Singapore Election Focus, Hong Kong Probes Cluster: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) — Singapore’s approach to the virus is set to become a defining issue in upcoming elections as the economy began a phased reopening Tuesday. Hong Kong authorities are concerned about a new cluster of cases that indicates transmission both at home and in the workplace. A new study shows five Indian states are leading the economic recovery from the world’s biggest lockdown.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo warned that mass protests against police violence could accelerate the spread of coronavirus and undo weeks of social-distancing efforts. The state imposed an overnight curfew even as deaths there fell to their lowest daily level since March.

Gilead Sciences Inc.’s treatment remdesivir showed only a limited benefit in a large trial. Moderna started a phase 2 study of its experimental vaccine, while Eli Lilly dosed patients in a study evaluating a potential antibody treatment for the disease. Meanwhile, Hollywood may have to minimize in-scene touching if it wants to get back to making movies soon.

Virus Tracker: Cases pass 6.26 million; deaths exceed 375,000Lam says Hong Kong concerned about new clusterSingapore starts phased reopening as community cases fall to zeroCuomo warns mass protests could accelerate virus spreadFive Indian states lead economic recovery from lockdownHealth-care businesses are top recipients of U.S. virus loansFace masks for public can help contain virus, study shows

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. For a look back at this week’s top stories from QuickTake, click here.

Virus to Be Key Issue in Singapore Elections (12:04 p.m. HK)

Singapore’s approach to the virus is set to become a defining issue in elections that must be held by early next year, after the city-state’s original, less restrictive approach was scuppered by a second wave of infections.

The current three-stage reopening strategy means restrictions will drag on longer in Singapore than in neighboring countries. How voters view the delay has political implications for the government, which has maintained power through successful economic management, the lack of a united opposition and election rules favoring the incumbents.

Banks started the process of returning employees to their offices Tuesday, with workers required to wear plastic face shields over their masks.

Five Indian States Lead Virus Recovery (11:15 a.m. HK)

Five Indian states contributing nearly 27% of the country’s gross domestic product are leading a recovery in the economy as it slowly emerges from the world’s biggest lockdown, a new study shows.

Kerala, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Karnataka have seen a pickup in activity, based on an analysis of indicators such as power consumption, traffic movement, arrival of farm products at wholesale markets and Google mobility data. Some of the most industrialized states such as Maharashtra and Gujarat were trailing because of tough measures still in place to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

India will begin a phased lifting of the nationwide lockdown from June 8, allowing shopping malls, restaurants and places of worship to reopen in areas where virus infections are under control.

Hollywood Heavies Suggest Scenes With No Touching (11:06 a.m. HK)

It’s the ultimate rewrite: To restart halted productions while protecting against coronavirus, Hollywood heavyweights are recommending scripts be changed to minimize touching — and that filmmakers use computer-generated images to replace real-life interactions on screen.

The recommendations are part of a white paper written by major studios and trade unions that hope to get the industry moving after an almost complete shutdown in March. Actors, crews and filmmakers have been out of work since then, and the closing of theaters has cost the industry about $1 billion a month in domestic sales.

South Korea Inflation Turns Negative on Hit to Demand (10:53 a.m. HK)

South Korea became the latest country to report negative inflation amid slumping oil prices and pandemic-hit demand, adding to concern that deflation is becoming a real risk for the global economy.

The 0.3% decline in May consumer prices was driven by falling prices of oil and public services, the government said, while prices of meals and lodging also were hit as the virus weighed on demand, the statements showed.

Hong Kong to Move Cautiously After New Cluster: Lam (9:50 a.m. HK)

Hong Kong authorities are still probing a new cluster of Covid-19 cases that may involve nine local patients, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at a briefing Tuesday. Her comments come after Radio Television Hong Kong reported that four new cases had been found in the same building as a couple earlier confirmed with the pathogen.

The city will announce changes to social-distancing measures as soon as possible, but will be cautious about lifting restrictions in light of the new cluster, Lam said. The cases indicate the virus probably spread both at a residential building and in the workplace, Lam said.

“It’s the first time that we have a health care worker who is infected at work,” Lam said.

Moody’s Downgrades India Amid Virus Risks (9:32 a.m. HK)

India’s credit rating moved one step closer to junk after Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the nation to the lowest investment grade level, citing a prolonged slowdown and rising debt. Moody’s reduced the long-term foreign-currency credit rating to Baa3 from Baa2, and retained a negative outlook, implying it could cut the rating further.

The economy is facing its first contraction in more than four decades and a fiscal deficit blowout as the coronavirus pandemic spreads. Moody’s said India’s growth and credit profile were deteriorating even before the virus outbreak, but those risks will become more pronounced now.

