NYC Subway Poles Seen as Spreader; India Lockdown: Virus Update
(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. could become a new hub of the outbreak, the World Health Organization warned. Still, President Donald Trump said he’s hoping to have the economy open again by Easter. Stocks soared as Congress neared a deal on a stimulus bill.
The euro-zone economy is sinking as countries toughen containment efforts with strict stay-at-home policies. China prepared to lift its lockdown in Wuhan, the city at the center of the original outbreak.
India became the latest nation to impose a lockdown. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the International Olympic Committee agreed to delay the Tokyo Games by a year.
- Cases top 409,000; 18,246 dead, 106,593 recovered: Johns Hopkins
- IATA warns airlines could lose $252 billion in 2020 sales
- GM and Vale tap credit lines; Intel suspends buyback
- Australia, Singapore widen curbs; U.K. lockdown could intensify
- More than 47,000 U.S. stores closed in 10 days
- Spain reports another surge in fatalities; Germany evaluates stimulus
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Euro Area Moves Toward Emergency Loans (5:05 p.m. NY)
The euro area moved a step closer toward making credit lines available from its bailout fund worth up to 2% of each country’s output, based on a call the region’s finance ministers held Tuesday to lay out the next phase of their fiscal response to the outbreak.
The plan had “very broad support” by the finance chiefs, Eurogroup President Mario Centeno said. It is now up to EU leaders, who will hold a teleconference on Thursday, to endorse the plan.
Facebook Ad Business Getting Hit (4:45 p.m. NY)
Facebook Inc. said it’s seeing a “weakening” in its advertising business for some key areas, despite an increase in usage for its messaging services.
“We don’t monetize many of the services where we’re seeing increased engagement, and we’ve seen a weakening in our ads business in countries taking aggressive actions to reduce the spread of Covid-19,” the company wrote in a blog post.
Florida National Guard Greets Flights From New York Region (4 p.m. NY)
The Florida National Guard met flights arriving at South Florida’s major airports Tuesday from the New York City area, Governor Ron DeSantis said in a video briefing. Travelers are being asked to provide information about where they plan to self-isolate while in the state, and they are being given information about health authorities that need to be contacted if they become symptomatic.
DeSantis also expanded the executive order issued Monday mandating self-isolation for travelers arriving from New York City-area airports. Now, any traveler from that area in the last three weeks needs to report the names of the people in Florida with whom they were in contact, DeSantis said.
Half of U.K. May Be Infected, Study Finds (3:15 p.m. NY)
About half of the U.K. population may already have been infected with coronavirus, according to an unpublished study that assumes that just a small percentage of those exposed develop severe symptoms.
The study, written by researchers from the University of Oxford, suggests that the virus spread unseen in the U.K. for as long as a month before reported illnesses came to light. Screening tests that can show how many people have already been infected and repelled the virus without series consequences are needed to show its path through the population, the authors said.
The findings were reported earlier by the Financial Times.
U.S. Retailers Plan to Stop Paying Rent (2:30 p.m. NY)
Mattress Firm and Subway are among major U.S. retail and restaurant chains telling landlords they will withhold or slash rent in the coming months after closing stores to slow the coronavirus, according to people familiar with the situation.
Chains are calling for rent reductions through lease amendments and other measures starting in April, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private.
These moves mark the next phase in virus fallout: What happens to billions in rent owed for businesses that have been closed? The stakes are high. Retail has a slew of big chains in turnaround mode. And if they do withhold payments, there would be a ripple effect. Landlords can’t afford to stop collecting rent for long, with many property owners sitting on loads of debt.
Birx Says Subways May Have Sped Virus Spread in NYC (2:09 p.m. NY)
Riders touching metal surfaces in New York City subways may have accelerated the spread of the coronavirus in the region, according to Deborah Birx, the State Department physician who advises Vice President Mike Pence on the government’s response to the pandemic.
About 28% of people tested for the virus have been positive in New York City and areas of New Jersey close to the city, Birx said at a news conference Tuesday. The high number of travelers returning from Asia may have also contributed to the high rate of transmission, she said.
Trump Aims to Open Economy by Easter (2 p.m. NY)
President Donald Trump said he wants to re-open the U.S. economy by Easter, which is April 12, after shutting down activity due to the coronavirus.
“I would love to have it open by Easter,” Trump said in an interview Tuesday with Fox News. “I would love to have it opened up and just raring to go by Easter.”
Trump has said he’d re-evaluate whether to call for people to return to work after his 15-day strategy for limiting social contact elapses next week.
