China reports uptick in new coronavirus cases though downward trend holds By Reuters


© Reuters. China reports uptick in new coronavirus cases though downward trend holds

By Ryan Woo

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Hubei province reported an uptick in new cases of coronavirus on Friday, reversing three days of declines, although the numbers still confirmed a downward trend which the World Health Organization (WHO) has called encouraging.

The province at the center of the global health emergency said it had counted 411 new cases as of Feb. 20, up from 349 a day earlier but still the lowest since Jan. 26. The death toll in Hubei rose by 115 to 2,144, mostly in the provincial capital of Wuhan, a city of 11 million which remains under virtual lockdown.

Chinese officials say the declining rate of new infections shows they are succeeding in keeping the virus contained to Hubei, with severe restrictions on travel and movement imposed at great cost to the world’s second-biggest economy.

Speaking in Geneva on Wednesday, World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged the apparent slowdown in Chinese infections but warned the flu-like virus could still spread rapidly in China and beyond.

“We are encouraged by this trend but this is no time for complacency,” Tedros told reporters. Online site for coronavirus news – https://www.reuters.com/live-events/coronavirus-6-id2921484

To date, 25 other countries have reported 1,076 cases to the WHO, and while that was very low compared with about 75,000 inside China, Tedros said: “That may not stay the same for long”.

South Korea’s fourth-largest city is the latest hotspot, with streets abandoned and residents holed up indoors after dozens of people caught the new coronavirus in what authorities described as a “super-spreading event” at a church.

The deserted shopping malls and cinemas of Daegu, a city of 2.5 million people, became one of the most striking images outside China of an outbreak that international authorities are trying stop from becoming a global pandemic.

Resident Kim Geun-woo, 28, told Reuters by telephone: “It’s like someone dropped a bomb in the middle of the city. It looks like a zombie apocalypse.”

South Korea now has 104 confirmed cases of the flu-like virus, and reported its first death.

Iranian health officials urged all religious gatherings to be suspended in Qom, news agency ISNA said on Thursday, after two more people tested positive for the coronavirus in the holy city, where two died of it this week. Graphic: Tracking the novel coronavirus – https://graphics.reuters.com/CHINA-HEALTH-MAP/0100B59S39E/index.html

Two Australians evacuated from a cruise ship in Japan had tested positive for the pathogen at a quarantine camp in the country’s far north and would be hospitalized near their homes, Australia’s health department said on Friday.

New research suggesting the virus is more contagious than previously thought added to the alarm.

U.S. stocks fell on Thursday and gold prices hit their highest in seven years as investors sought safe havens over worries about the coronavirus’ economic impact. [MKTS/GLOB]

U.S. manufacturers are scrambling for alternative sources as supply chains in China, the workshop of the world, struggle to cope.

“If you look at today’s chain of supply, if China suffers, everyone in the world will suffer as well,” China’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Chen Xu, told reporters.

BEIJING MAY BE NEXT

Japan reported the deaths of two elderly passengers from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship on Thursday, the first fatalities from aboard the ship where more than 630 cases account for the biggest cluster of infection outside China.

Japan, due to host the Olympics in July, began allowing passengers who test negative to leave and hundreds disembarked on Wednesday and Thursday.

China’s Global Times newspaper reported 36 new cases at one Beijing hospital as of Thursday, a sharp increase from nine cases two weeks earlier. It said this had led “many to fear a potential explosion of infection numbers in the capital.”

Fears of the contagion triggered violence in Ukraine, where residents of a central town clashed with police, burned tires and hurled projectiles at a convoy of buses carrying evacuees from Hubei to a quarantine center.

Hundreds of helmeted police, police vans and an armored personnel carrier were dispatched to keep order as the town waited for the evacuees to arrive.

Americans evacuated from China due to the coronavirus outbreak also faced discrimination.

Amy Deng, who underwent home quarantine with her daughter Daisy, 8, said neighbors had called police over concerns they would spread the disease.

“People were already panicked, then they made up this rumor and spread it, telling us not to even live in the community,” said Deng, 45, a Santa Rosa, California, acupuncturist.





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Woodside holds on to stake in Senegal oil field as FAR challenge fails By Reuters



(Reuters) – ConocoPhillips’ (N:) sale of a stake in a $4.2 billion Senegal oil and gas project to Woodside Petroleum (AX:) has been cleared by an international tribunal, resolving a long-running challenge by Australian partner FAR Ltd (AX:).

Woodside and FAR said on Friday an International Chamber of Commerce panel had ruled that FAR did not have a pre-emptive right to match the offer for the 35% stake in the Sangomar project that ConocoPhillips sold to Woodside in 2016 for just $350 million.

FAR said it was reviewing the arbitration award. It holds a separate 15% stake in the Sangomar project, which also counts Cairn Energy Plc (L:) as a stakeholder.

FAR’s shares fell as much as 9% to 3.1 cents, their lowest level since the middle of 2013, on the news that it would miss out on the chance to potentially raise its stake in Sangomar for a comparatively low price, or win compensation.

At that level the shares were also well below the 4.25 cents apiece that investors paid in a recent issue of new stock by the company.

The resolution of the case comes just as Woodside and its partners have begun development of the Sangomar project, following final investment decisions in January, with first production expected in 2023.

FAR, which discovered the Sangomar field in the world’s largest oil find of 2014, disputed Woodside’s acquisition of its stake in the acreage, arguing it was not allowed to exercise its right to pre-empt the sale of Conoco’s stake.ConocoPhillips and Woodside, now operator of the project, had maintained that FAR’s challenge was without merit.

“Woodside is committed to working … to progress the Sangomar Field Development, which achieved final investment decision in January 2020,” Woodside said in a statement on the tribunal’s ruling on Friday.

ConocoPhillips had no immediate comment.

Analysts had thought that if FAR won the arbitration, it might get some form of compensation from Conoco or Woodside which would have helped the minnow fund its share of Sangomar development costs.

“While disappointing for FAR, we think it remains in a reasonable position with respect to its forward funding profile albeit this as come at the cost of significant equity value dilution,” RBC analysts said in a note.

The company raised A$157 million ($105 million) in December through the sale of new shares to help cover its $480 million portion of Sangomar development costs. It plans to cover the rest of its costs by taking on debt.

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