World leaders call for $200bn in aid to help poor countries fight pandemic
Jonathan Wheatley in London
A group of world leaders led by Gordon Brown, the former UK prime minister, has called on advanced economies to approve immediately a package of almost $200bn to help the world’s poorest countries fight the coronavirus crisis.
In a letter to the G20 group of the world’s richest advanced and developing countries, the group of 165 past and former leaders called for a commitment “within days” to deliver $8bn for vaccines and other treatments; $35bn for ventilators, test kits, personal protection and other equipment; and a further $150bn to support health systems and economies and prevent a second wave of Covid-19.
“Much has been done by national governments to counter the downward slide of their economies,” the letter reads. “But a global economic problem requires a global economic response. Our aim should be to prevent a liquidity crisis turning into a solvency crisis, and a global recession becoming a global depression.”
The call follows an appeal by the IMF and the World Bank for a suspension of debt repayments on country-to-country loans by G20 members to poor countries, which would relieve them of an estimated $14bn in debt service this year. The G20 has yet to respond to the appeal, made on March 25, but has promised to do so at its next virtual meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors on April 15.
Asia-Pacific stocks climb following Wall Street rally
Asia-Pacific stocks rose on Tuesday, climbing for a second day to extend a global rally sparked by signs that the coronavirus outbreak was stabilising in some of the regions worst hit by the virus.
Japan’s Topix gained 2.1 per cent, the Kospi in Seoul was up 2 per cent and in Australia the S&P/ASX 200 rose 1.3 per cent.
Overnight on Wall Street, the US benchmark S&P 500 closed up 7 per cent after a late rally and London’s FTSE 100 closed 3.1 per cent after Asian stock markets kicked off the week with gains.
S&P 500 futures pointed to a 0.8 per cent gain when US markets reopen.
The moves came after governments in Europe, including France and Spain, set up expert committees to examine how to ease lockdown measures while avoiding a second spike in infections.
Austria on Monday set out plans to become the first European country to ease its lockdown, announcing some shops could re-open as early as next week.
Samsung says higher chip demand boosted profits in first quarter
Song Jung-a in Seoul
Samsung has projected a slight increase in first-quarter operating profit on higher demand for computer chips, even as the company began to feel the pinch directly from the widening coronavirus pandemic.
The world’s largest maker of memory chips, mobile phones and flat panel displays, estimated that its operating profit rose 2.73 per cent year-on-year to Won6.4tn ($5.23bn) in the first three months of this year while sales were estimated to have increased 4.98 per cent to Won55tn.
The company’s estimates slightly beat analysts’ expectations, as chip demand rose on the global shift to working from home, video conferencing and digital entertainment amid lockdowns in many parts of the world.
But the fast spread of Covid-19 has damped demand for mobile phones and other consumer electronics and growing uncertainties also cast a cloud over its earnings for the second quarter, analysts said. They warned that the nascent chip recovery could be derailed should the pandemic persist into the second half, disrupting supply chains and weighing heavily on consumer demand.
Samsung is the first major global technology company to present its first-quarter guidance, offering a glimpse into how the pandemic affects global demand for technology products.
Samsung has had to close some of its factories and retail stores in Europe, India and the US as the virus spread around the world. Its shares have fallen about 9 per cent for the year to date, while the benchmark Kospi Composite Index has tumbled 16 per cent.
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The Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled the state’s elections will go ahead on Tuesday despite public health concerns about the spread of coronavirus. More than a dozen states have delayed their primaries in response to the coronavirus crisis, and the Democratic National Committee last week postponed its nominating convention from July to August.
Facebook is adding new tools to allow researchers to analyse users’ high-level mobile location data, as part of efforts to track the spread of coronavirus and social distancing efforts. The social media company said on Monday that it was expanding an existing tie-up with academic researchers, its Data for Good programme.
Donald Trump said he had asked therapeutic companies working with the US to contact Boris Johnson’s doctors immediately. Mr Trump said he had been on the phone earlier in the day with multiple therapeutic companies that were working with the US government.
A US Navy hospital ship that is already docked in New York will treat coronavirus patients, a reversal in policy after non-virus trauma cases in the city declined. The move will add 1,000 more hospital beds as the city battles the pandemic.
Boeing continues to halt operations around the US because of coronavirus, saying it would indefinitely suspend production of 787 Dreamliners in South Carolina. The company has already temporarily closed factories in Washington state and suburban Philadelphia.
Leaders across Britain and the world expressed their hopes Boris Johnson has a speedy recovery after the UK prime minister was moved to intensive care in a London hospital on Monday evening when his coronavirus symptoms worsened. Among them was Emmanuel Macron, the French president, who posted on Twitter to offer his support for Mr Johnson, his family and the British people “at this difficult time”.
Dominic Raab, the British foreign secretary who has been tapped by Boris Johnson to fill in after the UK prime minister was admitted to intensive care, said in a brief television appearance that the government would continue to implement Mr Johnson’s plans to get through the coronavirus crisis.
Fiat Chrysler said on Monday it planned to re-open plants in the US and Canada on May 4. The automaker shut down its factories in North America along with Ford and General Motors after negotiating a deal with the United Auto Workers union, whose members were worried about the spread of coronavirus.
23andme, the direct-to-consumer genetic testing company, is launching a study to examine whether genes affect the severity of a coronavirus patient’s condition. The company plans to enroll hundreds of thousands in the study, both with and without Covid-19 symptoms, monitoring their condition through regular online surveys.
Mexico coronavirus cases rise as business leaders seek support
Jude Webber in Mexico City
Mexico’s new confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths rose at a faster pace than the previous day as business leaders held three hours of talks with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador after his refusal to grant measures that they say will preserve jobs.
The number of coronavirus cases in the country rose nearly 14 per cent to 2,439 with the number of deaths climbing to 125 on Monday.
Carlos Salazar, head of the main business lobby, told a news conference that they had found “the door shut” to all proposals of how to mitigate the impact of the looming economic crisis and it was “not our fault” that their suggestions had been shunned.
Business leaders were summoned to a meeting in the national palace on Monday afternoon but it was not immediately clear if any new agreements were reached.
Economists say Mexico is headed for the region’s biggest economic contraction but Mr López Obrador has refused to take on debt for stimulus packages, as other countries have done.
He has focused his attention on Mexico’s poor, saying all those in poverty will be the recipients of social programmes by the end of the year and he will expand them to boost employment. He has also promised a range of low-interest loans, housing loans and public works projects to get the economy going.
While refusing to grant a tax deferment for businesses that are facing a month-long shutdown until April 30, he said Pemex, the struggling state oil company, would be given tax breaks worth 65bn pesos ($2.6bn).
China calls for checks on land borders to curb imported coronavirus cases
Christian Shepherd in Beijing
China’s leadership has warned officials to guard against coronavirus entering the country over land borders, after a spike in cases imported from Russia were found in north-eastern Heilongjiang province, which adjoins Siberia.
For the second day in a row, the Heilongjiang government on Tuesday reported 20 new cases confirmed in the province, all Chinese citizens who had come from Russia.
The infections accounted for the majority of the 32 additional infections announced by China’s health commission that day. All of those cases were imported. There were no new deaths linked to coronavirus.
A meeting of the Chinese Communist party politburo standing committee on Monday said that imported cases from land borders had now overtaken those flying into the country and called for stricter checks on crossings.
In a bid to avoid a second wave of the coronavirus outbreak, China has drastically reduced air travel to and from the country, as well as barring almost all foreign nationals from entering.
Toilet paper and food sales support Japanese household spending
Robin Harding in Tokyo
Japanese wages and consumption showed the early signs of a coronavirus impact in February, but spending on food and toilet paper offset the early drag.
Real consumption fell by 0.3 per cent compared with a year earlier, well ahead of analyst forecasts for a 3.9 per cent decline, as a jump in spending on household goods offset reduced spending on education and tourism.
Rumours over possible toilet paper shortages sparked panic buying in February.
Cash earnings rose by 1 per cent, lower than analyst forecasts of a 2.1 per cent increase, but working hours continued to fall. Marcel Thieliant of Capital Economics said that leading indicators pointed to a rise in unemployment that would put downward pressure on wages. “The upshot is that wages may fall as much as 2 per cent this year,” he wrote in a note.
The data suggest that coronavirus had only a modest impact on Japan’s economy before March, when school closures began.
Speculation mounts on whereabouts of Nicaragua president Daniel Ortega
Jude Webber in Mexico City
Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega has not been seen in public since March 12, prompting reports on social media that he may be in quarantine, or heading to Cuba for medical treatment, or that he might even have died.
The president did not even emerge for the funeral of his former comrade-in-arms and jailmate, Jacinto Suárez, last week. The two men were imprisoned under the Somoza dictatorship in the 1970s, which the Sandinista rebels overthrew, leading to Mr Ortega taking power for the first time in 1979. He has ruled the central American country since 2007 and for 24 of the past 41 years.
Mr Ortega’s wife and vice-president, Rosario Murillo, remains the mouthpiece of the government and in recent weeks has called Nicaraguans to a “Love in the time of Covid-19” rally and a “Welcome to summer” marathon.
The government, which has not cancelled Easter events, has also sent brigades to go house-to-house to explain hygiene measures but has refused to implement any quarantine. The government has called extended Easter school holidays, from April 4 to 19, but has not put in place any other measures to slow the spread of the virus.
As of Monday, the health ministry had reported just three cases of coronavirus and no community transmission. It said two people had recovered and just one coronavirus death had been recorded. The figures are well below those in neighbouring countries. Honduras, to the north of Nicaragua, has confirmed 298 cases and 22 deaths, while Costa Rica, to the south, has 467 confirmed cases and two deaths.
Trump reaches deal with 3M to import 166.5m masks
James Politi in Washington
The Trump administration has reached a deal with 3M, the US manufacturer, to import 166.5m N95 respirator masks into America from abroad in the coming months, easing tensions between the White House and the Minnesota-based company that had flared up during the coronavirus pandemic.
The agreement was announced by Donald Trump, the US president, at his daily news briefing on the administration’s response to the expanding disease on Monday afternoon.
Crucially, it will allow 3M to continue selling its US-made N95 masks to Canada and Latin America, which had been threatened by a crackdown by the Trump administration on exports of protective medical equipment. N95 masks are used to protect hospital workers from infection with coronavirus.
“So the 3M saga ends very happily,” Mr Trump said.
Mike Roman, the chief executive of 3M, later confirmed details of the deal and said: “We share the same goals of providing much-needed respirators to Americans across our country and combating criminals who seek to take advantage of the current crisis”.
According to the terms of the deal, 3M will import 55m masks a month into the US for three months, mainly from a flagship facility in China.
Philippines extends lockdown for Luzon island to April 30
John Reed in Bangkok
The Philippine government has extended a lockdown on Luzon island, the country’s main economic hub and home to some 57m people, for another half month until April 30 as the number of coronavirus cases continues to climb.
Karlo Nograles, cabinet secretary, announced the decision at a briefing on Tuesday, which came after President Rodrigo Duterte said he was thinking of extending the lockdown in a speech on Monday night.
Mr Duterte announced he was putting Luzon under “enhanced community quarantine” on March 18, with residents told at the time the lockdown would end on April 12, Easter Sunday.
The Philippines had reported 3,660 cases of Covid-19 as of Monday, 163 of which resulted in deaths. As in some of Asia’s other developing countries, the true incidence of the disease is thought to be higher because less testing takes place than in richer countries like South Korea and Singapore.
Trump threatens ‘retaliation’ if India does not release drug touted as virus cure
Stephanie Findlay in New Delhi
US President Donald Trump has threatened “retaliation” if India does not release orders of hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug that has been touted as a potential cure for coronavirus.
At a briefing in Washington, Mr Trump said he had asked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to release orders of the drug after New Delhi banned all exports over the weekend.
“I spoke to him Sunday morning, I said we’d appreciate your allowing our supply to come out,” said Mr Trump. “If he doesn’t allow it to come out that would be okay, but of course there may be retaliation, why wouldn’t there be?”
Mr Trump has repeatedly cited hydroxychloroquine as a “game changer” that will help treat Covid-19 cases, but the drug has yet to be approved by the US FDA.
India, one of the world’s largest exporters of the drug, which is also used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, has approved its use for individuals at high risk of being infected by coronavirus, including healthcare workers, as it works to contain its outbreak.
Other world leaders have joined Mr Trump’s call for India to release the drug. On Saturday, Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro said in a tweet that he had also requested hydroxychloroquine from Mr Modi.
