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Updated at 11/18/2020, 4:46:56 PM BST
Lockdowns in Europe are avoidable and should be deemed a “last resort measure”, a World Health Organization official said at a briefing on Thursday.
Dr Hans Kluge, the WHO’s regional director for Europe, said that “mask use is by no means a panacea” but added that it could help to avoid total shutdowns if used alongside other measures.
At 60 per cent or lower mask use, “it is hard to avoid lockdowns”. But if that figure rose to 95 per cent, lockdowns “would not be needed”.
Dr Kluge outlined the “collateral damage” of lockdowns, ranging from increased mental health issues, to gender-based violence and the need for economic support as people lose their jobs.
He recommended a tiered system, where authorities can monitor “levels of seriousness in community transmission” and implement “proportionate measures”.
Dr Kluger said that a vaccine against Covid-19 was important but was not a “silver bullet” yet.
More than 15.7m coronavirus cases and nearly 355,000 deaths have been reported to WHO across Europe. More than four-fifths of European countries are reporting “elevated” 14-day virus incidence – greater than 100 per 100,000 people.
Last week, one person in the WHO’s European region died from Covid-19 every 17 seconds.
But new weekly cases of Covid-19 fell to roughly 1.8m cases last week, from more than 2m the week before. “It’s a small signal, but it’s a signal nevertheless”, said Dr Kluger, pointing to people’s “risk reducing behaviour”.
Laura Pitel in Ankara
Turkey announced its biggest interest rate rise in more than two years as it signalled a change of direction after a drastic shake-up in the country’s economic management.
In the first rate-setting meeting chaired by the incoming central bank governor, Naci Agbal, the bank moved to tame inflation and bolster the Turkish lira by lifting its benchmark one-week repo rate by 4.75 percentage points to 15 per cent.
The lira jumped almost 3 per cent against the dollar immediately following the decision, before trimming its gain to 1.9 per cent to TL7.56. Turkey’s currency is still down 22 per cent since the end of last year.
The lira suffered months of record lows before the shock resignation of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak as finance minister 10 days ago. Concerns about Turkey’s economic policies and the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic have combined to pile pressure on the currency.
Thursday’s decision will be seen by many investors as evidence that Mr Erdogan, a staunch opponent of high interest rates, has given the new central bank governor a mandate to act – at least in the short term – to stabilise the currency and could tempt a much-needed wave of foreign capital back into Turkish markets.
The increase, which was in line with the expectations of economists surveyed by Bloomberg, brings the one-week repo rate slightly above the average interest rate that the central bank had been charging to supply funding to the Turkish financial system in recent weeks.
It had been using a complicated system of multiple rates that appeared to be aimed at tightening monetary conditions without incurring the wrath of the president, and had brought the effective cost of funding provided by the bank to 14.8 per cent by Wednesday this week.
The central bank announced that it had decided to provide all funding through the one-week repo rate, a move likely to be welcomed by investors as a sign that it is returning to a more conventional approach to monetary policy.
With additional reporting by Adam Samson
One in three UK businesses in the hospitality sector have no or low confidence in the short term outlook as tighter restrictions have left many with not enough cash reserves.
The accommodation and food service activities industry had the highest percentage of businesses that had no or low confidence that their business would survive the next three months, at 34 per cent, official data showed on Thursday.
The findings show the share of business with little confidence that they will survive was double in the hospitality sector than across all industries, reflecting brighter sentiment across the health, real estate and manufacturing industries. The survey questioned more than 5,000 businesses between November 1 and 15, which covers the English lockdown that began on November 5.
The latest restrictions have left bars, hotels and restaurants with little cash reserves, the Office for National Statistics showed.
About 44 per cent of businesses in the hospitality sector had cash reserves lasting up to three months only, the largest proportion of any sector and well above the 29 per cent for the whole economy.
Across businesses in accommodation and food services 18 per cent said they could survive for more than six months.
While parts of the hospitality sector can remain open for takeaway and delivery services, more than one in three businesses in the sector said they closed because there was insufficient customer interest and it was not financially viable to stay open.
The survey reports signs of the first deterioration in economic activity since the reopening in the summer with a rising proportion of workers in furlough. It showed a soaring share of businesses reporting depressed turnover compared with what they would expect for this time of the year after a steady decline since the summer.
The findings are the first assessment of the impact of the harsher restrictions on the economy and point to a downturn in the final quarter.
Rugby, horseracing and women’s football are among the UK sports set to benefit from a £300m government bailout, in response to lockdowns that have stopped fans from attending stadiums.
Nigel Huddleston, sports minister, will announce on Thursday the rescue package for 11 sports hit hard by the pandemic, although some groups such as those that represent professional men’s football and cricket will miss out.
