Workers wearing protective equipment bury the casket of a COVID-19 victim at the Vila Formosa cemetery in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Friday, May 29, 2020. (Photo: Jonne Roriz/Bloomberg)

Australia’s economy contracts for first time in three decades: Global virus update

Workers wearing protective equipment bury the casket of a COVID-19 victim at the Vila Formosa cemetery in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Friday, May 29, 2020. (Photo: Jonne Roriz/Bloomberg)

Key Developments:

Australia’s Economy Contracts, Ending Three-Decade Expansion

Australia’s economy contracted in the first three months of the year, setting up an end to a nearly 29-year run without a recession as an even deeper slowdown looms for the current quarter.

Gross domestic product fell 0.3% from the final three months of 2019, the first quarterly drop since 2011, brought down by a collapse in household spending, statistics bureau data showed in Sydney on Wednesday. Economists had forecast a 0.4% drop. From a year earlier, the economy expanded 1.4%, matching estimates.

The current quarter will see a deep contraction, with almost 600,000 jobs lost in April alone and much of the economy in lockdown to contain the coronavirus.

Portugal Cases Rise, Mostly in Lisbon Region

Portugal reported 366 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, above 300 for the first time since May 29 and taking the total to 33,261, the government said. The additional cases are mostly in the greater Lisbon region, where testing has increased in the last few days after new clusters were identified.

The number of hospitalised patients and of cases in intensive care units both fell and are at the lowest levels since March.

G7 Suspends Some Debt Payments for Low-Income Nations

G7 Finance ministers said the group is suspending official bilateral debt payments for the poorest countries to year-end 2020 and possibly longer, according to a statement distributed by the U.S. Treasury.

“We remain committed to assisting low-income countries in their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the group said in the statement. “We will continue to work with the G20, Paris Club partners, the IMF, the World Bank, and other creditors to secure debt sustainability and transparency, including promoting timely creditor coordination and fair burden sharing.”

Iran Hit by Second Wave as Cases Swell

Iran reported its highest number of daily infections in two months, a surge that nears March’s peak levels and suggests the Middle Eastern country struck hardest by the disease is in the throes of a second wave.

Authorities reported 3,134 new cases on Wednesday, a 50% increase from a week earlier, according to official government figures. The total number so far is 160,696, with more than 8,000 deaths.

Netherlands Has Fewest New Cases Since March 10

The Netherlands reported 86 new confirmed cases, the first time the daily number dropped under triple digits in almost three months. Infections increased 0.2% to a total of 46,733. Fatalities were also up 0.2% to 5,977.

Worried Europe Looks for Way Into Vaccine Race

The European Union is looking to secure access to future coronavirus vaccines by seeking deals to share the cost of development with pharmaceutical companies, according to an internal memo seen by Bloomberg.

There is growing concern in Europe that the region will fall behind the US or China in obtaining supplies of any shot that proves successful. The European Commission memo warns that the move is necessary in the light of US funding pledges, including $1.2 billion to AstraZeneca Plc to help make the University of Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Austria Opens Borders But Keeps Italy Link Closed

Austria is lifting border controls, imposed to limit the spread of the coronavirus, with all neighboring countries except Italy as of tomorrow.

The government in Vienna still has concerns over the prevalence of the virus in Italy, Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg told journalists. The central European nation is home to ski resorts that were linked to early spread of the virus in February and March.

Common Painkiller Tested Against COVID-19 in UK

Scientists in London are testing whether a variant of the commonly used painkiller ibuprofen can help patients with Covid-19 avoid potentially lethal respiratory failure and the need for mechanical ventilators.

The study is being run by Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, King’s College London and SEEK, a proprietary drug-research firm.

Germany Aims to Reactivate EU Travel

Germany’s government approved plans that pave the way for an across-the-board travel warning to be replaced from June 15. In its place the cabinet sees appropriate travel recommendations for individual European Union nations, as well as the U.K. and the passport-free Schengen area.

Separately, unemployment in Europe’s most populous nation hit 2.875 million in May, its highest level since late 2015. Government economists say joblessness could rise above 3 million during the remaining months of 2020.

Indonesia Sees Weaker Growth, Bigger Fiscal Gap Amid Virus

Indonesia’s economy may grow less than already reduced estimates, and the fiscal deficit will widen, as the government ramps up its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the finance minister said.

The deficit is now projected to widen to 6.34% of gross domestic product, Sri Mulyani Indrawati said. That’s the latest of several revisions since the government announced just over two months ago that it was suspending its 3% ceiling.

The pandemic has rattled Southeast Asia’s biggest economy. President Joko Widodo ordered financial chiefs to expedite a recovery program, but he also told them to mitigate fiscal risk amid warnings that the nation’s credit rating could be in jeopardy.

China Says New Coronavirus Case Reported June 2 Is Imported

The one additional coronavirus case is reported in Guangdong province, according to a statement from China’s National Health Commission.

Another four asymptomatic cases are reported, with two of them arriving from abroad. China has 357 asymptomatic coronavirus cases under medical observation.

China has 83,021 confirmed coronavirus cases, and its total death toll is at 4,634.

Brazil Reports Deadliest Day

Brazil reported a record 1,262 deaths on Tuesday, bringing the number of fatalities to 31,199. There were also 28,936 new reported cases, pushing the country’s total to 555,383, behind only the US.

The nation of 210 million people has become an epicenter of the virus in the last few weeks. Brazil’s peak has not yet arrived, and “at the moment it is not possible to predict when it will arrive,” Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s Emergencies Program, said Monday.