Chinese developer offers sales incentive as coronavirus infections pass 69,000

China maintains quarantine measures as Hong Kong's visitor numbers plummet

A coach and an ambulance travel towards the Diamond Princess cruise ship, operated by Carnival Corp., docked at dusk in Yokohama, Japan, on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020. Aircraft chartered by the U.S. State Department are to arrive Sunday in Japan to evacuate about 400 citizens from the Diamond Princess. Photographer: Toru Hanai/Bloomberg
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As concerns mount over the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on Chinese and international markets, one of the country’s major developers has launched a new incentive to boost sales.

China's Evergrande Group, which is the third-largest developer by sales in China and primarily sells homes to middle-and-upper-income buyers, said on Sunday that it will offer a 25 per cent discount for all properties on sales from February 18 to February 29.

Evergrande said it will also offer a 22 per cent discount for all properties on sale, including office and commercial properties, in March.

The offers "are routine marketing and there is no specific reason for [the] price cut [at] this time," an official at Evergrande told Reuters.

Chinese property developers and realtors have adopted virtual reality salesrooms and livestream marketing to thaw a frozen market as the coronavirus outbreak keeps physical offices shut and potential buyers are afraid to leave their homes.

Evergrande said at a news conference on Sunday that nearly 50,000 properties had been sold since the company started online sales three days ago.

"It's hard for properties to be sold online...Even if property demand is expected to rebound after the coronavirus outbreak, sales would still have a huge impact in the short term," said government adviser Sheng Songcheng at the China Chief Economist Forum on Saturday.

In Hong Kong, tourist arrival numbers have dropped to a daily average of below 3,000 from about 100,000 in January after temporary cross-border restrictions were implemented, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

China's Finance Minister Liu Kun said on Sunday that he expects the country's fiscal revenues to fall and expenditure to rise in the future, indicating a financial toll from the coronavirus, which has been named Covid-19 by the World Health Organisation.

Mr Kun’s comments came as Hubei province authorities banned companies from resuming production until approved by epidemic prevention and control authorities, and imposed a province-wide vehicle traffic ban.

The measures China has adopted to rein in the rapid spread of the coronavirus are starting to have an impact, Mi Feng, a spokesman at the National Health Commission said on Sunday.

The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in mainland China has reached more than 1,600, with infections reaching over 69,000, representing a three-day consecutive drop in infections.

The coronavirus outbreak is still an emergency for China and it is impossible to tell where the epidemic will spread next, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organisation, said on Saturday.

Mr Tedros told the Munich Security Conference in Germany that he was encouraged by actions China had taken to diminish the spread of the new virus but was still concerned about the increasing number of cases.

French officials confirmed that an elderly Chinese tourist infected with the new coronavirus had died in France at the weekend, marking the first fatality in Europe and the fourth outside mainland China from an epidemic that has rattled the world.

China is now set to build a national supply and purchase system for emergency supplies as well as a complete epidemic emergency response system.

The state broadcaster CCTV announced the new initiatives on Friday, citing comments made by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Meanwhile, China's southern neighbours have been dealing with the spread of the virus in their own nations.

Vietnamese authorities have said the country's schools will remain closed until the end of February due to the coronavirus.

Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah has announced that all cruise ships departing China are now prohibited from entering Malaysia.

The deputy prime minister's announcement came as Malaysian authorities confirmed that an 83-year-old American woman, who was a passenger on the MS Westerdam cruise ship docked in Cambodia, tested positive for Covid-19 in Kuala Lumpur.

The ship allowed hundreds of passengers to disembark in Cambodia, more than 140 of whom then flew from Cambodia to Malaysia.

In Taiwan, the health ministry confirmed the first death from the coronavirus with the passing of a 61-year-old man who also suffered from diabetes and hepatitis B.

Closer to Beijing, South Korea's government announced that it would test all pneumonia patients for coronavirus regardless of overseas travel records.

The Diamond Princess, the cruise ship carrying about 3,700 passengers and crew that has been quarantined in Yokohama, Japan since February 3, now has 355 confirmed infections, the country's health minister Katsunobu Kato said on Sunday.

“So far, we have conducted tests for 1,219 individuals. Of these, 355 people tested positive while 73 individuals are not showing symptoms,” he told a round-table discussion on public broadcaster NHK.

Efforts are under way in Canada to repatriate citizens currently on board the cruise liner, but Canadian passengers who exhibit symptoms of the coronavirus infection will not be permitted to board the flight and will instead be transferred to the Japanese healthcare system.

After arriving in Canada, the passengers will undergo a 14-day period of quarantine.

The United States and Hong Kong have also said they will send aircraft to Japan to bring back passengers, 400 and 330 respectively, from the cruise ship, which has seen the most coronavirus infections outside of China.