Coronavirus latest: New York to investigate severe Covid-19 illness in children | #covid19 | #kids | #childern


European Commission considers legal action after German court’s QE ruling
Mehreen Khan
The president of the European Commission has said Brussels is considering taking legal steps that could result in Germany being sued in Europe’s highest court over a ruling from its constitutional court on ECB bond buying.
In her strongest language yet, Ursula von der Leyen said Brussels was examining “possible next steps up to an infringement procedure” after Germany’s constitutional court on Tuesday said the EU’s highest court acted outside its mandate in approving ECB quantitative easing measures.
The court in Karlsruhe also demanded the ECB provide a “proportionality assessment” within three months justifying QE or risk Germany not taking part in the measures. The explosive ruling has called into question the independence of the ECB and the supremacy of EU law over national courts, which overrides member state legislation in the EU.
In a letter to German MEP Sven Giegold on Saturday, Ms von der Leyen said: “The Commission is now in the process of analysing the more than 100-page judgment of the German Federal Constitutional Court in detail. On the basis of this knowledge, we examine possible next steps up to an infringement procedure.”
Brussels has the power to sue national governments at the ECJ for breach of EU law. This often lengthy process — which can takes years — can result in a member state being sanctioned.

Musk threatens to move Tesla out of California amid battle over shutdown
Patrick McGee
Tesla chief Elon Musk said he is suing Alameda County, home to the electric car maker’s Fremont manufacturing plant, and that Tesla may even exit California altogether after being denied a request to restart production due to coronavirus.
Mr Musk said he would also move Tesla’s Palo Alto headquarters, and hinted that all manufacturing in Fremont could be shuttered for good.
“Frankly, this is the final straw,” the billionaire tweeted on Saturday morning. “Tesla will now move its HQ and future programs to Texas/Nevada immediately. If we even retain Fremont manufacturing activity at all, it will be dependen [sic] on how Tesla is treated in the future. Tesla is the last carmaker left in CA.”
The tweet came in response to a fan podcast tweeting that Alameda “doesn’t think Tesla should reopen until June 1”. Ross Gerber, an investor and long-time Tesla bull, then said it was “time for a lawsuit”. Mr Musk agreed and said: “The unelected & ignorant ‘Interim Health Office’ of Alameda is acting contrary to the Governor, the President, our Constitutional freedoms & just plain common sense.”
How seriously one should take the tweets is unclear, as moving locations would incur major costs. Following an expansion in 2016, Tesla’s site in Fremont is nearly 10m square feet on 370 acres of land. Tesla started operations there in 2009 after acquiring it from NUMMI, a GM-Toyota joint venture. It is home to more than 10,000 employees and is Tesla’s main US site for building the Model Y, S and 3.
A spokesperson for Tesla did not respond immediately to a request for clarification.

Carlyle and GIC call off AMEX travel deal
Mark Vandevelde in New York
Carlyle Group and Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC are calling off their acquisition of a stake in American Express Global Business Travel, igniting a legal battle over a deal that would have valued the pandemic-hit company at $5bn.
The two investment groups were due to consummate the transaction at a virtual signing ceremony on Thursday, but indicated they would not attend, according to a note to lenders who had signed up to provide financing for the transaction, seen by the Financial Times.
Read the full story here

UK shadow chancellor sets out economic plan for lockdown exit
Labour’s shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds writes for FT Opinion
Actions taken by the UK government in March — supported by Labour — helped shore up the economy in the short-term. But if those measures are to prevent, rather than merely delay, job losses and bankruptcies, ministers must set out a clear plan.
Now is not the time to let up on efforts to limit the economic damage. If ministers withdraw support too quickly, prematurely removing the life raft of the furlough scheme, and millions lose their jobs in the middle of a prolonged downturn, it could take many months for them to find work again. Indeed, many may struggle to find it at all.
Labour stands ready to work constructively with the government to get this right. There are five immediate steps it must consider.
Read the full op-ed here

New York state to investigate severe Covid-19 illness in children
Andrew Cuomo has voiced concern over the effects of Covid-19 on children after 73 young people in New York state became severely ill.
“We had thought, initially…that young people were not affected by Covid-19,” the New York state governor said. “We are not so sure that that is the fact any more.”
The state has seen a number of cases of infants and elementary-school aged children suffering from symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease, an inflammatory condition that causes swelling in the blood vessels, and three young people have died in the state, Mr Cuomo said.
The state public health department is working with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and researchers to study the phenomenon and help with national monitoring. Doctors around the world have been working to understand how Covid-19 affects children, and why a few become seriously ill.
Mr Cuomo said it is possible that cases of severe Covid-19-related illness in children have been going on for weeks but were not initially linked to the virus because the symptoms appear different from those seen in adults.
Speaking at his daily press conference, Mr Cuomo said hospitalisations in the state continue to fall and that the number of new cases dropped to 572, the lowest level since March 20. The governor said deaths remained “infuriatingly constant” at 226 yesterday.