Mexico outlines lockdown exemptions for infrastructure projects
Jude Webber in Mexico City
Mexico has decreed that steel, cement and glass companies working on the government’s controversial airport, train and refinery projects are not affected by the month-long coronavirus lockdown set to last until the end of April.
“Those companies producing steel, cement and glass who have current contracts with the federal government will continue activities enabling them to meet short-term commitments exclusively for the projects of Dos Bocas [refinery], the Maya Train, the Felipe Angeles airport, Transisthmus corridor,” said the decree, published in the official gazette on Monday night.
Projects deemed indispensable to state oil company Petóleos Mexicanos and the Federal Electricity Commission would also be able to continue.
It was the second time in less than a week that the government had published a decree at night. Last week, it announced that it was winding up public trusts in a late-night decree.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador sees the infrastructure projects as major generators of jobs that will help Mexico emerge speedily from the coronavirus crisis. He is putting his faith in them and in his social programmes, rather than tax breaks and a large stimulus package.
The decree also said coal mining activity would continue to meet the needs of the state-owned electricity company.
Asia stocks build on Wall Street momentum
Thomas Hale in Hong Kong
Asia equity markets moved higher on Tuesday, as a wave of initial optimism over the virus’s spread that had driven a sharp rally on Wall Street faded into caution.
Japan’s Topix was up 1 per cent, having earlier risen by as much as 2.7 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index added 0.3 per cent, and China’s CSI index rose 2 per cent, while in Sydney, the S&P/ASX 200 reversed initial gains to trade down 1.4 per cent.
A positive open for stocks in Asia built on momentum from the US, where the S&P 500 had its best day in a fortnight — and its eighth best since the end of the second world war — after signs the coronavirus outbreak may have peaked in the worst-affected countries.
While that optimism weakened slightly through Tuesday morning, markets across the Asia-Pacific region still signalled a cautious embrace of an emerging narrative that the so-called coronavirus curve, a measure of how rapidly the disease is spreading, is flattening.
Boris Johnson’s condition – what we know
Good morning from London, here is what we know about the condition of UK prime minister Boris Johnson:
• Mr Johnson has spent the night in intensive care at St Thomas’ hospital in London, after he was moved into the unit on Monday evening.
• The prime minister was transferred at 7pm as a precaution in case he should need a ventilator.
• Downing Street has not released any new information this morning, but last night said Mr Johnson remained conscious.
• He had been suffering from what had been described as “mild symptoms” of the virus for nine days, and was moved into hospital on Sunday night.
• Dominic Raab, the first secretary of state and foreign secretary, is deputising for the prime minister.
Poland prepares for an election by post in May
James Shotter in Warsaw
Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party has voted through a bill that would allow the presidential election in May to be held exclusively by postal ballot, as it struggles to avoid postponing the election owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
The bill, pushed through the lower house of parliament by Law and Justice MPs late on Monday night, also allows the election — scheduled for May 10 — to be postponed if the pandemic makes holding it on that date impossible.
Like many other EU countries, Poland is in lockdown as it attempts to stop the spread of the virus, which has so far infected 4,413 and killed 107 people in the central European country. Prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Monday that he expected infections to peak in May or June.
But with its candidate, incumbent Andrzej Duda leading in the polls, Law and Justice is keen to avoid postponing the election.
European stocks set for gains
European equities were set to build on yesterday’s gains as a cautious optimism rippled through global stock markets that the spread of the virus was decelerating.
Futures trade pointed to a 1.3 per cent rise at the open for the continent-wide Stoxx 600, building on yesterday’s 4.1 per cent gain.
In Germany, the Dax was set for a 2.6 per cent rise; France’s Cac was on track for a 2 per cent climb; and the FTSE 100 was primed for a 1.4 per cent boost.
That follows widespread gains in Asia and the best day for US stocks in two weeks.
The daily death toll in Europe’s worst hit countries has begun to decline, fuelling market optimism. Austria yesterday announced plans to become the continent’s first country to ease restrictions in a sign that the worst of Europe’s difficulties may be coming to an end.
Reserve Bank of Australia considers winding back QE
Jamie Smyth in Sydney
Australia’s central bank has said it may wind back the scale of its quantitative easing programme as market volatility has reduced.
Philip Lowe, governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, said its actions had achieved its target of maintaining yields on three-year government bonds at around a quarter of a percentage point.
On Tuesday, the board reaffirmed its target for the cash rate and the yield on three-year government bonds, and said the functioning of the government bond market had improved.
Mr Lowe said if conditions continued to improve the bank would reduce the frequency and scale of its bond purchases.
The central bank has bought about A$36bn of federal and state government bonds in secondary markets since the programme was announced on March 19.
Plus500 revenues surge as financial tumult drives boom in trading
A surge in financial market volatility drew customers to Plus500’s trading platform in the first quarter, prompting a sharp jump in the spread-betting firm’s revenues.
The London-listed group said revenues rose sixfold to $316.6m in the first three months of 2020 compared with the same period a year ago. That’s the equivalent to 89 per cent of full-year revenue for 2019. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation were $231.6m for the quarter.
“This has been achieved as a result of significantly increased volatility across global financial markets, which has in turn driven higher levels of customer trading activity coupled with an increased rate of new customer acquisition,” the group said in a trading update on Tuesday.
The FTSE 250 group, which focuses on leveraged trading in contracts for difference, a risky type of derivatives trade known as CFDs, said the number of active customers nearly doubled to 194,024 in the first quarter, with the tally of new customers rising 289 per cent.
“The majority of new customers came from higher value jurisdictions, which the group believes will deliver attractive customer lifetime value,” it said.
Indonesia raises $4.3bn in debt to finance Covid-19 recovery
Primrose Riordan in Hong Kong
Indonesia, which is struggling to slow the spread of the virus across the archipelago, has raised $4.3bn on debt markets after issuing “pandemic bonds”, including the region’s first 50-year government debt, to help fund its recovery effort.
The bonds were sold in three tranches, one 10.5-year tranche worth $1.65bn, another with a 30.5-year tenor also worth $1.65bn and the third 50-year tranche worth $1bn, according to a term sheet seen by the Financial Times.
The bonds are to be used to fund Covid-19 “relief and recovery”. The 50-year sovereign bond was the first in Asia, excluding rolling hybrids.
Finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said the government’s new policies, which include the use of government bonds, would finance additional spending on health, social safety nets, and support for businesses.
The issuance comes amid concerns about Indonesia’s ability to manage its response to the virus as infections among health workers rise.
Citibank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Standard Chartered and Deutsche Bank advised on the deal.
Cineworld cuts dividends and executive pay
Alice Hancock in London
Cineworld, the second-largest global cinema chain, became the latest in a string of hospitality and retail companies to cut its dividend and executive pay as the coronavirus lockdown bites.
The UK-based company also said that it was continuing to “monitor progress” of its $2.1bn deal to buy the Canadian cinema group Cineplex — the first time it has hinted that there could be delays.
The deal was expected to be completed by the end of June and is under review by Canadian authorities.
Cineworld has shut all of its 787 cinemas in 10 countries and said that it was making “every effort” to mitigate the financial impact. It has suspended all quarterly dividends this year and executive directors have agreed not to take any salaries or bonuses.
The chain added that it was also discussing liquidity requirements with its lending banks.
Japan to gamble on partial lockdown to control coronavirus
Robin Harding in Tokyo
Japan will gamble that it can control the spread of coronavirus without a full lockdown as prime minister Shinzo Abe prepares to declare an unprecedented “state of emergency”.
The declaration, expected on Tuesday evening local time, will give governors in seven prefectures the power to request business closures in order to increase social distancing. It follows a rise in the number of coronavirus cases in Japan to more than 4,000 nationwide.
However, the closures will not be compulsory and many shops, restaurants and factories will be allowed to stay open in order to keep the economy going, raising questions about how effective the new measures will be.
“Even with the state of emergency declaration, the expert opinion is we do not need to lock down our cities like they have done abroad,” said Mr Abe, who pledged a ¥39tn ($359bn) package of public support equivalent to around 7 per cent of annual economic output. “As a government, we aim to minimise the impact on the economy and society.”
The state of emergency will initially apply to seven urban prefectures that make up about half of Japan’s economy — Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Osaka, Hyogo and Fukuoka — but government officials said the list may expand. It will last for one month, unless renewed.
Mr Abe’s experiment is likely to be closely watched by other countries because it will test whether a country can control Covid-19 without a full lockdown, despite having a significant number of cases and no mass testing for coronavirus.
Gove: Ministers working together as PM is treated in intensive care
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has said ministers are working together to make decisions in the absence of prime minister Boris Johnson, who is receiving treatment in intensive care after his condition deteriorated.
“The work of government goes on,” Mr Gove told BBC TV.
We are all working together to implement the plan the prime minister set out in order to try to ensure that we can marshal all the resources of government, indeed all the resources of our country, in the fight against this invisible enemy.
Dominic Raab, the first secretary of state, is chairing government meetings in the absence of the prime minister, but Mr Gove said all decisions have been taken collectively.
“We have proceeded completely by consensus, and we do so in a team way following the scientific advice and medical advice,” he said.
Mr Gove, who said he has not spoken to the prime minister in several days, defended Mr Johnson’s decision to keep working even after he contracted the virus, saying medical advice had been followed “at every stage”.
“We all hope that he can be restored to health as quickly as possible, and that’s all we are thinking about at the moment,” he added.
Whatsapp restricts forwarding of messages to reduce misinformation
Mark Di Stefano in London
WhatsApp will put new restrictions on the number of people who can be forwarded messages in a bid to slow the rapid spread of viral hoaxes, scams and misinformation being circulated about coronavirus on the messaging platform.
The Facebook-owned company said the new conditions will be placed on “frequently forwarded messages” – those that show up in message chats with a double arrow at the top of the message box – which indicates they have been forwarded at least five times previously.
Now, WhatsApp will restrict users to forwarding these to only one other person at a time.
“(We’ve) seen a significant increase in the amount of forwarding which users have told us can feel overwhelming and can contribute to the spread of misinformation,” the company said. “We believe it’s important to slow the spread of these messages down to keep WhatsApp a place for personal conversation.”
In the past few weeks, unproven claims or deliberately malicious messages around coronavirus have spread on messaging platforms, with the UK government calling on the US tech companies to do more to clamp down on the material.
European stocks climb on further signs Covid-19 crisis is easing
Thomas Hale in Hong Kong and Myles McCormick in London
European equities opened higher, building on yesterday’s gains, as a cautious optimism rippled through global stock markets that the spread of coronavirus was decelerating.
The continent-wide Stoxx Europe 600 added 2.6 per cent as markets opened, with gains of 3.3 per cent for London’s FTSE 100, 3.4 per cent for the CAC 40 in Paris and 3.9 per cent for Frankfurt’s Dax 30.
The positive mood in Europe mirrored that in Asian trading, where equity markets climbed for a second day, and built on a Wall Street rally that saw the S&P 500 surge 7 per cent.
Trading across the Asia-Pacific region signalled a cautious embrace of an emerging narrative that the so-called coronavirus curve, a measure of how rapidly the disease is spreading, is flattening.
Austria is on course to become Europe’s first country to ease strict quarantine measures, while the daily death toll in Spain, Italy and France is continuing to decrease.
India backpedals on ban of hydroxychloroquine exports
Stephanie Findlay in New Delhi
India appeared to soften its export ban of hydroxychloroquine after US President Donald Trump threatened to retaliate if New Delhi did not fulfill existing orders of the potential coronavirus treatment.
In a statement on Tuesday, India’s ministry of external affairs said that while exports of hydroxychloroquine would remain restricted “the stock position could allow our companies to meet the export commitments that they had contracted”.
“In view of the humanitarian aspects of the pandemic, it has been decided that India would license paracetamol and HCQ [ hydroxychloroquine] in appropriate quantities to all our neighbouring countries who are dependent on our capabilities,” said the statement.
“We will also be supplying these essential drugs to some nations who have been particularly badly affected by the pandemic.” The ministry did not clarify which countries would qualify for shipments.
India, one of the largest hydroxychloroquine exporters in the world, placed a blanket ban on the export of the drug on Saturday as it raced to contain an outbreak of coronavirus that threatens to overwhelm its fragile health care system.
Mr Trump has repeatedly referred to the drug as a “game changer”, despite a lack of large clinical trials on its effectiveness in treating coronavirus.
German manufacturing forecasts tumble as gloom deepens
Martin Arnold in Frankfurt
Production expectations in Germany’s manufacturing sector have plummeted at their fastest ever rate in March, a survey shows, underlining how the industrial powerhouse of Europe’s largest economy is heading for a severe downturn.
