Panic around the world

Contagion spreading

Panic around the world as several countries in East Europe, in the Middle East, along with Italy and others went into emergency mode with new cases of COVID-19. Reaction is at times chaotic, uncoordinated, and with hostility towards Asians and returning nationals. And closing borders.

On 24 February Coronavirus hammers financial markets

Will those countries be able to organize and implement the necessary measures as China did?
E.g. could Belgian hospitals cope with 5,000 sudden cases? How many hospital beds does Belgium have? And the whole system is plagued with stifling bureaucracy. Will people respect quarantine rules?
At least France is systematically preparing hospitals for the possible influx.
Let’s hope they can keep it under control…
Yes, pandemic is at the door. But let’s not forget that every year in Europe some 40,000 people die of the seasonal flu.

I you want to read a detailed insight on the pandemic, here is a good one:
“Is It a Pandemic Yet? It’s now clear that the coronavirus epidemic was never going to be contained. What’s next?” (NYT 24 February)

Some excerpts:
Iran announced 43 cases and eight deaths. Some 152 cases (and at least three deaths) were confirmed in Italy on Sunday. The number of infected people in South Korea jumped to 763 (and six deaths) in just days.
As of Monday, Covid-19 was detected in at least 29 countries. In nations with few or no reported cases so far, particularly in South America and Africa, the absence of evidence shouldn’t be interpreted as evidence of absence. More likely, it reflects lack of testing.

China Economic Review on 23 February

As reported earlier, impact impact…
I also mentioned earlier the international supply chain is being affected and manufacturing around the world will suddenly be deprived of components made-in-China. As happened to a friend a few years ago, his factory stopped in Belgium because … special screws from China were not arriving.
Reason to worry as overseas factories scramble to find other suppliers, and might then stick to those.
It is thus to hope the Chinese industry can restart soon… The big challenge now.
See below some more news from CER…

Millions of Chinese firms face collapse if banks don’t act.
With much of China’s economy still idled as authorities try to contain an epidemic that has infected more than 75,000 people, millions of companies across the country are in a race against the clock to stay afloat, reported Bloomberg.
A survey of small- and medium-sized Chinese companies conducted this month showed that a third of respondents only had enough cash to cover fixed expenses for a month, with another third running out within two months. Without more financial support or a sudden rebound in China’s economy, some may have to shut for good.
“If China fails to contain the virus in the first quarter, I expect a vast number of small businesses would go under,” said Lv Changshun, an analyst at Beijing Zhonghe Yingtai Management Consultant Co.

China’s passenger car sales tumble 92% in first half of Feb. due to virus outbreak.
Retail sales of passenger cars in China crumbled 92% on an annual basis in the first 16 days of February, according to China Passenger Car Association (CPCA), as the coronavirus outbreak slammed the brakes on businesses across the country, reported Reuters.
 “Very few dealerships opened in the first weeks of February and they have had very little customer traffic,” it said.

The supply chain is badly hit

If you are still an optimist, read this:
“Coronavirus: China’s manufacturing supply chain pummelled from all sides in efforts to restart. Coronavirus costs keep mounting for manufacturers, who are facing huge losses in sales and struggling to ramp up production. Logistical logjams persist as transport networks struggle to find workers and navigate lockdowns across China.”
SCMP 20 February 2020

The article details the problems I mentioned since long. One of the many “small” details:
There have been reports of cargo ships being marooned at sea, with ports in countries with strict coronavirus quarantine rules such as Australia, Singapore and the United States not permitting shipping personnel to enter their ports if they have been in China over the past 14 days.
Need I explain?

Eating out? Partying?

Incredibly enough some bar in Beijing was still holding a party with crowds inside, most without a mask. Saw the video. That was really stupid and irresponsible.
Those locations might have an unpleasant visit from the authorities with very unfortunate consequences.