South Korea Reports 38 New Virus Cases, One Death (9:24 a.m. HK)

South Korea reported 38 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 11,541, data from Korea Centers for Disease Control & Prevention show. One death was reported, bringing the tally to 272.

Tanker Queues Show China Oil Demand Reviving (9:03 a.m. HK)

Queues of tankers have formed off China’s busiest oil ports as the vessels wait to offload crude for refineries that are quickly ramping up production amid a rapid rebound in fuel demand.

Two dozen or more crude-laden tankers are waiting to discharge at terminals on China’s east coast that supply state-owned and independent refiners in the region, according to shipbrokers and vessel-tracking data. Asia’s largest economy is leading a recovery in oil consumption, with demand in May almost back to levels seen before the coronavirus triggered stay-at-home orders.

Cuomo Warns Mass Protests Could Spread Virus (8:46 a.m. HK)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo warned that mass protests against police violence risked accelerating the spread of coronavirus, undoing weeks of social-distancing efforts.

“We spent all this time closed down, locked down, masked, socially distanced, and then you turn on the TV and you see these mass gatherings that could potentially be affecting hundreds and hundreds of people,” Cuomo said at his daily coronavirus news conference. “People have lost their jobs, people have wiped out their savings, and now — mass gatherings with thousands of people, in close proximity, one week before we’re going to reopen New York City? What sense does this make?”

New York City imposed a curfew overnight Monday — later extended to Tuesday — after protests against the death of George Floyd at the hands of police led to looting and violence across the country.

Johnson Plans Major Speech on Post-Virus U.K. (8:31 a.m. HK)

Boris Johnson plans to reset his government’s agenda with a major speech and a financial statement to prepare the U.K. for the new reality after the coronavirus pandemic.

Amid forecasts of the worst recession in 300 years, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is drawing up options to bolster the economy after the government withdraws its vast package of financial support in the months ahead, according to people familiar with the matter.

For Johnson, the priority will be to focus on reasserting his broader political mission in the age of the virus, one person said.

Health-care Companies Top Recipients of U.S. Virus Loans (8:25 a.m. HK)

Small businesses in the U.S. health-care and social-assistance industry have emerged as the top recipients of federal coronavirus relief loans, even as the net amount of approved funding in the program continues to decline amid loan cancellations.

The Small Business Administration released a report Monday of Paycheck Protection Program totals through May 30, with loan approvals by industry for the first time since the first round of funding ended on April 16.

Health-care firms had received 470,369 loans worth $65.9 billion, followed by professional services with 581,708 loans totaling $65.1 billion. Construction and manufacturing were the other two industries with more than 10% of the total funding.

Mexico Reports 2,771 New Virus Cases (8:20 a.m. HK)

Mexico reported 2,771 new confirmed Covid-19 cases, bringing the total to 93,435, according to data presented by the Health Ministry Monday night. Deaths rose by 237 to 10,167.

Virus Pushes Arid UAE to Try Growing Rice (8:16 a.m. HK)

The United Arab Emirates last month harvested around 1,700 kilograms (3,740 pounds) of rice in a pilot project with South Korea’s Rural Development Administration. The partners planted Asemi rice, a popular variety in East Asia, because it can withstand heat and salty soils. An underground irrigation system that drips water instead of spraying it was crucial to the project’s success.

“This pandemic has sent a strong message that diversification always has to be a key element of our future plans,” Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, the UAE’s minister of climate change and environment, said in an interview. The virus “is pushing us to come up with more innovative ways to grow faster than the rest of the world.”

U.K. Eyes Air Bridges as Quarantine Backlash Grows (8:10 a.m. HK)

The U.K. is considering a plan to allow unhindered flights from countries with a low risk of spreading coronavirus as pressure mounts on ministers to scrap controversial quarantine plans.

Arrivals in Britain will have to self-isolate for 14 days under rules to be introduced June 8. The restrictions are due to be reviewed after three weeks and officials are looking at ways of reducing them, including the so-called air bridges to countries with low incidence of the disease.

Japan Approves Testing of Saliva Samples: Nikkei (8:02 a.m. HK)

Japan’s Health Ministry approved PCR testing using saliva samples to detect coronavirus from Tuesday, Nikkei reports. Tokyo plans “full scale” introduction of the method to bolster testing capacity, Nikkei says, citing a metropolitan government official.

Shimadzu and Taraka Bio have developed regents that can be applied to saliva-based testing.

