India cases surge to record; Europe economic recovery increases pace after lockdowns

CORONAVIRUS ALERT 07/24/2020

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In top stories today:

  • Cases surged in India, with a record daily increase in cases and the western state of Maharashtra severely affected. Many states in the United States saw record increases too, while the pace of economic recovery picked up in Europe following the easing of lockdowns.
  • “The global march of face masks: A mirror on humanity” reads an Associated Press headline. Billions around the world now include a mask among the essential items every time they leave the house, the news agency said. But rarely has anything sparked such discord and politicking, especially in the United States, and as such it’s become a mirror on humanity, The Associated Press added.
  • QUOTE: “There has, perhaps, never been such a rapid and dramatic change in global human behavior,” says Jeremy Howard, co-founder of #Masks4All, a pro-mask lobbying group, The Associated Press reported. “Humanity should be patting itself on the back.”
  • US President Donald J. Trump canceled the Jacksonville, Florida segment of the Republican National Convention, citing rising cases of coronavirus in the state, The Wall Street Journal reported. Delegates will still travel to Charlotte, North Carolina, on August 24 to nominate him formally for president ahead of the November election, he told reporters, the Journal added.
  • The statistics say… Florida, California, and Tennessee reported single-day records in deaths on July 23 with 173, 157, and 37 fatalities respectively, the Journal reported. The United States recorded more than 1,100 deaths, the third day in a row it reached that grim milestone, as Reuters puts it. Meanwhile, three in four Americans back compulsory face masks, according to a survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
  • Hong Kong recorded a record 115 new local cases of coronavirus on July 24, the third day infections have topped one hundred, Bloomberg reported. Tokyo and the Australian state of Victoria have also seen consecutive and record growth in new infections this week, the newswire added. Six people died in Victoria in the past 24 hours, the most since the pandemic started, Reuters reported.
  • The statistics say… India reported 49,000 new cases, the biggest daily surge so far, and 740 deaths on July 24, Reuters reported. India has reported 30,601 deaths from the disease, more than 40 percent of which in the western state of Maharashtra, the newswire added.
  • US military personnel will be double-tested in Japan, amid local concerns that Americans are spreading the virus, The Washington Post reported, citing US Forces Japan (USFJ). All personnel will be tested on or before arrival and at the end of a compulsory fourteen-day quarantine period, the Post cited USFJ as saying.
  • A girl aged three, with several severe associated diseases, is thought to be the youngest person to die from COVID-19 complications in Belgium following the death of a boy aged twelve in March, The Associated Press reported, citing Belgian health authorities. The country reinforced restrictions, including masks in crowded outdoor spaces, to halt the spread of the virus, the news service added.

COAL WARNING

  • Coal shouldn’t play a part in any nation’s post-pandemic stimulus plans, while economic recovery needs to be aligned with worldwide climate goals, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres told an online audience of students and researchers in a lecture organized by China’s Tsinghua University, Reuters reported.
  • American Express said second-quarter profit fell to $257 million from $1.76 billion in the year-earlier period as the coronavirus pandemic harmed the credit card company’s performance, The Wall Street Journal reported. It logged provisions of $1.6 billion for potential losses, up from $861 million a year earlier, the newspaper added.  
  • UK retail sales climbed by 13.9 percent in June from the previous month, carrying on with a recovery from a coronavirus slump during lockdown as non-essential shops started to reopen, the Financial Times reported. Economists polled by Reuters expected an 8 percent increase, the newspaper added. Meanwhile Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Asda are among the large UK supermarkets who say they will not be enforcing a requirement for shoppers to wear masks in England from July 24, the Independent reported.
  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his government is preparing for a second wave of infections during the winter and that the country will still be contending with the pandemic in mid-2021, Bloomberg reported. The government aims to give the influenza shot to 30 million people in England this year, including shots for eleven-year-olds and those over fifty, in the hope that doubling the previous reach of the vaccination will mitigate the impact of coronavirus, Sky News reported.