See how one of my favorite restaurants does it according to the rules, Groovy Schiller’s. Also the limited opening hours of Kempinski Hotel (not sure about their seating rules…).
With those rules many restaurants prefer not to re-open.. too much trouble for too few customers… I wonder when and how Legend Beer may try a “soft” opening (later this week?). Morel’s Restaurant wisely keeps the door locked, while we all so miss the food. No Monthly Old China Hands Lunch in early March. Too early.

Our Rotaract meetings also cannot take place as usual but we had a ZOOM meeting on Monday evening…
We all hope we can soon go back to our Beijing life…

COVID-19 comes from?

Coronavirus did not originate in Wuhan seafood market, Chinese scientists say, as per SCMP on 23 February 2020.
Analysis of genomic data from 93 samples of the novel coronavirus suggests it was imported from elsewhere. The busy market then boosted its circulation and spread it to the whole city, research shows.
According to the study analysis suggested that the coronavirus was introduced from outside the market. The crowded market then boosted COVID-19 circulation and spread it to the whole city in early December 2019.
The research went on to say that based on the genome data it was possible that the virus began spreading from person to person in early December or even as early as late November.
A researcher at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an interview with state broadcaster CCTV on Saturday that people infected were contagious two days before they showed any symptoms.
Chinese specialists still believe the virus comes from wild animals and the government has (finally) prohibited all trade of those.

French embassy notice

See here again: notice about the quarantine in Beijing from the French embassy.

Well done!

My concerns on COVID-19

Bleak outlook?

I am having my concerns on COVID-19 and the impact of the virus. I have company:

“Coronavirus is China’s fastest-spreading public health crisis, Xi Jinping says. Chinese President Xi Jinping told top government and military leaders that the coronavirus crisis was the country’s most serious public health crisis and urged them to work relentlessly to overcome it.” (SCMP)

I also share this view from NYT infectious diseases reporter, Donald G. McNeil Jr., who has covered pandemics for nearly two decades.

“It’s more deadly than flu, and it’s spreading like flu. Maybe not quite as fast, but these cases where hundreds of people all get infected in one church or aboard the Diamond Princess — that was scary. That was much faster than I expected.”

On 16 February 2020 SCMP published an article that merits comments, now a week later and still as worrying. Interesting reading to reflect on the situation.
I have warned already that despite all the optimism in China Daily and other official media, the economy in China – and the world – will be hit seriously. I already gave several examples in earlier posts. Yes China is resilient and has many strong tools to weather the storm. But it ain’t that simple.
The tourism sector is one of the many affected. Could the coronavirus crisis sink the cruise industry? The Diamond Princess went from a symbol of luxury to one of disaster when the coronavirus struck down hundreds of passengers. Its story raises questions about the future of a multibillion-dollar industry.
And so on. I won’t even try to be complete.

Real estate (leasing and sales) is at a virtual standstill (agencies closed and you can’t visit buildings). This personally affects me financially in a serious way.
Debtors systematically stop paying their debts, as I hear from all sides (and close friends). It is the start of a chain reaction. You don’t get the money you counted on, you also stop paying.

As I hear from many that the situation won’t be back to normal before June, that’s a real concern. Worse, landlords mostly refuse to lower the rent, virtually killing a lot of business. Government rents can be reduced but require tons of paperwork when office staff is often not at work and offices are closed.
As a result there is a serious exodus of foreigners. Won’t help business and the economy.

The SCMP article

“Forget SARS, the new coronavirus threatens a meltdown in China’s economy.”

  • SARS’ fatality rate may be higher than Covid-19’s, but economically speaking the new coronavirus is far more deadly;
  • This time around, a worst-case scenario of financial collapse, foreign exodus and large-scale bankruptcy cannot be ruled out.

Cary Huang SCMP

Some key points from the article for your consideration. Heavily edited, read the original.

Given the rapid advance of medical science and globalization of recent decades, the scale, spread and economic costs of human epidemics are rocketing up, even if fatality rates are starting to fall.
Never before has China paid such an economic price for an epidemic as it has done already with the coronavirus. And the damage is spreading.
At this stage, it is obvious that the economic impact of Covid-19 will be far more severe than that of SARS, or any other previous epidemic, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the Chinese economy is four times as big as it was in 2003, so its losses and the impact on the global economy are likely to be correspondingly larger. A rough estimate is that Covid-19 will cause at least four times as big a loss as SARS.

