COVID-19 Global Virus Update

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U.S. President Donald Trump said he will unveil guidelines to relax stay-at-home rules on Thursday, citing signs that the outbreak is plateauing in parts of the country. Britain is expected to extend its lockdown, even as officials said there are signs the U.K. may soon be past the worst.

Germany’s cases climbed for the first time in a week and the government plans to keep most of the restrictive measures in place. Sweden’s prime minister defended the country’s controversial, laxer policy as the pandemic marked another milestone, reaching 2 million cases around the world.

Asia continued to grapple with a new wave of infections. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to declare a nationwide state of emergency as the outbreak spreads and Singapore saw its highest daily increase in cases.

Key DevelopmentsVirus Tracker:

Cases reach 2 million; deaths top 134,000. United Air warns of bleak times. Cathay sees ‘drastic’ demand drop. Consumer habits in virus-ravaged Wuhan may forever be changed. India’s migrant workers may shun cities after lockdown

China Factories May Halt Output Again on Weak Demand (4:10 p.m. HK)

Chinese manufacturers that resumed work after the outbreak may be forced to halt production again due to weak demand, rising costs and difficulties in funding and logistics, Xu Kemin, an official with the industry ministry, said at a briefing in Beijing.

Allianz Chief Says Virus Hit Insurers ‘Like a Meteorite’ (4:10 p.m. HK)

Allianz SE Chief Executive Officer Oliver Baete said a German government plan to backstop credit insurers is key to preventing the coronavirus crisis from causing more lasting damage. The pandemic has upended insurers’ business models because it’s forced shutdowns across the entire economy and not just in a limited number of cases, Baete said in an interview with Bloomberg Television.

Germany has agreed to backstop losses of 30 billion euros ($33 billion) for commercial credit insurers this year to keep trade flowing and prevent bankruptcies. In return, insurers will surrender 65% of their premiums to the government while continuing to provide coverage. Commercial credit insurers provide cover for businesses in case customers pay bills late or default. Without it, companies could run out of cash.

Russia New Case Growth Rate Slows (3:57 p.m. HK)

Confirmed infections rose by 3,448 in the past day to 27,938, Russian consumer health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor said. At 14%, the daily growth rate is the lowest since April 11. Moscow reported 1,370 new cases compared with 1,774 the day before, the first daily decline since April 11. Total fatalities rose to 232, with 34 people dying overnight.

Barclays Activist to Withhold Vote on CEO Reappointment (3:46 p.m. HK)

Barclays Plc’s top shareholder called for withholding the vote for Chief Executive Officer Jes Staley’s reappointment at its annual general meeting in May. Edward Bramson’s Sherborne Investors Management LP said in a letter on Thursday that given the complexity of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s recommended the move with “great reluctance.”

Nigerian Forces Imposing Virus Controls Kill 18 (3:46 p.m. HK)

Security personnel in Nigeria have killed at least 18 people enforcing restrictions introduced to slow the spread of coronavirus, ThisDay reported, citing a report by the National Human Rights Commission.

“Whereas Covid-19 has led to the death of about 11 patients to date, law-enforcement agents have extra-judicially executed 18 persons to enforce the regulations,” the Lagos-based newspaper said, citing NHRC Executive Secretary Tony Ojukwu.

Informa to Sell Stock as Virus Hits Events (3:26 p.m. HK)

British events manager and publisher Informa Plc is selling as much as $1.3 billion of stock to shore up its finances after the pandemic shut down industry conferences. Informa joins other companies selling shares, such as retailers WH Smith Plc and Asos Plc, with lockdowns and social-distancing measures wreaking havoc on corporate balance sheets.

IMF Suggests Brexit Trade Talks Should be Extended (3:14 p.m. HK)

The U.K. and European Union would be “wise not to add more” to the uncertainty from the virus by refusing to extend the deadline of their Brexit trade deal negotiations, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva told the BBC.

