(Bloomberg) — The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus topped 1,000, according to a Johns Hopkins tally. The Senate approved a more-than-$2 trillion stimulus package. Singapore estimated that its economy contracted the most in a decade, an early sign of what’s in store for many.
The U.S. Senate’s approval of the record fiscal program to address the coronavirus sends the bill to the House of Representatives. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that the lower body will meet Friday to consider the package, and that he expects it to pass.
Japan is setting up a panel to consider declaring an emergency after a spike in cases in Tokyo prompted officials to adopt a tougher approach.
Cases top 470,900; 21,276 dead, 114,012 recovered: Johns HopkinsFauci warns of potential for another cycle of infectionsRefugee camps housing millions of people brace for a surge in virus casesU.S. Senate passes $2 trillion relief package
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Senate Approves Rescue Plan on a 96-0 Vote 11:48 a.m. Hong Kong)
The package of more than $2 trillion in measures provides for about $500 billion in loans and assistance for big companies, including struggling airlines, as well as states and cities. There is a separate pot of about $350 billion for small businesses. For individuals, the legislation provides direct payments to lower- and middle-income Americans of $1,200 for each adult, as well as $500 for each child. Unemployment insurance would be vastly expanded.
The House is scheduled to vote on the legislation Friday. President Donald Trump has urged Congress to act “without delay” and said he would sign the legislation immediately.
U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Passes 1,000 (11:41 a.m. HK)
Over 1,000 people in the U.S. have died from the coronavirus, according to data tracked by Johns Hopkins University.
That puts the U.S.’s death toll just behind France, which has 1,331 deaths. Italy has suffered the highest death roll in the widening global pandemic, with more than 7,500 deaths as of Thursday.
The grim milestone comes as cases of infection in the U.S. rapidly increase and the World Health Organization warned that the country could become the next epicenter of the worldwide outbreak.
Japan to Set up Panel Looking at Emergency Declaration (11:37 a.m. HK)
Japan will set up a panel as soon as Thursday to consider declaring an emergency over the coronavirus pandemic, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said. While he told reporters at a briefing Thursday that the Abe administration isn’t thinking of declaring an emergency now, Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said he has told the prime minister there’s a high risk of the virus spreading broadly.
Governors of prefectures neighboring Tokyo will join their counterpart from the Japanese capital in urging people to stay home over the weekend, Kyodo reported. Tokyo is in a “critical moment” over a potential explosion in cases, Governor Yuriko Koike said Wednesday. She asked that citizens work from home and not go out at night during weekdays.
Canada Sees a 72% Surge in Confirmed Cases (10:03 a.m. Hong Kong)
In Canada, the number of confirmed cases rose to 3,385, an increase of 72% over the course of the day. There were 35 deaths, a rise of roughly 30%. It was not immediately clear if improvements in testing contributed to the spike in cases.
Singapore GDP Shrinks, But Government Tamps Down Budget-Size Speculation (9:39 a.m. HK)
Singapore’s gross domestic product fell an annualized 10.6% in the first quarter from the previous three months, far worse than the median forecast for an 8.2% contraction in a Bloomberg survey. The government said it now sees a sharp contraction in the economy of 1% to 4% for the full year.
Even so, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat advised against having “excessive expectations” about the size of the upcoming budget aimed at addressing the outbreak.
Singapore was among the first outside of China to be hit with coronavirus cases earlier this quarter, and it is often seen as a bellwether for global trade given the openness of its economy. New Zealand’s economy could also contract by as much as 10%, initial estimates of economists show.
South Korea Joins Ranks of Central Banks Deploying QE (9:37 a.m. HK)
The Bank of Korea will conduct weekly money-market operations aimed at providing an “unlimited” amount of liquidity for three months. The initiative will start in April, and is designed to stabilize financial markets. It “wouldn’t be too wrong” to see the move as quantitative easing, a BOK official said.
The sharpest spike in years in premiums for companies to borrow in many funding markets around the world has pushed global monetary policy makers to adopt unorthodox measures. The U.S., Australia, New Zealand and several others have all taken unprecedented actions this month.
EU Vows to Be ‘Vigilant’ on Possible Hostile Takeovers (7:25 a.m. HK)
European Union regulators warned about hostile foreign takeovers of EU-based companies as a result of the economic slump triggered by the pandemic, putting the spotlight on medical businesses. The European Commission issued guidance to EU national capitals on enacting new bloc-wide legislation meant to prevent foreign direct investments from threatening national security.
Member countries must be “particularly vigilant” to ensure that “the current health crisis does not result in a sell-off of Europe’s business and industrial actors,” the Brussels-based commission said in the document published on Wednesday evening.
Fauci Sees Potential for Another Cycle of Infections (6:53 a.m. HK)
Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at a White House briefing that it’s possible the coronavirus could become a seasonal affliction, with further waves of infections coming. He noted that the number of cases in the southern hemisphere is rising as the winter season approaches there.
“I know we’ll be successful in putting this down now. But we really need to be prepared for another cycle,” Fauci said. He said it’s vital that a vaccine be developed for the next cycle, along with a “menu” of treatment drugs that have been shown to be successful and safe.
At the same briefing, White House coronavirus task force member Deborah Birx highlighted that the number of new cases in New York City has been relatively constant the past three days, and said that “we’re close to working through the testing backlog.”
