(Bloomberg) — Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said fatalities in the country might be lower than previously thought. While deaths are now slowing in parts of Europe, they are still accelerating in the U.S., which is on track to overtake Italy in the coming days.
The Federal Reserve announced another series of sweeping steps to provide as much as $2.3 trillion in additional aid, and Americans applied for jobless benefits in massive numbers for a third straight week. General Electric Co. withdrew its forecast.
Spain reported fewer coronavirus-related deaths and is poised to extend a nationwide lockdown. Curbs are likely to remain in Britain, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson continues to improve in intensive care.
Global cases 1.5 million; deaths pass 89,000: Johns HopkinsSpain, Italy to extend lockdowns amid persistent rise in casesUBS, Credit Suisse will split payouts for 2019 into two installmentsSouth Korea’s CDC says virus may “reactivate” in cured patientsWorld economy faces $5 trillion hit, that’s like losing Japan
Fed Announces Plan for Muni, Business Aid; Jobless Claims (8:43 a.m. NY)
The steps announced include starting programs to aid small and mid-sized businesses, as well as state and local governments.
A total of 6.61 million Americans filed jobless claims in the week ended April 4, according to Labor Department figures released Thursday. That exceeded a median forecast of 5.5 million.
Deaths in Sweden Increase Amid Relatively Relaxed Stance (8:41 a.m. NY)
Sweden reported 106 more virus-related deaths on Thursday, taking the total to 793, on par with the daily gains reported in the past week. The Nordic country is under scrutiny as it continues to experiment with a laxer policy response compared with the rest of Europe. Restaurants, shopping centers and primary schools all remain open in Scandinavia’s biggest economy. Deaths in Sweden continue to outpace its Nordic neighbors, which implemented stricter measures to curb the spread early on, and are now discussing how to lift them.
U.S. Virus Fatalities Looking More Like 60,000, Fauci Says (8:10 a.m. NY)
“I believe we are going to see a downturn” and projections look “more like the 60,000 than the 100,000 to 200,000,” National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases chief Anthony Fauci said in response to an NBC interview question about virus fatality models. Fauci said he thinks the U.S. is starting to see a flattening of the curve in New York. “I don’t want to jump the gun on that but I think that is the case,” he said.
Pfizer to Develop Vaccine by Year-End (8 a.m. NY)
Pfizer and BioNTech said they will jointly develop a vaccine for Covid-19, potentially supplying millions of doses by the end of 2020. The two companies plan to jointly conduct the first clinical trials as early as the end of April, assuming regulatory clearance. Clinical trials for the vaccine candidates will initially be in the U.S. and Europe across multiple sites.
Earlier, IBio jumped 25% in pre-market trading after reaching an agreement with the Infectious Disease Research Institute to support development of a vaccine for Covid-19. And Biohaven Pharmaceutical Holding got an FDA “may proceed” letter to begin a Phase 2 trial of intranasal vazegepant to treat lung inflammation after COVID-19 infection.
U.K. PM Johnson Continues to Improve (7:58 a.m. NY)
“The prime minister had a good night and continues to improve in intensive care in St Thomas’ Hospital,” Boris Johnson’s spokesman James Slack told reporters. Johnson is “receiving standard oxygen treatment,” Slack said. U.K. officials are drawing up plans to extend the lockdown and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will chair a meeting of the government’s emergency committee at 3:30 p.m.
World Hunger Could Double (7:56 a.m. NY)
The number of people going hungry around the world could double in just a few months as the pandemic wreaks havoc on food supplies and hurts incomes, according to a group of major food companies, industry bodies and academics. The number of those suffering from chronic hunger may surge from about 800 million.
Charity group Oxfam had earlier warned the economic hit from coronavirus threatens to put more than half a billion people into poverty unless countries take action to cushion the blow.
Netherlands Reports Slowest Hospital Intake (7:50 a.m. NY)
The Netherlands recorded 237 new hospital intakes, a 3% increase and marking the lowest daily gain since the outbreak began. Confirmed cases rose 6% to 21,762, while fatalities advanced 7% to a total of 2,396.
London Delays Pollution Controls for Trucks (7:40 a.m. NY)
London delayed the start of stricter pollution controls for trucks in the capital, because the pandemic has put too much pressure on supply chains. New minimum standards for freight are due to come into force in October with fines of as much as 550 pounds ($683) per day. Enforcement will be delayed for at least four months, Transport for London said. It’s already suspended other pollution and congestion charges for cars and van, to ensure deliveries can take place and for key workers to travel.
