Thursday, February 6, 2020

Nintendo warns of Switch console and game shortages due to coronavirus crisis

NINTENDO fans may soon struggle to get their hands on its Switch console due to the coronavirus crisis.

The gaming giant has admitted that the rapidly spreading disease is driving shortages of the Switch in Japan.

The Animal Crossing-themed version of the Switch, announced last week, has had its preorder availability pushed back from Saturday to an unspecified date.

In a statement on Thursday, Nintendo apologised for the delays and said it was monitoring the situation. It's not clear if the problems will affect shipments elsewhere.

Coronavirus, which started in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has so far killed 563 people.

More than 28,000 cases have been recorded globally, with China locking down millions in cities across the country in a desperate bid to contain the virus.

With the crisis now declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organisation, businesses in Asia are beginning to feel the squeeze.

Almost all Switch consoles are built in China, though Nintendo last year announced plans to shift some production to Vietnam.

In Thursday's announcement, posted to Twitter, Nintendo said hardware produced in China and sold in Japan was experiencing production and shipment delays.

Most Switches are built by production giant Foxconn, which has shut down its factories until at least next week in the wake of the crisis.

Where did coronavirus start? From bats to snakes – the theories on deadly virus' origins

The killer coronavirus was spread from bats to snakes to humans, experts have claimed.

An outbreak of the virus is understood to have started at an open air fish market in the Chinese city of Wuhan – which has since been put in lockdown after 25 people died and more than 600 people were infected globally.

A new study published in the China Science Bulletin this week claimed that the new coronavirus shared a strain of virus found in bats.

Previous deadly outbreaks of SARS and Ebola were also believed to have originated in the flying mammal.

Experts had thought the new virus wasn't capable of causing an epidemic as serious as those outbreaks because its genes were different.

But this latest research appeared to prove otherwise – as scientists scrabble to produce a vaccine.

In a statement, the researchers said: “The Wuhan coronavirus’ natural host could be bats … but between bats and humans there may be an unknown intermediate."

Meanwhile, scientists at Peking University also claim that the deadly virus was passed to humans from bats – but say it was through a mutation in snakes.

The researchers said that the new strain is made up of a combination of one that affects bats and another unknown coronavirus.

They believe that combined genetic material from both bats and this unknown strain picked up a protein that allows viruses bind to certain host cells – including those of humans.

After analysing the genes of the strains the team found that snakes were susceptible to the most similar version of the coronavirus.

It meant that they likely provided a "reservoir" for the viral strain to grow stronger and replicate.

Snakes are sold at the Huanan Seafood Market in central Wuhan and may have jumped to other animals before passing to humans, they claim.

But a senior researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, who asked not to be named, said the findings should be treated with caution.

He told the South China Morning Post: “It is based on calculation by a computer model.

“Whether it will match what happens in real life is inconclusive.

“The binding protein is important, but it is just one of the many things under investigation. There may be other proteins involved.”

The expert believes that the new strain was an RNA virus, meaning that its mutation speed was 100 times faster than that of a DNA virus such as smallpox.

Nintendo warned that newly released fitness game Ring Fit Adventure will likely also experience delays in Japan.

It emerged earlier this week that  Foxconn could see a "big" production impact if a Chinese factory halt due to coronavirus extends into a second week.

Taiwan's Foxconn, which makes smartphones for Apple and other brands, has halted "almost all" of its production in China, a source told Reuters.

Companies have been told to shut until at least February 10. An extension of the stoppage could disrupt shipments to clients including Apple.

The source told Reuters on Monday that Foxconn has so far seen a "fairly small impact" from the outbreak.

They said it was utilising factories in countries including Vietnam, India and Mexico to fill the gap.

"What we are worried about is delays for another week or even another month. The impact would be big," the source said. "It definitely will have an impact on the Apple production line."

Taipei-based Foxconn, which is the world's largest contract electronics maker, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while Apple declined to comment.

In other news, it emerged last week that the coronavirus outbreak could delay the upcoming iPhone.

A geeky Dad recently built a giant Nintendo Switch for his 7-year-old son – and it really worked.

And, last year Nintendo unveiled the brand new Switch Lite, a smaller, cheaper and more portable console.

Are you worried about the coronavirus outbreak? Let us know in the comments!

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