Trump Escalates WHO Threat; Vaccine Hopes Rise: Virus Update

Trump Escalates WHO Threat; Vaccine Hopes Rise: Virus Update
Trump Escalates WHO Threat; Vaccine Hopes Rise: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump escalated a spat with the World Health Organization, threatening to permanently freeze U.S. funding unless there’s sweeping reform.

Trump earlier said he’s taking hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug that’s unproven as a coronavirus treatment and has sparked warnings about serious side effects. An experimental vaccine from Moderna Inc. showed early signs it can create an immune-system response to fend off the virus.

United Airlines Holdings Inc. and Qantas Airways Ltd. said they’ll hand out masks and sanitizing wipes on flights as airlines try to persuade passengers that air travel is safe. Uber Technologies Inc. is cutting 3,000 jobs as the virus smashes the ride-sharing market.

Key Developments:

  • Virus Tracker: Cases top 4.8 million; deaths exceed 318,000
  • Patients testing positive after recovery aren’t infectious
  • Rogue U.S. businesses go underground to dodge restrictions
  • Overseas flights creep back, with ‘bubbles’ and quarantines

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. See this week’s top stories from QuickTake here.

Patients Testing Positive After Recovery Aren’t Infectious (11:15 a.m. HK)

Patients who test positive for the coronavirus weeks after recovering from Covid-19 probably aren’t capable of transmitting the infection, research from South Korea shows.

Scientists from the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied 285 Covid-19 survivors who had tested positive for the coronavirus after their illness had apparently resolved, as indicated by a previous negative test result.

Singapore Expats Flout Rules (11:12 a.m. HK)

Singapore authorities ordered several restaurants in a neighborhood popular with expatriates to immediately stop selling takeaway alcohol, after several foreigners didn’t adhere to social distancing measures outside of the premises.

Photos circulated on social media this past weekend showing people gathering along Robertson Quay, a drinking and dining area located a few minutes away from the city-state’s financial district.

Hong Kong Restrictions May Be Extended (10:51 a.m. HK)

Hong Kong’s leader signaled that the city would extend social-distancing measures, despite objections from pro-democracy groups that a ban on large gatherings was being used to suppress protests.

Measures that could be extended past Thursday include a ban on gatherings of more than eight people. “There’s no need to relax any measures, but there’s no need to tighten any other measures,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam said.

Carnival Cut to Junk by Moody’s (9:32 a.m. HK)

Carnival Corp. was cut to junk by Moody’s Investors Service amid a prolonged suspension of the cruise company’s operations because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Moody’s said Carnival’s financial metrics “are not indicative of an investment-grade rating for the foreseeable future.”

United Air to Provide Amenity Kits With Masks (8:28 a.m. HK)

United Airlines Holdings Inc. is giving out face masks as part of a new amenity kit for passengers in the age of Covid-19.

“Starting today, we are providing a little amenity kit,” United Chief Executive Officer Oscar Munoz said Monday on Bloomberg Television’s Leadership Live. “It will be a little amenity kit that has a snack, a water and some hand wipes for you as you enter the aircraft, along with a mask if you need it.”

U.S. Beef Output May Take Months to Recover (7:44 a.m. HK)

American meat lovers probably will continue to pay higher-than-normal prices for beef as measures to mitigate the coronavirus risk keep U.S. plants below capacity for months.

That’s according to Tim Klein, who heads National Beef Packing Co., a major U.S. producer owned by Brazil’s Marfrig Global Foods SA. National Beef is now running at 85% capacity, compared with 100% a year ago and the current industry rate of 75%, he said in an interview.

Qantas Outlines On-Board Restrictions (7:16 a.m. HK)

Qantas Airways Ltd. outlined pre-flight and on-board measures it said will protect passengers when travel restrictions are eased, including providing masks, hand sanitizer and deeper cleaning of aircraft.

The airline will simplify food and drinks service and ask passengers to limit their movement in the cabin. Boarding and disembarkation will be sequenced to minimize crowding, the airline said Tuesday.

Brazil Passes U.K. for Third-Most Cases Globally (6:27 a.m. HK)

Brazil is now the world’s fastest-growing coronavirus hotspot, accounting for 13% of all new cases globally in the past week.

Just days after it overtook Italy and Spain in total number of cases, the Latin American nation claimed the No. 3 spot from the U.K., reporting 254,220 confirmed infections as of Monday. The country is quickly catching up to Russia, which trails only the U.S., according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Texas to Open Daycares, Bars This Week (5:23 p.m. NY)

Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced a broader reopening of the state’s businesses and services, saying the data continued to trend in favor of loosening restrictions. Child care centers and youth clubs can reopen immediately, with bars, bingo halls, zoos and rodeos following on Friday. Youth camps and any sport without in-person spectators can reopen at the end of the month, Abbott said.

Distancing measures, capacity limits and other restrictions apply to most reopenings. Abbott said he is focused on the percentage of positive cases as virus testing ramps up in the state. That “positivity rate” has declined over the past two weeks, he said. Hospitals have plenty of capacity to handle virus cases, and the state now has “ample” protective equipment, he said.

Texas began easing its lockdown on May 1 with the reopening of restaurants and retail stores, followed by gyms and hair salons.

On Saturday, the state reported it’s highest-yet number of new cases, a 4% jump of 1,801. On Monday, Texas added 909 more cases for a total of 48,693, with 1,347 fatalities.

