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US Capital USA Aller en bloc

La zone métropolitaine de Washington DC entre dans une forme de fermeture lâche après que les autorités de la ville, du Maryland et de la Virginie ont donné l'ordre de rester chez elles lundi.

Muriel Bowser, maire de la capitale américaine. Les États-Unis ont dit aux résidents de rester chez eux lundi après-midi en suivant des instructions similaires des gouverneurs des deux États entourant Washington DC.

"Rester à la maison est le meilleur moyen d'aplanir la courbe et de vous protéger, votre famille et toute notre communauté Covid-19", a-t-il déclaré dans un communiqué.

Washington DC et les banlieues environnantes du Maryland et de la Virginie, connues sous le nom de "DMV", abritent la majorité de la main-d'œuvre fédérale américaine.

Plus tôt lundi, Larry Hogan, le gouverneur du Maryland, a déclaré que le nombre de cas dans la zone DMV avait quadruplé au cours de la semaine dernière pour atteindre 2 709.

"Une épidémie majeure parmi notre main-d'œuvre fédérale essentielle pourrait être catastrophique", a-t-il averti.

Virgin Australia cherche un plan de sauvetage du gouvernement de 860 millions de dollars

Jamie Smyth à Sydney

Virgin Australia a demandé au gouvernement un programme de sauvetage de 1,4 milliard de dollars australiens (862 millions de dollars) pour lui permettre de survivre à l'effondrement de la demande de passagers en raison de la crise des coronavirus.

La compagnie aérienne, qui a Singapore Airlines, Etihad Airways, le groupe Virgin de Richard Branson et le groupe HNA de Chine dans son registre des actions, a suggéré qu'un prêt gouvernemental pourrait être échangé contre des actions de la compagnie aérienne s'il n'était pas remboursé dans les trois ans.

Il a déclaré au gouvernement que le programme de sauvetage pourrait faire partie d'un ensemble plus large de l'industrie de l'aviation d'une valeur d'environ 5 milliards de dollars qui garantirait à l'Australie de maintenir une saine concurrence dans le secteur de l'aviation après la crise. , a confirmé une source proche des discussions au Financial Times.

Qantas a déclaré qu'elle n'avait pas besoin d'aide financière et a levé plus d'un milliard de dollars sur les marchés de la dette la semaine dernière pour renforcer son bilan.

Les demandes d'aide financière sont contenues dans une lettre de Paul Scurrah, directeur exécutif de Virgin, au gouvernement, qui a été rapportée pour la première fois par le journal australien.

Un porte-parole de Virgin a déclaré au FT que la compagnie aérienne était en pourparlers avec le gouvernement au sujet du soutien dont toute l'industrie aura besoin si la crise se poursuit.

"Le soutien que nous avons proposé sera nécessaire pour l'industrie si cette crise se poursuit indéfiniment, afin de protéger les emplois et de faire en sorte que l'Australie maintienne un secteur de l'aviation et du tourisme solide et compétitif une fois cette crise terminée", a déclaré le porte-parole de Virgin.

Le gouvernement a déjà fourni un milliard de dollars d'aide au secteur de l'aviation depuis le début de la crise et n'a pas encore décidé de fournir ou non l'aide supplémentaire demandée par Virgin.

Nouvelles que vous avez peut-être manquées

Trump vante un nouveau test de cinq minutes alors que les gouverneurs demandent plus de tests Donald Trump s'est vanté que les États-Unis avaient effectué plus de tests pour les coronavirus que tout autre pays, quelques heures seulement après que plusieurs gouverneurs ont déclaré que leurs États étaient confrontés à de graves problèmes en raison de tests insuffisants. Ses commentaires sont venus lorsque Abbott Laboratories a annoncé qu'il lancerait un test de coronavirus qui pourrait être terminé en moins de cinq minutes.

Chypre impose un couvre-feu du jour au lendemain et double les amendes Chypre a imposé un couvre-feu à 21 heures lundi. à 6 h pour les résidents, car il a resserré les restrictions de mouvement après un pic de week-end dans les cas de coronavirus signalés sur l'île méditerranéenne. À partir de demain, les gens ne seront autorisés à quitter leur domicile qu'une fois par jour, tandis que l'amende pour violation des règles de fermeture a doublé, passant à 300 €, a déclaré un responsable du gouvernement.

Le Premier ministre grec fait don de la moitié de son salaire aux services de santé Le Premier ministre grec Kyriakos Mitsotakis a déclaré qu'il donnerait 50% de son salaire au cours des deux prochains mois pour aider les services de santé publique du pays à freiner la propagation du coronavirus, et a exhorté les autres politiciens à faire de même.

Ford s'associe à GE Healthcare pour produire 50 000 ventilateurs Ford vise à produire 50 000 ventilateurs dans les 100 prochains jours alors qu'il se prépare à accélérer la production d'un petit modèle, devenant le dernier groupe industriel à réutiliser des installations fermées pour fournir du matériel médical.

Le Mexique profitera de la nouvelle ligne de change de la Fed avec sa première vente aux enchères le 1er avril Le Mexique a déclaré qu'il profiterait d'une nouvelle ligne d'échange de 60 milliards de dollars avec la Réserve fédérale américaine avec une première enchère de 5 milliards de dollars le 1er avril. Ce jour-là, le ministère des Finances devrait également publier les critères budgétaires généraux pour 2021 et réviser ses prévisions de PIB pour 2020, qui représentent actuellement une croissance de 2%. Le marché connaît désormais une contraction pouvant atteindre 7% cette année.

Les négociations commerciales entre les États-Unis et le Royaume-Uni ont été retardées dans le contexte de la crise des coronavirus Le début des négociations commerciales entre les États-Unis USA Et le Royaume-Uni a été suspendu indéfiniment car le nombre de cas de coronavirus continue d'augmenter de façon spectaculaire dans les deux pays.

La France signale le plus grand nombre de décès en une seule journée dus à des virus La France a signalé son plus grand nombre de décès par coronavirus en 24 heures, avec 418 patients décédés à l'hôpital pour porter le total du pays à 3024.

Les tarifs des pétroliers augmentent en raison de l'offre excédentaire de pétrole Les taux d'embauche de grands pétroliers ont de nouveau dépassé les 200 000 $ par jour, alors que les producteurs et les négociants d'énergie se précipitent pour sécuriser les navires pour stocker ou expédier le brut.

Les actions de l'Asie-Pacifique suivent Wall Street à la hausse

Les stocks d'Asie-Pacifique ont augmenté mardi après un avantage positif à Wall Street, le nombre de nouveaux cas de coronavirus ayant diminué dans certains pays touchés.

Le Topix japonais a augmenté de 0,2% de plus, le Kospi en Corée du Sud a augmenté de 1,3% et le S & P / ASX 200 australien a augmenté de 2,6%.

Du jour au lendemain à Wall Street, l'indice de référence américain S&P 500 a terminé la journée en hausse de 3,4%, car les stocks de soins de santé ont suscité des attentes pour de nouveaux tests de coronavirus et un éventuel vaccin. Le fonds de relance d'urgence de 2 000 milliards de dollars a également contribué à apaiser les craintes concernant l'impact économique de la pandémie.

Les contrats à terme inclinent le S&P 500 pour ouvrir 0,4% de plus à l'expiration des marchés américains. USA Rouvrez.

La Chine signale 48 nouveaux cas importés de coronavirus

À la fin de lundi, les autorités sanitaires chinoises ont signalé 48 nouveaux cas de coronavirus, tous importés. Cela porte le nombre d'infections importées à 771. Globalement, le nombre de cas confirmés de coronavirus en Chine est de 81 518.

Les experts ont souligné l'existence de cas non déclarés, en particulier pour les patients qui ne présentent pas de symptômes.

Un nouveau décès lié au virus a été signalé lundi, portant le nombre de décès en Chine à 3 305.

Le nombre de personnes traitées et sorties de l'hôpital est passé à 76 052.

S La production industrielle coréenne enregistre la plus forte baisse depuis la crise de 2008

Par Edward White

La production industrielle de la Corée du Sud s'est contractée en février à son rythme le plus rapide depuis la crise financière mondiale, frappée par une baisse de la demande et des perturbations de la production liées au coronavirus.

La production industrielle en février a diminué de 3,8% par rapport au mois précédent sur une base désaisonnalisée, marquant la plus forte baisse depuis décembre 2008 et un résultat pire que prévu par les analystes, selon les données de Reuters.

Les exportateurs industriels et technologiques de Corée du Sud subissent une pression croissante depuis l'épidémie de virus à Wuhan en janvier. Les problèmes initiaux ont été causés par la baisse de la demande et des pénuries d'approvisionnement résultant des fermetures sombres de la Chine.

En février, des usines en Corée du Sud ont été contraintes d'arrêter temporairement la production au milieu d'un nombre croissant de travailleurs tombés malades, notamment dans des usines appartenant à Hyundai, le cinquième constructeur automobile mondial, et à Samsung, le Le plus grand producteur mondial de puces informatiques, smartphones et écrans.

Maintenant que la pandémie provoque une baisse de la demande des consommateurs dans les principaux marchés développés pour les produits sud-coréens, y compris les États-Unis. USA Et en Europe, les groupes sont confrontés à une plus grande incertitude quant à savoir si quelqu'un achètera leurs produits.

Le gouvernement de Séoul a lancé des mesures record pour stimuler l'économie et étrangler les marchés financiers afin de soutenir l'économie.

Le gouvernement des États-Unis renonce aux règles des hôpitaux pour lutter contre l'épidémie

par Hannah Kuchler

Le gouvernement des États-Unis renonce à bon nombre des règles qui régissent les hôpitaux car il essaie de leur donner la flexibilité d'utiliser de nouveaux emplacements et de recruter rapidement du personnel pendant l'urgence de santé publique liée au coronavirus.

Seema Verma, l'administrateur du Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services, qui établit les règles pour tous les hôpitaux et supervise les programmes d'assurance soutenus par le gouvernement, a déclaré que "l'assouplissement temporaire sans précédent de la réglementation" aiderait le personnel et prestataires.

Appelés “ Hôpitaux sans murs '', ces changements facilitent la création d'hôpitaux temporaires par les hôpitaux, des cabinets de médecins aux centres de soins d'urgence, en passant par les résidences étudiantes, les hôtels et les gymnases.

Pour encourager les visites de télémédecine, où les patients sont traités à distance, Medicare remboursera au même taux que les rendez-vous en personne.

Alors que la pénurie de personnel approche, la CMS permet également aux médecins, y compris les assistants médicaux, les infirmières praticiennes et les infirmières anesthésistes, de faire plus sans supervision médicale, si cela ne contrevient pas à la loi de l'État.

Un chef de grève d'Amazon licencié après une grève pour mesures contre les coronavirus

Dave Lee à San Francisco

Un travailleur d'Amazon a été licencié après avoir été parmi les chefs de file d'une grève concernant un prétendu manque de protection contre le coronavirus qui a eu lieu lundi dans les installations de l'entreprise dans l'État de New York.

"J'étais avec mes collègues aujourd'hui parce que les conditions à JFK8 sont légitimement dangereuses pour les travailleurs et le public", a déclaré Chris Smalls dans un communiqué publié par Athena, un groupe de défense des droits des travailleurs. "Amazon pense que cela pourrait me faire taire, mais je vais continuer à parler."

Amazon a confirmé la mise à pied, mais a déclaré que c'était pour des failles de sécurité.

"M. Smalls a reçu plusieurs avertissements pour avoir enfreint les directives en matière de distanciation sociale et mis en danger la sécurité d'autrui", a déclaré une porte-parole. "On a également découvert qu'il avait eu des contacts étroits avec un associé diagnostiqué avec un cas confirmé de Covid-19 et qu'on lui avait demandé de rester chez lui avec salaire pendant 14 jours, ce que nous prenons dans des endroits du monde entier" .

S'adressant à CNBC, Smalls a qualifié l'explication de "ridicule". Le nombre de participants à la grève est contesté, et les organisateurs disent que plus de 50 ont démissionné, alors qu'Amazon a suggéré qu'il était de 15.

Ailleurs, les travailleurs d'Instacart, le service de livraison d'épicerie basé sur l'application, ont déclaré qu'ils cesseraient également de travailler pour protester contre les bas salaires et ce qu'ils ressentent comme le manque de mesures de sécurité adéquates.

Instacart a déclaré avoir mis en place de nouvelles mesures pour assurer la sécurité de ses acheteurs et soutenir les travailleurs malades en cas de diagnostic.

"Aujourd'hui, nous avons vu 40% d'acheteurs en plus sur la plate-forme par rapport au même jour et à la même heure la semaine dernière", a déclaré la société. "Au cours des 72 dernières heures, plus de produits d'épicerie ont été vendus sur notre plateforme que jamais."

Émoticône

Le secteur manufacturier chinois se développe alors que les entreprises reprennent le travail

Reportage de Ryan McMorrow depuis Pékin

Le secteur manufacturier chinois a rebondi pour se développer en mars, ont révélé les données gouvernementales mardi, après avoir fortement chuté en février, lorsque les travaux ont cessé dans la plupart des régions du pays.

L'indice officiel des directeurs des achats des fabricants est passé à 52,0 au cours du mois, selon l'Office national des statistiques, contre 35,7 un mois plus tôt.

Le niveau de 50 points sépare la contraction de l'expansion. La lecture de mars a battu les prévisions des économistes de 45 compilées par Reuters.

Après s'être arrêtés en raison d'arrêts de travail domestique, les fabricants chinois font désormais face à une baisse de la demande mondiale, le coronavirus bloquant les économies dans la plupart des régions du monde.

Dans un communiqué, le bureau chinois des statistiques a déclaré que la lecture "reflète que plus de la moitié des entreprises interrogées ont repris le travail et la production, mieux que le mois dernier, mais cela ne signifie pas que l'opération économique de la Chine est revenue. à la normale. "

Les écoles sud-coréennes se déplacent en ligne alors que le nombre de cas augmente

Par Edward White

La Corée du Sud se dirige vers des classes d'école en ligne à travers le pays en avril, alors que le pays s'efforce d'éliminer complètement le coronavirus.

Chung Sye-kyun, le Premier ministre, a déclaré qu'après des retards répétés au début de la nouvelle année scolaire, il avait été décidé que les élèves commenceraient leurs cours en ligne à partir du 9 avril.

Cette décision intervient lorsque les responsables de la santé ont signalé 125 nouvelles infections mardi, contre 78 la veille, ce qui porte le nombre total de cas confirmés à 9 786.

