Cathay Pacific Reports First-Half Loss Of US$1.27 Billion

(FILES) This file photo taken on August 12, 2019 shows the Cathay Pacific check-in area empty as all flights have been cancelled after protesters occupied Hong Kong’s international airport during continued unrest in the territory. – Troubled Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific said it lost 1.27 billion USD in the first half of this year, the latest major airline to reveal how badly the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has eviscerated its business. (Photo by VIVEK PRAKASH / AFP)

 

Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific said Wednesday it lost HK$9.9 billion (US$1.27 billion) in the first half of this year as the coronavirus pandemic sent passenger numbers tumbling, eviscerating its business.

Before the pandemic, Cathay Pacific was one of Asia’s largest international airlines and the world’s fifth-largest air cargo carrier. But it has been battered by the evaporation of global travel.

“The first six months of 2020 were the most challenging that the Cathay Pacific Group has faced in its more than 70-year history,” chairman Patrick Healy said in a stark statement announcing the results.

“The global health crisis has decimated the travel industry and the future remains highly uncertain, with most analysts suggesting that it will take years to recover to pre-crisis levels.”

The airline said it carried 4.4 million passengers in the first six months of 2020 — a 76 percent plunge on-year — as the coronavirus burst out of central China and spread around the world.

At the height of the global lockdowns in April and May, Cathay Pacific’s entire fleet was averaging just 500 passengers a day.

Cargo remained the lone bright spot, rising nine percent on-year to HK$11.2 billion. Demand was driven up by a squeeze on space for cargo, which is often carried in the holds of passenger planes.

Despite the grim results, Cathay’s share price rose 12 percent on Wednesday, its biggest one-day jump since 2008.

Bloomberg News said the rally was caused by a tweet by China’s state-run tabloid Global Times saying Hong Kong’s airport may soon restart transfer flights to the mainland.

The paper gave no source for its tweet but investors were buoyed because transfer flights could give Cathay some much-needed extra passengers.

Unlike other big international carriers, Cathay has no domestic market to fall back on, and it was already under pressure after months of huge protests in Hong Kong last year caused passenger numbers to plunge.

It was also punished by Beijing last year when some of its 33,000 employees expressed support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

– Rescue package –

Healy said 2020 had started promisingly, with signs that demand was beginning to return after the sometimes-violent protests had put travellers off visiting the financial hub.

But then the pandemic struck.

In response to the health crisis, Cathay Pacific has tried to save cash by reducing capacity, cutting executive pay, introducing voluntary leave schemes and slashing other non-essential costs.

It has so far refrained from any large-scale job cuts.

Hong Kong’s government also came to its rescue earlier this year with a HK$39 billion recapitalisation plan.

The deal allowed Cathay Pacific to raise some HK$11.7 billion in a rights issue on the basis of seven rights shares for every 11 existing shares held.

Preference shares were sold to the government via Aviation 2020, a new company it owns, for HK$19.5 billion and warrants for HK$1.95 billion, subject to adjustment.

In return, Aviation 2020 received two “observers” to attend board meetings.

Healy predicted little optimism for business picking up any time soon, quoting the International Air Transport Association as saying global travel is unlikely to reach pre-pandemic levels until at least 2024.

And he said Asia-Pacific airlines were likely to suffer for longer given spiralling tensions between the United States and China.

“With a global recession looming, and geopolitical tensions intensifying, trade will likely come under significant pressure,” he said.

“And this is expected to have a negative impact on both air travel and cargo demand.”

AFP

Asian Stocks Extend Gains As US Jobs Trump Virus Worries

People wait to cross a street in front of a stock indicator displaying share prices of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo on January 9, 2020. Behrouz MEHRI / AFP

 

 

Asian investors welcomed a forecast-busting US jobs report to send regional equities higher on Friday, though an acceleration in virus infections across the world’s top economy tempered big gains.

While the US registered more than 50,000 new cases for a second straight day and authorities across the country reimposed containment measures, traders backed up with a wall of government and central bank cash chose to look to the positives.

And a near-five million jump in employment in June, combined with promising vaccine tests, provided the platform for another market rally that saw the Nasdaq clock up yet another record.

The jobs report showed people returning to jobs in hard-hit and crucial sectors such as leisure and hospitality, which accounted for just under half of the increase.

