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Fauci Sees Imaginable Turnaround Get started; N.Y. Deaths: Virus Replace

(Bloomberg) — Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the start of a turnaround in the fight against the virus could come after this week.

The U.K. and Belgium had their deadliest day of the outbreak so far, and Spain reported fatalities and new cases rising to the highest in four days. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is stable and responding to treatment at a London hospital.

U.S. Democrats are seeking at least $500 billion in the next stimulus bill, and Hong Kong announced a fresh package valued at about $18 billion. European Union finance ministers failed to agree on a $543 billion recovery plan for the bloc.

Global cases top 1.5 million; deaths pass 83,500: Johns HopkinsTrump team prepares plans to reopen economy that depend on testingWuhan sees mass exodus after China eases lockdownTesla will reduce employees’ salaries as much as 30% starting MondayU.S. recession model at 100% confirms downturn is already here

N.Y. Reports Record 779 Daily Deaths (1:36 p.m. NY)

New York suffered another day of record fatalities from the coronavirus outbreak, reporting 779 additional deaths even as hospitalizations declined.

“The number of deaths will continue to rise as those hospitalized for a period of time pass away,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday at his daily virus briefing.

The state has lost more than 1,500 people to the virus in the last two days, for a total of almost 6,300.

Despite the rising death toll, Cuomo said the state’s social-distancing rules and other measures were working.

WHO Says World Must Pull Together (1 p.m. NY)

The coronavirus crisis will escalate if countries don’t start showing more solidarity, the head of the World Health Organization said, urging the U.S. and China to show “honest leadership” and stop bickering.

“If you don’t want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicizing it,” Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a briefing in Geneva Wednesday. “No using Covid-19 to score political points.”

When asked about President Donald Trump’s threat to cut funding and claim that the WHO favors China, Tedros said the WHO tries to treat everyone equally, and the WHO will do an assessment of its successes and failures.

He urged the U.S., China, Group of 20 countries and the rest of the world to come together and fight.

“For God’s sake, we have lost more than 60,000 citizens of the world,” he said. “Even one person is precious.”

Tedros revealed he has been receiving racist insults and death threats.

‘Too Early’ for Europe to Start Easing Restrictions, Agency Says (12:47 p.m. NY)

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control warned Europe not to rush into lifting restrictions that are helping slow the spread of the pandemic.

“Based on the available evidence, it is currently too early to start lifting all community and physical distancing measures” in Europe, the agency said in its latest risk assessment. “Sustained transmission of the virus is to be expected if current interventions are lifted too quickly.”

The ECDC noted the reported new infections today reflect the measures that were in place a week earlier.

U.K. Announces New High for Fatalities (12:02 p.m. NY)

The U.K. reported a further 938 deaths from the coronavirus on Wednesday, up from yesterday’s record daily total of 786.

In total 60,733 people have tested positive for the illness, up from 55,242 reported on Tuesday, according to the latest figures from the Department of Heath and Social Care. The day’s figures indicate a slight increase in the rate of growth.

Some 14,682 tests were conducted in the country on April 7, more than the 14,006 conducted the day before. The U.K. aims to conduct 100,000 tests a day by the end of April, seeking to replicate the mass screening seen in countries such as South Korea and Germany.

EU Plans to Prolong External-Border Closure Until May 15 (11:45 a.m. NY)

The European Commission proposed prolonging until May 15 a ban on most travel into the European Union. Maintaining the restriction on non-essential travel into the bloc for another 30 days is necessary to contain the spread of the coronavirus, the commission said in a recommendation that needs the approval of member-country governments.

Trump’s Plans to Reopen Economy Depend on Testing (11:30 a.m. NY)

The White House is developing plans to get the U.S. economy back in action that depend on testing far more Americans for the coronavirus than has been possible to date, according to people familiar with the matter.

The effort would likely begin in smaller cities and towns in states that haven’t yet been heavily hit by the virus. Cities such as New York, Detroit, New Orleans and other places the president has described as “hot spots” would remain shuttered. The planning is in its early stages.

Read more here

EU Braces for Arrival of 8,000 Cruise-Ship Passengers (11:00 a.m. NY)

Eleven cruise ships carrying around 8,000 passengers in total will arrive at European Unions ports between April 8 and 11, the European Commission said.

The EU laid out guidelines for member nations on handling the travelers, saying ships with passengers known to be infected with the coronavirus should be directed to ports close to hospitals with adequate capacity.

The commission also urged a coordinated EU effort to designate several ports for “fast-track” crew changes, citing the “essential role” of maritime transport in the bloc’s international goods trade.

