Hong Kong warns of a third wave of infections, Australian state uses jail as a deterrent

CORONAVIRUS ALERT 07/14/2020

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In top stories today:

  • Officials in Hong Kong warned of a high risk of a third wave of infections, while in Tokyo a theater in a night-life spot was the focus of an outbreak. An Australian state threatened quarantine breakers with six months in jail. Meanwhile, mainland China and Belgium saw either fewer or zero new cases emerge.
  • The Asian financial hub Hong Kong will impose stringent new measures on social distancing including masks and limits on dining in restaurants from midnight on July 14, with authorities there saying the risk of a large-scale outbreak is extremely high, Reuters reported. A new wave would be the third outbreak for the city, the newswire added. Meanwhile the India high-tech hub Bengaluru goes back into lockdown for a week starting on July 14 due to a surge in new infections, Reuters said in a separate article.
  • The Australian state of Queensland strengthened sanctions on those who violate coronavirus quarantines to include a jail term of up to six months, The Associated Press reported. The current fines for breaking a fourteen-day quarantine or someone lying about their whereabouts don’t seem tough enough in some cases, The Associated Press cited the northeastern state’s Deputy Premier Steven Miles as saying.
  • California, the most populous US state, restarted restrictions on companies and in restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, zoos, and museums because of a spike in infections, Governor Gavin Newsom ordered on July 13, the BBC reported. Churches, gyms, and hairdressers will close too in California’s worst-hit counties, the broadcaster added.
  • QUOTE: “[P]eople were allowed to go out and around, but they were supposed to be wearing masks, they were supposed to be keeping their distance, they were supposed to be avoiding large crowds,” said Professor Robert Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, the BBC reported. “I think too many people got a little bit complacent.”
  • “What’s next for Anthony Fauci, if the White House continues to sour on him?” asks the news service Stat. It sets out three possible paths for the US infectious diseases expert: officials oust him from leading the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; US President Donald J. Trump formally bars Fauci from public briefings and interviews; or, as Trump has done for months, according to Stat, the president carries on quietly diminishing Fauci’s role.
  • QUOTE: “It would be really a morale breaker,” Stat cited Fauci as saying of a large-scale return to lockdowns. “The stress and strain that people were under during prolonged lockdown is the genesis of why, when they were given the opportunity to try and open up, they rebounded so abruptly. Because what I think happened is, they overshot.”

TOKYO OUTBREAK

  • Health officials in the Japanese capital urged more than eight hundred people who saw a show starring members of a boy band to get tested for coronavirus after the 190-seat Tokyo theater was identified as the source of twenty cases or more, Reuters reported. The venue is in Shinjuku, a busy entertainment neighborhood and home to one of Asia’s biggest red-light districts that’s been the center of a recent increase in infections, the newswire said.
  • There was better news elsewhere. Beijing had no new cases for the eighth day in a row, while mainland China as a whole posted five on July 13 compared with eight the previous day, with no new deaths, Reuters reported. Belgium, which was the hardest hit by coronavirus among mid-sized countries, recorded no new daily cases on July 17, a first since March 10, the newswire reported separately.
  • UK retailers are concerned that a new requirement to wear a face mask in shops or face a £100 fine from later this month will deter younger shoppers, The Telegraph reported. Wearing a mask in enclosed spaces is already compulsory in European countries including Germany, Spain, Italy, and Greece, The Associated Press reported.  
  •  “Small businesses worldwide fight for survival amid pandemic” runs an Associated Press headline. The article cites examples including a bakery in Beirut, a florist in Tokyo, and a wedding venue in Washington State. Companies with fewer than 250 workers account for two-thirds of jobs worldwide, the United Nations estimates, the news agency added.