Le taux d'infection quotidien a fortement ralenti depuis qu'il a culminé à environ 900 fin février, mais de nouveaux groupes dans les églises, les maisons de soins infirmiers et les hôpitaux, ainsi qu'une augmentation des cas à l'étranger ont contrecarré les efforts. confinement. La mort de quatre personnes a porté le nombre de morts à 162.

Le taux de patients récupérés continue de dépasser le taux d'infection, avec 180 nouvelles récupérations portant le nombre à 5 408.

Le Mexique étend son interdiction aux mouvements non essentiels

Jude Webber à Mexico

Le Mexique a déclaré une urgence sanitaire et a prolongé l'interdiction des mouvements non essentiels jusqu'au 30 avril, mais n'a pris aucune mesure pour appliquer les conseils de rester chez lui.

L'interdiction est intervenue lorsque le ministère de la Santé du pays a signalé 1 094 cas confirmés et 28 décès, soit une augmentation de 101 cas depuis dimanche.

Hugo López-Gatell, sous-secrétaire à la santé, a exclu tout état d'exception ou de couvre-feu, mais a demandé la solidarité. «Nous sommes dans la phase de montée rapide (des cas). Nous ne devons pas gaspiller cette opportunité d'atténuation drastique … nous sommes à l'heure … Nous devons tous faire notre part ", a-t-il déclaré.

À partir du 30 avril, les ministères de la Santé, de l'Économie et du Travail élaboreront des plans pour un retour au travail échelonné, a-t-il déclaré lors d'une conférence de presse. Il a déclaré que pendant le week-end, seulement 30% des Mexicains étaient restés chez eux, mais le vaste secteur informel du pays rend impossible pour beaucoup de ceux qui vivent au jour le jour de se conformer à l'interdiction volontaire.

Auparavant, le Mexique avait annoncé une campagne de distanciation sociale jusqu'au 19 avril.
Les Mexicains de plus de 60 ans atteints de maladies chroniques comme le diabète ou qui sont enceintes ne devraient pas aller travailler, même s'ils travaillent dans des secteurs jugés essentiels, selon les mesures gouvernementales. Parmi les cas en suspens, le gouverneur de l'État de Querétaro a rejoint les gouverneurs d'Hidalgo et de Tabasco dans des tests positifs pour le virus.

Le procureur général de New York appelle à enquêter sur la mise à pied d'Amazon

Dave Lee à San Francisco

Le procureur général de New York a demandé l'ouverture d'une enquête sur le licenciement de Chris Smalls, un travailleur d'Amazon qui a aidé à organiser une manifestation dans l'entrepôt de l'entreprise à Staten Island, à New York.

En réponse aux rapports du Financial Times, le procureur général Letitia James a déclaré que le licenciement était "embarrassant".

"Au milieu d'une pandémie", a-t-il tweeté, "Chris Smalls et ses collègues ont courageusement protesté contre le manque de précautions que @amazon a employées pour les protéger de # COVID19. Il a ensuite été licencié. J'envisage toutes les options légales et j'appelle le Relations de travail) pour enquêter. "

https://twitter.com/NewYorkStateAG/status/1244810606613577728?s=20

Amazon a déclaré que le licenciement de Smalls était lié à des failles de sécurité. "M. Smalls a reçu plusieurs avertissements pour avoir enfreint les directives en matière de distanciation sociale et mis en danger la sécurité d'autrui", a indiqué la société, ajoutant qu'il lui avait été demandé de rester chez lui, avec son plein salaire, en raison de contacts étroits. avec un travailleur qui a par la suite été testé positif pour COVID-19.

Cas de coronavirus confirmé à l'usine de puces Samsung

Par Edward White

Samsung Electronics a confirmé qu'un employé de l'une de ses usines de fabrication de puces informatiques avait été testé positif pour le coronavirus.

La production à l'usine, située près de Giheung, au sud de Séoul, s'est poursuivie, mais un groupe de personnel en contact avec la personne infectée est actuellement auto-isolant, a déclaré un porte-parole de Samsung.

Samsung est le plus grand producteur mondial de puces informatiques, smartphones et écrans. Les analystes ont averti que toute perturbation substantielle de la production de puces de Samsung pourrait faire des ravages sur l'économie sud-coréenne et la chaîne d'approvisionnement technologique mondiale.

Selon une personne proche de la situation, l'employé infecté, qui travaillait dans une ligne de fonderie de semi-conducteurs qui produit des puces système, a été diagnostiqué lundi. Les autorités sanitaires sud-coréennes évaluent actuellement la manière dont l'employé a été infecté.

L'affaire est la première infection confirmée dans une usine de puces Samsung et préoccupe le géant de la technologie qui insiste depuis plusieurs mois sur le fait que ses installations de fabrication de puces ne risquent pas d'être perturbées car la production était hautement automatisée et Les environnements d'usine sont déjà strictement contrôlés. avec des mesures d'assainissement strictes.

L'événement fait également suite à plusieurs fermetures temporaires d'usines dans d'autres usines Samsung, y compris des installations qui fabriquent des smartphones.

Yuanfudao lève 1 milliard de dollars alors que la demande d'éducation en ligne augmente

Par Mercedes Ruehl à Singapour et Primrose Riordan à Hong Kong

Yuanfudao, l'une des plus grandes sociétés d'éducation en ligne de Chine, a levé 1 milliard de dollars auprès d'investisseurs, dont Tencent et Hillhouse Capital.

La collecte de fonds, qui évalue l'entreprise à 7,8 milliards de dollars, souligne comment l'épidémie de coronavirus a alimenté les startups asiatiques "edtech" alors que des millions d'étudiants ont été empêchés d'aller à l'école.

Yuanfudao, qui propose des produits d'éducation en ligne pour les élèves de la maternelle à la 12e année, a déclaré avoir vu son nombre d'utilisateurs décupler au cours des deux derniers mois par rapport à la même période l'an dernier. La société a subi un crash système de deux heures le mois dernier après que 5 millions de personnes ont accepté son offre de cours gratuits en direct.

Elle recrute maintenant 10 000 personnes pour répondre à la nouvelle demande. Une porte-parole de l'entreprise a déclaré que 5 000 de ces emplois seraient à Wuhan.

Les plus grandes sociétés de commerce électronique d'Inde reprennent leurs services dans les villes

Amy Kazmin à New Delhi

Les entreprises de commerce électronique en Inde, notamment Amazon et Flipkart appartenant à Walmart, ont repris leurs services dans de nombreuses villes après les avoir suspendues la semaine dernière.

Sur son site Web, Amazon indique qu'il a "repris ses services dans certaines villes" et qu'il "traite d'abord les commandes existantes". Les services ont été suspendus mercredi dernier dans un contexte de confusion sur les mesures de blocus imposées par l'Inde en 21 jours.

Malgré la reprise, les entreprises de commerce électronique continuent de faire face à de sérieux défis allant d'une pénurie de livreurs à une perturbation majeure du transport de marchandises des usines vers les villes.

Big Basket, une épicerie en ligne chinoise soutenue par Alibaba, a déclaré avoir également redémarré ses services dans certaines villes, mais a averti que "en raison d'un grand nombre de commandes en souffrance et de certaines restrictions opérationnelles, vous ne trouverez peut-être pas de créneaux de liquidation. livraison. "

Grofers, soutenu par Softbank, a déclaré qu'il cherchait à inciter de nouveaux travailleurs à l'aider à faire face à une augmentation massive des commandes.

Dans un tweet, Albinder Dhindsa, fondateur et PDG de Grofers, a fait appel à d'autres propriétaires d'entreprises avec des travailleurs inactifs et disponibles pour les aider à les mettre à la disposition de Grofers. "Si votre entreprise a une main-d'œuvre semi-qualifiée inactive que vous pouvez faire avec plus de revenus + travailler dans un environnement sûr, veuillez nous contacter", a-t-il écrit sur Twitter. "Nous recrutons dans nos entrepôts pour augmenter dans toutes les villes."

Pendant ce temps, des représentants de l'industrie de la logistique ont averti que de nombreux camions, dont certains remplis de produits essentiels, étaient bloqués sur les routes indiennes, alors que des conducteurs paniqués avaient fui. Le vol de nombreux travailleurs migrants vers les villages a également entravé le déchargement des camions une fois arrivés à destination, car les travailleurs ne sont tout simplement plus disponibles.

Houseparty offre une récompense de 1 million de dollars pour suivre les rumeurs de piratage

Hannah Murphy à San Francisco

La nouvelle application de chat vidéo Houseparty a déclaré lundi qu'elle offrait une récompense de 1 million de dollars pour la preuve que des rumeurs virales selon lesquelles il avait été piraté faisaient en fait partie d'une "campagne de diffamation payée".

La société de la Silicon Valley, qui a gagné en popularité au cours des dernières semaines auprès des jeunes bloqués par le gouvernement qui cherchent à discuter et à jouer avec des amis, a déclaré dans un tweet qu'elle "enquêtait sur des indications selon lesquelles … de récentes rumeurs de piraterie ils se sont propagés pour une campagne de diffamation commerciale payée pour nuire à Houseparty. "

Il a ajouté qu'il accorderait une récompense d'un million de dollars "à la première personne à fournir la preuve de cette campagne".

Plus tôt lundi, certains utilisateurs ont commencé à se plaindre sur les réseaux sociaux que leurs comptes PayPal, Netflix et Spotify avaient été piratés, accusant Houseparty.

La société, qui a été acquise par le développeur de Fortnite Epic Games l'année dernière, a déclaré n'avoir trouvé aucune preuve d'une violation.

Un groupe de défense des droits humains avertit que les fermetures d'Internet pourraient être "mortelles"

John Reed à Bangkok

Les fermetures d'Internet imposées par les autorités en Inde, au Myanmar, au Bangladesh et dans d'autres pays pourraient être "mortelles" pendant la pandémie de Covid-19, et les gouvernements devraient les lever immédiatement, a déclaré mardi Human Rights Watch.

"Pendant cette crise mondiale de la santé, les fermetures nuisent directement à la santé et à la vie des gens et sapent les efforts pour contrôler la pandémie", a déclaré Deborah Brown, chercheuse à l'organisation basée à New York.

L'accès à des informations exactes et en temps opportun est crucial lors d'une crise sanitaire, a déclaré le groupe.

Les fermetures d'Internet sont devenues de plus en plus courantes pendant les élections, les manifestations antigouvernementales et les conflits armés. Le gouvernement du Myanmar bloque Internet pour plus d'un million de personnes dans les États de Rakhine et de Chin, où son armée combat des groupes ethniques armés.

Au Bangladesh voisin, une coupure de courant sur Internet et des restrictions téléphoniques ont été imposées aux camps abritant des réfugiés rohingyas, ce qui, selon Human Rights Watch, «empêchait les groupes humanitaires de faire face à la menace Covid-19».

L'Inde compte le plus d'arrêts Internet de tous les pays, selon le groupe, avec au moins 385 commandes depuis 2012.

La Chine retarde l'examen d'entrée à l'université d'un mois

Pasteur chrétien à Pékin

La Chine a retardé d'un mois son examen d'entrée à l'université notoirement compétitif, car le coronavirus a fermé de nombreuses écoles à travers le pays depuis janvier.

À l'exception de Pékin et de la province centrale du Hubei, les personnes âgées du secondaire passeront l'examen national appelé gaokao en juillet, donnant aux étudiants un mois supplémentaire pour se préparer, a annoncé mardi le ministère chinois de l'Education.

Les dates de l'examen se tiendront à Hubei, la province où l'épidémie a été la plus grave, et la capitale de Pékin sera annoncée à une date ultérieure, a indiqué le ministère.

Les écoles des régions les plus reculées de Chine avec moins de cas confirmés de Covid-19, comme le Xinjiang et le Qinghai dans le nord-ouest de la Chine, ont permis aux élèves de l'année d'examen de retourner en classe ces dernières semaines. Les grandes villes comme Pékin et Shanghai ont gardé les instructions en ligne.

L'examen d'entrée à l'Université de Chine, qui a été passé par plus de 10 millions d'étudiants en 2019, est une obsession nationale. Il est souvent considéré comme l'expérience la plus difficile et la plus stressante de la vie d'une personne chinoise.

Un étudiant obtenant les meilleurs résultats aux tests peut obtenir une place très recherchée dans l'une des universités d'élite de Chine, renforçant les perspectives de trouver un emploi bien rémunéré, tandis que de faibles notes peuvent signifier une réduction drastique de perspectives d'avenir.

Ces dernières années, les familles chinoises ont souvent protesté contre tout changement dans le test qui est perçu comme un désavantage pour leurs enfants.

L'Autorité monétaire de Hong Kong met en garde contre les portefeuilles de prêts

Primrose Riordan rapporte de Hong Kong

La banque centrale de facto de Hong Kong a déclaré que le secteur bancaire du territoire devait déterminer comment les risques, tels que l'épidémie de virus, pouvaient affecter la qualité des actifs de ses portefeuilles de prêts.

L'Autorité monétaire de Hong Kong a déclaré que la ville était vulnérable à l'impact d'une série d'événements en dehors de la pandémie, notamment les tensions commerciales entre les États-Unis et la Chine et la crise politique locale qui a commencé l'année dernière.

"Les banques doivent évaluer soigneusement comment l'escalade possible de ces facteurs de risque pourrait affecter la qualité des actifs de leurs portefeuilles de prêts, en particulier lorsque les niveaux d'endettement des entreprises et les charges du service de la dette des ménages ont augmenté", HKMA a déclaré dans son rapport de mars.

L'autorité a également déclaré que le taux de chômage pourrait augmenter "encore plus vite" qu'à Hong Kong lors de l'épidémie de SRAS de 2003 en raison du pourcentage plus élevé de travailleurs dans le secteur du tourisme et de la plus grande dépendance du secteur de la vente au détail à l'égard du tourisme.

Le coronavirus risque de pousser les économies émergentes d'Asie en récession

John Reed à Bangkok

Le coronavirus éliminera cette année près de 4 points de pourcentage de croissance du PIB dans les économies émergentes d'Asie, a averti la Banque mondiale.

La maladie risque d'entraîner la récession dans la région et pourrait pousser jusqu'à 11 millions de personnes dans la pauvreté, a indiqué mardi la banque dans un rapport.

Dans une mise à jour inhabituellement sombre de son enquête périodique sur les économies en développement d'Asie et du Pacifique, l'institution basée à Washington a déclaré que les pays asiatiques "sont désormais confrontés à la perspective d'un choc financier mondial et d'une récession".