The Ifo index of production expectations plunged from 2.0 in February to minus 20.8, its steepest fall since the survey started in 1991 that even outstripped the 13.3 point drop during the depths of the financial crisis in November 2008.
The Munich-based economic institute warned of worse to come. “We are assuming that this development is still somewhat underestimated, as most of the answers were received by mid-March,” said Klaus Wohlrabe, head of surveys at Ifo.
Sentiment about future production dropped across almost all industry sub-sectors, with the most severe falls in the automotive industry, rubber and plastic manufacturing, mechanical engineering, metal production and processing, textile and clothing makers.
The only positive outlook was in the beverage industry, where the index fell from 26 to 6.4, while the index for food producers fell from 20 to minus 3.8. The virus crisis has not done much to help pharmaceutical manufacturing, for which the index fell to minus 19.
The survey was published on Tuesday as the Federal Statistics Agency announced that German industrial production rose 0.3 per cent in February. But that was before the lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic caused many factories to close or cut output.
The UK’s front pages
The UK’s newspapers all reflect Boris Johnson’s treatment in intensive care, where he has been taken after his coronavirus infection worsened on Monday.
The Daily Mirror said the prime minister faces a “fight for life”, while the Daily Mail reported there was “shock” after news of his condition was revealed. The Telegraph, where Mr Johnson previously worked as a reporter and then columnist, said the Queen is being kept informed of the situation.
Iran’s parliament resumes as country starts returning to normal
Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran
Iran’s parliament resumed work on Tuesday after more than one month of closure and in the absence of Ali Larijani, the speaker, who along with two dozen members is infected with coronavirus.
Masoud Pezeshkian, a deputy to the speaker, said on the parliament floor that the session would mainly deal with the economic consequences of Covid-19 and the state of the healthcare system.
The Islamic republic has started returning to normal this week after concerns for an economy already hit by US sanctions. Iran’s economy minister Farhad Dejpasand said 15 per cent of gross domestic product was damaged as a result of the respiratory illness.
Many families who can afford self-isolation, had said they would not return their children to schools — which will be closed for two more weeks — unless state bodies such as the parliament and other senior officials began to meet normally.
Johnson remains in intensive care but not on ventilation
George Parker in London
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson remained in intensive care on Tuesday morning, with cabinet colleagues confirming that he had received oxygen treatment for his worsening coronavirus symptoms but that he was not receiving ventilation.
Michael Gove, cabinet office minister, said Mr Johnson’s deteriorating condition on Monday afternoon had been “a cause for concern” but asked if Mr Johnson had been diagnosed with pneumonia, Mr Gove said: “I’m not aware of that.”
Mr Johnson has asked Dominic Raab, first secretary of state, to deputise for him “as necessary”, but Mr Gove declined to say whether Mr Raab had been given key duties relating to Britain’s national security, including relating to its nuclear deterrent.
Asked whether Mr Raab would carry out Mr Johnson’s wider executive functions while he remained in intensive care, Mr Gove said: “The prime minister always remains the prime minister.”
There’s no suggestion of anything other than a great team spirit in this government as we all work together at this time.
The cabinet office minister said Mr Johnson was a robust figure: “He has amazing energy, great determination, a desire all the time to make sure things are moving forward.”
“He’s a force of nature, a bundle of energy, determined to do the very best for the country he loves,” Mr Gove told the BBC’s Today programme. He said Mr Johnson had followed medical advice over the last week and had been given a “stripped back diary”.
OECD boss says eurobonds would benefit Germany too
Martin Arnold in Frankfurt
Ángel Gurría, secretary-general of the OECD, has added his voice to those calling for EU nations to jointly issue debt in the form of eurobonds that he said would be “a powerful and efficient” response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Sharing financial risks is the next necessary step in European integration,” said Mr Gurría, in an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper published on Tuesday.
“The coronavirus crisis relentlessly confronts the euro countries with the question of whether they are ready for more Europe,” he said. “I think it is legitimate if this form of aid is linked to political requirements.”
France, Italy, Spain and six other EU countries have thrown their weight behind the creation of joint financial instruments by the EU. The idea is one of the possible responses to the pandemic due to be discussed by eurozone finance ministers in a call on Tuesday afternoon.
The Mexican head of the OECD, a Paris-based club of mostly rich nations, said eurobonds would be in the interests of all eurozone countries, including the wealthier northern European countries like Germany and the Netherlands that have so far resisted the idea.
Germany reports 3,800 new cases as infection growth rate slows
Tobias Buck in Berlin
Germany reported 3,834 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, an increase of 4 per cent compared with the previous day and further confirmation that the growth rate in new infections is declining.
According to official data from the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, the total number of cases has now reached 99,225. The number of Covid-19 deaths rose by 173 to 1,607.
Germany has the third-highest number of coronavirus cases in Europe, behind Spain and Italy, but its fatality rate remains significantly below that in other countries. According to Tuesday’s data, Germany now has a death rate of 1.6 per cent. In Italy and Spain, it is 12 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.
School closures have limited impact on spread of virus, UCL study finds
School closures have a limited impact on the spread of coronavirus and should be more rigorously weighed against their serious economic impact, according to a study by researchers at University College London.
Data from 16 studies on the Sars outbreak and other coronaviruses in mainland China, Hong Kong and Singapore suggest that school closures did not contribute to the control of the epidemic, concluded the researchers in a paper published in The Lancet on Tuesday.
Data from influenza outbreaks suggest that school closures could have relatively small effects on a virus with Covid-19’s high transmissibility and apparent low clinical effect on school children.
Evidence suggests that during the coronavirus pandemic, school closures alone would prevent 2–4 per cent of deaths, much less than other social distancing interventions, said the researchers, noting that policymakers should consider other “less disruptive” measures in schools to contain the virus.
The adverse effects of school closures cited by researchers include a loss of parental productivity, transmission from children to vulnerable grandparents, loss of education, harm to child welfare (particularly among the most vulnerable pupils) and nutritional problems.
Russia sees record new cases dashing hopes of effective containment
Henry Foy in Moscow
Russia confirmed a record 1,154 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, the first time a daily addition has been over 1,000 people, damping hopes that Moscow has curbed the spread of infections.
The country’s death toll rose to 58 after 11 people died overnight, the country’s coronavirus taskforce said.
Russia’s total of 7,497 cases of Covid-19 is fewer than other major European countries but is steadily growing.
The Kremlin has ordered all citizens to take a holiday for the whole of April and Moscow has imposed an almost total quarantine.
Coronavirus Diaries: Martin Wolf on the pain of family separation
Free to read
“We are used to having the grandchildren regularly in our house. When will that happen again? We have no idea. That is painful,” says Martin Wolf.
Read more: Our other children and grandchildren live on the other side of London. We only see them on Zoom now. It is better than nothing. But it is not the same thing as hugging a beloved child’s wriggling body, adds the FT’s chief economics commentator.
Coronavirus Diaries is an FT series in which people in many different situations share their experiences of trying to work — and live — in this extraordinary time. It will run Monday to Friday
Covid-19 outbreak steadies in Europe but worsens in many US states
Steve Bernard, data visualisation journalist
The Covid-19 pandemic has shown further signs of stabilising in Europe even as the situation worsens in large swaths of the US.
There were 73,135 cases of Covid-19 confirmed worldwide on Monday. The number of new cases has remained steady for the past two days, with the total now at 1.35m. Deaths rose slightly from Monday’s numbers, with 5,227 people losing their lives, bringing the total to 74,799.
After Sunday’s large fall in new cases, the US once again saw over 30,000 people confirmed with Covid-19 on Monday. New York state was hardest hit, adding nearly 9,000 cases and 600 fatalities. There were 10 states that reported a daily rise of over 1,000, as the country continues to struggle with containing the virus.
The lockdowns across Europe appear to be having their desired effect. Many European countries are seeing a significant reduction in the number of new cases and deaths. The improvement has raised hopes that the lockdown measures will be eased soon to help these paralysed economies.
The number of global recovered cases rose by 15,165 yesterday, leaving a total of 278,534 free from the virus.
Iran cancels army parade and redeploys soldiers to fight virus
Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran
Iran’s army has cancelled its annual parade on َApril 17, saying it would instead mobilise forces in the national battle against the coronavirus pandemic.
Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, co-ordinating deputy of the Islamic Republic of Iran Army, said on Tuesday that the forces — which are parallel to the elite Revolutionary Guards — would help healthworkers and distribute “support packages” to the poor as part of a “service parade”.
Saeed Namaki, health minister, told members of parliament on Tuesday that the armed forces had helped his ministry “manage” Covid-19, even as he acknowledged Iran had not yet been able to curb the spread of the virus. He added that 15,000 beds had been set up by the armed forces to quarantine the infected.
Mr Namaki said there was no choice but to start returning to normal life.
“We are in an economic war [with the US] and cannot abandon someone whose bread in the evening is dependent on the socks he sells during the day,” Dr Namaki said. “We have to manage the coronavirus spread without falling into economic collapse.”
MPs call for greater clarity over powers of Johnson’s deputy
The chair of the House of Commons defence committee has called for greater clarity around national security decision-making, as the UK prime minister receives intensive care treatment in a London hospital.
“It is important to have 100 per cent clarity as to where responsibility for UK national security decisions now lies,” Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood said on Tuesday.
Dominic Raab is deputising for Boris Johnson as the prime minister’s coronavirus symptoms have worsened. But the breadth of Mr Raab’s powers are not clear.
Earlier Michael Gove, cabinet office minister, declined to say whether the foreign secretary would carry out Mr Johnson’s wider executive functions including key duties relating to Britain’s national security, such as control of the UK’s nuclear deterrent.
Mr Gove said all decisions had been taken “by consensus”.
Germany unveils coronavirus app that links to fitness kit
Joe Miller in Frankfurt
Germany’s federal health agency has unveiled a coronavirus-tracking app that links to fitness bands and smartwatches, which it says will help map the spread of Covid-19 by monitoring anonymised data for tell-tale signs of infection.
The app asks for permission to access users’ approximate location, and data including resting pulse, sleep and activity levels, which tend to change significantly in the case of acute respiratory diseases. The Robert Koch Institute developed the app in conjunction with Thryve, a Berlin start-up.
“If the number of symptomatic patients can be recorded in a sufficiently large sample, this could help us to draw conclusions earlier on the occurrence of infection, distribution and also the effectiveness of the measures taken,” said Professor Lothar Wieler, president of the Robert Koch Institute.
The number of confirmed Covid-19 infections in Germany has risen to 99,225 while the rate of diagnosed infections has slowed.
Demand for office space in Hong Kong sinks to lowest level in 18 years
Nicolle Liu in Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s commercial property rental market, one of the world’s most expensive, encountered its sharpest drop in the first quarter since the 2008 financial crisis, as the territory’s economy was hit by the impacts of coronavirus.
Rents of the 12 prime buildings that comprise the Central district are down 11.6 per cent compared with the same time last year. Demand for office space has shrunk to its lowest in 18 years, according to research by property services group Cushman and Wakefield.
John Siu, managing director of Cushman and Wakefield said:
With overall availability reaching the 10 per cent benchmark, landlords will become more concerned about back filling the vacant space in their buildings. The market is becoming more tenant-friendly, and demand is expected to remain weak under the impact of the pandemic and potential global economic recession.
Retail rental in major shopping districts also plummeted by 15-20 per cent in the first quarter as retail sales plunged. The vacancy rate in Mongkok, one of Hong Kong’s busiest areas, climbed from 12.7 per cent last quarter to as high as 20 per cent.
Restaurant rents have sunk to around 2010 levels, down around 15 percent from the previous quarter to between HK$55.5 ($7.2) and HK$85.3 per square foot per month in some of the major dining districts.
Coronavirus shows through in UK mortality figures
Chris Giles, Economics Editor
Deaths recorded in England and Wales rose decisively above the five-year-average in the week ending March 27, the Office for National Statistics said, indicating that coronavirus is beginning to show up in overall mortality figures.
The ONS reported preliminary numbers showing 11,141 people died in the 13th week of the year compared with the five-year average of 10,130, an excess of 10 per cent. With less seasonal flu than normal in the 2019-20 winter, this was only the second week since January when deaths had exceeded the longer-term average.
Nearly 5 per cent of deaths mentioned coronavirus on the death certificate, compared with 1 per cent in the previous week as the period now included the phase when deaths of the disease began to increase steeply in hospitals.
The ONS figures include people dying outside hospitals where coronavirus is mentioned as a cause of death, but are delayed and many of the figures for the week ending March 27 will not yet be recorded on death certificates and registered.