UK transport secretary hints at need for travel quarantine measure
George Parker in London
UK transport secretary Grant Shapps has given a strong indication that he will soon introduce new UK border controls, but said any formal announcement would be made by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a televised address on Sunday evening.
“We can’t have a situation where everyone else is being asked to stay at home but others can come into the country,” Mr Shapps told the daily Downing Street press conference.
He refused to confirm reports that the government will require all arrivals at UK airports, seaports and international rail stations to self-quarantine for 14 days. He said any change of policy would be announced by the prime minister.
Mr Shapps defended the government’s decision not to introduce tougher border controls earlier in the outbreak, saying that “very few people were travelling” and that many were Britons returning home, including key workers.
He said there had been some restrictions on people travelling to Britain from China, Iran, South Korea and northern Italy at the start of the outbreak, but suggested there was a case for reintroducing them now as infection rates fall.
Mr Shapps acknowledged the aviation sector faced a short-term and longer-term problem because of a dramatic fall in air travel, but said the government was willing to have “bespoke conversations” with companies that needed help.
But he insisted that his overwhelming priority was in the country’s health and the need to exit the lockdown in an economically sustainable way: “We have to develop policy in the national interest,” he said.

FDA grants emergency approval to new quick coronavirus test
Donato Paolo Mancini in London
A top US regulator has granted emergency approval to a new coronavirus diagnostic tool, a move that broadens the array of tests available to detect coronavirus infections and which could help authorities to lift lockdowns.
The US Food and Drug Administration has approved a coronavirus antigen device made by Quidel Corporation. The California-based group said the test will deliver results in 15 minutes and is currently on sale in the US.
Testing will be a key part of dealing with the pandemic as the current wave of infections wanes and authorities consider a gradual return to normalcy. A thorough picture of who is infected, who has been infected, and who has not, will help to stymie any new outbreaks and avoid further peaks.
Antigen tests look for a protein present in the new coronavirus, indicating current infection. PCR tests, the ones currently most widely available, look for the actual virus and are also used to detect current infection. On the other hand, antibody tests, which authorities are putting their hopes on as they move to ease lockdowns across the globe, look for signs of both recent and past infection.
Just last week, Roche of Switzerland secured a similar approval for its antibody test.

Driving increases in the UK despite lockdown

Motor vehicle use in the UK is trending gradually upward over time, government statistics show.
“The trend is up,” said Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer, speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference.
Prof Van-Tam said the rise is “a difficult trend to interpret” as it may reflect a return to work by employees who are permitted to travel but chose not to do so earlier in the lockdown.
The continuing low usage of tubes, buses, and national rail was “extremely impressive,” Prof Van-Tam said.


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UK plans £2bn cycling package as Covid-19 reshapes transport
George Parker in London
Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, has announced a £2bn investment in walking and cycling infrastructure as he admitted that Britain’s public transport system will not be able to cope with new social distancing rules.
Mr Shapps, speaking at the daily Downing Street briefing, said it was “the most significant investment” in greener forms of transport from any government, adding it would lead to a permanent change to the way the country travels.
He warned that the 2m social distancing rule meant that the country’s trains, buses and tubes would only be able to carry about one-tenth of normal passenger numbers.
Mr Shapps made the announcement as the country recorded a total of 31,587 coronavirus deaths, up 346 on the previous day. Some 11,809 were being treated for the disease in hospital, down 17 per cent on last Saturday.
Promising a green travel revolution, Mr Shapps said: “Getting Britain moving again will require many of us to think carefully about how and when we travel.”
He said there was a “once in a generation” chance to improve the country’s physical and mental health by encouraging walking and cycling, while greener forms of travel would maintain the improvement in the country’s air quality.
Mr Shapps said the improvement to cycling and walking provision had to be made quickly to avoid the centre of cities becoming “gridlocked”, as people switched to car travel to avoid overloaded public transport.
He said a national cycling plan would be set out in early June, while investment would be made immediately in “pop up bike lanes” in towns and cities. A national cycling “champion” would be appointed.
Councils would be required to provide wider pavements and other facilities for walkers to help people get around on foot.


Rise in global Covid-19 death toll has eased sharply from peak
Steve Bernard in London
The number of people around the world dying from Covid-19 each week has begun to ease more significantly, with a key metric reaching the lowest level in a month.
The weekly rolling average, which provides a clearer picture of the underlying trend by smoothing fluctuations, has fallen to a 34-day trough of 5,132. That represents a sharp decline from the peak of 6,783 for the week ending April 18.
The US has remained fairly consistent over the past month ranging between 1,700 and 2,000 average deaths per day. New York — the hardest-hit state — has seen a large reduction in the number of fatalities recently, but this has been offset by other states such as New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania registering death tolls in the hundreds.
Europe has seen a dramatic reduction in the number of daily reported deaths. In late March the continent accounted for more than 80 per cent of the global total compared with just over 1 in 3 deaths recently.
There has been a surge recently in Latin America and the Caribbean, fuelled largely by a significant outbreak in Brazil, which registered on Friday its highest death toll of 751.


South Africa’s Land Bank under pressure after central bank debt ban
South Africa’s central bank has suspended the use of Land Bank debt as collateral following a default by the agricultural lender, increasing the pressure on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government as it tries to manage the Covid-19 hit to the economy.
The government has been working to salvage the state-owned lender’s finances after it missed a debt repayment deadline last month, following a credit rating downgrade in March. The Land Bank writes more than a quarter of loans to South Africa’s farmers.
The decision by the South Africa Reserve Bank (SARB) adds to the difficulties facing the country’s cash-strapped government as it seeks to support several ailing state-owned enterprises and the wider economy during the pandemic.
“In light of recent developments surrounding the Land Bank, including the downgrade of the Land Bank credit rating and the subsequent debt default, the SARB has taken a decision to temporarily suspend Land Bank bills as eligible collateral in its repo operations,” the central bank said in a statement.
The suspension is effective from May 13 and will continue until the Land Bank has “resolved its liquidity challenges,” the SARB said.

