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Singapore says planning second evacuation flight from virus-hit Wuhan
7 February 2020, 4:02 AM

Singapore said on Friday it was planning another flight to bring Singaporeans back from virus-hit Wuhan, after officials earlier told Reuters the evacuation could happen within days.

The city-state evacuated 92 Singaporeans from Wuhan – the locked down Chinese city that is the epicentre of the outbreak -last Thursday, some of whom have since been confirmed as infected.

Authorities said they had to leave some passengers behind who were showing symptoms.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has continued to be in discussions with the relevant Chinese authorities on our plans for another flight to bring our fellow Singaporeans there back home,” the ministry said in an emailed statement.

Brazil gives big tobacco companies 30 days notice in smoking lawsuit
7 February 2020, 3:00 AM

The world’s largest cigarette makers, British American Tobacco Plc and Philip Morris International, will have until early March to defend themselves in a lawsuit in Brazil over compensation for tobacco-related diseases.

Since last year, the companies have refused to receive subpoenas delivered to their local subsidiaries in the lawsuit brought the Brazilian solicitor general’s office.

Souza Cruz Ltda, Philip Morris Brasil Industria e Comercio Ltda and Philip Morris Brasil SA, which produce 90% of the cigarettes sold in Brazil, maintained they were subsidiaries only and notifications had to be sent directly to their parent companies’ headquarters in Britain and the United States.

But the federal judge hearing the case in Porto Alegre, Graziela Bündchen ruled on Tuesday that the companies are the operational wings of the parent companies and fully capable of relaying the notifications to their head offices.

She gave them 30 days to present their defenses.

The solicitor general’s office, known as the AGU, said in a statement on Thursday that the cigarette companies had tried to delay the lawsuit, which will now be able to proceed in seeking “the just compensation the Brazilian people deserve.”

The landmark lawsuit was filed by the AGU in May against the two multinational companies seeking to recover the public health costs for the treatment of 26 tobacco-related diseases over the previous five years.

A spokesperson for Souza Cruz said the company will study the decision.

Philip Morris did immediately reply to a request for comment.

The companies’ lawyers have argued that they are not subsidiaries but rather “branches” of parent companies.

The lawsuit was heralded as historic by groups advocating for reduced tobacco consumption, such as the Alliance to Control Smoking (ACT), which said this week’s ruling put the lawsuit back on track.

“It is very important that international headquarters are also held accountable,” ACT legal director Adriana Carvalho said by email.

“They profit from the business in Brazil and have always exercised power of control over their Brazilian units,”she wrote.

Kobe Bryant memorial planned at Lakers’ home arena – Report
7 February 2020, 2:42 AM

Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant, killed with eight others in a helicopter crash last month, will be honored at a public memorial service planned for February 24 at the Staples Center, the team’s home arena and scene of many of his greatest basketball triumphs, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The newspaper, citing two unnamed sources familiar with the event, said the date for the ceremony was selected in consultation with Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, the Lakers organization and the Staples Center.

There was no immediate comment from the Lakers or Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office in response to inquiries from Reuters about the report.

Planning for the event is under way, according to the Times, but there were no details of what the memorial might entail.

The Times cited one source as saying the event would not include a procession, and would be over in time to allow a previously scheduled NBA game between the Los

Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies to go forward as planned.

The memorial will fall between two Lakers home games, one against the Boston Celtics and another against the New Orleans Pelicans, the newspaper said.

Otherwise, the Times said, no information was immediately available about the precise timing of the event or tickets, but it said seating is expected to be limited.

The arena’s seating capacity is normally about 20 000.

The memorial service follows a series of Bryant tributes since he perished with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other people aboard a helicopter that

slammed into a hillside in foggy weather near Los Angeles on January 26.

Bryant, who was 41, retired from the National Basketball Association in 2016.

The 18-time all star was on his way to a youth sports academy for a girls basketball tournament his daughter was scheduled to play in at the time.

The death of the five-time NBA champion, one of the world’s most admired sports figures, unleashed an outpouring of grief and tributes from fans, fellow athletes and politicians around the globe.

Tens of thousands of fans flooded the grounds around the Staples Center last week ahead of the Lakers’ first game since Bryant’s death.

Many others have made pilgrimages to the suburb of Calabasas, about 40 miles (64 km) northwest of Los Angeles, to view the crash site from a distance.

China’s Hubei province reports 69 new coronavirus deaths on Feb 6 -State TV
7 February 2020, 1:02 AM

The number of deaths in China’s central Hubei province from a coronavirus outbreak had risen by 69 to 618 as of Thursday, Chinese state television reported on Friday.

