Hong Kong stocks fell on the spread of deadly coronavirus on Wednesday as the US and Japan conducted the first evacuations of foreign nationals from the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.
As per details, The Hong Kong stocks benchmark Hang Seng index fell as much as 3 per cent on Wednesday morning after the Asian financial hub became the first Chinese market to reopen following the lunar new year break that started on Saturday.
The Hang Seng China Enterprises index, which tracks the performance of large Chinese companies listed in the territory, was down 3 per cent.
Chinese officials on Wednesday said the death toll from the coronavirus had risen to 132, while the number of confirmed cases in the country climbed to 5,974.
The United Arab Emirates also confirmed the first case in the Middle East, reporting the disease had been identified in a family from Wuhan.
Zhong Nanshan, one of China’s leading experts on respiratory diseases said he expected the outbreak to peak in seven to 10 days, after which the rate of infection would tail off.
In Tokyo, a chartered ANA flight from Wuhan landed at Haneda airport on Wednesday morning, carrying 206 Japanese citizens.
Japan’s health ministry said it was still carrying out medical checks on the evacuees, but a number of the passengers had symptoms such as fever or a cough.
Three men and one woman were taken to hospital, according to the Tokyo metropolitan government.
A US chartered flight carrying government staff and civilians departed Wuhan’s Tianhe airport on Wednesday morning, a US official said.
It is scheduled to land in Ontario, California, later in the day.
The US state department said passengers would be subject to medical screening before boarding the plane.
There were 230 seats on the flight but demand for tickets exceeded that number, according to US citizens in Wuhan.
Photos posted by passengers before take off showed flight staff and a pilot in the aeroplane’s cockpit wearing protective suits and masks.
John, an American citizen from Pennsylvania living in Wuhan, said he would stay in the city because his Chinese wife did not have a valid US visa. “I’d never be able to live with myself if I left her here and took off for the States,” John, who did not want to use his full name, said.
Scott Morrison, the Australian prime minister, said subject to approval from Chinese authorities Canberra would evacuate some citizens from Wuhan but did not specify a date.
They would be taken to a quarantine centre on Christmas Island, which is also home to a detention centre for asylum seekers.
In Beijing, authorities began cracking down on the hoarding and price inflation of protective equipment, such as masks.
The Beijing municipal market regulator said that a drugstore in Beijing would be fined Rmb3m yuan ($434,530) for raising the price of face masks by almost six times what they sell for online.
Among stocks in Hong Kong, the city’s flag carrier Cathay Pacific, which said on Tuesday it would sharply reduce flights to mainland China as a result of the epidemic, fell 3.6 per cent. Chinese technology group Alibaba dipped 2.7 per cent.
HSBC, Europe’s biggest bank by assets, was 2.1 per cent lower. The lender makes about 80 per cent of its profits from Hong Kong and mainland China.
Technology stocks listed in Hong Kong were hit by smartphone maker Apple’s announcement that the spread of the coronavirus would affect its supply chain, much of which is focused on China. AAC Technologies was 4.4 per cent lower.
Frank Benzimra, head of Asia equity strategy at Société Générale, said investors were concerned the coronavirus epidemic could hit China’s economy, where growth last year fell to almost a three-decade low.