With delays registering deaths officially, the ONS said that for England, the number of deaths which had so far been notified to it mentioning Covid-19 was lower than the number of deaths recorded in hospitals for the same period. This was likely to be only a temporary feature of the official statistics, however.
F1 to cut executive pay and furlough half its staff
Samuel Agini in London
Formula One chief executive Chase Carey is among senior staff set to take a pay cut, as part of measures to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic that will also see the racing organisation furlough half its 500 staff.
Senior staff at the global motorsport organisation will take a 20 per cent salary reduction until the end of May, according to a person with knowledge of the matter, with Carey expected to take a bigger cut in a voluntary decision.
Carey said on March 23 that F1 was “committed” to holding a 2020 championship, although he acknowledged the “significant potential for additional postponements”.
The auto racing series, which was acquired for $8bn by Liberty Media in 2016, has already called off eight grands prix to date. It has plans in the works to shorten its season, which could see the total number of races fall to between 14 and 16 rather than 22.
F1 executives believe this will meet the conditions of broadcasting contracts that had a value of about $565m in 2019, equivalent to roughly 40 per cent of F1’s total revenue.
Video: Coronavirus — how frontline NHS medics are coping
An emergency doctor, a general practitioner and a mental health nurse reflect on the challenges they are facing in their daily work and outline how public support is sustaining their morale and combating the spread of the disease.
Produced and edited by James Sandy; motion graphics by Victor Diaconescu; additional footage from Reuters
UK government ‘continues’ in PM’s absence
Senior political figures have said that “government continues” in the absence of the prime minister, as questions grow over the UK’s chain of command.
Boris Johnson has asked Dominic Raab, first secretary of state, to deputise for him “as necessary” as he receives intensive care treatment for his coronavirus symptoms. Senior minister Michael Gove has declined to comment on who will carry out key executive functions such as national security duties.
Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader and minister, said the UK’s cabinet system was well suited to the current situation.
He told the BBC:
I hope I can reassure everyone, having sat at the table myself, the cabinet system of government allows this to happen. It is not a presidential system, we have a prime minister who is first amongst equals. The rest of those equals are still in post.
Former cabinet secretary Lord O’Donnell said the cabinet could work together with the civil service to keep the government running, while Lindsay Hoyle, speaker of the House of Commons, said “government will always continue”.
Also speaking to the BBC, he said:
Whatever happens, no matter how bad it is, the country continues, government continues.
Iceland carries out most tests per population, study finds
Data on the number and types of coronavirus tests being carried out are crucial but are too often incomplete or unavailable, research shows.
Some countries present comprehensive, detailed and regularly updated data, most notably Iceland and Estonia, Our World in Data found, as it attempts to collate and compare testing data across dozens of countries. The initiative is based from the University of Oxford.
The US has performed the most tests overall, followed by Germany, the datasets, for now incomplete, reveal.
Iceland, with its 360,000 people and 27,880 tests conducted, is ahead in terms of tests by population size, followed by Italy.
The researchers said:
Our current knowledge of Covid-19 testing – and more importantly of the pandemic itself – would be greatly improved if all countries were able to report all the testing data available to them in the way shown by the best examples.
Belgian death toll jumps as care home deaths included
Jim Brunsden in Brussels:
Belgium’s death toll from coronavirus has risen by almost a quarter after official figures were updated to include recent deaths in care homes.
The Belgian government’s crisis centre said on Tuesday that more than 2,000 people had died from the virus. In the past 24 hours, 162 deaths were recorded in hospitals, while care homes in the country’s Dutch speaking region had recorded 241 deaths since the start of April of people with coronavirus symptoms.
The number of people in intensive care is broadly stable, with 56 per cent of beds occupied.
A spokesman for the crisis centre said that Belgium’s testing capacity was ramped up in recent weeks through a partnership between the private sector and universities. More than 80,000 tests have been carried out since the start of the crisis.
Testing capacity has strongly increased thanks notably to platforms set up in university labs and also through a joint effort with pharmaceutical and biotech companies and universities..
He said that the country was now ready to widen the range of people eligible for tests. Previously, Belgium had focused testing on people exhibiting severe symptoms.
‘Africa’s Pinochet’ temporarily released from prison in Senegal
Neil Munshi in west Africa
The former dictator of Chad, who was convicted of crimes against humanity in 2015, has become one of the highest profile prisoners to be temporarily released amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Hissène Habré, known as “Africa’s Pinochet” for his brutal rule of the west African country in the 1980s, was granted a 60-day house arrest by authorities in Senegal, where he is serving life in prison. His lawyers had requested the 78-year-old’s release because of the risk of infection in prison.
“He will return to the prison immediately when his permission expires,” Senegal’s justice ministry said in a statement.
Habré had fled to Senegal in 1990 after being deposed by Idriss Déby, who remains Chad’s president. A national inquiry estimated that 40,000 people were killed by his regime during his eight-year reign.
Habré was tried in Senegal, where he had lived comfortably for more than 20 years, by an African Union-backed tribunal in 2013 after years of advocacy by his victims.
Leaders around the world have released low-level offenders and elderly prisoners, following a call by the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights.
Spain’s La Liga faces losses of up to €1bn in suspended matches
Murad Ahmed, Sports Editor
La Liga, Spain’s top football division that includes Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, is facing potential losses of up to €1bn as a result of the suspension of matches owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
The competition is unlikely to resume until the end of May at the earliest, the league’s chief executive said on Tuesday, adding that would result in a cash crunch from lost broadcasting and matchday income.
Javier Tebas said that the lockdown would cause elite Spanish clubs to lose €150m. Those losses would rise to €300m if this season’s matches could be played later this summer, but were forced to be played in empty stadiums, in a move that would sacrifice ticketing income to satisfy more valuable TV contracts.
However, if games cannot be completed at all, the financial hit would be worth €1bn.
Mr Tebas vowed not to ask the Spanish government, dealing with the fallout from one of the worst Covid-19 outbreaks in Europe, for financial assistance for teams, saying:
The individual measures implemented by the different clubs should be sufficient so Spanish professional football can safeguard their economic position.
Cabinet office minister Michael Gove self-isolates
Laura Hughes in London
Officials confirmed Michael Gove, cabinet office minister, is self-isolating after a member of his family started to display symptoms of coronavirus.
Mr Gove is isolating at home, but working as normal. They said he is not displaying any symptoms.
Spain reports rise in death rate as it breaks four-day slowing streak
Daniel Dombey in Madrid
Spain has reported a rise in daily deaths of people who have contracted coronavirus, and a slight uptick in the number of confirmed cases of the virus, although both fatalities and the spread of the disease remain well below previous highs.
The government said on Tuesday that a cumulative total of 13,798 people with coronavirus had died, 743 of them in the previous 24 hours. This compares with Monday’s figure of 637 and breaks a cycle of four consecutive days in which the death toll fell. But it remains significantly below the daily death toll of 950 recorded last week.
The total number of documented cases in Spain is now 140,510, 4 per cent up on Monday’s figure, an incrementally faster rate of transmission than the 3 per cent recorded then. But it is far below the levels of 25-30 per cent of daily increases that Spain experienced last month.
Spain is now in its fourth week of a nationwide lockdown but authorities plan to increase testing in coming days as a step towards easing the restrictions.
So far, 7,069 people have needed intensive care as a result of coronavirus and 43,208 have recovered.
Thailand signs off on $58bn stimulus
John Reed in Bangkok
Thailand’s government on Tuesday approved a $58bn stimulus package, backed by the Bank of Thailand, to support households and businesses in the face of the coronavirus spread, marking the largest state intervention of its kind seen in south-east Asia since the outbreak began.
The measures include 500bn baht ($15.3bn) worth of soft loans to support small and midsize enterprises, a 400bn baht fund to be set up to enhance the liquidity of the corporate bond market, and a six-month loan repayment holiday for all SMEs that have credit lines not exceeding 100m baht.
It comes on top of two sets of economic measures meant to cushion the economic impact of the virus that were previously announced by Prayuth Chan-ocha’s Thai government over the past month.
“The government of Thailand is doing all it can to support our country’s economy,” Uttama Savananya, the finance minister, said in a statement. “With this third stimulus package, we have injected over $80bn into the economy.”
Thailand is south-east Asia’s second-largest economy, and growth was already slowing before the coronavirus outbreak. The BOT last month forecast that the economy would contract by 5.3 per cent this year, the sharpest drop since the Asian financial crisis in 1998.
Iran increases testing to identify asymptomatic cases
Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran
Iran’s health minister said the country would intensify testing as of Tuesday in order to identify those who carry coronavirus without showing any symptoms.
“We will go after those who have no symptoms for which we need to conduct extensive tests,” Dr Saeed Namaki said on Tuesday.
He said this could be achieved with the help of companies that produce test kits and by following a national mobilisation plan through which 70m people out of its 80m population have been contacted by healthcare teams.
Under the national scheme, people with symptoms have been taken to healthcare centres for tests or hospitalisation, or issued with guidance on how to separate themselves from their families.
Iran says it has increased capacity to handle about 10,000 tests per day which it hopes to double. So far, 211,136 individuals have been tested, with 62,589 detected with the infection, according to the health ministry. Death tolls rose to 3,872 on Tuesday from 3,739 on Monday.
Paris limits daily outdoor exercise to early morning and evening
David Keohane in Paris
As France heads towards its fourth week of lockdown to try to stem the spread of coronavirus, Paris is tightening its local measures by banning all outdoor sports activities between the hours of 10am and 7pm.
Following a weekend of spring sunshine that drew Parisians on to the streets, numerous politicians and health professionals lashed out at what they saw as a flouting of rules designed to keep people inside.
The mayor of Paris and the capital’s police force reacted on Tuesday by saying that anyone wanting to exercise would have to do so early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
Previously, Parisians were able to go out once a day to exercise for about an hour so long as they carried a form with them explaining what they were doing.
The idea said the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, in an interview with French radio on Tuesday morning, was to make sure that “joggers run earlier in the morning and later in the evening to avoid crossing paths with others”.
“There are places where there are continuous lines of people running, which is very good for health but a little less for containment. And … presents a certain number of risks,” she explained.
The current lockdown runs until April 15 but will probably be extended for a second time.
On Sunday, France recorded its highest number of coronavirus hospital deaths in a single day — with 605 people dying in 24 hours — although the growth in the number of new Covid-19 patients needing intensive care continued to slow after three weeks of confinement.
Putin wishes Johnson a ‘speedy recovery’
Henry Foy in Moscow
Russian president Vladimir Putin has sent Boris Johnson a telegram wishing the British prime minister a “speedy and complete recovery” from coronavirus and suggesting his “sense of humour” would help him fight the infection.
Mr Johnson was hospitalised on Sunday evening with “persistent” symptoms of the virus and was moved into an intensive care unit on Monday evening.
“I would like to express my sincere support at this difficult moment for you. I am sure that your energy, optimism and sense of humor will help to defeat the disease,” Mr Putin said in a telegram published by the Kremlin. “I sincerely wish you a speedy and complete recovery.”
Relations between Russia and the UK sunk to a post-cold war low following the attempted assassination of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in March 2018, which London has said was ordered by Moscow’s security services.
Video: Coronavirus — how your computer could help find a vaccine
Folding@home is the world’s largest networked supercomputer. Director Dr Greg Bowman explains how personal computer power is being used to run protein simulations and search for a vaccine for Covid-19.
Produced and edited by Tom Hannen. Spike image: Folding@home Maxwell Zimmerman
Global medical equipment scramble breaks out
Michael Peel in Brussels
A “global scramble” for medical equipment has broken out as countries seek to secure scant supplies to combat coronavirus, the EU’s crisis management commissioner warned on Tuesday.
Janez Lenarcic said it was now “difficult to arrange an orderly procurement” to ensure masks and other crucial pandemic resources went to those who needed them most.
The warning comes after a flurry of claims and counter-claims from countries in past days about equipment shipments being diverted at the last minute, often to the US. Washington has denied it is responsible.
“There is a global scramble for personal protective equipment and for other types of medical equipment, because there is a challenge for everyone involved,” Mr Lenarcic told reporters in Brussels. “This virus has spread faster and further than anyone expected, and this has resulted in a shortage of supply and a dramatic increase in demand.”
Mr Lenarcic also acknowledged that fellow EU member states had failed to offer sufficient help to Italy during the early days of the crisis, as he unveiled a plan to dispatch doctors and nurses from Romania and Norway to the hard-hit southern European state.
“There was an inadequate response to the Italian request for assistance from other EU member states,” he said. “But things have changed now.”