The US advances, and a strong performance in Europe — where countries are pressing ahead with lockdown easing — gave Asia a strong lead, which investors picked up on.

Hong Kong rose 1.2 percent after climbing almost three percent Thursday, while Tokyo finished 0.7 percent higher and Shanghai jumped two percent.

Sydney climbed 0.4 percent and Seoul put on 0.8 percent, while there were healthy advances in Taipei, Seoul, Wellington, Singapore and Mumbai. Manila reversed early losses.

London, Paris and Frankfurt all rose at the open.

 

Recovery to ‘level off’

“There’s still a general positive sentiment about how quickly we’re seeing the recovery,” said Chris Gaffney at TIAA Bank.

“But we do think you’re going to see the recovery level off, especially if we continue to see higher case numbers on the virus.”

Analysts warned that while the employment data were good, jobless claims were still elevated — at 1.43 million last week, which was slightly better than the week before but missed expectations.

They pointed out that the latest spike in infections and the reclosure of some businesses around the US, particularly in the Sun Belt, could set the recovery back.

“The non-farm payrolls report is a mid-June snapshot, which might have been the ‘sweet spot’ of near-term employment optimism as the virus situation in the US has deteriorated sharply since,” warned AxiCorp’s Stephen Innes.

“It would be tough to take the better-than-expected… payrolls numbers and extrapolate that there will be a V-shaped recovery in the US,” he added. “The economy has brought back only about 30 percent of the jobs lost.”

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow injected some nervousness into trading floors by telling Fox Business Network that the US was “very unhappy with China”.

He added that there were “going to be export restrictions, particularly with respect to military, national security and some sensitive high technology”.

 

Key figures around 0720 GMT

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.7 percent at 22,306.48 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 1.2 percent at 25,418.19

Shanghai – Composite: UP 2.0 percent at 3,152.81 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.3 percent at 6,258.79

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.9 percent at $40.30 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.8 percent at $42.79 per barrel

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1242 from $1.1239 at 2100 GMT

Dollar/yen: UP at 107.52 yen from 107.48 yen

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2475 from $1.2466

Euro/pound: DOWN at 90.08 pence from 90.15 yen

New York – Dow: UP 0.4 percent at 25,827.36 (close)

 

 

 

-AFP

Most Asian Markets Up On Economy Hopes Despite COVID-19 Spike

A passenger wearing a facemask (R) uses her phone as she stands near a luggage at Tianhe Airport in Wuhan, in China’s central Hubei province on May 29, 2020. Hector RETAMAL / AFP

 

Markets mostly rose in Asia on Wednesday as investors looked past spiking coronavirus infections and warnings of a US surge in the disease, with eyes on the economic recovery as countries press ahead with the easing of lockdowns.

Traders took their lead from another rally on Wall Street, which was lifted by a forecast-beating jump in US consumer confidence, while eyes were also on the release later this week of key jobs data out of Washington.

And while equities are considered unlikely to kick on unless there is a major vaccine breakthrough, analysts said the trillions of dollars in government and central bank support continues to provide a boost.

In the United States, Donald Trump’s top virus expert warned Congress that new daily cases could more than double unless officials step up efforts to control the pandemic.

“Clearly, we are not in total control right now,” Anthony Fauci said. “I would not be surprised if it goes up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around.”

He warned that a jump in infections in Texas and Florida was driving the daily national total to more than 40,000, and they need to be tamped down quickly to avoid dangerous surges elsewhere in the country, adding that the final death toll could be “very disturbing”.

His comments came as some states reimposed measures only recently lifted, while reports of new clusters in several countries including Australia, Germany and Japan fuelled worries of a second wave.

Still, there was a feeling that a return to widespread lockdowns seen earlier in the year was unlikely.

“The next couple of weeks may tell us much about how the rest of the pandemic develops as the renewed wave of the virus in some US states is starting to weigh on economic activity,” said AxiCorp’s Stephen Innes.

“But the restoring lockdowns so far are mostly concentrated on the service sector of the southern and western states. It certainty prolongs the rebound of the service sector, but the impact is much less than the first lockdown in March.”

– ‘Fear of missing out’ –

Innes added that some metrics indicated the death rate was much lower in the US.

