Virus update: Infections hit grim level, $4.1tn cost seen

Virus update: Infections hit grim level, $4.1tn cost seen

Infections surpass 1m, deaths at 53,000 worldwide

Volunteers from the Blue Sky Rescue team disinfect at the Qintai Grand Theatre in Wuhan, Hubei province, the epicentre of China's coronavirus disease outbreak, on Friday. (Reuters photo)
Volunteers from the Blue Sky Rescue team disinfect at the Qintai Grand Theatre in Wuhan, Hubei province, the epicentre of China's coronavirus disease outbreak, on Friday. (Reuters photo)

Global coronavirus infections surpassed 1 million, a milestone reached just four months after the first cases surfaced in China. More than 53,000 people have died around the world.

New York, the US epicentre, reported 9,000 new infections, while Italy cases slowed. The global cost of the pandemic could be as high as $4.1 trillion, the Asian Development Bank said.

Hong Kong ordered bars to close, and companies including British Airways and Walt Disney Co furloughed workers. US President Donald Trump again tested negative for the virus.

Latest developments:

Singapore to close schools, workplaces

Singapore’s government will shutter schools and most workplaces, in its latest effort to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

Most workplaces, except for essential services and key economic sectors, will close starting on Tuesday, while the city-state will move to full home-based learning in its schools starting Wednesday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told the nation in an address on Friday afternoon.

The action comes as confirmed cases of local transmission and unlinked infections in the country have risen in recent weeks. "We have decided that instead of tightening incrementally over the next few weeks, we should make a decisive move now, to pre-empt escalating infections," said Mr Lee.

He also said Singapore also plans to unveil more support for businesses and households. Singapore delivered a second stimulus package worth S$48 billion ($33.5 billion) last week to fight the outbreak, drawing on national reserves for the first time since the global financial crisis to support an economy heading for recession.

Singapore announced Friday a fifth person has died due to complications from the coronavirus. As of April 2 at noon, the government had confirmed an additional 49 cases of Covid-19 infection, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 1,049.

Philippines reports 29 new deaths

The Philippines' health ministry reported 29 new coronavirus deaths, marking the single largest daily increase in casualties. The latest figures brought total deaths in the country to 136, while 385 new cases were reported, increasing the tally to 3,018, the health ministry said in a bulletin.

Modi candle call

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on Indians to hold candles and mobiles aloft for nine minutes on Sunday in order to dispel the "darkness and uncertainty".

"Friends, amidst the darkness spread by the corona pandemic, we must continuously progress towards light and hope," Modi said in an address to the nation of 1.3 billion people under a lockdown since March 25.

Japan worries country on brink of virus surge

Japan is bracing for an explosive surge in coronavirus infections cases, senior government officials said, while continuing to resist calls to declare a state of emergency to fight the pandemic.

"We are really continuing on the brink of the brink," Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters in Tokyo, one of several fresh warnings about the potential for a more widespread outbreak. Nishimura said that the government was concerned about the capital, where confirmed infections have more than doubled in a week to almost 700. Tokyo saw its biggest one-day tally of 97 on Thursday.

The country shifted its focus more to patients with severe symptoms, asking those who are less ill to stay home or at accommodation designated by local authorities, as specialised beds run short with the outbreak spreading fast.

Germany to lift curbs in steps

Germans should not assume that all restrictions on public life will be lifted after their current expiry date on April 19, according to Health Minister Jens Spahn.

"I want us to continue doing what we promised until Easter, namely reducing contact, and then assess together whether and how we can return to normality in steps," Mr Spahn said in an interview with Bild newspaper. "Certainly not all at once, but if at all then in steps."

The virus has claimed 1,107 lives in Germany, according to the most recent data from Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed cases totals 84,794 — the third-highest in Europe after Italy and Spain.

Australia seeks relief for commercial tenants

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government is close to announcing an agreement that will see rent relief for businesses hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

The government wants a new industry code of practice for commercial tenancies, so any decline in revenue for a business is reflected in a proportionate drop in rent they have to pay, Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

Mr Morrison has been working to cushion the impact of the outbreak, trying to ensure as many firms can survive as possible so activity can be quickly revived once the health crisis is over.

