British Minister Johnson, Hancock Test Positive Spain Surge


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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson became the first head of government to test positive for the coronavirus, and his health secretary, Matt Hancock, has the illness as well. Spain had its deadliest day of the outbreak so far, while European leaders struggled to agree on a strategy to fight the outbreak.

U.S. President Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping pledged to cooperate after weeks of rising tensions. Earlier, the U.S. overtook China for the most cases worldwide, fueled by a large jump in infections in New York. The World Health Organization appealed for a stronger attack against the coronavirus after Trump offered a plan to restore normal business by ranking counties by risk.

China’s top leaders pledged to raise the fiscal deficit and sell special sovereign bonds to counter the economic fallout. The Reserve Bank of India cut rates and Malaysia unveiled a $58 billion package.

Key Developments:

Cases top 542,000; 24,000 dead, 124,000 recovered: Johns HopkinsU.S. ramps up virus testing, but demand still outpaces supplyU.K. government orders unprecedented shutdown of housing marketTokyo braces for critical weekend; second shockwave hits China’s factoriesFrom Spain to Germany, farmers warn of fresh food shortages

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U.K. Sees No Change to Brexit Timetable (8:29 a.m. NY)

“In terms of the timetable there’s no change from our point of view,” the U.K. prime minister’s spokesman James Slack told reporters in a conference call. Slack was asked if there would be an extension to the Brexit transition period beyond December.

NYC Mayor Says Trump Needs to Face Reality on Ventilators (8:20 a.m. NY)

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said cases of the new coronavirus are going to become “astronomical,” putting unprecedented strain on the hospital system. Trump said in an interview on Fox News that he didn’t think New York state needed the 30,000 ventilators that Governor Andrew Cuomo has asked for to treat Covid-19 patents with respiratory conditions.

“When the president says the state of New York doesn’t need 30,000 ventilators, with all due respect to him, he’s not looking at the facts of this astronomical growth of this crisis,” de Blasio said. “If they don’t have a ventilator, a lot of people are just not going to make it.”

Rolls-Royce Pauses U.K. Civil-Engine Output (8:07 a.m. NY)

Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc will wind down jetliner-engine production in the U.K. as it spends a week implementing cleanup and safety measures to cope with the coronavirus outbreak. The company, which makes turbines for wide-body planes, will “significantly reduce” all but essential activities within its U.K. civil aerospace facilities from midnight, it said in a statement Friday.

Rolls-Royce is taking a break from manufacturing after customer Airbus SE also paused production to check on measures to protect employees from Covid-19. Boeing Co. has gone a step further, winding down planemaking in the Seattle area for two weeks after a worker died of virus-related complications.

China Ramps Up Stimulus Measures (8 a.m. NY)

China will “appropriately” raise its fiscal deficit as a share of gross domestic product, issue special sovereign debt and allow local governments to sell more infrastructure bonds as part of a stimulus package to stabilize the economy, according to a politburo meeting on Wednesday, central China television reported late on Friday.

Italy Virus Curve Seen Flattening Slightly (7:49 a.m. NY)

The curve of new coronavirus cases in Italy appears to have started flattening slightly since March 20, Silvio Brusaferro, head of the country’s National Health Institute, said at a press conference on Friday. The mortality rate in the country is proportional to patients’ age, Brusaferro said.

The National Health Institute said the country wasn’t at the peak of the contagion yet, but the head of the Superior Health Council Franco Locatelli said there were clear signs that the containment measures “are efficient, so people must respect them.”

Italy reported its biggest rise in coronavirus infections in the last five days on Thursday, as the disease spread further in the northern Lombardy region, even after weeks of rigid lockdown rules.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson Contracts Coronavirus (7:20 a.m. NY)

Johnson experienced mild symptoms and a test confirmed he had the illness on Thursday. He is self-isolating in his Downing Street offices, the government said in an email. “He is continuing to lead the government’s response to coronavirus,” the statement said.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has not shown any symptoms of the coronavirus and has therefore not been tested, BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg said in a tweet. The Queen last saw Johnson on March 11 and remains in good health, Sky News reported.

