U.S. Cases Accelerate; Singapore Extends Lockdown: Virus Update

U.S. Cases Accelerate; Singapore Extends Lockdown: Virus Update
U.S. Cases Accelerate; Singapore Extends Lockdown: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) — The U.S. saw its biggest daily tally of new coronavirus infections in almost two weeks, though a senior official said most cities are seeing an improvement.

The U.S. Senate passed a $484 billion pandemic relief package and the House could take it up as soon as Thursday. Singapore, once a standard bearer for taming the virus, reported more than 1,000 cases for a second day and will extend its partial lockdown for four more weeks.

Recoveries in Italy almost surpassed new cases for the first time and Germany reported the smallest increase in infections this month. Still, Munich’s Oktoberfest festival was canceled for the first time since World War II, a sign that life won’t return to normal for months. The Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain, was also suspended.

Key Developments

  • Virus Tracker: Cases top 2.5 million; deaths exceed 175,000
  • China’s coronavirus handling aggravates European diplomats
  • Far-right social media helps galvanize U.S. quarantine protests
  • India’s young population could make herd immunity work there

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus.

Tokyo Governor Considers Supermarket Restrictions to Curb Crowds (9:26 a.m. HK)

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said the metropolitan government is considering measures to reduce crowding at supermarkets, which it believes poses a risk of spreading the coronavirus. Koike said Wednesday she wants to implement measures quickly, and will look at asking supermarkets to limit the number of customers that can enter at once or observe social distancing when lining up.

While Japan has thus far avoided the explosive surge in cases seen in other parts of the world, a continued steady rise over the last month forced the government to declare a state of emergency. The number of confirmed cases in Japan stood at 11,135 as of Wednesday morning, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News.

Australia’s Bondi Beach to Reopen as Country Sees Slowdown in Cases (8:27 a.m. HK)

Sydney’s famous Bondi Beach will reopen next week for swimming and surfing. That’s after Australia’s government said Tuesday that lockdown measures have led to a “sustained and consolidated” slowdown in new coronavirus cases.

A month after being closed to the public, the local council announced it will lift the bans on Bondi and nearby Bronte and Tamarama beaches from next Tuesday, while limiting opening hours to weekdays between 7 a.m and 5 p.m, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported. Access will be restricted to water activities, with sunbathing and gathering on the sand still prohibited.

U.S. Health Official Sees Improvement in Metropolitan Areas (6:40 a.m. HK)

Almost all major U.S. metropolitan areas are seeing improvements in their outbreaks, said Deborah Birx, a top health official on the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force. She spoke after data showed that the nationwide infection tally had accelerated.

Cases appear to be flattening in areas including Chicago and Boston, while New Orleans is back to its baseline for infections, Birx said at the daily White House briefing. Philadelphia, Houston, Atlanta and Nashville are also among cities improving, she said. The Washington, D.C., region is one where “we don’t see a decline yet,” Birx said.

Trump to Ask Big Companies to Repay Aid (6:15 a.m. HK)

President Donald Trump said he’ll ask larger companies to return money they accessed from the federal stimulus package because it was intended to help small businesses.

Speaking at the same press conference, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin threatened “severe consequences” for those who take money from the program without meeting the criteria and fail to return it.

Trump also said Harvard University had received funds intended for small business and he would be asking the university to “pay it back.” A Harvard spokesperson denied the university had applied for or received such funds. Harvard said it got funds as part of the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, and pledged to use all the money for students facing urgent financial needs due to the pandemic.

Senate Passes Third Relief Package (5:30 p.m. NY)

The U.S. Senate passed $484 billion in new pandemic relief funds Tuesday to bolster a tapped-out small business aid program, pay for coronavirus testing and help hospitals deluged by sick patients.

The legislation, which the House could take up as early as Thursday, includes $320 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program designed to help struggling small businesses keep their workers on the payroll. The program has already committed all of the $350 billion allocated when it was created just weeks ago.

President Donald Trump said he would sign the legislation and then turn to the next round of stimulus for an economy that has ground to a halt.

South Africa Sets Up Aid Package (5 p.m. NY)

South Africa’s government unveiled a 500 billion rand ($26 billion) package to shore up an economy and support those who’ve been worst affected by the pandemic.