Rugby Football Union (RFU), England’s governing body for rugby union, and Women’s Super League, the top tier of the female football, are among the groups that will be offered a mixture of grants and loans to prop them up through the lockdown.
For weeks, the UK government has made clear that some sports would not receive funding. For example it demanded that the English Premier League, which has £9.2bn worth of broadcasting contracts, step in to support smaller clubs.
So far, the Premier League has agreed a £50m package to cover lost gate receipts at teams in League One and Two, the bottom two professional divisions.
Sporting bodies seeking government funding were required to submit financial returns to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to detail how much money was required to continue operating over the next six months.
Last month, the RFU announced it faced a £145m revenue shortfall as the rugby body is reliant on income from hosting international matches at Twickenham, its stadium in west London, which has been closed to spectators since the spring.
Updates from a clutch of financial companies on Thursday laid bare the impact of the pandemic on their businesses. Recent results from big banks were helped by a surge in trading activity but some of the smaller institutions were feeling the pinch.
Investec hurt by lower interest rates: Investec, the Anglo-South African financial services group, said that its operating profits almost halved to £143m in the first half of the year. Lower interest rates and lower lending fees income were to blame. Its shares fell 4 per cent on Thursday.
Charles Stanley hit by decline in client funds: UK-based wealth manager Charles Stanley said its performance was “resilient”, but underlying profit before tax declined 28 per cent to £6.6m as it was hit by lower funds under management and administration, and lower interest rates.
Close Brothers bucks the trend: A first-quarter update from merchant banking group Close Brothers was upbeat, with the company noting strong new business volumes in banking, fund inflows in asset management and high trading volumes at Winterflood, its market making business. Its shares were flat in morning trading.
Funds recover at Polar Capital: Asset management group Polar Capital said that assets under management had recovered from £12.2bn at the end of March to £16.4bn at the end of September, which is almost level with where they were in October last year. First-half pre-tax profits improved from £27m to £29m. The shares were up 1 per cent on Tuesday morning.
Boom times for CMC Markets: Spread-betting group CMC Markets boasted of a “record H1 trading performance”. Pre-tax profits jumped 369 per cent to £141m thanks to increased trading by new and existing clients.
Guy Chazan in Berlin
German public health officials said the country was succeeding in flattening the curve of new coronavirus infections, but it was still unclear if the country had reached a turning point in combating the virus.
Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s main public health agency, said the number of cases had stabilised at a high level in the past two weeks.
“They are not rising any more and that’s good news,” Mr Wieler said. “[But] they are still way too high.”
Germany reported 22,609 Covid-19 cases in its latest 24-hour figures on Thursday, bringing the total to 855,916. So far, 13,370 people have died of the disease.
Ute Rexroth, head of surveillance at the RKI, said that, whereas at the start of October Germany was reporting between 1,000-4,000 cases a day, by the middle of November that had risen to between 12,000-23,000 cases.
To slow the spread of the virus, Germany went into a “lockdown-light” at the start of November, closing all restaurants, bars, gyms and theatres for a month though schools and businesses have remained open.
Ms Rexroth said the reproduction, or R, number was going down, which showed “the tougher measures are working – and that’s good news”. The R number is the average number of secondary infections from one infected person.
“We’re on the right path,” she said.
But she noted that more and more elderly people were falling ill and ending up in hospital. On October 8, 487 people were being treated for Covid-19 in Germany’s intensive care wards, that figure has risen to 3,561 by Wednesday.
Nearly 200 anti-lockdown protesters were arrested after thousands gathered in Berlin on Wednesday to voice their anger against coronavirus legislation that they say violates their rights. Police stopped the protest after marchers failed to observe social distancing rules or wear masks, although a large number refused to leave.
European stock markets fell, echoing similar moves in Asia and on Wall Street overnight, as rising coronavirus cases and tighter restrictions overshadowed positive news about potential vaccines.
The regional Stoxx 600 index, which is almost 14 per cent higher this month following exuberance about positive late-stage vaccine trials from drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna, dropped 0.8 per cent in early trades. Germany’s Xetra Dax and the UK’s FTSE 100 were also 0.8 per cent lower.
All sectors of the Stoxx fell, with value stocks — unloved companies with high dividend yields that benefit from economic recoveries — performing the worst. The banking sector of the European index fell 1.2 per cent while energy shares fell 1.6 per cent.
US coronavirus deaths rose by the most in more than six months on Wednesday. New York City has closed its public schools and Colorado urged its residents against travelling around the Thanksgiving holiday.
This took the shine off an announcement by Pfizer and German partner BioNTech that they would submit their Covid-19 vaccine for US and EU emergency approval “within days”, saying it was even more effective than previously reported.
