Coronavirus updates: Chinese provinces lower emergency response level, death toll climbs past 2,500

FAN Editor

A Chinese man wears a protective mask as he walks by a propaganda banner on February 20, 2020 in Beijing, China.

Kevin Frayer

This is a live blog. Please check back for updates.

All times below are in Beijing time.

1:25 pm: Six Chinese provinces lower coronavirus emergency response level

China’s largest province by exports, Guangdong, and the coal-producing province of Shanxi have lowered their emergency response level to two, while Gansu, Yunnan, Guizhou and Liaoning each lowered theirs to level three.

The downgrade allows local authorities to respond to region-specific needs, and follows a decrease in newly confirmed cases outside Hubei province, the epicenter of the disease. Out of 398 such cases reported for Sunday, 11 came from provinces other than Hubei, according to China’s National Health Commission.

The lowered response level follows greater emphasis from the central government on maintaining economic growth. Chinese President Xi Jinping said Sunday that the virus is “the most difficult to contain in the country since the founding of the People’s Republic of China” and “will inevitably deal a relatively big blow” to the country’s economy. He also said each region should adopt measures to resume work and production based on the local level of health risks, according to an English-language report from state news agency Xinhua. — Wu

12:36 pm: South Korean airlines sell off

Shares of Korean Air and Asiana Airlines fell more than 5% each following a spike in the number of confirmed cases in South Korea. As the total number of reported infections in the country jumped to more than 700, both airlines took steps to cancel flights to the city of Daegu, where many of the new cases have been detected.

Asiana Airlines suspended flights between Daegu and Jeju until Mar. 9 (see 10:45 am update). Reuters reported that Korean Air also halted all flights to the city until Mar. 28. Low-cost carrier Air Busan sold off 3.89%. — Roy Choudhury

10:58 am: China reports 150 additional deaths

China’s National Health Commission reported an additional 150 deaths and 409 new confirmed cases as of Feb. 23. Of the 409 new cases, 398 came from Hubei province, whereas only 11 were reported in the rest of mainland China. That brought the nationwide tally of total infections to 77,150 confirmed cases and 2,592 deaths.

The Hubei Provincial Health Committee reported 149 additional deaths in the province, including 131 in Wuhan, where the pneumonia-like virus was first detected. As of Feb. 23, Hubei province has reported a total of 64,287 confirmed cases, 2,495 deaths. The commission said 16,738 people have been discharged from the hospital. — Roy Choudhury

10:45 am: Asiana Airlines suspends flights between Daegu and Jeju

South Korea’s second-largest carrier, Asiana Airlines, said it was suspending domestic flights between Daegu and Jeju from Feb. 25 until Mar. 9. Many of the new cases reported in the country came from the city of Daegu. (see 9:24 am and 7 am updates) — Roy Choudhury

9:24 am: South Korea cases surpass 760, fatalities rise to seven

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported an additional 161 cases on Monday morning, bringing the total to 763 nationwide. Most of the new confirmed cases were reported in the city of Daegu.

An additional two people were said to have died, which brought the death toll to seven. — Roy Choudhury

8:47 am: South Korea stocks fall more than 2%

8:15 am: President Xi says epidemic as a crisis and ‘big test’ for China

The coronavirus outbreak is a major public health emergency that has spread rapidly and become difficult to contain, President Xi Jinping said at a meeting in Beijing on Sunday, state media Xinhua reported.

“This is both a crisis and a big test for us,” Xi said, per Xinhua’s translations of his remarks, adding that efforts are being made to cure people of the infection, reduce fatality rates, safeguard social stability, and strengthen China’s emergency medical supplies and daily necessities.

The epidemic’s impact on China’s economic and social development is temporary and generally manageable, but it will deal a relatively big blow in the short term, Xi said, according to Xinhua. The president also stressed the importance of an orderly resumption of work and production. — Roy Choudhury

7:18 am: IMF chief says virus outbreak could put economic recovery at risk

The coronavirus outbreak that began in China and has since spread to more than 25 countries could put global economic recovery at risk, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said in a statement following a G-20 meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors in Saudi Arabia.

“This is a human tragedy, but it also has negative economic impact,” Georgieva said. “I reported to the G20 that even in the case of rapid containment of the virus, growth in China and the rest of the world would be impacted. Of course, we all hope for a V-shaped, rapid recovery — but given the uncertainty, it would be prudent to prepare for more adverse scenarios.” — Roy Choudhury

7 am: South Korea on high alert, total cases top 600

South Korea’s government raised the COVID-19 alert to its highest level after a recent implosion of confirmed infection cases, which took the country’s tally from 31 as of Feb. 18 to 602 on Sunday. Many of the new cases were from the city of Daegu and were related to a homegrown religious group, Yonhap reported. At least five people have died from the virus, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

By comparison, the Diamond Princess cruise that had been quarantined off the coast of Yokohama, Japan, since early February had at least 634 confirmed cases, according to the Japanese health ministry and the World Health Organization. Many countries have started evacuating their citizens from the ship and some people have tested positive after leaving the ship. — Roy Choudhury

A nurse working in the isolation ward communicates with a co-worker on the talkie-walkie in Jinyintan Hospital, designated for COVID-19 patients, in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province Monday, Feb. 17, 2020.

Feature China | Barcroft Media via Getty Images

All times below are in Eastern time.

4:18 pm: Israel may quarantine 200 South Korean visitors

Israel may quarantine some 200 visitors from South Korea at a military base in a Jewish settlement on the occupied West Bank over coronavirus fears, according to Israel’s Ynet news site. Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said separately he had ordered South Korea and Japan to be added to a list of Asian countries to which travel to and from Israel was being barred. — Lovelace Jr.

3:48 pm: Austria halts train traffic with Italy

Austria has halted train traffic with its southern neighbor amid concern that two passengers on an in-bound train from Italy were infected with the coronavirus. Italy is grappling with the largest coronavirus outbreak outside of Asia, with more than 130 reported cases and three deaths. — Lovelace Jr.

1:08 pm: Four passengers test positive for coronavirus in England

Four passengers tested positive for the virus in England after being evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan, according to Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty.

“Four further patients in England have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in the UK to thirteen,” the statement from the chief medical officer for England said. — Lovelace Jr.

Read CNBC’s coverage from the U.S. overnight: Austria halts train traffic with Italy, Turkey closes Iran border

— CNBC’s Lilian Wu and Berkeley Lovelace Jr. contributed to this report.

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