Swedish PM Defends Controversial Virus Strategy (3:05 p.m. HK)

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said he was sticking with the government’s laxer policy response to the virus — amid unrelenting international scrutiny. “I think the strategy is holding up,” he told Aftonbladet. “People are taking responsibility, and it wouldn’t be sustainable to shut down the entire society.”

There are lockdowns across much of Europe, but the more than 10 million people living in Sweden have been allowed to lead fairly normal lives, sending children to school, going to the gym and visiting restaurants.

Swiss Minister to Propose Opening Schools in May (2:57 p.m. HK)

Swiss Interior Minister Alain Berset will proposere-opening schools on May 11, part of a three-phase plan he’ll present to his fellow cabinet members, newspaper Tages-Anzeiger reported. Authorities are expected to hold a press conference Thursday to lay out how they’ll wind down restrictions on public life imposed due to the virus.

Apple Chipmaker TSMC Expects Quarterly Sales to Rise (2:42 p.m. HK)

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. forecast revenue growth of roughly 30% this quarter, suggesting the chipmaker to Apple Inc. and Huawei Technologies Co. is confident of resilient demandfor advanced semiconductors during a pandemic-induced downturn.

It expects revenue of between $10.1 billion and $10.4 billion from April to June. The forecast followed a near-doubling of net income to NT$116.99 billion ($3.9 billion) for the three months ended March, when demand for advanced silicon remained steady during the pandemic.

EasyJet Gets New Loans, Plans Jet Sales (2:36 p.m. HK)

Britain’s biggest discount airline, EasyJet Plc, stepped up efforts to boost cash reserves and ride out the pandemic, saying it now has sufficient resources to see it through the end of the year at least. It has secured loans totaling 400 million pounds ($500 million) against its aircraft fleet, it said in a statement, and talks are also underway to raise as much as 550 million pounds from selling jets to leasing firms.

Abe to Declare Nationwide State of Emergency (2:31 p.m. HK)

PM Abe will declare a nationwide state of emergency, expanding it from seven areas declared earlier this month, Yomiuri reported on its website. The government had been expected to add only a handful of areas. The state of emergency will last until May 6, Yomiuri said.

Tokyo found 149 new cases of coronavirus Thursday, broadcaster NTV reported, without attribution.

Poland to Reopen Parks in First Step of Lockdown Exit (2:30 p.m. HK)

The European country’s government is yet to make final decisions on a plan to lift the restrictions, and its cabinet is to make an announcement later in the day, Deputy Prime Minister Jacek Sasin said in a RMF radio interview. Parks could reopen to the public as early as next week, when authorities may also ease restrictions on the number of people in grocery stores, supermarkets and probably churches.

Germany Cases Climb for First Time in a Week (1:27 p.m. HK)

The country saw 2,543 new infections, taking its total to 134,753, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The number of fatalities rose by 309 to 3,804.

“The epidemic has not gone,” Chancellery Minister Helge Braun said in an interview with ARD TV. “We have slowed it massively and that is a great achievement by the people in Germany, and that’s why we have to take things in very, very small steps when it comes to opening things up again.”

Indonesia Could See $10 Billion Tourism Hit (1:20 p.m. HK)

The Southeast Asian nation’s tourism industry may suffer a more than $10 billion loss this year as the virus brings air travel and leisure industry to a near standstill, said Wishnutama Kusubandio, its minister for tourism and creative economy. The number of foreign tourists could fall to 5 million, from more than 16 million last year, he said, and authorities are preparing a social safety net for tourism workers and some stimulus for businesses in the industry.

Cathay Passenger Traffic Just 1% of Usual (12:23 p.m. HK)

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. expects passenger numbers to stay below 1,000 a day this month compared with the usual 100,000 as it operates at just 3% of normal capacity. The Hong Kong-based airline said it is impossible to predict when demand will improve as the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic is intensifying. On one day earlier this week, Cathay and Cathay Dragon carried only 302 passengers.

