Spain’s fatalities climb, Putin remote meetings: Virus update

Spain’s fatalities climb, Putin remote meetings: Virus update

Medical personnel tend to a patient at the reception of the Emergency Room, set up in a tent, in a courtyard of the Henri Mondor Hospital in Creteil in the suburbs of Paris on Wednesday on the sixteenth day of a lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19 (novel coronavirus) in France. (AFP)
Medical personnel tend to a patient at the reception of the Emergency Room, set up in a tent, in a courtyard of the Henri Mondor Hospital in Creteil in the suburbs of Paris on Wednesday on the sixteenth day of a lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19 (novel coronavirus) in France. (AFP)

Spain reported another increase in fatalities, while Italy and Germany moved to extend lockdown measures. US President Donald Trump warned of a “painful” two weeks ahead after projections showed that as many as 240,000 Americans could die.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has begun holding meetings remotely from his home after being exposed to a doctor with the coronavirus. Italian factories took a record hit from the curbs and British lenders halted payouts amid pressure from the regulator. Stocks fell globally.

Key Developments:

Global cases top 874,000; more than 43,400 dead: Johns Hopkins

China reports 130 new asymptomatic virus cases in one day

Leaving Hong Kong for US to escape coronavirus didn’t work

Quarantined in Berlin, pressure rises on Merkel to save Europe

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Dutch measures appear to show first effects

Updates (latest first:

Lockdown steps taken in the Netherlands, which have been extended until April 28, seem to be having an effect as the number of fatalities and hospital admissions is increasing slower than would be expected without such measures, the RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment said in its daily update.

Total confirmed cases rose 8% to 13,614. Fatalities climbed 13% to 1,173. Both rates are in line with previous days.

Putin holds remote meetings after handshake with doctor 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has begun holding meetings remotely from his residence outside Moscow after being exposed to a doctor who was later diagnosed with coronavirus, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday on a conference call. Peskov said on Tuesday that Putin is regularly tested and is fine.

Putin on March 24 shook hands and chatted with the doctor, Denis Protsenko, who is the chief of Moscow’s main coronavirus facility.

Foxconn assures investors 5G iPhone can still launch this fall 

Apple Inc’s most important manufacturing partner reassured investors it can still get the latest 5G-enabled iPhones ready for an autumn debut. Hon Hai Precision Industry Co, which makes most of the world’s iPhones, told investors it’s lost time to travel restrictions and other disruptions caused by the pandemic. But with months to go before the first trial assembly lines start in June, Hon Hai can still make the deadline, investor relations chief Alex Yang said on a private conference call hosted by Goldman Sachs.

Portugal confirmed cases rise 

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Portugal rose to 8,251 as of 11am on Wednesday, an 11% increase from 7,443 on Tuesday morning, the government’s Directorate-General of Health said. That’s slower than a 16% rise on Tuesday, which followed a 7.5% increase on Monday.

The total number of deaths increased to 187 on Wednesday from 160.

One million Singaporeans tap contact-tracing app 

The mobile-phone app boosts authorities’ ability to undertake contact tracing. It taps Bluetooth technology to collect data on people that users have been in close proximity with, if they have also have the service.

Deutsche Bank reviewing bonuses 

Deutsche Bank AG is reviewing bonuses as part of an internal discussion how to respond to pressure from regulators to preserve capital and keep lending through the pandemic. The scope of the deliberations is broad and the lender is also looking at alternative measures that wouldn’t involve bonuses, according to a person familiar with the matter. A decision could be announced as early as this week.

Edinburgh fringe festival cancelled 

The Edinburgh Fringe, which bills itself as the world’s largest arts festival, became the latest event to be cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Organizers said in a statement on their website that the event, due to be held Aug 7-31, would not be held.

Earlier, the Financial Times said the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club will hold an emergency board meeting on Wednesday where they will likely call off the Wimbledon tournament for the first time since World War II.

Cases may have peaked in Italy’s Lombardy region 

The peak of new coronavirus cases in Lombardy may have been reached, the region’s governor Attilio Fontana told a press conference on Wednesday, citing statistics experts and epidemiologists.

The number of new cases in Italy levelled off at a two-week low on Tuesday, a sign the outbreak may be coming under control. Still, the government plans to extend the nationwide lockdown to April 13, as relaxing rules too early would negate efforts to counter the spread, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said on Wednesday. The country is also considering postponing regional elections.

