First B.C. COVID-19 patient recovers

North American stock markets hit record highs as investors show ambivalence to possible global slowdown

bc centre for disease control - gk
The BC Centre for Disease Control tests all patients first, while a federal lab in Winnipeg follows up | Glen Korstrom

Fear over the economic impact of the coronavirus COVID-19 has yet to seize investors as stock markets hit record highs on February 19, and health officials reported good news.

In B.C., that good news was that the first of five patients in B.C. who have contracted the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 has recovered. Symptoms in the patient disappeared and he or she had two successive negative tests for the virus taken 24 hours apart, said B.C. Minister of Health Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Bonnie Henry in a statement.

Four other patients are in isolation in their homes. No new case of the virus in the province has been identified since February 14.  Tests at a federal lab confirmed that case the next day.

The global toll of the disease, however, keeps rising. COVID-19 has so far killed 2,014 people and infected 75,280, according to JohnsHopkins Whiting School of Engineering. More than 98.5% of the confirmed cases, and 95.3% of the deaths were discovered in mainland China.

Despite the disease showing signs of shaking the global economy, the Toronto Stock Exchange, S&P500 and Nasdaq all hit all-time highs on February 19. The S&P500 reached 3,393.52, before settling back to close at 3,386.15, while the Nasdaq hit 9,838,37 before closing at 9,817.18. Canada's TSX, not to be outdone, hit 17,933.21 for the first time and then dipped slightly to close at 17,925.36.

Apple Inc. (Nasdaq:AAPL), however, two days ago said that its supply of smartphones would be hampered because production was ramping up more slowly than expected as China reopens factories. It said demand had been hurt for the phones and most of its 42 stores in the country had yet to reopen.

Many other global companies are also affected. Starbucks and Ikea, for example, have closed Chinese stores as many shopping malls in the country are virtually empty.

That threatens sales for global companies such as Nike (NYSE:NKE).

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles temporarily shut a factory in Serbia because of problems obtaining Chinese parts. General Motors (NYSE:GM) and Toyota (NYSE:TM) have suffered with limited production.

Airlines from Air Canada (TSX:AC) to British Airways have cancelled flights to China while cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (NYSE:RCL), and Carnival Corp. (NYSE:CCL) have cancelled cruises.

Health Canada plans in the next few days to start releasing repatriated Canadians from 14 days of quarantine in Trenton, Ontario.

“We are working closely with our federal and global health partners to monitor the developing situations related to Canadians aboard the Westerdam and Diamond Princess cruise ships,” Dix and Henry said.

“Those people returning to Canada on a repatriation flight from Japan will be quarantined in Cornwall, Ontario, for 14 days. Public-health teams in B.C. have connected with other returning travellers to assess and monitor them for symptoms. At this time, Westerdam travellers require 14 days of self-isolation at home.”

gkorstrom@biv.com

@GlenKorstrom