The commission did not immediately give details of the size of the medical teams that are to be sent to Milan and Bergamo. Norway is a member of the EU’s civil protection mechanism while Romania is one of the bloc’s poorest states.
M&S closes stores in Hong Kong after virus outbreak
Nicolle Liu in Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s Marks and Spencer has closed all stores and its head office there after employees were diagnosed with coronavirus.
The British retailer said on Tuesday staff members who have worked in various stores were tested positive for Covid-19.
The workers are being treated in hospital while their colleagues who had close contact with them are self-isolating.
M&S added that all stores and the head office have been closed for professional deep cleaning and thorough disinfection. Reopening dates are subject to further announcement.
Who is Dominic Raab, the man stepping in for Boris Johnson?
Laura Hughes in London
Dominic Raab has ostensibly taken over running the government as Boris Johnson fights coronavirus in intensive care but it was unclear how much power the 46-year-old foreign secretary would wield.
Michael Gove, cabinet office minister, declined to spell out on Tuesday whether Mr Raab, who as first secretary of state was the prime minister’s designated stand-in, would have full executive functions.
“The prime minister always remains the prime minister,” Mr Gove told the BBC’s Today Radio 4 programme on Tuesday. Before being moved into intensive care, Mr Johnson had asked Mr Raab to deputise for him “where necessary” as he battled the illness.
The foreign secretary has longheld ambitions to lead the Conservative party, but he looked visibly shocked on Monday evening after being asked to step in for the prime minister.
Wuhan to lift lockdown as first pandemic wave eases
Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus outbreak began, will on Wednesday lift its 76-day lockdown, China’s state media reported on Tuesday.
The capital of Hubei province, in eastern China, is the latest city to emerge from a national quarantine that has brought the world’s second-biggest economy to a standstill. Industrial output tumbled 13.5 per cent in the first two months of this year.
The easing of travel restrictions follows a reduction in new cases. Wuhan’s coronavirus-related deaths fell to zero for the first time on Tuesday.
Around 55,000 people are expected to try and leave the city by train on Wednesday, reported state newspaper The Global Times. This is likely to put pressure on the rail infrastructure that has lain dormant in recent months. More than 80 bullet trains are on standby at Wuhan’s three train stations, reported People’s Daily, an organ of the Chinese Communist party.
“We are ready!” it tweeted.
Imperial College London’s Neil Ferguson: ‘No clear exit strategy’
Jemima Kelly in London
The effectiveness of any lockdown raises the dilemma: governments can theoretically check out any time they like (and indeed will be inclined to do so quickly), but in reality they might not be able to leave.
If restrictions are eased too quickly, countries risk facing a deadlier, second wave.
FT’s Alphaville chatted with Neil Ferguson, who leads the team at Imperial College London and appears to carry the most influence among the government’s advisers.
Read more here
Boris Johnson ‘stable’ in intensive care
George Parker in London
UK prime minister Boris Johnson was “stable overnight and remains in good spirits”, Downing Street said on Tuesday lunchtime, adding that while he remained in intensive care he was not receiving ventilation.
“Non-intrusive respiratory support has not been required,” Mr Johnson’s spokesman said. Downing Street said it was “not the case” that the prime minister had pneumonia.
But further details of Mr Johnson’s condition were not revealed. His spokesman said the prime minister had not spoken to Dominic Raab, his designated deputy, on Tuesday.
Downing Street has rejected suggestions that Mr Johnson had been given special treatment by being placed in intensive care as a precaution in case he needed to be ventilated.
“There is significant spare capacity available in intensive care units in London and across the country,” Mr Johnson’s spokesman said.
Meanwhile Downing Street said that if Mr Raab happened to be incapacitated, chancellor Rishi Sunak was next in line to take the reins of power in the official cabinet pecking order. Priti Patel, home secretary, is ranked next in the cabinet order of precedence, above cabinet office minister Michael Gove.
Macy’s CFO to stand aside as department store chain struggles
Macy’s chief financial officer is to leave the group as the department store chain grapples with a coronavirus-induced collapse in sales.
Paula Price, who has been in the role for less than two years, will stand aside at the end of May.
Her announced departure comes a week after the New York-listed retailer, which also owns Bloomingdale’s, said it would furlough most of its 125,000-strong workforce. All 775 of the group’s stores have been closed since the middle of last month.
Long before the coronavirus pandemic took hold, Macy’s was struggling with the rise of online shopping. While its balance sheet was in better shape than more distressed peers such as JCPenney, the outbreak has spoiled a hoped-for turnround. Macy’s has suspended its quarterly dividend and deferred store upgrades to shore up its finances and also drawn down on its credit facility.
Macy’s gave no reason for the departure of Ms Price, a former lecturer at Harvard Business School, in its statement on Tuesday, which carried no comment from her. She will remain an adviser until November. No successor has been named.
In the statement, chairman and chief executive Jeff Gennette thanked Ms Price for her contribution.
“She has built a strong finance leadership team, and we are fortunate to have a very deep bench to draw on to ensure a smooth transition.”
He added: “Paula remains a critical part of our plan and, while I respect her decision, I also appreciate the long runway she is giving us for this transition.”
Private equity group in talks for €900m hand sanitiser acquisition
Kaye Wiggins and Michael Pooler in London
Private equity group EQT Partners is in exclusive talks to buy Air Liquide’s hand sanitiser and disinfectant business, in a roughly €900m deal agreed as the company ramps up production to meet demand during the coronavirus pandemic.
The sale of Schülke, whose products range from alcohol-based hand rubs to hospital disinfectants and industrial cleaning products, is one of very few European buyouts to be struck in recent weeks. The coronavirus crisis has left dealmakers scrambling to shore up the companies they already own, while debt markets have dried up making financing harder to come by. The sale is subject to final agreement and regulatory approval.
WeWork special committee files lawsuit against SoftBank
Eric Platt in New York
A special committee of WeWork board members challenged SoftBank’s withdrawal from a $3bn deal in a Delaware court on Tuesday, in what is expected to be the first of several legal disputes over the Japanese group’s decision to pull out of an earlier agreed share buyout.
The committee, which includes Bruce Dunlevie of Benchmark Capital, said SoftBank had “engaged in a purposeful campaign to avoid completion of the tender offer”.
The tender was just one part of a multi-billion dollar rescue package SoftBank negotiated with WeWork last autumn that injected $1.5bn in emergency capital into the company to stave off imminent insolvency.
“SoftBank’s failure to consummate the tender offer is a clear breach of its contractual obligations under the [master transaction agreement] as well as a breach of SoftBank’s fiduciary obligations to WeWork’s minority stockholders, including hundreds of current and former employees,” it said.
Singapore bans all social gatherings in effort to curb jump in new cases
Stefania Palma in Singapore
Singapore on Tuesday evening passed a bill banning all social gatherings in what marks a significant escalation in the city state’s strict distancing measures.
The bill prohibits gatherings of any size among individuals not living in the same household in both public and private spaces. Non-compliance is an offence, with penalties involving fines of up to S$10,000 and/or a maximum jail sentence of six months, in the first instance. The fine and imprisonment caps jump to S$20,000 and 12 months respectively for second and subsequent offences.
“We need to send a strong signal to those who are egregious in flouting the measures,” Gan Kim Yong, Singapore’s health minister, said in parliament.
The new bill — which is valid for up to six months — gives the health minister and any public officer of their choosing the power to appoint police, public or healthcare officers to take action against individuals or entities breaking the rules.
The law was passed on the day Singapore enforced its strictest distancing measures yet, under which schools and most workplaces will close until May 4. It comes as the country faces a jump in new cases driven by locally transmitted infections and new clusters.
Nissan to temporarily lay off 10,000 US workers
Kana Inagaki in Tokyo
Nissan plans to furlough around 10,000 hourly workers at its three plants in the US after it extended their shutdowns due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Japanese carmaker is asking the affected employees in plants in Mississippi and Tennessee to apply for unemployment through to April 27, when the company expects to restart production.
“The company is implementing temporary lay-offs to help manage the business where activity is reduced,” Nissan said in a statement on Tuesday. “Affected employees will be eligible to apply for government support such as enhanced unemployment benefits.”
The company had also taken a similar move for its three plants in Spain, where it has temporarily laid off 3,000 employees following a shutdown of production across Europe.
The job losses in the US came after at least 1m car workers in Europe have been laid off or had their hours cut due to factory shutdowns, according to an estimate by Europe’s ACEA car industry lobby group.
More than half of the jobs affected are in Germany, where almost 570,000 car workers have been put on “short-time work” schemes, in which the government in Berlin pays up to 67 per cent of their regular salaries.
BMW has said it applied to furlough 20,000 workers following Daimler, which has put the majority of its 170,000 staff in Germany on reduced hours, and Volkswagen, which has put 80,000 employees on the programme.
UK to record highest number of daily deaths
The number of people who have died after testing positive for coronavirus in England has risen by 758 in a single day, leaving the UK as a whole on course for its worst day since the crisis began.
The total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals in England rose to 5,655 by 5pm on Monday, NHS England said, up from 4,897 the previous day.
Figures for the whole of the UK will be released later in the day, but the previous highest number of fatalities for the whole country was 708. The figures snap a two-day run of falling fatalities.
NHS England said the patients who had died over the past 24-hour period were aged between 23 and 102 years old, and 29 had no known underlying health condition, including a 23-year old.
Police and media surround St Thomas’s hospital awaiting news
Robert Wright in London
The news on Monday that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was being treated in St Thomas’s Hospital, in Lambeth, brought a visible transformation to Lambeth Palace Road, which runs behind the busy hospital.
Police officers lined the street, guarding temporary fabric screens erected to guard the privacy of staff and patients.
Its location on the River Thames, directly across from the Palace of Westminster, means that the hospital has frequently treated some of the UK’s most senior politicians.
On the southern side of Lambeth Palace Road, a collection of satellite trucks and broadcast teams testified to the worldwide media interest in the prime minister’s condition.
The ambulance entrance to St Thomas’s accident and emergency department was full of arriving vehicles – a reminder of how Mr Johnson is only one of many London residents currently relying on treatment at St Thomas’s and other hospitals in the capital.
Wall Street follows Europe higher at the open
Wall Street followed European bourses higher as trading began in New York, buoyed by signs that the spread of coronavirus was decelerating.
The S&P 500 added 3.3 per cent at the open, building on a 7 per cent rise on Monday — its best day in a fortnight. The gains mirror an uptick in European equity markets, where the continent-wide Stoxx 600 was 2.9 per cent at lunchtime.
London’s FTSE 100 was up 3 per cent in early afternoon trade, while the CAC 40 in Paris climbed 3.1 per cent and Frankfurt’s Dax 30 was 3.9 per cent higher.
Investors have been encouraged by signs that sweeping restrictions on movement in the US and Europe have proved effective in slowing the spread of coronavirus.
There were 73,135 cases of Covid-19 confirmed worldwide as of Monday, with the number of new cases across the globe remaining steady for the past two days.
Lee Hardman, currency analyst at MUFG, said:
The near-term improvement in investor sentiment has been mainly driven by building evidence that the lockdown measures are proving effective at slowing the spread of Covid-19.
Solar industry growth forecasts fall by about 20% for 2020
Growth in the solar power and storage sectors is expected to fall by a fifth next year as the impact of coronavirus shocks renewable technology supply chains around the world.
Expected solar installations for 2020 have been revised down by 18 per cent from pre-pandemic levels from 129.5 GW to 106.4 GW, according to a report by energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie. Demand for onshore and offshore wind will also be damped in the near term, it added.
“Construction and development activities are slowing down as countries enforce unprecedented lockdowns,” said Tom Heggarty, principal analyst at Wood Mackenzie on Tuesday.
“We assume that the economic damage caused by the pandemic and concurrent crash in oil prices will tip the world into recession in 2020. Although we expect a strong economic recovery next year, projects that should be delivered in 2021 are being developed and financed today. When the recession hits, not all activity will go ahead as planned. We have reduced our 2021 forecast by 3 per cent,” he said.
Disruptions to renewable tech supply chains could make it more difficult for countries to develop the green energy required to tackle climate change.
“The impact of disruption caused by the pandemic will vary by country. In China – the initial epicenter of the outbreak – economic indicators suggest a recovery is underway,” said Mr Heggarty.
Queen Elizabeth contacts Boris Johnson’s family
The Queen has wished Boris Johnson “a full and speedy recovery” as he receives intensive care treatment for coronavirus in a London hospital.
Buckingham Palace said the Queen had sent a message to Mr Johnson’s partner, Carrie Symonds, who is pregnant, and the Johnson family on Tuesday.