"Premièrement, cette région se remettait des tensions commerciales, se débattait d'elle-même avec une maladie virale et fait face à la possibilité d'un troisième choc, un choc (économique) sans précédent, et pourrait accroître la pauvreté toute la région. " Ergys Islamaj, économiste principal à la Banque mondiale, a déclaré avant la publication du rapport.

En savoir plus ici

Nouvelles que vous avez peut-être manquées

Électronique Samsung a confirmé qu'un employé de l'une de ses usines de fabrication de puces informatiques s'est révélé positif pour le coronavirus.

Procureur général de New York Il a appelé à une enquête sur le licenciement de Chris Smalls, un travailleur d'Amazon qui a aidé à organiser une manifestation dans l'entrepôt de l'entreprise à Staten Island, New York.

Secteur manufacturier chinois se recuperó para expandirse en marzo, los datos del gobierno mostraron el martes, luego de caer bruscamente en febrero cuando el trabajo se detuvo en la mayor parte del país.

Producción de fábricas surcoreanas se contrajo en febrero a su ritmo más rápido desde la crisis financiera mundial, afectado por la caída de la demanda y las interrupciones de la producción vinculadas al impacto del coronavirus.

Nueva aplicación de video chat popular Houseparty dijo el lunes que estaba ofreciendo una recompensa de $ 1m por evidencia de que los rumores virales de que había sido pirateado eran en realidad parte de una "campaña de frotis pagados".

Las acciones del Reino Unido están en el peor trimestre desde 1987

El índice bursátil de referencia de Londres ha perdido una cuarta parte de su valor en los últimos tres meses, dejándolo en camino para su mayor inmersión en más de 30 años.

El FTSE 100 ha caído un 26% desde finales del año pasado a partir del nivel de cierre del lunes, el mayor descenso trimestral desde el último trimestre de 1987. El medidor paneuropeo Stoxx 600 ha registrado una caída de una magnitud similar y también se establece por su mayor derrota desde el mismo período de tres meses en 1987.

"El primer trimestre de 2020, sin duda, ha estado lleno de acontecimientos con un récord inicial del mercado de valores que rápidamente se convirtió en un mercado bajista", dijo Daniel Bergvall, economista de SEB.

El martes, el comercio de futuros señaló una tibia apertura para ambos índices, ya que los operadores sopesan si las intensas medidas de estímulo de los gobiernos y los bancos centrales de todo el mundo serán suficientes para apuntalar la economía mundial.

Una encuesta sobre el gran sector manufacturero de China señaló una estabilización en marzo después de una contracción histórica en el mes anterior provocada por bloqueos en todo el país destinados a detener la propagación de Covid-19.

"La forma es casi una V perfecta y ofrece un atisbo de esperanza de que el efecto económico pueda ser de corta duración", dijo Bergvall. Sin embargo, señaló que la encuesta "no indica que todo sea normal, solo que las cosas están mejor que antes".

Resumen corporativo: Galliford Try, Smiths Group

Aquí hay un resumen de las compañías que informan actualizaciones esta mañana:

Prueba de Galliford: El constructor de viviendas del Reino Unido ha pospuesto su dividendo a cuenta y considerará pagarlo con el último. Dijo que no proporcionará orientación para los años financieros que terminan el 30 de junio de 2020 y el 30 de junio de 2021.

Grupo Smiths: El grupo de ingeniería del Reino Unido está retirando la orientación para su año fiscal 2020. Está retrasando la escisión de su unidad médica. Decía: "Además, Smiths y Smiths Medical deben enfocarse en superar los desafíos externos, incluida la entrega de ventiladores y otros dispositivos de cuidados críticos. Por lo tanto, la junta decidió retrasar la separación hasta que las condiciones mejoren. La intención de separar permanece sin cambios". "

Marcas imperiales: El grupo de tabaco anunció una línea de crédito revolvente multimoneda de 3.500 millones de euros, que será coordinada por NatWest, Santander y SMBC y es proporcionada por un sindicato de 20 bancos. Proporciona al negocio financiamiento bancario comprometido hasta marzo de 2023 y reemplaza la instalación existente de aproximadamente £ 3 mil millones.

Domino's pizza designó a Dominic Paul como su director ejecutivo, con efecto desde el 6 de abril. Se unirá a la junta el 1 de mayo.

Shell advierte sobre 'incertidumbre significativa' sobre los precios y la demanda del crudo

Anjli Raval en Londres

Royal Dutch Shell dijo que espera una "incertidumbre significativa" sobre los precios del crudo y la demanda de petróleo como resultado del brote de coronavirus.

El principal especialista en energía dijo el martes que los "desarrollos globales" en el suministro de petróleo, es decir, una guerra de precios liderada por Arabia Saudita, "han causado una mayor volatilidad en los mercados de productos básicos".

La compañía, antes de sus ganancias del primer trimestre, dijo que los nuevos supuestos del precio del petróleo darían lugar a un cargo por desvalorización después de impuestos de $ 400 millones a $ 800 millones.

Shell señaló que se necesita un golpe de flujo de efectivo de $ 6 mil millones por cada movimiento de $ 10 por barril en el precio del crudo Brent. Sin embargo, advirtió que esto era principalmente aplicable "a cambios de precios más pequeños de lo que presenciamos actualmente".

La compañía no reveló sus nuevos supuestos de precios. El crudo Brent esta semana cayó a su nivel más bajo desde 2002.

Aún así, Shell dijo que su liquidez sigue siendo fuerte y que tenía flexibilidad financiera en forma de dos nuevas líneas de crédito. Junto con un efectivo de alrededor de $ 20 mil millones, la liquidez disponible aumentará de $ 30 mil millones a más de $ 40 mil millones, dijo.

Las preocupaciones de Covid-19 llevan a los británicos a abastecerse

Jonathan Eley en Londres

Los consumidores británicos gastaron casi £ 2 mil millones adicionales en los supermercados durante las cuatro semanas que terminaron el 21 de marzo, lo que aumentó sus ventas en un quinto.

Los datos de "total hasta el rollo" de Nielsen, que mide el gasto en comestibles y artículos personales como artículos de tocador, mostraron que la semana que terminó el 21 de marzo fue el pico, con un aumento de las ventas del 43 por ciento.

Fue durante esta semana que la compra cambió de productos enlatados y secos a carne y pollo. Frozen food sales rose 84 per cent in the week, while the closure of pubs and restaurants drove alcohol sales 67 per cent higher.

Panic buying was the exception rather than the rule.

“Shoppers typically added just one extra item to their basket during each shopping trip,” it said. Average basket sizes rose just £1 to £16 over the four weeks.

But shoppers made an average of three additional trips in the same period, which added up to 79m extra visits to stores.

BA to halt flights in and out of London Gatwick

Tanya Powley in London

British Airways has stopped flying from Gatwick Airport and will consolidate its London flight operations at Terminal 5 from Heathrow Airport.

It comes as airlines are looking at ways to cut costs as they battle the industry’s worst crisis in decades.

BA’s last flight from Gatwick was on Monday and there will be no more flights from the London airport until May.

The airline temporarily closed its operations at London City airport last week.

BA said:

Due to the considerable restrictions and challenging market environment, like many other airlines, we will temporarily suspend our flying schedule at Gatwick and London City, and have consolidated our operation at Heathrow.

We are contacting affected customers to discuss their options.

European markets gain ground

European markets opened with a bounce on Tuesday, as investors weighed upbeat data on China's factory sector, which suggested the economy was reemerging from its paralysis and fuelling hopes of a similar rebound elsewhere once the crisis eases.

The benchmark Europe Stoxx 600 was up 1.4 per cent after the opening bell. The German Dax gained 1.9 per cent, while the French Cac 40 and London’s FTSE 100 gained 1.6 and 1.4 per cent, respectively.

US stocks also pointed towards positive moves when they open later in the day, with S&P 500 futures up 0.8 per cent.

India seals off New Delhi ghetto found to be spreading virus

Amy Kazmin in New Delhi

Indian authorities have sealed off a crowded Muslim ghetto in New Delhi, from which followers of an evangelical Muslim sect have carried coronavirus to many different parts of the country.

Police have established a strict cordon around Nizamuddin West, where the Tablighi Jammat – a powerful movement of Islamic proselytizers, who encourage Muslims to practice their faith more rigorously – has its large headquarters, which doubles as accommodation for hundreds of missionary volunteers.

Indian authorities say the Tablighi held a huge conference – with around 1,800 people, including some foreign preachers from Southeast Asia – in mid-March just days before India imposed a nationwide lockdown.

Volunteer preachers from across India came to Nizamuddin to participate in the conference. After returning to their homes, many have fallen ill, and infected others in their own communities. Cases ranging from Jammu and Kashmir in the north and Telangana in the South have been traced back to the conference.

Authorities have found that 24 people still living in the crowded Tablighi headquarters were confirmed as infected, with hundreds of others in the building and residents of the nearby areas also showing symptoms. Overnight, hundreds of people were bussed out of the crowded neighbourhood and taken to hospitals and other facilities for observation and testing.

Virus takes toll on mental health in Iran

Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran

Iranian couples have been contacting Iran's state mental health helpline three times more frequently than before the coronavirus outbreak, an official said on Tuesday.

“Under coronavirus conditions, we receive 4,000 telephone calls every day from 8am…over arguments such as hygiene issues or when one of the couples go out… or how to raise kids,” said Behzad Vahidnia, director general of psychological affairs. “Children react differently, demonstrating impulsive behaviours and hyperactivity which add to tensions in the families.”

Iran’s health ministry has urged couples to practice more patience during self-isolation as public concerns rise about the socio-economic consequences of Covid-19 which has so far claimed 2,757 lives in the country and inflicted heavy economic damage.

Iran’s vice-president for economic affairs, Mohammad Nahavandian, said on Monday that the spread of the respiratory illness could cause Gross National Product to fall by up to 15 per cent, if it is not curbed within a few months.

Ukraine changes law to meet IMF demands

Roman Olearchyk in Kyiv

Ukraine’s parliament has given citizens the right to sell farmland, meeting one of two conditions needed to unlock an $8bn IMF loan programme that will be key to stabilising the economy during the Covid-19 pandemic.

MPs voted for the legislation late Monday while wearing masks, protective eyewear and gloves. Citizens, from next summer, will be able to buy up to 100 hectares from plots given to villagers years ago.

Villagers were given the land in the 1990s, but a moratorium prohibited them from selling their land. With this law, they can sell their land to farmers who could group the smaller plots into bigger plots and farm more efficiently. The right to sell land gives villagers the opportunity to use the land as collateral for loans.

MPs on Monday preliminarily approved banking legislation, the other condition required for an IMF programme, which would open the door to additional multi-billion-dollar support from foreign backers including the EU, World Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Rate of new cases in Germany slows even as death toll rises

Tobias Buck in Berlin

Germany is slowing the rate of new coronavirus infections, while the number of fatalities has risen, figures suggest.

The country reported 4,615 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, taking the number of confirmed infections to 61,913 since the start of the crisis, the latest data released by the Robert Koch Institute on Tuesday revealed.

This was the third day in a row that the number of new infections rose by less than 10 per cent. For much of last week, the growth rate was around 15 per cent and, before that, it was closer to 20 per cent.

The number of Covid-19 deaths jumped from 455 on Monday to 583 on Tuesday. That leaves Germany's fatality rate substantially below that of other European countries.

Germany has had 66,885 coronavirus cases, and 645 deaths, shows Johns Hopkins University, which keeps a global tally of cases. The difference from Germany's official count reflects delays in the flow of data from local health authorities to the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin.

Vietnam to impose two-week lockdown

John Reed – Bangkok

Vietnam will from midnight implement a 15-day national lockdown, under a directive issued by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on Tuesday.

Under mandatory social distancing rules, people will be required to maintain a distance of at least 2 meters from others, and allowed to leave home only to buy food or medicine or in an emergency.

Gatherings of more than two people will be prohibited except in public offices, schools and hospitals.

Vietnam’s communist government has taken aggressive steps to contain the disease since reporting its first cases in January. The country has recorded 204 Covid-19 infections and no deaths to date.

US posts biggest daily case rise of any country

Steve Bernard in London

The US has recorded the biggest daily rise in cases of any country since the coronavirus outbreak began in December, even as the rate slowed, as it added more than 20,000 cases on Monday.

Its daily rate of growth slowed to 14 per cent from 16 per cent on Sunday.

Worldwide 61,404 people were diagnosed with Covid-19, bringing the total to 786,876. The global death toll increased by 3,723, as coronavirus claimed 37,839 lives.

Italy recorded a significant drop in new cases, adding 4,050, the lowest rise for 13 days. Spain continues to struggle with the outbreak with the death toll rising by 913 to 7,716. It added 7,846 new cases after four days of falling daily numbers.

New recoveries rose by a record 14,075 on Monday, bringing the total number of people free from the virus to 165,387.

Aldi to ease purchase caps in UK stores

Jonathan Eley in London

Aldi said it is easing limits on most of the products in its UK stores in a further sign that retail food supplies are back to normal after a sudden spike in demand in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

The German-owned discounter, which has over 800 stores in the UK, was the first to limit items across all product lines.

It will continue to restrict shower gel, bleach, toilet and kitchen rolls, nappies, pasta, tinned tomatoes and beans, part-baked bread and alcohol to four items per customer.

Hand sanitiser, UHT milk and baby milk remains limited to two items per customer.

"While we would still encourage people to buy only what they need, product availability in store is good and the move will make it easier for people to shop for vulnerable people and those who are self-isolating," it said.

Unemployment falls in Germany up to March 12

Martin Arnold in Frankfurt:

The number of unemployed people in Germany fell slightly over the past month, but the federal employment agency said its jobs data missed much of the impact from the coronavirus pandemic as it only measured up to March 12.

The agency said the number of unemployed people fell by 60,000 to 2.34m between February and March. After adjusting for seasonal fluctuations, it said the fall in jobless people was only 1,000 and the unemployment rate dropped from 5.3 to 5.1 per cent.

It warned that the shutdown of much of Germany’s economy to slow the spread of coronavirus would leave “clear traces in all areas of the economy”.

Most German companies have put hiring plans on hold and many of them are planning to lay off workers because of the coronavirus crisis, according to the Ifo institute in Munich which said last week that its employment barometer had fallen by a record amount from 98 in February to 93.4 in March, the lowest level in a decade.

But analysts are divided on how much the country’s short-term work subsidy scheme will cushion the blow. The German government has predicted that more than 2m workers will be put on Kurzarbeit, or shorter work-time, which allows companies to send workers home or radically reduce their hours while the state replaces a big chunk of their lost income.

