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The week in review: Covid-19 fatalities approach 15,000, Wuhan lifts travel ban, NDB approves Rmb7bn loan to China

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By Addison Gong, Rebecca Feng
23 Mar 2020

In this round-up, countries around the world have confirmed 14,641 deaths from Covid-19 infections, the coronavirus epicentre of Wuhan is gradually loosening its lockdown, and the New Development Bank is giving China its largest loan.

The latest data from Johns Hopkins University showed that by noon Hong Kong time on Monday, the Covid-19 pandemic had infected 336,000 people globally. The virus has killed 14,641 people, of which 5,476 were from Italy and 3,153 from the Hubei province in China.

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Hubei, where Covid-19 cases were first reported, has seen five consecutive days of zero new infections by Sunday. Once the epicentre and in complete lockdown, the provincial capital Wuhan is allowing residents to leave the city after they test negative to the virus and obtain a health certificate.

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In a research note, China International Capital Corp (CICC) said it is revising China’s real GDP growth down to 2.6% from 6.1%. Nominal GDP growth is forecasted at 2.8%. CICC also expects the USD/CNY exchange rate to hold at 6.72 by the end of the year.

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The impact from the pandemic on China’s economy is short-term and controllable, the deputy head of the National Bureau of Statistics, Sheng Laiyun, said in an article published by the People’s Daily.

Sheng said that the first quarter usually only contributes about 20% of the full year GDP. Given that the first half of the year contributes about 45% and the second half 55%, as long as economic recovery picks up pace after the second quarter, there is an opportunity to make up the losses from January and February, he added. Sheng reckons the outbreak has suppressed Rmb1.5tr ($211.4bn) of consumption needs, which could rebound after the pandemic is over.

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The New Development Bank (NDB) has approved Rmb7bn of emergency assistance programme loan to China, according to a Friday press release.

The loan is aimed at helping the Chinese government, especially the local governments of Hubei, Guangdong and Henan, to finance their urgent public health expenditures and reduce the adverse impacts of the pandemic on their respective economies, said the release.

The loan is the bank’s largest to date. It is also the NDB’s first emergency assistance programme in response to an outbreak in one of its member countries – Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa.

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In February, Chinese banks bought Rmb1.02tr of foreign currencies and sold Rmb920.8bn, according to data compiled by the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (Safe) last Friday. Banks bought and sold Rmb265.4bn and Rmb171.3bn respectively among themselves and bought and sold Rmb754.6bn and Rmb749.5bn for clients.

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Striking the gong in the morning of the first day of trading is a tradition for companies that have successfully listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The ceremonies will be carried out by video streaming from Monday, with InnoCare Pharma becoming the first company to do so, according to local mediareports.

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The Civil Aviation Administration of China, together with four other departments, jointly announced that all international flights bound for Beijing must reroute to Dalian, Hohhot, Jinan, Nanjing, Qingdao, Shanghai Pudong, Shenyang, Shijiazhuang, Taiyuan, Tianjin, Xi’an or Zhengzhou, effective from March 23.

Passengers on these international flights must go through quarantine inspection and customs clearance procedures at one of these cities. Passengers who pass quarantine inspection can fly to Beijing on the original flight.

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Gong Zheng, formerly the governor of Shandong province, will take up the position as deputy party secretary of Shanghai. The appointment traditionally paves the way for Gong to be named the mayor of Shanghai soon by the Shanghai Municipal People’s Congress.

Shanghai’s former mayor, Ying Yong, was named the party secretary of Hubei on February 13. The appointment followed a public outcry over Hubei provincial government’s mishandling of the Covid-19 outbreak in its early days. Since then, the position of mayor of Shanghai has been vacant.

Gong has a doctoral degree in economics. He also spent more than 20 years working for China’s General Administration of Customs, eventually rising to deputy chief in 2003.
By Addison Gong, Rebecca Feng
23 Mar 2020