“The optimist in me looks for potential drivers, including better medical treatment, healthcare systems that are no longer overwhelmed, younger patients, and mutation of the virus,” he said.

Shanghai gained 1.4 percent with investors taking heart from the easing of some recently reimposed lockdowns as hopes grew that a recent outbreak in Beijing had been brought under control.

Mumbai also rose more than one percent, while Sydney and Singapore both put on 0.6 percent. Taipei and Manila were also higher.

Tokyo shed 0.8 percent after a closely watched Bank of Japan survey showed that confidence among the country’s biggest manufacturers had hit its lowest level since 2009 during the global financial crisis.

There were also losses in Seoul, Jakarta, Bangkok and Wellington.

In early trade, London, Paris and Frankfurt edged up slightly.

Hong Kong was closed for a holiday, though investors were keeping tabs on the city on the anniversary of the handover to China and after Beijing imposed a sweeping security law to prevent further unrest in the financial hub.

Markets have surged about a fifth from their March lows, thanks to the easing of lockdowns, improving economic data and the huge financial support.

Rodrigo Catril, of National Australia Bank, said that the worry of missing out on further gains is playing a role in continued support for prices.

“The fear of missing out, along with the need to put cash to work against a stimulus deluge backdrop, continues to be the overwhelming force, notwithstanding worrying virus infection rates and warnings from experts,” he said in a note.

Oil prices jumped more than one percent as investors cheered news that Saudi exports had tumbled in June, indicating it was sticking to a massive output agreement with other major producers including Russia.

It shipped 5.7 million barrels a day last month, compared with 6.2 million in May, a drop equivalent to seven full supertankers over the month.

– Key figures around 0720 GMT –

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.8 percent at 22,121.73 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 1.4 percent at 3,025.98 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: Closed for a holiday

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 6,175.65

West Texas Intermediate: UP 1.4 percent at $39.81 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: UP 1.3 percent at $41.79 per barrel

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1227 from $1.1234 at 2100 GMT

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 107.64 yen from 107.97 yen

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2388 from $1.2391

Euro/pound: UP at 90.62 pence from 90.65 yen

New York – Dow: UP 0.9 percent at 25,812.88 (close)

— Bloomberg News contributed to this story —

AFP

Markets Mixed As Investors Track Second Wave, New Lockdowns

People walk through a shopping area in Tokyo on May 12, 2020. Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP.

 

Equities were mixed Wednesday in Asia after a healthy run-up the day before as traders weigh positive data suggesting economies are recovering against signs of a second wave of infections and the reintroduction of some lockdowns.

While governments and central banks have provided a wall of cash to support markets, investors are walking a tightrope between hopes the easing of restrictions will lead to a rebound and the possibility that looser measures will inflame the pandemic again.

After a rally across most regional bourses Tuesday, Wall Street and Europe followed suit after figures pointed to a big improvement in eurozone private-sector activity in June as well as a jump in US new home sales.

Meanwhile, several countries continued to loosen up, including in Britain where pubs, restaurants, hotels and cinemas were told they could open again from July 4.

“Through the lens of survey data, at least for now, the world’s essential economies are seeing a V-shaped and coordinated rebound that looks set to (continue) through the summer in the northern hemisphere,” said Stephen Innes at AxiCorp. “Fingers crossed a second wave super spread does not land in our lap.”

However, there are growing concerns of a relapse in some countries that had been opening up, with Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike on Wednesday warning a number of new cases had been found at one workplace.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Crisis Sinks Global Economy In 2020, Collapsing GDP 4.9% – IMF

That comes after Germany reimposed containment measures in two western districts — home to almost 640,000 people — after an outbreak at a slaughterhouse infected more than 1,500 workers.

Portugal has also announced new restrictions in and around Lisbon.

And leading US health officials headed by top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci warned of “historic” challenges, adding: “COVID-19 activity will likely continue for some time.”

Fauci warned the next two weeks would be “critical to our ability to address… surgings” in Florida, Texas and other states.

Tokyo and Singapore each lost 0.1 percent, Hong Kong dipped 0.5 percent and there were also losses in Manila.

Sydney added 0.2 percent, Shanghai gained 0.3, Mumbai added 0.5 percent and Taipei put on 0.4 percent with Wellington and Jakarta more than one percent higher.