The federal employment agency said on Tuesday that based on a preliminary estimate, there were 108,000 employees receiving short-term work allowances under the Kurzarbeit scheme in January, up from 89,000 in December and 42,000 a year ago.

Border restrictions hit Macau's gambling sector

Primrose Riordan in Hong Kong

Wynn Macau said the Chinese territory’s junket operators are likely to face liquidity problems as it reported a 19 per cent drop in net profit for 2019 to HK$5.06bn (US$650m) from HK$6.25bn the year before.

While casinos have re-opened, Macau and Hong Kong have introduced various border restrictions which have slowed the flow of gamblers into the city.

“These factors may cause gaming promoters to face a decrease in liquidity, limiting their ability to grant credit to their patrons, and difficulty in collecting credit they extend,” the casino operator said in a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange.

Wynn Macau said its VIP gaming business had also decreased in 2019, and the total VIP table games turnover was down over 30 per cent from HK$931bn in 2018 to HK$637bn last year.

London's gin distilleries switch to making hand sanitiser

Robert Wright in London

Three London-area gin distilleries are switching some of their production to ensure the capital’s police force has enough hand sanitiser for officers during the Covid-19 outbreak, the Metropolitan Police has said.

The force, the UK’s biggest police service, said on Tuesday that staff at its Commercial Services Department had recently started to look for alternative sources of hand sanitiser because of shortages and had contacted a number of distilleries and breweries about supplies.

The force said three operators – Portobello Road Gin of Notting Hill, 58 Gin Ltd of Haggerston and the Copper Rivet Distillery in Chatham – were now helping the force. The sanitiser was being made to a formulation by the World Health Organization. The force said another company approached – Budweiser Brewing Group – was donating 6,000 litres of its own supplies of hand sanitiser free of charge.

Mark Roberts, the Met’s director of commercial services, said hand sanitiser was an “essential item” for the force’s officers and staff.

“I am extremely grateful to all of the suppliers who have agreed to work with us and provide us with this vital commodity, which will help prevent the spread of Covid-19 and ultimately save lives,” Mr Roberts said.

ONS releases death figures for March

Chris Giles in London

The first sign that coronavirus is causing more people to die in England and Wales than the government has indicated was revealed in official figures on Tuesday.

In its weekly report into deaths in the two nations, the Office for National Statistics said that, by March 20, it had seen evidence of 210 deaths where Covid-19 was cited by an attending doctor as a potential factor compared with 170 people the Department of Health and Social Care recorded as dying in hospital from the virus.

The ONS said its number “is higher than the figures the (health department) publish as it includes deaths related to Covid-19 that took place outside of hospitals and those not tested for Covid-19”.

The 210 figure is likely to rise as more deaths are recorded and registered on national systems, a process which can take some time.

Retail sales slashed in Hong Kong

Primrose Riordan in Hong Kong

Retail sales in Hong Kong dropped by 44 per cent in February compared to the year before to HK$22.7bn (US$2.9bn) as the coronavirus outbreak ravaged the sector and people were forced to stay at home.

Comparing the first two months of the year with the same period the year before, sales of watches and clocks dropped by 58.6 per cent, clothing by 49.9 per cent, motor vehicles by 24.2 per cent and department store commodities by 41.4 per cent, according to estimates by Hong Kong’s statistics department.

But the department said supermarket sales increased by 11.1 per cent in the same period.

Russia reports largest daily rise in Covid-19 cases

Henry Foy in Moscow

Russia reported 500 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, its largest daily increase by far, as the total number of infections surged 27 per cent to 2,337.

Russia said the number of people who had died almost doubled overnight to 17. The country has fewer cases than other European states but has seen a major spike in infections over the past week, with cases roughly doubling every three days.

The government has called for a lockdown imposed on Moscow – allowing people to leave their homes only for essentials – to be spread across the country in a bid to stem the spread of the pandemic.

President Vladimir Putin on Monday ordered senior officials to make preparations “in all regions, taking into account all calculated options for the development of the (virus) situation based on the experience of other countries.”

Dubai to inject fresh capital into Emirates airline

Simeon Kerr in Dubai

Dubai pledged to support Emirates airline with financial assistance during this “critical period”.

The government, the carrier’s current shareholder, will inject new equity into the company, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, the crown prince, said in a statement on Tuesday. Details will be released at a later stage.

Emirates, one of the world’s leading long-haul carriers, has like most airlines been hit hard by global restrictions on travel and reduced demand because of the coronavirus pandemic. Scheduled passenger flights from its home base in Dubai have been suspended. The airline has grounded much of its fleet and cut staff salaries.

The support has been made available to Emirates because of its strategic importance to the economies of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates and “the airline’s key role in positioning Dubai as a major international aviation hub,” he said.

Thailand outlaws April Fool's Day coronavirus tricks

John Reed in Bangkok

Thailand on Tuesday warned that it would criminally prosecute anyone who claimed to have coronavirus as an April Fool’s Day prank.

The government’s PR department warned “scaremongers not to spread false news or rumours” in a post on its official Twitter account.

Thailand's government said that violators would be prosecuted either under the country’s Computer Crime Act, which it uses to police the internet, or an emergency decree dating to 2005 that Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha invoked last week to impose emergency rules in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“People around the world are suffering from #Covid19 outbreak, and that’s reason enough why people should be more considerate and not use this as a prank or a joke,” the government said.

Thailand on Tuesday reported 127 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 1,651 since the outbreak began, 10 of whom have died.

https://twitter.com/prdthailand/status/1244917499361034240?s=20

China to announce asymptomatic coronavirus cases from April

Christian Shepherd in Beijing

China will for the first time include asymptomatic coronavirus cases in its nationwide count, after experts criticised the government for leaving infections out from its official tally.

Starting from April 1, individuals who tested positive for Covid-19 but did not display symptoms would be announced daily, China’s national health commission said on Tuesday.

The commission added that a survey of asymptomatic cases will be carried out in areas heavily affected by the outbreak in order to improve containment measures.
1,541 asymptomatic individuals, 205 of whom arrived in China from overseas, had received medical attention from the beginning of the outbreak, it said.

The Chinese government’s refusal to publicly disclose cases that test positive but have no clinical symptoms has been a central concern of experts who doubt China’s claim to have “basically halted” transmission of the virus within the country.

In recent days, cases of newly confirmed asymptomatic cases have been reported in Gansu and Guangdong provinces, both brought to the regions from travellers leaving Hubei, the province most affected by the outbreak.

Eurozone inflation rate dives in March as virus disrupts economy

Martin Arnold in Frankfurt

Inflation slowed across the eurozone in March as energy prices plummeted and economic activity came to a standstill in many areas due to the disruption caused by coronavirus.

The fall in prices raises the spectre of deflation in many southern European countries despite the radical monetary easing measures recently launched by the European Central Bank.

Harmonised consumer prices in the 19 eurozone countries fell to 0.7 per cent in March, from 1.2 per cent in February, a flash estimate from Eurostat revealed on Tuesday. That matches a three-year low set in October 2019 and is lower than the 0.8 per cent increase in prices expected by economists who were polled by Reuters.

Energy prices fell 4.3 per cent in March, reflecting the drop in oil prices after Saudi Arabia started a price war with Russia. However, unprocessed food prices rose 3.5 per cent as many Europeans reacted to the spread of coronavirus by bulk-buying staples such as pasta, flour and rice.

Several countries are flirting with deflation after prices rose by only 0.1 per cent in Italy, Greece and Portugal and by 0.2 per cent in Spain.

Excluding the more volatile energy, food and tobacco prices, underlying eurozone inflation slowed from 1.2 per cent to 1 per cent. The slowing rate of price growth, which reverses a recent trend of rising prices, means the European Central Bank is moving further from its main objective for inflation to be below but close to 2 per cent.

Daytime is the new primetime in TV business

Anna Nicolaou in New York

As millions stay home worldwide due to the coronavirus pandemic, use of streaming services has soared during the morning and afternoon hours — typically a dead zone for television while consumers are at work.

Daytime viewing on streaming services jumped 39 per cent from March 9-23, according to analytics company Conviva. In contrast, streaming use declined 2 per cent over the same period in "primetime" — between 8pm and 10pm when TV networks traditionally air their best shows.

"As we all adjust to the new normal, streaming and social video have become even more important to many American households,” said Bill Demas, chief executive of Conviva, adding that the growth in daytime streaming was "surprising".

The streaming frenzy has prompted Netflix, Amazon and YouTube to reduce their picture quality in Europe to ease pressure on broadband networks.

Europe secures medical supply line to Iran

Michael Peel in Brussels

European countries have arranged the export of medical goods to Iran, in the long-awaited first deal under a financial channel set up to shield trade from US sanctions.

The mechanism known as Instex created by Germany, France and the UK “successfully concluded its first transaction”, Germany’s foreign ministry tweeted on Tuesday, after the Europeans had grappled for 18 months with transatlantic political pressure and technical difficulties.

“#GoodNews (finally),” tweeted Federica Mogherini, the former EU foreign policy chief, who in September 2018 unveiled the plan to set up Instex, as part of the European response to US President Donald Trump’s decision to exit a landmark nuclear deal with Tehran.

It was not immediately clear what the value of the transaction was or whether the medical goods were directly related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Josep Borrell, Ms Mogherini’s successor, said last week that the EU would send €20m of coronavirus humanitarian aid to Iran and back Tehran’s request for IMF funding to fight the crisis.

12-year-old girl dies from coronavirus in Belgium as toll rises

Jim Brunsden in Brussels

The Belgian authorities have confirmed that a 12-year-old girl has died from coronavirus.

The death of a child from coronavirus is “very rare, but it is devastating for us”, said Emmanuel André, a scientist and spokesman for the Belgian government’s crisis centre. “We think in particular of her family and her close ones.”

Belgium’s death toll from the pandemic now stands at 705, an increase of 192 compared with yesterday’s data. The crisis centre said that close to half of the increase came from people who died before yesterday.

The centre said that the occupancy rate of intensive care beds in the country stood at 53 per cent.

Analysis: Police methods during lockdown raise liberty fears

Police in England were last week granted the right to levy fines of £60 for first offences against a range of regulations banning unnecessary travel and gatherings of more than two people in public.

The Home Office, when announcing the new powers said it expected forces — which enjoy substantial discretion in how they use their powers — to apply their “common sense and discretion”.

But some forces’ behaviour prompted Jonathan Sumption, a former Supreme Court justice, and others, to warn on Monday of the risk of a “police state”.

Robert Wright in London explores whether tough tactics used by the police puts the traditional consensual approach at risk.

Read the full story here

Italy pays steeper rate to issue first sovereign bonds this month

Tommy Stubbington in London

Italy paid the highest borrowing costs in eight months at its first bond sale since the intensification of the coronavirus crisis, as investors sought higher returns for added risk.

The Italian treasury raised €8.5bn — the maximum planned — across four different bonds, in the latest sign that European Central Bank’s massive debt purchases have stabilised a market which threatened to go into freefall two weeks ago.

The yield for the 10-year bond came in at 1.48 per cent, up from 1 per cent at the last sale at the end of February and the highest level since July last year.

“They have market access and auctions are working normally, and that’s encouraging,” said ING rates strategist Antoine Bouvet. “It’s more expensive for Italy to borrow now, but that takes a long time to feed through to their average funding costs.”

Virus spread picks up in Spain as death toll rises

Daniel Dombey in Madrid

Spain has reported a record 849 people have died in the past 24 hours after contracting coronavirus while the spread of the virus has picked up marginally after a deceleration in recent days.

In total 8,189 people have died, compared with 7,340 on Monday, government figures revealed on Tuesday. Overall, confirmed cases have increased 11 per cent to 94,417. This represents a rise on the previous daily rate of increase of 8 per cent, but is still well down on this month's highs of 25 per cent and more.

The figures showed that 19,259 people have recovered to date and 5,607 have needed attention in intensive care.

Spain is under a two-week-old lockdown, which was intensified this week with a ban on all work deemed to be “non-essential”, in an attempt to bring down transmission of the virus and relieve stress on intensive care.

UK law firm asks partners for cash to shore up balance sheet

Kate Beioley in London

Law firm Allen & Overy, one of the UK’s elite “magic circle”, has called on its partners to inject capital to the business in order to shore up its balance sheet and mitigate against the impact of coronavirus.

It is the latest firm to take action to guard against a drop-off in earnings and the risk of clients paying late due to the toll the virus is taking on business. The news was first reported by Legal Week.

On Tuesday Allen & Overy, which turned over £1.6bn last year, said it was asking partners to contribute cash to the business and was altering the timescale for paying out profits to partners.

In a statement, A&O said it would also be “deferring certain investments and recruitment”, cancelling events and forgoing the next salary review expected in the first quarter of the next financial year. It said bonuses would still be awarded but paid between the normal payment date in July and October’s payroll.

Law firms tend to be thinly capitalised and are required to hold less cash on their balance sheets than banks and insurers, for example. Linklaters, Fieldfisher and Pinsent Masons are also considering whether to conserve cash by delaying equity payouts to partners.

A&O said it “retains good diversification across practices and one of the broadest international offerings among the global elite firms, so we are confident in our resilience if economic conditions worsen.”

Switzerland's ABB begins testing employees for Covid-19

Sam Jones in Zurich

Swiss engineering group ABB has begun proactively testing its own employees for coronavirus – breaking with government guidance that only those suffering from severe symptoms of the disease should seek a formal diagnosis.

The company, which employs more than 144,000 worldwide, has secured the services of a private laboratory in Switzerland to test employees, who can be swabbed at work, and receive results by text message.

Though the Swiss government has pursued one of the most aggressive testing policies in Europe, relative to its population size, officials still say testing kits are in short supply and should only be used with great discretion.

Bern's Federal Office of Public Health issued guidance to cantons last week stipulating testing should be conducted only on those with “severe symptoms” or those in high risk categories.

ABB’s move underscores the extent to which governments around the world find themselves increasingly challenged in their capacity and status as protectors of public health, with the pandemic ravaging economies and depleting the medical resources of many states.

Iran tightens distancing orders ahead of national holiday

Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran

Iran has warned people ahead of its traditional picnic day — celebrated for thousands of years — that any gatherings on Wednesday will be seriously dealt with.

The government of Hassan Rouhani has urged people to practice social distancing, which has been tightened with the closure of parks and main roads to prevent any celebration on the last day of the Persian New Year holidays when people spend time outdoors.

Officials have warned that people who ignore official warnings could face prosecution.

Iran’s coronavirus death toll reached 2,898 on Tuesday, up from 2,757 on Monday, while 44,606 people tested positive for the disease.

