Medical staff members collecting blood sample taken from a person to be tested for the new coronavirus at a quarantine zone in Wuhan in China on Tuesday. (AFP)
THE World Bank has called for countries to step up programmes to fight the new coronavirus outbreak, and said it was considering mobilising its own resources against the disease. “We are calling on all countries to strengthen their health surveillance and response systems, which is essential to contain the spread of this and any future outbreaks,” the institution said in a statement. “The World Bank Group is reviewing financial and technical resources that can be mobilised quickly to support affected countries,” and also “closely coordinating with international partners to accelerate the international response.”
The World Bank said it was “monitoring the wider economic and social impacts of this crisis,” and would support “China’s efforts to respond, including its efforts to maintain resilience in its economy”. International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva said last week that negative impacts on the economy in the first half of 2020 were likely but “it would be irresponsible to offer any speculations around what may happen.” Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific asks all staff to take unpaid leave: HONG Kong’s flagship carrier Cathay Pacific is asking its entire workforce to take up to three weeks of unpaid leave, its CEO announced on Wednesday, as the airline faces a crisis in the wake of the new coronavirus outbreak.
The request lays bare desperate times at Cathay, which was hammered last year by months of political chaos and protests in Hong Kong and is now being further hurt by the fallout from the virus outbreak. In a video message to the company’s 27,000 employees, airline boss Augustus Tang said they were being asked to take up to three weeks leave with no pay between March and June. “I am hoping all of you will participate, from our frontline employees to our senior leaders, and share in our current challenges,” he said. The coronavirus, which was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, spread over the Lunar New Year holiday, which would normally be one of the busiest times for regional airlines.
At least 10 on Japan cruise ship tested positive for virus
AT least 10 people on a cruise ship quarantined off the coast of Japan have tested positive for the new coronavirus, Japan’s Health Minister said on Wednesday. Japan quarantined the vessel carrying 3,711 people and began testing those on board for the virus after a former passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong was diagnosed with the illness. Meanwhile, hundreds of travellers on board a cruise ship that docked in Hong Kong on Wednesday will be allowed to leave the vessel after health checks, the operator said, despite three recent passengers testing positive for coronavirus.
More than 20 countries have confirmed cases of the virus, which has killed nearly 500 people and infected more than 24,000 in mainland China. The outbreak has prompted the World Health Organisation to declare a global health emergency, several governments to impose travel restrictions, and airlines to suspend flights to and from China.