Seoul climbed 1.5 percent with help coming from a report that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has suspended plans for military action against the South in an apparent easing of tensions just over a week after Pyongyang blew up a liaison office.

London, Frankfurt and Paris were all in the red in early trade.

While equities have been on a generally upward trajectory, gold — a key safe haven in times of uncertainty — has also been on the up as the relatively weak dollar makes it cheaper to buy, while investors are also keeping an eye on a fall-back in case the crisis erupts again.

The yellow metal is up around 17 percent since the end of December and sitting at a seven-and-a-half-year high of $1,775.

“Historically the metal has rallied when stocks have sold off as funds typically flowed towards assets that are deemed to be lower risk,” said CMC Markets analyst David Madden.

“The rise of the US dollar as a risk-off play has distorted the old relationship between gold and attitudes towards risk. Recently we have seen gold and stocks move higher in tandem.”

– Key figures around 0810 GMT –

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.1 percent at 22,534.32 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.5 percent at 24,781.58 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.3 percent at 2,979.55 (close)

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.8 percent at 6,271.71

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.1 percent at $40.39 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.3 percent at $42.77 per barrel

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1293 from $1.1308 at 2050 GMT

Dollar/yen: UP at 106.61 yen from 106.53 yen

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2480 from $1.2520

Euro/pound: UP at 90.48 pence from 90.30 pence

New York – Dow: UP 0.5 percent at 26,156.10 (close).

AFP

 

Surge In Child Mortality Forecast In Pandemic-hit Developing Countries

Children learn how to wash hands for prevention of the COVID-19 as local NGO Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) installs hand washing stations at Kibera slum in Nairobi, on March 18, 2020. Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP

 

Deaths from preventable disease in children under five could rise by almost 45 percent over the next six months as the COVID-19 pandemic diverts scarce health resources in developing countries, a UN report said Tuesday.

Poorer nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America could see an additional 1.2 million infants die over the period, according to the study published by The Lancet Global Health.

About 56,700 more maternal deaths could also occur in six months, beyond the 144,000 deaths that already take place in the same 118 countries, a rise of about 40 percent.

The findings were based on a computer model that calculated the impact of a reduction in family planning, antenatal and postnatal care, child delivery, vaccinations and preventive and curative services.

“Under a worst-case scenario, the global number of children dying before their fifth birthdays could increase for the first time in decades,” said UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore.

“We must not let mothers and children become collateral damage in the fight against the virus. And we must not let decades of progress on reducing preventable child and maternal deaths be lost.”

The greatest number of additional child deaths would come from under nourishment, and a reduction in treatment of neonatal sepsis and pneumonia.

The study found that the 10 countries that could have the largest number of additional child deaths were Bangladesh, Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Uganda and United Republic of Tanzania.

READ ALSO: New Resolution On Pandemic Truce Presented To UN Security Council

UNICEF said it was especially alarmed at the knock-on effects of the pandemic.

This included tens of million of children missing out on measles vaccinations, and some 370 million children who normally rely on school meals having to look for other sources of food.

UNICEF said it was launching a new global campaign called “#Reimagine” to prevent the pandemic becoming a lasting crisis for children.

The organization is issuing an urgent appeal to governments, the public, donors and the private sector to respond.

AFP

Europe Emerges From Confinement, But Asia Infections Spike

hong-kong
People wearing face masks as a preventative measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus cross a street in the Causeway Bay shopping district in Hong Kong on May 1, 2020. DALE DE LA REY / AFP.

 

Swathes of Europe began the long process of re-opening from coronavirus lockdowns on Monday, but the first new infections in weeks at China’s ground zero offered a sobering reminder of the dangers of a second wave of cases.

The mixed fortunes illustrated the high-wire act governments face across the globe as they try to get economies moving while keeping in check a pandemic that has now killed more than 280,000 people.

As Britain plotted a path to normality and France and Spain basked in relaxation of restrictions, the Chinese city where the pandemic was born reported a second day of new cases after a month without sign of the virus.

And neighbouring South Korea announced its highest number of infections for more than a month driven by a cluster in a Seoul nightlife district.

With millions out of work and economies shattered, governments are desperate to hit the accelerator, but most are choosing a gradual approach as fears about a resurgence of the virus linger.