News you might have missed
Belarus has gone ahead with a massive military parade to commemorate the defeat of Nazi Germany, drawing a crowd of thousands of people, while Russia cancelled a similar parade amid soaring infections.
UK airlines and airports have warned that international travel could be effectively killed under government plans to introduce a 14-day quarantine for travellers arriving in the UK.
In Korea, the Seoul city government ordered clubs and bars to shut after a spate of infections in the city’s popular Itaewon entertainment district.
A small trial in Hong Kong has found that therapy combining three antiviral drugs is safer and more effective than single-drug treatments, a study published in The Lancet said.
Kuwait will impose a full curfew from 4pm on Sunday until the end of the month to boost measures to contain coronavirus.
Los Angeles train commuters will have to wear face masks while travelling from Monday, the city’s mayor said.
Goldman Sachs has forecast the Turkish lira will fall further into uncharted territory after it struck a record low this week, with the bank warning over the country’s ability to defend itself against capital outflows and deepening worries of policy credibility.
The Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank said it has approved a loan of $500m to support India’s efforts to “prevent, detect and respond to the threat” posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, India will repurpose hotels as quarantine centres for thousands of Indians now being repatriated from overseas.

Brazil and Russia hard hit as global death toll slows

Steve Bernard in London
The global daily death toll dipped further yesterday as 5,041 people died of Covid-19, bringing the total to 268,945.
In the US, a further 1,760 people died on Friday, bringing the total number of deaths to 71,762, according to data from the Covid Tracking Project.

Globally, the number of newly confirmed Covid-19 cases climbed by 89,396 on Friday, taking the total number of infections to just short of 3.9m.
Brazil recorded its deadliest day yesterday, with 751 fatalities reported, pushing the country’s total to 9,897. Newly confirmed cases soared as well, with 10,222 infections registered. This rise in infections brought the past three days’ count to 30,613 and 145,328 overall, in Latin America’s hardest-hit nation.
Russia posted its sixth consecutive day of 10,000 or more new cases. The country has registered 63,805 infections over the past six days as the total number of cases hit 198,676.
Explore data about the pandemic to better understand the disease’s spread and trajectory in the live-updating and customisable version of the FT’s Covid-19 trajectory charts.


Spain’s Sánchez pleads for caution ahead of lockdown easing

Daniel Dombey in Madrid
Pedro Sánchez has issued a plea for Spain’s citizens to take as many precautions as possible when the country’s strict two-month coronavirus lockdown is relaxed for many of its citizens on Monday.
In an address to the nation, the Spanish prime minister said people should “take precautions as if they were infected” and called for “total caution and prudence” from those living in regions where the lockdown will be loosened.
More than half the Spanish population will begin “phase one” of the transition out of lockdown on Monday, when restaurants and bars can serve clients outdoors, shops selling non-essential items can open without appointment and small private gatherings of up to 10 people can be held. Badly-hit areas such as Madrid and Barcelona will have to wait at least another week for such measures. Spain hopes to completely lift the lockdown for the whole country in a series of stages by late June or mid-July.
Spain’s ministry of health said 179 people had died in the past 24 hours after contracting coronavirus, in figures released on Saturday, one of the lowest totals since the lockdown was imposed in mid-March. The total number of infections increased by just 0.27 per cent to 223,578 — far below daily rates of increase of around 35 per cent in March, based on figures from the relatively reliable PCR tests. Catalonia saw the largest number of new cases.
The photo above depicts people walking on a promenade near a beach in Barcelona, Spain. Source: AP


Greggs begins social distancing tests in limited reopening
UK bakery chain Greggs has begun a limited trial reopening of some shops to test social distancing measures.
The chain, known for its sausage rolls and pasties, last month cancelled plans to reopen 20 shops in the Newcastle area, fearing unsafe crowds of customers. Now, the baker has begun “closed door” trials “including delivery through Just Eat, click and collect, and walk-in customers,” chief executive Roger Whiteside said in a statement.
Mr Whiteside said the trial reopenings would allow Greggs to “test a number of new operational safety measures that will enable social distancing, and for us to operate in line with the latest government guidelines”.
Rival cafe chain Pret this week announced plans to open 100 stores for takeaway on Monday, within social distancing rules. Pret reopened 30 outlets near NHS hospitals in April.

Lockdown weighs on US companies but stock markets look for optimism
Richard Henderson in Melbourne
A drop in US corporate profits in the first quarter underscores a dire year for blue-chips but has failed to dent the optimism underpinning a bumper rally in the stock market.
Companies in the S&P 500 are on pace to trim earnings per share by 14 per cent for the first quarter, which would be the largest annual decline in the index since the third quarter of 2009, according to FactSet.
Despite the drop, bright spots have emerged. Two-thirds of companies that have reported so far have exceeded analyst estimates, with technology and healthcare companies among the best performing, according to Financial Times analysis.
Read the full story here

Belarus defies Covid-19 fears as thousands attend military parade

James Shotter in Warsaw
Belarus went ahead with a massive military parade to commemorate the defeat of Nazi Germany on Saturday, drawing a crowd of thousands of people despite mounting concerns about the spread of coronavirus in the former Soviet state.
Belarus’s eastern neighbour Russia has cancelled a similar parade amid soaring infections from the virus, but Belarus’s strongman leader, Alexander Lukashenko, said on Saturday in a defiant speech that his country had never entertained doing so.
“In this crazy world that has lost its reference points and guidelines there are people who condemn us for choosing this place and time for organising this holy celebration,” he said, according to Belarus’s news agency, Belta.
“I would like to tell them as a human being: don’t rush to make conclusions or condemn us, the successors of the victory, Belarusians. We just couldn’t act differently, we didn’t have a choice. And if we did, we would have done the same anyway!”
Belarus, which apart from Sweden is the only European country not to introduce a widespread lockdown to combat Covid-19, has so far recorded 21,101 cases of the virus, and 121 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.


