Virus update: Europe has 70% of all deaths

Virus update: Europe has 70% of all deaths

Apprentice Andrea Schulz presents a tablet with toilet paper-shaped cakes at the bakery Schuerener Backparadies in Dortmund, western Germany, on Thursday. The bakery of owner Tim Kortuem sells toilet paper cakes, which are spread with cream and wrapped in fondant. The sweet toilet paper rolls have become a 'bestseller' during the virus crisis. (AFP photo)
Apprentice Andrea Schulz presents a tablet with toilet paper-shaped cakes at the bakery Schuerener Backparadies in Dortmund, western Germany, on Thursday. The bakery of owner Tim Kortuem sells toilet paper cakes, which are spread with cream and wrapped in fondant. The sweet toilet paper rolls have become a 'bestseller' during the virus crisis. (AFP photo)

Spain reported a surge in cases, though fewer deaths than a day earlier. The number of infections in Europe has tripled over the past week, the World Health Organization said, adding that the continent now accounts for seven out of 10 reported fatalities.

The US Senate approved a $2-trillion package and the European Central Bank will scrap limits on bond purchases, giving it almost unlimited firepower to fight the economic fallout. Singapore and India also unveiled measures, while self-employed Britons will be promised a rescue package later on Thursday.

Singapore estimated that its economy contracted the most in a decade, an early sign of what’s in store for many. Japan slashed its assessment of the economy, characterising it as “extremely depressed,” and French business confidence plunged at a record pace in March.

Key developments:

  • Cases top 480,400, 21,571 dead, 115,800 recovered — Johns Hopkins
  • US death toll tops 1,000, confirmed cases in Canada surge 72%
  • Kudlow says jobless claims to show a big increase on Thursday
  • Fauci warns of potential for another cycle of coronavirus infections
  • China’s Wuhan lockdown may delay feared second wave, study shows
  • Spanish doctors are forced to choose who to let die from virus

Latest developments:

Spain reports fewer deaths, cases surge

Total cases rose to 56,188 from 47,610 and fatalities jumped by 655, fewer than on Wednesday, to 4,089.

WHO: Europe accounts for 7 out of 10 deaths

The number of cases tripled in the past week in Europe, with the disease spreading faster in Spain, France, Germany and Switzerland, Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s director for Europe, said at a press briefing in Copenhagen.

Switzerland had 10,714 confirmed infections and 161 people have died of the disease, the Federal Office of Public Health said.

Italy’s infection rate has slowed slightly, but it’s too early to say the disease has peaked there, he said. The country has 6,200 infected health-care workers, he added.

Cases almost double in Belgium

Belgium reported 1,298 new confirmed cases, the highest number on a single day and almost double the prior day’s tally of 668. The death toll in the country of 11.3 million has increased to 220. Virologists expect the local peak of the pandemic to occur in early April, if Belgians reduce social contact by 50%.

Meanwhile, Germany now has 37,179 cases, up from 32,705 24 hours ago, according to Bloomberg-compiled data. Fatalities have risen to 203 from 154. Siemens AG is offering up its 3D printers to make medical equipment and calling on other companies on its printing network to do the same, after the German government called on its domestic manufacturers to help out.

Iran reports 157 new deaths

Iran reported 157 new deaths and an additional 2,389 cases. About 29,400 people have been infected in total, of which 2,234 have died and more than 10,000 recovered.

EU leaders to hold virtual summit

European Union leaders will on Thursday pledge to protect companies from foreign takeovers, discuss an exit-strategy from the looming recession, and likely agree on credit lines to help keep borrowing costs low while governments go on a spending spree.

As EU nations move to tackle the fallout, leaders will tacitly admit that they were unprepared for the “unprecedented challenge” of the rapidly spreading disease, according to the latest draft of a joint statement to be issued following a video conference.

Their discussion is expected to highlight divisions, especially when it comes to possible joint debt issuance and the conditions attached to any borrowing from the euro area’s bailout fund.

Cases rise in Asia

Fatalities from novel coronavirus infection in Indonesia jumped to 78, the most in Southeast Asia, as the world’s fourth-most populous nation continues to see a surge in fresh cases. The total number of people infected rose to 893 on Thursday from 790 a day earlier. The number of new infections topped 100 for a third consecutive day.

Malaysia added 235 confirmed cases, the biggest daily jump so far, after Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin decided to extend the lockdown until April 14. And Hong Kong reported 43 additional cases, the second biggest daily jump in confirmed cases.

Thailand, now entering what’s traditionally one of its hottest periods of the year, saw total cases surpass 1,000 following confirmation of 111 new cases. The total number may reach 3,500 by the end of April if the infection rate continues at this pace, according to Anupong Sujariyakul, senior expert in preventive medicine at the Disease Control Department.

Virus repose topples first government

Kosovo lawmakers voted to remove Prime Minister Albin Kurti, becoming the first nation in Europe to vote out a government over the way it handled the outbreak. The government collapsed late on Wednesday, just months after it took office. The vote was called by a junior coalition partner who criticized steps taken to curb the contagion.

India unveils $22.6bn stimulus

The measures will include cash transfers, as well as steps on food security, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in New Delhi Thursday. The package will benefit migrant workers, she said. India is on a total lockdown for three weeks from Wednesday in the world’s biggest isolation effort, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks to prevent the virus from spreading locally.

Faster virus tests

Robert Bosch GmbH said it developed a test that can diagnose Covid-19 in less than 2.5 hours and might help efforts to fight the outbreak. The new test uses the Vivalytic molecular diagnostics platform made by Bosch’s healthcare division, used in hospitals, laboratories and medical practices. Patients typically must wait one or two days before they get test results.