READ ALSO: AIDS Deaths Could Double In Sub-Saharan Africa Due To COVID-19 – UN

In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was too soon for the country to lift its lockdown but he offered hope by unveiling a “conditional plan” to ease curbs in England during the months ahead.

Johnson said the restrictions had brought “a colossal cost to our way of life” but it would be “madness” to squander the nation’s progress by moving too early.

Almost seven weeks after a nationwide stay-at-home order was put in place, more than 31,800 have died in Britain — a figure second only to the United States.

Elsewhere in Europe, however, officials have been emboldened by declining death rates, with France’s toll dropping to 70 on Sunday — its lowest since early April — and Spain’s daily fatalities falling below 200.

The French were able to walk outside without filling in a permit for the first time in nearly eight weeks on Monday, while teachers began returning to primary schools and some shops were set to re-open, causing a surge in the numbers using the Paris metro.

“If it’s like this at 6:00 am, imagine how it’s going to be in two hours — this is going to be impossible,” said one rider named Brigitte early Monday morning on a crowded train.

Many Spaniards, meanwhile, made plans to meet friends and family at outdoor bars and restaurants, although virus hotspots such as Madrid and Barcelona remain under wraps.

Germany too has set in motion the re-opening of shops, eateries, schools and gyms, but the process was thrown in doubt Sunday by official data indicating the virus appears to be picking up speed again.

Chancellor Angela Merkel only days ago declared the country could gradually return to normal, but the figures showed the reproduction rate of the virus had exceeded the critical figure of 1.0, meaning one person infects on average more than one other.

As recently as Wednesday, the number had stood at 0.65.

– Second wave fears –

With governments across the world trying to avoid a second wave, Asian nations that were among the first engulfed by the virus but have since brought it to heel are being keenly watched.

Much of China has begun to get back to a form of normality, and on Monday Shanghai Disneyland threw open its gates following a three-month shutdown.

“We are very much looking forward to the first day of re-opening and wondering what’s the difference inside today compared to before,” said one eager visitor named Kitty.

But enthusiasm in China was tempered by news on Sunday that one person had tested positive for the virus in Wuhan. There were five more cases on Monday.

Local health officials said the new infections were all from the same residential compound in the city and were mostly older people.

South Korean officials ordered nightclubs and bars closed after a fresh burst of transmission linked to an entertainment district in the capital.

At first it was thought to have been triggered by a 29-year-old man who tested positive after spending an evening at five clubs and bars in the Itaewon in early May.

But officials said there appeared to be multiple origins for the cluster, with Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun adding they are struggling to trace “thousands of people” who visited the area.

Cautious re-opening nevertheless continues around Asia, with one of the world’s largest train networks set to gradually restart operations from Tuesday as India eases its lockdown despite the nation reporting its biggest single-day jump in cases.

The vast rail system — which usually carries more than 20 million passengers a day — was halted in late March, leaving millions of rural migrant workers unable to return home after losing their jobs in cities.

– ‘Be vigilant’ –

New Zealand, meanwhile, will phase out its lockdown over the next 10 days, although some restrictions will remain.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern warned “none of us can assume COVID is not with us”, but said the country had only 90 active cases after a seven-week lockdown.

“Your efforts, New Zealand, have got us to this place ahead of most of the world and without the carnage that COVID has inflicted in many other places,” she said in a televised address.

“But there are risks ahead, so please be vigilant.”

Extended periods at home have given some people a chance to gather testimony on life in confinement, with the Museum of London launching an appeal for items that reflect the experience.

“When we knew there was going to be a lockdown, we started straight away talking about what we needed to collect something for the future,” Beatrice Behlen, the museum’s senior curator, told AFP.

“It could be something that gives you comfort — one example mentioned often is maybe your favourite slippers — you’ve been wearing them every day.”

AFP

Indonesia Bans Air, Sea Travel Until June Over COVID-19 Fears

Health officials take samples of saliva and nasal fluid from a resident (L) to test for the COVID-19 coronavirus in Tangerang on April 2, 2020. FAJRIN RAHARJO / AFP.

 

Indonesia will ban all air and sea travel until June, officials said Thursday, in an apparent effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus during the holiest period on the Islamic calendar.

The temporary ban takes effect Friday, the first day of the fasting month of Ramadan for the Muslim-majority country, and lasts until June 1.