BAD LOANS

  • JPMorgan Chase’s profit halved in the second quarter as the biggest US bank by assets set aside more than ten billion dollars to cover possible losses from corporate and consumer borrowers unable to repay due to coronavirus, The Wall Street Journal reported. That follows eight billion dollars in loan-loss provisions in the first quarter, the Journal said.
  • QUOTE: “The financial stress caused by COVID-19 is far from over,” wrote Mohamed El-Erian in the Financial Times. “Investors should brace for non-payments to spread far beyond the most vulnerable corporate and sovereign borrowers.”
  • Singapore, dependent on tourism and trade, entered recession in the second quarter, as its economy contracted by 12.6 percent from a year earlier, or 41 percent on a quarterly basis, The Associated Press said. Construction was the worst hit. Authorities closed non-essential services and many offices in the quarter due to an outbreak among the island nation’s large migrant population, the news service added.
  • Those numbers from Singapore, together with feeble recovery in the United Kingdom, are an indication of the tough climb ahead for the world economy, The Wall Street Journal said. The UK economy grew by just 1.8 percent in May from the previous month, missing economists’ forecasts, it reported.
  • The UK’s public debt is set to exceed £370 billion in 2020 to 2021, or about 19 percent of national income, making it a peacetime record, the Financial Times reported. The Office for Budget Responsibility said that coronavirus could undermine the UK government finances on a permanent basis, the newspaper added. The number of UK workers supported by the government furlough program rose to 12.1 million last week, Bloomberg reported.
  • Another article in the Journal reports on an increase of imports from the United States to China in June, a first since the start of the pandemic, helped by an appetite for meat and other agricultural products. The 11.3 percent increase follows a 13.5 percent decline the previous month, the newspaper reported.
  • A second wave of coronavirus in the United Kingdom this winter could lead to 120,000 deaths under a “reasonable” worst-case scenario, the BBC reported, citing a report by Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance. Without accounting for lockdowns, treatment, or vaccines, the report models a range of 24,500 to 251,000 virus-related deaths in hospitals alone, peaking in January and February 2021, the BBC said.

FAST WALKING?

  • Reuters publishes a round-up of recent scientific studies on coronavirus, from inflammatory syndrome in adults to an increase in stillbirths via a study into the lower risk that fast walkers may have of contracting a severe strain of the disease.
  • “Mental Resilience Can Help You Through the Coronavirus Pandemic; Here’s How to Build It.” That’s a Wall Street Journal headline. Ways to bolster resilience include helping others, which reduces stress hormones, protects your heart, and boosts immunity, the Journal cited Dr. Rick Hanson, a senior fellow at the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley as saying.
  • The European Union will recommend that travel restrictions remain in place that bar Americans and most other foreigners from entering the bloc for at least another two weeks as concerns mount about a possible second wave of coronavirus infections, Bloomberg reported, citing three unidentified officials.  
  • Delta Air Lines scaled back its summer flight schedule as coronavirus infections increase nationwide, halving the number of additional flights in August to five hundred, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing Chief Executive Ed Bastian, who said recovery in demand has faltered since its near-collapse in April.
  • Virgin Atlantic, at risk of folding due to a slump in air travel caused by coronavirus, got a £1.2 billion rescue package, Bloomberg reported. Among that is £170 million pounds in secured financing by Davidson Kempner Capital Management, a US hedge fund, and a contribution of £200 million by the airline’s billionaire founder Richard Branson, the newswire added.
  • The Natural History Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, and Science Museum, all situated in London’s South Kensington museum with the Albert Hall music venue nearby, will reopen in August, the BBC reported.
  • Deaths from coronavirus in Latin America have now surpassed those in North America for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, Reuters reported, citing its own tally. The mass dissemination of fake news, including one story that local authorities were burying empty coffins to overstate the scale of the pandemic, only adds to the crisis in Brazil, the Financial Times reported.
  • EVENT:  An expert panel explores how we address widening distrusts both online and with regards to digital transactions. How do digital experiences impact the different meanings individuals ascribe to trust, community, and collaborations? The answer may be crucial for involving everyone in society-wide cyber-resiliency. Join the event at 12:30 pm on Wednesday, July 15. Further details are here.
  • EVENT:  Under what conditions could an agreement be reached over Argentina’s debt negotiation, and what would be the immediate and long-term implications of the deal? Deal or no deal: what are the implications for economic growth and investment in Argentina? Join us for an online discussion at 2 pm ET on Tuesday, July 14. Details are here.

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