Turkey Enables Sovereign Fund Support for Economy (12:08 p.m. HK)

Turkey allowed its sovereign wealth fund, known by its Turkish initials TVF, to take over private companies in distress as part of a series of economic measures to help the Middle East’s largest economy survive the virus. The legislation lays the groundwork for what could be a major transformation of policy by Turkey’s government to wrest back control over swathes of the economy following the pandemic — as a growing number of non-financial companies could fall under the state’s direct control in coming years.

United Bracing for ‘Essentially Zero’ Demand Post-Aid (11:11 a.m. HK)

United Airlines Holdings Inc. is warning employeesof bleak times and potential long-term payroll cuts despite billions of dollars in taxpayer assistance. It will make further cuts to its flight schedule in May — with similar cuts in store for June. “Travel demand is essentially zero and shows no sign of improving in the near term,” Chief Executive Officer Oscar Munoz and President Scott Kirby wrote in a message to employees. Airlines face a crisis as the pandemic and government travel restrictions force would-be travelers to stay home.

FDA Shifts Covid-19 Stance on Vaping, Smoking Impact (10:22 a.m. HK)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration modified its stance on the virus and vaping, saying it had an unknown effect on the risk of the illness — while warning that smoking can create worse outcomes. “E-cigarette use can expose the lungs to toxic chemicals, but whether those exposures increase the risk of Covid-19 is not known,” it said, responding to a question from Bloomberg News. The agency had said late last month that vapers and smokers with underlying health conditions might be at a higher risk from complications.

Australia Unexpectedly Adds Jobs (9:39 a.m. HK)

The rise was likely bolstered by hiring at supermarkets and associated supply chains to assist with the spending surge ahead of the virus-induced lockdown — confounding the expectations of most economists. Australia saw its jobless rate edge up to 5.2% from 5.1% in February versus economists’ median estimate of 5.4%, data from the statistics bureau showed in Sydney. The participation rate held at 66%.

China Reports No Additional Deaths (8:41 a.m. HK)

China said it had 46 additional coronavirus cases on Wednesday, with 34 of them imported and no new deaths from the disease, according to statement from the country’s National Health Commission. It reported 64 so-called asymptomatic cases.

China had 1,032 asymptomatic coronavirus cases under medical observation as of April 15. In total, the country, where the virus first emerged late last year, has 82,341 confirmed cases. Its death toll stands at 3,342.

Dorm Infections Push Singapore Cases to Record (8:22 a.m. HK)

Singapore reported its highest daily increase of coronavirus cases on Wednesday as infections surge among low-wage foreign workers housed in dormitories. Authorities said an additional 447 cases were confirmed, bringing the total to 3,699 in the country. Of the new cases, more than 400 infections — about 90% — are tied to facilities that house the migrant workers in close quarters, according to a government statement.

IMF Sees Asia Pacific Growth at a Standstill in 2020 (8:02 a.m. HK)

Economic growth in the Asia Pacific region will likely slow to a standstill this year, something that hasn’t happened in the last 60 years, according to the International Monetary Fund. The economic blow from coronavirus is shaping up to be far worse than other crises, according to the IMF’s outlook.

Royal Caribbean Cuts More Than 1,300 U.S. Jobs (7:47 a.m. HK)

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. is cutting more than 1,300 U.S. jobs after the pandemic forced the industry to halt operations. The reductions amount to about 26% of the company’s more than 5,000 U.S. workers, Royal Caribbean said.

South Korea Leader’s Party Wins Big During Pandemic (7:42 a.m. HK)

South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s ruling party scored a landslide victory in parliamentary elections held in the throes of the pandemic, signaling to global leaders a strong response to the virus can translate into votes.

The country on Thursday unveiled a second extra budget worth 7.6 trillion won ($6.2 billion) to pay for emergency cash handouts to people as the virus threatens jobs and wages. It reported 22 new virus cases in 24 hours, for a total of 10,613.

— Bloomberg

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