Secondly, the timing is far worse. The outbreak took place just days before the Lunar New Year holiday, when hundreds of millions of Chinese travel domestically and internationally to attend family reunions and festive events. Government clampdowns on travel and the behavior of cautious consumers keen to avoid crowds and social gatherings mean a sharp drop in consumption. Hospitality, retail, air travel, transport, entertainment and tourism will be among the sectors hardest hit.

Thirdly, China’s rapid urbanization means Chinese are now much more likely to travel domestically and abroad than two decades ago. This also means that when they stop travelling, the disruption is greater. The country has 288 million migrant workers, who account for about a third of China’s labor force. Many who travelled to rural homes for the holidays will be either unable or unwilling to return to work in the cities.

Fourthly, the magnitude of the government’s response has been unlike anything ever seen before. Whole cities have been locked down, effectively grinding some local economies to a halt since Beijing declared all-out war on January 23. At the peak, provinces accounting for almost 69% of China’s GDP were closed for business, according to Bloomberg Economics. There were no such measures in 2003.

Fifthly, rising US-China trade
Frictions will magnify the economic impact of Covid-19 as the world’s two largest economies remain locked in tariff and technology wars even if they have signed an interim truce. The epidemic may well trigger an exodus of multinational companies, as many firms were already rethinking their presence in China due to the tensions with the US and rising costs.

Sixthly, for the millions of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in China, the nightmare may be just beginning. Many small manufacturers fear foreign customers will shift orders to other countries due to disruptions in production and delivery. In a survey of 995 SMEs by academics from Tsinghua and Peking universities, 85% said they would be unable to survive for more than three months under the current conditions. If the disruption goes on long enough, it could trigger a wave of bankruptcy among SMEs, which contribute more than 60% of China’s GDP, 70% of its patents and account for 80% of jobs nationwide.

Finally, the epidemic will weigh on banks in the form of non-performing loans, adding risk to the banking system and pressure to the country’s towering debt pile, which stood at more than 300% of annual GDP at the end of last year. The risk of default on the country’s 99.1 trillion yuan of outstanding onshore bonds is increasing. The disruption will weigh on the capacity of some companies and individuals to repay loans, pushing up delinquency rates. Financially weak SMEs could face additional funding pressure as they are exposed to refinancing risk.

Unfortunately, as its scale is bigger and spread is faster, this epidemic is likely to go on far longer than SARS did. Recovery will be slow as quarantine measures and consumer caution will continue long after the disease has hit its peak. This will cause a social and political fallout that will hit not just the economy but also the whole society.
Thus, the worst-case scenario cannot be ruled out. Massive financial collapse, an exodus of foreign companies and large-scale bankruptcies all loom on the horizon if this epidemic cannot be contained soon. In short, nothing less than a major economic meltdown.

How I survive being mostly locked up at home

And I am alone in my home office. Staff and clients can’t come. Wife in Brussels. Gym (obviously) closed.
Fortunately I can help myself well. I cook, clean and exercise at home. Occasionally I meet a very few friends.
My usual shops are open and I can find more or less what I need, some items being out of stock. I buy most in Jingkelong Sanlitun, close to my home. See my cooking, shopping, cleaning and entertainment.
So, see how I shop, cook, clean. And I am happy to finally watch my old movies in VHS and VCR. As a James Bond fan…
I also have optical fiber internet, and thousands of TV channels (too many HBO and other, addictive).

And exercise! The water bottle is near 5 kg.

But overall it is a rather depressing environment.

