(Reuters) - China reported a dramatic drop in coronavirus infections on Thursday although scientists warned it may spread even more easily than previously believed.
** China’s central Hubei province had 349 new confirmed cases on Wednesday, down from 1,693 a day earlier and lowest since Jan. 25. The death toll rose by 108, down from 132 the previous day, bringing to total in China to over 2,100 deaths and 74,000 cases.
** The new figures include subtracting 279 cases in the province that were not confirmed. No explanation was given. Excluding the deductions, the new cases on Wednesday stood at 628, still a large drop.
** Hundreds of passengers disembarked a cruise ship in Japan on Wednesday after being held on board in quarantine for more than two weeks.
** Two elderly passengers from the quarantined Diamond Princess ship had died of the disease.
** Japanese authorities said 79 new cases have been discovered on board, bringing the total to at least 620, well over half of the known cases outside mainland China.
** More than 100 Hong Kong residents who were quarantined on the cruise landed on Thursday morning in the Asian financial hub, where they will face a further 14 days of quarantine.
** South Korea reported a spike in infections, with 23 new cases linked to a church congregation, up from 14 on Wednesday, in what health officials called a “super-spreading event”.
** The epidemic that has already disrupted economic growth in China and spread to other countries, could derail a “highly fragile” projected recovery in the global economy in 2020, the International Monetary Fund warned.
** The Chinese manufacturing engine that powers much of the world economy is struggling to restart after an extended Lunar New Year break, hindered by travel and quarantine restrictions.
** China cut the benchmark lending rate as was widely expected, as the authorities move to lower financing costs for businesses in a virus-hit economy.
** Federal Reserve policymakers acknowledged new risks caused by the virus outbreak but were cautiously optimistic about their ability to hold interest rates steady this year, minutes of the central bank’s last policy meeting showed.
** Financial leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies (G20) expect a modest pickup of global growth this year and next, but see the epidemic as a risk.
** China will not send any officials to the G20 meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors in Riyadh to be held on Feb. 22, 23.
** Japan, which is set to host the 2020 Summer Olympics in July, saw its foreign visitor numbers fall for the fourth month in January, with sharper falls expected.
** China’s finance ministry said it would tackle any misuse of special funds meant to pay for the fight against the virus.
** Foreign pilots at some Chinese airlines have returned to their home countries and are considering other jobs after being placed on unpaid leave as demand falls because of the coronavirus.
** Mongolia will keep all its schools shut until March 30 to prevent the coronavirus from spreading in the country.
** Thailand’s cabinet will vote this month on more measures to prop-up its economy in the aftermath of the coronavirus.
** Italy, the euro zone’s third largest economy, said it may have to cut its 2020 growth forecast if the coronavirus significantly impacts it.
** ExxonMobil, Azerbaijan’s SOCAR and Royal Dutch Shell joined a growing list of oil companies that pulled out of London’s International Petroleum Week, one of the world’s biggest oil industry gatherings.
** Asian stocks edged up on Thursday, supported by a fall in coronavirus cases and expectations of more Chinese stimulus
Compiled by Amy Caren Daniel and Sarah Morland; Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Arun Koyyur