Her Majesty said they were in her thoughts and that she wished the Prime Minister a full and speedy recovery.
On Sunday, the Queen released a rare televised statement to the nation, as she praised NHS workers and called for resolve and self-discipline in the fight against the virus.
Senior Africans propose ‘standstill’ on eurobond debt payments
David Pilling, Africa editor
Tidjane Thiam, former chief executive of Credit Suisse, is among several prominent Africans pressing for a two-year moratorium on $115bn of sovereign African debt owned by the private sector in what, under normal circumstances, would be considered a default.
In a letter seen by the Financial Times, several senior African figures said that the private sector should join a planned moratorium on bilateral and multilateral debt to give African governments the fiscal space to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
The proposals are expected to be discussed at the IMF and World Bank spring meetings, which will be held virtually next week.
Loss of working hours to equal 195m full-time jobs, UN agency warns
Delphine Strauss in London
The coronavirus crisis will cut working hours by almost 7 per cent worldwide in the second quarter of 2020, a “catastrophic” effect that is equivalent to the loss of 195m full-time workers, the International Labour Organization said on Tuesday.
The UN agency warned that 1.25bn workers — almost two-fifths of the 3.3 billion-strong global workforce — are employed in sectors suffering drastic falls in output, from retail and real estate to manufacturing, accommodation and food services. More than four-fifths of the global workforce live in countries where full or partial lockdown measures are in place.
“Workers and businesses are facing catastrophe, in both developed and developing economies,” said Guy Ryder, ILO director-general. “It will hit the most vulnerable the hardest.”
Read more here
Lockdowns necessary to get the disease under control, but must be brief — opinion
Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The journey through this pandemic is going to be long and hard. We cannot know where it will end, although it is hard not to speculate. What we must do instead is focus on the steps right ahead if we are to avoid falling off our narrow path into mass deaths on one side, or economic devastation on the other. If we do not avoid these calamities in the near future, we risk chaos ahead. Even if we do manage to do so, we will not return to the normality we took for granted until recently. For that, we must at least wait for a cure or vaccine. The economic and social damage will last even longer.
Norway sets timetable for lifting lockdown
Richard Milne in Oslo
Norway has followed neighbouring Denmark in setting out a timetable to re-open kindergartens and primary schools for the youngest children later this month.
Erna Solberg, Norway’s centre-right prime minister, said that kindergartens could reopen from April 20 and primary schools for first to fourth grades a week later. All schools were closed in Norway on March 12.
“Our ambition is that all children, in one way or another, should return to school before the summer…What we are doing now is to open up a little bit, but I want to underscore as strictly as I can that this does not mean that we can be more careless in other areas,” said Ms Solberg.
Her comments came a day after Denmark’s prime minister said kindergartens and primary schools up to fifth grade would open on April 15. Some parents and teachers have expressed concern about exposing children while the rest of society is shut.
Norway is preparing to relax other restrictions: a ban on people visiting remote mountain cabins would be lifted on April 20, while psychologists and physiotherapists could start work again the same day, with hairdressers and masseuses opening the following week.
Norway’s health minister on Monday said the country’s coronavirus outbreak was “under control” as infected people were passing it on to only 0.7 other people on average compared to 2.5 other people before restrictions were implemented.
Dublin and Stormont pledge to work jointly on coronavirus measures
Arthur Beesley in Dublin
The Irish Republic and Northern Ireland have signed an agreement to intensify cross-border cooperation on coronavirus, pledging “where possible” to adopt similar approaches in the battle against the disease.
The memorandum of understanding between Dublin and Stormont, headquarters of the devolved executive near Belfast, follows policy differences that saw schools remain open in the north for several days after they closed in the Republic.
“The Covid-19 pandemic does not respect borders, therefore there is a compelling case for strong cooperation including information-sharing and, where appropriate, a common approach to action in both jurisdictions,” the two governments said.
Although the agreement is not legally binding, the aim is to foster consistent public health messaging, research cooperation and evidence-based measures to respond to coronavirus.
There will be a weekly teleconference between chief medical officers in both jurisdictions. Cooperation in areas such as procurement will be considered “where it is of mutual benefit”, the agreement said.
EU ministers to urge banks to scrap dividends and bonuses
Jim Brunsden in Brussels
EU finance ministers will call on banks to refrain from granting dividends and bonuses, backing supervisors’ stance that the financial sector should dedicate its capital to supporting the real economy.
According to a draft statement seen by the Financial Times, ministers will “urge all banks that have not already decided to do so to refrain from making distributions across this period”.
Banks should use “freed capital and available profits to extend credit or other urgent financing needs arising from the ongoing crisis to their customers”.
EU officials said that the statement would lend high-level political support to instructions for the European Central Bank and other regulators for banks to show restraint in discretionary payouts.
The statement does not only cover banks, but also requests insurers to follow supervisors’ recommendations to scrap “discretionary distributions”.
The text, dated April 6, is set to be signed off at a finance ministers meeting pencilled in for April 15.
Lufthansa launches overhaul to counter long-term virus impact
Joe Miller in Frankfurt
Lufthansa will permanently decommission dozens of its aircraft and axe its Germanwings brand, as it warns that it will take years for the airline industry to return to pre-coronavirus outbreak levels.
The number of long-haul flights run by subsidiary Eurowings will also be permanently reduced, while the restructuring of the group’s Austrian and Brussels brands will be “intensified”, the German airline said.
Six Airbus A380s, seven A340-600s and five Boeing 747-400s will be removed from Lufthansa’s core fleet, while eleven Airbus A320s will be taken out of its short-haul operations.
The Frankfurt-based group has already furloughed almost 90,000 workers and scrapped its dividend.
New York registers highest one-day death toll while hospitalisations slow
New York recorded another 731 fatalities due to coronavirus, its highest single-day death toll since the outbreak began, while the rate of hospitalisations continued to signal it was nearing a plateau.
The total number of deaths in the state rose to 5,489, up from 4,758 in the previous day.
There were 656 new patients in hospital, an increase from 353 after three straight days of declines. But Governor Andrew Cuomo said officials are not looking at any one day, noting that the three-day average for hospitalisations was down.
“We’re projecting that we are reaching a plateau in the total number of hospitalisations,” Mr Cuomo said. Daily admissions to intensive care units were also down.
Greek hospital workers protest over staffing and equipment
Kerin Hope in Athens
Greek police confronted protesting healthcare workers outside several public hospitals in Athens, as medical staff demanded more permanent positions and better protective equipment to help stem the coronavirus outbreak.
“There was a stand-off and some shouting for a short time. Then people dispersed peacefully,” a police official said.
The opposition leftwing Syriza party backed the protestors in a statement calling for the centre-right government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to hire 4,000 doctors and other medical workers at public hospitals as permanent staff; improve personal protection for hospital staff; and streamline laboratory facilities to boost the number of coronavirus tests carried out.
“No applause or praise can replace the need for full protection for those tackling this epidemic on a daily basis,” Syriza said.
The government has hired more than 2,500 new hospital staff on two-year contracts, while final-year medical students are working as volunteers.
Seventy-seven new confirmed cases of Covid-19 were reported in the past day, bringing the total number to 1,832. The number of deaths increased to 81 after two more fatalities were recorded on Monday, said Sotiris Tsiodras, health ministry spokesman. He said more than 28,000 people had been tested for the virus so far.
Rumours that alcohol offers viral immunity leads to deaths in Iran
Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran
The number of Iranians who died of alcohol poisoning reached 600 on Tuesday based on a mistaken assumption that it could help ward off coronavirus.
Iran’s judiciary spokesman, Gholamhossein Esmaili, said on Tuesday that 3,000 people were poisoned across the country. “Those distributing non-standard alcohol in Khuzestan and Khorasan provinces have been arrested and will be held accountable for putting people’s lives at risk,” he told local reporters.
Consumption of alcoholic drinks are banned under the Islamic republic but they are abundantly accessible at high prices in the black market. Many young people who cannot afford expensive drinks use the alcohol sold in pharmacies and supermarkets or buy cheap handmade local vodka which sometimes cause poisoning and lead to deaths or make consumers blind.
Iranian authorities have repeatedly warned people in recent weeks that consumption of alcohol will not shield them against Covid-19.
UK reports highest daily death toll
The UK has recorded its worst daily death toll since the coronavirus outbreak began, after 786 people died in the latest 24-hour reporting period.
A total of 6,159 patients had died in hospital by 5pm on Monday, up from 5,373 the day before.
The previous highest number of fatalities for the whole country was 708, and the figures snap a two-day run of falling fatalities.
The real death toll could be far higher, data published on Tuesday showed. As the Financial Time’s economic editor Chris Giles has reported, the daily death toll in England from coronavirus was almost 80 per cent higher than the hospital figures reported during the accelerating phase of its spread across the country.
Ireland promises €15m bailout for sea ferries
Arthur Beesley in Dublin
Ireland will provide €15m to ferry companies to maintain freight shipping with Britain, France and Spain for the duration of the coronavirus shutdown in a bid to ensure supplies of food and medicine.
Shane Ross, transport minister in Leo Varadkar’s cabinet, said the move came after restrictions to contain Covid-19 “practically stopped passenger traffic” on sea ferries that combine freight and passenger services, depriving them of revenues they need to remain viable.
The money will support services between Dublin and Cherbourg, France, as well as services between the county Wexford port of Rosslare and Cherbourg; the Welsh ports of Fishguard and Pembroke; and Bilbao, Spain. The operators are Irish Ferries, Stena Line and Brittany Ferries.
Mr Ross said:
The five routes in question are of strategic importance to Ireland because they ensure the robustness and resilience of Ireland’s lifeline supply chain which is critically important at this time for the movement of goods, including food and medical supplies, into and out of Ireland.
The temporary subsidy aims to maintain services on routes that carry a quarter of Ireland’s freight traffic. About half of that trade is carried on ferries that combine passenger and roll-on roll-off freight services.
Mr Ross said maintaining the routes will provide “alternatives and maintain contingency options to the main route into and out of Dublin” during the pandemic.
In addition, it is critically important that these services are operating when the economic activity resumes in the coming months and we prepare for Brexit.
Trump and bank executives to discuss boosting small business lending plan
James Politi in Washington and Laura Noonan in New York
A group of senior Wall Street executives is expected to hold a video-conference with Donald Trump, the US president, and Steven Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, to discuss ways to boost the administration’s lending plan for small business.
A White House official said on Tuesday that expected participants included executives from Visa, Mastercard, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Grand Rapids State Bank, Southern Bancorp and Community Spirit Bank.
The meeting with Mr Trump comes as a $350bn government loan programme for small businesses hit by the coronavirus outbreak got off to a rocky start, with both financial institutions and government agencies struggling to keep up with high demand. Banks have been under pressure to extend credit under the programme, but have worried about their exposure to excessive risk.
The meeting comes amid growing calls from Congress to expand the programme with more funding given the high level of interest. Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican and chairman of the Senate small business committee, said on Tuesday he was working with Treasury on a plan to increase the capacity of the programme.
David Solomon, the Goldman CEO, Mike Corbat, the Citi CEO and Charlie Scharf, the Wells Fargo CEO are all expected to participate in the White House meeting, along with Gordon Smith, co-president of JPMorgan Chase.
New York to coordinate ‘restart’ with neighbouring states
New York, the hardest-hit US state from coronavirus, will coordinate with neighbouring states to “restart” normal life, as officials aim to build up a system for testing on a larger scale.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he has spoken with his counterparts in New Jersey and Connecticut about coming up with a regional approach to reopening businesses and schools. The tri-state area joined together to close down restaurants, bars and other businesses last month in hopes of slowing the spread of coronavirus.
Mr Cuomo suggested that if a restart happens in “waves”, young people, residents who recovered from coronavirus and others who tested negative could return to work first.
“We have to start planning restarting life. We’re not there yet, but…we’re going to have to restart that economy, we’re going to have to restart a lot of systems that we shut down abruptly, and we need to start to plan for that,” Mr Cuomo said during a briefing.
Mr Cuomo added that restarting the economy will likely require rapid testing to determine which residents have not been infected or have developed antibodies to the virus. New York is interested in investing in private companies than can help bring rapid testing up to scale.
“You’re not going to end the infection and end the virus before you start restarting life,” he said. “It’s going to come down to testing.”
Mr Cuomo also thanked Donald Trump for quickly making a US Navy hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, available to treat coronavirus patients, saying the president “to his credit moved expeditiously”. The Comfort will have 500 beds available, down from 1,000 because treating coronavirus patients requires more space, Mr Cuomo said.
