Italy’s fatalities reached almost 1,000 in one day, its deadliest so far. Spain’s fatalities also soared. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his health secretary tested positive.
Toyota’s idled U.S. manufacturing facilities will make much-needed face shields and masks. The U.S. bought more ventilators.
Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, which accounts for about a quarter of U.S. cases, said new infections will be “astronomical.” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo kept schools closed through at least April 15.
Cases top 558,000; 25,000 dead, 127,000 recovered: Johns HopkinsHouse approves $2 trillion virus relief billU.S. ramps up virus testing, but demand still outpaces supplyWorkers critical to world’s food supply falling illU.K. 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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Belgium May Keep Limits Until May 2 (3 p.m. NY)
Belgium extended restrictions on citizens and businesses, which took effect March 14, by two weeks until April 19, and Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes signaled a further extension to May 3, saying it’s too early to declare the epidemic under control. Belgians must stay at home except for essential activities such as grocery shopping. Gatherings by more than two people are banned and stores selling non-essential goods remain closed.
N.Y. Seeks Aid for Four New Hospitals (2:45 p.m. NY)
New York is seeking federal assistance for four new emergency hospitals, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, as the number of state deaths spiked 35% in a day to more than 500.
The new sites would join four centers the U.S. is setting up in the city, he said. The state wants more beds for Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties. Cuomo spoke from the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on Manhattan’s west side, which is being converted into a 1,000-bed emergency hospital that will open Monday.
Cuomo said current demand for medical equipment is adequately covered and that the state is stockpiling additional supplies for a potential peak of infections three weeks from now. “We don’t need them yet,” he said. “We need them for the apex.”
The governor said he would keep the state’s schools closed for an additional two weeks, at which time the situation will be reassessed.
Luxembourg Plans to Test for Herd Immunity (1:30 p.m. NY)
Luxembourg is in an intensive planing phase to be among the first nations to research so-called herd immunity based on new blood tests the country is expecting to get, Health Minister Paulette Lenert said Friday.
The new tests wouldn’t check for Covid-19 infections but whether people have developed immunity against the new virus. Luxembourg, due to its small population of just over 600,000 people, is in a fortunate position to do this, the minister said. Scientists would be able to test samples that would be representative of the entire population, the minister said.
Italy’s Daily Toll Nears 1,000 (12:35 pm. NY)
Italy had its highest daily death toll even as the number of new cases declined on Friday. Fatalities shot up to 969, the most in a 24-hour period since the start of the outbreak.
New infections totaled 5,959, compared with 6,153 the previous day, civil protection authorities said at their daily news conference in Rome. Italy now has 86,498 total cases, roughly the same number as the U.S. and more than China, where the disease’s first outbreak occurred.
U.S. Buys More Ventilators (12:30 p.m. NY)
President Donald Trump said the federal government bought “many ventilators” from several companies he didn’t identify. Trump in a tweet said the names will be announced later.
State and local officials have been pleading with the federal government for more ventilators as cases of the coronavirus mount.
France Extends Restrictions (12:20 p.m. NY)
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said public confinement is being extended to April 15. The restrictions could be further extended if needed, he said in a press conference after a cabinet meeting on Friday. A scientific committee consulted by the government recommends at least six weeks of confinement, he said.
Portugal’s Cases Rise 20% (12:14 p.m. NY)
Portugal’s cases rose 20% to 4,268 from 3,544 a day earlier, the government’s Directorate-General of Health said. That compares with a daily increase of 18% reported Thursday and a 27% rise on Wednesday. The total number of deaths increased to 76 on Friday from 60 reported through Thursday morning.
Director-General of Health Graça Freitas said the data suggest the peak won’t be a moment in time but rather a plateau, and may not occur before May.
Libya, Syria Face Catastrophe: WHO (11:35 a.m. NY)
Libya reported its first case this week, meaning 21 of 22 Eastern Mediterranean nations have infections. The World Health Organization said Libya’s capacity to respond is extremely limited in some areas and non-existent in others, with a large movement of people from neighboring countries.
The outbreak also threatens to cause a catastrophe in Syria, the WHO said. Half of the nation’s hospitals are not functioning after nine years of war and thousands of health workers having fled the country. Millions of displaced people live in overcrowded camps in the country’s northwest, but after two days of tests using 300 WHO kits, no cases so far have been detected, the agency said.
Toyota Shifts Factories to Face Shields (11:07 a.m. NY)
Toyota Motor Corp.’s idled manufacturing facilities in the U.S. will make much-needed face shields and masks, and the Japanese automaker is closing in on deals with medical-device makers to help them boost production.
The carmaker said Friday it will start mass production of face shields early next week to supply hospitals near its plants in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Texas. Toyota also said it is finalizing pacts with at least two companies to make breathing ventilators and respirator hoods, and it’s looking for partners to make protective masks. The company on Thursday extended its shutdown of North American factories for two weeks.
U.K. Virus Deaths Jump 30% (10:29 a.m. NY)
The number of people in the U.K. who have died from coronavirus increased by 31% to 759 as of Thursday, the Department of Health said. That’s higher than the five-day average of 20%.
Some 14,579 have tested positive for the disease as of Friday, an increase of about 25%, above the five-day average of 20%.
Two Fed Bankers Confident of Rebound (10:29 a.m. NY)
Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic and Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan expressed confidence the U.S. economy will rebound when restrictions on activity are lifted.
“This is a public health crisis” and different from a typical recession, Bostic said on Bloomberg Television Friday. Kaplan offered a similar view a few minutes earlier. “We were strong before we went into this, and we believe that we’ve got a great chance to come out of this very strong,” he said.
Kaplan said unemployment would peak “in the low to mid teens” before recovering to around 7%-to-8% by year-end.
Coronavirus Response Leaves U.K. Vulnerable: Lancet (9:29 a.m. NY)
A delayed response by the U.K. government to the coronavirus pandemic has left the health system “wholly unprepared” for an expected surge of critically ill patients, according to the editor of the medical journal The Lancet.
In a letter posted on the journal’s website, Richard Horton described chaos and panic across the National Health Service, basing his comments on messages he received from workers. The government last month should have expanded testing capacity, ensured the distribution of protective equipment and stepped up training, he said.
U.K. Prime Minister, Health Secretary Have Virus (9:17 a.m. NY)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will self-isolate in Downing Street for seven days after a test found he had the coronavirus, spokesman James Slack told reporters on Friday. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has also contracted the illness, in a double blow to the U.K. government’s response to the crisis.
Both men have reported mild symptoms. Meals will be left at Johnson’s door while he continues to work by video-conference, Slack said. Hancock is self-isolating and working from home.
These are the latest high-profile individuals to contract the virus in Britain after Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, tested positive.
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.
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.
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