There had been a further 2,447 cases detected in Hubei, the epicentre of the outbreak, taking the total in the province to 22 112.

Most of the new deaths were in Hubei’s provincial capital of Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated.

Wuhan reported 64 new deaths on Thursday, up from 52 on Wednesday.

A total of 478 people in Wuhan have now died from the virus.

New confirmed cases in Wuhan increased by 1 501 on Thursday.

Chinese doctor who raised early alarm over coronavirus dies
7 February 2020, 12:37 AM

One of the first Chinese doctors who tried to warn the world about a new coronavirus died on Friday from the illness, as Beijing declared a “people’s war”on the fast-spreading outbreak.

Li Wenliang, 34, was an ophthalmologist at a hospital in Wuhan, the city hardest hit by the outbreak.

He and seven others were reprimanded by Wuhan police last month for spreading”illegal and false” information about the coronavirus.

Li had told a group of doctors on Chinese social media about seven cases he saw and posted a picture of a test result in an effort to help other doctors.

As the death toll in mainland China jumped by 73 to 563,with more than 28 000 infections, President Xi Jinping sought to reassure his citizens and the world that China would beat the coronavirus.

“The whole country has responded with all its strength to respond with the most thorough and strict prevention and control measures, starting a people’s war for epidemic prevention and control,” Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying in a telephone call with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman.

In a striking image of the epidemic’s reach, about 3 700 people moored off Japan on the Diamond Princess faced testing and quarantine for at least two weeks on the ship, which has 20 cases.

In Hong Kong, another cruise ship with 3 600 passengers and crew was quarantined for a second day pending testing with three cases on board.

Taiwan, which has 13 cases,banned international cruise ships from docking.

In China, sometimes dubbed the world’s workshop, cities have been shut off, flights cancelled and factories closed, cutting off supply lines crucial to international businesses.

CORPORATE FALLOUT

Companies including Hyundai Motor Co, Tesla Inc, Ford Motor Co, PSA Peugeot Citroen,Nissan Motor Co Ltd, Airbus, Adidas and Foxconn are taking hits.

Financial analysts have cut China’s growth outlook, with ratings agency Moody’s flagging risks for auto sales and output.

Nintendo Co Ltd warned of delays to production and shipping of its Switch console and other goods to the Japan market.

Honda Motor Co was considering keeping operations suspended for longer than planned at its three plants in Wuhan, Japan’s Nikkei newspaper reported.

Indonesia said it stands to lose $4 billion in tourism if travel from China is disrupted for the whole year.

More than two dozen large trade fairs and industry conferences in Asia, where billions of dollars worth of deals are usually done, have been postponed.

Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, hit by months of anti-China unrest, said the coronavirus was hurting its economy and urged banks to adopt a “sympathetic stance” with borrowers.

But US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he still expected China to maintain its commitment to boost purchases of American goods and services by at least $200 billion over the next two years, as part of a Phase 1 trade deal.

And stock markets across the world rose, buoyed by record highs on Wall Street and a move by China to halve tariffs on some US goods that emboldened bets the global economy would avoid long-term damage from the virus.

China, which has bristled at being ostracized, was considering delaying an annual meeting of its highest legislative body, the National People’s Congress, from March 5, sources said.

RUSH FOR HIV DRUG

The World Health Organization (WHO) said it was too early to say the outbreak was peaking, but noted the country had recorded its first day of a drop in the number of new infections.

“We are still in the middle of an intense outbreak,” said WHO emergencies expert Mike Ryan, calling it “a great worry.”

WHO epidemiologist Maria van Kerkhove, said the virus causes a full spectrum of disease, from what looks like the common cold to pneumonia including multiple organ failure and death.

One Chinese official said the crisis could be nearing it speak, with just over 1 300 patients discharged from hospital,although the number of new patients diagnosed with coronavirus was still rising.

“The darkest time is before the dawn,” the official said. “I have full confidence that we’re going to get ahead of it.”

“The biggest challenge is still to control the spread of the disease, and let all the suspected patients be cured in the hospital.”

Devy, a 38-year-old from Shandong province, said he was among hundreds who had asked people with HIV for antiviral medicine.

“When you are left alone, seeing the blur shadow of death far away, I think no one can feel calm,” Devy told Reuters.

People were also desperate for face masks.

The city of Dali, in southwestern Yunnan province, with only eight confirmed cases of the virus, was accused of intercepting a shipment of masks bound for a municipality with 400 cases.

In the overwhelmed province of Hubei, of which Wuhan is the capital, authorities said they needed another 2 250 medical staff at least.

Around a nation unaccustomed to widespread working from home, the epidemic has forced millions of white-collar workers to get used to just that.

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