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China reports 648 new cases, South Korea cases spike

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This is a live blog. Please check back for updates.

All times below are in Beijing time.

12:05 pm: Man in Hubei didn’t show symptoms until 27 days later

Hubei’s government on Saturday said a 70-year-old man did not show any symptoms till 27 days later, although he was infected with the coronavirus.

That suggested the incubation period could be longer than 14 days.

10:50 am: Hong Kong passengers on Diamond Princess cruise ship arrive home

A third chartered plane evacuating Hong Kong residents from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship off Japan arrived home on Sunday morning, according to a South China Morning Post report.

The five residents on the plane were among more than 200 who have been evacuated since Thursday. They are all serving out a two-week quarantine period in Hong Kong.

As of Saturday, there were 70 confirmed cases in the city, said the report.

9:55 am: China reports 648 new cases, 97 additional deaths

China’s National Health Commission reported 648 new confirmed cases, and 97 additional deaths as of Feb. 22. 

That brings the mainland’s total to 76,936 cases, and 2,442 deaths.

9:23 am: South Korea reports 123 new cases, fourth death

South Korea reported a jump of 123 new cases, bringing the country’s total to 556 infected, according to the country’s for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday morning. It also reported two more deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to four.

More of half of the cases have been linked to outbreaks at a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in country’s fourth-largest city Daegu. More than 1,000 people who attended the church have reported flu-like symptoms.

Of the 123 new cases, 63 are from the church in Daegu, according to the health authority.

Officials are also investigating a possible link between churchgoers and the spike in infections at the Cheongdo hospital, where more than 110 people have been infected so far, mostly patients at a mental illness ward.

Meanwhile, Samsung Electronics on Saturday confirmed one coronavirus case at its phone factory in South Korea, which caused it to shut down the entire facility, according to Reuters. 

8:30 am: Cases in Italy jump

Infections in Italy saw a sharp spike, surging to 79 cases by Saturday, with two dead, according to the country’s health ministry.

In the two worst-hit regions of Lombardy and Veneto, sports events have been canceled, and authorities closed schools and universities, according to a Reuters report.

A dozen towns in northern Italy effectively went into lockdown on Saturday after the deaths of the two infected people, and a growing cluster of cases with no direct links to the origin of the outbreak abroad.

An information sign that reads ‘Coronavirus, the population is invited as a precautionary measure to remain at home’ is pictured in the village of Casalpusterlengo, southeast of Milan, on February 22, 2020.

Miguel Medina | AFP

Companies have told employees from virus-hit areas to stay at home, the report said. Lombardy and Veneto are the heart of Italy’s industrial region and both make up 30% of gross domestic output.

7:55 am: Hubei reports 630 new cases

China’s Hubei province reported 630 new confirmed cases, and 96 additional deaths, as of Feb. 22. 

That brings the total number of confirmed cases in the province to 64,084, and the death toll to 2,346.

All times below are in Eastern time.

3:58 pm: Virus cases surge in South Korea

The number of coronavirus cases tripled in South Korea on Saturday, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with the number of confirmed cases in the country surging to 433 from 156 over a 24-hour period. The surge in cases adds to fears among health officials that the virus, which has spread to 28 countries, could turn into a global pandemic.

More than half of the cases in South Korea are connected to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, and over a thousand members have reported potential symptoms of the virus. The area surrounding the Christian sect’s church in Daegu, a major city in South Korea, has become empty as businesses there shutter.

South Korean health officials spray disinfectant in front of the Daegu branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the southeastern city of Daegu on February 21, 2020.

Jung Yeon-je | AFP | Getty Images

2:36 pm: 7 river cruise ships to house medical workers in Wuhan

Chinese state media reported that seven ships brought into the city of Wuhan in Hubei province will be converted into temporary accommodations for medical staff in the city.

Thousands of medical workers from across the country have been brought into Hubei to help the province contain the outbreak.

Xinhua News reported that the ships normally operate as river cruises in the Three Gorges, a popular and scenic tourist area along the Yangtze River. The state news agency said, however, that the cruise ship business in the Three Gorges had been closed due to the outbreak.

The move comes amid heightened scrutiny after hundreds of passengers on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship contracted the new coronavirus. —Wang

12:20 pm: WHO fears spread of virus to countries in Africa

World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus met with African officials from Geneva on Saturday morning to urge them to prepare for a potential spread of the coronavirus across Africa.

Just one case has been confirmed on the continent, but health officials fear the increasing global spread of the virus, especially to countries with less developed health-care systems.

WHO says it has shipped more than 30,000 sets of personal protective equipment to six countries in Africa, and is set to ship 60,000 more sets to 19 countries in upcoming weeks. It has also provided online training courses to 11,000 African health workers, as well as advice to countries on how to conduct screening, testing and treatment.

