Italy, Iran on path to ease restrictions; Trump plans immigration halt citing jobs


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In top stories today:

  • Countries including Italy and Iran set out plans to ease coronavirus restrictions. US President Donald J. Trump said he plans to sign an executive order to halt immigration temporarily to protect jobs. Georgia’s plans to reopen businesses highlighted tensions around a tentative return to normality.
  • QUOTE:  “To stamp out the spread of the virus, about 60 percent of the population needs immunity,” Anjana Ahuja, a science commentator, wrote in the Financial Times. “We need widespread antibody testing to hint at how close we are to this threshold. Without this, we risk flying blind into a series of blunderbuss lockdowns.”
  • Italy will set out a plan this week to ease the country’s lockdown from May 4, Bloomberg cited Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte as saying on Facebook. Italy joins Germany, France, and Austria in a gradual return to normality as infection rates decline, the newswire said.
  • In Iran, the government allowed local bazaars and shopping malls to reopen on April 20, although officials still urged people to stay at home and observe social distancing, The Wall Street Journal reported.


  • President Donald J. Trump said he plans to sign an executive order to halt immigration to the United States temporarily to protect jobs amid the coronavirus outbreak, The Wall Street Journal reported. The administration has virtually stopped almost every type of immigration already, so it’s not clear what an order would change, the newspaper said.  
  • The US state of Georgia is at the center of a deepening national debate about when and how to reopen the country, The Washington Post reported. Governor Brian Kemp (R), who was among the last governors to impose restrictions, said on April 20 that he will allow business including gyms, barber shops, tattoo parlors, and bowling alleys to reopen on April 24, the newspaper said. Social distancing measures need to be followed and workers must be screened for signs of fever and respiratory illness, the Post added.
  • Any lifting of lockdowns needs to be gradual to avoid a risk of further coronavirus infections, the World Health Organization (WHO) said April 21, Reuters reported. People need to be ready for a new way of living so that society can function while the virus is kept in check, Takeshi Kasai, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific told an online press conference, the newswire reported.
  • QUOTE: “At least until a vaccine, or a very effective treatment, is found, this process will need to become our new normal,” said Kasai, Reuters reported.
  • Lobbying groups in the United States are asking Congress to pass measures to shield small and large companies from lawsuits related to coronavirus as businesses start to reopen, the newswire also reported.
  • The Financial Times runs a story with the headline: “Mutation map holds the key to bringing coronavirus under control.” The vast genealogical tree created by scientists will be vital in controlling the outbreak and developing treatments, the newspaper said.  
  • QUOTE: “Genomic epidemiology will be a vital tool in humanity’s efforts to beat COVID-19 and return the world to normal,” said Emma Hodcroft, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Basel, the Financial Times reported. “For a start it will be instrumental for helping to distinguish between local and imported transmissions as we move out of lockdown.”


  • Space to store oil has all but run out because of the fast-expanding glut created by the coronavirus outbreak, Bloomberg reported, citing an interview with Royal Vopak, the world’s biggest independent oil storage company. US crude oil futures for May went into negative territory on April 20, effectively meaning that traders were willing to pay to have oil taken off their hands, largely because of storage issues, the newswire said.
  • “The Oil Industry Shed 51,000 Jobs in March (And Things Look Set to Get Worse),” is the headline to another Bloomberg article.
  • QUOTE: “Of course, oil cannot stay negative for very long,” John Authers wrote on the website of Bloomberg. “The best bets for the future are that oil will go up from here. (…) But it is also a good bet that the road to a more sustainable oil industry will be difficult and make the next few months even more hazardous.”
  • First-quarter results gave an indication of the impact of the outbreak on businesses around the world. Sales at Coca-Cola declined by 1 percent to $8.6 billion as consumers stayed at home, restaurants closed, and sporting events were cancelled because of the pandemic, The Wall Street Journal reported. Analysts expected first-quarter sales to be $8.3 billion, the newspaper said.


  • China is seeking fast-track travel procedures with some countries for business and technical workers so that global supply chains operate smoothly, the foreign ministry told reporters, Reuters said. China and South Korea have arrived at consensus on arrangements to allow this, the newswire said.
  • Tech giant Huawei posted about a 1.4 percent increase to $25.8 billion in first-quarter sales as the coronavirus outbreak and a US trade blacklist weighed on performance, CNBC reported. That compares with a 39 percent increase in sales a year earlier, CNBC added.
  • The outbreak has highlighted the need for improved broadband service as lockdowns have forced people across the United States to work and study at home, The Wall Street Journal reported. Leading lawmakers of both parties say the long-delayed issue of affordable broadband is a necessity not a luxury, the newspaper reported.  


  • Further news came in of the impact of coronavirus on the jobs market. More than one million jobs were lost in Canada in March, wiping out more than three years of job growth in a single month, The Wall Street Journal reported. In Australia, businesses shed 800,000 jobs, or six percent of the nation’s workforce, in the three weeks after the country started social distancing restrictions, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
  • Job losses in the United States will hit families of color more adversely because they are slightly more likely to be paid hourly and are less likely to access paid leave, according to a study by the JPMorgan Chase Institute, Bloomberg reported.
  • Emerging markets may get left behind when the global economy eventually recovers because they lack the financial and healthcare resources to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, risk consultancy Eurasia Group said, CNBC reported.
  • QUOTE: “One of the real concerns we have is that many emerging markets get left behind, that they’re not able to re-engage in global activity at the same pace as the industrial world,” said Robert Kahn, director of global strategy and global macroeconomics, CNBC reported.