Hong Kong Finds More Cases Linked to Local Cluster: RTHK (7:58 a.m. HK)

The four new virus cases are people who live in the same Sha Tin building as a couple earlier confirmed with the pathogen, Radio Television Hong Kong reported. Health officials said there’s no need at this stage to evacuate people from the building.

China Says All 5 Cases Reported Monday Were Imported (7:57 a.m. HK)

China reported 5 additional coronavirus cases Monday, with all of them from abroad, according to a statement from the country’s National Health Commission. Ten asymptomatic cases were reported, including 8 from abroad.

UN Agency Issues Guidelines on Restarting Air Transport (7:39 a.m. HK)

The International Civil Aviation Organization has issued guidelines to regulators and operators on how to restart the global air-transport system. The specialized UN agency recommends more automation and touch-free equipment in airport bathrooms. Travelers may have to get used to electronic visa forms, dropping their baggage off with a facial or iris scan and being searched while facing away from border agents.

The International Air Transport Association, which represents airlines, called for “urgent implementation” of the ICAO guidance.

24 Hour Fitness Skips Payment Ahead of Bankruptcy (7:26 a.m. HK)

24 Hour Fitness Worldwide Inc. is skipping a payment on its bonds ahead of a planned bankruptcy restructuring, according to people with knowledge of the matter, after the coronavirus pandemic shut its gyms and crimped its cash flow.

The operator of more than 430 mid-tier gyms chose not to pay interest on its unsecured bonds due 2022, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing a private matter. The company is looking for a bankruptcy loan to support it through a Chapter 11 process and hand control to lenders, Bloomberg reported.

Face Masks Can Help Contain Virus, Study Shows (6:50 a.m. HK)

Widespread use of face masks could help economies reopen safely from coronavirus lockdowns when combined with continued social distancing and other prevention measures, according to a new study.

The risk of transmission is lower in households and among contacts of infected people when masks are worn, according to the study, published in The Lancet medical journal. For medical professionals in a health-care setting, respirator-type devices provide a higher level of protection than standard surgical masks, the report said.

Almost 26,000 Dead in U.S. Nursing Homes (5:40 p.m. NY)

Close to 26,000 nursing home residents were killed by Covid-19, the U.S. government said Monday, the first nationwide tally of a population especially hard hit by the illness.

There were 60,000 Covid-19 cases in nursing homes, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in a news release describing the findings. The agency also outlined plans to bring enforcement actions against homes that don’t take sufficient steps to control and prevent infections.

The death and case numbers were gathered from about 80% of the 15,400 nursing homes that the U.S. helps regulate through Medicare and Medicaid.

New Zealand Nears Removing Restrictions (5:25 p.m. NY)

New Zealand could remove most of its remaining restrictions on people and businesses as soon as next week after successfully wiping out the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that cabinet would bring forward its decision on a further relaxation of measures to June 8 and the move could take effect on June 10. The nation’s Alert Level would be reduced to 1, which denotes “very few restrictions,” Ardern told Radio New Zealand. The country has just one active case remaining and no new infections for the past 10 days.

U.S. New Cases Rise 1% (4 p.m. NY)

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. increased 1% as compared with the same time yesterday, to 1.8 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. That’s roughly in line with Sunday’s 1.1% rate, and below the average of 1.2% over the past seven days. Deaths rose 0.6% to 104,658.

New York had 54 deaths, the lowest total since the pandemic began, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo. The state reported 941 new cases, the first time in 11 weeks that new cases rose less than 1,000.Florida reported 56,830 cases on Monday, up 1.2% from a day earlier, compared with an average increase of 1.4% in the previous seven days. Deaths reached 2,460, an increase of 0.4%.California cases rose 2.2% to 113,006 while deaths increased 0.9% to 4,251, according to the state’s website.

Michigan Governor Eases Restrictions (3:45 p.m. NY)

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer eased social-distancing rules Monday by repealing her shelter-in-place order and allowing outdoor gatherings of as many as 100 people. The move followed months of blowback from the GOP-controlled General Assembly in which Whitmer refused to loosen emergency declarations or share power with the Legislature. At a Lansing news conference, Whitmer said slowing of new coronavirus cases indicated the state was now ready to relax rules, including allowing in-person office work and a reopening of restaurants on June 8 so long as eateries restrict to 50% capacity and place tables 6 feet apart.

“We’re taking a big step forward today, it’s undeniable,” said Whitmer, who is scheduled to testify before the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce Tuesday in a hearing focused on how governors have responded to the pandemic. The state, and especially metro Detroit, was one of the regions hardest hit by the virus.