The medical journal The Lancet on Thursday reported that Oxford university and AstraZeneca’s vaccine candidate had shown a strong immune response, based on second-phase trial data. The Financial Times first reported on the promising data last month.
In Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 0.5 per cent and Japan’s Nikkei 225 dropped 0.3 per cent.
Gold dropped 0.5 per cent to $1,862 a troy ounce while the dollar strengthened, with the index measuring the US currency against those of major trading partners 0.1 per cent higher.
Royal Mail’s revenue from parcels exceeded that from letters for the first time in its history as the coronavirus pandemic accelerated the UK trend towards online shopping.
Parcel delivery accounted for 60 per cent of total turnover, from 47 per cent in the same period last year, the group said on Thursday.
Sales increased 9.8 per cent to £5.7bn in the six months to September but profit before tax dived 90.2 per cent to £17m.
Shares in the FTSE-250 company rose more than 6 per cent in early trading in London. They have risen more than 34 per cent this year.
“The level of revenue growth in the first half shows we have the right strategy and that Royal Mail can be cash generative and a sustainable, profitable business in the future,” said Keith Williams, interim executive chair. “But we need to speed up the pace of change in order to create a profitable business in the UK.”
Mr Williams said the talks with the Communication Workers Union had “intensified over the past weeks”.
The 500-year-old organisation has previously hinted it may seek to drop Saturday letter rounds, a move that is likely to face resistance from union leaders worried about the potential impact on jobs.
Last month, Royal Mail began collecting parcels from doorsteps across the UK, with customers able to hand over items to postmen and women on their rounds or leave their packages in a “safe place” from Monday to Saturday for a small fee online.
DIY conglomerate Kingfisher expects a £175m boost to profit in its current financial year from “temporary cost savings” that include financial assistance from governments.
The admission, contained in a third-quarter trading update that showed sustained strong sales growth, adds to the controversy about whether retailers who have profited from the coronavirus pandemic should be receiving government support.
The £175m is net of the costs of responding to the Covid-19 crisis. In September, Kingfisher estimated that these would be £40m across the full year. But the UK’s business rate relief alone is expected to save the group £130m.
It also saved cash through other initiatives such as cutting back on advertising and marketing during the UK’s first lockdown.
Kingfisher has ample liquidity: it has access to about £3bn of cash and bank facilities plus the Bank of England’s coronavirus lending facility, and has seen a strong recovery in trading as households divert leisure spending into home improvements.
Group sales in the third quarter were up 18 per cent with sales at the UK’s B&Q chain rising 24 per cent. In the six weeks to November 14, when lockdowns were reimposed in its two of its most important markets, sales were up 12.6 per cent.
The company’s previously moribund share price has responded, rising almost a third in 2020 to date. Shares were down 2.6 per cent in early Thursday trading in London.
The group, which has operations in France, Poland, Spain, Portugal and Romania, has repaid £23m of money drawn under the UK’s furlough scheme, hired thousands more workers and has not declared any dividends so far this year.
However, analysts are forecasting a 4p payout for the full year, at a cost of £84m. Total dividends in 2019, the last “normal” year, were 11p a share.
Naked Wines, the online retailer that sells wine on subscription, said sales soared in the past six months, as the pandemic has boosted customers’ willingness to buy alcohol over the internet.
The London-listed group on Thursday said sales grew 80 per cent to £157m in the half-year ending September, leading it to upgrade its sales growth guidance for the full year to between 55 and 65 per cent.
In response, Naked Wines shares rose 5 per cent in early trading in London.
“The last six months have been a critical period in the development of the company,” said chief executive, Nick Devlin. The company did, however, acknowledge “significant levels of political and economic uncertainty” in its key markets, which include the US and the UK.
Naked Wines said that pre-tax losses in the period deepened by £2.7m to £8.9m. It blamed the slump mainly on a £4m exceptional charge because it expected to receive less than originally expected from the sale of Majestic Wine stores in Calais.
The company said the UK’s new duty free import rules were “likely to result in a material impact on the Majestic Calais business”.
Majestic Wine was sold to a unit of SoftBank last December.
Donato Paolo Mancini in London
The coronavirus vaccine that Oxford University and AstraZeneca are developing has elicited a strong immune response and been shown to be safe in older adults, a group at higher risk of developing severe symptoms of Covid-19.
In phase 2 results published in The Lancet, researchers said the vaccine was better tolerated in older people than in younger adults, and that it produced a similar immune response in both groups.
Phase 2 trials are not definitive and, crucially, do not measure efficacy, the metric regulators seek to warrant approval. Separate Phase 3 trials of the vaccine are under way, and results are expected before the end of the year.