Few precedents for grim US jobless numbers
Brooke Fox in New York and Steven Bernard in London
Behind Friday’s grim unemployment rate of 14.7 per cent is an even crueler number: there were 42.9m people who were unemployed or underemployed in the US in April, versus 14.8m at the same time last year.
The larger number includes not only the 22m additional people designated as officially unemployed that month, but also the 10.7m working part time for economic reasons and the 9.7m who want a job but have not actively searched for one in the past four weeks. The cumulative number of people officially designated as unemployed since lockdowns began in mid-March is 33.5m.
The unemployment rate has not been this high since collection of the data began in 1948. But more telling is the employment to population ratio, which posted a record decline from 59.7 per cent to 51.3 per cent. While the unemployment rate only captures workers actively seeking a job, the employment to population ratio measures the proportion of the working-age population that is employed.
“All labour market data is just orders of magnitude different than anything we’ve seen before,” said Robert Shimer, Alvin H Baum Professor in economics at the University of Chicago. 
Read the full story.


Kuwait to impose curfew in bid to slow Covid-19 spread
Simeon Kerr in Dubai
Kuwait will impose a full curfew from 4pm on Sunday until the end of the month to boost measures to contain coronavirus.
The Gulf state, which has reported more than 7,200 cases and 47 deaths, said only vital government departments would carry on working. The private sector will cease activity, except for contractors approved by the cabinet.
Anas Al-Saleh, the interior minister, said compliance with the tighter lockdown would help curb the virus, allowing a gradual reopening towards normal life.
Co-operative societies will remain open during the curfew period, with residents having to book online to carry out one shopping trip a week.
People will be allowed to exercise outdoors in their local neighbourhood, without the use of cars, from 4:30pm – 6:30pm every day. They will need to wear a mask and practice social distancing.

Lockdown lunches: French onion soup
It’s nearly lunch time in Europe. If you’re getting bored with your usual recipes, why not try your hand at French onion soup? The FT’s Daniel Garrahan and food writer Tim Hayward show you how to make the famous dish at home.


Fear factor threatens stocks’ Covid-19 fightback
Philip Georgiadis in London and Robin Wigglesworth in Oslo
Wall Street economists are warning that public fears of coronavirus could undermine efforts to reopen economies, leaving the stock market’s powerful recovery vulnerable.
Several US states and European countries are tentatively emerging from tight restrictions on movement put in place to stop the spread of Covid-19. President Donald Trump is itching to reopen the world’s largest economy even as he acknowledges that relaxations could lead to a flare-up of cases. The UK is set to ease certain measures from Monday.
But strategists tracking real-time indicators from countries further along this process, including China, report that it is unlikely that economies will see a quick snap back to normal levels of activity.
“The economics of ending a lockdown depend on fear and confidence,” said Paul Donovan, chief economist at UBS Wealth Management. “If lockdowns end too early and deaths keep rising, that confidence is missing and the economic downturn continues independent of the lockdown policy.” Dana Peterson, an economist at Citigroup, agreed that the “fear factor is really going to matter” as countries lift restrictions.
Read the full story.

UK airlines warn travel quarantine could deal heavy blow to industry
Tanya Powley and George Parker
Airlines and airports have warned that international travel could be effectively killed under government plans to introduce a 14-day quarantine for travellers arriving in the UK.
Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, is expected to set out the plan on Saturday afternoon at the daily Downing Street press conference, as part of a strategy for “phase II” of the coronavirus crisis.
Prime minister Boris Johnson will announce a minor lifting of lockdown measures in an address to the nation on Sunday evening, but the quid pro quo for easing restrictions in the UK will be tighter controls at the border.
Mr Shapps is expected to say that arrivals in the UK, including British citizens, will have to notify authorities of the address where they intend to self-isolate for 14 days.
Police would have the power to check that they were observing quarantine restrictions. Downing Street declined to comment.
On Thursday, Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways’ parent IAG, said it would not restart flying if the UK imposed a 14-day quarantine on passengers arriving in the country. 
Tim Alderslade of Airlines UK said the government would have to introduce financial support measures if it went ahead with the quarantine measures: “so that we still have a UK aviation sector once the quarantine period if lifted”.

Goldman forecasts Turkey’s currency to tumble past 8 lira to the dollar
Goldman Sachs has forecast the Turkish lira will fall further into uncharted territory after it struck a record low this week, with the bank warning over the country’s ability to defend itself against capital outflows and deepening worries of policy credibility.
The New York-based bank has said it expects the lira to fall 14 per cent over the next year to 8.25 to the US dollar. It traded at a low of 7.269 this week, bringing it below the level it hit during an acute bout of volatility in 2018. Goldman now expects the currency to reach 7.5 by August and 7.75 in November before falling further in 2021.
Goldman warned in a note to clients late on Friday, however, that “the expected depreciation could come in a more front-loaded fashion”.
The bank said the lira is the “most vulnerable” major emerging market currency due to “significant external financing requirements, limited reserve buffers and policy credibility”.
“The Covid-19 crisis is likely to further pressure Turkey’s current account given its reliance on tourism flows for foreign currency, so external funding will require either an even cheaper currency or higher rates, or both,” Goldman added.
Investors had already begun worrying about Turkey even before the pandemic as its foreign currency reserves, excluding short-term borrowed money, had been diminishing for some time.
Turkey’s central bank has also drastically reduced interest rates in an attempt to revive the virus-hit economy by allowing for inexpensive borrowing. But these rate cuts have severely reduced the return investors receive for holding Turkish assets after accounting for inflation, which is running at an annual rate of nearly 11 per cent.

