Coronavirus wrap: WHO steps up

The novel coronavirus, or 2019-nCov, has infected 9,692 people in China, surpassing the number of infections during the SARS outbreak in 2002 and 2003. The epidemic has killed 213, up from 171 a day earlier, according to the National Health Commission.  

The World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern on Thursday. The announcement came as a reverse of last week’s decision not to do so.

“Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems and which are ill-prepared to deal with it,” said WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Hong Kong has recorded 12 confirmed cases as of Thursday, adding two new cases from a day earlier. According to Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection, one case is the 37-year-old daughter of a couple arriving in the city from Wuhan on January 22, whose infections have been confirmed a few days earlier. It is believed to be the first human-to-human transmission in the city, as the female patient, who lives and works in Hong Kong, has reportedly stayed with her parents for six days. The other case was a 75-year-old man who had reportedly visited Guangdong and Macau over the past month.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has announced a series of measures to contain the outbreak, including suspending high-speed train and ferry services that cross the border with the mainland and halving the number of flights to and from the mainland. The government has also banned Hubei residents or visitors having visited Hubei over the past two weeks to enter the city since Monday. People will no longer receive travel permits to visit Hong Kong from the mainland authorities, as requested by the Hong Kong government.

Macau has reported seven confirmed cases as of Thursday. The latest two cases were confirmed on Monday, with no new cases added during the past four days. All of the seven cases were in mild condition, and 20 more people with close contacts or suspected symptoms have been placed under quarantine, according to Macau’s health authorities. There are 184 people from Hubei province staying in the city as of today, with almost half from Wuhan, according to the Macau police.

Neighbouring Guangdong has reported 436 confirmed cases as of Friday noon, adding 43 new infections on Friday alone. This is the third-largest number of infections in the country, following Hubei and the Zhejiang. There have been 112 in Guangzhou, 134 in Shenzhen, 33 in Foshan, 34 in Zhuhai, 18 in Zhongshan, 20 in Huizhou, 16 in Dongguan, six in Zhaoqing and two in Jiangmen. 1,950 people with close contacts with the infected ones are still under medical observation.

To contain further spread of the virus amid increasing cases of human-to-human transmission, provincial authorities have announced to extend the Chinese New Year Holiday for another week to February 9, reported.

The outbreak would pose a further threat to Hong Kong’s property market which has been hammered by the ongoing anti-government protests with a 1.7% drop in December, property analysts said.

The coronavirus outbreak is likely to bring down the city’s house prices further by 3% to 5% in the first quarter this year, said Derek Chan, head of research at Ricacorp Properties, citing the expanding epidemic and negative market sentiments, as quoted by SCMP.

While Thomas Lam, executive director at Knight Frank, expected the number of transactions to slide by up to 35% in the several coming months and prices to drop by up to 10% this year. Among all types of homes, luxury homes as well as nano flats – tiny apartments no larger than a parking space – will come under great pressure, Lam added.

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