The new pandemic arrived

Many still doubt about it

The new pandemic arrived but many people still believe it won’t happen or think it’s much more serious than the flu we all know, that kills so many people but nobody talks about it.
See the latest, many other media talk about the outbreak and quarantines in Italy:

Reuters 22 February 2010:
Fears of a global coronavirus pandemic as cases of reported infections surge:
A rapid surge of new coronavirus cases outside of China, including in Iran, South Korea and Italy, has prompted concerns among infectious disease experts and scientists that the contagion could transform into a global pandemic. The virus had spread to at least 28 countries with more than 76,000 confirmed cases worldwide.

See also:
China’s coronavirus controls are starting to pay dividends, but elsewhere in the world infections are rising fast
Number of confirmed cases reported in Wuhan on Saturday falls 55% from previous day, National Health Commission says
But surges in South Korea, Japan and Iran suggest the epidemic is becoming a pandemic, according to experts.

Yes, the USA also starts worrying
Some finally understand in the USA the virus is difficult to stop. See this:
“CDC is preparing for the ‘likely’ spread of coronavirus in the US, officials say”
USA Today 21 February
Health experts sounded the alarm Friday over the worldwide threat of the coronavirus, with officials warning of its “likely” community spread in the United States and the World Health Organization cautioning that “the window of opportunity is narrowing” for containing the outbreak worldwide.
Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters Friday that U.S. health officials are preparing for the coronavirus to become a pandemic.

The confusing threat of “big data” in China

There are a couple of systems being launched in China to label people as “dangerous” or “OK”. The systems seem to have many issues and the big question is how foreigners can deal with it as everything is in Chinese and some simply do not work.

How big data is dividing the public in China’s coronavirus fight – green, yellow, red.
Cutting-edge technologies and old-fashioned surveillance are being used to decide who can and who can’t go back to work. There are some examples in Hangzhou area and in Yunnan.
But the smart technology is not always that intelligent.
Link that gives a good overview:

My experience

In Beijing it is not yet used but I was getting messages from 10086, see further. Despite all efforts and phone calls, it never worked. I guess someone of our office should go to China Mobile to clarify. But of course that is now as good as impossible.

Health QR codes in full effect in Hangzhou
CHINA DAILY on 18 February
People in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, have been required to prove that they have green health codes when going to public places or commuting via public transport vehicles, according to the city’s leading group for the prevention and control of the novel coronavirus pneumonia on Monday afternoon.
Hangzhou launched a health QR code system on Feb 11 to curb the virus spread amid the resumption of production. People who want to get into the city need to report their travel history and health conditions online in advance. In turn, they will be assigned codes marked by green, yellow or red based on the information they offer.
As of Sunday, the system had issued health codes to more than 6.5 million people.
Initially, the system was used to evaluate health conditions of those coming to the city. Now, it is expected to be applied nationwide this week, a further step in the prevention and control of the epidemic based on the health code system.
Verification QR codes have been posted at the entrances to residential communities, companies and other public places in Hangzhou such as restaurants.
People will get their own codes that they had previously applied for online after scanning the verification codes through Alipay.
Those who want to enter public spaces should have green codes and show them to watchmen, which means they are healthy enough to move around the city.
People taking public transport vehicles, such as taxis, buses and subways, are also required to show their green health codes. Those who don’t have smartphones, especially the elderly and children, can pass with valid paper documents.

10086: failing to register as a foreigner

See here the unsuccessful efforts I did, helped by a Chinese friend who contacted the services several times. We have no idea what are the “last four digits of the real-name certificate”. The mobiles are registered by our company. None of the numbers we tried worked.
As for the Hangzhou article and others: again, you need Alipay and all in Chinese.
Good luck.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology reminds you: SMS can provide you with a “Proof of Trip”, and users can send “cxmyd” to 10086 to authorize to query information about the provinces and cities you visited within the past 15 and 30 days (over 4 hours stay).  This is a public service.