Those who have died after drinking tainted alcohol, based on a mistaken assumption that drinking alcohol can kill Covid-19, reached 320. While tens of others are in intensive care units or have lost their sight.

In an Islamic country where consumption of alcohol is banned and is only available on the black market at high prices, poorer people have found industrial alcohol accessible and affordable.

Shipping groups make plea to help stranded mariners

Robert Wright in London

One consequence of halting most airline services, and tough new restrictions on entry and exit to many countries, has been a near-ending of the normal process of changeover of ships' crews.

Since around 100,000 seafarers every month go on and off vessels at the beginning and end of their tours of duty, there are now tens of thousands of mariners stuck on vessels after the scheduled end of their contracts – and tens of thousands more unable to start work on vessels.

Shipping companies and ship managers are divided about the best approach, however.

Some shipping companies — including Denmark's Maersk Line, operator of the world's biggest container ship fleet — have decided the safest course is to keep the existing crews on vessels, to avoid the risks of importing Covid-19 to ships that are vital to keeping world trade flowing. Others have called for a carefully managed process of changeover that will allow fatigued crews to be relieved.

Read the full story here

Walmart to test employees for coronavirus symptoms

Walmart plans to introduce temperature checks for its staff across its retail chain stores in the US as part of its efforts to stall the spread of coronavirus.

The Arkansas-based company will begin taking the temperature of employees as they report for work at stores, clubs and other facilities, as well as asking them basic health questions.

“We are in the process of sending infrared thermometers to all locations over the next 1-2 weeks,” wrote John Furner, president and chief executive of Walmart US, and Kath McLay, president and chief executive of Sam’s Club, on the company blog.

Any associate with a temperature of 100 degrees will be sent home, asked to seek medical treatment if necessary, and told to not return to work until they are fever-free for at least 3 days.

The company issued guidance on the use of masks, which has been a contentious issue since the outbreak began as countries adopt different approaches.

"While the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Walmart, and other health officials do not recommend masks or gloves for healthy people who don't ordinarily use them for their jobs, we will make them available — as supplies permit — for associates who want to wear them,” said Walmart,f which has almost 5,000 stores in the US.

The masks will begin arriving this week. They will not be N-95 respirators – which should be reserved for at-risk healthcare workers – they will be high-quality masks.

China factory orders rebound at record clip in March

China’s purchasing managers' index rebounded at the fastest rate on record this month to rise to its third-highest figure in the past decade.

China's manufacturing PMI and non-manufacturing PMI, which measure sentiment of business executives, rose above 50 in March, analysis by Renaissance Capital showed on Tuesday.

Charles Robertson, global chief economist at Renaissance Capital, wrote:

This is probably the most embarrassing statistic for the West that China could possibly release. Not only did China stop the virus with just 3,309 deaths, they also appear to have done it with just a one month shutdown of the economy.

“It’s not all roses," he added.

The new export orders are still so low that normally I’d be yelling from the rooftops about a global recession. But even here the rebound is incredibly good.

Economists caution against getting carried away about what China’s PMI figures show.

“That improvement could be brief as these are month-on-month comparisons for survey respondents,” said Iris Pang, ING chief economist for Greater China.

Dubai's Al Ras district begins two-week lockdown

Simeon Kerr in Dubai

Dubai’s Al Ras district will be be locked down for two weeks from Tuesday.

The densely populated area will be closed off while it is disinfected as part of the attempts to protect the country against the spread of coronavirus, Dubai’s supreme committee for crisis and disaster management said.

The emirate’s health department will provide essential supplies to residents during this two-week period. Non-residents will not be allowed to enter the area, which is located on the Deira side of the city’s creek and is home to the city’s historic souq.

A night-time curfew remains in place across the rest of the United Arab Emirates until Sunday, with only key workers allowed to leave home between 8pm-6am.

UK senior ministers meet entirely via video conference

Sebastian Payne in London

Senior UK ministers for the first time met entirely through video conferencing at their weekly cabinet gathering on Tuesday.

Only Mark Sedwill, the cabinet secretary and head of the civil service, and a small number of other officials were present in the Downing Street cabinet room (observing social distancing, No10 stressed).

Chris Whitty, chief medical officer who is in self-isolation, and Patrick Vallance, chief scientific officer, updated the government on the spread of Covid-19 in the UK.

Ministers discussed efforts to support the National Health Service, improve the UK’s testing rate and attempts to repatriate Britons overseas.

The rising death toll “showed the vital importance of the public continuing to stick to the social distancing guidance which has been put in place by the government, based on scientific and medical advice”, Boris Johnson told the cabinet on Tuesday.

"The situation is going to get worse before it gets better – but it will get better,” the prime minister said.

Poland imposes two-week shutdown on hotels and public places

James Shotter in Warsaw

Poland has ordered hotels and public places to close for at least two weeks, as it ratchets up efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The rules, in force from midnight Tuesday, will ban people from visiting beaches, parks and other green spaces, as well as from using rental bike schemes, the prime minister said.

"We want at all costs to avoid what has happened in western Europe. We want to flatten the curve of infections, and at the same time not have to choose which patients (to treat)," Mateusz Morawiecki told an online news briefing.

Either the situation will be dramatic, or it will be longer-lasting, but easier to control. We can't afford to relax.

The few shops still open will have be restricted, limiting the number of those inside to three per cash till. Elderly shoppers will have a specific two-hour daily slot until midday.

Other Polish measures to stem the spread of the virus include a ban on international travel and gatherings of more than two people as well as closing non-essential shops.

Poland has recorded 2,132 cases of the novel virus and 31 deaths.

US, Canada and UK start to send citizens home from India

Amy Kazmin in New Delhi

Western governments, including the US, Canada and the UK, have begun to organise evacuation flights to help their citizens stranded in India, after New Delhi suspended inbound passenger flights to staunch the import of coronavirus.

Tens of thousands of foreigners – many of them short-term holiday-makers – were caught out when India decided on March 19 that it would not permit any more incoming passenger flights to land after March 22 and cancelled nearly all outbound too.

Western governments have been working to organise charter flights to help some of their stranded citizens leave India and go home. On its website, the US Embassy in New Delhi said that it anticipated “several” flights would leave from New Delhi and Mumbai for the US this week.

The Canadian government has said four flights will leave Delhi starting on Saturday, and two flights from Mumbai. One-way tickets to Canada would cost around $2,900 per person, Ottawa said.

European governments have chartered a flight to help their stranded citizens leave the coastal state of Goa, where authorities have been so strict in enforcing the curfew that local residents complain they are unable to access food.

Britain, which has announced a worldwide partnership with airlines to help stranded nationals, says it will announce timings for flights for its citizens in India soon.

UK 'exceptionally' revises its plan for bond sales in April

Tommy Stubbington in London

The UK government announced £45bn of bond sales in April in an "exceptional revision" to its plans as it ramps up its borrowing to fund its response to the coronavirus crisis.

The UK Debt Management Office will carry out four auctions a week throughout the month. At the time of the Budget three weeks ago the DMO had pencilled in £156bn of gilt sales for the 2020-21 financial year as a whole.

Yields edged up slightly following the announcement, but remain close to record lows, suggesting investors are relaxed about the flood of new debt. The Bank of England has provided a backstop for markets since announcing £200bn of bond purchases two weeks ago.

The increase will be funded by bonds of all maturities, the DMO said on Tuesday, a contrast to the surge in issuance during the 2008-9 financial crisis which was concentrated in short-dated bonds.

"Locking in such low borrowing costs for so long makes good sense ahead of a number of years of historically very high sovereign issuance and borrowing," said UBS strategist John Wraith.

Northern Ireland introduces three-month business rate 'holiday'

Arthur Beesley in Dublin

Northern Ireland’s devolved government has frozen domestic rates and introduced a three-month business rates “holiday” in response to coronavirus after receiving £912m in additional funding from London to tackle the pandemic.

Conor Murphy of Sinn Féin, the finance minister, introduced the measures as he unveiled a £13.8bn budget package for the region, the first since the powersharing executive with the Democratic Unionists was restored in January after a three-year suspension that followed a spending scandal.

Business rates are a kind of property tax levied on most companies, while domestic rates apply to households.

In a six-minute budget speech on Tuesday to the regional assembly at Stormont outside Belfast, Mr Murphy said protecting lives and livelihoods from the pandemic was now the executive’s top priority. “There is no doubt that we remain in a challenging financial environment,” he said.

Some £100m of the special Covid-19 funding will pay for the business rates break, while the remaining £812m goes into allocations separate to the annual budget because of procedural issues.

The overall £12.2bn allocation for day-to-day current spending is 8 per cent higher than one year ago, the biggest annual rise for more than a decade, with a further £1.6bn set aside for capital projects.

Sub-Saharan Africa faces extreme shortage of life-saving equipment

Neil Munshi in Lagos

There are just three ventilators in the Central African Republic, a country of almost 5m people, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council, highlighting the extreme dearth of life-saving equipment in sub-Saharan Africa as the coronavirus pandemic ramps up in some of the poorest countries in the world.

“Covid-19 has the potential to tear through the Central African Republic at lightning speed if the country doesn’t get the support it needs to adequately protect itself against the virus," David Manan, NRC's country director for CAR, said in a statement.

"This could be replicated across the world’s poorest countries, where health infrastructure is virtually non-existent," he added.

CAR has confirmed six cases of coronavirus so far, but like many African countries it has very limited testing capacity. The country is one of the world's poorest and depends heavily on foreign aid to assist the more than 700,000 people who have been displaced by conflict.

The NRC and other humanitarian organisations have warned of the danger of massive outbreaks in crowded displacement camps in the violence-wracked western Sahel and other parts of Africa, where social distancing is impossible, water is rationed and sanitation is poor.

There were nearly 5,300 confirmed coronavirus cases across Africa as of Tuesday morning, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control

Medics returning to work targeted by tax avoidance schemes

Emma Agyemang in London

Thousands of medics returning to the NHS are being targeting by unscrupulous tax avoidance schemes, authorities have warned.

HM Revenue & Customs issued an alert on Tuesday urging NHS returnees not to fall for the avoidance schemes which falsely claim workers can keep 80 to 85 per cent of their income.

The tax office said it had seen various tactics used by the schemes, but all tended to use an umbrella company structure and sought to disguise the true level of pay individuals earned.

Around 20,000 previously retired healthcare workers have re-joined the NHS to fight the virus, the government announced yesterday.

A HMRC spokesperson said: “It is shocking that unscrupulous promoters of tax avoidance schemes are targeting returning NHS workers during this difficult time. We urge people to be very careful to not inadvertently sign up to such arrangements, as we consider them to be tax avoidance”.

Umbrella companies work by collecting a worker’s earnings from their hiring firm or recruitment agency and then paying it to them after deducting tax and national insurance. Many companies are legitimate, but the industry is unregulated and includes hundreds of firms claiming to be umbrellas, but which are in practice fronts for tax avoidance schemes.

Fed sets up scheme to meet booming demand for dollars

James Politi and Brendan Greeley in Washington and Colby Smith in New York

The Federal Reserve has taken a step towards meeting the global demand for dollars, setting up a facility that would allow central banks and international monetary authorities to enter into repurchase agreements with the US central bank.

The Fed said the facility will work in tandem with the dollar swap lines already established by the central bank with its peers across 14 different countries in order to ease a global shortage of dollars resulting from the greenback’s surging value versus most other currencies.

“This facility should help support the smooth functioning of the US Treasury market by providing an alternative temporary source of US dollars other than sales of securities in the open market,” the Fed said in a statement on Tuesday.

EU seeks ways to unite bloc over economic response to pandemic

Sam Fleming and Jim Brunsden in Brussels

Brussels is set to propose a pan-European unemployment reinsurance scheme as part of measures aimed at increasing the EU’s joint response to the pandemic.

The European Commission is working on plans to raise funds for an €80-€100bn scheme aimed at supporting countries that are confronted by increasing jobless claims as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to EU officials and diplomats.

The idea is being mooted as part of a set of support measures that will be discussed by eurozone finance ministers on Tuesday next week.

Brussels’ intention is for finance ministers at the Eurogroup meeting to back the plan along with other measures in the pipeline such as the granting of precautionary credit lines by the euro area’s bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism. Ministers will discuss plans to bolster the European Investment Bank’s role in fighting the crisis.

Brussels is seeking ways to bridge the political gulf that has opened up between national capitals in recent days over what kind of joint economic response is required at EU level.

Next week’s finance ministers’ meeting will be key as Europe seeks to forge a common response to the economic crunch triggered by the pandemic.

Turkey to accelerate bond purchases to help stimulate economy

Laura Pitel in Ankara

Turkey’s central bank plans to speed up a bond-buying programme in the latest stimulus measure aimed at helping navigate the economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis.

The bank had a scheme to buy government bonds from Turkish commercial banks up to a limit of 5 per cent of its total assets — expected to be around 34bn ($5.2bn) — in 2020.

It said on Tuesday that these purchases would be carried out in a “front loaded manner” and that the previous limits could be revised, without providing further details.

The move will effectively allow the Turkish Treasury to raise funds without worrying about soaring costs of borrowing from international financial markets, said Haluk Burumcekci, an Istanbul-based economist and consultant.

“It means that there will be room for the Treasury to sell more bonds to the market. Because every primary dealer knows that they can sell to the central bank after buying from the Treasury.”

The central bank added it would buy government securities sold to Turkish banks by the country’s unemployment fund, enabling it to raise extra cash.

That scheme would be “out of the scope of the limits” set out for the open market operations portfolio, it said, raising the prospect of unlimited funding for the fund as Turkey confronts the prospect of a sharp rise in unemployment due to the lockdown.

“In essence this is similar to QE operations of big central banks. But we don't know the targeted total size right now. It's open ended,” Mr Burumcekci said.

Half a million German workers register for wage subsidies

Martin Arnold in Frankfurt

The number of German workers applying for government wage subsidies has surged close to 500,000 in the past month, underlining how the coronavirus pandemic has brought swaths of Europe’s largest economy to a standstill.

Germany’s Federal Labour Office said the vast increase in applications came from “almost all industries” with many workers in the retail, hotel and restaurant sectors rushing to apply for aid from Berlin under the so-called Kurzarbeit, or shorter work-time scheme.

The lockdown imposed on German households and businesses to slow the spread of coronavirus has forced many companies to close their doors.

Volkswagen, Daimler and Puma are among the companies applying for workers to be put on the scheme, which allows them to send workers home or radically reduce their hours while the state replaces a large chunk of their lost income.