Covid-19 crisis dulls Russia’s celebration of the defeat of Nazi Germany

Henry Foy in Moscow
Overcast skies and empty streets marked low-key celebrations of the 75th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany on Saturday, as the coronavirus pandemic tarnished one of Russia’s most important national holidays.
President Vladimir Putin, who was forced to cancel a huge military parade in Moscow and celebratory events across the country, laid flowers alone at a tomb next to the Kremlin, as 75 fighter planes and helicopters flew over the deserted streets of the capital.
Residents had been ordered to stay inside and watch television as the country struggles to tame the pandemic, which is spreading faster in Russia than anywhere else in the world outside the US.
Moments after Mr Putin’s memorial speech, Russia announced 10,817 new Covid-19 cases, taking its total infections to almost 200,000, the world’s fifth largest total.
As many EU countries look to reopen their economies, Russia is instead tightening a seven-week long lockdown as the pandemic continues to spread.
Government officials on Friday warned it might not peak until early June.
The pandemic has scuppered Mr Putin’s ambition to use the May 9 victory parade to advance his political agenda, and instead has seen his approval rating fall to the lowest ever level in his 20 years in power.


India’s hotels to serve as quarantine centres for expatriates
Amy Kazmin in New Delhi
India’s hotel industry, struggling under the country’s coronavirus lockdown, has received an unexpected boost from the government.
Properties will be repurposed as quarantine centres for thousands of Indians now being repatriated from overseas.
The Indian government has launched a massive operation to bring back its citizens stranded overseas since the country closed its airspace to incoming passenger flights on March 22.
Repatriation flights began on May 7 and India is expected to ferry home tens of thousands of Indians from the Gulf, Europe, south-east Asia and the US over the next few weeks.
After their arrival, the returnees will be required to spend two weeks in institutional quarantine to ensure they cannot infect others with the coronavirus in case they are asymptomatic carriers.
Local governments are partnering with accommodation providers, from budget guest houses to luxury hotels, to serve as quarantine facilities, for which the returnees will have to pay.
Earlier, Indians evacuated from regions and countries hard hit by the coronavirus — such as Wuhan and Iran — had been put in makeshift government quarantine facilities set up in various institutions, such as police training centres.
But many returnees placed in such facilities complained about the poor conditions there, including lack of hygiene.

Seoul closes down bars and clubs in wake of Itaewon cluster
The Seoul city government on Saturday ordered clubs and bars to shut after a spate of infections in the city’s popular Itaewon entertainment district, official media reported.
Nightlife establishments across the South Korean capital will be banned from hosting crowds of people, the Yonhap news agency reported.
“Such facilities have to suspend business immediately and will face strict punishment if they breach [the order],” Seoul mayor Park Won-soon was quoted as saying, adding the order will remain in effect until further notice.
Earlier, at least 18 Covid-19 cases associated with a person who visited clubs and bars in Itaewon last weekend have been confirmed, Yonhap reported.
South Korean health officials are racing to identify and test more than 1,500 people who also visited Itaewon nightspots last week and might test positive.

Wuhan already on map for UK jeweller Annoushka
Ming Liu in London
Until recently, Wuhan — the Chinese city where the coronavirus first emerged — was barely known around the world.
But for British jeweller Annoushka, the metropolis of 11m people, a third larger than New York, is important. Before the virus hit, the company’s two Wuhan concessions were the top performers of all its stores in mainland China.
Now Annoushka is expanding in mainland China in partnership with Jewelria, the multi-brand retail platform of the Hong Kong jeweller Chow Tai Fook.
Read more here

Theatre after lockdown: the future of drama
Sarah Hemming in London
When lockdown forced the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington to close its doors in March, Timon of Athens was playing on the stage.
“That was a very strange experience,” said Simon Godwin, artistic director of the company. “[Timon] is the story of somebody on top of the world — rich, successful — who in the second half of the play becomes self-exiled, isolated, alone.”
Then William Shakespeare’s play became a prophetic statement, Mr Godwin said.
“The world had changed completely in a matter of days: we were all trudging back to our caves and some of us were feeling very like Timon, raging against the world and how it can change so dramatically.”
Read more here

Two Indian states freeze labour laws to kickstart growth
Stephanie Findlay in New Delhi
Two populous Indian states have frozen labour laws in a bid to kickstart growth after a severe lockdown that has caused a surge in unemployment and brought manufacturing to a halt.
Uttar Pradesh, a state governed by prime minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, on Friday suspended key labour laws for three years.
Madhya Pradesh, another state run by the BJP, has also eased its laws. The two states account for 275m of India’s nearly 1.4bn people.

https://twitter.com/priyankagandhi/status/1258761621804990464?s=20

The changes made by the Uttar Pradesh government “should be repealed immediately,” opposition Congress politician Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said on Twitter.
“The labourers are the country makers, not your hostages,” she said.
The moves by the two states, which are subject to approval from the central government before they can go into effect, have come as authorities are starting to prepare to get back to work when India’s lockdown lifts on May 17.