[Second confirmation] Dear customer, hello!  China Mobile Beijing Company reminds you that you are about to use the “Outbreak Prevention and Control Itinerary Enquiry” public service. The service information is for reference only and is not used as the final judgment basis.  Respond to the last four digits of the real-name certificate of this mobile phone number within 10 minutes.  【China Mobile】

Dear Customer: Hello!  The last four digits of the real-name certificate you provided are inconsistent with the real-name authentication information of this number and cannot provide services.  【China Mobile】

Update on 14 day quarantine

The Beijing quarantine

We have finally an update on 14 day quarantine in Beijing. As of today some compounds in Beijing still “do not know about the changes” and refuse to believe the news.
Beijing Government on 21 February finally made an official announcement about the 14 day quarantine. See the details:

21 February 2020
Overseas Returnees, Six Other Types Exempted from Mandatory Quarantine, Says City
Michael Wester – The Beijinger

The city government this afternoon announced seven types of individuals that are exempt from last week’s proclamation that all returnees would be required to observe a 14-day quarantine at home upon arrival.
They are as follows:

  1. Those who have not been in China for the past 14 days, and who are returning via the city’s two main airports in Shunyi and Daxing;
  2. Short-term visitors (such as tourists and business travelers) coming from parts of China other than Hubei, as long as they obey policies set by their hotel and their Beijing host company or office (if they have one);
  3. Persons returning to Beijing to go back to jobs at companies that have safe “closed management” environments (most likely this is aimed at factory workers who live on site in dormitories);
  4. Those that live in the commuter-heavy suburbs of Langfang, Sanhe, Xianghe and Daguang (aka Beisanxian), who are now permitted to go in and out of the city to work as normal, but must accept temperature checks when coming in and out of Beijing;
  5. Flight and railway crews who go back and forth between cities frequently, as long as they live in quarters separate from the general population;
  6. Central government officials that are going back and forth from any areas with high infection rates, under the condition that they live and work in quarters separate from the general population;
  7. Pregnant women and people with medical conditions that require doctor’s care.

Note that these regulations are new as of today and administration and enforcement may differ on a community-by-community basis.
Additionally, it is unclear if these directives apply to students, teachers and faculty returning to school environments, as the Beijing Education Commission has made it clear that everyone returning to a school campus should first undergo a 14-day self-quarantine in Beijing.Today’s announcement could be interpreted as implicit acknowledgement that Beijing’s quarantine methods so far have for the most part controlled the rapid spread of the virus and may have in fact been slightly too conservative, hindering the return of the city to a normal pace of life.
Regardless, it pays to be conservative in these times. Since no one can guarantee that they have not been exposed to the virus during travel, we recommend that even those exempt from the policy do their best to minimize contact with crowds for at least 14 days upon arrival.
The original Chinese announcement can be found here:

More details of Covid-19.

China releases largest study on Covid-19 outbreak. The following provides more details of Covid-19.

Coronavirus: Largest study suggests elderly and sick are most at risk
18 February 2020
Health officials in China have published the first details of more than 44,000 cases of Covid-19, in the biggest study since the outbreak began.
Data from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC) finds that more than 80% of the cases have been mild, with the sick and elderly most at risk.
How coronavirus affects patients

In a new report, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed 44,672 confirmed COVID-19 cases and found that 80.9% of patients had mild symptoms, 13.8% experienced severe illness, and 4.7% were critically ill.
Of those in critical condition, nearly half died.

The virus to stay around?

With a series of often unexplained new infections around the world, with no clear link to China, more and more specialists believe it will be difficult if not impossible to stop the virus spreading around. The WHO also expressed its concern. One example is Italy…
I have read similar comments as below from foreign medical specialists. As long as there is no reliable vaccine and efficient medication… And all indicates there is little real progress.
The Pandora box has been opened.
Also people point out that millions of migrants are still to return to the cities in China. Once this happens, there could be a new wave of infections despite all the preventive measures. It is  a major worry for many of my Chinese friends.