N.J. Reaches Second Reopening Stage (3:13 p.m. NY)

New Jersey has entered the second stage of its four-step reopening plan, with outdoor dining and hair salons slated to start in mid-June, Governor Phil Murphy said Monday.

“We want our economy back,” but not recklessly, he said at a news briefing, warning that more virus cases were inevitable as restrictions lift.

The state’s death toll from Covid-19 rose by 27 to 11,721, while new cases increased by 509 to 160,918.

Chicago Official Urges Protesters to Quarantine (1:14 p.m. NY)

Chicago’s top health official pleaded with people who were at protests over the weekend who didn’t take proper health precautions to stay home and leave only to get tested for the coronavirus.

“If you have been in groups, especially if you were not able to keep that 6-foot distance and wear the face covering, I ask that as much as possible for the next 14 days you self quarantine,” Allison Arwady, Chicago Department of Public Health commissioner, said Monday. “We need everyone, now more than ever, to please practice the public health guidance even during this time where it’s not the top thing on anyone’s mind.”

Arwady said she was worried gatherings over the weekend could be a setback for the city’s progress against the virus.

A total of 699 arrests, primarily for looting, occurred Sunday, David Brown, Chicago Police Department superintendent, said. More than 132 police officers were injured and more than 60 guns were recovered, he said. An evening curfew remains in effect in the city.

Italy Has Fewest Cases in Over 3 Months (12:10 p.m. NY)

Italy registered the lowest number of new coronavirus cases in more than three months, as fatalities kept declining. Civil protection authorities reported 178 cases for the 24-hour period — the fewest since Feb. 26 — compared with 355 a day earlier. Daily deaths fell to 60 from 75 on Sunday; a total of 33,475 fatalities have been reported since the start of the pandemic in late February. Last week, the Italian government confirmed plans to allow travel between regions starting June 3.

WHO Thanks U.S. for Past Contributions (11:50 a.m. NY)

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus addressed President Donald Trump’s announcement he would withdraw the U.S. from the WHO, thanking the U.S. for its past contributions and saying the agency hopes to continue its partnership with the U.S.

“The world has long benefited from the strong collaborative engagement with the government and people of the United States,” he said Monday at a WHO press briefing. “The U.S. government and its people’s contribution and generosity toward global health over many decades has been immense and it has made a great difference in public health all around the world. It is WHO’s wish for this collaboration to continue.”

He declined to answer a reporter’s question about the process for a country to withdraw from the organization, saying what he already said is enough for the time being.

Amtrak Resumes Acela Service (11:23 a.m. NY)

Amtrak said it resumed Acela service on the Northeast Corridor Monday with a modified schedule and new safety initiatives.

The railroad restored three weekday Acela round trips. At its stations, it has enhanced cleaning and disinfecting, and will require face coverings and social distancing, according to a statement.

Canada Readies Virus Aid (11:12 a.m. NY)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is ready to announce financial support for Canadian municipalities whose revenue has plunged amid Covid-19 lockdowns.

Trudeau will announce C$2.2 billion ($1.6 billion) in funding on Monday, according to a government official familiar with the plans. The money — potentially only a first move to help cities — will come in the form of an advanced payment of the federal Gas Tax Fund, money provided to provinces who in turn use it to fund municipalities.

Providing support for public transit systems will be a priority for the government, as will other essential services such as trash collection, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the announcement.

Lufthansa Board Approves $10 Billion Bailout (9:41 a.m. NY)

The supervisory board of Deutsche Lufthansa AG approved Germany’s 9 billion-euro ($10 billion) bailout proposal, paving the way for the airline to receive the lifeline should shareholders accept the deal.

Monday’s breakthrough comes after the German government agreed that Lufthansa will reduce its presence at airports in Frankfurt and Munich by four aircraft each.

The bailout will set a precedent for Air France-KLM and other airlines that could force them to give up slots in exchange for government support to survive the pandemic, European Union Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said earlier in an interview.

Gilead Drug Has Only Modest Benefit in Large Trial (8:52 a.m. NY)

The result may shift perceptions of the first therapy cleared for use in severe cases of Covid-19. In the phase 3 trial, a group of moderately ill, hospitalized patients getting the drug for five days showed a modest improvement compared to those getting the standard of care, the company said in a statement. But another group getting the drug for 10 days didn’t show a statistically significant improvement, which is likely to raise questions about why a longer course doesn’t help more.

Separately, Altimmune Inc. climbed in premarket trading after the FDA gave the company the go-ahead to start a Phase 1/2 study of T-COVID, an experimental therapy. The single dose intra-nasal medicine is meant to be administered at the first onset of symptoms.

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

Subscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

Source Article