The plan will be funded by reprioritizing 130 billion rand of expenditure from existing budgets, and borrowing from domestic and international lenders, President Cyril Ramaphosa said Tuesday in a televised address. There will be 200 billion rand in guarantees for banks to encourage them to lend, 100 billion-rand to protect and create jobs and an additional 50 billion rand for welfare grants for the poor and unemployed, he said.

South Africa has been relatively spared the worst of the ravages of the pandemic — it’s had 3,465 infections and 58 fatalities so far. Still, the central bank expects the economy to contract 6.1% this year.

Netflix, Chipotle Gain on Lockdown (4:50 p.m. NY)

Netflix Inc. added nearly twice as many subscribers as predicted in the first quarter, cementing its role as one of the rare companies to benefit from the global health crisis. Netflix added a record 15.8 million paid subscribers during the first quarter, almost double the 8.47 million forecast by Wall Street analysts. The company also clobbered its own forecast of 7 million, with droves of new customers binge-watching “Tiger King” or “Love Is Blind” to ride out the quarantine.

Chipotle’s loyalty program is helping it connect with customers as digital sales grew 80%. It’s had to temporarily close about 100 restaurants, primarily those inside malls and shopping centers, as well as some locations in Europe. It withdrew its earlier guidance for the fiscal year, citing the uncertainty related to the virus. The company has enough cash on hand for over a year, so it doesn’t plan to tap the government’s Paycheck Protection Program, it said in reporting first quarter results.

U.S. Confirmed Cases Rise 5.7% (4 p.m. NY)

U.S. cases rose 5.7% from the day before to 810,561, the biggest daily increase since April 10, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. That topped Monday’s growth rate of 2.7% and the average daily increase of 4.4% over the past week.

  • In New York, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, cases rose 3.5%.
  • New Jersey reported a one-day record of 379 new deaths, bringing total fatalities in the second hardest-hit state to 4,753. New Jersey cases rose 3.9%.
  • California had a 7.4% increase in positive cases from Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom said. The state reported 60 deaths, a 5% increase. Hospitalizations climbed 3.3%, with intensive-care patients up 3.8%.
  • Texas reported its first bump in new cases in five days, with a 38% increase to 738, according to the state’s health department. Total cases are now just under 22,000.
  • Florida reported 27,495 cases, up 3.1%, from a day earlier. Deaths reached 839, an increase of 6.3%.

Panel Warns on Trump-Backed Drug Combo (2:28 p.m. NY)

A panel of medical experts convened by the U.S. National Institutes of Health recommended against the use of a drug combination touted by President Donald Trump for Covid-19 patients.

The NIH panel, made up of 50 doctors, pharmacy experts and government researchers and officials, specifically recommended against the use of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine in combination with the antibiotic azithromycin. The malaria pill can cause heart issues, and the NIH panel warned of the potential for harm from the combination.

Trump has repeatedly backed the use of the drugs on Twitter and at numerous briefings of the Coronavirus Task Force, though some medical experts in his administration have cautioned about the lack of evidence.

French ICU Patients at Lowest in Three Weeks (2 p.m. NY)

France reported the number of patients in intensive care due to the coronavirus outbreak fell to the lowest in three weeks, while new deaths linked to the virus declined from a day earlier.

Patients in intensive care dropped by 250 to 5,433, Director General for Health Jerome Salomon said in a Tuesday briefing in Paris. The number of ICU patients, which Salomon has said is an indicator of the outbreak’s impact on the country’s hospital system, fell for a 13th day to the lowest since March 30.

U.K. Vaccine Trials Begin Thursday (12:49 p.m. NY)

The U.K. will give 40.5 million pounds ($50 million) to vaccine development projects, with human trials beginning Thursday, according to Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

Of that amount, 20 million pounds will go to the University of Oxford to fund clinical trials while 20.5 million pounds will go to development projects at Imperial College London, he said.

Italy Recoveries Almost Top New Cases (12:15 p.m.)

Italy reported an almost equal number of virus recoveries and new infections on Tuesday as Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte draws up a plan to cautiously extricate the country from a nationwide lockdown.

There were 2,729 new cases of the disease, compared with 2,256 a day earlier, the first increase in five days, according to the civil protection agency. The number of freshly recovered patients was 2,723 over the past 24 hours, a daily record. Confirmed cases now total 183,957.