Separately, UK-based Mologic Ltd has sent prototypes of a 10-minute coronavirus test to laboratories for validation before it can begin full-scale manufacturing. The company and its partner, the Senegalese research foundation Institut Pasteur de Dakar, have developed a finger-prick test to determine whether a person had the illness and the state of his or her immune system. The company is also working on a separate saliva test to detect the presence of the virus.

Singapore boosts package to 11% of GDP

Singapore delivered a second stimulus package of S$48 billion ($33 billion) to fight the outbreak, drawing on national reserves for the first time since the global financial crisis to support an economy heading for recession.

The city-state’s gross domestic product fell an annualised 10.6% in the first quarter from the previous three months. The government said it now sees a sharp contraction in the economy of 1% to 4% for the full year.

Tokyo’s cases climb by a record

Tokyo confirmed more than 45 additional coronavirus cases, national broadcaster NHK reported, citing an unidentified metropolitan government official. That exceeded the count of 41 for the previous day. The city has become the new centre of coronavirus cases in the country, overtaking Hokkaido as the area with the most infections.

The jump in cases comes as the annual cherry blossoms appear across the capital, bringing crowds out for traditional viewing celebrations in public parks.

French business confidence tumbles by a record

French business confidence plunged at a record pace in March as shutdowns to contain the coronavirus have left the economy running at 65% of normal activity. The index fell to 95 in March from 105 the month before, statistics office Insee said Thursday. The drop echoes that seen in Germany in figures earlier this week, and reflects French President Emmanuel Macron’s move to put the country in lockdown in an effort to contain the spread of the virus.

India addresses confusion over three-week lockdown measures

After India’s stringent nationwide lockdown order threw the nation’s ports into confusion, the Ministry of Home Affairs clarified that essential infrastructure will be allowed to keep operating.

The interstate movement of goods for domestic use or for export will be allowed, the ministry said. Movement of essential goods, including petroleum products, food products and medical supplies across the country’s land borders is also allowed during the lockdown.

Senate approves rescue plan

The package of more than $2 trillion in measures provides for about $500 billion in loans and assistance for big companies, including struggling airlines, as well as states and cities. There is a separate pot of about $350 billion for small businesses. For individuals, the legislation provides direct payments to lower- and middle-income Americans of $1,200 for each adult, as well as $500 for each child. Unemployment insurance would be vastly expanded.

The House is scheduled to vote on the legislation Friday.

US death toll passes 1,000

Over 1,000 people in the US have died from the virus, according to data tracked by Johns Hopkins University.

That puts the US’s death toll just behind France, which has 1,331 deaths. Italy has suffered the highest death toll in the widening global pandemic, with more than 7,500 deaths as of Thursday.

The grim milestone comes as cases of infection in the US rapidly increase and the World Health Organization warned that the country could become the next epicentre of the worldwide outbreak.

Japan prepares to declare emergency

Japan to set up panel looking at emergency declaration Japan will set up a panel as soon as Thursday to consider declaring an emergency, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said.

While he told reporters at a briefing Thursday that the Abe administration isn’t thinking of declaring an emergency now, Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said he has told the prime minister there’s a high risk of the virus spreading broadly.

Canada sees a 72% surge in confirmed cases

In Canada, the number of confirmed cases rose to 3,385, an increase of 72% over the course of the day. There were 35 deaths, a rise of roughly 30%. It was not immediately clear if improvements in testing contributed to the spike in cases.

South Korea deploys QE

The Bank of Korea will conduct weekly money-market operations aimed at providing an “unlimited” amount of liquidity for three months. The initiative will start in April, and is designed to stabilise financial markets. It “wouldn’t be too wrong” to see the move as quantitative easing, a BOK official said.

The sharpest spike in years in premiums for companies to borrow in many funding markets around the world has pushed global monetary policymakers to adopt unorthodox measures. The US, Australia, New Zealand and several others have all taken unprecedented actions this month.

Fauci sees potential for another cycle of infections

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at a White House briefing that it’s possible the virus could become a seasonal affliction, with further waves of infections coming. He noted that the number of cases in the southern hemisphere is rising as the winter season approaches there.

“I know we’ll be successful in putting this down now. But we really need to be prepared for another cycle,” Dr Fauci said. He said it’s vital that a vaccine be developed for the next cycle, along with a “menu” of treatment drugs that have been shown to be successful and safe.

At the same briefing, White House coronavirus task force member Deborah Birx highlighted that the number of new cases in New York City has been relatively constant the past three days, and said that “we’re close to working through the testing backlog”.

WHO: Countries wasted time amid spread

The world squandered a window of opportunity to fight the coronavirus and many actions should have been taken one or two months ago, according to World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The WHO chief himself didn’t call the coronavirus a pandemic until mid-March.

Worldwide lockdowns have created a second window of opportunity that shouldn’t be wasted, he said at a press briefing in Geneva. There are 150 countries with fewer than 100 reported cases, he said, adding that those in lockdown should use this time to contain the virus.

“The last thing any country needs is to reopen schools and businesses only to close them again because of resurgent cases,” he said.

New cases decline in Italy

Italy reported that new cases fell on Wednesday, after nearly three weeks of lockdown measures. There were 5,210 new cases, compared with 5,249 a day earlier.

Fatalities from the disease over the past 24 hours totalled 683, compared with 743 on Tuesday, according to figures from the civil protection agency. Confirmed cases in the country now total 74,386.

The news came as the government broadened rules that shield companies from hostile takeovers as the virus takes a heavy toll on the economy.

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