It comes a day after the government, fearing an explosion in virus cases, banned the annual exodus for Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of Ramadan, when millions travel to their hometowns and ancestral villages.

The latest measure will not apply to emergency, diplomatic or cargo transport, the government said.

The repatriation of Indonesian citizens from abroad and foreigners living in the Southeast Asian archipelago will also be exempt.

READ ALSO: UEFA Give Women’s European Championship New Slot In 2022

“It applies to both domestic and international commercial travel but there are some exceptions,” Transportation Ministry spokeswoman Adita Irawati told AFP.

The country’s biggest airlines Garuda and Lion Air had already scaled backed their commercial flights as the tourism market shrivelled up.

But the ban on sea travel could hamper the movement of millions in a country of some 17,000 islands where passenger ferries are a key mode of transportation.

The government had already called on residents of major cities, including the capital Jakarta, to stay put.

As of Thursday, Indonesia had confirmed 7,775 cases of COVID-19 and 647 deaths.

But the toll is widely believed to be much higher in a country with one of the lowest testing rates in the world.

AFP

Asian Champions League Games Postponed Over Coronavirus

FILES) This file handout illustration image obtained February 3, 2020 reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.  AFP

 

Six Asian Champions League games were postponed over the coronavirus on Thursday as the Asian Football Confederation wrestles with the deadly outbreak.

Four Iranian clubs were affected by the postponements, which came as the regional body announced emergency talks over the epidemic.

Next month’s World Cup qualifiers could also be disrupted, and the women’s Olympic playoffs involving China, South Korea, Vietnam and Australia will be rescheduled.

“These are unprecedented and challenging times, but the AFC is working tirelessly to monitor the situation,” AFC general secretary Windsor John said in a statement.

The Champions League has been hard hit by the outbreak, with Chinese clubs mostly sidelined until April and one game in South Korea set to take place behind closed doors.

Next week’s four games involving clubs from Iran — which has the highest toll outside China, with 22 dead — have all been postponed.

FC Seoul’s home game against Chiangrai United of Thailand will also be played at a later date, as will the April 6 match between Saudi club Al Nassr and Sepahan of Iran.

The AFC’s East zone members will meet in Kuala Lumpur on Monday, while the West Asia countries will hold talks on Monday and Tuesday.

COVID-19 has disrupted a wide range of sports competitions including Formula One, Six Nations rugby and Europe’s Champions League football.

The rescheduling of the women’s Olympic qualifiers is just the latest setback for a tournament that has weathered several setbacks.

The qualifying tournament, originally scheduled for virus epicentre Wuhan, was moved to Nanjing and then Sydney as the health emergency grew.

China’s team were quarantined in Australia after arriving for the tournament, and even after reaching the playoffs their home leg against South Korea was moved to Sydney.

AFP

Asia Steps Up Defence After SARS Virus Kills Six In China

Taiwan’s Center for Disease Control (CDC) personnel (R) using thermal scanners to screen passengers arriving on a flight from China’s Wuhan province, where a SARS-like virus was discovered and has since spread, at the Taoyuan International Airport.  Chen Chi-chuan / AFP

 

Asian countries on Tuesday ramped up measures to block the spread of a new virus as the death toll in China rose to six and the number of cases jumped to almost 300, raising concerns in the middle of a major holiday travel rush.

From Australia to Thailand and as far as Nepal, nations stepped up fever checks of passengers at airports to detect the SARS-like coronavirus, which first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

Fears of a bigger outbreak rose after a prominent expert from China’s National Health Commission confirmed late Monday that the virus can be passed between people.

Authorities previously said there was no obvious evidence of person-to-person transmission and animals were suspected to be the source, as a seafood market where live animals were sold in Wuhan was identified as the centre of the outbreak.

The confirmation of human transmission comes as hundreds of millions of people are crisscrossing China in packed buses, trains and planes this week to celebrate the Lunar New Year with relatives.

Almost 80 new cases have been confirmed, bringing the total number of people hit by the virus in China to 291, with the vast majority in Hubei, the province where Wuhan lies, and others in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong, according to the National Health Commission. State media said one case was found in Zhejiang province.

