China’s coronavirus outbreak showed no sign of peaking with health authorities on Friday reporting more than 5,000 new cases, while passengers on a cruise ship blocked from five countries due to virus fears finally disembarked in Cambodia. Policymakers pledged to do more to stimulate Asian economies hit hard by the virus, helping Asia stock markets edge higher, with Chinese shares headed for their first weekly gain in four.
In its latest update, China’s National Health Commission said it had recorded 121 new deaths and 5,090 new coronavirus cases on the mainland on Feb. 13, taking the accumulated total infected to 63,851 people. Some 55,748 people are currently undergoing treatment, while 1,380 people have died of the flu-like virus that emerged in Hubei province’s capital, Wuhan, in December. The latest toll takes account of some deaths that had been double-counted in Hubei, the health commission said.
Coronavirus can be spread through people who aren’t exhibiting symptoms of the illness, the director of the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention said Thursday. Dr. Robert Redfield confirmed reports out of China that the virus can spread when the person is still asymptomatic, according to CNN. “There’s been good communication with our colleagues to confirm asymptomatic infection, to confirm asymptomatic transmission, to be able to get a better handle on the clinical spectrum of illness in China,” Redfield told the outlet.
Redfield said it’s not known how much the asymptomatic cases are contributing to the spread of the virus — which has sickened more than 60,000 people worldwide — but the discovery is concerning. “What I’ve learned in the last two weeks is that the spectrum of this illness is much broader than was originally presented. There’s much more asymptomatic illness,” he said.
The rise in China’s reported cases on Thursday reflected a decision by authorities there to reclassify a backlog of suspected cases by using patients’ chest images, and did not necessarily indicate a wider epidemic, a World Health Organization official said on Thursday.
Economists are assessing the impact of the outbreak on the world’s second-largest economy and scaling back their expectations for growth this year.
After the extended Lunar New Year holiday, many migrant workers may still be stuck in their hometowns, far from their factories. Analysts at Nomura estimated only about 21% had returned as of Thursday.
China’s economy will grow at its slowest rate since the global financial crisis in the current quarter, according to a Reuters poll of economists who said the downturn will be short-lived if the outbreak is contained.
“China is already easing its monetary policy and providing more liquidity while more stimulus is likely. Factories are starting to reopen albeit with some delays,” said Yukino Yamada, senior strategist at Daiwa Securities.
The duration of the disruption to international travel and trade is a key factor in some economists’ predictions for a slowdown in global growth in the short term.
Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, is bracing for a sharp slowdown and some analysts expect another contraction in the current quarter as the virus outbreak hurts exports, output and consumption.
(Reporting by Yilei Sun, Vincent Lee and David Stanway in Beijing; Prak Chan Thul in Sihanoukville; Hideyuki Sano in Tokyo; Colin Packham and Paulina Duran in Sydney; Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Writing by Lincoln Feast; Editing by Stephen Coates)