Oxford’s Andrew Pollard, the study lead, said immune responses were usually weaker in older adults because the immune system deteriorates with age. “As a result, it is crucial that Covid-19 vaccines are tested in this group who are also a priority group for immunisation,” he said.
The Financial Times first reported on the promising data last month.
Results from trials by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna on potential vaccines have spurred widespread optimism recently, with greater-than-expected phase 3 efficacy figures for their jabs. The findings have raised the prospect of at least two vaccines being approved on an emergency basis before the end of the year.
Joe Miller in Frankfurt
Thyssenkrupp, the ailing German steel and materials group, plunged to a full-year loss of €5.5bn and announced a further 7,400 job cuts, as the pandemic increases the pressure on the former conglomerate to speed up its restructuring.
The Essen-based company, which employs more than 100,000 people, warned that it expects to slump to a further loss of at least €1bn in the current financial year.
Unable to escape a steady decline over the past decade, Thyssenkrupp sold its lucrative elevators business to a private equity consortium for €17bn in February, to help it pay down billions of euros in debt, and fund huge pension liabilities.
But one of the best-known names in German industry has continued to bleed cash in its remaining businesses, with free cash flow collapsing in its last financial year, which ran through to the end of September.
Having cycled through three chief executives in 15 months, Thyssenkrupp is now under the leadership of an outsider, former Bosch executive Martina Merz, who gave up the chairmanship of the company’s supervisory board to take the executive reins in October 2019.
In May, Ms Merz outlined a deep restructuring plan that would result in nine businesses — with combined sales of over €6bn a year and a total of 20,000 employees — leaving the company completely, and the remaining units being run under a loose holding structure.
The extra job cuts announced on Thursday bring the total number of roles at risk to 11,000, and Thyssenkrupp refused to rule out forced redundancies.
Stephanie Findlay in New Delhi
Delhi reported its largest number of coronavirus deaths in one day, the biggest since November, as the capital city is in the grips of a third wave of coronavirus.
The state recorded 131 fatalities on Wednesday, the latest health data showed, bringing the total number of deaths to 7,943.
Delhi has the fourth highest number of Covid 19 deaths in the country of 1.4bn people — behind Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu — but it is seeing a significant surge in cases that is overwhelming already stretched hospitals.
Doctors have warned that the cold weather and pollution, which under normal circumstances worsen respiratory illnesses, are exacerbating the severity of coronavirus infections, leading to more hospitalisations and complications.
Despite the high numbers, Delhi’s health minister Satyendar Jain ruled out another lockdown earlier this week.
“The lockdown had been an experiment and what we have learnt that wearing masks can give us the same benefits,” said Mr Jain.
Benjamin Parkin in Mumbai
India is approaching 9m coronavirus infections after recording 45,000 new cases over the past 24 hours.
India is now at 8.96m confirmed cases in total. Recorded cases across South Asia surpassed 10m on Thursday, according to a Reuters tally, with nearly half a million in neighbouring Bangladesh, more than 300,000 in Pakistan and 200,000 in Nepal.
In September, India was recording nearly 100,000 new cases a day and was on track to surpass the US for the world’s highest caseload. But daily infections have fallen sharply in recent weeks, dropping to a four-month low of below 30,000 on Tuesday.
Sero-prevalence surveys across both urban and rural India, however, suggest that the true spread has been many times higher than what the official figures capture.
India added 585 new deaths on Thursday, bringing the total to more than 131,000.
Jonathan Wheatley in London
In a crisis, it pays to be wealthy. The response of the developed world to the devastation of their economies by coronavirus has been to throw money at the problem. The IMF estimates that the combined fiscal and monetary stimulus delivered by advanced economies has been equal to 20 per cent of their gross domestic product.
Middle income countries in the developing world have been able to do less but they still put together a combined response equal to 6 or 7 per cent of GDP, according to the IMF.
For the poorest countries, however, the reaction has been much more modest. Together they injected spending equal to just 2 per cent of their much smaller national output in reaction to the pandemic. That has left their economies much more vulnerable to a prolonged slump, potentially pushing millions of people into poverty.
Read more here
Richard Milne, Nordic and Baltic Correspondent
Populist parties will gain in popularity and economies will remain closed unless Europe manages to get Covid-19 infections under control, according to the prime minister of the country with the lowest number of cases in the EU.
Sanna Marin, Finland’s prime minister, told the Financial Times that the public across Europe could blame governments for closing economies and hurting their wages and employment.
“This will cause protests more and more, and it’s a breeding ground for populist movements across Europe. When you’re closing an economy and people’s workplaces, it will cause political instability. Populists come with easy answers to difficult problems, but their solutions are rarely the right ones,” she added.