Read CNBC’s coverage from the U.S. overnight: IMF lowers global growth forecast, cases surge in South Korea

— CNBC’s Christine Wang, Emma Newburger, and Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Acting US navy head resigns over carrier controversy

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The acting head of the US navy has resigned over his controversial handling of the firing of the aircraft carrier captain who had asked for help dealing with a coronavirus outbreak on the ship.

US defence secretary Mark Esper said on Tuesday he had accepted the resignation of Thomas Modly, who has been the navy’s acting civilian head since November. Mr Modly “resigned on his own accord,” Mr Esper said in a statement. 

The acting secretary — the top civilian leadership position in the navy — had come under intense criticism for saying that Captain Brett Crozier had been “too naive or too stupid” to command the USS Theodore Roosevelt in remarks during a visit to the carrier, which is docked in Guam as the navy grapples with dozens of coronavirus cases on the ship.

Capt Crozier was dismissed last week after urging the navy in a dramatic letter that became public to do more to protect the several thousand sailors on the ship. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die,” he wrote.

After he dismissed Capt Crozier, Mr Modly said he should not have sent the letter to so many people, accusing him of going against the chain of command and increasing the likelihood that the document would go public and signal to adversaries that the carrier had a problem.

When Capt Crozier disembarked last week, however, he received a rapturous send-off from the crew, which cast a harsh spotlight on Mr Modly. The acting navy head created more problems for himself by travelling to Guam and castigating the departed captain in front of the crew in profanity-laced attack.

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Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, said Mr Modly had shown “a serious lack of the sound judgment and strong leadership”.

Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Senate armed services committee, said he had “mishandled the situation” by removing Capt Crozier “against the advice of senior navy uniformed leadership”, and that his disparaging comments about the former commander were “troubling”.

President Donald Trump had also threatened to weigh in on the issue, saying that Mr Modly and Capt Crozier were “two good people,” while at the same time remarking that the captain should not have sent the letter.

The incident is just the latest problem to beset the US navy, which has seen its reputation badly tarnished in recent years over everything from collisions at sea to a series of personnel scandals that have involved top officials and senior uniformed naval officers.

Mr Esper in November fired Richard Spencer, the previous navy secretary, for trying to negotiate a deal with the White House after Mr Trump intervened in a military justice case involving a Navy seal who was convicted of war crimes and accused — and later acquitted — of murdering a wounded Afghan detainee.

The navy has also been roiled by the “Fat Leonard” case, in which a number of navy officers have been fired or demoted over a scandal that involved a contractor bribing officers in Singapore with lavish entertainment and prostitutes.

Joe Biden, the former vice-president and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said the resignation was appropriate. “Our sailors, our nation, and Captain Crozier deserve better,” Mr Biden said.

Guy Snodgrass, a retired Navy officer who previously served with Capt Crozier, said the situation was a “crisis of leadership” that the navy had not seen “in decades”.

He said it was also showed “what happens when you’re wrapped too tightly in your own bubble and you lose sight of the men and women you’re responsible for.”

Mr Snodgrass said it was extraordinary that Mr Modly flew to Guam to deliver a tirade, saying it risked leaving junior officers unclear whether to alert leaders to issues that might save lives or stay quiet to avoid being fired. 

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As work from home becomes the norm, companies get more comfortable hiring fully remote employees

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Working from home for the past few weeks? You might have a serious case of cabin fever by now. Or then again, you may have found you prefer it to your former routine. If you’d rather not go back to the office even after the pandemic is finally over, this might be the moment to start looking for a new job that allows—or requires—you to stay home.

Remote job openings were proliferating well before this crisis, rising 270% since 2017, according to new research by job search engine Adzuna that analyzed 4.5 million U.S. postings. Now, spurred on by COVID-19, it seems even more employers want the chance to recruit from a vast talent pool unrestricted by geographic distance.

“Our data shows a continued increase in work-from-home vacancies,” notes Adzuna cofounder Andrew Hunter. Companies that never recruited many (or any) virtual employees before are “embarking on a giant work-from-home experiment,” he adds. “The standard office-based job is increasingly a thing of the past.”

One place to start looking for remote work: Job site FlexJobs has come up with a list of the 35 U.S. employers who are doing the most work-from-home recruiting right now, along with brief descriptions of what kinds of roles they need to fill. For instance, Aetna (#2 on the ranking behind Adobe) is looking for social workers, a lead data scientist, and registered nurses to work as case managers. Dell (#6) is seeking cybersecurity pros and an infrastructure automation engineer.

While both Adzuna and FlexJobs data suggest many current openings call for tech or health care skills, employers are also hiring remote employees in sales, accounting, customer service, human resources, and other fields, some of them highly specialized. UnitedHealth Group, for example, is seeking an expert in dealing with the medical bureaucracy at the Veterans Administration.