EU unveils plan to stop firms firing workers

The European Union announced a plan to discourage businesses in the countries worst hit by the coronavirus from firing workers as they struggle. Amid criticism that the EU has done too little to mitigate the economic impact, the European Commission signalled on Wednesday that it will use central funds to pay companies to keep workers in jobs.

“It is intended to help Italy, Spain and all other countries that have been hard hit,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

Mallinckrodt, Novoteris get Canada clearance on trial

Mallinckrodt and Novoteris say they have received Health Canada clearance to start a pilot trial of high-dose inhaled nitric oxide therapy for Covid-19 infection and associated lung complications.

Austria plans moratorium for consumer loans 

Austria is planning to impose a three-month repayment moratorium on about 162 billion euros ($177 billion) of consumer loans to ease the economic impact of the coronavirus. The moratorium would pause interest and capital repayments for borrowers, while also allowing them to opt out, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Unemployment in the country has soared by two thirds to more than half a million people in March as the country clamped down on public life to halt the spread of the virus. That’s more than 12% of the workforce, the highest level since the end of World War II.

Vaccine race gets unlikely partner in Big Tobacco 

Philip Morris International Inc and British American Tobacco Plc are trying to devise a defence against the coronavirus from the tobacco leaf. BAT said it’s in pre-clinical testing of a plant-based vaccine via a US biotech subsidiary Kentucky BioProcessing. Philip Morris has said its partially owned Canadian unit Medicago expects to start human trials for a potential vaccine this summer.

“We believe we have made a significant breakthrough,” said David O’Reilly, BAT’s director of scientific research. “We stand ready to work with governments and all stakeholders to help win the war against Covid-19.” BAT’s Kentucky BioProcessing was involved in developing ZMapp, an Ebola drug, with Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. in 2014 -- but that treatment never made it out of the lab.

Japan to seek to quarantine all overseas arrivals 

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan would ask all arrivals from overseas to undergo 14 days’ quarantine. Speaking at a meeting of his coronavirus task force, Abe said Japan would also ban foreign visitors from 49 countries and regions.

Abe had said earlier the government is unable to introduce a lockdown like other countries. He also told a parliamentary committee Japan was not in a situation to declare an emergency at this point, but said circumstances are changing rapidly.

Coronavirus numbers in Japan have been ticking up, sparking alarm that it could be the next major country to see an explosive jump in infections. It’s also raising questions about whether Tokyo, where cases have tripled over the past 10 days, is about to go into a European-style lockdown.

Putin sends military plane with aid to help US 

A Russian military plane loaded with medical equipment took off from outside of Moscow after President Vladimir Putin offered Donald Trump help. “The Russian side offered assistance amid the dire epidemiological situation in America,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told state-run Channel One Tuesday. “Trump gratefully accepted this humanitarian aid.”

The shipment comes amid a growing outbreak in Russia, where some critics believe the official statistics understate the real situation. Russia on Wednesday reported a 19% increase in cases overnight, bringing the total number of infected to 2,777. The Kremlin hopes that the US will reciprocate with medical assistance if Russia needs help, Peskov said.

Iran reports more cases, deaths 

Iran reported 2,987 new cases, taking its total to 47,593, while deaths increased by 138 to 3,036.

Deaths in Spain rise

Spain reported 864 new coronavirus fatalities on Wednesday, marking its deadliest day since the crisis began as the number of confirmed cases surged past 100,000. Total deaths rose to 9,053 in the past 24 hours, from 8,189 Tuesday, according to Health Ministry data. The number of confirmed cases increased to 102,136 from 94,417.

Spain has been in almost-complete lockdown since March 14, and it remains unclear whether the restrictions on public life have helped bring the disease under control.

Israeli missile manufacturer starts making ventilators 

Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd inaugurated a ventilator production line on Tuesday because of the shortage in Israel and around the world, the defence ministry said. The production line was set up in collaboration with Inovytec, an Israeli producer of emergency medical systems. The first 30 ventilators produced have already been delivered to the country’s health ministry.

European auto industry prepares for the worst 

French passenger car registrations dropped 72% compared with the previous year, while German car-parts giant Continental AG abandoned earnings outlook after slashing output across its sprawling factory network.