 Taiwan’s Center for Disease Control (CDC) personnel using thermal scanners to screen passengers arriving on a flight from China’s Wuhan province, where a SARS-like virus was discovered and has since spread, at the Taoyuan International Airport.  Chen Chi-chuan / AFP

Wuhan mayor Zhou Xianwang told state broadcaster CCTV that the death toll had risen from four to six.

China said it would attend a special World Health Organization meeting on Wednesday which will determine whether to declare a rare global public health emergency over the disease, which was detected in Thailand, Japan and South Korea among four people who had visited Wuhan.

The coronavirus has caused alarm because of its genetic similarities to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

Fever checks 

At four airports in Thailand, authorities introduced mandatory thermal scans of passengers arriving from high-risk areas of China. Anyone exhibiting signs of fever will be quarantined for 24 hours for monitoring.

Around 1,300 passengers are expected each day in Thailand from Wuhan over Chinese New Year, which starts on Friday.

In Hong Kong, where memories of SARS still haunt the city, authorities said they were on “extreme high alert”, with passengers from Wuhan required to fill out health declarations and face possible jail time if they do not declare symptoms.

“We are … preparing for the worst. We have not lowered our guard,” Hong Kong’s number two leader, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung, told reporters.

Taiwan went onto its second-highest alert level for those travelling to and from Wuhan, advising visitors to avoid visiting any live poultry markets while screening has been stepped up at airports.

Enhanced screening measures have also been set up at airports in Australia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Singapore, and the United States.

A man showing symptoms of the disease who had travelled to Wuhan has been put in isolation in Australia as health officials await test results, authorities said Tuesday.

In China, the government announced Tuesday it was classifying the outbreak in the same category as SARS, meaning compulsory isolation for those diagnosed with the disease and the potential to implement quarantine measures on travel.

In Wuhan, authorities banned tour groups and police were conducting spot checks for live poultry or wild animals in vehicles leaving and entering the city, state media said.

Passengers were being screened for fever at the airport, railway stations and bus terminals. Those with fevers would be registered, handed masks and advised to see a doctor, and they would not have to pay to change their tickets.

WHO meeting 

Zhong Nanshan, a renowned scientist at the National Health Commission, raised the alarm when he said on Monday that patients can contract the virus without having visited Wuhan, though he added that it was milder than SARS.

The WHO had previously identified animals as the likely primary source, but had warned of “some limited human-to-human transmission”.

Doctors at the University of Hong Kong released a study on Tuesday estimating that there have been 1,343 cases of the new virus in Wuhan. Scientists at Imperial College in London said last week the number was likely closer to 1,700.

The WHO has only called a global public health emergency a handful of times, including during the H1N1 — or swine flu — pandemic of 2009 and the Ebola epidemic that devastated parts of West Africa from 2014 to 2016.

The Communist government was accused of covering up the SARS outbreak in 2003 but some foreign experts have praised the swift release of information on this new virus.

“China is willing to continue to deepen international cooperation, join hands with the international community to respond to the epidemic, and jointly maintain regional and global health security,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters.

AFP

Netflix Seeing Strong Subscriber Growth In Asia, Latin America

Chris Delmas / AFP

 

Netflix is seeing rapid subscriber growth in regions including Asia and Latin America as it girds for tougher competition in the streaming market, newly detailed figures show.

In a regulatory filing this week, Netflix offered the first detailed look at its finances from various regions around the world,

The figures showed nearly 14.5 million subscribers in the Asia-Pacific region at the end of September, representing growth of more than 50 percent over the previous 12 months.

The region including Europe, the Middle East and Africa had some 47 million paid subscribers, up 40 percent year-over-year, in the largest segment outside North America.

Latin America included some 29 million subscribers, a rise of 22 per cent over the past year, Netflix said in the filing.

North America is the largest market for Netflix with some 67 million subscribers but growth over the past year was just 6.5 percent.

Netflix is the leader in streaming television, operating in some 190 countries, but it is facing new offerings from deep-pocketed rivals including Disney, Apple, Comcast’s NBCUniversal and AT&T’s WarnerMedia.

Asia, Africa Out Of FIBA World Cup At First Hurdle

Harrison Barnes #8 of USA goes to the basket against Japan during the First Round of the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup on September 5, 2019 at the Shanghai Oriental Sports Center in Shanghai, China. NATHANIEL S. BUTLER / NBAE / GETTY IMAGES / AFP

 

 

It is the largest basketball World Cup ever but there will be no teams from Asia or Africa in the second round of the sport’s global showpiece.