New Cases Slow in Italy; Deaths Rise (1:37 p.m. NY)
Active cases in Italy, the epicenter of the outbreak in Europe, rose by 3,612, the least in almost a week, civil protection authorities said at briefing in Rome. The nation reported 743 new deaths, an increase after two days of declines.
Harvard President Diagnosed, Thunberg Better After Isolation (1:20 p.m. NY)
Harvard University President Larry Bacow and climate activist Greta Thunberg have become the latest high-profile figures to be affected by the virus. Bacow and his wife, Adele, tested positive for Covid-19 after first experiencing symptoms on Sunday, according to a letter to the Harvard community. Thunberg said in an Instagram post that she isolated herself after falling ill following a trip and suspected she had the virus. Her symptoms were too mild now to qualify for a test under Swedish rules and she said she’s feeling better.
FDA Speeds Access to Blood from Recovered Patients (12:44 p.m. NY)
The Food and Drug Administration is making it easier for critically ill Covid-19 patients to access a potential treatment: antibodies from the blood of those who survived.
The agency will allow doctors treating the sickest patients to use an experimental therapy known as “convalescent plasma.” The initiative is part of the FDA’s unprecedented loosening of rules for drugs, diagnostic tests and more in an effort curtail the outbreak.
The blood plasma therapy, extracted from patients who survived the coronavirus, is intended to provide them with the antibodies that the body naturally produces to fight infections. Donors must have a previous lab-confirmed infection and then have gotten better before giving blood. It isn’t available as a means to prevent infection.
Ireland Adds New Restrictions (12:18 p.m. NY)
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar called on the nation needed to do more to fight the spread of the virus. In addition to extending the current restrictions -- including school closures until April 19 -- Varadkar said no more than four people at a time should gather outside together. All non-essential stores will close, all sports events will be canceled and all organized social events should stop. Police will take a more visible role in ensuring restrictions are respected, he said.
The government also added 3.7 billion euros ($3.9 billion) to support the economic victims of the virus. That’s on top of the 3 billion euros worth of measures already announced.
Cuomo Says Rate Is Spiking, Pleads for Ventilators (11:30 a.m. NY)
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the rate of new coronavirus infections is doubling about every three days despite all the steps taken to slow the spread.
“In many ways, we have exhausted every option available to us,” Cuomo said Tuesday at a press briefing.
The apex of the infections is 14 days away, higher and sooner than expected, Cuomo said. The state now expects it will need as many as 140,000 hospital beds, up from an earlier projection of 110,000. The state has 53,000 hospital beds.
The governor also repeated calls for the federal government to provide more ventilators. He said New York has procured 7,000 ventilators but needs 30,000.
India to Impose Nationwide Lockdown From Midnight (11 a.m. NY)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has imposed a three-week long nationwide lockdown across India to help contain the spread of coronavirus infections.
India is struggling to contain the economic and health fallout of the spreading coronavirus outbreak that has so far infected 519 in India and killed 9 people. In the last week, the government has implemented a near complete lockdown of its major cities and suspended train, flight and long-distance bus services.
Maker of Trump’s Unproven Cure Boosting Capacity (10:40 a.m NY)
The world’s largest maker of an anti-malarial drug that U.S. President Donald Trump has touted as a “game changer” in the treatment of the deadly coronavirus plans to boost capacity more than ten-fold to meet surging global demand.
Cadila Healthcare Ltd. will increase production of hydroxychloroquine sulphate to as much as 35 tons, or about 200 million individual doses per month, from about 3 tons per month currently, according to Sharvil Patel, the Ahmedabad, India-based company’s managing director.
Though there is no conclusive scientific evidence that the drug can treat the infection from the novel pathogen, U.S. hospitals and consumers have begun stockpiling the drug after reports of its efficacy in some small clinical studies -- but not in others -- began circulating online and in the media.
Russia Virus Epidemic Is Worse Than Data Show: Mayor (10:10 a.m. NY)
Russia faces a bigger threat from the coronavirus than official figures show because of a lack of adequate testing, Moscow’s mayor warned President Vladimir Putin.
In a rare public admission of what some experts and critics have claimed is an under-reporting of the scale of the outbreak, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said testing in Russia’s regions doesn’t show the “full picture” and that the country faces “big trouble that will pop up sooner or later.”
Moscow has as many as 500 people already infected, nearly double the publicly announced figure, and “the dynamics are high” in the spread of the disease in Europe’s largest capital, Sobyanin told Putin Tuesday at a meeting on preparations for fighting the epidemic. “A serious situation is unfolding.”
No Dutch Gatherings; Shopping Carts Mandatory (9:13 a.m. NY)
The Dutch government announced stricter measures to enforce social distancing, including banning gatherings until June 1 and letting mayors close parks or beaches. Violators will be fined, Justice Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus said at a press briefing Monday.