U.S. Governors Say Federal Stimulus Package Provides States Insufficient Funding (6:47 a.m. HK)
U.S. governors whose states have been hardest hit by the crisis say the fiscal package wending its way through Congress doesn’t go far enough in providing funding to states and localities that are facing unprecedented financial pressures as they battle the coronavirus.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the $3.8 billion for his state and $1.3 billion for New York City is a “drop in the bucket.” Lost tax revenue will cost the state as much as $15 billion, he said. Governor Gavin Newsom of California, which has the third-highest U.S. case count, said he strongly believes the federal government will need to do more. Both are Democrats.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican who chairs the National Governors Association, said at a press conference Wednesday that “we’re gonna come back and ask for additional funding for the states and local governments to help with this crisis in the next round of stimulus.”
Trump Expected to Have FEMA Direct Supplies Among States (6:24 a.m. HK)
The Trump administration is expected to soon direct how manufacturers will distribute crucial medical supplies — including protective gear and ventilators — to combat the outbreak, alleviating what U.S. governors have complained is a chaotic marketplace for the products.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will take charge of allocating the supplies nationwide, according to three people familiar with the matter, under a clause of the Defense Production Act.
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White House Girds for ‘Very Big’ Jump in U.S. Jobless (4:25 p.m. NY)
White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow said a government report due Thursday will show a “very large increase” in the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits. While he declined to offer a specific number, California Governor Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that 1 million in the state have filed claims since March 13.
Recent estimates from economists at Wall Street banks have ranged from 2.25 million to 4 million.
N.J.’s Virus Numbers on Track to Echo N.Y.’s (4:20 p.m. NY)
Northern New Jersey is on track for the kind of viral surge that New York is experiencing, the state’s health commissioner said on Wednesday.
Judy Persichilli said the trends in her state were tracking those of neighboring New York, which projects a peak infection rate in 14 to 21 days.
“When we see this peak in New York, I think we can expect Bergen, Essex and Hudson counties will follow the trends,” she said at a news conference in Trenton on New Jersey’s response to the pandemic.
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U.K.’s Johnson Threatens Action to Stop Profiteering (4 p.m. NY)
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he’s considering making profiteering illegal as Britain battles the coronavirus, following reports that some firms had been hiking prices on essential products.
“We are looking very carefully at what’s going on,” Johnson said at a press conference Wednesday. “I do not want to see people exploiting peoples’ need at a critical time, a national emergency.”
WHO: Countries Wasted Time Amid Spread (2:52 p.m. NY)
The world squandered a window of opportunity to fight the coronavirus and many actions should have been taken one or two months ago, according to World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The WHO chief himself didn’t call the coronavirus a pandemic until mid-March.
Worldwide lockdowns have created a second window of opportunity that shouldn’t be wasted, he said at a press briefing in Geneva. There are 150 countries with fewer than 100 reported cases, he said, adding that those in lockdown should use this time to contain the virus.
“The last thing any country needs is to reopen schools and businesses only to close them again because of resurgent cases,” he said.
New Cases Decline in Italy (1:50 p.m. NY)
Italy reported that new coronavirus cases fell on Wednesday, after nearly three weeks of lockdown measures. There were 5,210 new cases, compared with 5,249 a day earlier.
Fatalities from the disease over the past 24 hours totaled 683, compared with 743 on Tuesday, according to figures from the civil protection agency. Confirmed cases in the country now total 74,386.
The news came as the government broadened rules that shield companies from hostile takeovers as the virus takes a heavy toll on the economy.
N.Y. Restricts Access To Malaria Drugs (12:15 p.m. NY)
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo joined other states in restricting access to malaria treatments that President Donald Trump has touted for the novel coronavirus despite a lack of proof they will work.
Cuomo updated an executive order Monday evening to block pharmacists from filling prescriptions for the malaria drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for any uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration unless it is for a patient who has tested positive for Covid-19 and is part of a clinical trial. The medications are not approved to treat coronavirus.
The government doesn’t typically impose on the practice of medicine. Doctors are typically allowed to prescribe drugs for any illness or condition, not just those a specific medication is approved to treat. Ohio, Texas, Idaho and Nevada have also moved to limit access to the drugs.
Most NYC Covid-19 Dead Had Other Health Problems (11:30 a.m. NY)
Ninety-five percent of New York City’s almost 200 deaths from the new coronavirus had underlying health conditions, though almost half were under the age of 75, according to data published by the city’s health department on Tuesday.
The deaths, as well as data on cases and hospitalizations, mimic the patterns found in other cities with major outbreaks. New York City had more than 15,000 Covid-19 cases as of 5 p.m. Tuesday, the largest outbreak in the U.S.
Read the full story here
Putin Delays Vote on Plan to Stay in Power (9:50 a.m. NY)
President Vladimir Putin postponed a public vote on constitutional changes next month that would allow him to rule to 2036 as Russia attempts to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Putin, who has promised Russians final say on amendments to the constitution he has rushed through, said the vote planned for April 22 would be rescheduled at a later date.
Saying Russia couldn’t cut itself off from the pandemic, he said that people wouldn’t work next week, though workers would still get paid. He announced the delay during a hastily arranged national address Wednesday.
Though its totals remain well below those in some big European countries, Russia reported that coronavirus cases jumped by a third over the past day to 658.
Switzerland Expands Entry Curbs (8:47 a.m. NY)
Switzerland on Wednesday stepped up the curbs on incoming travel to include all countries within the Schengen area. It previously had limited arrivals from Spain, Italy, Germany, France and Austria.
The Schengen area is a passport-free travel zone among 26 European nations.
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