India tax office waives residency rules over lockdown
Benjamin Parkin in New Delhi
India has started waiving tax residency requirements for people stuck in the country due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The country’s revenue department has a tough reputation, and many — particularly wealthier “non-resident” Indians or Indian-born foreign passport holders — limit their time in the country to fewer than 182 days a year to avoid falling into the tax net.
Authorities said that people stuck in the country due to quarantine requirements or flight cancellations through March 31, the end of India’s fiscal year, would not have to count those days for tax residency purposes.
India entered a nationwide lockdown on March 24, though travel bans and local restrictions of movement began earlier in the month.
Before the pandemic hit, India had changed the threshold to 120 days, starting from April 1, in order to clamp down on abuse of the system by people who effectively live in India but spend time abroad for tax purposes.
In light of the lockdown further tax relief measures are expected for the new fiscal year.

Coronavirus fear factors threaten economic recoveries
Philip Georgiadis in London and Robin Wigglesworth in Oslo
Wall Street economists are warning that public fears of coronavirus could undermine efforts to reopen economies, leaving the stock market’s powerful recovery vulnerable.
Several US states and European countries are tentatively emerging from tight restrictions on movement put in place to stop the spread of Covid-19.
But strategists tracking real-time indicators from countries further along this process, including China, report that it is unlikely that economies will see a quick snap back to normal levels of activity.
Read more here

Pandemic squashes aspirations for India’s prized mangoes
Benjamin Parkin in New Delhi
India’s mangoes, which account for about half of global supply, are considered the world’s best and hold a unique place in the country’s culture, history and cuisine.
They command a premium in export markets such as the Middle East, the UK and the US.
But mango farmers and distributors have faced myriad difficulties this season as India’s decision to enter lockdown in late March to stem the spread of Covid-19 upended agricultural and food supply chains.
Read more here


US accuses China and Russia of Covid-19 propaganda attacks
The US on Friday accused China and Russia of spreading propaganda over the pandemic.
“Even before the Covid-19 crisis we assessed a certain level of coordination between Russia and [China] in the realm of propaganda,” Lea Gabrielle, coordinator of the US state department’s Global Engagement Center, which tracks foreign propaganda, told a briefing.
However, she later said US monitoring had observed “a convergence of narratives” rather than China and Russia actively working together. “How active that coordination is government to government is not something that we can currently assess.”
Ms Gabrielle said similar messaging by both the onetime Communist allies “has accelerated rapidly” since the pandemic. “We see this convergence as a result of what we consider to be pragmatism between the two actors who want to shape public understanding of the Covid pandemic for their own purposes.”
As an example, she said Beijing- and Moscow-backed social media accounts “recirculate false narratives about US-funded biolabs in the former Soviet Union”.
Ms Gabrielle said the US had noted increasing social media activity by China.
Citing German Marshall Fund data, she said “Twitter accounts linked to the Chinese embassies, consulates and ambassadors have increased by more than 250 per cent since the start of the Hong Kong anti-government protests” in March 2019.
“Many Chinese diplomatic Twitter accounts experienced a major surge in the number of new followers since March, and that matches the timeframe in which Beijing’s overseas messaging effort kicked into high gear around Covid,” Ms Gabrielle said.
“Now throughout the … pandemic, several organisations have reported on bot networks promoting [pro-Chinese Communist party] narratives,” she added.

Triple-drug treatment shows promise in Hong Kong study
Nicolle Liu in Hong Kong
Therapy combining three antiviral drugs is safer and more effective than single-drug treatments in reducing the viral load in less severe Covid-19 patients, a small trial undertaken by the University of Hong Kong has discovered.
The study, published in The Lancet on Saturday, comprised 127 adults with mild-to-moderate symptoms of Covid-19.
The team found that using the three drugs — lopinavir-ritonavir, an anti-HIV therapy; ribavirin, a hepatitis C treatment; and interferon beta-1b, developed to combat multiple sclerosis — halved the time needed to completely alleviate symptoms and meant a shorter stay in hospital.
Patients receiving the drug combination had no virus in their bodies within an average of seven days, compared with 12 days for those given lopinavir-ritonavir alone.
“Our trial demonstrates that early treatment of mild to moderate Covid-19 with a triple combination of antiviral drugs may rapidly suppress the amount of virus in a patient’s body, relieve symptoms, and reduce the risk to healthcare workers by reducing the duration and quantity of viral shedding when the virus is detectable and potentially transmissible,” said Yuen Kwok-yung, who led the research.
“Furthermore, the treatment combination appeared safe and well tolerated by patients,” added Prof Yuen, who is the chair of infectious diseases at HKU’s Department of Microbiology.
Sarah Shalhoub from Western University in Canada, who was not involved in the HKU research, said: “This study presents a step towards finding a much-needed therapy” for Covid-19.
However, she urged further study of the “efficacy of interferon beta-1b alone or in combination with other drugs to treat severe or critically ill patients”.

Los Angeles mandates face masks for transit, golf courses
Los Angeles train commuters will have to wear face masks while travelling from Monday, the city’s mayor said on Friday.
“I support this step to help keep riders and Metro workers safe,” mayor Eric Garcetti wrote on Twitter. “This is in line with our face covering requirements on … transit services.”
The city also imposed social-distancing rules on golf courses and hiking trails.
“If you are golfing or visiting a public trail this weekend, you need to wear a face covering from the moment you arrive until the moment you leave, and stay at least six feet away from those who don’t live with you,” Mr Garcetti wrote.
This week, the Los Angeles city council voted to extend a freeze on rent increases for units covered under the city’s rent stabilisation ordinance.
“This is another step to help struggling renters stay in their homes,” the mayor said. The freeze would apply for 12 months after the pandemic emergency orders are lifted.

