Coronavirus Updates: Languishing Industry in Mainland China, and an Evacuation in Hong Kong

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Hong Kong officials evacuated some residents of an apartment building after two people living on different floors were found to be infected with the coronavirus, the authorities said early Tuesday.

Officials from the city’s Center for Health Protection said the decision to partially evacuate the building was made after the discovery of a leaky bathroom pipe in the apartment of a newly confirmed patient, a 62-year-old woman. She lives 10 ten floors below a resident who was earlier found to be infected.

Dr. Wong Ka-Hing, the health center’s director, said the government was investigating the possibility of environmental transmission in the building and called the evacuation a “precautionary measure.”

The initial report prompted comparisons to an incident in 2003 when 329 residents of a housing estate in Hong Kong became infected with SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. The virus was later found to have spread through defective piping. Forty-two of the infected residents died.

At a government-organized briefing on Tuesday, Professor Yuen Kwok-yung, a microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong, said the situation this time appeared to be different. But he said the authorities were not ruling out the possibility of airborne transmission of the virus.

In a statement Sunday the cruise line detailed the countries of origin of what was then 66 infected passengers: 45 were Japanese, four were from Australia, three were from the Philippines, one was Canadian, one was from England, one was from Ukraine and 11 were from the United States.

The outbreak on the ship, which has been docked at the Yokohama port since Monday, is the largest outside China. About 3,700 people, including about 2,600 passengers and more than 1,000 crew members, are quarantined on the ship, with passengers largely confined to their cabins.

The Japanese authorities have tested a few hundred people for the coronavirus who were believed to be at particular risk, but as the number of cases has risen, some passengers have pressed for everyone on board to be screened.

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Mr. Xi, wearing a powder blue surgical mask and a black suit, made no public remarks, at least according to initial reports. But state media said his visits demonstrated Mr. Xi’s central role in directing the response, as well as his empathy for the ordinary people it has affected most.

Workers stuck in their hometowns. Assembly lines that make General Motors cars and Apple iPhones standing silent.

More than two weeks after China locked down a major city to stop the outbreak, one of the world’s largest economies remains largely idle.

  • Updated Feb. 10, 2020

    • What is a Coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people, and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is possibly transmitted through the air. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • How worried should I be?
      While the virus is a serious public health concern, the risk to most people outside China remains very low, and seasonal flu is a more immediate threat.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have praised China’s aggressive response to the virus by closing transportation, schools and markets. This week, a team of experts from the W.H.O. arrived in Beijing to offer assistance.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The United States and Australia are temporarily denying entry to noncitizens who recently traveled to China and several airlines have canceled flights.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.

Much of the country was supposed to have reopened by now, but its empty streets, quiet factories and legions of inactive workers suggest that weeks or months could pass before this vital motor of global growth is humming again.

China has been hampered by both the outbreak and its own containment efforts, a process that has cut off workers from their jobs and factories from their raw materials.

The result is a slowdown that is already slashing traffic along the world’s shipping lines and leading to forecasts of a sharp fall in production of everything from cars to smartphones.

“It’s like Europe in medieval times,” said Joerg Wuttke, the president of the European Chamber of Commerce in China, “where each city has its checks and crosschecks.”

A team of experts from the World Health Organization arrived in Beijing on Monday evening, nearly two weeks after the organization’s director general met with China’s leader and praised the country’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Conflicting views on whether the coronavirus can be spread through the air underscore the confusion surrounding the outbreak.

Zeng Qun, the deputy head of Shanghai’s Civil Affairs Bureau, said at a news conference on Saturday that the virus could be spread that way, meaning it might be transmitted more easily — even if people are not in proximity — than previously thought.

But Shen Yinzhong, the medical director of the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center, disputed that. He told The Paper, a Shanghai newspaper, that although the virus might spread through the air “in theory,” confirmation required further research.

The Chinese government and the World Health Organization have said that most infections occurred among people in close physical contact.

Experts have suggested that a related virus in 2003 that caused an outbreak of SARS could be spread through the air under some circumstances. An outbreak in Hong Kong occurred, experts said, when the wind carried the virus from an apartment complex in which several people were infected.

The coronavirus has helped push inflation to an eight-year high, the Chinese government said on Monday, adding to Beijing’s problems.

Consumer price inflation rose to 5.4 percent year on year in January, compared with a 4.5 percent rise in December. That is the highest level since November 2011, according to China’s statistics bureau.

The outbreak has disrupted China’s supply chains, making it difficult in many places to get products to market.

While nonfood related prices, including energy, rose slightly, food prices pushed inflation up. The price of pork, which has surged for months, has now more than doubled over the past year after an outbreak of African swine fever led to a shortage of pigs.

The latest inflation figures mark a new challenge for China’s central bank. The People’s Bank of China has opened the spigots to provide money to local governments that are trying to contain the outbreak.

The government has told banks to extend favorable terms to companies that have been closed by efforts to contain the outbreak.

Chinese efforts to stop the coronavirus outbreak have hit even those companies that make essential equipment for medical and emergency workers, gear that is in short supply in many parts of the country.

Officials in the city of Xiantao in Hubei Province notified companies making protective clothing and medical masks that they needed to produce the proper paperwork before they could reopen. Unless they can prove their products have been cleared for sale within China, the notice said, the factories cannot not open until Feb. 14.

The notice caused an uproar online.

Xiantao is a major industrial hub for what are known as nonwoven products. That includes the suits and gloves used by emergency workers to protect themselves during outbreaks. The area is especially important for making protective masks.

The notice said local officials made the move to ensure quality standards were upheld and to root out counterfeit gear makers. But officials relented after a public outcry. On Monday, the government said it approved 73 protective product manufacturers to resume operations, while others are being certified.

Reporting and research was contributed by Steven Lee Myers, Russell Goldman, Keith Bradsher, Ben Dooley, Motoko Rich, Sui-Lee Wee, Amber Wang, Alexandra Stevenson, Tiffany May, Megan Specia, Constant Méheut, Amie Tsang, Adam Satariano, Raphael Minder, Zoe Mou, Albee Zhang, Yiwei Wang, Claire Fu, Amy Qin and Heather Murphy.

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