Merkel on Curbs; Singapore to Allow China Tourists: Virus Update

German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended her decision to once again severely limit movement in Germany, saying the country is in a “dramatic situation.” U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing increasing pressure to introduce another national lockdown.

Singapore will lift border restrictions for visitors from mainland China and Victoria state in Australia from Nov. 6, while Taiwan marked its 200th consecutive day without local transmission.

Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-disease expert, said a vaccine won’t be available until at least January and mask use is critical to avoid crippling shutdowns. A late-stage trial of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s antibody cocktail therapy showed the treatment significantly reduces virus levels and the need for further medical care.

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Merkel on Curbs; Singapore to Allow China Tourists: Virus Update

Singapore to Lift Border Curbs for China Visitors (5:51 p.m. HK)

Singapore will lift border restrictions for visitors from mainland China and Victoria State in Australia from Nov. 6 as both regions “have comprehensive public health surveillance systems and displayed successful control over the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” according to a statement from the city-state’s civil aviation authority.

Visitors will have to under go a coronavirus polymerase chain reaction test upon arrival at Changi Airport.

Italy Weighs New Restrictions (5:40 p.m. HK)

Italy could tighten restrictions on movement including targeted lockdowns as virus cases spiral and European peers take more stringent measures.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte wants to use next week to assess the efficacy of the most recent set of curbs before taking further decisions, government officials said. The country could go into a near-full lockdown as soon as Nov. 9 if infection figures continue spiking, according to daily Il Messaggero.

The next wave of curbs could include a new series of “red zones” in the country, ring-fencing some of the most-affected cities and their surrounding areas, one of the officials said. Milan, the country’s financial center, and Naples have been hit hardest.

Poland’s New Covid-19 Cases Top 20,000 (5:38 p.m. HK)

Poland registered 20,156 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, a 7% jump from the previous record set a day earlier and the third all-time high reached this week. The death toll rose by a record 301 to 5,149, the Health Ministry said on Twitter on Thursday.

Earlier, Finance Minister Tadeusz Koscinski told public Radio 1 he hopes Poland won’t introduce a full lockdown from Monday, but Friday’s data on fresh cases will be key. Local lockdowns, or closing of specific areas, will probably be “unavoidable,” Koscinski said, adding that he couldn’t rule out further “short-term” restrictions in some industries.

Merkel Defends Curbs (4:50 p.m. HK)

Merkel defended her decision to impose the toughest restrictions since a national lockdown in the spring, saying Germany is in a “dramatic situation” as a rapid spread of the coronavirus stretches health-care services to their limit.

Authorities are no longer able to track infections back to their source and that leads to an exponential growth in infections, which must be stopped, Merkel told lawmakers in the German parliament on Thursday.

Earlier, the country registered 23,553 new infections, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The number of fatalities rose by 160, the most since early May, to 10,281.

By closing bars and and restaurants in Germany for a month, as well as leisure facilities and cultural venues, the government hopes to slow the spread of the virus while keeping most businesses operating.

Merkel on Curbs; Singapore to Allow China Tourists: Virus Update

Belgium Has Record Number of Virus Hospitalizations (2:56 p.m. HK)

With 5,924 Covid-19 patients currently in hospital, Belgium has surpassed its previous peak from April 6. A record 743 people were admitted to hospital Wednesday, following a revised 690 on Tuesday.

There are now 993 patients in intensive care, more than 20% below the peak of the first wave. Belgium also reported more than 100 deaths for a second straight day.

Debt Crisis Unlikely in Next Few Years: S&P (2:29 p.m. HK)

A global debt crisis is unlikely in the next year or two -- assuming economies and private-sector demand recover -- even as the world hurtles toward record debt-to-GDP levels, S&P Global Ratings said in a report.

The rebound in economies is predicated on the wide availability of a Covid-19 vaccine by mid-2021, and continued accommodative monetary policies, according to S&P.

Scientists Warn of Virus Mutation in Europe: FT (2:10 p.m. HK)

An international team of scientists tracking the virus’s genetic mutations says a variant that originated in Spanish farm workers has spread through much of Europe since the summer, accounting for a majority of new cases in several countries — including more than 80% in the U.K., the Financial Times reported.

In a research paper to be published Thursday, the team describes the extraordinary spread of the “20A.EU1” variant. Their work suggests people returning from holiday in Spain played a key role in transmitting the virus across Europe. Scientific teams in Switzerland and Spain are rushing to examine the behavior of the variant to establish whether it’s more deadly or infectious than other strains.