Beijing-led AIIB lends $500m to India for Covid-19 fight
The Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank said it has approved a loan of $500m to support India’s efforts to “prevent, detect and respond to the threat” posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
AIIB said the financing would enable India to “scale up efforts to limit the transmission of cases, strengthen the health system to expand its response capacity and enhance preparedness to manage future outbreaks”.
The project also supports the purchase of medical equipment, enhanced disease detection capabilities and strengthened research, the bank said in a statement.

Londoners have no qualms about using public transport
Londoners are likely to shrug off the threat from coronavirus when it comes to using public transport, according to a recent survey.
Only 16 per cent of London commuters said they would not use public transport for the foreseeable future, a YouGov poll found.
The data show that 22 per cent of respondents said they plan to work from home more often after the UK lockdown ends.
There is no single measure that would boost confidence in people returning to public transport, the poll of 1,010 adult residents of the capital found.
A third of respondents said increased deep cleaning is in their top three measures to improve confidence, the same percentage that called for extensive contact tracing and mandatory face masks.
Other popular suggestions included caps on the numbers of people using public transport at any one time and the provision of hand sanitiser.
The poll was commissioned by London First, a business lobby group, and conducted by phone from May 1-5.


New Covid-19 testing laboratory to open near Manila
The Philippines is expected to be able to run 10,000 coronavirus tests a day, up from the current 7,000, when its health department opens a new laboratory in Pampanga province, north of Manila, on Sunday.
The Asian Development Bank provided a $3m grant for the facility, which is now training technicians on biosafety and specimen collection and testing.
ADB said in a statement it is preparing a $125m project to supplement the new laboratory with additional Covid-19 testing kits and medical and personal protection equipment for hospitals nationwide.

Russia eyes lifting lockdowns as early as late May
Russia is aiming to lift its coronavirus lockdowns in late May or early June, deputy prime minister Dmitry Chernyshenko was quoted as saying by official media on Friday.
“We understand that these lockdowns, depending on the region and the situation, will be lifted either in late May or early June,” he said, according to the Itar-Tass news agency, citing an interview on the Rossiya-1 television channel.
Mr Chernyshenko said the pandemic is expected to subside to sporadic cases by the end of this summer, the agency reported, adding that he said a timetable would depend on how strictly people observe the self-isolation regime.
A total of 187,859 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Russia, Itar-Tass said, with 26,608 patients having recovered from the virus and 1,723 fatalities nationwide.

Mongolia obtains $30m funding for coronavirus response
The Asian Development Bank approved $30m in extra financing to strengthen Mongolia’s preparedness and response to the pandemic.
“The government has taken effective measures to contain the spread of Covid-19, but Mongolia remains vulnerable to any possible surge in the number of cases as well as future infectious diseases and public health emergencies,” ADB country director Pavit Ramachandran said in a statement.
Since the outbreak began in mid-January, Mongolia has limited infections to a few dozen confirmed cases from overseas returnees.
However, the government estimates that more than 150,000 Mongolians are currently overseas, of whom 9,900 are waiting to return immediately from infected countries.

Coronavirus kills magician Roy, half of Siegfried and Roy
Roy Horn, 75, who formed one half of the magic and animal-training act Siegfried and Roy, died from complications of coronavirus in Las Vegas on Friday, Nevada officials confirmed.
“The legendary Las Vegas entertainer died from complications due to Covid-19,” Clark County, which administers the famous Las Vegas Strip, tweeted on Friday. “He had a significant impact on our entertainment industry along with his partner Siegfried Fischbacher.”
Mr Horn and Mr Fischbacher started performing in Las Vegas in 1967, the US entertainment paper Variety reported.

Seoul ‘clubber’ cluster positive tests rise to 18
South Korean health officials are racing to identify and test more than 1,500 people who visited clubs in Seoul’s popular Itaewon district last week, according to official media.
At least 18 Covid-19 cases associated with a person who visited clubs and bars in Itaewon last weekend have been confirmed, the Yonhap news agency reported on Saturday.
A 29-year-old man visited five clubs and bars in Itaewon, pictured, from the night of May 1 to the early hours of the following morning.
The central neighbourhood is popular with tourists, foreign residents and US armed forces personnel as well as Seoul residents.
Prime minister Chung Sye-kyun told officials to ensure that the clubbers who were in contact with the man, estimated at a total of 1,510 people, can receive tests while keeping their names and other personal information confidential, Yonhap reported.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged clubbers to self-isolate to limit the possible spread of the virus.


Vancouver council sets up venue for ‘micro-weddings’
With limitations on large gatherings and physical distancing measures in place as a result of the pandemic, Vancouver residents have cancelled or postponed hundreds of weddings.
For those who can’t wait, Vancouver city council on Friday opened an outdoor venue adjacent to City Hall available for “micro-weddings” attended by 10 or fewer people.
The Canadian city’s first ceremony — there is a limit of eight half-hour events daily — is scheduled for June 19, while July 27 has been reserved for LGBT events.

Virus met its match in New York City, says mayor
New York City mayor Bill de Blasio said testing in the metropolitan region would be ramped up to a level “we’ve never seen before in this city or this country” as he announced the formation of a new task force.
The city’s Test and Trace Corps, launched on Friday, would be “reaching deep into our communities, expanding, testing, expanding, tracing, really getting our arms around the problem,” the mayor said at a media briefing.
The corps will be led by Ted Long, vice-president of ambulatory care at Health and Hospitals, the largest public hospital and clinic organisation in the US.
The Covid-19 outbreak is suspected in the deaths of nearly 20,000 New Yorkers, with 14,389 confirmed fatalities and another 5,313 listed as probable. There have been more than 176,086 recorded cases in the city and 43,913 remain in hospital.
“But this virus is no match for a group of people who are much more clever … New Yorkers,” Mr de Blasio said. “This virus has met its match in fact, in this city more and more.”
The mayor said there had been fewer than 100 new hospital admissions a day for Covid-19 in recent days. “That’s amazing, but we are not out of the woods,” he said.