Irish Unemployment Soars (7:20 a.m. NY)
Irish unemployment may have risen to its highest level since 1988, in the latest sign of the impact of the coronavirus on the economy. Unemployment rose to 16.5% last month if it is adjusted to include people receiving government support because of the coronavirus crisis, the Central Statistics Office said in a statement. The adjusted rate “should be considered as the upper bound for the true rate of unemployment,” it said.
U.S. Poised to Pass Italy With Deadliest Outbreak (7:07 a.m. NY)
The U.S. is on track for a grim milestone in the coming days — passing Italy as the world’s epicenter of Covid-19 mortality. Deaths from the virus were at about 14,800 in the U.S. as of Thursday morning and still accelerating, while Italy had more than 17,600 fatalities and the pace was beginning to slow, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The U.S. has logged about 2,000 deaths each of the past two days, while in Italy, the number has hovered around 550 daily deaths.
German Study Finds Virus in 15% of Hard-Hit Town (6 a.m. NY)
The coronavirus probably infected 15% of people in Gangelt, a small town in the hard-hit rural German region of Heinsberg, researchers said in preliminary results after using antibody tests to sample a random portion of the population. On that basis, the case mortality rate in the town so far would be 0.37%, less than one-fifth of the mortality rate based on confirmed positive tests in Germany as a whole, the researchers said.
The difference is because the antibody test picked up mild cases of the virus that had previously gone unnoticed. The researchers didn’t disclose how many lab-confirmed cases of the virus had previously been found in the 12,500-person town. In the Heinsberg region as a whole, less than 1% of the population has tested positive for the virus, and 44 patients have died, according to the Robert Koch Institute.
Infections and Deaths in Spain Slow (6 a.m. NY)
Spain reported fewer coronavirus deaths and new cases on Thursday in Europe’s second-most deadly outbreak of the disease. There were 5,756 new infections in the 24 hours through Thursday, pushing the total above 150,000, according to Health Ministry data. The death toll rose by 683 to 15,238, a smaller gain than Wednesday’s 757.
Iran also reported a decline in cases and fatalities. The health ministry reported 1,634 new cases, down from 1,997, and 117 deaths, down from 121. That brings the country’s total to 66,220 cases and 4,110 fatalities.
India Steps Up Stringent Lockdown Measures (5:54 p.m. HK)
India has further tightened lockdown measures and enhanced surveillance at hundreds of areas designated as virus hotspots, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the epidemic as a “social emergency.” Authorities have sealed settlements, lanes and apartment complexes in the financial capital Mumbai, as well as in Delhi and the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh, allowing in only medical services, surveillance workers and those delivering food and other essential items.
Botswana Quarantines Lawmakers (5:35 p.m. HK)
Botswana is placing its entire cabinet and members of parliament in quarantine after a health worker screening lawmakers for coronavirus was found to be infected. All lawmakers, as well as President Mokgweetsi Masisi, will go into quarantine on Thursday.
KLM, Philips Set Up China Airlink (5:20 p.m. HK)
Air France-KLM will start a temporary airlink to China with support from Royal Philips NV and the Dutch government to increase the transport capacity of medical equipment and other supplies between China, Europe, and the U.S. KLM will temporarily return two Boeing 747s which it phased out last month to operate five weekly flights to Beijing and Shanghai from its base at Amsterdam Schiphol.
The first flight is set to take of on April 13, and add to the “skeleton operation” Air France-KLM announced earlier today, which includes regular cargo flights to destinations around the world, including the U.S. The operations are expected to remain in place for six to eight weeks.
Indonesia Reports Highest One-Day Virus Deaths (5:10 p.m. HK)
Indonesia reported the largest number of deaths in a single day since the outbreak and new confirmed cases continued to climb in the world’s fourth-most populous nation. The death toll jumped to 280 with 40 more fatalities reported in the past 24 hours, while the number of new cases surged by 337, the highest since the country reported its first case in early March, taking total infections to 3,293.
Italian Cabinet Meets (4:45 p.m. HK)
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was set to hold a cabinet meeting at 11 a.m. in Rome. La Stampa reported earlier that the government plans to extend its lockdown by two weeks as scientists warn Conte that it’s too early to relax confinement measures,. The government will approve a decree on Friday to extend the closures beyond the current April 13 expiration date, the newspaper said.
Conte told BBC the country may start easing the lockdown by the end of the month. If scientists confirm that Italy can start a gradual return to activity, “we might begin to relax some measures by the end of this month,” he said. Italian steelmakers are in talks with the government to restart at reduced capacity in the coming weeks.