Planning to apply? Beyond having the skills and experience in the job description, employers want to see evidence that you’re flexible enough to work alone. So rewrite your resume and cover letter to emphasize, for instance, projects where you collaborated with distant teammates, maybe across different time zones. Since working at home means you’ll have limited access to the company IT help desk, it’s smart to include a list of the collaboration software and web and video conferencing tools you know how to use.

A tip from FlexJobs: Interviewers for remote jobs usually ask the same questions as for other roles, but get ready for a few twists. The virtual-work equivalent of the old stand-by “What’s your greatest weakness?”, for example, is “Why do you want to work remotely?”

This query can be such a minefield for the unprepared that FlexJobs’ report recommends bringing it up yourself even if the interviewer doesn’t ask. Maybe you’ve found that you’re much more productive working at home than in your old noisy open-plan office, or maybe you live in an area where opportunities in your field are scarce (or require a long commute). If you’re enthusiastic about the chance to work for this particular company, remotely or not, don’t forget to say so.

If you can draw a specific example or two from your current remote work, demonstrating how you’ve been able to achieve results from home that equal or exceed what you could have accomplished in the office, so much better. The point is to reassure the interviewer that, even if your only work-at-home experience so far has been dictated by COVID-19, you’re a safe bet as a stellar remote employee in the future.

More must-read careers coverage from Fortune:

—3 ways to manage conflict when you work remotely
—How to job hunt during the coronavirus pandemic
—Everything you need to know about furloughs—and what they mean for workers
—4 things to say if recruiters call you during the coronavirus pandemic
—Listen to Leadership Next, a Fortune podcast examining the evolving role of CEO
—WATCH: 401(k) withdrawal penalties waived for anyone hurt by COVID-19

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Google G Suite passes 6 million customers

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during a conference in Brussels on January 20, 2020.

Kenzo Tribouillard | AFP | Getty Images

Google’s G Suite bundle of productivity software for businesses, schools and governments had over 6 million paying businesses in March, up from 5 million in February 2019, executive Javier Soltero told CNBC on Tuesday.

The growth comes in an increasingly important area for Google parent Alphabet, which disclosed cloud revenue, including from G Suite, for the first time in February. Expansion in the category could help Alphabet grow outside its core area of advertising, which made up 83% of Alphabet’s revenue last year.

However, G Suite in particular faces stiff competition from Microsoft’s entrenched Office suite and Office 365 set of cloud-based services, which had 87.5% of the market for productivity suites in 2018 versus Google’s 10.4%, according to estimates shared by industry-research company Gartner.

“The business of G Suite is growing at an incredibly healthy and, frankly for me, surprising rate,” Javier Soltero, vice president and general manager of G Suite at Google, told CNBC in an interview on Tuesday. Soltero joined Google in October after working at Microsoft, where he had been corporate vice president for the Office product group, among other roles.

Millions of people have been working from home to reduce the spread of coronavirus. That has boosted adoption of the Google Meet productivity-oriented video-calling service, one component of G Suite alongside Gmail, Google Drive and other services. The service has 25 times more users than it did in January, Soltero said. Google Meet is separate from the consumer-focused Hangouts, which is available to anyone with a Google account.

Last month, as cases of COVID-19 were ramping up, Google extended features of Meets — including space for up to 250 participants on any given call and live streaming for up to 100,000 viewers on a domain — that are normally reserved for customers of the G Suite enterprise tier of service to all of its G Suite customers until July 1. Now that’s been extended until September 30. 

Services that compete with Meet, like Cisco’s Webex, Zoom and Microsoft’s Teams, have also taken on new users in the past few months.

Alphabet had $2.61 billion in cloud revenue in the fourth quarter, up 53% on an annualized basis, representing 5.7% of total revenue. The total includes contributions from Google Cloud Platform, the cloud infrastructure for running third-party applications that competes with Microsoft’s Azure and Amazon Web Services. “The growth rate of GCP was meaningfully higher than that of cloud overall,” Alphabet finance chief Ruth Porat told analysts in February, noting that G Suite growth comes from increase in the number of seats and the amount of revenue the company pulls in from each seat.

Google made Meet and Google Classroom available to 1.3 million New York City students in just days as the city’s education department sought to stop the use of Zoom, Soltero said. And within days, he said, the company delivered access to millions of students in Italy following a request from that country’s ministry of education. After working in enterprise software for 25 years, Soltero was surprised how quickly Google was able to roll out its services to so many people. 

“We are guided by building products that people choose. That’s a core principle. That’s been what I’ve admired about G Suite from the beginning,” he said.

WATCH: NYC education department tells principals to stop using Zoom, citing privacy concerns

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