Trump Says He’s Taking Anti-Malaria Drug (4:40 p.m. NY)

President Donald Trump said he is currently taking hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug he has promoted as a treatment to combat coronavirus infection.

Trump said at the White House that he’s been taking the drug for more than a week. Medical experts have cautioned against the use of hydroxychloroquine as the benefits against coronavirus were unproven and the treatment can carry significant negative health side effects.

U.S. Cases Rise 1.2%, Slowest in 2 Weeks (4 p.m. NY)

U.S. cases increased 1.2% from the same time Sunday, to 1.5 million, the lowest daily increase since April 30, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. That was lower than Sunday’s growth rate of 1.5% and below than the average daily increase of 1.6% over the past week. Deaths rose 0.7% to 89,874.

About a third of the cases are in New York and New Jersey, which are both taking gradual steps to reopen. New York’s cases have increased by less than 1% a day for more than a week.

  • New York reported 1,250 cases, bringing the total to 351,371, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo. The state reported 106 deaths, the lowest one-day toll in at least seven weeks.
  • New Jersey cases rose 1.2% to 148,039, higher than the average growth rate of 0.8% in the past week, according to Governor Phil Murphy.
  • Cases in California rose 2% to 80,430 while deaths rose 1.3% to 3,302, according to the state’s website.
  • Texas cases increased 1.9% to 48,693

California Sees Further Easing of Limits (4 p.m. NY)

California Governor Gavin Newsom said the state is seeing ongoing improvement in its outbreak, enabling it to further ease restrictions on business and residents in most areas. Hospitalizations have fallen 7.5% over the past 14 days, while intensive-care stays have declined 8.7%.

Fifty-three of 58 counties probably meet criteria to move further into the state’s phase two of reopening, which includes easing limits on some retail, dining and manufacturing. The decisions to relax rules is up to local officials.

“Just because we’re creating the capacity and the availability to move into phase two doesn’t mean that every county will be ready,” Newsom said, singling out Los Angeles County in particular as not being ready.

Newsom also said sports could possibly reopen in June without fans.

French Judges Ground Drones (12:15 p.m. NY)

French judges banned the use of surveillance drones by police to monitor public compliance with coronavirus-related restrictions, citing privacy issues. The authorities’ use of drones to help contain the spread of Covid-19 “constitutes a serious and manifestly unlawful infringement of privacy rights,” France’s highest court said on Monday.

The Conseil d’Etat ruled that drones with cameras can no longer be used until the concerns are addressed, either via a privacy-friendly law or by equipping the drones with technology that makes it impossible to identify the people filmed.

Italy New Cases Drop to Early March Levels (12:10 p.m. NY)

Italy registered the lowest number of new cases since early March as the government eased a nationwide lockdown Monday allowing shops, bars and restaurants to reopen as long as they respect health and safety rules. Civil protection authorities reported 451 cases — the fewest since March 2, a week before the lockdown began — compared with 675 a day earlier. Confirmed cases now total 225,886. Daily fatalities fell to 99 from 145 on Sunday, the fewest since March 9.

EU Plans $543 Billion Fund (11:13 a.m. NY)

The European Union is planning a 500 billion-euro ($543 million) recovery fund to help weather the worst recession in living memory, according to two officials familiar with the plan who asked not to be identified because the proposal is private. The European Commission is expected to submit its latest proposal May 27.

Florida Cases Accelerate as Reopening Expands (11 a.m. NY)

Florida reported 46,442 cases Monday, up 1.9% from a day earlier, compared with an average increase of 1.7% in the previous seven days. Deaths among Florida residents reached 1,997, an increase of 1.2%.

The state is expanding its reopening Monday to include Miami-Dade and Broward, the two most populous and hardest-hit counties. Elsewhere, Governor Ron DeSantis is loosening restrictions further, allowing retailers and restaurants to operate at 50% indoor capacity, up from 25% in the initial phase of reopening.

England’s Premier League to Resume Training (9:42 a.m. NY)

Premier League shareholders voted unanimously to return to small group training starting Tuesday afternoon, the soccer body confirmed in a statement Monday. Full-contact training isn’t yet permitted, and players will have to maintain social distancing. Consultation will continue with players, managers, clubs and associations to develop protocols for full training.

The Premier League’s season was suspended in mid-March. The German Bundesliga resumed play this past weekend.

U.K. May Have 19,000 New Deaths This Month: INSEAD (8:19 a.m. NY)

The U.K. may have 19,000 additional deaths from Covid-19 this month as the country begins easing lockdown measures and an additional 13,000 in June, placing it in a worse position when compared with Germany, France and Switzerland, according to researchers at the business school INSEAD.

The researchers estimate the U.K. has had about 2.1 million cases, about 10 times official projections. A swift return to normal could have “deeper implications on the number of infected people worldwide and in the U.K. than what government estimates say,” INSEAD’s Phebo Wibbens and colleagues said in a report. It may take more than a year to bring the number of new daily infections down to fewer than 100, they said.

Separately, the U.K. has pushed back the rollout of its coronavirus-tracing mobile phone application, in a potential setback for its bid to ease the lockdown. While Health Secretary Matt Hancock said last week that the app would be ready in mid-May, it is now planned to be released nationally within “weeks,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman James Slack told reporters on Monday.

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