Temporarily laid-off workers receive “Kurzarbeitergeld” or “short-work money” from the Federal Labour Office, which is also responsible for issuing unemployment benefits. The scheme promises them 60 per cent of their pre-crisis pay.

The German government has predicted that more than 2.35m workers will be put on Kurzarbeit, an even larger number than the 1.5m who benefited from the programme to help keep their jobs after the 2008 financial crisis.

In January there were 108,000 employees receiving the wage subsidy and last year there were an average of only 1,300 new applications for the scheme each month.

UK admits testing delays as it lags behind other nations

Jim Pickard in London

The British government has said it is unlikely to reach its target of 25,000 daily tests for coronavirus before late April.

Boris Johnson said on March 18 that the UK was closing in on the higher figure, telling the House of Commons: “We’re moving up to 25,000 a day.”

But a Downing Street spokesman said on Tuesday that the target would not be reached until “mid to late April”. On Monday the spokesman suggested that the figure could be reached by mid-April.

The UK is lagging behind other countries such as Germany, which is testing 70,000 people daily.

Public Health England said on Monday that 8,278 tests were carried out on 4,908 people as of 9am on Sunday. This was down from 9,114 tests at 9am on Saturday. More testing is seen as vital in checking whether health and social workers are free from the virus and can return to work.

The official said that Mr Johnson was seeking daily updates and wanted to see as many tests as possible before long.

He conceded that one reason for the delay was a lack of certain chemicals, re-agents and swabs.

Meanwhile, Downing Street played down comments from transport secretary Grant Shapps that households should only be shopping once a week: “The guidance is…you should be shopping for basic necessities for example food and medicines, as infrequently as possible,” the spokesman said.

Oil price collapse will shrink output by a tenth by June, study shows

Derek Brower in London

Oil companies will by June stop producing up to 10m barrels a day, the equivalent of Saudi Arabia’s output last month, as storage facilities fill up and production from weak companies starts to drop in the face of collapsing demand and crude prices, a report shows.

US oil production will drop by more than 4m b/d by the end of 2021, IHS Markit added.

“If there is no international agreement to curtail oil production then brutal unadulterated market forces will bring the oil market into balance,” said Jim Burkhard, head of oil markets at the consultancy. “The laws of supply and demand are fierce in extreme conditions.”

Upstream activity is starting to seize up in North America.

Global oil demand in the second quarter would be 16.4m b/d less than a year ago, IHS Markit said, predicting that the drop in April will be 20m b/d — a fifth of total global consumption last year.

The price of Brent crude, trading at just over $23 a barrel on Tuesday in London, will fall to $10/b during April, it forecast.

Doctor who met Putin tests positive for coronavirus

Henry Foy in Moscow

The head of Russia’s main hospital for treating coronavirus patients has tested positive for Covid-19, a week after he met with president Vladimir Putin.

Denis Protsenko, who is the head physician of the Kommunarka hospital outside of Moscow, is infected with the virus, state-owned newswire RIA Novosti reported on Tuesday.

Last Tuesday, Mr Protsenko showed Mr Putin around the hospital, and photos showed the two men shaking hands, talking, posing next to each other for photographs and standing together in a small elevator.

Mr Putin’s spokesman has said that Mr Putin is tested regularly, and everyone who comes into contact with him is screened before their meeting.

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Wall St opens lower with markets on track for worst quarter since 2008

US stocks fell at the open on Tuesday leaving the S&P 500 on track for its worst quarterly performance since the financial crisis.

The S&P 500 opened 0.4 per cent lower and was down more that 19 per cent in the first three months of the year — its biggest quarterly decline since December 2008.
Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Composite opened 0.4 per cent lower and was down nearly 14 per cent for the quarter.

Markets have stabilised in recent days after fears about the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic drove bouts of volatility that saw Wall Street suffer its quickest fall into bear market territory on record.

However, efforts by central banks and governments around the world, including a $2tn US stimulus package, to cushion from the blow helped calm investor nerves.

Singapore to punish companies that do not implement home working

Stefania Palma in Singapore

Singapore has said it is now an offence for companies not to implement working from home if they are able to do so, as the city state faces a jump in locally transmitted cases.

Companies that do not make “a serious enough effort” to roll out telecommuting will face punishments including orders to stop working or fines, based on their specific circumstances, said Josephine Teo, minister of manpower.

Only about 40 per cent of companies in Singapore’s business district have staff working from home. “There is certainly scope to do more, especially for private sector firms,” said Ms Teo.

In assessing companies, the government will consider whether they were aware of the recommended distancing measures; if they tried to implement them; and if their enforcement went far enough.

The manpower ministry will increase the number of enforcement officers fivefold to more than 100 to implement the new rules. Singapore will also expand grants that help companies implement home working.

Global airline industry forecast to burn through $61bn of cash reserves

Tanya Powley in London

The global airline industry will burn through $61bn of its cash reserves during the second quarter of this year, according to the latest trade body forecast.

Iata, the industry trade body, on Tuesday warned that carriers are facing an “enormous cash problem”, pointing to an estimated $35bn of ticket refunds that are due in the second quarter alone because of cancelled flights. It estimates that the industry faces a net loss of $39bn in the three months to end of June.

The cash outlook comes just a week after Iata warned that the coronavirus pandemic would slash airline revenues by $250bn this year. Governments around the world have been launching rescue packages for the aviation industry, including the US stimulus bill that earmarked $58bn in loans and loan guarantees for US passenger airlines and cargo carriers.

Alexandre de Juniac, Iata’s director-general, said:

Airlines cannot cut costs fast enough to stay ahead of the impact of this crisis. We are looking at a devastating net loss of $39 billion in the second quarter. The impact of that on cash burn will be amplified by a $35 billion liability for potential ticket refunds. Without relief, the industry’s cash position could deteriorate by $61 billion in the second quarter.

Iata noted that some countries, such as Brazil, Canada, Colombia and the Netherlands, have relaxed regulations to allow airlines to offer passengers travel vouchers in place of cash refunds. Mr de Juniac said that this was a “vital time buffer” to help the sector deal with its cash problems.

German unemployment set to spike

Guy Chazan in Berlin

German officials expect a sharp uptick in unemployment as a consequence of the coronavirus crisis, despite efforts to avert mass lay-offs through an expansion of the government's short-time work programme.

"Unemployment in Germany will increase for the first time in many years," said Hubertus Heil, labour minister. "We have to be realistic … we can save a lot of jobs .. but we can't protect each and every one."

Detlef Scheele, head of the Federal Employment Agency, said the next set of unemployment statistics in April would likely show an uptick in joblessness of 150,000-200,000, adding that many of the lay-offs were in the hospitality and tourism sectors.

The agency's latest figures, published on Tuesday, showed a slight drop in the number of unemployed people in Germany. But the data missed much of the impact of coronavirus as it only measured up to March 12. It said the number of people without a job fell by 60,000 to 2.34m between February and March.

Germany has sought to avert a big spike in unemployment through a big expansion of the "Kurzarbeit" or short-time work scheme. Under the programme, companies hit by a downturn can send their workers home, or radically reduce their hours, and the state will replace a large part of their lost income.

Science Group shares leap following ventilator order

Michael Pooler in London:

A small UK-listed company's shares jumped by almost a third after revealing it had received a "letter of intent" from the government to make 10,000 ventilators to treat coronavirus patients.

Aim-quoted Science Group said on Tuesday that it was manufacturing 20 trial units of a device developed from scratch over the past month, which will be submitted for regulatory approval.

The research and development consultancy added that talks were underway with officials over a contract with an order expected once the green light is received.

As countries around the world scramble to source the life-saving machines, the UK government has placed a number of orders, including for a batch of 10,000 ventilators designed by the vacuum cleaner maker Dyson, which are also subject to regulatory testing.

Shares in Science Group were up 15 per cent in afternoon trading at 212p.

Virus claims 367 more lives in England, figures reveal

Bethan Staton in London

In England 367 more people, who tested positive for coronavirus, have died over the past 24 hours, bringing the total of confirmed reported deaths to 1,651.

Twenty eight of these patients (aged between 19 and 91-years-old) did not have underlying health conditions, NHS England said on Tuesday. The rise in deaths of 367 in the last 24 hours is the largest daily increase seen so far in the UK.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK has risen by more than 3,000 to 25,150, according to the Department for Health, and 1,789 people have died from the disease. Figures released previously by the Office for National Statistics suggested the number of actual deaths from coronavirus may be higher than those the government records.

A total of 143,186 people have so far been tested for coronavirus, and though the government has increased testing rates, it is yet to hit the target of 10,000 a day which it set more than a week ago.

Glencore mulls paying $2.6bn dividend as it strives to limit debt

Neil Hume in London

Glencore will decide later this year whether to pay a $2.6bn dividend because of the risk that production could be hit by measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

In order to keep net debt between $14bn and $17bn and retain a prized investment grade credit rating, the Swiss-based miner and commodity trader said on Tuesday it was “prudent” to defer a decision on a proposed 20 cents a share payment until its interim results in August.

"As well as prioritising the health and wellbeing of our people, their families and our communities, we are taking a cautious approach to protect our capital structure amid the current period of extreme uncertainty,” said Glencore chairman Tony Hayward in a statement.

“Therefore, notwithstanding that Glencore continues to generate material levels of positive free cash in the current environment, the board considers it prudent to defer the distribution decision We will review the opportunity for a distribution at our August results, when we will have an improved understanding of COVID-19's impact on our business and its prospects."

US Midwest factory activity shrinks at slower rate than forecast

A gauge of factory activity in the Midwest fell less than feared in March even as the coronavirus pandemic began to take its toll on the US economy.

The Chicago Purchasing Managers Index slid to 47.8 last month, down from 49 in February, but exceeded economists' expectations for a decline to 40. A reading below 50 indicates contraction and this marked the ninth consecutive sub-50 reading for the index.

Production and new orders indices saw monthly declines, but some firms reported an uptick in orders as customers stockpiled. Meanwhile, employment ticked up after having slipped in February.

The data comes after a gauge of activity in Texas' manufacturing sector plummeted in March.

"The Chicago PMI can be considerably more volatile than the national Institute for Supply Management manufacturing index, and therefore today’s report may well have no bearing on the far more important ISM measure which will be released tomorrow," Joshua Shapiro, economist at MFR, said.

The Chicago PMI survey ran from March 2 to 16.

UK to extend visas of overseas health workers

Robert Wright in London

The UK has set out a comprehensive package of measures to help overseas health workers in the UK to remain to fight the Covid-19 outbreak, including an automatic, fee-free extension to visas close to their expiry date.

The extension for staff with visas expiring before October 1 would help around 2,800 doctors, nurses and paramedics, the Home Office said on Tuesday.

The National Health Service has depended in recent years on the arrival of doctors, nurses and other staff from beyond Europe. NHS staff have taken around 40 per cent of the 20,700 Tier 2 visas for skilled migrants coming from outside the European Economic Area – the EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

The Home Office said the visa extension, which would also apply to NHS staff’s family members, would give them “peace of mind” to focus on the battle against coronavirus.

The department plans to lift restrictions on the hours that overseas student doctors and nurses could work in hospitals. It will also allow overseas nurses due to undertake skills tests to postpone the exams and continue working.

Doctors, nurses and paramedics from all over the world are playing a “leading role” in the NHS’s efforts to tackle coronavirus, the home secretary said.

“We owe them a great deal of gratitude for all that they do,” Priti Patel said. “I don’t want them distracted by the visa process. That is why I have automatically extended their visas – free of charge – for a further year.”

US consumer confidence gauge falls to lowest since 2017

A gauge of US consumer sentiment fell to its lowest level in more than two years as the coronavirus pandemic intensified and markets tumbled.

The Conference Board's consumer confidence index fell to 120 in March, from 132.6 the previous month, but exceeded economists' expectations for a drop to 110. That was the weakest reading since July 2017.

"The intensification of Covid-19 and extreme volatility in the financial markets have increased uncertainty about the outlook for the economy and jobs," said Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at the Conference Board.

"March’s decline in confidence is more in line with a severe contraction – rather than a temporary shock – and further declines are sure to follow," she added.

The cutoff for the survey results was March 19.

Cambridge University offers 'safety net' for final year students

Andrew Jack in London

Cambridge has joined a growing number of British universities in offering a "safety net" so that undergraduates who pass the exams in their final year will not receive a grade lower than in the previous year.

In a letter to students and faculty, Stephen Toope, the vice-chancellor, called the approach "a radical rethink … to ensure that the methods of assessment we adopt are rigorous and fair, while taking into account the health and wellbeing of our students and staff".

He said the university was also looking for ways to extend staff employed on fixed term contracts.

Liverpool, Warwick, Edinburgh and Exeter have announced similar safety nets.

US death toll overtakes 9/11 fatalities as virus continues to spread

Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington

The US death toll from coronavirus has overtaken the number of people killed in the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, as top government scientists warn that the total number of fatalities could rise to as many as 200,000.

According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, 3,170 people in the US have died from the virus, surpassing the 2,977 victims who were killed in the 9/11 attacks. The number of confirmed cases has risen to just under 165,000, far ahead of Italy which has almost 102,000 cases.

The grim statistic comes one day after President Donald Trump said the decision to extend strict social distancing guidelines until the end of April “could save 1m American lives”. Mr Trump, who originally wanted to reopen the economy by Easter, was persuaded to extend the guidelines after being briefed on the number of possible deaths.

Anthony Fauci, the widely respected head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House coronavirus task force, at the weekend said that the US could see deaths in the range of 100,000 to 200,000. Deborah Birx, another doctor on the task force, on Monday told NBC News that the US could contain the number of fatalities within that range if the overall response was done “almost perfectly”.

In addition to surpassing the 9/11 count, the number of deaths exceeds the almost 2,500 Americans killed in Afghanistan, and is approaching the almost 4,500 who lost their lives in the Iraq war, according to Pentagon data. The two George W. Bush-era wars claimed the lives of a much higher number of Iraqi and Afghan citizens.

Spain launches package to protect hardest-hit renters

Daniel Dombey in Madrid

Spain has announced a package of measures for renters hit by the coronavirus crisis, but demanded that big property owners assume part of the cost.

The initiative highlights an issue that has become increasingly contentious in European countries hard hit by the virus and the accompanying state-decreed shutdown: how to provide and finance relief for people unable to pay their rent.

While Spain and other governments have already decreed mortgage payment moratoriums, the question of rent is more complex and sensitive because of landlords who depend on it for their own income.

Under the plan agreed by Spain’s left-wing government on Tuesday, evictions will be banned for six months, rental contracts about to expire will be extended, and micro-credits with zero interest and no commission will be granted to renters, payable over six to ten years.

