Japan Mulls Extending Emergency; Johnson Returns: Virus Update

Japan Mulls Extending Emergency; Johnson Returns: Virus Update
Japan Mulls Extending Emergency; Johnson Returns: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) —  Japanese officials are weighing the need to extend an emergency declaration beyond the Golden Week holidays, reports indicate. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to return to work Monday after being sidelined by the coronavirus for a month.

Spain and France took steps toward considering an easing of their lockdowns, while emerging economies including Argentina and Kenya are lengthening theirs. Hawaii extended a stay-at-home order until May 31. The global death toll has topped 200,000.

China reported no new deaths, while South Korea posted two. U.S. cases rose 4.5%, more than the average over the past week. The IRS is asking thousands of employees to come back to work, with their own protective gear.

Key Developments

Japan Weighs the Need to Extend Emergency Declaration (10:23 a.m. HK)

There is a growing view within the Japanese government that lifting the nation’s emergency as planned on May 6 will be difficult, national broadcaster NHK said, without citing sources.

While daily new coronavirus cases in Osaka and Tokyo have begun to fall, experts said the rate of change is not as fast as expected, NHK reported. More than 100 new cases have still been reported in Tokyo every day for almost two weeks, while deaths in the capital passed 100 on Saturday.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared the state of emergency for seven regions on April 8, later extending it to include the whole country. The nation’s so-called Golden Week holidays — when in normal times salaried employees combine official holiday and personal time off to return to hometowns or take trips abroad — begin Wednesday.

Argentina Extends One of Latin America’s Toughest Lockdowns (9:44 a.m. HK)

Argentina is extending its nationwide lockdown by another two weeks until May 10 to contain the coronavirus outbreak while it seeks to ease some restrictions in smaller cities.

President Alberto Fernandez said Saturday the lockdown — one of Latin America’s strictest — would continue for the capital Buenos Aires and other urban areas with a population of 500,000 or more. Cities such as Cordoba and Rosario will also be affected.

Biden Says Stimulus Plans Insufficient, Criticizes ‘Greedy’ Corporations (8:53 a.m. HK)

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden railed against the coronavirus stimulus packages in an interview published Saturday, calling corporate America “greedy as hell” while demanding legislation that includes stricter conditions on business bailouts and more oversight.

In an interview with Politico, the former vice president said the next stimulus bill should be “a hell of a lot bigger” than the first $2 trillion CARES Act and assailed big business and banks. “This is the second time we’ve bailed their asses out,” he said of the big banks.

Read the full story.

White House Denies Report That Health Chief May Be Replaced (8:38 a.m. HK)

The White House denied a Dow Jones report that the Trump administration is discussing plans to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. That report came amid criticism of Azar’s handling of the early response to the coronavirus outbreak.

“The Department of Health and Human Services, under the leadership of Secretary Azar, continues to lead on a number of the President’s priorities,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said. “Any speculation about personnel is irresponsible and a distraction from our whole-of-government response to COVID-19.”

Trump Tweets Over Daily Briefing (7 a.m. HK)

President Donald Trump, who has dominated the daily White House virus briefing, said the event is “not worth the time and effort,” two days after his comments on fighting Covid-19 with disinfectants or sunlight caused headaches for his health advisers.

Trump on Friday said he had “sarcastically” suggested that Americans be injected with disinfectant. But the comment prompted warnings from doctors and a manufacturer of cleaning products.

As questions mounted about the comments, Trump and his task force on Friday held their shortest news conference yet, at just 22 minutes, and he took no questions. No briefing was held on Saturday but instead, Trump sent a series of Twitter messages that returned to familiar targets including the media and Democrats.

Read the full story here.

Tesla Calls Back California Workers (6:20 a.m. HK)

Tesla Inc. is recalling some workers to its lone U.S. vehicle-assembly plant starting next week, before San Francisco Bay area stay-home orders are scheduled to expire.

Supervisors in the paint and stamping operations at the Fremont, California, factory told staff to report on April 29. In messages seen by Bloomberg News, the workers are asked to notify managers whether they’ll show up. Tesla representatives didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tesla had previously told workers it expected to resume normal production on May 4, the day after Bay Area measures are to end.

Read full story here.

U.K.’s Johnson Returns to Work (5:30 p.m. NY)

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will return to work on Monday and will take charge of the nation’s response to the pandemic, a month after he was struck down by the coronavirus.

The government has been without its leader since Johnson went to the hospital on April 5. Since his release, he’s been slowly easing his way back, holding daily video calls with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and his team, and speaking to medical advisers Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance.

The U.K. is the fifth country with more than 20,000 casualties as the death toll rose by 813 in the latest 24-hour period.

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Potbelly Returns U.S. Loan (5:15 p.m. NY)

Sandwich shop operator Potbelly Corp. said it’s returning the payroll protection loan it received as part of the federal program, amid criticism that national chains won the aid at the expense of mom-and-pop firms.

The Chicago-based company said it was “surprised and disappointed” when the fund was quickly exhausted, shutting out many companies. It will seek alternative means to support its furloughed staff, the company said in a statement Saturday.

Read full story.

Branson Reportedly Seeks a Buyer for Beleaguered Virgin Atlantic (4:34 p.m. NY)

Richard Branson is seeking a buyer for Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. as he struggles to secure a 500 million pound ($618 million) government bailout, the Telegraph reported.

Branson has set an end-of-May deadline to save the U.K. airline from collapse and is focused on securing new private investment from more than 100 financial institutions, the newspaper quoted people familiar as saying. Virgin Australia, another carrier he founded, entered administration last week after failing to obtain a state bailout.

Read the full story here.

Spain Sets Next Step to Ease Rules (4:30 p.m. NY)

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said he expects to approve more steps easing confinement measures at a Tuesday cabinet meeting. One step is to allow outdoor exercise and walks starting May 2, but only if infections move in a favorable direction, he said.

His announcement in a televised address is the second move in a week to relax one of the world’s strictest lockdowns. On Sunday, children up to 14 years old will be able to leave their homes once a day for an hour, accompanied by an adult.

U.S. Cases Rise 4.5% in 24 Hours (4 p.m. NY)

U.S. cases increased 4.5% from the same time Friday, to 926,442, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. The rise was above the average daily increase of 3.5% over the past week.

  • New York’s new cases rose 10,553 compared with 8,130 on Friday, for a statewide total of 282,143, about 10% of all reported cases worldwide. The number of new deaths was 437, up from the 422 on Friday and the first increase after three days of decline, the health department reported.
  • New Jersey reported 3,457 new cases, for a total of 105,523. Cases have risen by less than 10% for 19 days.
  • Massachusetts had 174 deaths, raising its total to 2,730, with another 2,379 cases, bringing total infections to 53,348, the state Department of Public Health said.
  • Pennsylvania reported 1,397 new cases, for a statewide total of 40,049. The state reported 1,537 deaths, up from 1,492 fatalities reported Friday.
  • Florida’s fatalities reached 1,055, up from 1,012 a day earlier, and total cases climbed to 30,839 from 20,174 on Friday, the state Department of Health.
  • Ohio reported 21 new deaths, bringing its total to 711, with 418 new cases, for a total of 15,587.

Trudeau Warns on Canada Reopening (3:30 p.m. NY)

Canada shouldn’t reopen its economy until there is enough personal protective equipment for businesses to fight the coronavirus and stop the spread, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

“Plane loads” of PPE supplies will be landing next week from abroad and domestic supplies are ramping up, Trudeau said at a news briefing in Ottawa.

Canada had 44,364 cases as of Saturday morning and 2,350 deaths.