Italy’s Covid-19 cases increase at slowest rate since outbreak began
Miles Johnson in Rome
The number of diagnosed Covid-19 cases in Italy rose by the lowest daily level since the crisis began, further bolstering hopes that the country’s outbreak is approaching a peak.
Official numbers showed that Italy’s coronavirus cases increased by 2.3 per cent, or 3,039, to a total of 135,586. The number of active cases, which does not count patients who have died or recovered, rose by 0.9 per cent, or 880, to a total of 94,067.
A further 604 people died in Italy over the last 24 hours, taking the total since the crisis began to 17,127. The number of patients in intensive care fell for the fourth consecutive day, dropping by 106 to a total of 3,792. The number of patients who have recovered rose by 1,555 to 24,392.
The latest numbers come as a letter signed by leading doctors in the northern region of Lombardy, Italy’s worst-hit area, criticised the local authorities for having mismanaged its handling of the crisis.
The letter said that a lack of protection for the region’s doctors has contributed to many getting sick or dying, and also to exacerbating the spread of the infection.
Canada turns to domestic production for key supplies
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau stressed the importance of domestic production of medical equipment, as US and global restrictions and spiking demand threatened supplies.
“We need a sustainable, stable supply of these products, and that means making them at home,” said Mr Trudeau, referring to ventilators, test kits, and personal protective equipment.
Canada aims to build 30,000 ventilators, Mr Trudeau announced, working with four private sector consortia. Some of the devices could be exported to other countries if not required in Canada, he said. Twenty other Canadian companies, including Arcteryx and Canada Goose, are retooling to produce medical gowns and other personal protective equipment.
Mr Trudeau said Canada was still buying equipment from abroad, including a shipment of 500,000 masks from 3M expected to arrive tomorrow. The White House has in recent days tried to block shipments of masks heading for destinations outside the US. President Donald Trump on Monday announced a deal with the manufacturer that would allow sales to Canada.
Canadian officials have had “productive conversations” with the US government “that have assured that this particular shipment comes through”, Mr Trudeau said, adding that discussions over cross-border supply chains for essential goods are ongoing.
Canada’s public health agency reported 396 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the past day, taking the total to 17,049. Health Canada said 345 people had died from the virus, with 22 new deaths reported.
Boris Johnson ‘in good spirits’, says Raab
Laura Hughes in London
Boris Johnson is a “fighter” and “remains in good spirits” after spending the night in intensive care, his deputy Dominic Raab has said.
Mr Raab, his designated deputy, said Mr Johnson is “receiving the very best care” after Downing Street said that while the prime minister remained in intensive care and had received oxygen treatment for coronavirus, he was not on a ventilator.
Speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference on Tuesday, the foreign secretary and first secretary of state, said: “He is not just the Prime Minister. For all of us in Cabinet, he is not just our boss.”
He is also a colleague and he is also our friend. So all our thoughts and prayers are with the Prime Minister at this time, with Carrie and his whole family.
And I’m confident he will pull through because if there is one thing that I know about this Prime Minister is he is a fighter and he will be back leading us through this crisis in short order.
Mr Raab is standing in for Mr Johnson “as necessary” — an order issued by the prime minister before he entered intensive care on Monday night.
He added: “He’s receiving the very best care from the excellent medical team at St Thomas’s Hospital.
He remained stable overnight. He’s receiving standard oxygen treatment and breathing without any assistance, he’s not required any mechanical ventilation or non-invasive respiratory support.
He remains in good spirits and in keeping with usual clinical practice his progress continues to be monitored closely in critical care.
Early signs of ‘curve flattening’ in the UK, chief scientific officer says
Laura Hughes in London
The number of new cases “could be moving in the right direction”, said the UK’s chief scientific officer.
Sir Patrick Vallance said it was “possible” the UK is beginning to see “the beginning of change in terms of the curve flattening a little bit”.
However, he cautioned “we won’t know that for sure for a week or so”.
There hasn’t been the accelerated take-off and again it’s possible that we’re beginning to see the start of a change where we might see numbers flattening off.
It does begin to suggest that things might be moving in the right direction in terms of numbers and it’s important that we carry on with the measures that we have got in place in order to make sure that this does go in the right direction.
Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, also praised Germany’s approach to mass community testing. He admitted: “Germany got ahead in terms of its ability to do testing for the virus and there’s a lot to learn from that.”
ECB eases collateral rules to aid banks
Martin Arnold in Frankfurt
The European Central Bank has changed its rules to start accepting Greek government debt, state-guaranteed credit, and foreign currency loans as collateral to help banks to access its ultra-cheap liquidity in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Greek sovereign bonds had been excluded from the assets that banks could pledge as collateral to the ECB because they are rated below investment grade. But the central bank said it would now include them as part of a temporary loosening of its collateral rules.
As well as accepting loans with lower credit quality, foreign-currency loans and loans to other types of debtors, the ECB said it would expand its additional credit claims frameworks to include loans that are guaranteed by public sector bodies.
Many governments in Europe have established schemes to guarantee bank loans to companies that are struggling because of the severe restrictions imposed to contain the pandemic and the ECB said banks could now use these as collateral to access cheap funds.
The €25,000-sized threshold for domestic credit claims to be used as collateral has been removed, the central bank said in a statement. It has also decided to “temporarily increase its risk tolerance level in credit operations” by reducing the discount — or “haircut” — it automatically applies to the value of collateral by 20 per cent.
The ECB recently started buying Greek government bonds for the first time since the 2012 debt crisis as part of a €750bn expansion of its asset purchase programme, which was announced last month and is due to last until the pandemic is considered contained.
It said its latest relaxation of its collateral rules would also only last “for the duration of the pandemic crisis”.
Trump suggests taking a ‘good look’ at US funding for the WHO
Katrina Manson in Washington and Peter Wells in New York
Donald Trump said his administration would take a “good look” at US funding for the World Health Organization in a tweet on Monday criticising the public agency for its initial advice on keeping countries’ borders open.
The US president accused the WHO of giving “a faulty recommendation” and said the UN agency “really blew it”, describing it as largely US-funded “yet very China centric”.
The president’s tweet appeared to call off an unofficial ceasefire of words between the US and China after leaders of the two countries spoke late last month. Following his call with Xi Jinping, Mr Trump dispensed with labelling the disease the “China virus” and Beijing ceased suggesting US military personnel had introduced the illness to Wuhan.
Mr Trump’s new criticism of the WHO reinvigorated the debate about blame for the spread of the disease, which has now killed more than 11,000 people in the US, with nearly 370,000 cases.
On January 14, the WHO denied there was any evidence of human-to-human transmission of the disease after one of its experts claimed the opposite. It was not until January 20 that the WHO flagged “some limited” direct transmission among humans when China also confirmed the first cases of human-to-human transmission.
On January 31, the day after the WHO declared the outbreak a global emergency, the public agency said borders should be kept open, with people and trade still flowing, but said countries also had the sovereign right to take steps to protect their citizens. A “huge reason to keep official border crossings open” was to avoid people entering countries irregularly or without being checked for symptoms, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told a Geneva briefing.
The Trump administration on January 31 announced travel restrictions to and from China related to coronavirus (which came into effect on February 2) and declared a public health emergency. Rather than completely ban people from leaving or entering the US, the restrictions at the time prohibited non-US citizens, other than the immediate family of US citizens and permanent residents, who had travelled to China within the previous two weeks, from entering the US. At that time, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the US were in the single digits.
White House in talks with Senate to boost small business lending scheme
James Politi and Lauren Fedor in Washington and Laura Noonan in New York
The Trump administration is in talks with US senators for an additional $200bn to fund a government lending programme for small businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic, as pressure increases for additional fiscal stimulus above and beyond the $2tn package recently approved.
Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and Senate majority leader, said on Tuesday morning that additional funding for a $350bn lending fund for small businesses needed to be approved rapidly, given the high level of demand.
“Thanks to the hard work of small businesses and lenders, billions of dollars have already landed and tens of billions more are already in the pipeline. Jobs are literally being saved as we speak. But it is quickly becoming clear that Congress will need to provide more funding or this crucial program may run dry,” Mr McConnell said.
Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican senator and chairman of the small business committee, tweeted that he was “working with” the US Treasury on a request to Congress for more money. He said he believed an additional $200bn to $250bn was needed.
The US Treasury department declined to comment on any additional funding. Trump administration officials, including the US president, have consistently said they were ready to replenish the fund if necessary.
Barclays sets up foundation to back charities helping vulnerable people
Stephen Morris in London
Barclays is setting up a £100m foundation to back charities helping vulnerable people during the coronavirus pandemic, with chief executive Jes Staley initially donating a third of his salary for the next six months, equivalent to £396,000.
The fund is split between a corporate contribution of £50m and an equal pledge to match personal donations from staff to local charities of their choice. Most of the money will be distributed in the UK, but some will also go to the US and India where the lender also has significant operations, according to a statement on Tuesday.
Mr Staley’s fixed pay, or salary, was increased 2.1 per cent to £2.4m this year and he could earn a maximum of £8.2m if he hits all his targets. He earned £5.9m in 2019.
Alongside the CEO, chairman Nigel Higgins and finance director Tushar Morzaria will also donate 33 per cent of their fixed pay for the next six months. Mr Morzaria is paid a salary of £1.7m and Mr Higgins receives a fixed annual fee of £800,000 a year.
Ana Botín, chairman of Santander, donated 50 per cent of her salary and bonus to a similar €25m medical fund the Spanish bank created. She earned about €10m last year.
Executives at Italy’s UniCredit and Spain’s BBVA and Caixabank have also given up all or most of their pay as a result of the economic crisis.
DHL parcel business boosted by retail shutdown
Joe Miller in Frankfurt
The Deutsche Post DHL Group has withdrawn its guidance for 2020, citing the downturn caused by the coronavirus outbreak, even as it registered strong growth in its German parcel business.
The Bonn-based business also announced preliminary earnings before taxes and interest of €590m for the first quarter of the year, and postponed its shareholder’s meeting.
Last month, the logistics company said it could stand to benefit from helping companies navigate the spread of Covid-19, and that demands for its cargo planes had shot up as other transport routes were closed.
On Tuesday, it said that due to the shutdown of high-street stores, its parcel business “grew dynamically” and volumes had been increasing daily since the end of March.
US stocks build on gains
US stocks added to gains in midday trading, as hotspots for coronavirus continued to show signs of a slowdown in its spread.
The S&P 500 was up 2.5 per cent with all 11 sectors in positive territory, led by materials and energy. The benchmark index is aiming for its second consecutive day of gains, coming off a rally of 7 per cent on Monday.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose 1.8 per cent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 3.1 per cent as Dow, the chemical giant, jumped 14 per cent.
Investors moved out of US government debt, sending yields higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note climbed 9.4 basis points to 0.772 per cent.
Gold, considered a haven asset in times of market turmoil, also fell with a decline of 0.6 per cent.
The governor of New York said on Tuesday officials project that hospitalisations due to coronavirus are nearing a plateau, adding that social distancing measures have been effective in slowing the spread of the virus. In Italy, Covid-19 cases rose at the slowest rate since the outbreak began.
In Europe, the continent-wide Stoxx 600 closed 1.9 per cent higher. Germany’s Dax was up 2.8 per cent.
Ireland PM advises against Easter getaways as daily death toll jumps
Arthur Beesley in Dublin
Dublin has reported 36 further coronavirus deaths, the most in a single day, as prime minister Leo Varadkar urged people not to visit holiday homes or caravan parks in the coming Easter holiday weekend.
The latest fatalities bring to 210 the number of lives lost to Covid-19 in the Irish republic as it deals with 5,709 infections.
Amid anxiety in the government that bright spring weather would encourage people to leave cities for the Easter holiday, Mr Varadkar urged people to stay at home. In a tweet on Tuesday, he said: “The spread of the virus is slowing but people travelling could give it a boost — spreading it and seeding it in areas unaffected so far.”
Royal Ascot closed to the public if horse racing event even takes place
“Aaand they’re off!” … although one might struggle to see the horses racing in person, after the organisers of one of the UK’s most famous racing events said this year’s Royal Ascot would be closed to the public, if it even goes ahead at all.
Guy Henderson, chief executive of Ascot Racecourse, said in a statement on Tuesday that owing to public health and safety reasons around the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s event “will not be able to take place as an event open to the public”
It may prove possible to run the Royal Ascot races behind closed doors, dependent on Government and public health policy and the approval of the BHA for us to re-start racing. This would be for the benefit of the industry, our valued partners and suppliers and our television audiences at home and internationally. Planning for this is now our complete focus and we will update on progress as and when we can.