Read more here
Eva Szalay in London and Colby Smith in New York
Wall Street analysts expect the arrival of a vaccine against coronavirus to send the dollar sinking next year as confidence returns to the global economy.
Big banks with already negative views on the dollar for 2021 cut their forecasts further this month after clinical trials bolstered hopes that vaccines could become widely available next year, sparking an economic rebound that encourages a hunt for riskier bets.
The dollar is typically in demand in times of stress, reflecting its traditional role as a haven for investors and savers, as seen in a startling rally at the height of the coronavirus outbreak in March. Now some currency watchers believe a vaccine changes everything.
“Vaccine distribution we believe will check off all of our bear market signposts, allowing the dollar to follow a similar path to that it experienced from the early to mid-2000s,” Citi analyst Calvin Tse said in a research note. “Can the dollar decline 20 per cent next year alone? We think yes,” the bank added.
Read more here
Christian Shepherd in Beijing
A fifth Chinese-made Covid-19 vaccine has been approved to start final stage efficacy trials, as the country’s leading developers rush to close on global leaders in the race to find a coronavirus cure.
Anhui ZhifeiLongcom, a subsidiary of Shenzhen-listed Chongqing Zhifei Biological, has launched phase 3 trials in Xiangtan city, Hunan province after receiving regulatory approval and intends to begin similar tests overseas this month, Chinese state media reported.
The vaccine uses a “recombinant subunit” — a small piece of virus DNA that has been amplified by bacterial or yeast cells — to spark an immune response, a method that tends to minimise the possibility of adverse reactions but can mean less immunity than other options.
Rapid progress from China’s leading vaccine developers in the early days of the pandemic has slowed in recent months as the near eradication of the virus within China required groups to carry out trials outside the country.
Anhui ZhifeiLongcom hopes to begin overseas trials in Uzbekistan this month and then expand tests to Indonesia, Pakistan and Ecuador, with a target of recruiting 29,000 participants in total, the Science and Technology Daily newspaper reported.
Results from phase 3 tests carried out in the general population are necessary to demonstrate the overall safety and effectiveness of a vaccine before regulators can approve it for commercial sale.
China already has four vaccine candidates also currently carrying out final stage trials with partners around the world: two made by state-run Sinopharm and one each from CanSino and Sinovac.
Pfizer and Moderna’s recent announcement of promising final stage results has dampened investor interest in Chinese pharmaceutical companies, knocking £13bn off] their market capitalisation.
Gary Jones in Hong Kong
Criminals, terrorists and political extremists are exploiting the pandemic to build support networks, undermine trust in government and even weaponise the virus, according to a new research report by the UN’s Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute.
“Terrorist, violent extremist and organized criminal groups are trying to take advantage of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic to expand their activities and jeopardize the efficacy and credibility of response measures by governments,” UNICRI director Antonia Marie De Meo wrote in the report.
“It is also alarming that some terrorist and violent extremist groups have attempted to misuse social media to incite potential terrorists to intentionally spread Covid-19 and to use it as an improvised form of a biological weapon.”
Social media was being used to “inspire terrorism”, the researchers found.
“There are cases in which right-wing extremist groups … explicitly asked their followers to spread the virus by coughing on their local minority or by attending to specific places where religious or racial minorities gather. Other groups … advocate to spread the coronavirus disease in countries with large populations or high levels of pollution,” the report said.
One case of “inspired terrorism” highlighted by the report, entitled ‘Stop the Virus of Disinformation’, was that of Timothy Wilson, who plotted to detonate a bomb in a hospital caring for coronavirus patients in Kansas City.
Wilson was killed during a firefight with FBI officers in March. He had been active on neo-Nazi channels on the social media platform Telegram, and his last online comment was an anti-semitic message regarding the origin of Covid-19, the report said.
The report examines three groups of non-state actors: right-wing extremists, groups associated with Isis and Al-Qaida, and organised crime. It describes how they have used social media to spread conspiracy theories and disinformation about the virus, expanding their networks by exploiting algorithms that identify those who have liked and forwarded memes.
Such conspiracy theories, the report said, have included “the identification of the 5G mobile phone signal as a vehicle to transmit the virus, or the false claim that the pandemic has been masterminded by Bill Gates to implant microchips into human beings, or the false idea that the virus is a hoax and does not exist”.
Gary Jones in Hong Kong
New Zealand on Thursday announced new testing measures to increase the safety of border workers.
“These strengthened rules — to apply to all international airports and ports — build on the mandatory testing orders we’ve been implementing since August and will make our border safety even stronger,” said the country’s Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins.
“The rules extend testing to workers not previously covered and increase the frequency of testing for some higher risk workers.”