“If we are asking people to stay at home, we should guarantee the constitutional right to housing,” said Pablo Iglesias, deputy prime minister and leader of the radical left Podemos party. He added:

All small property holders will receive the entire rent they are due but… big property owners and investment funds will have to assume – as is normal – part of the impact

He added that if a renter was unable to pay during the crisis, such an investor would either have to forgive half of the outstanding debt, or restructure all of it so that it was payable over three years.

The government said half a million families would be provided relief through the measure. It added that people who were not entitled to unemployment payments would receive €440 a month from the state and that the self-employed and businesses could delay social security payments for up to six months.

UK news agency PA furloughs sportswriters

Mark Di Stefano in London:

More than two-thirds of the sports journalists working for the UK’s main news wire will be sent home on furlough as the news industry grapples with the fall-out of the suspension of live sport.

PA Media – formerly the Press Association – said a quarter of staff across the business would be furloughed or placed on unpaid leave because the media group’s syndicated coverage has been severely disrupted because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Of those, 44 sporting and racing journalists would be furloughed on the government’s retention scheme, while there are no football matches or race meets for them to cover. PA Media said executives would also be taking a 30 per cent pay cut, with “further measures” being considered to “mitigate the financial impact” of coronavirus.

EU approves French tax relief scheme for airlines

Javier Espinoza in Brussels

A French scheme allowing airlines to defer taxes to reduce pressure on carriers’ cash flows has been found to be in line with EU aid rules, the commission said in a statement.

The scheme is set to partly compensate airlines for damage suffered due to the coronavirus outbreak, by temporarily reducing capital strain, the EU said.

“This is the first state aid measure notified to us by a member state aiming to mitigate damages to the airline sector,” said Margrethe Vestager, EU executive vice-president.

“Together with member states we are working to ensure that possible national support measures to tackle the outbreak of the virus can be put in place as quickly and effectively as possible, in line with EU rules.”

The scheme will be open to airlines with an operating licence in France, and will offer them the possibility to defer the payment of certain taxes that would in principle be due between March and December this year, to after 1 January 2021, and to pay the taxes over a period of up to 24 months.

UK cabinet meets via Zoom app

The UK's senior ministers have met digitally for the first time, as several of its members isolate and the country enters its second week of a strict lockdown.

Boris Johnson tweeted a picture of his cabinet meeting via the Zoom videoconferencing app, which has exploded in popularity during the pandemic.
Millions confined to their homes under national lockdowns have turned to its video-call technology to host work meetings and socialise.

Pero como Hannah Murphy y Richard Waters report from San Francisco, the company has suffered a string of cyber security and privacy-related missteps recently.

https://twitter.com/BorisJohnson/status/1244985949534199808?s=20

Handful of countries have halted exponential rise of coronavirus cases

Billy Ehrenberg in London

South Korea, China, Italy and Spain are among a few countries which have halted the exponential growth of coronavirus cases, according to new analysis by the Financial Times, while cases in the US and the UK are still growing exponentially.

The number of cases in an epidemic often follows a path of exponential growth, which means that case numbers increase as a proportion of existing cases, rather than by a steady number. Sooner or later, exponential growth is limited either because the virus runs out of susceptible hosts, or because social distancing measures prevent enough human contact for the rate to continue.

Exponential growth follows a straight line on a log scale chart. The graphic shows which countries have managed to put a brake on their epidemics – straying away from the straight line – and those which are still fighting to do so.

Scotland's plans to suspend jury trials labelled "ill-advised" by lawyers

Mure Dickie in Edinburgh

Scottish government plans to suspend jury trials, because of the coronavirus epidemic, announced on Tuesday have been denounced by lawyers as a “premature, disproportionate and ill-advised” assault on a cornerstone of the justice system.

The measures to allow judges to decide serious cases on their own are included in emergency coronavirus legislation set to be passed by the Scottish parliament on Wednesday.

The Scottish National party government said plans to allow the most serious trials to be held by juries was essential to ensure criminal trials continued and to avoid a “totally unacceptable backlog”.

Nicola Sturgeon, first minister, said she was a believer in the jury system but was not concerned that miscarriages of justice could result. “There are many countries where serious crimes are taken through the courts without juries,” Ms Sturgeon said.

The Scottish Criminal Bar Association said its members would benefit financially from a resumption of trials. But the lawyers' group said suspending jury trials and extending how long accused could wait until their cases were heard amounted to “attacks on principles that have been built over more than six hundred years and are the very cornerstone" of the justice system.

“These measures are premature, disproportionate and ill-advised,” the association said. “They are at best a knee jerk reaction to an as yet unquantified problem instigated by panic, and at worst something far more sinister.”

5 UK private schools announce plans to shut

Andrew Jack in London

At least five fee-paying schools across the UK over the past few days have announced plans to shut permanently after Easter, in growing signs coronavirus is adding to financial pressures on the private education system.

The closures come as many more independent schools have scrambled to maintain operations by providing online learning while facing pressures to cut fees by parents, some of whom are themselves facing uncertainty while locked down at home.

David Woodgate, chief executive of the Independent Schools’ Bursars Association, said he was aware of five schools that planned to close because of a lack of cash, although some were in discussions about rescue packages with potential buyers.

“It’s not coronavirus alone but it’s the final straw on top of other financial threats,” he said. “Reducing fees wouldn’t give them the kind of breathing space they require. Cashflow is critical.”

Neil Roskilly, head of the Independent Schools Association, said HawleyHurst, a school in Surrey, was among those set to close, although he said he was seeking to help the owners find a buyer who could keep its operations going.

“In another 12 months, they would have been in a very good position, with student numbers increasing. But coronavirus tipped them over the cliff edge,” he said.

The school, which did not reply to requests for an interview, was formed through the merger of a school in Ascot with one on its site in Camberley at the start of 2018, and currently teaches about 250 students including many with special educational needs.

Emoticon

New York cases jump 14% in single day

Joshua Chaffin in New Jersey

New York state's coronavirus cases jumped 14 per cent over the last day to 75,795 as governor Andrew Cuomo disclosed that his brother, Chris, the CNN anchor, was among those infected.

The death toll for the state, the US epicentre for the pandemic, increased by 332 to 1,550. Mr Cuomo lamented that the state was still failing to get to grips with the challenge.

"We underestimated this virus. It's more powerful, more dangerous than we expected," the governor said."This virus is the great equaliser," the governor said, as he disclosed his brother's diagnosis.

Chris Cuomo is remaining at home, and will continue to broadcast his evening news programme, according to CNN.

EmoticonItaly's rate of Covid-19 infection continues to slow

Miles Johnson in Rome

The daily growth rate in Covid-19 infections in Italy continued to slow on Tuesday, bolstering the hopes of the country’s public heath officials that Europe’s first nationwide lockdown is reducing the spread of new infections.

Official numbers on Tuesday showed that Italy’s total diagnosed cases rose by 4 per cent to 105,792, the slowest percentage daily growth rate since the outbreak began.

Tuesday’s increase was only slightly lower than the 4.1 per cent day-on-day increase seen the day before, but has followed over a week of declining increases in new infections.

Italy has been under stringent social distancing measures since March 10th with its government saying that they will remain in place at least until Easter. The country has tested 506,968 people for the virus so far.

Over the past 24 hours 837 people died from the virus, taking the total death toll in Italy to 12,428. Italy has the highest death toll of any country from Covid-19, and accounts for almost a third of all registered deaths around the world.

The number of recovered patients rose by 1,109 to 15,729 while the number currently in intensive care rose by 42 to 4,053.

Adidas ditches €1bn share buyback plan

Olaf Storbeck in Frankfurt

Adidas has abandoned plans to buy back shares worth €1bn this year as the world’s second largest sportswear maker is scrambling to safeguard liquidity after sales in many of the company’s core markets grounded to a halt in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Adidas has been in the final year of a €3bn buyback scheme that was announced in 2018. The company temporarily suspended share purchases in mid-March and, on Tuesday, formally decided to ditch them altogether this year.

Adidas chief executive Kasper Rorsted told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Sunday that due to the lockdowns in Europe, the United States and other countries, the group has temporarily lost 60 per cent of overall sales.

In a regulatory statement, Adidas pointed to “the high level of economic uncertainty caused by the dynamic developments related to the coronavirus outbreak” and said it is “proactively adopt(ing) a conservative approach to liquidity management in order to preserve the company’s financial flexibility”.

Since mid-February, shares in Adidas have lost close to 30 per cent.

The Nike rival last week already decided to defer rent payments for its shops that are currently closed, causing a political backlash in its home country Germany. Germany finance minister Olaf Scholz called that move “irritating”.

Emoticon UK sees 'green shoots' in case numbers

Jim Pickard, chief political correspondent

Stephen Powis, medical director of NHS England, has said that the number of new coronavirus cases in the UK is showing a sign of a "plateau", describing this as "green shoots" of positive news.

But he pleaded with the public: "The last thing I would want anyone to think is that now is the time to take our foot off the pedal."

Mr Powis, speaking at the daily Downing St press conference, said:

We are at the start…we must not let go of the measures we are doing. We need to keep our foot on the pedal.

Michael Gove, Cabinet Office minister, announced at the event that the UK had seen the single highest increase in deaths on Monday of 381, taking the total to 1,789. So far, 143,186 people have now been tested – a much slower rate than countries such as Germany – and 25,150 have tested positive.

Mr Powis said the number of cases was not rising as fast as it had been. But he added: “We are still in the woods and it’s important to comply with the instructions.”

Cuomo expects NY to get a fraction of ventilators he ordered from China

Joshua Chaffin in New Jersey

New York governor Andrew Cuomo said he expects to receive less than 15 per cent of the ventilators he ordered from China as he despaired at the competition between US states and the federal government for the life-saving devices.

The governor said the state had ordered 17,000 ventilators from China at $25,000 apiece but — in part due to competition — only expected to receive 2,500 of them.

"It's like being on eBay with 50 other states bidding on a ventilator. Then FEMA gets involved and FEMA starts bidding," Mr Cuomo said, calling the situation "bizarre."

"The orders into China are very slow coming out. I'm not exactly sure why," he said

Greece records first coronavirus case among asylum-seekers

Kerin Hope in Athens

A woman asylum-seeker living in a camp outside Athens tested positive for coronavirus after giving birth at a maternity clinic in the Greek capital, the migration ministry said on Tuesday.

It was the first recorded case of the virus among an estimated 60,000 refugees and migrants living in camps on the eastern Aegean islands and several remote mainland districts. A ministry official said it was unclear whether the woman became infected in the camp or after she was admitted to hospital.

The baby's father tested negative for the virus, the official said.

"The public health service is tracking the contacts made by this patient in the past few days and is taking all necessary measures to protect camp residents and staff," a ministry statement said.

Ten medical staff at the clinic were quarantined and three other patients in the woman's room underwent tests for Covid-19, according to a medical worker at the clinic.

The International Organisation for Migration, which provides management support for the camp at Ritsona, 80km north of Athens, said it distributed supplies of soap and cleansers to residents, while working spaces and common areas were disinfected every week.

English cricket unveils £61m emergency funding

The England and Wales cricket board has announced a £61m support package to help the sport weather the disruption caused by coronavirus.

"We are fully aware that the situation with Covid-19 will continue to develop, and it will be months before the full financial fallout is made clear," said ECB chief executive Tom Harrison.

There will be no professional cricket played in the UK until at least May 28, and the summer game faces the possibility of its season being entirely wiped out as the government has warned that it could take as long as six months for normal life to return.

Many of the domestic English counties were financially reliant on central handouts even before the pandemic.

Saudi Arabia asks Muslims to delay making Hajj travel arrangements

Ahmed Al Omran in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia has asked Muslims seeking to perform the Hajj pilgrimage this year to postpone making any travel arrangements until there is more clarity on the extent of the coronavirus spread, raising concerns over the fate of one of the most important events on the Islamic calendar.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is ready to serve pilgrims in all circumstances, but considering the current situation with this global pandemic, the priority is to protect the health of citizens and Muslims around the world,” Hajj minister Mohammad Benten told state television on Tuesday.

Saudi authorities halted the entry of Muslim pilgrims seeking to worship at the holy cities of Mecca and Medina last month before the kingdom reported its first case of Covid-19. More than 2.5m people perform the Hajj pilgrimage annually. This year Hajj season falls at the end of July.

Officials in some Muslim countries said last week that the kingdom has paused discussions about finalising their quotas of pilgrims who will be permitted to perform Hajj.

Two people were reported dead of the coronavirus in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday. The country’s death toll from the disease now stands at 10. The health ministry confirmed 110 cases, bringing the total in the kingdom to 1,563.

Pregnant women in prison in England and Wales granted temporary release

Robert Wright in London

Pregnant women in prison in England and Wales who pose no threat to the public will be temporarily released from prison on licence to protect them from the danger of coronavirus infection, the Ministry of Justice has announced.

The ministry said it would also release prisoners in mother and baby units on the same terms.

The announcement is the latest response by the Prison Service to the risks to prisoners of infection amid the Covid-19 outbreak. The service has taken a number of other steps, including banning all visits to prisons to reduce the risk of the Covid-19 virus’s spreading inside jails.

The planned releases on licence – from which women could be recalled if they breach their licence terms – is a significant step from a government that has sought to extend prison terms and the proportion of them that prisoners serve.

Robert Buckland, justice secretary, said ministers had already taken “extraordinary measures” to protect prisoners and the public over the last few weeks.

But he went on: “It’s clear now that we must temporarily release pregnant woman and those with small babies with them inside prison.”

The ministry said 65 prisoners had so far tested positive for Covid-19 in 23 prisons across England and Wales. There have been 14 positive tests for prison staff and four positive tests for prisoner escort staff.

There have so far been reports of deaths of two prisoners – one 84, the other 66 – who had tested positive for coronavirus in prisons in England and Wales.

France transports patients on high-speed trains to ease pressure on hospitals

Leila Abboud in Paris

France has in recent days transported 36 coronavirus patients on specialised high-speed trains to less busy hospitals so as to relieve pressure on those in the east of the country and in the Paris region.

Jerome Salome, a health ministry official, said the system was a “first in peacetime” for France, and would continue in the days ahead.

The number of people hospitalised in France for Covid-19 stood at 22,757 on Tuesday, of which 5,565 people were relying on ventilators to help them breathe. The total number of people who have tested positive for covid-19 stood at 52,028 in the country. Hospitals have reported 499 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 3,523.

Munich Re profit to take a hit on event cancellation policies

Oliver Ralph in London

Munich Re, the German reinsurance company, has warned that its first quarter profits will be much lower than last year because of claims on event cancellation policies.