Royal Ascot joins a growing list of sporting events and seasons that have been postponed or scrapped because of the global pandemic, ranging from the staging of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games being shifted to 2021, the delay of the Major League Baseball season in the US and the cancellation of Wimbledon.
Premier league chief defends clubs’ use of furlough scheme
Samuel Agini in London
The chief executive of the English Premier League has defended football clubs’ use of the UK government’s furlough scheme, and warned that the country’s top division could lose at least £1bn if the coronavirus pandemic puts a stop to the season.
Richard Masters has told UK lawmakers that the furlough scheme was intended for the economy as a whole, including employers that rely on “elite” talent, as Premier League clubs come under fire for making use of government aid to pay non-playing staff before wage reductions have been formalised with players.
“We do agree with you that restraint needs to be shown by all and we and our clubs are doing just that,” Mr Masters wrote in a letter, which was addressed to Julian Knight, who chairs the digital, culture, media and sport committee of MPs.
“Individual clubs will need to make these decisions based on their own forecasts as each club will have its own unique position,” he wrote.
His comments come after some clubs, including Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur, were criticised for using the government scheme to fund the salaries of staff who do not make their money from playing football. However, Liverpool reversed an earlier decision to make use of the scheme after the club’s own supporters questioned the move.
French death toll rises above 10,000
Victor Mallet in Paris
France’s death toll from the coronavirus pandemic has risen to 10,328, with 30,000 patients still in hospital of whom 7,131 are in intensive care, but the increase in the number of those needing ventilators continued to slow.
Jérôme Salomon, director-general of health, said a net 59 extra patients needed intensive care over the past 24 hours. “The need to find new places is growing more slowly,” he said. France has doubled the number of its intensive care beds with ventilators in recent weeks from 5,000 before the crisis.
Of the official number of Covid-19 deaths, 7,091 were recorded in hospitals and 3,237 in old people’s homes. There were 607 new deaths in hospitals in the past day.
Boris Johnson ‘in good spirits’ but remains in intensive care
Boris Johnson is set to spend his second night in intensive care, after the UK prime minister was shifted there owing to persistent symptoms related to coronavirus.
“The Prime Minister’s condition is stable and he remains in intensive care for close monitoring. He is in good spirits,” a No 10 spokesman said on Tuesday evening.
Mr Johnson is being treated at St Thomas’ hospital in London and was transferred to the intensive care unit on Monday night as a precaution in case he might require a ventilator.
Wall Street trims gains, Nasdaq goes negative
US stocks have trimmed their gains from earlier in the session, with the Nasdaq Composite dipping into negative territory during afternoon trading.
The S&P 500 was up 0.5 per cent, having been up as much as 3.5 per cent shortly after the opening bell on Tuesday. On Monday, the benchmark index surged just over 7 per cent for its eighth-largest one-day gain since the end of the second world war, with investors appearing to take comfort from early signs of coronavirus deaths and infections steadying in a number of global hotspots.
The Nasdaq was last up 0.3 per cent, but had been as much as 0.2 per cent lower. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.8 per cent.
Government bonds remained weak overall, with yields higher. The yield on the benchmark 10-year US Treasury was up 0.07 percentage points to 0.75 per cent.
Disagreements over coronavirus response split Mexican business community
Jude Webber in Mexico City
Disagreements over Mexico’s economic plans to mitigate the coronavirus crisis have opened rifts among the business community, with leaders in the western state of Jalisco saying they no longer recognised the leadership of the main business lobby, the CCE.
CCE president Carlos Salazar, in a lengthy call with members, defended his attempts to secure government help to mitigate the crisis, which economists predict could lead to a fall in GDP of as much as 10 per cent and as many as 1.4m job losses, amid criticism he has been too timid.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has announced that he will boost social programmes and handouts for Mexico’s poor, as well as step up infrastructure, public works and house building projects to create jobs, but has ruled out any tax deferments or any new debt to finance a stimulus that could protect the small and mid-sized companies whose income is drying up under a month-long lockdown.
Mr Salazar called the president’s promise of creating 2m new jobs this year “totally unrealistic” and blamed him for refusing to entertain the business community’s suggestions.
“If this [the president’s plan] doesn’t work and we get a 10 per cent fall in GDP and 1m job losses with all the human tragedy that implies, the only person responsible will be the one who slammed the door to us,” said Mr Salazar, who insisted it was time to pull together in a grand national pact.
Nicaragua’s president called upon to appear in public by human rights group
Jude Webber in Mexico City
The head of Nicaragua’s human rights association has called on President Daniel Ortega to appear in public by Thursday morning as the former revolutionary’s lengthy absence from view has raised concerns about his health and the country’s strategy to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have called on Daniel Ortega Saavedra to appear before the people of Nicaragua by 9.30 a.m. on Thursday 09/04/2020 after 45 days of not appearing in public,” Álvaro Leiva Sánchez, head of the Nicaraguan Association for the Defence of Human Rights (ANPDH), wrote on Twitter.
“Nicaraguans need to know the truth about why he has been absent,” added Mr Leiva, who is in exile in Costa Rica because of what rights defenders say is government persecution. He says Mr Ortega has not been seen in person since February 21, although he took part in a video conference with regional leaders on March 12.
In a message on Facebook, he said Nicaraguans needed to know whether Mr Ortega was incapacitated in order to determine whether he remained in charge. He called his absence “an evident irresponsibility … that produces a vacuum of power”.
Nicaragua has taken a radically different approach to the Covid-19 crisis than most countries, calling government-sponsored rallies and refusing to entertain a national lockdown.
US stocks close down after early rally
US stocks lost ground in late afternoon trading, with the S&P 500 finishing the day in negative territory on the heels of its eighth-best day since the second world war.
The benchmark index closed with a 0.2 per cent loss, after rising as much as 3.5 per cent earlier in the session and holding on to strong gains into the final hour of trading. The Nasdaq Composite fell 0.3 per cent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ticked 0.1 per cent lower.
US government debt trimmed its losses, as the benchmark 10-year Treasury yield rose 0.05 percentage points to 0.728 per cent. Yields rise as prices fall.
Stocks had been on track to record their second straight day of gains, as signs of a slowdown in the spread of coronavirus in several global hotspots appeared to buoy investor sentiment. While the rate of hospitalisations has slowed, New York and New Jersey each reported their highest level of daily fatalities on Tuesday.
US Navy chief resigns after criticising ousted commander of virus-stricken ship
Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington
The US Navy head has resigned following a controversy related to his handling of the firing of the captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt who had asked for help dealing with a coronavirus outbreak on the aircraft carrier.
Thomas Modly, who has been the Navy’s acting civilian head since last year, submitted his resignation on Tuesday, according to one person familiar with the case. He had come under intense criticism for saying that Captain Brett Crozier had been “too naïve or too stupid” to command the carrier, in leaked remarks during a visit to the carrier, which is docked in Guam as the Navy grapples with dozens of cases of coronavirus among its sailors.
Capt Crozier was fired last week after urging the Navy in a dramatic letter that became public to do more to protect the several thousand sailors on board the ship. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die,” he wrote.
After he dismissed Capt Crozier, Mr Modly said he should not have sent the letter to so many people because it had raised the odds that the document became public, signalling to adversaries that the carrier had a problem.
When Capt Crozier disembarked last week, however, he received a rapturous send-off from the crew, which cast a harsh spotlight on Mr Modly. The acting Navy head created more problems for himself by travelling to Guam and castigating the departed captain in front of the crew in a profanity-laced attack.
Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Senate armed services committee, welcomed the resignation, saying Mr Modly had “mishandled the situation”.
“It is my understanding that acting secretary Modly removed Captain Crozier against the advice of senior Navy uniformed leadership and without completion of a proper investigation,” Mr Reed said. “Also troubling was the manner in which he addressed the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt and made disparaging comments about their former commander.”
Texas can enforce emergency abortion restrictions, appeals court rules
Kadhim Shubber in Washington
An appeals court panel has upheld emergency restrictions on abortions imposed by Texas in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday said Texas was justified in all but banning abortion in order to preserve medical supplies.
“The bottom line is this: when faced with a society-threatening epidemic, a state may implement emergency measures that curtail constitutional rights so long as the measures have at least some ‘real or substantial relation’ to the public health crisis,” wrote Stuart Duncan, an appeals court judge appointed by Donald Trump in 2018.
The 2-1 ruling vacated a temporary restraining order imposed by a district court to block the abortion restrictions, and remanded the case back for further proceedings.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott had issued an executive order on March 22 banning all procedures that were “not immediately medically necessary to correct a serious medical condition”. A group of Texas abortion providers subsequently sued.
James Dennis, a Bill Clinton appointee, dissented from the ruling, writing:
“In a time where panic and fear already consume our daily lives, the majority’s opinion inflicts further panic and fear on women in Texas by depriving them, without justification, of their constitutional rights, exposing them to the risks of continuing an unwanted pregnancy, as well as the risks of travelling to other states in search of time sensitive medical care.”
Tax cut not enough to spare Pemex from tapping credit facilities — Moody’s
Jude Webber in Mexico City
Moody’s Investors Service welcomed a tax cut to provide more liquidity to Mexican state oil company Pemex, saying it would strengthen its ability to boost capital expenditure, but warned it would not be enough to prevent it from having to tap revolving credit facilities and thus boost debt.
Although Moody’s made no mention of a possible downgrade, the downbeat view suggested Pemex was far from out of the woods at a time when Mexico is bracing for a severe economic contraction because of coronavirus. If Moody’s downgrades the troubled oil company to junk, as is widely expected in the coming weeks, institutional investors required to hold investment grade paper will be forced to sell at least $10bn in bonds.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced on Sunday that the government would provide 65bn pesos to Pemex via tax cuts this year. The government argues that it is supporting the company like never before and that Pemex creates value but is hobbled by onerous taxes.
“This announcement implies a reduction in the royalty tax rate to about 40 per cent in 2020 which, if sustained in the future, would strengthen the company’s ability to increase capital investment as oil prices rebound,” Moody’s said in a note.
“However, we estimate that the announced tax relief will not be enough to prevent the company from using its revolving credit facilities and therefore increasing debt in 2020,” it said.
It expected Pemex to tap in full its $8.9bn committed credit facilities in 2020. That would mean the funds would be unavailable next year and thus would “increase the company´s already high liquidity risk in a year when oil demand and prices will continue pressured by limited global economic growth and about $6.2bn of Pemex’s debt mature”, it said.
Jack Dorsey to make $1bn donation to coronavirus relief
Hannah Murphy in San Francisco
Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey said on Tuesday that he would donate $1bn of his equity in Square, the payments company he also leads, in order to fund coronavirus relief efforts.
In a series of tweets, the Silicon Valley executive said that the funds — around 28 per cent of his wealth — would be moved to Small Start, his own donor-advised foundation for charitable purposes, as “needs are increasingly urgent”.
“After we disarm this pandemic, the focus will shift to girl’s health and education, and [universal basic income],” he said, adding that he had chosen to move his Square stock, rather than Twitter, as he owns more of it.
According to a document shared by Mr Dorsey, $100,000 of the fund already appears to have been granted to America’s Food Fund, a charity focused on tackling hunger and access to food.
Mr Dorsey is one of a handful of tech executives who have funneled money into relief efforts. The Chan Zuckerberg initiative, the philanthropic group of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, has committed $25m to finding treatments for coronavirus, and $5m to emergency relief efforts in the San Francisco Bay Area, while the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged around $100m.
Trump says UK asked for 200 ventilators from US
Laura Hughes in London
Donald Trump claimed in a press conference on Tuesday that the UK government had “called” to ask the US for 200 ventilators, which are key to saving the lives of the worst-affected coronavirus patients.
“The UK called today and they wanted to know would it be possible to get 200 [ventilators]. And we’re going to work it out,” he said.
“They’ve been great partners, the UK and we’re going to work it out for them. So they wanted 200, they needed them desperately.”
Trump floats freeze on US funding to WHO
Donald Trump said the US would “put a hold” on its funding of the World Health Organisation, accusing the agency leading the global coronavirus response of being biased towards Beijing and failing to catch the pandemic early enough.
Mr Trump claimed the US is responsible for the “biggest proportion of their money” and would withhold the funding until his administration “looked into” its handling of the outbreak.
“They seem to be very China-centric,” Mr Trump said at his daily White House news conference. “They called it wrong. They missed the call. They could have called it much earlier. They should have known, and they probably did know.”
After being questioned whether freezing WHO funding in the middle of a global pandemic was appropriate, Mr Trump appeared to quickly reverse himself. “I’m not saying I’m going to do it,” he said. “We’re going to look at it.”