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Singapore warns of scammers taking advantage of fears



Visitors wear protective face masks at the Marina Bay waterfront in Singapore on January 26, 2020.

Roslan Rahman | AFP | Getty Images

The Singapore government is warning of scams made under the pretext of investigations linked to confirmed cases of coronavirus, as the city-state seeks to contain the spread of the deadly virus.

Scammers have reportedly been calling people to ask for financial details under the pretext of “contact tracing” — the process of identifying those with close contact with infected patients. People who have been identified are closely monitored for symptoms and tests for signs of infection.

Singapore has set up teams working to call people and establish if anyone has had prolonged physical contact with coronavirus patients. It is a way of limiting the spread of the infection, which has killed more than 1,000 people in China.

As of Thursday noon, Singapore confirmed 58 known cases of the coronavirus strain, recently named the COVID-19. The Ministry of Health (MOH) said 15 people have so far been discharged.

Singapore’s Ministry of Health said in a Facebook post last week that it would never ask for financial details during the calls.

“MOH is conducting contact tracing to identify individuals who had close contact with the confirmed cases of novel coronavirus. Please note that we do not ask for any financial details during our call to you,” said the health authority.

The city-state’s police force reinforced the message in another Facebook post.

“No government agency will request for personal details or transfer of money over the phone or through automated voice machines,” said the Singapore Police Force.

At least one bank has warned users of possible scams. United Overseas Bank, one of the major banks in Singapore, sent alerts to its customers that warned: “Beware of scammers pretending to be from the MOH conducting contact tracing. UOB or the government agencies will never ask for your banking details.”

The new strain of coronavirus, which emerged in late December last year, is believed to have originated from the city of Wuhan in central China.

Last Friday, Singapore raised its risk assessment of the outbreak to the second highest level of alert as the number of confirmed cases continued to climb daily.

The Southeast Asian nation — with a population of 5.7 million — has one of the highest numbers of cases outside China.

On Friday, a Singapore official told CNBC the nation must be prepared that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases could climb in the coming weeks.

“I think it’s really too early to talk about a peak. Cases are coming in on a daily basis and you have to have the expectation there are going to be more cases over the next few weeks,” Janil Puthucheary, senior minister of state at Singapore’s Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Communications and Information.

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Fears about virus hit Asian American businesses



NEW YORK — In Arizona, a burgeoning Asian American community fields xenophobic calls about a planned night market featuring Asian street foods. In New York, a dim sum restaurant owner worries he won’t make rent. In the San Francisco Bay Area, a local Asian American-owned restaurant chain is mulling temporarily shuttering one of its properties because of the downturn in trade.

In major U.S. cities, Asian American businesses are seeing a remarkable decline in customers as fear about the viral outbreak from China spreads. City and health officials are trying to stanch the financial bleeding through information campaigns and personal visits to shops and restaurants, emphasizing that, with just 15 cases diagnosed in the entire country, there is no reason to avoid them.

Business owners, some of whom have seen their customer traffic cut by more than half, are anxiously waiting for things to return to normal.

The freshly crowned Asian District in Mesa, Ariz.,was deep into organizing its night market when news broke that a case of the illness known as Covid-19 was confirmed at nearby Arizona State University.

Xenophobic comments on social media and phone calls started almost immediately, according to Arizona Asian Chamber of Commerce CEO Vicente Reid.

“I probably should stop picking up my phone altogether,” Reid said. “One lady was like, ‘Well, aren’t people coming to your event that are the cause of it?'”

The Feb. 29 food festival, modeled after popular outdoor Taiwanese markets, was designed to get the public acquainted with the district.

Mesa Mayor John Giles called the xenophobia directed at the event “ridiculous.”

“We certainly take any health crisis seriously but to make those kinds of connections is just offensive,” he said.

Organizers will be handing out specially made masks with playful Asian-food theme slogans like “Bao to me” and “Insert lumpia here.”

The virus has sickened tens of thousands of people, mostly in China. Fifteen people have been diagnosed with the virus in the U.S., all but two who recently traveled from China. U.S. citizens have also been diagnosed abroad, including 14 who were on a cruise ship quarantined off Japan and have been taken to hospitals in the U.S.


Vegetarian Dim Sum House has been a fixture in Manhattan’s Chinatown for 23 years, but suddenly owner Frankie Chu said he will not be able to make his rent this month.