Luxembourg to Start Mass Testing (4:30 p.m. HK)
Luxembourg will become the first EU country to start mass testing its citizens, regardless of whether they show coronavirus symptoms or not. The move is important, as mass testing to isolate carriers and prevent new surges is a condition for the lifting of restrictions on movement, according to a draft “exit strategy” memo by the European Commission, seen by Bloomberg.
The tiny Grand Duchy, which has one of the highest infection rates in the world in its population of just over 600,000, will this week start a new series of tests to evaluate “the dynamics of the spread” among citizens. The project will consist of 1,500 tests first on a sample of people over the age of 18 and follow-up tests will then be done only on those that are asymptomatic and show mild symptoms, the nation’s health ministry said. The tests could provide the first comprehensive data on herd immunity.
EU Agency Recommends Use of Face Masks (4:15 p.m. HK)
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control now recommends the widespread use of face masks to reduce the spread of the infection. While face protection is seen only complementary to other measures, such as social distancing and personal hygiene, “the use of face masks in the community could be considered, especially when visiting busy, closed spaces, such as grocery stores, shopping centers, or when using public transport,” according to the EU agency.
The debate over whether face masks can help contain the spread of Covid-19 is shifting quickly, with more countries requiring citizens to cover their faces in public.
Dubai Freezes Hiring, New Projects (4 p.m. HK)
Dubai’s government is freezing all hiring and cutting administrative spending by at least 20% across departments as the coronavirus pandemic squeezes state revenue. The emirate’s Department of Finance also ordered a 50% reduction in capital spending and a delay to new government construction projects until further notice, according to a letter seen by Bloomberg.
China Says Accusations It Covered Up Virus are Groundless (3:52 p.m. HK)
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters at a daily briefing in Beijing that the World Health Organization had upheld the nation’s objective and science-based position.
Russia Cases Jump Again (3:50 p.m. HK)
Russia reported 1,459 new cases, up 17%, taking its total to 10,131. This is the country’s biggest daily jump yet, and Russia has now reported more than 1,000 cases for three straight days. Total deaths rose by 13 to 76.
Tokyo Finds at Least 180 New Cases (3:46 p.m. HK)
Tokyo found at least 180 new cases of coronavirus, the highest number yet in a single day, FNN reported in a flash headline, without attribution. NTV later reported the number at 181.
Sweden Hits Back at Trump’s ‘Herd Immunity’ Criticism (3:44 p.m. HK)
“He has used a factual error,” Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said in an interview with TV4. Her comments follow Trump’s remarks a day earlier when he told reporters that Sweden is trying to achieve “herd immunity” and “is suffering greatly” from not doing enough.
The Nordic country is under intense scrutiny as it continues to experiment with a laxer policy response to the virus despite an accelerating death toll. Restaurants, shopping centers and primary schools all remain open in Scandinavia’s biggest economy.
Goldman Sees Virus Causing $75 Billion Funding Hole in Africa (3:28 p.m. HK)
“Possibly the most severe impact of the crisis will be on already stretched fiscal balances,” Dylan Smith and Andrew Matheny, Goldman’s economists in London, said in a note. “Budget deficits would likely rise from an average of around 3.5% to high single digits, even before any loosening to soften the economic effects of the corona-crisis.”
Earlier, the World Bank said Sub-Saharan Africa will post its first recession in 25 years as the coronavirus pandemic brings economies to a halt and disrupts global trade.
U.K. Economy Shrinks (2:57 p.m. HK)
The U.K. economy unexpectedly contracted in February, putting it on an unsteady footing even before the nation imposed more stringent restrictions to contain the coronavirus. GDP fell 0.1% from January, with the downturn driven by a huge drop in construction, the Office for National Statistics said Thursday.
The government signaled plans to borrow directly from the Bank of England, easing the pressure to immediately sell bonds for the billions it needs to support the economy through the coronavirus pandemic. The Treasury said Thursday that it’s increasing the long-standing “Ways and Means facility,” a short-term overdraft that it can use if needed to smooth its cash flow and support the functioning of markets.
UBS, Credit Suisse Delay Dividends (2:00 p.m. HK)
Switzerland’s two biggest banks proposed pushing back dividend payments as the spreading coronavirus roils markets and upends businesses.
Credit Suisse Group AG said on Thursday its board proposes to pay half of its 2019 dividend and intends to distribute the rest in the fall of this year. UBS Group AG, meanwhile, has proposed shareholders approve the bank’s previously announced dividend of $0.73 for the 2019 financial year be paid in two installments, according to an emailed statement.
Investors in British-listed companies could lose as much as half of their dividend income this year, according to a report from Link Group. More than a fifth of companies on the European benchmark Stoxx 600 Index have canceled or postponed dividends in recent weeks, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
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