Johnson is the latest high profile individual to contract the virus and comes after Prince Charles, the heir to the U.K. throne, also tested positive.

Chinese Banks Post Record Profits (6:50 a.m. NY)

China’s big banks posted record earnings last year, beefing up their capacity to cope with the virus outbreak that’s threatening to throw the nation into the worst economic slump in four decades. Top executives offered few signs of any stress as they presented their reports. Bank of China President Wang Jiang said the impact from the virus outbreak is short term, calling it manageable.

Stable earnings at China’s biggest lenders, which account for 40% of the nation’s $41 trillion banking assets, may help cushion the financial system against further shocks at a time when banks are being enlisted to help struggling businesses stay afloat at the cost of their own profits.

Hong Kong Announces New Curbs (6:47 a.m. NY)

The government announced new measures to contain the outbreak, including limiting crowd size to four people except weddings and funerals. The measures will last for 14 days, leader Carrie Lam told a briefing.

The city earlier found a record 65 new cases, taking its total to 518. The Department of Health said 41 of the cases found on Friday had traveled overseas.

Spain Deaths, Cases Surge (6:30 a.m. NY)

The country reported its deadliest day so far after 769 people died, for a total of 4,858 fatalities. Cases rose to 64,059 from 56,188.

Russia Reports First Case of Virus in Kremlin Staff (6:30 a.m. NY)

The staffer didn’t have contact with President Vladmir Putin, the Kremlin said. The pace of the outbreak should slow down by late April to early May, Interfax reported, citing the health ministry’s chief epidemiologist Nikolay Briko. The total number of cases rose by 196 to 1,036 on Friday.

African Travel Grows Harder By the Day With Virus Curbs (6:30 a.m. NY)

Africa is inching toward a shutdown of its sea, land and air borders. A majority of its 54 nations have banned flights from countries with at least 100 coronavirus cases or temporarily closed their domestic and international airports. Most sea ports still allow cargo vessels, but passengers and crews from cruise ships are barred.

European Banks Vow Payout Restrain (6:12 a.m. NY)

European banks said they’re ready to suspend payouts to shareholders to bolster their finances after receiving unprecedented regulatory relief to cope with the coronavirus pandemic. The European Banking Federation, a lobby group, wrote to the region’s main supervisor that for 2020, it “believes that listed banks should not accrue dividends or undertake share buybacks so as to maintain maximum capital preservation.”

Separately, Deutsche Bank AG became the latest bank to halt plans for widescale layoffs, joining lenders including HSBC Holdings Plc and Lloyds Banking Group Plc in putting thousands of job cuts on hold.

Iran Cases Surge Past 32,000 (5:39 p.m. HK)

Iran reported 2,926 new coronavirus cases and 144 more deaths over the past day, bringing the total figures in the country to more than 32,000 cases and 2,300 fatalities. The government on Friday enforced social distancing measures banning inter-city travel and all gatherings, and the central bank approved loans for businesses affected by the outbreak.

How the Virus Is Impacting European Firms (5:23 p.m. HK)

The coronavirus pandemic is prompting an increasing number of European companies to abandon their financial guidance for the year. While some have opted to lower their previous outlooks, 82 companies in the benchmark Stoxx 600 Index, or 14%, have now given up on trying to predict how 2020 will turn out for them.

European stocks declined on Friday, ending their best ever three-day winning streak. The Stoxx 600 Index was down 2.2%. The number of companies scrapping their outlooks grew to include French advertising firm Publicis Groupe SA and eyewear-maker EssilorLuxottica SA.

