Links for Monday, March 9, 2020 - SupChina
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Links for Monday, March 9, 2020

BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

Nigeria’s transport minister said on Friday that completion of a major railway project has been delayed by the coronavirus outbreak as Chinese workers had not returned to the country.

The 150km (90 mile) railway line linking economic hub Lagos to the city of Ibadan is being built by the state-owned China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation.

“Most of the Chinese workers who went on their New Year holiday have not yet returned due to the coronavirus and this has delayed the work,” minister Rotimi Amaechi said.

On Saturday, China’s customs body reported a rare trade deficit of $7.1 billion — the first since March 2018, when it was $5.5 billion — although that was for a single month. Meanwhile “the decline in exports, if seasonally adjusted, is on a par with the 2008 global financial crisis”, said Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist at Capital Economics.

…Hanwang Technology Ltd, which also goes by the English name Hanvon, said it has come up [with] technology that can successfully recognize people even when they are wearing masks.

“If connected to a temperature sensor, it can measure body temperature while identifying the person’s name, and then the system would process the result, say, if it detects a temperature over 38 degrees,” Hanwang Vice President Huang Lei told Reuters in an interview.

China has released an update to the standards governing personal information, offering new clarity for tech companies including those using biometric data for facial recognition applications…

The latest changes include requiring collectors of biometric data to inform each subject of the purpose, method, and scope of collection and usage, as well as length of time the information will be stored. It also requires that users give express consent.

The U.S. Trade Representative’s office in recent days granted exclusions from import tariffs for dozens of medical products imported from China, including face masks, hand sanitising wipes and examination gloves, filings with the agency showed on Friday.

Chinese gaming company Beijing Kunlun Tech said on Friday that it has agreed to sell Grindr, a popular gay dating app it acquired in 2016, for about $608.5 million [to San Vicente Acquisition].

The deal comes after a U.S. government panel asked Kunlun to divest itself of Grindr. The panel, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), has not disclosed its concerns about Kunlun’s ownership of Grindr.

However, the United States has been increasingly scrutinising app developers over the safety of personal data they handle, especially if some of it involves U.S. military or intelligence personnel.

In a statement Friday, the Trump administration said there was “credible evidence” that Beijing Shiji Information Technology and its Hong Kong subsidiary might “take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States.” It ordered the Chinese company to divest itself of StayNTouch, an American company that makes cloud-based hotel management software, and its assets, including customer data, within 120 days.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:

  • Researchers looking at cases in Shenzhen say 2% were kids under 15 at early stage of outbreak, but later it rose to 13%.
  • Another study finds that among patients’ close contacts, children under 10 had nearly the same chance of becoming infected as other age groups.

The number of coronavirus cases outside China will increase tenfold every 19 days if no drastic measures are taken to contain its spread, according to a study by a team of Chinese scientists.

The research, headed by leading geneticist Jīn Lì 金力 at Fudan University in Shanghai, also traced the spread of the virus outside China back to just 34 “unobserved carriers”.

  • Pathogen appears to spread fastest at 8.72 degrees Celsius, so countries in colder climes should ‘adopt the strictest control measures’, according to researchers from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangdong province.
  • But head of WHO’s health emergencies programme says it is ‘a false hope’ to think COVID-19 will just disappear like the flu.
  • But frontline female medical workers also report more symptoms of anxiety and depression, researchers say.
  • Men suffer more physical effects, accounting for 70% of [the] death toll in one survey.
  • Authorities advise people to stay 1-2 metres apart, but researchers found that a bus passenger infected fellow travellers sitting 4.5 metres away.
  • The scientists behind the research said their investigation also highlighted the importance of wearing face masks because of the length of time it can linger.

[Fāng cāng (方舱) or prefabricated / mobile] hospitals act as buffers for patients who aren’t sick enough to need urgent treatment but should still be under medical observation. Mild patients can be admitted to fangcang after testing positive for the coronavirus. Only and if their situation gets worse will they be transferred to a hospital with a higher care standard. Older people with preexisting health conditions are not admitted to fangcang, which provide only limited treatment and may not be suitable for those with weaker immune systems…

In stark contrast to the early days of the epidemic, over half [in Chinese] of all fangcang beds are now empty. Authorities believe that the shelter hospitals have played a crucial role in bringing the epidemic situation in Wuhan under control.

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

Guō Yúhuá (郭於華, 1956-) is a prominent scholar in the Sociology Department of Tsinghua University. She was one of the first people to speak out in protest against the overt official persecution of her colleague Xǔ Zhāngrùn 許章潤, a professor of law at Tsinghua, from March 2019…

In the following interview, conducted by Radio Free Asia and published on 3 March 2020, Guo Yuhua addresses the coronavirus epidemic in the context of China’s systemic limitations.

The government signaled Friday it prefers arrivals from China, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Iran and Italy to self-quarantine for 14 days to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 disease. They also have to report daily to officials and face fines for non-compliance…

[Chinese tourists] spent more than $17 billion in the Southeast Asian nation last year, over a quarter of all foreign-tourism receipts, and the industry as a whole accounts for about a fifth of the economy.

A “bomb-making factory” in Hong Kong with 2.6 tonnes of chemicals was raided by police on Sunday and 17 people arrested over a plot to force the city’s government to close its border with mainland China…Two Hong Kong groups claimed responsibility at the time, saying a shutdown of boundary crossings was needed to curb the spread of the deadly new coronavirus to the city.

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

On 27 February, a message went viral on Facebook, allegedly posted by a Kenyan member of parliament, calling for his constituency residents to avoid interaction with Chinese nationals who had just returned from China after celebrating their new year.

The post warned that if the government did not do enough to protect its citizens, and forcefully quarantine any of these Chinese nationals, then the residents had his permission to chase away and stone any Chinese people within their vicinity…

Kenya is not alone in this prejudice, but what is interesting is that all the initial cases of the virus in sub-Saharan Africa have been linked to European travel rather than China. Yet there is no equivalent anti-European feeling.

The Jews of Kaifeng do not have a rabbi, or a synagogue. Their last religious leader died more than 150 years ago, and their last place of worship was destroyed by flood at around the same time.

The dwindling community — estimated to number about 1,000, with only 100 practising members — is largely unknown to other Jewish congrega­tions around the world. In fact, it is a mystery to most inhabitants of the city…

And though they have their own modest museum, they are also far from the beaten tourist track. Visitors turn up no more than once every month or two.

In recent years, however, the Kaifeng Jews have found the most surprising of ambassadors determined to keep their history alive: a Hong Kong teenager studying at a British boarding school.

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