Trump Backs Tesla Reopening
US President Donald Trump said Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk is “doing the right thing” by restarting work at the carmaker’s Fremont, California, factory in defiance of local stay-at-home rules. “I’m all for him,” Trump said on the Fox Business Channel. A police lieutenant visited the plant late Wednesday to view employee screening and physical-distancing measures, and the findings will be presented to the Alameda County health office, which will determine Tesla’s compliance, a police spokeswoman said.
Biggest Ultramarathon Cancelled, First Time Since War
The organizers of the world’s biggest ultramarathon have canceled the event for the first time since World War II. The Comrades Marathon, due to take place on June 14 in South Africa, has been added to the list of sporting events around the globe scrapped due to the pandemic.
Germany’s Tax Income to Tumble $106 Billion on Virus Fallout
With factories, restaurants and shops forced to shut to contain the disease, Germany’s overall tax income for 2020 is expected to be 98.6 billion euros ($106 billion) lower than an estimate six months ago, the Finance Ministry said on Thursday. The federal government’s shortfall is projected at 44 billion euros, with states and municipalities also taking a hit.
“Thanks to the good budgetary policy of recent years, the corona crisis can be managed financially,” Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said. “The next step is to take targeted measures to get the economy going again.”
EU Justice Chief Backs Apple-Google Tracing System
The European Union’s justice chief threw his weight behind a Covid-19 contact tracing system that would be supported by a tool jointly developed by Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google.
EU nations are using apps based on different methods. Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders told the European Parliament that he preferred a “decentralized approach” that stores less data on back-end servers.
Sberbank Recruits Employees for Russian Vaccine Trial (8:08 a.m. NY)
Russia’s state-owned Sberbank PJSC appealed to employees for help in a COVID-19 vaccine trial scheduled to start next month.
Sberbank asked for volunteers who meet certain criteria to take part in testing of a vaccine developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, according to a copy of an email sent from the bank’s human resources department and confirmed by several employees.
Trump Targets China
President Trump told Fox Business that China will try to steal intellectual property and get a COVID-19 vaccine first, but the US can prevent it. “We can stop them. They’re going to try doing it. I mean you can also stop doing business with them, that’s one thing,” Trump said.
“They’ve always been doing it, and they were never called. Now they’re being called out all the time with me,” he said about China and IP theft.
Trump said he doesn’t want to talk to Chinese President Xi Jinping right now and mused about eliminating the largest trading relationship in the world. Asked whether he had spoken to Xi recently, Trump said that they have “a very good relationship” but “right now, I don’t want to speak to him. I don’t want to speak to him.”
British Airways Owner Won’t Delay 12,000 Job Cuts
British Airways owner IAG SA said it intends to go ahead with plans to cut up to 12,000 jobs, while Chief Executive Officer Willie Walsh castigated the government’s handling of the crisis. The decision to quarantine travelers, along with Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s statement that “big, lavish international holidays” likely won’t be possible this summer “have seriously set back recovery plans for our industry,” Walsh said in a letter to the chairman of the UK’s transport committee.
IAG remains committed to its restructuring, Walsh said in the letter dated Wednesday. He had faced a grilling from lawmakers on Monday over plans to permanently slash British Airways’ workforce rather than take advantage of the government furlough scheme.
Trump Expects More Than 100,000 US Virus Deaths
“We’re going to lose over 100,000 perhaps in this country,” President Trump said about coronavirus deaths in an interview on Fox Business. Trump on Wednesday accused the nation’s top infectious disease official, Anthony Fauci, of wanting to “play all sides of the equation” with congressional testimony Tuesday that warned reopening the country too quickly could lead to coronavirus case flare ups.
So far, more than 84,000 people have died from the coronavirus in the U.S., making it the worst-hit country in the world. The military is now being mobilized to administer a vaccine, if one is available, “rapidly” by end of year, Trump said in the interview. “I think we’re going to have a vaccine by the end of the year,” he said, adding he expects to focus on giving vaccine to nursing home residents, other vulnerable people first.
The President also said he is “very disappointed” in China amid the coronavirus pandemic. The relationship between the two countries has soured after they signed a phase-one trade agreement, with Trump accusing China of hiding information on how the outbreak started.
Tokyo to Stay Under Emergency Even as Japan Eases
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will maintain a state of emergency for Tokyo and Osaka due to the coronavirus while lifting it for 39 of the country’s 47 prefectures earlier than scheduled, as infection cases have waned. Abe said the government will immediately start work on a second extra budget to aid people and businesses reeling from the effects of the pandemic. The plan will include subsidies for rents and raise the maximum subsidy for furloughed workers to 15,000 yen ($140) a day, he said.
