Yen Nee Lee, Vivian Kam, Pippa Stevens and Frank Holland contributed to this report.