Hosts China with their 1.4 billion population crashed out of contention on Wednesday with a 72-59 defeat to Venezuela.

That came hours after Tunisia surrendered a spot in the next round, and a guaranteed place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, with an agonising 67-64 loss to Puerto Rico.

Nigeria thrashed South Korea 108-66 at the same time, but the fate of Africa’s highest-ranked team already been sealed after losing both their opening games.

The last time there was no team from Asia or Africa in the second round was in 1998, when the championship had only 16 teams.

Now it has a record 32 but it is almost exclusively teams from the Americas, led by reigning champions the United States, and Europe who will compete for the medals.

Outside of those only Australia, nominally Asian in the FIBA rankings are concerned, have also reached the second round and they could be joined by New Zealand if they beat Greece on Thursday.

Paolo Povia, coach of the Ivory Coast, said there were “a lot of factors” why African sides had failed to make their mark in China.

“There’s definitely a difference in experience and knowledge of the game,” said Povia after his team lost 80-63 to Poland on Wednesday, their third defeat in three games.

“The development of the game (in Africa) is a little inconsistent. In our team we have some guys who have learned to play the game in different places all over the world.

“So you don’t get the same continuity all the time in how the game is learned.”

Basketball is hugely popular in the Philippines but the national team — the joint-shortest at the competition — have lost all three of their matches.

They were drubbed 108-62 and 126-67 by Italy and title-contenders Serbia respectively before narrowly succumbing to already eliminated Angola on Wednesday.

Serbia’s plain-speaking coach Sasha Djordjevic said that the Philippines’ lack of physicality and athleticism “might be the problem”.

“Obviously you are missing quality,” he told a reporter from the Philippines.

After easy wins over the Philippines and Angola, Djordjevic also questioned the format of the enlarged World Cup, containing eight groups of four countries in the first phase.

“There are some groups that from the start you practically know which two teams are going to advance,” he said, shaking his head.

“I don’t know if that’s a good thing for the World Cup in general because what does it serve us?

“What does it serve the Philippine team losing by this points difference?” he said, of Serbia’s 59-point win.

Ousted teams such as the Philippines need to rally themselves, because they now face a low-key “classification” round with Olympic qualifying in play.

China World Cup Boost As Nine Foreigners Switch Nationality

 

China could soon be able to field a national team made up almost entirely of players born elsewhere after authorities said nine foreign footballers were switching allegiance.

On Wednesday Brazil-born striker Elkeson became the first player without Chinese heritage to be named in the national squad, as China attempts to reach the World Cup for a second time.

The 30-year-old is poised to make his debut next month in a 2022 World Cup qualifier in the Maldives, where London-born Nico Yennaris — who is half-Chinese — will likely win a third cap.

“We want to go to Qatar (2022 World Cup),” Chen Xuyuan, new president of the Chinese Football Association (CFA), was quoted as saying by state media.

“Naturalised players can be helpful in order to achieve the national team’s short-term goals.

“Up to now, clubs have registered nine naturalised players with or without Chinese heritage at the CFA in total, some of them are still going through the naturalisation process.”

Chen, named to the top post in Chinese football on Thursday, said that more naturalised players will likely represent China as qualification for 2022 progresses.

“But it will never be a long-term policy of the CFA and the numbers will be very limited,” Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying.

Several Brazilian attacking players from the Chinese Super League are reportedly among those being naturalised, as is English-born defender Tyias Browning.

The move to give passports to players born elsewhere — particularly when they have no Chinese ancestry — has divided fans.

Some say the CFA should do everything it can to help Marcello Lippi’s side reach only China’s second World Cup.

Others say that a country of 1.4 billion people should easily be able to find 11 players good enough.

China have reached football’s biggest stage only once, in 2002, but left without a point or scoring a goal.

President Xi Jinping wants China to become a major force in world football by 2050, but Lippi’s side languish 71st in the current FIFA rankings.

Chen also reiterated China’s wishes to stage a World Cup, also part of Xi’s ambitious plans for football in the country.

“Hosting the World Cup is a dream of all Chinese fans, including me,” said Chen, declining to say when the country will make its move.

“The CFA will analyse and find out when is the best timing to bid,” he added.