The new rules include increasing the frequency of testing for ship pilots, as well as for some workers who carry out work on affected ships and on aircraft that have arrived from outside of New Zealand, from fortnightly to weekly.
There will also be mandatory fortnightly testing for port workers not already covered, and for airport airside and landside workers not already covered who interact with international arriving or transiting passengers.
New Zealand has successfully contained outbreaks of the virus on its shores, but remains vulnerable to imported infections.
The new requirements will come into force from midnight on November 26.
Meanwhile, the New Zealand government confirmed an in-principle agreement to purchase up to 5m million Covid-19 vaccines from Janssen Pharmaceutica, subject to clinical trials and passing regulatory approvals in the country, the research, science and innovation minister Megan Woods said.
“This agreement forms part of our portfolio approach to ensure that we have the ability to access a range of vaccine options, if and when a suitable vaccine is developed and approved.”
Sun Yu in Beijing
When protesters besieged the Beijing headquarters of an apartment rental company in a rare show of public outrage last week, it shook one of China’s fastest growing and most highly leveraged industries to its foundations.
The dozens of landlords, tenants, contractors and cleaners gathered outside Danke’s offices alleged the company broke lease contracts and defaulted on payments. Such claims are becoming widespread across a sector that manages up to half of the Chinese capital’s rental homes.
“Pay back my hard-earned money,” read one banner carried by the protesters outside Danke’s offices in the centre of the city.
China’s once high-flying residential rental industry, in which companies sign multiyear leases with individual landlords before subletting the homes to tenants, has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak.
Read more here
Alice Woodhouse in Hong Kong
South Australia reported no new coronavirus infections on Thursday as the state entered a six-day lockdown to prevent a wider community outbreak following a cluster of cases.
The circuit breaker was triggered after health authorities this week linked 23 coronavirus cases to a quarantine hotel, breaking the state’s months-long run of no locally transmitted infections. There are also 17 suspected infections linked to the cluster.
More than 20,000 residents have been tested over the past 48 hours, premier Steven Marshall said at a press conference.
“This six-day pause in community activity will bring additional difficulties for more South Australians,” Mr Marshall said. “The alternative is the virus escapes into the wider community and we are forced into an extended lockdown to bring it under control.”
He said the six days will be used for a “contact-tracing blitz” and that thousands are thought to have been in contact with infected people.
International flights into Adelaide have been cancelled until the end of the month.
The state of Victoria, which triggered a lockdown in July to halt an outbreak in Melbourne, reported another day of no new infections, making 20 days of no new cases.
Peter Wells in New York
US coronavirus deaths rose by the most in more than six months on Wednesday, propelling the country’s average fatality rate above that seen during the summer and to its highest since May.
States attributed a further 1,869 deaths to coronavirus, according to Covid Tracking Project data, up from 1,555 on Monday and compared with 1,543 on Wednesday last week.
There have been 241,704 deaths attributed to coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to Covid Tracking Project data, which the Financial Times uses for analysis. Johns Hopkins University, which uses an alternative methodology, today put the tally at 250,000.
It was the biggest single-day increase in fatalities since the 2,753 reported on May 7, when coronavirus was ravaging northeastern states like New York and New Jersey.
Over the past week, the US has averaged 1,162 coronavirus deaths a day, the highest since late May and surpassing the highest rate during summer of 1,142 a day when states in the sunbelt were battling the outbreak.
Deaths tend to lag cases and hospitalisations, both of which are now at record levels.
There are currently 79,410 people in US hospitals being treated for coronavirus, the highest level of the pandemic.
States reported a further 163,975 Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, up from 156,722 on Tuesday, compared with 144,801 on Wednesday last week. The US had a record 172,106 infections last Thursday.
The US has reported 1.1m new cases over the past week, a record for a seven-day period.
Gary Jones in Hong Kong
With Covid-19 cases on the rise in the Middle East following weeks of decline, the region’s top UN official has welcomed the Palestinian Authority’s decision to resume coordination with Israel.
In a briefing to the Security Council on Wednesday, UN special coordinator Nikolay Mladenov said Gaza was ill-equipped to handle a major rise in cases due to its fragile healthcare system, warning that any significant outbreak would have a disastrous impact on the 2m Palestinians living there.
Poor living conditions, severe movement restrictions and years of humanitarian crisis, he said, would serve to exacerbate any large outbreak in Gaza.
“For these reasons, I welcome the Palestinian Authority’s decision to restart civilian and security coordination with Israel,” he said. “I express my appreciation to Israel for confirming that existing bilateral agreements continue to govern relations between both parties, particularly in the context of economic, security and civilian affairs.”
Mr Mladenov said unemployment and hunger have soared in Gaza during the pandemic. Some 121,000 Palestinians have lost their jobs, with 40 per cent of households having seen their incomes fall by more than half.