The government will evaluate next week if it can release the remaining areas before the declaration ends on May 31, which could help Japan re-activate more of its virus-battered economy.
Hungary May Lift Emergency by June
Hungary may be in a position to lift a controversial state of emergency near the end of June if the spread of the coronavirus continues to ease, cabinet minister Gergely Gulyas said. The country has started lifting restrictions outside of Budapest, with restaurants and hotels returning to full operations next week.
Parliament had in March handed Prime Minister Viktor Orban the right to rule by decree indefinitely, effectively putting the European Union democracy under his sole command for as long as he sees fit. Orban’s decision, ostensibly to fight the virus, has raised alarm in the EU about whether governments may use the pandemic as a pretext to undermine democracy. The European Union’s executive arm has said member states should start phasing out emergency powers in line with steps being taken to ease restrictions.
Poland Pushes Reopening, Undeterred by Spike
Poland is moving ahead with a plan to unfreeze the largest economy in the European Union’s east even as a sudden spike in cases hit the country’s industrial heartland, concentrated in coal mines.
Silesia — a region of 4.5 million people bordering the Czech Republic and Slovakia — has become a hotbed of new COVID-19 cases over the last two weeks after about 1,400 miners tested positive and operations at four mines had to be suspended. The area, home to Poland’s largest concentration of heavy industries from steelworks to carmakers, is the country’s second-richest behind only the capital, Warsaw.
UK Health Workers in Study Not Informed of Infections
A clinical study ran 16 weekly tests on 400 workers and administrators at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London starting in late March, around when the virus was peaking in the UK, according to the report published in The Lancet. The staff weren’t given the results and those who went into self-isolation after exposure or showing symptoms renewed testing after returning to work, the report said.
The test results were anonymized and not immediately shared with the researchers, who didn’t receive the data until three to four weeks after testing, the Telegraph newspaper reported.
Vaccine Should Be Available Equitably, WHO Says
Vaccines are “global public goods which belong to everybody around the world,” World Health Organization’s Regional Director for the Western Pacific region Takeshi Kasai said, adding that vaccines are not something a country produces and reserves. “As long as virus is circulating in this inter-connected world, and until we have a safe and effective vaccine, everybody remains at risk.”
The comments come after Sanofi’s chief executive said the U.S. will likely be first in line should the company succeed in developing a vaccine. A French government minister said this would be unacceptable.
Spain Reports Most Deaths Since May 8
Spain reported 217 new coronavirus deaths in the last 24 hours, the biggest jump since May 8. Total fatalities rose to 27,321, according to the Health ministry data published Thursday. New infections increased by 506 to 229,540. The total number of cases was adjusted to reflect changes in data for the Madrid region.
Second Waves Plague Asia’s Virus Recovery
After containing their outbreaks through measures from strict lockdowns to rapid testing, Asian economies that have seen some of the most success in quelling the coronavirus — Hong Kong, China and South Korea — are now facing resurgences that underscore the near-impossibility of eradication.
In Hong Kong, the husband of the 66-year-old woman — whose infection is of unknown origin — also tested positive. The city’s 23-day streak without a case of local coronavirus transmission ended on Wednesday, reflecting the challenge of eradicating a virus that can spread undetected through carriers with no symptoms.
On the mainland, an outbreak in northeastern China forced authorities to impose movement restrictions in two cities reminiscent of the lockdown placed on Jan. 23 over Wuhan. South Korea has identified more than 100 new cases from several nightclubs frequented by gay customers and officials are trying to test more than 5,500 people who visited the clubs since late April.
UKCovid-19 App Could Aggravate Inequalities
The UK’ s contact-tracing app could exacerbate inequalities in Britain’s society, an ethics board warned ahead of a roll-out of the software. A letter dated April 24, and since published online, highlighted data suggesting that 21% of British adults don’t use a smartphone, something essential for using the app.
The board, established to oversee the development of the app, also outlined a variety of areas, including accountability and possible data misuse, that it said the government should consider as it builds the app to ensure it’s done in an ethical way.
Cape Town Home to Half of South African Cases
The coronavirus outbreak in South Africa has hit hardest in the Western Cape, home to the city of Cape Town. The province now has more than half of the 12,074 confirmed cases nationwide and in recent days contributed about 90% of new infections recorded by the Health Ministry.
Contrary to initial projections, infections and deaths have increased at a much slower rate in the economic hub of Johannesburg in Gauteng province. The Western Cape and Gauteng together account for about 37% of South Africa’s population.