From SCMP 20 Feb 2020:
Wang Chen, president of the China Academy of Medical Science, said that despite the recent drop in the rate of new cases and fatalities on the mainland, the world should be prepared for the possibility that Covid-19 – the official name of the illness caused by the coronavirus – was here to stay.
Wang said the new coronavirus was different from the virus which caused severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which was both contagious and fatal. “This new coronavirus may become a long-term disease that coexists with humans, just like flu,” he told state broadcaster CCTV on Wednesday.
It was up to scientists, he said, to be prepared to study the coronavirus for the long term, and help to devise clinical strategies. “The key to containing the virus should be in scientific research,” he said.

On another note, China’s National Health Commission issued its national treatment and diagnosis plan for the novel coronavirus on 19 February, which confirmed that the virus was mainly transmitted through respiratory droplets and close contact with infected people.
However, it added that aerosolization was possible through exposure to high concentrations of aerosols – small particle droplets – in a relatively closed environment for long periods.
That, in my opinion, makes sense.

3D atomic scale map

US scientists announced that they had created the first 3D atomic scale map of the part of the novel coronavirus that attaches to and infects human cells, a critical step toward developing a vaccine and treatments.
The team from the University of Texas at Austin and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) first studied the genetic code of the virus made publicly available by Chinese researchers and used it to develop a stabilized sample of a key part called the spike protein.
They then imaged the spike protein using cutting-edge technology known as cryogenic electron microscopy, publishing their findings in the journal Science.
 “The spike is really the antigen that we want to introduce into humans to prime their immune response to make antibodies against this, so that when they then see the actual virus, their immune systems are ready and loaded to attack,” said University of Texas scientist Jason McLellan, who led the research.
He added that he and his colleagues had already spent many years studying other members of the coronavirus family including SARS and MERS, which helped them develop the engineering methods required to keep the spike protein stable.
Their engineered spike protein is itself being tested as a potential vaccine by the NIH.
Source: 20 Feb 2020 – SCMP


Beijing in a confusing mess

Total confusion on the quarantine rules

We can only say: Beijing in a confusing mess over the fight against Covid-19 and the moribund economy is not recovering.
As I reported earlier: Mandatory 14 days quarantine

Adding to the confusion, I was told on 20 February: If you arrive from Germany using an international flight to Beijing and you have not been in China during the 14 days prior to your arrival, then you are not subject to the quarantine rules.

While some embassies like Germany have announced the exemption, there is yet no clear official document from the Chinese side, at the time of posting this.

As a result, confusion. Beijing seems to stick to the quarantine, some compounds follow the Ministry of Foreign Affairs instructions, others follow the old Beijing rule.

The following article explains it:
“To Quarantine or Not To Quarantine: Confusion Reigns for Foreigners Returning from Overseas” by Joey Knotts,  The Beijinger on 20 February 2020
Since the announcement of a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine upon returning to Beijing, one question has been pouring through every English-language WeChat group: does this policy apply to foreigners who come into China from overseas?

As can happen, the answer has eluded onlookers due to the vague language of policy announcements that make no mention of either foreign passports or travel origins.
While common sense would dictate that someone returning from a country with next to zero infection rates would have a near-zero chance of having contacted the coronavirus, there is the chance of picking up the virus while in transit.
Up until yesterday, these announcements, when read literally, implied that all returning individuals must self-quarantine, regardless of where they are returning from or what passport they hold. It continues to be the case that if you’re coming from another part of China, you are expected to observe the 14-day quarantine.
However, starting Wednesday, several Beijing expats have reported receiving notice from their embassies that Beijing’s Foreign Affairs Office has exempted some foreigners from the quarantine requirement.
They said: foreign passport holders returning after two weeks overseas and who land in either Beijing Capital International Airport or Daxing International Airport are not required to quarantine themselves, strictly speaking.
(read the rest of the article online)

See also again what EUCCC posted today, repeating that “these exemptions have not yet been published, but are expected to be shortly.”

My support for the fight against the virus

I joined some other expats in making wishes and support for the fight against the coronavirus:
Click the first video where I am part of the expat group.


Some information that confirms what I wrote earlier: the impact on the economy will be severe. There is little room for optimism for the next coming months.
Also, Beijing government dismisses a rumor that schools in Beijing will reopen in early March.
Some headlines follow.