Assistance provided by the UN and its partners has included the delivery of nearly 85,000 Covid-19 tests, advanced laboratory equipment, ventilators and monitors.
Peter Wells in New York
Minnesota’s governor has ordered bars and restaurants to offer only takeout options, gyms to close and limits on social gatherings for the next four weeks in an effort to curb record levels of daily coronavirus cases, hospitalisations and deaths.
Covid-19 was spreading at an “alarming pace”, Tim Walz said during a televised press conference on Wednesday evening, and was “overwhelming businesses, schools, hospitals” and care facilities in the Midwestern state.
The new restrictions take effect on Saturday and will halt in-person dining at bars and restaurants and close other businesses with indoor operations such as gyms and fitness centres, cinemas, bowling alleys and bingo halls.
Social gatherings will now be limited to people from the same household, while celebrations such as weddings will also be paused for the next four weeks. Youth and adult sports will be put on hold. Places of worship and essential businesses such as supermarkets will remain open.
The new restrictions follow steps by several other states and cities over the past week to impose new curbs on economic activity following surges in coronavirus cases. New York City earlier on Wednesday ordered public schools to close from Thursday, while earlier this week Philadelphia also told schools to shift to online learning only, banned indoor activities and businesses including dining at restaurants, gyms and casinos.
Ohio on Tuesday announced a new statewide curfew between the hours of 10pm and 5am, while Maryland ordered bars and restaurants to cease late-night in-person dining.
Mr Walz said that more than one-third of all new cases in Minnesota have no known source and that more than 90 per cent of frontline hospital workers who have become infected with coronavirus are catching it through community spread.
Minnesota has confirmed 242,043 Covid-19 cases and registered 3,010 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to health department data.
Alice Woodhouse in Hong Kong
Asia-Pacific equities dipped on Thursday as optimism over progress on Covid-19 vaccines was offset by further shutdowns designed to stem the spread of the virus.
Japan’s Topix fell 0.3 per cent, the Kospi in South Korea was also down 0.3 per cent and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.4 per cent.
Vaccine-related optimism came from an update from Pfizer and BioNTech that they would submit their Covid-19 vaccine to regulators in the US and Europe for emergency approval “within days”. The companies said further data showed the vaccine to be 95 per cent effective.
However, that was tempered by rising coronavirus case counts and concern over the economic recovery, and with New York shutting its schools.
In the US, the S&P 500 ended down 1.2 per cent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite shed 0.8 per cent.
Gary Jones in Hong Kong
An outbreak of deadly Ebola in Democratic Republic of Congo is over, the government announced on Wednesday. The World Health Organization said valuable lessons learned in the five-month response to the epidemic will be crucial to fighting Covid-19 in Africa.
The outbreak in DRC’s northwestern Equateur province emerged in early June and caused 130 Ebola cases and 55 deaths. The WHO-supported response included the vaccination of more than 40,000 people at high risk of falling sick from the frequently fatal haemorrhagic disease.
Like at least one of the Covid-19 candidate vaccines, the Ebola vaccine needs to be kept at super-cold temperatures to keep it from spoiling. “Overcoming one of the world’s most dangerous pathogens in remote and hard to access communities demonstrates what is possible when science and solidarity come together,” said Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa.
“The technology used to keep the Ebola vaccine at super-cold temperatures will be helpful when bringing a Covid-19 vaccine to Africa. Tackling Ebola in parallel with Covid-19 hasn’t been easy, but much of the expertise we’ve built in one disease is transferrable to another and underlines the importance of investing in emergency preparedness and building local capacity.”
The Ebola response includes the deployment of special freezers that can store vaccines in the field for up to a week, enabling responders to vaccinate people in areas without electricity. The challenge was further complicated by the Covid-19 pandemic and the spread of Ebola cases in remote areas in dense rainforests.
Many affected areas were accessible only by boat or helicopter and had limited telecommunications capacity. The response was also slowed by a strike among health service providers over pay.
“This great achievement shows that together we can overcome any health challenge,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director general, said in a tweet.
Peter Wells in New York
Texas reported its biggest one-day jump in coronavirus deaths in two-and-a-half months on Wednesday.
Deaths leapt by 187, the health department revealed, up from 117 on Tuesday and compared with 141 on Wednesday last week.
It was the biggest one-day jump in fatalities since early September, and took the overall number of coronavirus deaths in the state to 19,883, a toll second only to New York.
A further 8,489 people tested positive, the health department revealed, down from Tuesday’s record of 10,823 new cases and compared with 10,097 on Wednesday last week.