EUROPE RECOVERY

  • Business activity in the euro zone increased in July for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic emerged, as people emerged following lockdowns to spend money and to work, Reuters reported. IHS Markit’s flash Composite Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), viewed as a good barometer of the bloc’s economic health, rose to 54.8 from June’s final reading of 48.5, and well ahead of the 51.1 forecast in a Reuters poll. The July figure is the highest since mid-2018, the newswire added.
  • QUOTE: “The sharp rise… is an encouraging sign that the economic recovery continued at a decent pace,” said Jack Allen-Reynolds at Capital Economics, Reuters reported. “But we suspect that activity will remain below pre-crisis levels for at least the next couple of years.”
  • “Europe’s Post-Lockdown Rebound Bodes Well for Global Economy” That’s a headline in The Wall Street Journal. That suggests the global economy is likely to expand in the three months through September, but new outbreaks of the virus and the re-imposition of restrictions makes it uncertain how quickly activity will return to pre-pandemic levels, the newspaper reported.
  • The worsening pandemic in the United States is holding back, or even snuffing out, the nascent recovery of the economy, Bloomberg reported, citing restaurant dining, air travel and filings for unemployment benefits. And that comes days before hundreds of billions of dollars of federal aid is scheduled to expire, the newswire added.
  • Dyson, best known for its bagless vacuum cleaner, plans to cut six hundred UK jobs and another three hundred worldwide as the pandemic changes customer behavior, with most of the reductions in retail and customer service roles, the BBC reported. The company employs 14,000 people worldwide, including 4,000 in the United Kingdom, the broadcaster added.
  • There’s a surge in demand for private island getaways with multi-million dollar price tags as a means to escape the pandemic, the Financial Times reported, citing the example of Fiji’s Mai Island with its thirty-two acres of tropical gardens, and yours for just over four million dollars. Among the most popular locations are the South Pacific, the Caribbean and remote parts of Europe and the United States, the newspaper said.
  • QUOTE: “Amid the COVID-19 economic pain, some luxury niches are still booming—and asset prices are jumping in unexpected ways,” Gillian Tett wrote in the Financial Times. “This is hard to track with precision. The luxury sector is opaque, and activity is doubly hard to measure now that spending is becoming more discreet and migrating into new areas.”
  • Regulators who normally work within their own territories will probably harmonize their efforts to allow more speedy approvals of COVID-19 vaccines once they are available, Reuters cited World Health Organization chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan as saying. The Financial Times sees it differently: “Coronavirus vaccine deals expose lack of global co-ordination” runs a headline in the newspaper.
  • A potential COVID-19 vaccine developed by Chinese military-backed researchers triggers an immune response, showing some promise as it enters early-stage human trials, Reuters reported, citing a peer-review study of tests on animals. Meanwhile Lonza, the Swiss drugmaker, envisages no hold-ups in its planned production of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, citing “strong support” from Trump to get the equipment it needs to do so, the newswire reported separately, citing its chairman.
  • READ MORE: “Like the Cold War before it, the US-China conflict is unlikely to be decided by military means, and will be fought not over days but over decades,” writes the Atlantic Council’s Frederick Kempe. “[T]his is what life feels like “in the foothills of a new Cold War,” as Henry Kissinger has called it.”

PRICE FIXING?

  • Anti-monopoly authorities in Mexico are investigating possible price-fixing or monopolistic practices in the supply of medical oxygen, The Associated Press reported. The price of oxygen tanks has reportedly tripled since March, when the coronavirus pandemic first hit Mexico, the news agency added.
  • The statistics say… Mexico’s coronavirus cases increased by 8,438 to 370,712 in the previous twenty-four hours, while deaths rose by 718 to 41,908, The Associated Press cited the Health Department as saying.
  • Bolivia delayed its presidential election for the second time because of coronavirus, leaving the country’s unelected president Jeanine Añez in power until the end of the year, the Financial Times reported. Previously due to happen on September 6, the poll will now be on October 18 with a second round if needed on November 29, the newspaper added.
  • “Coronavirus Corruption Draws Public’s Ire in Latin America” runs a Wall Street Journal headline. In Colombia, for instance, investigators have opened eight hundred corruption probes, with the temporary removal from their posts of ten mayors so far, said the newspaper, which cites cases in countries including Brazil, Ecuador and Bolivia.
  • QUOTE: “People thought what happened elsewhere wouldn’t happen here, that it couldn’t happen here,” said Carlos Renan dos Santos Evaldt, a banker in Porto Alegre, which in May had the lowest transmission rate of any large Brazilian city, and which now may start a lockdown after a spike in cases and deaths, The Washington Post reported. “Now it is very clear that a safe place doesn’t exist. No one is safe.”

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