Tokyo on highest alert for coronavirus cases; Moderna posts encouraging vaccine data

CORONAVIRUS ALERT 07/15/2020

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In top stories today:

  • Japan featured high up in news coverage, as the world’s number three economy contends with the highest alert for infections in its capital city. Moderna reported encouraging data in ongoing human trials for a vaccine as the number of cases worldwide still increases, including in the United States.
  • Moderna’s potential vaccine against coronavirus produced a “robust” immune response in all forty-five patients taking part in an early-stage human trial, CNBC reported, citing data published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Moderna was the first to start human testing of a vaccine, beginning on March 16, Reuters reported, adding that the early-stage trial is ongoing.
  • QUOTE: “If your vaccine can induce a response comparable with natural infection, that’s a winner,” US infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said of the data in a telephone interview, Reuters reported. “That’s why we’re very pleased by the results.”
  • Japan features prominently in the latest coronavirus news coverage. Health experts in Tokyo put the Japanese capital on the highest alert for coronavirus infections on July 15, with the city’s governor describing the situation as “rather severe,” Reuters reported, noting that infections among young people and asymptomatic cases are increasing.
  • Some lawmakers in Japan want to call off a ten billion dollar tourism program that encourages urban dwellers to roam throughout the country, The Wall Street Journal reported. While Tokyo confronts a resurgence in cases, many parts of Japan have virtually none, the newspaper said.
  • Meanwhile, authorities confirmed an extra thirty-six infections at US military base Camp Hansen on Japan’s Okinawa, taking the total of cases at US installations on the island to 136, Reuters reported, citing Kyodo News. Japan’s southernmost territory has been largely spared from the virus beyond the US bases, fraying already tense relations with the local population further, NPR said.
  • Pyeongtaek, a city close to South Korea’s capital Seoul, has asked that American soldiers be tested for coronavirus before they arrive at the largest US military base there, the sprawling Camp Humphreys, Reuters reported, citing a local official. US Forces Korea didn’t respond to a request for comment, but it has said previously that it’s taking aggressive quarantine steps, and that less than 1 percent of active-duty personnel have tested positive, the newswire reported.
  • Comply with coronavirus curbs or face tougher sanctions. That was the message to the five million residents of Melbourne, Australia’s second-biggest city, and part of its semi-rural surroundings in the state of Victoria, The Associated Press reported, citing state Premier Daniel Andrews. The state reported 238 new cases, a possible sign that the outbreak in Melbourne is stabilizing, the news service added.
  • QUOTE: “The time for warnings, the time for cutting people slack is over,” Andrews said, The Associated Press reported. “Where we are is in a very serious and deadly position.”
  • Poorer nations and the United States are leading a surge in new cases of coronavirus, The Washington Post reported. Multiple states, Oklahoma and Nevada among them, hit record highs on July 14, the newspaper said. Florida has recorded more cases in the past week, almost 78,000, than most European nations have in the whole pandemic so far, according to the Post.
  • QUOTE: “Let me be blunt: too many countries are headed in the wrong direction,” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva this week, The Washington Post reported. “The virus remains public enemy number one, but the actions of many governments and people do not reflect this.”
  • Reopening schools in Israel in May contributed to a large new outbreak of coronavirus cases, some local public-health officials said, The Wall Street Journal reported. New daily cases have reached about 1,500 in recent weeks compared with a low of fewer than fifty about two months ago, the newspaper said.
  • The statistics say… As of July 13, outbreaks in Israeli schools led to 1,335 or more infections among students and 691 in staff since the reopening of schools in early May,  the Journal said, citing the education ministry.