Cathay cuts capacity even further

Cathay Pacific Airways said it will cut capacity even further as travel demand has disappeared.

The Hong Kong-based airline will fly just two times a week to four long-haul destinations — London, Vancouver, Los Angeles and Sydney — and hopes to maintain three weekly services to eight regional destinations, including Tokyo, New Delhi and Singapore, CEO Augustus Tang said in a memo to staff.

Chairman Patrick Healy and Tang are taking a 30% pay cut from April to December and executive director salaries will be reduced by 25%.

Global cost could reach $4.1tn — ADB

The cost of the coronavirus pandemic could be as high as $4.1 trillion, or almost 5% of global gross domestic product, depending on the disease’s spread through Europe, the US and other major economies, the Asian Development Bank said.

A shorter containment period could limit the damage to $2 trillion, or 2.3% of world output, the Manila-based lender said in its Asian Development Outlook report released Friday. Developing Asia, including China, accounts for 22% to 36% of the pandemic’s total cost, it said.

Boeing sees thousands of workers exiting

Boeing expects several thousand workers to retire or accept a buyout offer as the planemaker races to shrink its operations amid a historic unravelling of global travel, said a person familiar with the company’s plans.

The manufacturer will start by offering the exit package in the US, while selectively hiring for critical programmes such as defence and space, said the person, who asked not to be named because the discussions are confidential. Boeing is also weighing a production cut for wide-body jets as demand falls, although no changes have been made as yet, the person said.

Trump attacks 3M on mask production

US President Donald Trump attacked 3M Co over unspecified problems with its production of protective masks, on the same day his administration issued an order under the Defense Production Act to speed production of ventilators and masks for coronavirus patients.

The president said at a White House news conference he signed an "element of the act against 3M" that allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency to obtain as many N95 respirators as it needs from the company. Mr Trump tweeted Thursday evening the company would "have a big price to pay" for its handling of the masks, without specifying the problem.

Mr Trump earlier signed an executive order directing the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that General Electric, Hill-Rom Holdings, Medtronic, ResMed., Royal Philips and Vyaire Medical obtain needed supplies. The order does not name the suppliers to companies manufacturing ventilators.

China reports 60 asymptomatic cases

China reported 60 additional asymptomatic cases for April 2, according to the National Health Commission. The country has 1,027 asymptomatic coronavirus cases under medical observation.

Concern has been growing over how many people infected with the virus are showing little or no symptoms. Almost four out of five people who proved positive in a day’s testing in China this week showed no obvious signs of Covid-19, the BMJ medical journal reported Thursday.

China also reported 31 confirmed coronavirus cases for April 2, with 29 of them from abroad. Of the confirmed cases, seven were earlier classified as asymptomatic ones. China has a total of 81,620 confirmed coronavirus cases. The country’s death toll rose by four to 3,322.

South Korea infections surpass 10,000

South Korea reported 86 more coronavirus cases, marking a total count of 10,062 nationwide, according to a statement from the health ministry. The country’s death toll rose to 174 from 169, while the number of patients released from quarantine rose to 6,021.

Michigan, Connecticut, Indiana seen as next hot spots

The rate of positive coronavirus tests suggests that the next hot spots could include Michigan, Connecticut, Indiana, Georgia and Illinois, said White House virus task-force coordinator Deborah Birx.

"We do have two states that have 35% positives, and that’s New York and New Jersey," making them a clear hot zone, Birx told reporters at a White House briefing. Louisiana’s positive test rate is 26%.

"Michigan, Connecticut, Indiana, Georgia, Illinois — that should tell you where the next hot spots are coming — are at 15% test positive," she added. "And then Colorado, DC, Rhode Island and Massachusetts are at 13%."

Pence says hospitals to be paid for uninsured

Some of the $100 billion in federal funds earmarked to help hospitals cope with the coronavirus pandemic will cover bills for the uninsured, Vice President Mike Pence said.

"We don’t want any Americans to worry about the cost of getting a test, the cost of getting treatment," Mr Pence told reporters.