Authorities have for months added older cases stemming from backlogs of tests at commercial laboratories to the statewide toll, although these are excluded from the daily figure. There were about 380 historical infections revealed by authorities, including 184 from El Paso county.
The number of people currently in Texas hospitals being treated for coronavirus rose to 7,958, the highest level since August 7.
Peter Wells in New York
Florida became the third US state to top 900,000 coronavirus cases on Wednesday as it experiences a sustained rise in new daily cases.
A further 7,925 people tested positive over the past 24 hours, the state health department revealed this afternoon, up from 7,285 on Tuesday and compared with 5,669 on Wednesday last week.
On Sunday, Florida had 9,820 new cases, the biggest one-day increase since late July, and the state’s average of 6,604 cases a day over the past week, is the highest since early August.
Overall, Florida has confirmed 905,248 cases since the start of the pandemic, according to the state health department. Only Texas and California, with more than 1m infections each, have reported more.
A further 88 deaths were attributed to coronavirus, up from 86 on Tuesday and compared with 52 on Wednesday last week. Although the trend in daily fatalities in Florida had declined since the summer, it has been rising since the start of autumn and, at 62 deaths a day over the past week, the seven-day average is now at its highest since late October.
There are similar resurgent trends occurring in California, another sunbelt state that experienced a surge in cases, hospitalisations and deaths during the summer.
The Golden State reported a further 9,811 coronavirus cases on Wednesday, up from 8,743 on Tuesday and compared with 7,464 on Wednesday last week. California has averaged 9,015 new infections a day over the past week, the highest level since mid-August.
Deaths rose by 61. That is 20 fatalities higher than the state’s seven-day average, which has remained relatively steady in the low- to mid-40s this month.
Regeneron’s chief executive said US President Donald Trump ticked all the boxes to qualify for receiving the biotech’s antibody treatment on a compassionate use basis. Leonard Schleifer said Regeneron had a “principled approach” to allowing patients to be treated with the drug, which has not yet been approved, outside of clinical trials.
New York City will close public schools from Thursday after coronavirus test positivity rates in the city crossed a threshold level. The seven-day average of testing positivity in the country’s most populous city hit 3 per cent.
Every American state will receive a shipment of Covid-19 vaccines within 24 hours of the US drug regulator issuing an emergency use authorisation, according to plans drawn up by Operation Warp Speed. General Gustave Perna said vaccines will be sent to 64 jurisdictions, including all 50 states, six metropolitan areas, and territories, as soon as the Food and Drug Administration has given the go ahead.
US petroleum demand plunged last week amid surging cases. Petrol consumption fell 6 per cent in the seven days to November 13 compared with the previous week to 8.3m barrels a day, according to data released by the Energy Information Administration.
Norwegian Air Shuttle is filing for protection from creditors under the Irish equivalent of Chapter 11 as the carrier becomes the largest casualty of the Covid-19 crisis in aviation. Norwegian, Europe’s third-largest low-cost airline, said that two of its main subsidiaries would file for examinership in Ireland, a reorganisation process akin to Chapter 11 in the US.
The Swiss government has said it will deploy 2,500 military personnel to help ease pressure on its health system as seeks to avoid a second lockdown. In October, Switzerland experienced a surge in Covid-19 cases that made the wealthy alpine country one of the worst-hit in Europe during the second wave of the pandemic.
The rate of US new home construction exceeded expectations last month as housing demand continues to be boosted during the coronavirus pandemic. US housing starts jumped 4.9 per cent month on month to an annualised pace of 1.53m in October.
Iran’s daily death toll could exceed 1,000 when mistestings and probable cases are included, the health ministry said. “It is possible the figure has passed four-digit figures on days when the fatalities are very high,” Sima Lari, Iran’s health ministry spokesperson, said.
German police used water cannon against anti-lockdown protesters in central Berlin after they ignored calls to disperse. Police stopped the demonstration after protesters failed to observe social-distancing rules and wear masks.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson rebutted criticism from the Labour opposition leader for the government’s lack of oversight and due diligence on multimillion pound contracts to procure personal protective equipment during the pandemic. Keir Starmer narrowed in on £21m paid to a go-between to fix £250m worth of contracts for a Miami jewellery designer to provide PPE to the NHS.
UK government advisers have urged people to “make every effort” to follow the stricter rules so as to enjoy a Christmas “as close to normal as possible”. People need “to make every effort over this national restriction period and even in early December”, said Susan Hopkins, an infectious diseases adviser at Public Health England.
Pfizer and BioNTech said they would submit their Covid-19 vaccine for US and EU emergency approval “within days”, after new data showed it was even more effective than previously reported. The jab was found to have an efficacy rate of 95 per cent, the companies said, matching results released this week by vaccine rival Moderna.
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