De Blasio Says Distancing Eases Ventilator Demand (10:55 a.m. NY)

New York City’s social-distancing strategy appears to be working, and one result is less demand for ventilators than had been projected, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

The city had estimated that it would need as many as 300 more of the life-saving machines this week to treat coronavirus patients but has needed to add only 100, de Blasio said Wednesday at his daily virus briefing. It has 5,500 in all.

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Statewide, the infection rate has begun flattening, even as the death count rises.

EU Working for Coordinated Ends to Members’ Lockdowns (10:40 a.m. NY)

The European Commission is trying to coordinate how member states end lockdowns following criticism that the bloc’s initial response to the pandemic was chaotic. An internal draft of a memo seen by Bloomberg sets out conditions for easing to begin as well as other steps that be needed, such as expanding testing capacities and using apps to gather data.

“Any level of (gradual) relaxation of the confinement will unavoidably lead to a corresponding increase in new cases,” according to the memo. Gradual exits and a phased-in restart to economic activity may be best, according to the memo. “Not all population should go back to the workplace at the same time.”

The adoption of the plan has been pushed back, according to commission spokesman Eric Mamer, who told journalists in Brussels that timing is a “tricky issue” since countries are at different stages of the outbreak.

McDonald’s Reports Sales Decline, Withdraws Forecast (9:06 a.m. NY)

The company said comparable sales fell 3.4% in the first quarter, and it expects to cut capital expenditures by about $1 billion for 2020.

Oktoberfest in Doubt as Germany Sees Lasting Impact (8:59 a.m. NY)

Bavaria’s state premier cast doubt over the annual Oktoberfest, offering an idea of how long German authorities expect the pandemic to upend social life. Markus Soeder, a political ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, told the Bild newspaper that a decision will be taken in June, but that widespread travel and border openings by then are “very unlikely.” The traditional beer festival, which draws millions to the Bavarian capital of Munich, is scheduled to start Sept. 19 and last two weeks. If it takes place at all, “it will be under completely different conditions,” Soeder told Bild.

Local French Curfew Blocked in Legal Rebuke of Lockdowns (8:51 a.m. NY)

A French court blocked a curfew in a municipality north of Paris, in what is probably the first legal rebuke in the country of measures designed to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

The court said the mayor of Saint-Ouen-sur-Seine had failed to justify the curfew, which went from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. The judge said that the regional government had already taken steps to prevent gatherings, including shutting liquor stores after 9 p.m.

Dutch Cases Top 20,000 (8:31 a.m. NY)

Confirmed cases in the Netherlands rose 5% to 20,549, below the average daily increase in the past week. Reported deaths rose 7% to 2,248. New hospital intakes climbed 4% to a total of 7,735, according to the RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment.

India’s Most Populous State Seals 15 Districts (8:23 a.m. NY)

India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, has sealed off 15 of its districts worst affected by infections.

“Since the numbers have risen sharply, this move is essential to stop community spread,” R. K. Tiwari, chief secretary of the state, said in a television interview on Wednesday. The state has so far recorded 326 infections and three deaths.

India has had total infections of 5,360 and 164 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. A 21-day national lockdown ends April 14.

Boris Johnson is Stable, Responding to Treatment (7:54 a.m. NY)

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in a stable condition in intensive care and is “responding to treatment” for a severe coronavirus infection, his spokesman said. Johnson was taken into St Thomas’ hospital in London on Sunday and moved to the critical care unit on Monday after struggling to shake off the symptoms, including a cough and a fever.

Vaccine Hopes, Tests Boost Oxford Biomedica, Novacyt (7:50 a.m. NY)

Oxford Biomedica shares rose as much as 24%, the most since Sept. 2013, after the firm joined a consortium working on a Covid-19 vaccine. The consortium, led by the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute, has fast-tracked clinical trials of a vaccine candidate to start this month. Oxford Biomedica will be the manufacturing partner for the drug should the trials prove successful.

Earlier, Novacyt SA shares extended their year-to-date surge to more than 1,600% after the company’s Covid-19 test was listed as eligible for procurement by the World Health Organization. The stock jumped as much as 22% in Paris as Novacyt said its diagnostics kit would be available for a year following an emergency process by WHO.

U.K. Employers Cheating Furlough Plan Face Prosecution (7:37 a.m. NY)

“Some employees have already been reporting that some employers have asked them to work during the furlough period,” Jim Harra, chief executive officer of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, told a panel of lawmakers by video conference on Wednesday. “If it amounted to trying to defraud us, we could take criminal action.”

Under the job-retention program announced last month, the government will pay 80% of employee wages so long as they remain tied to their jobs during the economic lockdown designed to slow the spread of the disease. A condition of the payments is that no work is done for employers, although training is permitted.

Democrats Seek At Least $500 Billion in Next Stimulus Bill (7:36 a.m. NY)

Democrats want $250 billion in small business aid, with $125 billion channeled through community-based financial institutions that serve farmers, family, women, minority and veteran-owned cos, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement.

