(Reuters) – China reported a sharp decrease in new deaths and cases of the coronavirus on Saturday but a doubling of infections in South Korea and 10 new cases in Iran added to unease about its rapid spread and global reach.
** China has reported a total of 75,569 cases of the disease caused by the virus, known as COVID-19, including 2,239 deaths.
** Mainland China had 397 new confirmed cases on Friday, down from 889 a day earlier, but only 31 cases were outside of the virus epicenter of Hubei province, the lowest number since the National Health Commission started compiling nationwide data a month ago.
** The World Health Organization (WHO) is concerned about the number of cases with no clear epidemiological link, although the total number of cases outside China remains relatively small, its director general said on Saturday.
** Outside China, there have been more than 1,200 cases in 26 countries, the WHO said. That includes one confirmed case on the African continent, in Egypt.
** South Korea said on Saturday its number of new cases had doubled to 433, and suggested the tally could rise as more than 1,000 people who attended a church at the center of the outbreak reported flu-like symptoms. Two people have died in the current outbreak.
** Ten new cases have been detected in Iran, one of whom has died, the health ministry said on Saturday. This bring the total number of cases in the country to 28, with five people having died.
** Two people have died in Italy and another 51 have been infected as an outbreak spreads in the country’s industrious north, forcing authorities to ban public events and companies to tell workers in affected areas to stay at home.
** China’s Gansu province has lowered its emergency response measures, its health commission said on Friday, the first in the country to do so.
** In Hong Kong, citizens have set up a surgical face mask factory to ease supplies and deter price gouging.
** The International Monetary Fund predicted on Saturday the outbreak would lower China’s growth this year to 5.6% and shave 0.1 percentage points from global growth.
** Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said on Saturday the yen’s recent declines were largely driven by a strong dollar, shrugging off some market views that the virus epidemic is triggering an outflow of funds from Asia.
** Japan’s factory activity suffered its steepest contraction in seven years in February, reinforcing the risk of a recession in the world’s third-largest economy.
** Japanese automakers on Friday delayed the restart of plants near the outbreak’s epicenter in China, raising the risk of further supply disruptions.
** Two elderly passengers from aboard a cruise ship moored near Tokyo died, as hundreds more disembarked after two weeks in quarantine.
** Some 30 British passengers arrived back home on Saturday after spending more than two weeks stuck on a quarantined cruise ship in a Japanese port.
** Two Australians evacuated from the cruise ship have tested positive after returning to their home country, whose prime minister plans to extend a ban on arrivals from mainland China into a fourth week.
** The U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued a low-level travel advisory for Japan.
** Tokyo Metropolitan Government said it would either cancel or postpone major indoor events it has sponsored for the next three weeks.
** China’s banking sector may face a surge of non-performing loans in 2020 if the virus doesn’t peak until April.
** Hubei has established a 50 billion yuan ($7.1 billion) special financing vehicle to help the local economy.
** Beijing’s containment measures look set to delay the rollout of 5G as tenders for six big projects have been postponed since Jan.31.
** This year’s record 8.7 million Chinese university graduating class sees many students stuck at home as the corporate recruitment season begins.
** Asian shares were under water on Friday as coronavirus fears sent funds fleeing into the safety of U.S. assets, lifting the dollar to three-year highs.
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