Workers wearing protective equipment prepare to bury the casket of a COVID-19 victim at the Vila Formosa cemetery in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Friday, May 29, 2020.

UK mulls new stimulus: Global virus update

Workers wearing protective equipment prepare to bury the casket of a COVID-19 victim at the Vila Formosa cemetery in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Friday, May 29, 2020.

Key Developments:

  • Virus Tracker: Cases near 6.2 million; deaths exceed 372,000
  • How China tested 11 million people in just two weeks
  • A startup is testing sewage to trace the US spread of COVID
  • Google helps place ads on sites amplifying COVID conspiracies
  • European manufacturing emerges from lockdown with Italy in lead
  • The buy-side trader is getting outsourced in the pandemic

UK Mulls New Stimulus: FT

The UK government is preparing an economic stimulus package to be unveiled in July as it steps up attempts to lessen the depth of the recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Financial Times reported, citing unidentified officials.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is working on proposals to invest in training programs, infrastructure and help for technology firms, it said. He will also encourage people back to work as the lockdown to limit the virus leads to a surge in unemployment.

The Treasury on Friday announced an incremental tapering of its job support program in a bid to avert a mass wave of unemployment.

Gilead Drug Has Only Modest Benefit in Large Trial

The result may shift perceptions of the first therapy cleared for use in severe cases of COVID-19. In the phase 3 trial, a group of moderately ill, hospitalised patients getting the drug for five days showed a modest improvement compared to those getting the standard of care, the company said in a statement. But another group getting the drug for 10 days didn’t show a statistically significant improvement, which is likely to raise questions about why a longer course doesn’t help more.

Separately, Altimmune Inc. climbed in premarket trading after the FDA gave the company the go-ahead to start a Phase 1/2 study of T-COVID, an experimental therapy. The single dose intra-nasal medicine is meant to be administered at the first onset of symptoms.

Fauci Says Meetings With Trump Are Less Frequent:

Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, said he used to meet with President Donald Trump four times a week about a month ago, and now those meetings “have been dramatically decreased,” according to an interview with Stat.

A COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year is “aspirational, but it’s certainly doable,” Fauci also said, adding that “there’s no guarantee that it’s going to be effective.”

Dutch Bars, Restaurants Reopen

Dutch bars, restaurants and cinemas reopened under certain social distancing restrictions. Customers must make reservations, and no more than 30 people are allowed inside venues. Wearing a face mask is mandatory on public transport.

Half of UK Families Won’t Send Children Back to School

Boris Johnson’s plans to get the stalled UK economy moving again face a significant challenge, with many parents choosing to keep their children at home even though they could send them back to school. Some classes for primary school children in England are due to re-start this week after being closed for more than two months during the coronavirus lockdown, but head teachers expect almost half of families to shun the offer, according to a survey.

Prime Minister Johnson announced that from Monday, some retailers including car showrooms will be able to reopen, and people will be able to meet in groups of six from different households outdoors. Scientists have raised concerns that the lockdown easing may be too risky, with high numbers of new infections being reported daily.

Moderna Climbs After Starting Second Stage of Testing

Moderna shares rose 6% in premarket trading after the company started a Phase 2 study of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine. Analysts remained upbeat about prospects for the biotech’s results, while investors await a fuller disclosure on how all 45 patients fared in the first stage of testing.

Full results will be published by the National Institutes of Health in a peer-reviewed publication, likely this month.

Lilly Starts Study of Antibody Treatment

Eli Lilly said patients have been dosed in what it said was the world’s first study of a potential antibody treatment designed to fight COVID-19. The placebo-controlled study will assess safety in patients hospitalized with the disease and results are expected by the end of June.

“Later this month, we will review the results of this first human study and intend to initiate broader efficacy trials,” the company said. “At the same time as we are investigating safety and efficacy, we also are starting large-scale manufacturing.”

Russia to Ship COVID-19 Drug to Hospitals

Russia is preparing to provide hospitals with a coronavirus drug developed with the sovereign wealth fund’s backing after gaining initial approval from the Health Ministry. The medicine will be shipped to hospitals starting June 11 and exports may follow once domestic demand is met, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which is producing the antiviral in a joint venture with the ChemRar Group.