French Scientific Committee Sees Confinement Until ICUs Relieved (7:18 a.m. UK)

France will be able to look into ending its confinement only when intensive-care units won’t be saturated and other control measures are operational, the scientific committee that advises the government said in a note, cited by Agence France-Presse. Experts say the population’s immunity is probably under 15%.

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Hong Kong Unveils Virus Relief Package (6:33 a.m. NY)

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced a fresh government stimulus package worth about HK$137.5 billion ($17.7 billion) to support the city’s deteriorating economy. The spending package will include an HK$80 billion job security program to subsidize 50% of wages for affected workers for six months.

VW Reviewing Dividend (6:13 a.m. NY)

Volkswagen AG is considering whether to pay out a record 3.3 billion-euro ($3.6 billion) dividend as planned, or use at least part of it to shore up its finances for what is shaping up to be the biggest economic crisis since World War II.

WHO Says Lifting Lockdowns May Be Premature (6 a.m. NY)

“To think we’re close to an endpoint would be dangerous,” Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Europe, said at a briefing. Sweden is showing a fresh surge in cases, while the WHO is concerned about a dramatic increase in Turkey, he said. Countries should not lower their guard, he said.

“We have got to ensure that the public understands we’re moving to a new phase,” said Bruce Aylward, one of the WHO’s top officials who recently led a mission to Spain. Countries need to make sure they’re hunting the disease down, because the key to eradication is testing patients, isolating them and tracing their close contacts. Some restrictions may need to continue for some time while others are gradually loosened, he said. “It’s not lifting lockdowns and going back to normal. It’s a new normal.”

Spain’s success in slowing the spread proves that lockdowns and measures such as testing and contact tracing can work, Aylward said. While the country had a 20-fold increase in cases in the week through March 14, the rate later slowed to doubling every eight days.

Iran New Cases, Fatalities Decline (5:41 p.m. HK)

Iran reported 1,997 new cases on Wednesday, down from 2,089, taking the total number of cases to 64,586. Total fatalities rose to 3,993 after the country reported 121 more deaths.

Spain Deaths, Cases Rise (5:30 p.m. HK)

Spain’s daily coronavirus death toll and the number of confirmed cases increased by the most in four days on Wednesday in Europe’s most-extensive outbreak of the disease. There were 6,180 new infections in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 146,690, according to Health Ministry data. The death toll rose by 757 to 14,555, the biggest gain since April 4.

Deadliest Day in Belgium (5:25 p.m. HK)

Belgium experienced its deadliest day of the virus outbreak so far, with the fatalities rising by 205 to 2,240. Government health officials however said the epidemic is approaching its peak in the country of 11.4 million. The number of patients currently being treated in hospitals fell for the first time to 5,688, a decline of 324 from the prior day. That includes 1,276 people in ICU, a figure that has been stable in recent days.

Irish Police Freed to Arrest Easter Travelers (5:20 p.m. HK)

Ireland handed its police sweeping powers to limit travel as part of its efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus as the nation heads into the Easter holiday. The government gave the police powers to arrest people traveling more than 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from their home or on non-essential business. If convicted, they could face as long as six months in prison or a 2,500 euro ($2,700) fine.

Scholz Says EU Agreement ‘Hopefully’ Before Easter (5:15 p.m. HK)

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told reporters that an agreement was close and hoped one would be reached before April 12. That came after European Union finance ministers failed to agree on a$543 billion package to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic, prolonging a paralysis that casts doubt over the bloc’s ability to weather the crisis.

China March Retail Passenger Car Sales Slump (5:15 p.m. HK)

Daily average sales of retail passenger vehicles dropped to 30,683 units in March, the China Passenger Car Association said. Separately, Daimler AG’s global deliveries fell about 15% in the first quarter and the number of vehicles sold in China, the world’s largest auto market, fell around 20% from a year earlier. However, a recovery in China’s car market is slowly gathering pace, with dealerships even in the initial virus epicenter of Wuhan seeing customers return.

SoftBank-Backed Oyo Is Furloughing Thousands of Employees (5:10 p.m. HK)

Oyo Hotels & Homes, the Indian budget lodgings service backed by SoftBank Group Corp., is placing thousands of its employees globally on indefinite furlough. The company said it is furloughing employees in countries excluding India without specifying numbers, adding that it’s not considering job cuts at this time. The startup, one of the largest in SoftBank’s portfolio, has more than $1 billion of cash in the bank and is exploring options to remain viable over at least the next 36 months.

Germany Approves Tighter Rules on Foreign Takeovers (5:10 p.m. HK)

Angela Merkel’s cabinet approved the measures — which apply to takeover bids from outside the European Union — on Wednesday, the Chancellery said. They will enable the government to block acquisitions that present “potential interference,” a lower threshold than existing rules that envisage a security threat.

