Covid-19: Democrats delay convention; N.Y. cases rise again

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(April 2): Spain reported 950 more coronavirus deaths, the most in a single day, taking total fatalities in the country to more than 10,000. New infections in Italy slowed. New York added almost 9,000 cases.

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits more than doubled to a second straight record. In Britain, almost 1 million people claimed welfare payments in the past two weeks. Stocks gained as oil surged.

Germany faces a deeper recession than during the financial crisis. and a U.K. financial regulator proposed freezing some credit card repayments.

Key Developments:
Global cases top 965,000; more than 49,000 dead: Johns Hopkins
Nations with mandatory TB vaccines show fewer coronavirus deaths
LA urges city to mask up; NY, NJ deaths double in three days
Locked up, beaten and shamed: virus laws lead to abuse
Palantir’s new ‘driving thrust’: predicting virus outbreaks
Life-or-death hospital decisions come with threat of lawsuits

U.S. Layoffs Lead to Lost Insurance (1:10 p.m. NY)
Some 3.5 million American workers probably lost their employer-provided health insurance policies in the past two weeks as the epidemic triggered an unprecedented wave of layoffs, according to research published Thursday by the Economic Policy Institute.

The “very rough estimate” is based on industry-specific unemployment claims filed in Washington state, which had the earliest U.S. outbreak.

It’s hard to be precise because some laid-off workers will be able to get insurance via Obamacare exchanges or a family member who still has a job, or will qualify for government coverage under Medicaid, the EPI said. On the other hand, the 3.5 million doesn’t include spouses or children of the newly unemployed who may now be without coverage.

N.Y. New Cases Rise Almost 9,000 (1 p.m. NY)
New York’s coronavirus outbreak shows no signs of abating, with almost 8,700 new infections, 1,200 new hospitalizations, 400 new ICU admissions and more than 400 new deaths, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

Cuomo said at the current infection rate, the state is six days away from exhausting its stockpile of breathing machines. About 350 new patients per night need ventilation, and the state has about 2,200 stockpiled.

Unlike other states that claim to have received faulty ventilators from the U.S. stockpile, Cuomo says all those received by New York appear to be in working order.

British Airways Staff Furloughed (12:45 p.m. NY)
British Airways, which grounded most of its fleet as travel demand slumped, will furlough about 28,000 employees and pay them 80% of their usual pay, the Unite union said Thursday after labor talks. The U.K. government will cover up to 2,500 pounds (US$3,095) a month under a national plan, with the airline picking up wages beyond that level.

The airline is following other carriers in furloughing workers as the virus wipes out global travel demand. Among U.K. rivals, EasyJet Plc laid off cabin crew for two months Monday after grounding its entire fleet, while staff at Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd have signed up for eight-week breaks, extended sabbaticals or voluntary severance.

Netherlands Urges Quarantine for U.S. Travelers (12:40 p.m. NY)
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called on citizens returning to the Netherlands from the U.S. to self-quarantine for 14 days, press agency ANP reports.

The same is being asked for all citizens who are being repatriated. Rutte also called on residents in neighboring Germany and Belgium to stay away in the long Easter weekend.

Pence Says 100,000 Get Tested (12:34 p.m. NY)
Vice President Mike Pence said more than 100,000 Americans are now being tested daily for coronavirus, as the government tries to ramp up its lagging response to tracking the outbreak.

A weekend breakthrough on point-of-care testing by Abbott Laboratories will make an additional 50,000 tests available each day, Pence said Thursday in an interview with Bloomberg Television.

There have been about 1.2 million coronavirus tests performed in the U.S. as of noon Thursday, according to the Covid 19 Tracking Project, which examines data supplied by states.

Italy Infections Slow (12:20 p.m. NY)
Italy reported 4,668 new cases of the coronavirus on Thursday, compared with 4,782 a day earlier, as growth in infections slowed.

The nation had 760 deaths, as the number of fatalities rose again after three weeks of nationwide lockdown.

The toll over the past 24 hours compared with 727 on Wednesday, according to figures from the civil protection agency.

Remy Cointreau Takes Hit on China Sales (12:20 p.m. NY)
Remy Cointreau SA, one of the world’s largest sellers of Cognac, cut its forecast for the fiscal year and said it expects profit to be down between 25% and 30%. Producers of the spirit are enduring a collapse in sales from China, as a result of the coronavirus. The country had previously grown to become one of the most important sales markets for Cognac and other European luxury goods. Just under a third of Remy Cointreau’s revenue comes from Asia, with China being the largest market in the region.