The treatment, Avifavir, is based on a generic version of Fujifilm Holdings Corp.’s drug Avigan, which Japan’s government is still looking to approve for treatment of coronavirus. Final-stage clinical trials of Russia’s Avifavir involving 330 patients are continuing, according to the wealth fund. Avifavir is the second drug, after Remdesivir, to show promising results against COVID-19 and ChemRar Group will deliver 60,000 doses this month, RDIF CEO Kirill Dmitriev said on a conference call Monday.

Hong Kong’s Retail Slump Continued in April

Hong Kong’s retail activity extended a decline in April as the coronavirus pandemic continued to constrain global travel. The city’s retail sales by value fell 36.1% from year-ago levels to HK$24.1 billion ($3.1 billion), for a 15th consecutive monthly decline, according to a government release. That’s ahead of the median forecast of economists for a 40% slump.

Turkey State Banks Go All In to Boost Economy

Turkey unveiled its most expansive credit incentive scheme in four years to help the economy recover from the coronavirus slump. The nation’s three largest state-owned banks will begin offering mortgages, loans for used cars, credit for home appliances, holiday packages and other products at annual interest rates running below inflation, they said in a joint statement on Monday.

Separately, Saudi Arabia plans to pump 50 billion riyals ($13.3 billion) into the banking system to help manage the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and the drop in oil prices. The move by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, or SAMA, as the central bank is known, will support financial stability and boost credit facilities to the private sector, it said in a statement on Monday.

Armenian Premier Tests Positive Amid Surge

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said he’s tested positive for the coronavirus amid a surge in infections after his government largely ended lockdown restrictions.

“I will work in isolation,” Pashinyan said Monday in a video posted on Facebook, adding that his wife and three daughters also have the virus. He said he doesn’t have COVID-19 symptoms and “I hope not many people became infected from me in the government.”

Confirmed coronavirus cases in the Caucasus nation of 3 million have quadrupled since the government announced May 3 that it was ending most restrictions on businesses and people’s movement.

South Korea Unveils Spending Plan

The South Korean government unveiled a 76 trillion won ($62 billion) “New Deal” spending plan to reshape the economy in the aftermath of the pandemic after cutting its growth forecast for the year.

The plan, first outlined in April by President Moon Jae-in, aims to refocus the economy through 2025 by supporting job growth and new industries. It will partly be funded by a third extra budget now being drafted, according to a statement on the policy outlook for the second half.

The extra spending will help an economy forecast to grow by just 0.1% this year, the slowest expansion since the 1998 Asian financial crisis.

German New Cases, Deaths Decline

There were 221 new cases in the 24 hours through Monday morning, bringing the total to 183,410, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That compares with 267 the previous day and almost 7,000 at the peak of the outbreak in late March. Fatalities increased by 10 to 8,540. The daily death toll has remained below 100 for more than two weeks.

The reproduction factor of the virus, known as R-zero, rose to 1.04 on Sunday from 1.03 the day before, according to the latest estimate from the Robert Koch Institute.

Wuhan Finds No Asymptomatic Cases

Wuhan authorities said they found no cases of asymptomatic infections among 60,000 people tested on Sunday. It was the first time in almost two months that new cases of “silent spreaders” trickled to a halt.

The presence of infected people who show no outward signs of being sick but can nonetheless infect others has been an obstacle in worldwide efforts to contain the coronavirus, and a major reason why the pandemic spread so widely and quickly.

Japan Weighs Eased Entry Limits: Yomiuri

Japan’s government may relax entry restrictions on people from Thailand, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand amid signs that coronavirus infections have fallen in those countries, Yomiuri said, citing government officials.

Entry limits may be relaxed as early as in summer, the newspaper reported Sunday. The visitors would be required to carry documentation showing that they had tested negative for the virus before leaving their countries, and would need to be re-tested when they arrive in Japan, according to the report.