Real US jobless rate exceeds 25%, says Standard Chartered
A Standard Chartered analysis suggests the real US unemployment rate is more than 25 per cent.
On Friday, US data showed unemployment had surged to 14.7 per cent, its highest level since the second world war, as the coronavirus pandemic led 20.5m Americans to lose their jobs in April in a painful blow to the world’s largest economy.
But StanChart believes the true figure is much higher. “We think plausible adjustments to the headline unemployment rate push the effective number of unemployed to 42m and the effective unemployment rate to 25.5 per cent,” said Steven Englander, head of North America macro strategy at Standard Chartered in New York.
Mr Englander said he started with the 23.1m unemployed as published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“To this add 8.1m people who have dropped out of the labour force since February,” he said. “Add back 7.5m workers classified as ‘employed but not at work for other reasons’ [as] BLS states that these workers are likely misclassified as employed, when they are in fact unemployed.”
Mr Englander said involuntary part-time work for economic reasons has gone up by 6.6m. “We treat these as half-unemployed (i.e., a contribution of 3.3m). This totals almost 42m effectively unemployed.”


US CDC sees vaccination rate decline since pandemic began
Fewer American children have been receiving routine vaccinations since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in a new paper.
In research led by Jeanne Santoli, a paediatrician, US Vaccine Tracking System data showed a notable decrease in orders for recommended noninfluenza childhood vaccines and for measles-containing vaccines.
The decline began the week after the national emergency declaration on March 13, the authors wrote, adding that similar declines in orders for other vaccines were also observed.

“The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is a reminder of the importance of vaccination,” the authors wrote. “The identified declines … might indicate that US children and their communities face increased risks for outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.”
The authors speculated that parental concerns about exposing well children to Covid-19 “might contribute to the declines observed”.
As social distancing requirements are relaxed, children who are not protected by vaccines will be more vulnerable to diseases such as measles, the authors forecast.
“In response, continued coordinated efforts between health care providers and public health officials at the local, state, and federal levels will be necessary to achieve rapid catch-up vaccination,” they wrote.


US coronavirus death toll adds 1,700 to pass 71,000
Peter Wells in New York
The US coronavirus death toll climbed above 71,000 on Friday with more than 1,700 coronavirus fatalities over the past 24 hours.
Led by New York and Pennsylvania, a further 1,760 people have died, according to data compiled by the Covid Tracking Project.
Those two states, the hardest and fifth hardest hit, saw daily increases of 217 and 200, respectively. New Jersey recorded a further 151 deaths, while Massachusetts’ total rose by 150.
Since the pandemic began, 71,762 people in the US have died of coronavirus, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

Brazil death rate accelerates as president and governors squabble
Andres Schipani in São Paulo
The death rate for coronavirus in Brazil is accelerating rapidly, making it the emerging world’s cauldron for the pandemic as president Jair Bolsonaro continues to play down the outbreak.
Latin America’s largest country reported a record 751 deaths on Friday, bringing the total of confirmed cases to 145,328 and fatalities to 9,897.
Infections in Brazil jumped nearly 12-fold in the past month amid loose quarantines and a president who shrugs off social isolation recommendations.
Mr Bolsonaro joked earlier on Friday that he is planning a barbecue for hundreds of people on Saturday.
Going against the president, state governors, meanwhile, are attempting to tighten lockdowns.
João Doria, the governor of São Paulo, Brazil’s most populous state, decided to extend quarantine to the end of May.

News you might have missed
Investors took a grim April jobs report in their stride, handing US stocks their biggest weekly advance in a month amid growing confidence that many large economies have passed the worst of the coronavirus pandemic. The S&P 500 closed 1.7 per cent higher on Friday — its biggest one-day rise since April 29 — leaving it up 3.5 per cent for the week. The Nasdaq Composite rose for a fifth straight day, up 1.6 per cent on Friday, for its longest winning streak since December 26.
Apple will start to reopen its US retail stores next week, beginning with a store in Boise, Idaho on Monday and a few others in South Carolina, Alabama and Alaska later in the week. The iPhone maker had closed all of its global stores outside China on March 14 because of coronavirus. It now said it would seek help from local health authorities to get back to normal.

US president Donald Trump appeared to confirm that vice-president Mike Pence’s press secretary Katie Miller tested positive for coronavirus. Her husband, Stephen Miller, pictured with his wife, is a White House adviser and a central figure in developing the Trump administration’s hardline policies on immigration. “She hasn’t come into contact with me,” Mr Trump said. “She has spent some time with the vice-president.”
The number of active US oil and natural gas rigs fell to a record low last week as energy companies continued to retire drills and reduce output in response to a dramatic demand drop amid the coronavirus pandemic. The rig count, considered a proxy for future production, fell by 34 to 374 in the week ending May 8, according to data from oil field services company Baker Hughes.
Spain’s government has turned down a request from the Madrid region to loosen its eight-week coronavirus lockdown on Monday, as tensions rise over the political, health and economic implications of the country’s bid to return to more normal life. The Socialist-led government of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has set out a complex four-stage process to phase out the lockdown.




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