Supermarkets will require the use of a shopping cart or basket in a bid to control the number of customers, industry group CBL said on Tuesday.
New infections rose by 811, the highest daily jump in absolute numbers, to 5,560. The RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment also reported a 30% increase in deaths to 276. RIVM expects to see the first impact of government measures late this week at the earliest.
Russia Weighs Prison for Breaching Quarantine: Interfax (9:05 a.m. NY)
Russia may introduce harsher punishment for violating sanitary-epidemic rules, Interfax reported, citing amendments to the Criminal Code discussed at a meeting hosted by State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin. Measures may vary from a fine of as much as 2 million rubles (about $25,000), to as much as seven years in prison.
Trump: Congress Must Approve Deal, Without Nonsense, Today (9 a.m. NY)
President Donald Trump said in a tweet that Congress must approve the stimulus package to help the U.S. economy get through the pandemic.
“Congress must approve the deal, without all of the nonsense, today,” Trump said. “The longer it takes, the harder it will be to start up our economy. Our workers will be hurt!”
U.S. May Become New Epicenter of Coronavirus: WHO (8:40 a.m. NY)
The U.S. is showing a large acceleration in the number of infections and has the potential to become a new epicenter of the outbreak, said Margaret Harris, a spokeswoman for the World Health Organization. Over the 24 hours through 10 a.m. Geneva time Monday, 40% were from the U.S., which had more cases than any other country. Covid-19 has killed more people than Ebola did in the first two years of that outbreak, she said.
Italy Unions Say Gas Stations to Start Closing (8:30 a.m. NY)
Gas stations on highways across Italy will begin closing on March 25, while others in cities will shut later, labor unions said on Tuesday. The unions did not provide clarification on whether the move would only apply to staffed service stations or automated pumps as well.
GM, Vale Draw Credit Lines; Intel Suspends Buyback (8:20 a.m. NY)
General Motors Co. will tap its revolving credit facilities for $16 billion and take a series of measures to protect its cash hoard, though the automaker is leaving its dividend intact for now. Vale SA, the world’s largest iron ore producer, is also tapping into its credit lines in an effort to boost its cash position to weather the consequences the pandemic may have on its business.
Separately, Intel Corp. suspended stock repurchases, joining a growing list of businesses to have done so, as economic activity slows around the world and stockpiling cash becomes the priority.
IATA Issues Stark Warning (8:20 a.m. NY)
The global airline industry could lose $252 billion in revenue this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, or 44% of the total for 2019, according to the International Air Transport Association. The anticipated hit is more than double the maximum $113 billion sales decline mooted by IATA earlier this month, and reflects a deepening crisis more severe than anything the industry has ever faced, the trade group said Tuesday.
Olympics Delayed (8:15 a.m. NY)
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the leader of the International Olympic Committee agreed to the unprecedented move to delay the Tokyo Olympics by about one year. Abe told reporters he won the backing for the proposal to delay the games planned to start in July in telephone call with IOC President Thomas Bach.
“The Tokyo Olympics will not be canceled,” Abe told reporters in Tokyo after the call. The postponement would be the first since the modern games began in the 19th century and make the Tokyo 2020 Olympics the biggest sporting event called off due to the pandemic
GE, Ford, 3M Collaborate on Ventilator Production (7:45 a.m. NY)
Ford Motor Co. is throwing its design and production prowess behind two other manufacturers’ efforts to build more ventilators and masks for health-care workers and first responders. The automaker will work with 3M Co. on a new mask design and have United Auto Workers members assemble more than 100,000 plastic face shields a week. Ford said it also will help General Electric Co.’s health-care unit boost output of ventilators hospitals desperately need for coronavirus patients.
China Urges Manufacturers to Resume Operations (7:43 a.m. NY)
China will push for work in the manufacturing and distribution industries to resume, CCTV reported, citing a State Council meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang. The country will take measures to upgrade international air cargo transport capability and provide policy support to international air cargo transport routes.
Singapore, Australia Widen Curbs (7:40 a.m. NY)
Singapore is introducing its strictest measures yet. The new regulations start on Thursday and cover closing entertainment venues such as theaters, night clubs and discos. Tuition and enrichment classes will be suspended, as will all religious services and congregations. Gatherings outside of work and school will be limited to maximum 10 people.
Australia is also enforcing more stringent controls, banning non-essential travel overseas, closing food courts in shopping malls and restricting weddings and funerals after the number of cases surged past 2,000. Earlier this week, the government closed pubs, casinos, cafes and restaurants and has already banned indoor gatherings of 100 people or more.
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