Chu said sales have plunged 70% over the past two weeks at his no-frills restaurant. Three couples trickled in for lunch on a recent weekday. Normally, Chu said he gets up to 30 customers for lunch. At dinnertime, his narrow restaurant is usually packed with about 70 diners. These days, he gets about four.

Chu has sent some of his staff on vacation to cut costs. Under the circumstances, he will ask his landlord to forgive a 5% late fee normally charged.

“I don’t know how long I can stay here,” Chu said. “After 9/11, it wasn’t this bad.”

The crisis has alarmed New York City officials and business leaders, who have launched a campaign to lure people back to hard-hit communities in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn.

“Chinatown is bleeding,” said Wellington Chen, executive chairman of the Chinatown Partnership, a local business and community group. “This thing is thousands of miles away. This fear is really out of proportion.”

Small businesses in Manhattan’s Chinatown have reported sales drops of between 40% and 80% the past month as the viral outbreak in China spread, Chen said. In Flushing, business is down an estimated 40%, according to the Flushing Chinese Business Association.

For some businesses, it’s much higher. Derek Law, senior vice chairman of the America China Hotel Association, said business has dropped about 70% at a spa he owns in Flushing.

New York City is home to more than half a million Chinese Americans, the biggest population of any U.S. city. Some New Yorkers of Chinese descent are frustrated at being made to feel like foreigners because of a disease outbreak that feels as far away to them as any other resident.

“I’m probably more American than a lot of the people asking me about coronavirus. It’s a little annoying, to be honest,” said Christina Seid, owner of the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, a neighborhood fixture that her father founded four decades ago with flavor offerings like mango and green tea.

Seid, whose great-grandparents immigrated to New York from China, said business has been slower than usual but added that the winter months are never good for ice cream shops. She said she feels optimistic that things will soon return to normal, relying on New Yorkers’ determination to get on with life.


With no confirmed cases of the virus in New York City, officials and politicians are trying to drive home the point that there is no reason to avoid any neighborhood, with many eating at Chinese restaurants and tweeting out photos under the hashtags #supportchinatown.

In Boston, Mayor Marty Walsh has launched a similar social media campaign, encouraging people to share photos of themselves supporting small businesses in the neighborhood with the hashtag #LoveBostonChinatown.

Allison Arwady, the Chicago Department of Public Health commissioner, said she and her colleagues “continue to field rumors” about threats to public health. She said the health risk is low and urged people to not fear visiting and spending time at restaurants or stores in Chicago’s Chinatown.

“Please do not allow stigma, xenophobia or fear to control your decisions,” Arwady said.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the situation is dire enough that Sunny Wong’s family is considering temporarily closing one of the four restaurants it owns in Oakland’s Chinatown. Even some of his friends and patrons have told him about hearing of untrue rumors of people getting sick at one of his restaurants.

“People just are clueless. They hear stories and rumors and they just don’t really look for the facts in a situation,” said Wong, adding that he has had to cut back hours for his workers.

Carl Chan, president of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, said business owners have reported a drop of roughly 50% to 75% in business. The chamber is planning a Chinese New Year celebration, with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf encouraging residents to patronize Chinatown restaurants.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently visited Nom Wah Tea Parlor, the oldest restaurant in Manhattan’s Chinatown.

The restaurant has seen a 40% drop in business over the past three weeks, said manager Vincent Tang, whose cousin Wilson Tang took over the restaurant from his father. Normally, the restaurant fills up at lunchtime. But during a recent weekday, nearly half the tables were empty, although it was at least busier than many of its lesser-known neighbors.

“We’re lucky to have loyal customers,” said Tang, sitting near a row of green stools that he used to swing around in as a child. “Usually at this time we are packed and there is a line outside.”

Customers at Nom Wah said they were perplexed that others were staying away.

“It didn’t cross my mind at all,” said Kate Masterson, an artist digging into dumplings with her uncle at a booth beneath signed framed photographs of celebrities such as Kirsten Dunst.

“It’s not happening here,” she said of the outbreak.

Information for this article was contributed by Noreen Nasir and Terry Chea of the Associated Press.

SundayMonday Business on 02/23/2020

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Daily Financial News Analysis in Hindi – 22 February 2020 – Financial Current Affairs for All Exams



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China reports 648 new cases, South Korea cases spike



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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