It has also withdrawn its profit guidance for the year and suspended its €1bn share buyback plan, although its dividend remains in place.

Munich Re is one of the first insurance companies to warn about the scale of Covid-19 claims. The cancellation of major sporting events such as the Olympics is expected to leave the industry with a multi-billion dollar bill.

The company said on Tuesday that first quarter profits would fall from €633m last year to the “low three-digit million euro range”. However it added that its capital levels remained within its target range.

Munich Re’s shares have lost more than a third of their value since mid-February.

Poland's ruling party drafts vote by mail legislation to avoid delaying polls

James Shotter in Warsaw

Poland's ruling Law and Justice party has drawn up legislation to allow all citizens to vote by post in the country's upcoming presidential election, as it battles to avoid having to postpone the poll due to coronavirus.

Like many EU countries, Poland is in near-total lock-down as a result of the virus, with all but non-essential shops closed, public gatherings banned, and hotels, parks and other public places closed.

Yet with its candidate, incumbent Andrzej Duda, leading comfortably in the polls, Law and Justice is desperate to avoid postponing the vote, and on Tuesday posted legislation that would let all citizens who want to vote by post on a one-off basis.

Law and Justice had already proposed letting the elderly and those in quarantine vote by post, attaching the proposals at short notice in the middle of the night to an economic rescue package. The move drew criticism from its opponents, as Poland's constitutional tribunal has previously ruled that election rules should be changed less than six months before a vote. The main opposition candidate has since suspended her campaign and called on voters to boycott the election.

Poland has so far recorded 2,215 cases of the novel virus and 32 deaths.

CFTC relaxes restrictions for futures trade execution by US brokerages

Kadhim Shubber in Washington

US brokerages can use foreign staff to execute domestic futures trades without specifically registering them for that purpose, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission announced on Tuesday.

The regulatory relief, which will last until September 30, is the latest in a series of actions by the CFTC and other US regulators to help banks and other market players deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

The letter issued on Tuesday will let global financial institutions service their US futures clients through entities overseas even if those entities are not currently registered.

"This action bolsters our efforts to facilitate orderly trading and liquidity in our derivatives markets during this volatile period," said Joshua Sterling, director of the CFTC's division of swap dealer and intermediary oversight.

Russia to send medical supplies and protective gear to US

Max Seddon in Moscow

Russia says will send a plane to the US carrying medical equipment and personal protective gear to help fight the coronavirus epidemic.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday that the plane would leave Moscow for the US after Donald Trump accepted Russian president Vladimir Putin's offer a day earlier.

"The Russian side offered aid in the form of medical supplies and protective gear in the light of the difficult epidemiological situation in America," Mr Peskov said, according to Interfax. "Trump gratefully accepted this humanitarian aid."

"In offering aid to our American colleagues, the president expects that when American producers of medical equipment and supplies pick up the pace, they will also be able to answer in turn if required," Mr Peskov said. "Now, when the current situation affects everyone without exception all over the world, there is no alternative other than acting in the spirit of partnership and mutual aid."

Russia sent nine giant IL-76 transport planes carrying 600 ventilators, 100 military virologists, and eight medical teams to Italy last week to help with the country's coronavirus outbreak. Military trucks bearing the Russian flag then drove the aid to Bergamo, one of Italy's hardest-hit regions.

UK regulator reminds financial services companies to follow the rules

Mathew Vincent in London

Britain’s City regulator has written to the bosses of financial services groups reminding them of the rules they must still follow amid coronavirus disruption, and rejecting requests for flexibility that it deems “opportunistic”.

In a ‘Dear CEO’ letter, the Financial Conduct Aurhoty’s interim chief executive, Christopher Woolard, told regulated firms they must carry out client identity checks remotely to comply with money laundering regulations. However, with restrictions in place on non-essential travel and meetings, companies may now rely on client’s emailed documents, seek third party verification via their lawyers or accountants, and even accept “selfies” as proof of ID.

Firms must also continue to meet obligations on the ‘best execution” of client orders. But they will not face enforcement action if execution reports are slightly delayed. Similarly, they will not be pursued if notifications of falls in the value of clients’ investments are made online.

Mr Woolard said requests for some rule changes would be refused, though, if not in the interests of consumers. In a clear warning that firms must not seek to gain from the crisis, he said: “In the case of requests that we consider to be opportunistic and designed to undermine consumer protection, we will reflect on what this tells us about the firms involved.”

SocGen abandons 2020 financial targets, cancels dividend

David Crow in New York

Société Générale, the French bank, said it was abandoning its financial targets for 2020 due to “uncertainties related to the magnitude and duration of the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Last month, the lender said it was targeting higher profits this year than last, a slight growth in revenues, lower costs, and an improvement in its return on tangible equity, a closely-watched measure of profitability.

However, on Tuesday night the bank said it was “suspending” those targets while it analysed “potential (coronavirus) scenarios and their impact on the group’s results”. It said it had taken the decision following recommendations from the Autorité des Marchés Financiers, the French banking supervisor.

SocGen also said it would also cancel its dividend for this year after the European Central Bank demanded that eurozone lenders refrain from shareholder payouts and buybacks during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Paris-based bank noted that the ECB had forbidden payouts until at least the start of October but that this was “incompatible with French law”, which stipulates that annual dividends must be paid before the end of September.

It added that it could remedy this in the second half of 2020 by paying an interim or exceptional dividend.

Portugal's TAP airline to temporarily lay off 90% of staff

Peter Wise in Lisbon

TAP-Air Portugal is to lay off 90 per cent of its 10,000 workers for at least a month as the national flag carrier cuts flights to a bare minimum because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In an email sent to employees on Tuesday, TAP said the remaining 10 per cent of staff would work reduced hours and receive 80 per cent of their pay.

Executive and non-executive board members are to take a voluntary reduction of 35 per cent in their earnings, roughly the same percentage cut in pay that the airline’s laid-off workers will suffer.

Under a government scheme to save jobs and firms during the coronavirus crisis, laid-off workers can receive two-thirds of their usual pay, of which 70 per cent will be paid by the state.

The measures will come into force for 30 days beginning on Thursday and are subject to renewal, TAP said in the email, which was made public by several Portuguese news websites.

TAP will operate only emergency repatriation and medical supply flights as well as a few flights a week to and from the Portuguese islands of the Azores and Madeira. The loss-making airline, which is 50 per cent state owned, is seen as a potential candidate for government support.

Portugal on Tuesday reported accumulated totals of 7,443 confirmed coronavirus cases and 160 deaths linked to the virus

Dyson names new CEO as it readies to make ventilators

Michael Pooler in London

Dyson has replaced its chief executive with the man who was in charge of its abandoned electric car project, as the company prepares to manufacture thousands of ventilators for treating coronavirus patients.

The appliances maker announced that Roland Krueger, who joined the company last year from the automotive industry, would take over the role from Jim Rowan with immediate effect.

“Roland’s engineering background in the complex world of car development, manufacture and marketing, combined with his knowledge of Dyson R&D and global operations, make him very well qualified to lead Dyson,” said Sir James Dyson.

Sir James remains the controlling force at the business that he founded in 1992 and still owns, taking the most important decisions under the title of chief engineer.

The change comes as Dyson embarks into a field far removed from its mainstay of floor cleaners, hairdryers, air purifiers and lighting.

As countries around the world scramble to obtain ventilators to support people with respiratory problems caused by Covid-19, the company has won an order from the UK government to make 10,000 of the devices that it designed from scratch in 10 days. The contract is contingent on the machines passing regulatory and safety tests.

S&P 500 slides more than 1%, securing worst quarter since 2008

US stocks retreated after a strong rally at the start of the week, handing the benchmark S&P 500 its worst quarter since the financial crisis.

The S&P 500 fell 1.6 per cent on Tuesday, weighed down by the utilities and real estate sectors. The index lost one-fifth of its value in the first three months of the year, as investors grew worried over the economic damage caused by the global coronavirus pandemic. It was the S&P 500’s steepest quarterly fall since the final quarter of 2008 and its worst first-quarter performance on record.

The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.8 per cent. The Nasdaq Composite fell 1 per cent.

US government debt also declined. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose 1.1 basis points to 0.682 per cent. Yields rise as prices fall.

Trump to grant 90-day suspension for some US tariffs

James Politi and Aime Williams in Washington

Donald Trump was poised to announce a 90-day suspension of tariff payments on certain US imports, including some apparel and light trucks, as his administration seeks to blunt the damage to the economy from the expanding coronavirus pandemic.

The Trump administration had already allowed tariff exemptions for certain medical supplies in recent weeks as US officials sought to bolster domestic stockpiles of protective equipment and other goods used in the healthcare sector. But the latest action would have a broader impact on the struggling US economy, as US officials try to keep businesses afloat following the sudden drop in demand due to the coronavirus outbreak.

According to one person familiar with the decision, the move would however not involve some of the most high-profile tariff actions taken by the US president during the trade wars that have marked his presidency, including punitive levies on $360bn of Chinese imports, and levies on imported metals imposed on national security grounds.

The US trade representative did not respond to a request for comment. Earlier on Tuesday, Bloomberg News reported the partial scope of the tariff relief, which is expected to be unveiled in an executive order.

Invesco's Barnett hit by 60% writedown on unlisted holdings

Siobhan Riding in London

Invesco’s Mark Barnett has suffered a significant mark down in the value of his unlisted investments, forcing him to pledge to offload them to avoid a Woodford-style liquidity crunch.

The US fund group said on Tuesday that it had applied a 60 per cent write-down to the values of unquoted companies held in the £3.4bn High Income and £1.5bn Income funds, resulting in falls of around 5 per cent in the funds’ net asset values. The news was first reported by FT Adviser, a Financial Times sister publication.

Invesco sought to distance itself from the prospect of a liquidity crisis similar to the one that hit Neil Woodford, Mr Barnett’s former mentor, by vowing to sell the unlisted component of both funds and reinvest the proceeds in publicly listed large and mid-cap companies.

The coronavirus-induced market swings of the last month have pummelled Mr Barnett’s funds, depressing the value of the funds’ public holdings and increasing the weight of their unlisted stocks relative to the rest of the portfolio.

At the end of March, the funds’ unlisted component stood at 8.4 per cent for the High Income fund and 9.1 per cent for the Income fund, placing them dangerously close to a 10 per cent regulatory cap on unquoted stocks.

Invesco said that its decision to offload its unlisted holdings was in response to “a significant shift in risk tolerance towards illiquid or unquoted assets in the last year”, as well as the “recent market dislocation and opportunities arising”.

Greece puts northern towns and villages into quarantine

Kerin Hope in Athens

Civil protection authorities have put several towns and villages across northern Greece into quarantine after they reported a steady rise in coronavirus cases over the past 10 days.

Residents of Kastoria and three nearby villages in western Macedonia and the towns of Xanthi and Myki in Thrace were banned from leaving town for the next two weeks, while an 8pm to 8am curfew was also imposed.

The three districts together have recorded more confirmed cases of the virus than any other region of the country outside Athens, according to health authorities.

Eighty-five new cases of coronavirus were confirmed on Tuesday, bringing the total number to 1,314. The death toll reached 49 with seven fatalities recorded in the past 24 hours, the health ministry spokesman Sotiris Tsiodras said.

Twenty out of 383 passengers travelling on a Greek ferry from Cadiz in Spain also tested positive for the virus on Tuesday. Greek health authorities boarded the ship at anchor off the port of Piraeus after it was refused permission to dock in Turkey.

Honduras taps IMF loan to meet coronavirus expenses

Jude Webber in Mexico City

Honduras has tapped $143m from a IMF stand-by facility — about half of its total funds — to meet higher healthcare and social expenses arising from coronavirus.

The funds come from a $312m stand-by agreement and credit facility approved last July.

The IMF said in a statement:

Economic activity will be affected by the prudent decision to lock down the economy early in the expansion phase of the virus in order to save lives and contain pressures on the country’s health system. Economic growth and the external position will be affected as well by global spillovers, through the impact of external demand, lower remittances flows, tighter external financial conditions, and the contraction in tourism.

The IMF is forecasting 3.5 per cent growth for Honduras and applauded the government’s “steadfast commitment to sound macroeconomic policies over the last years” and use of “targeted fiscal actions” to mitigate the Covid-19 damage.

Ireland records its highest single-day death toll

Arthur Beesley in Dublin

Ireland has reported 17 further coronavirus deaths, the highest in a single day, amid concern in the government about increased cases among healthcare staff who now make up about a quarter of infections.

The new deaths took the total number of fatalities in the Irish republic to 71, as the detection of 325 new Covid-19 cases brought the overall number to 3,235.

Some 647 of 2,615 cases on Sunday were associated with healthcare workers, prompting the government to consider asking nurses and other medical staff who share accommodation to move apart for the duration of the crisis.

“That’s an option we’ll certainly consider,” Simon Harris, the health minister, told national broadcaster RTE on Tuesday night. “This is only something we’d be looking at if it was supportive and helpful to people working in the health system.”

Such moves could lead the state to offer alternative accommodation to nurses and healthcare staff.

Mexico City to shut stores and parks to slow Covid-19 spread

Jude Webber in Mexico City

Mexico City will shut shopping centres, department stores and parks from Wednesday after the federal government called on citizens nationwide to stay at home for a month to slow the coronavirus spread.

Police cars will broadcast messages using loudspeakers urging people to look after themselves and society as a whole by staying indoors so as not to “infect or get infected”. Food shops and pharmacies will stay open.

Mexico’s government has decreed a national health emergency but has ruled out enforcement measures. The health ministry says this is the “last chance” for Mexicans to slow the spread of the virus and ease the looming pressure on hospitals. As of Monday, Mexico had 1,094 confirmed cases and 28 deaths.

Trump warns of 'very, very painful two weeks' as White House presents fatality estimates

Donald Trump told Americans to be prepared for a "very painful, very very painful two weeks" as doctors on the White House's coronavirus task force unveiled models that showed fatalities in the US could reach 240,000 even in the best-case scenario.

Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, medical experts who have led the task force, said that even with "full mitigation", the US was likely to see 100,000 to 240,000 deaths, with fatalities reaching an apex in about two weeks and then extending well into June.

Both Dr Fauci and Dr Birx said they hoped that the total would be lower, noting that the current projections are based on data gathered from the hardest-hit states like New York and New Jersey as well as the course the disease ran in Italy.

But they acknowledged the 100,000-240,000 forecast was the best estimate based on academic models even if the US continues lockdown policies that prevent large gatherings and impose social distancing.

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