More than 40% of Continental’s plants ceased operations following transport restrictions and shutdowns across the globe, the Hannover-based maker of tires and other components said Wednesday. The shares fell as much as 8%.

Carmakers from Volkswagen AG, PSA Group, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV to Renault SA have closed factories and showrooms after governments introduced curbs to stem the outbreak. Juergen Pieper, an analyst at Bankhaus Metzler, said it is very likely that new car and trucks sales will have to take the biggest hit since 1945.

“April will also be very difficult because populations will remain confined in many countries,” Jacques Aschenbroich, chief executive officer of French car-parts maker Valeo SA, said on BFM Business radio. “We must be prepared for a very, very difficult next few months.”

German startups to create virus tracking app 

A group of German startups are working on an application that will help the government track people who have been exposed to the novel coronavirus and, ultimately, ease restrictions when the pandemic begins to subside.

Germany has pledged to help startups with short-term financial assistance valued at about 2 billion euros ($2.2 billion). A longer-term startup fund of 10 billion euros has also been agreed to, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz and Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said in Berlin on Wednesday.

Indonesia’s death toll jumps 

Indonesia had 21 fatalities from the coronavirus on Wednesday, the highest in a day so far, taking total deaths to 157. Indonesia’s death toll is the highest in Southeast Asia. Total confirmed cases rose by 149 to 1,677.

ECB’s Stournaras says EU risks new debt crisis 

Europe risks a new sovereign-debt crisis if governments don’t match the European Central Bank’s action with a common fiscal response to support the economy through the coronavirus pandemic, according to ECB policy maker Yannis Stournaras.

Stournaras, who heads the Greek central bank, urged leaders to stop bickering and form a “strong alliance” to fight the coronavirus. He particularly recommended jointly issued bonds, a step backed by several nations but resisted by more fiscally conservative ones.

BP slashes spending 

The company now expects 2020 organic capital spend to be about $12 billion, or 25% below its prior full-year guidance. BP said full-year 2020 underlying upstream production would be lower than in 2019, and warned that downstream first-quarter results would be hurt by a “significant and growing” decline in demand for fuels.

Chinese airlines see short-term hit

China’s airlines struck a defiant tone in their annual results, saying they see only a short-term hit from the outbreak, despite unprecedented disruptions and expected losses for the global aviation industry. Air China Ltd. sounded the most optimistic of the so-called big three airlines, saying the country’s economy remains on a steady growth path with a positive long-term outlook, helped by government strategies.

European manufacturing slumps 

Italian manufacturing suffered a record drop in output in March, when the entire country went into lockdown to contain the pandemic. Italy’s northern industrial heartland was one of the first places to see a surge in cases, and localized quarantines came into force in late February. As the measures expanded, that closed down businesses across the country.

Factories in eastern Europe have also ground to a halt as broken supply chains stopped deliveries and consumers in the euro zone ceased buying imported goods. Purchasing-manager indexes declined more than analysts forecast in the largest economies in the region. UK factories scaled down faster than previously estimated last month as the coronavirus dented demand.

UK banks drop after axeing dividends

HSBC Holdings Plc led UK banks lower after they agreed to scrap dividends and buybacks this year. The move came amid pressure from the regulator, who pushed lenders to contain spending to shareholders as the coronavirus pandemic upends the industry.

The Prudential Regulation Authority had written to lenders asking them to cancel payments, adding that it “expects banks not to pay any cash bonuses to senior staff, including all material risk takers.” The company statements didn’t mention bonuses.

The UK’s five biggest banks had planned to pay out 7.5 billion pounds ($9.3 billion) in dividends over the next two months. Barclays was due to pay more than 1 billion pounds on Friday.

China releases first daily tally of asymptomatic patients 

China reported 130 people over the past day who were infected with the virus but didn’t have symptoms, signalling that the group of people who can spread the illness without being detected is sizable. The tally was the first daily count of so-called asymptomatic patients and established a new benchmark to measure the scope of the outbreak amid domestic and international criticism of official Chinese data.

China also reported 36 additional cases by the end of March 31, with all but one from abroad, according to the National Health Commission. Two had earlier been classified as asymptomatic. The country now has 81,554 confirmed coronavirus cases and a death toll of 3,312.

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