Japan Ready to Spend More to Counter Virus (2:01 p.m. HK)

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told parliament he would monitor the domestic and international situation and take steps on the economy as needed, including via increased spending. His comments come as Tokyo reported 221 new cases in the capital.

The first and second extra budgets that were passed to fight Covid will be properly carried out, said Suga, who also raised the possibility of cutting real-estate taxes.

U.K. Pressured on Lockdown With Virus at ‘Critical Stage’ (1:20 p.m. HK)

The U.K.’s policy response to coronavirus isn’t succeeding in controlling the disease’s spread, scientists warned, adding pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to introduce another national lockdown.

Infections are doubling every nine days and an estimated 960,000 people are carrying the virus in England on any given day, according to findings from Imperial College London and Ipsos Mori. The virus’s reproduction rate has risen to 1.6, compared to 1.2 when figures were last published Oct. 9.

Modeling by the government’s emergency scientific committee suggests all of England is likely to require the tightest restrictions by mid-December. Meanwhile, the government has asked local health officials to deploy 30-minute saliva kits for coronavirus testing to accelerate Johnson’s mass screening plan, the Guardian reported.

Merkel on Curbs; Singapore to Allow China Tourists: Virus Update

Virus Turns Central Banks Into Gold Sellers (1:15 p.m. HK)

Central banks became gold sellers for the first time in a decade as some producing nations exploited near-record prices to soften the blow from the pandemic.

Net sales totaled 12.1 tons of bullion in the third quarter, compared with purchases of 141.9 tons a year earlier, according to a report by the World Gold Council. Selling was driven by Uzbekistan and Turkey, while Russia’s central bank also posted its first quarterly sale in 13 years.

Shionogi Plans Japan Trials for Covid Vaccine: Reuters (1:12 p.m. HK)

Shionogi & Co. plans to carry out clinical trials for a Covid-19 vaccine by year-end in a move that could make it the first Japanese company to produce the doses domestically, Reuters reported.

The plan is to put a vaccine candidate into Phase 1 clinical trials in December, shifting to Phase 2 by January and applying for tentative government approval, Chief Executive Officer Isao Teshirogi said. A Phase 3 trial is likely to be done outside Japan due to the relatively small number of local cases.

Thailand Revises Economic Forecast Upward (12:48 p.m. HK)

Thailand’s economy will shrink 7.7% year, compared with a 8.5% contraction projected in July, as government support measures alleviate the impact of the pandemic, according to the Finance Ministry. The forecast -- which still puts Thailand’s economy on track for its worst performance ever -- doesn’t take into account the impact of ongoing anti-government protests, deputy spokesman Pornchai Thiraveja said.

India Passes 8 Million Mark With 50,000 New Cases (11:59 a.m. HK)

India passed 8 million total Covid-19 cases after counting an additional 49,881 infections in the past 24 hours, according to government data. The country has suffered the largest outbreak in the world after the U.S., and its death toll of 120,527 trails only the U.S. and Brazil.

Fauci: Wear a Mask, No Vaccine Before January (10:50 a.m. HK)

The United States’ top infectious-disease doctor pleaded with Americans to set politics aside and wear face masks to stop the rise in Covid-19 cases.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and colleagues outlined how face coverings can help prevent Covid-19. In a commentary Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Fauci said overcoming politically driven biases around mask use is critical for avoiding economically crippling shutdowns, but stopped short of calling for a mask mandate.

Merkel on Curbs; Singapore to Allow China Tourists: Virus Update

He also said vaccines against Covid-19 won’t be available in the U.S. until January at the earliest.

Taiwan Reaches 200 Days Without a Local Virus Case (10:36 a.m. HK)

Taiwan on Thursday marked 200 days since its last locally transmitted case April 12. Overall, the island of 23 million people has had 550 confirmed cases, with only seven deaths.

Experts say closing borders early and tightly regulating travel have gone a long way toward fighting the virus. Other factors include rigorous contact tracing, technology-enforced quarantine and universal mask wearing.

Food Imports Seen as Vector for Covid Spread (8:53 a.m. HK)

There’s a real risk of cross-border coronavirus transmission through the $1.5 trillion global agri-food market, according to a scientist who has studied the phenomenon. It’s possible that contaminated food imports can transfer the virus to workers as well as the environment, said Dale Fisher, an infectious diseases physician at Singapore’s National University Hospital.

“It’s hitching a ride on the food, infecting the first person that opens the box,” said Fisher, who also chairs the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network. “It’s not to be confused with supermarket shelves getting infected. It’s really at the marketplace, before there’s been a lot of dilution.”

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