The Trump administration is working on a proposal for the president to direct some of the funds targeted to hospitals to cover expenses for the uninsured. The funds would go directly to the medical facilities, Pence said. Officials expect to have an announcement on Friday.

US doubles small-business loan rate

The Small Business Administration has bumped up to 1% the interest rate lenders may charge under a $350 billion US relief programme for affected small businesses. The move came after lenders complained that the previous approved rate of 0.5% was below even their own cost of funds.

White House likely to urge face coverings

The White House is likely to recommend that people living in areas hardest hit by the coronavirus cover their faces in public, according to a person familiar with the matter, as new research shows that the pathogen may hang in the air after people sneeze, cough or even talk. The administration won’t urge Americans to buy commercial medical-grade masks, which are in short supply at hospitals.

Officials in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area told residents Thursday that they should cover their faces when they are outside, while Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti made a similar recommendation Wednesday.

Trump again tests negative

President Donald Trump tested negative again for the coronavirus and has no symptoms, according to a memo from a White House doctor. The test was administered early Thursday, according to the statement handed out to reporters at the White House.

"He is healthy and without symptoms," Sean Conley, physician to the president and a US Navy commander, said in the memo. Mr Trump was tested earlier in the outbreak and was negative then as well.

Germany’s deaths top 1,000

Deaths in Germany climbed to 1,074 Thursday, a day after the government extended a nationwide lockdown beyond Easter. The toll was 931 the previous day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Confirmed cases increased to 84,264 — the third-highest in Europe — from 77,981.

The head of Germany’s public health authority said this week he expects the nation’s relatively low death rate of 0.8% to rise in the next few weeks.

New York new cases rise by almost 9,000

New York’s outbreak shows no signs of abating, with almost 8,700 new infections, 1,200 new hospitalisations, 400 new ICU admissions and more than 400 new deaths, governor Andrew Cuomo said.

Mr Cuomo said at the current infection rate, the state is six days away from exhausting its stockpile of breathing machines. About 350 new patients per night need ventilation, and the state has about 2,200 stockpiled.

Unlike other states that claim to have received faulty ventilators from the US stockpile, Mr Cuomo says all those received by New York appear to be in working order.

Pence says 100,000 get tested

Vice President Mike Pence said more than 100,000 Americans are now being tested daily for coronavirus, as the government tries to ramp up its lagging response to tracking the outbreak.

A weekend breakthrough on point-of-care testing by Abbott Laboratories will make an additional 50,000 tests available each day, Mr Pence said Thursday in an interview with Bloomberg Television.

There have been about 1.2 million tests performed in the US as of noon Thursday, according to the Covid 19 Tracking Project, which examines data supplied by states.

Italy infections slow

Italy reported 4,668 new cases on Thursday compared with 4,782 a day earlier, as growth in infections slowed.

The nation had 760 deaths as the number of fatalities rose again after three weeks of nationwide lockdown.

The toll over the past 24 hours compared with 727 on Wednesday, according to figures from the civil protection agency.

Democrats postpone convention

The Democratic National Committee on Thursday postponed the presidential nominating convention from July to Aug. 17 due to concerns about the coronavirus, according to two people familiar with the decision. The delay comes after likely presidential nominee Joe Biden said it should be pushed back for safety reasons.

Putin extends lockdown

President Vladimir Putin extended his order keeping Russians at home until April 30, warning that the spread of coronavirus has yet to reach its peak.

The Russian leader said certain parts of Russia, including Moscow, haven’t managed to get the situation under control. He said he would give additional authority to regional leaders to determine the level of response locally. He noted that the stay-at-home period could be shortened if the situation improves.

Amazon Hires 80,000 Inc said it has hired 80,000 people to help meet demand for online orders and has stepped up safety precautions at its US warehouses.

Dave Clark, Amazon’s logistics chief, said in a blog on Thursday that Amazon would probably go "well beyond" its previous estimate of an additional $350 million in costs to support a growing workforce.

HK orders bars, pubs to close

Hong Kong has ordered bars and pubs to close for 14 days from April 3. The city earlier reported 37 new cases, taking its total to 802.

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