Indonesia Reports Biggest Daily Jump (5:14 p.m. HK)

Indonesia reported the biggest daily jump in new coronavirus infections with the total number of confirmed cases topping 1,000. Tests confirmed the disease in 153 more people, Achmad Yurianto, a spokesman for the government task force on the virus, said in Jakarta on Friday. The country also reported nine new deaths, taking the total to 87, the highest in Southeast Asia.

Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory to Reduce On-Site Staff (5:02 p.m. HK)

Tesla Inc.’s Nevada gigafactory is reducing on-site staff by 75% in the coming days, Storey County said on its website. The county said local companies regularly tell it about the measures they are taking to adhere to guidelines aimed at combating the outbreak. The gigafactory produces battery packs and electric motors with partner Panasonic Corp.

Italian Business, Consumer Sentiment Drops (5 p.m. HK)

The economic sentiment index fell to 81.7 from 97.8 in February, a decline that statistics office Istat described as a “crash.” All sectors, from manufacturing to construction, services and retail, saw declines in confidence. The consumer confidence climate also dropped.

Research group Prometeia said Italian GDP could shrink by 6.5% in 2020 if the shutdown of industrial activity is partially and gradually lifted starting from May, while Il Sole 24 Ore reported that the country may need new stimulus measures worth 30 billion euros.

South African Lockdown Begins, Virus Claims First Victims (5 p.m. HK)

South Africa began a three-week lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus on Friday as the disease claimed its first two victims in the country and the number of infections passed 1,000.

U.K. Housing Market Takes a Hit (4:25 p.m. HK)

Shares in U.K. homebuilders dropped after the government urged home buyers to consider suspending transactions while the country remains in lockdown. The pandemic is hurting large sectors of the U.K. economy, with the property market suffering a dramatic slowdown. Real estate portal Zoopla said Thursday that house sales are set to plunge 60% in the next three months.

Billionaire Ashley Apologizes After Questioning Shutdown Order (4:16 p.m. HK)

Billionaire Mike Ashley apologized in an open letter for questioning a government-mandated lock-down and attempting to keep his retail stores open. Ashley, the founder of the Sports Direct brand, sought to keep his stores open in defiance of government guidance, provoking criticism from politicians and the public. The U.K. government had ordered non-essential services to close down to tackle the spread of the coronavirus.

German Cases Soar Past 43,000 (3:40 p.m. HK)

Cases in Germany rose to 43,039 on Friday from 37,179, while the death toll jumped to 262 deaths from 203, based on Bloomberg-compiled data. In a worst-case scenario based on limited government action, 70% of the German population would swiftly be infected and the death toll would exceed 1 million, Der Spiegel magazine reported, citing an internal interior ministry study.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said it’s premature to consider easing Germany’s lockdown measures. “We’re not even close to where we can see if the measures are working,” Merkel said via audio conference from Berlin in her first public comments since entering precautionary quarantine on Sunday.

Ferrari to Resume Some Production (3:30 p.m. HK)

Ferrari says that subject to supply chain continuity it now plans to resume production in Maranello and Modena on April 14.

Hungary Declares Limited Nationwide Lockdown (2:35 p.m. HK)

Hungary’s government will partially restrict movement for a two-week period ending April 11 to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said. People can still leave their homes for work and for essential needs such grocery shopping and to get fresh air, but only when respecting social distancing recommendations.

WHO to World Leaders: “Fight Like Hell” (2:10 p.m. HK)

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told G-20 leaders to “fight like hell,” and said shutdowns are necessary to slow down the pandemic, but they won’t extinguish it, so countries need to test more and trace every contact. The WHO chief himself didn’t call the coronavirus a pandemic until mid-March.

“The price we end up paying depends on the choices we make now,” Tedros said in a speech to the world’s top politicians. “The actions we take now will have consequences for decades to come.”

“Fight like your lives depend on it,” he said. “Because they do.”


The Indian Telegraph
Established in 2007, The Indian Telegraph is a multi award winning digital media company based in Australia.

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