(Reuters) – South Korea declared a “red alert” on Sunday after a surge in coronavirus infections and two more deaths, while China state media warned the outbreak there had yet to reach a turning point despite some signs of easing.
* China has reported a total of 76,936 cases of the disease caused by the virus, known as COVID-19, including 2,442 deaths.
* Mainland China had 648 new confirmed cases on Saturday, up from 397 a day earlier. The death toll was up by 97 from the previous day. The virus epicenter of Hubei province reported 96 new deaths, of which 82 were in the provincial capital Wuhan.
* South Korea raised its infectious disease alert to its highest level on Sunday as confirmed coronavirus cases in the country jumped to 602 and the death toll rose to five.
* Italy’s northern Lombardy region reported 89 cases on Sunday, from 54 a day earlier, bringing the total number of cases in the country to more than 100. Veneto, the other worst hit area, said it had 19 cases, up seven from Saturday. Two people have died. Authorities have banned public events and told workers in affected areas to stay home.
* Iran confirmed 15 new cases of the new coronavirus, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said on Sunday, taking the total to 43 with a death toll of eight.
* France said it currently had one patient with the virus but new cases were very likely and it was particularly watchful of the situation in Italy.
* Japan’s health minister has apologized after a woman who was allowed to leave a coronavirus-infected cruise ship docked near Tokyo tested positive for the virus. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instructed government agencies on Sunday to draft a comprehensive plan to curb the spread of the virus, after it reported 27 more cases a day earlier.
* The World Athletics Indoor Championships, scheduled for Nanjing from March 13-15, were postponed until next year. Soccer matches in northern Italy and China were among other sporting events postponed.
* The World Health Organization (WHO) is concerned about the number of cases with no clear epidemiological link, although the total number of cases outside China remains relatively small, its director general said on Saturday.
* Outside China, there have been more than 1,200 cases in 26 countries, the WHO said. That includes one confirmed case on the African continent, in Egypt.
* The International Monetary Fund predicted on Saturday the outbreak would lower China’s growth this year to 5.6% and shave 0.1 percentage points from global growth.
* Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said on Saturday the yen’s recent declines were largely driven by a strong dollar, shrugging off some market views that the virus epidemic is triggering an outflow of funds from Asia.
* Japan’s factory activity suffered its steepest contraction in seven years in February, reinforcing the risk of a recession in the world’s third-largest economy.
* Two elderly passengers from aboard a cruise ship moored near Tokyo died, as hundreds more disembarked after two weeks in quarantine.
* Two Australians evacuated from the cruise ship have tested positive after returning to their home country, whose prime minister plans to extend a ban on arrivals from mainland China into a fourth week.
* Tokyo Metropolitan Government said it would either cancel or postpone major indoor events it has sponsored for the next three weeks.
* China’s banking sector may face a surge of non-performing loans in 2020 if the virus doesn’t peak until April.
* Beijing’s containment measures look set to delay the rollout of 5G as tenders for six big projects have been postponed since Jan.31.
* Asian shares were under water on Friday as coronavirus fears sent funds fleeing into the safety of U.S. assets, lifting the dollar to three-year highs. [MKTS/GLOB]
Compiled by Amy Caren Daniel, Sarah Morland and Shailesh Kuber; Editing by Arun Koyyur, Tomasz Janowski and Philippa Fletcher