General comment from NYT, pretty accurate:
Is China strangling its own economy?
As China tightens the reins on the movements of people and goods to stem the coronavirus’s spread, some business leaders are taking the rare stand against Beijing to get their workers going again.
One-third of small firms in the country are on the brink of running out of cash over the next four weeks, according to a survey. Another third will run out of cash in the next two months. And one analysis found that virus containment efforts were stopping the flow of commerce.
Resolving economic woes and keeping the virus at bay will be a delicate dance. Manufacturers do not have the luxury of working from home, like tech companies do, but returning to business as usual could put employees at risk.
At Amazon, which relies heavily on Chinese manufacturing, the effects could be seen sooner than at other corporations because the retail giant often keeps fewer items on hand. It’s already worrying about its inventory.

From FT
China is attempting to restart an economy that has been effectively shuttered over the last three weeks without exacerbating the coronavirus outbreak.
Factories across much of the country are shut down or running at a fraction of capacity. One-third of China’s small firms, meanwhile, are in danger of running out of cash, per the NYT.
The economic implications are global. A fall in Chinese demand has hit oil prices. It has also exposed the dependence of many Africa economies on trade with China, the FT notes.

Airlines in trouble
Airlines in the Asia-Pacific region stand to lose $27.8 billion of revenue this year as they slash flights due to declining demand as a result of the coronavirus, according to a preliminary estimate from an industry body, reported Reuters.
The bulk of the losses will be borne by Chinese carriers, including a US$12.8 billion hit to the Chinese domestic market alone, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said in a forecast released in New York on Thursday.
Chinese airlines have cut 80% of their planned capacity to, from and within China this week, according to flight data firm OAG, as they grapple with a sharp fall in demand due to the virus that has killed more than 2,100 people in China.
(Source: China Economic Review)

China nears takeover of HNA Group as virus hits business
China plans to take over indebted conglomerate HNA Group Co. and sell off its airline assets, the most dramatic step to date by the state to contain the deepening economic damage from the deadly coronavirus outbreak, reported Bloomberg.
The government of Hainan, the southern island province where HNA is based, is in talks to seize control of the group after the contagion hurt its ability to meet financial obligations, according to Bloomberg sources.
As President Xi Jinping seeks to prevent the short-term economic pain caused by the coronavirus from turning into a slump that outlasts the contagion, his government is considering direct cash infusions or mergers to stabilize the hobbled airline industry, while the People’s Bank of China said it will work on supporting domestic consumption. A takeover of a high-profile company like HNA would take those efforts to a new level.
Under the emerging plan, China would sell the bulk of HNA’s airline assets to the country’s three biggest carriers — Air China Ltd., China Southern Airlines Co. and China Eastern Airlines Corp. A bit sad for me as HNA had become my favorite airline.

From the European Chamber:
Letter to Members from President Wuttke:
Like all of you, the European Chamber has encountered significant challenges due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, now officially named COVID-19. I am proud to say we are successfully navigating these choppy waters, keeping our operations going and continuing to serve our members as our top priority.
We have been providing you with the most up-to-date information and policies related to the novel coronavirus through our newly developed ‘Focus on the COVID-19’ online platform, to help reduce the potential risks and challenges of operating and living in China during these challenging times.

Going to Russia?
Whereas China was saying the US was creating panic with its restrictions on entry for Chinese travelers, Beijing took a soft line in response to Russia announcing a blanket ban on all Chinese citizens entering the country, citing the “worsening of the epidemic in China”.
Russia had informed China in advance and the measures, to take effect on 20 February. “will be adjusted and even withdrawn” when the situation allows.
Russia’s entry ban for Chinese nationals will be partial and only affect those who travel with tourist, private, student and work visas, the country’s Foreign Ministry said later on, clarifying the conditions of a sweeping entry ban for Chinese citizens announced the day before.
Visitors with official, business, humanitarian and transit visas will still be allowed into the country, the Ministry said.