Record Contraction Seen in France, Germany (5 p.m. HK)

The French economy shrank the most since World War II in the first quarter, and the outlook for the rest of the year is souring significantly. The central bank’s estimate of a 6% slump is the latest indicator of the severity of the shock to European economies from a simultaneous collapse in demand and supply.

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Germany’s economy is likely to shrink by 4.2% this year, before government measures to counter the coronavirus impact fuel expansion of 5.8% in 2021, according to five of the nation’s leading research institutes. In the second quarter, they expect gross domestic product to decline by 9.8%, the most since records for quarterly data began in 1970.

Russia Reports More than 1,000 New Cases Again (4:48 p.m. HK)

Russia reported 1,175 new cases overnight, a 16% increase, bringing the total number of infected to 8,672. The country reported five more fatalities, taking its total to 63.

Tokyo Cases Rise (3:46 p.m. HK)

Tokyo found 144 new cases of coronavirus, NTV reported. Earlier, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned Japan could be facing as many as 80,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in a month if no action is taken as he declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and its surrounding regions.

Drugmakers Need Government Support to Ensure Supply (3:45 p.m. HK)

European drugmakers need cooperation and support from regional and national authorities to ensure continuity in the drug supply during the pandemic, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations said.

“Regulatory flexibilities and lifting measures that impact manufacturing and supply can help ease the situation,” the trade group said in an e-mail. The European Union health commissioner appealed to companies on April 3 to boost production of medicines needed to treat the coronavirus, saying that several member states only had a one-week supply of some drugs.

The European Union’s most senior health official has appealed to the pharmaceutical industry to boost production of critical medicines needed to treat the symptoms of the coronavirus, warning that several member states may soon run out.

Germany Reports Biggest Rise in Infections in Three Days (2:15 p.m. HK)

The number of new coronavirus infections in Germany rose the most in three days, bringing the total to 107,663 in one of Europe’s worst-hit nations.

More than two weeks after the government ordered citizens to adhere to strict limits on public life, infections increased by 4,288 on Wednesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That compared with a gain of 3,252 a day earlier.

The head of Germany’s public health institute said Wednesday that the general trend in confirmed cases is “positive” but cautioned that the nation is still only at the beginning of the pandemic.

Expert: Virus Likely to Be Around for Two Years (1:54 p.m. HK)

The coronavirus likely will be around for at least two years, which means the measures being implemented to curb its spread may be in place for a while, an infectious diseases expert said. A vaccine likely won’t be available in large amounts for another 18-24 months, and countries need to do more frequent testing, Peter Collignon, a professor at the Australian National University Medical School, told Bloomberg News. Eradication of the virus is unrealistic, he said.

More Asian Countries Learn to Love Face Masks (12:43 p.m. HK)

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. Indonesia, one of the world’s most populous countries with 264 million people, ordered citizens to wear face masks when they leave the house after predicting as many as 95,000 people could be infected.

Vietnam is fining people who don’t wear them, while the Philippines is requiring more than 50 million people on Luzon Island to wear masks or improvised face shields outside and Singapore now says asymptomatic people can wear masks in public. Malaysia will hand out 24.62 million masks, four for each household, while advising people to only use them if they have symptoms and Mumbai has ordered citizens to wear masks outside their homes.

Still, the World Health Organization says there’s no evidence that wearing a mask can prevent healthy people from infection.

Apple Partner Foxconn to Start Making Ventilators (11:29 a.m. HK)

Foxconn, the company responsible for assembling most of the world’s iPhones, will start developing and making ventilators in the U.S.

Foxconn will work with Medtronic Plc on the design and development of the devices. Foxconn, which owns a plant in Wisconsin, didn’t say where and when it will be making the medical equipment.

There has been a global shortage of ventilators needed in the treatment of severe cases of Covid-19. Foxconn has been making face masks, used to curb the spread of the virus, in China since February.

Outbreak Seen Growing Fast in U.S., Stabilizing in Italy (10:49 a.m. HK)

The coronavirus outbreak is growing rapidly in the U.S., Japan, Germany, France and the U.K., according to a weekly forecast by Imperial College London’s MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis.

But the group found the disease is stabilizing in Italy, Iran, South Korea and Indonesia.

The MRC, which collaborates with agencies including the World Health Organization, forecasts fatality rates for the week ahead based on analyses of 42 countries with active transmission.

The center, in its forecast dated April 7, predicts deaths exceeding 5,000 in the coming week in France, Italy, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S. Fatalities of less than 100 are predicted for 14 countries, including Japan.

(An earlier version corrected the number of Iran cases)

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