Democrats Postpone Convention (12:05 p.m. NY)
The Democratic National Committee on Thursday postponed the presidential nominating convention from July to Aug 17 due to concerns about the coronavirus, according to two people familiar with the decision. The delay comes after likely presidential nominee Joe Biden said it should be pushed back for safety reasons.

Pelosi Forming Panel to Oversee Stimulus (11:35 a.m. NY)
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will create a select committee with subpoena power to oversee the government’s response to the outbreak, including how the US$2.2 trillion from last week’s stimulus plan is spent.

Pelosi on Thursday compared the committee to the panel chaired by then-Senator Harry Truman in the 1940s to investigate defense spending as the country mobilized for World War II.

“We want to make sure there are not exploiters out there,” she told reporters. “Where there is money, there is mischief.”

Putin Extends Lockdown Through April 30 (10:36 a.m. NY)
President Vladimir Putin extended his order keeping Russians at home until April 30, warning that the spread of coronavirus has yet to reach its peak.

The Russian leader said certain parts of Russia, including Moscow, haven’t managed to get the situation under control. He said he would give additional authority to regional leaders to determine the level of response locally. He noted that the stay-at-home period could be shortened if the situation improves.

Russia has more than 3,500 confirmed cases of coronavirus, after a 28% increase overnight.

NYC Business Activity Falls (10:30 a.m. NY)
A measure of business activity in the New York City area sank to the lowest level on record in March. The Institute for Supply Management-New York’s current business conditions index fell 39 points last month to 12.9, the lowest in data back to 1993 and well below its 27.1 reading duriing the global financial crisis. Levels below 50 signal contracting activity.

Kenya to Hire Health Workers (10:15 a.m. NY)
Kenya is set to hire 6,000 health workers to help fight the coronavirus outbreak, with 5,000 deployed to counties and 1,000 will remain at the national hospitals, Health Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said.

Kenya has confirmed 110 Covid-19 cases and three deaths.

Walgreens Flags Sales Downturn (9:43 a.m. NY)
Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. executives said sales have started to decline at its drugstores as a result of the pandemic, though the full impact on its business won’t be known for months.

U.S. consumers had raced early last month to stock up on drugs, cleaning supplies and toilet paper as they prepared to stay at home to avoid getting or spreading Covid-19. Now, that rush appears to be ebbing.

Amazon Hires 80,000, Steps Up Warehouse Safety (9:24 a.m. NY)
Amazon.com Inc. said it has hired 80,000 people to help meet demand for online orders and has stepped up safety precautions at its U.S warehouses.

Dave Clark, Amazon’s logistics chief, said in a blog on Thursday that Amazon would probably go “well beyond” its previous estimate of an additional US$350 million in costs to support a growing workforce.

Germany Backs Use of Bailout Fund (9:15 a.m. NY)
The government in Berlin says it’s ready to send an “unambiguous signal” to markets by letting countries tap the European Stability Mechanism, the euro area’s rescue fund, to help them deal with the fallout of the pandemic.

That’s according to a position paper seen by Bloomberg, which also advocates setting up a 50 billion-euro fund to guarantee loans to small and medium-sized companies, especially in countries that don’t have their own development banks. Germany also said it would welcome a European unemployment reinsurance.

U.S. Jobless Claims Doubled to Record Last Week: (8:38 a.m. NY)
The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits more than doubled to a second straight record as the coronavirus widened its reach and closed more businesses.

Filings for U.S. unemployment benefits climbed to 6.65 million last week
A total of 6.65 million people filed jobless claims in the week ended March 28, according to Labor Department figures released Thursday, as many stores and restaurants were forced to close across the nation to mitigate the outbreak.

U.K.’s Johnson Still Has Mild Symptoms (8:24 a.m. NY)
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson continues to show mild symptoms after contracting Covid-19, his spokesman, James Slack, said at a briefing with reporters.

New Cases in Italy’s Lombardy Region Remain Flat (8:21 a.m. NY)
Lombardy’s trend of new virus cases remains flat, with no increases in the last 24 hours, the region’s governor, Attilio Fontana, said at a press conference on Thursday.

“It seems what our experts have predicted is happening, and that in a few days we might see a blessed decline in the pandemic trend,” Fontana said.

Germany Sees Economy Contracting 5% in 2020 (7:43 a.m. NY)
The national output is expected to contract more than 5% in 2020, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said. Germany’s economy could be in position for “reasonable growth” next year, he added. Angela Merkel’s government was widely anticipated to slash its forecast from the pre-crisis prediction of 1.1% growth.

Amgen Joins Hunt for Coronavirus Drug, DJ Says (7:35 a.m. NY)
Amgen Inc and Adaptive Biotechnologies Corp are partnering to develop a drug to treat the coronavirus, Dow Jones reported on Thursday, citing an interview with David Reese, Amgen’s executive vice president of research and development.