“WHOPPING” LOAN CHARGES

  • Delta Airlines and banking giant Wells Fargo posted rare quarterly losses in what’s expected to be a challenging season of company earnings reports, CNBC reported. Demand for air travel all but disappeared during lockdowns, while Wells Fargo set aside $8.4 billion in reserves for potential loan losses caused by coronavirus, CNBC said.
  • “Whopping”: that’s how Reuters describes the $28 billion the three biggest US banks set aside for loan losses. It’s a stark reminder, the newswire said, that a lot of the economic pain caused by coronavirus is still ahead of us.
  • The UK’s economic recovery from the coronavirus lockdown will probably be held back by consumers remaining wary of the virus, social distancing hindering activity, and an increase in unemployment, Reuters reported Bank of England policymaker Silvana Tenreyro as saying. Meanwhile, UK inflation rose by an unexpected 0.6 percent in June, stoked by demand for gaming consoles during lockdown, CNBC reported. That compared with a four-year low of 0.5 percent in May, CNBC added.
  • QUOTE: “Behavioral responses mean that the UK economic outlook will continue to depend on the global and domestic spread of COVID-19,” Tenreyro said, Reuters reported. “Assuming prevalence gradually falls, my central case forecast is for gross domestic product to follow an interrupted or incomplete ‘V-shaped’ trajectory, with the first quarterly step-up in [the third quarter].”
  • Hundreds of thousands of people face hunger and joblessness in Spain, where use of food banks has risen by 40 percent in recent months, the Financial Times said in a long-form article. Spain will likely suffer more acutely from the economic impact of coronavirus than any other OECD member state besides South Africa, the newspaper cited the Paris-based organization as forecasting.
  • Food prices rose by 11 percent in China last month from a year earlier, hurting profitability at food and beverage businesses already hit by coronavirus restrictions that stopped consumers venturing out, CNBC reported. Local authorities keep a weather eye on the price of foodstuffs as they are an important aspect of maintaining social stability, as CNBC put it.
  • EVENT: A live public panel discussion addresses the policy and technical challenges to managing agricultural data successfully at all scales, especially in light of the pandemic, which will be held at 12:30 pm ET on Thursday, July 16. Details are here.
  • AirAsia is confident it can get back to profitability next year even though a possible resurgence in coronavirus cases weighs on the global aviation industry, CNBC reported, citing the budget airline’s Chief Executive Tony Fernandes. Authorities in Asia have gotten “much, much smarter” in handling outbreaks, Fernandes said, adding that AirAsia is “well on the way” to garnering the funds it needs to ensure the carrier’s survival, CNBC reported.

SMOKERS QUIT

  • More than one million UK smokers have quit since the start of the pandemic, the BBC reported, citing a survey conducted for charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH). Of those who gave up the habit, 41 percent said it was in direct response to the virus, the broadcaster added. Smokers may be at a higher risk of more severe symptoms of the disease, according to government advice, the BBC added.
  • Could this be the one, asks a Bloomberg Businessweek feature article. The University of Oxford vaccine, led by Sarah Gilbert, is months ahead of its competition and UK pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has teed up deals to produce two billion shots, the news outlet reported. Thousands of people are engaged in Phase III, or final-stage, trials in Brazil, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, with the United States to follow soon, Bloomberg Businessweek said.
  • “Russia Military Says First Covid-19 Vaccine Trial Shows Promise” reads a Bloomberg headline. A group of eighteen volunteers was discharged after twenty-eight days with no complications or adverse reactions, the newswire cited the Defense Ministry as saying. Scientists in Russia are working on forty-seven potential vaccines, officials have said, Bloomberg reported.
  • Face masks, social distancing, and hand-washing stations were a recurring theme at Disneyland Paris, which reopened on July 15 after four months, Reuters reported. Advanced booking is essential and visitor numbers are capped, the newswire said. Wearing a mask in enclosed public spaces will be compulsory in all of France within a few weeks, President Emmanuel Macron said on July 14 on a scaled-down Bastille Day, the country’s national celebration, The Wall Street Journal reported.
  • Australian airline Qantas is set to cancel almost all its international flights until March next year, maintaining only a few services to neighboring New Zealand, which are currently canceled until mid-August, CNBC reported, citing a July 12 article by travel website Executive Traveller. Qantas hadn’t responded to CNBC’s request for comment by the time of publication, it added.

CENTRAL ASIA

  • Local officials in India reintroduced lockdowns in an attempt to prevent health services from being overwhelmed, The Associated Press reported. A two-week lockdown begins on July 16 in the eastern state of Bihar, while technology hub Bangalore started a weeklong shutdown on July 14, the news service said. Coronavirus cases in India are approaching one million, The Associated Press said.
  • Kazakhstan, the wealthiest nation in Central Asia, reintroduced a lockdown until early August to contend with a new surge in cases, the Financial Times reported. Neighboring Uzbekistan, the region’s most populous country, re-imposed its own lockdown last week, the newspaper said.
  • South Africa’s minister of mineral resources and energy, Gwede Mantashe, and his wife have tested positive for coronavirus are in isolation, reported the BBC, which didn’t name Mantashe’s spouse. The country has about 287,000 cases, the highest on the continent, the broadcaster said, citing the World Health Organisation.
  • QUOTE: “I’m very, very worried,” said Prince, 34, a security guard at a supermarket in Soweto, a township in Johannesburg, the country’s biggest coronavirus hotspot, the Financial Times reported, without citing his full name. Wearing a mask himself, he checks that customers are wearing compulsory cloth masks. “You don’t know who’s got it, and who has not.”
  • A teenager in Ecuador has set up a makeshift school under a tree for about forty students who lack internet access and have been unable to study during lockdown, Reuters said. Denisse Toala, sixteen, uses her cellphone to check school websites for assignments, as almost no one else in the Reality of God neighborhood of northern Guayaquil has a computer or a phone with a data plan, the newswire said.
  • EVENT: Chris Smith, senior vice president at Cheniere Energy, discusses the company’s 2019 corporate responsibility report launch, its ongoing corporate responsibility initiatives, and its strategy during the COVID-19 crisis at 10:45 am ET on Thursday July 16. Details are here.

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