No Decisions on Domestic Travel Ban, Fauci Says (7:32 a.m. NY)
“It’s on the table,” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci says about whether the U.S. has any plans to restrict domestic travel. “We look at that literally every day,” he said. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that he’s looking at domestic travel limits for virus hot spots.

HK Orders Bars, Pubs to Close (7:28 a.m. NY)
Hong Kong has ordered bars and pubs to close for 14 days from April 3. The city earlier reported 37 new cases, taking its total to 802.

Boeing Offers Voluntary Buyouts (7:24 a.m. NY)
Boeing Co. offered voluntary buyouts to eligible employees, in a bid to quickly shed costs and adjust its work force of 161,000 to a coronavirus crisis that’s quickly undermined the outlook for aircraft sales. The move will preserve much-needed cash at Boeing, which is facing a sharp contraction in demand along with its European rival Airbus SE.

Airline customers around the world have slashed schedules, with some parking their entire fleets as the coronavirus pandemic guts travel. About 44% of aircraft across the globe are in storage.

ECB Delays Strategic Review (7:21 a.m. NY)
The big policy rethink, which was supposed to become the hallmark of President Christine Lagarde’s presidency, will be completed by the middle of next year, or six months later than initially planned, the ECB said on Thursday.

EU Says It Should Have Acted Faster to Help Italy (7:05 a.m. NY)
In a letter to Italian newspaper la Repubblica, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen admitted the bloc was late in understanding the scale of the outbreak in Italy and slow to act. She said Brussels has done far better recently.

The unusual admission comes amid fear that Italy’s debt market is still vulnerable to a mass exodus by investors, even with the European Central Bank offering support through its 750 billion-euro ($820 billion) bond-buying program. The country’s yield spread over Germany, a key gauge of risk in the country remains elevated after last month’s virus-induced rout.

Biden Says Sees Democratic Convention Delayed to August (7 a.m. NY)
“I think it’s going to have to move into August,” Biden said in an interview on “The Tonight Show.” “I doubt whether the Democratic convention is going to be able to be held in mid-July.”

Norway’s Wealth Fund Lost a Record US$113 Billion in 1Q (6:41 a.m. NY)
Norway’s sovereign wealth fund lost a record 1.17 trillion kroner in the first quarter as the coronavirus pandemic roiled stock markets. The loss comes as the fund for the first time faces forced asset sales to cover emergency spending by the government to weather the impact on the richest Nordic economy.

Stanchart CEO Says U.K., U.S. Acted Too Late (6:35 a.m. NY)
Standard Chartered Plc Chief Executive Officer Bill Winters said authorities in London and Washington have been too slow in ordering the type of lockdown that China used to control the outbreak. Speaking on Bloomberg Television, Winters became one of the highest-profile CEOs to criticize the Western response to the pandemic, saying the U.S. and U.K. had acted “too late.”

“I find it interesting to listen to the debate now that we in the West, or in the U.K., or in the U.S., couldn’t have done what the Chinese did because we don’t have that kind of society,” Winters said. “Well, we are doing what the Chinese did; we’re just doing it too late.”

EU’s Borrell Warns of Pandemic ‘Spiraling Out of Control’ (6:30 a.m. NY)
European Union foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc must mobilize help for poor countries. “Globally, it is to be feared that the worst is yet to come,” Borrell said in a letter to foreign ministers as they prepare to hold a video conference Friday. “Countries already affected by conflicts or mismanagement are particularly vulnerable.”

Jobless Claims Soar As Lockdowns Bite (6:20 a.m. NY)
Earlier on Thursday, Spain said claims rose by a record 302,265 in March. Spain, one of the countries at the center of Europe’s outbreak, already has an unemployment rate that’s among the highest in the developed world.

Almost a million people have claimed welfare payments in Britain over the past two weeks and even Finland, one of the world’s best-funded welfare states, is starting to crack. In Ireland, more than 300,000 people are on government support and 200,000 are classed as unemployed — that’s a total of about half a million people in a country where around 2.3 million were in work before the crisis.

And one-third of Thailand’s population has registered for government cash handouts designed to soften the blow of the novel coronavirus outbreak, far exceeding the funds available for the policy.

Brexit Delay May Be Inevitable (6 a.m. NY)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he won’t delay Britain’s final parting with the European Union at the end of the year. Empty meeting rooms across Whitehall suggest delay is all but inevitable.

Business lobbyists say government officials have canceled most meetings to prepare for Brexit, as civil servants are pulled away to deal with the growing coronavirus pandemic. It’s now only a question of how Johnson will sell a delay to the British public, rather than whether or not one will happen, they say.