Spain Deaths Up 32%; Senate Weighs Bailout Package: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) — Deaths from the coronavirus in Spain jumped by more than 30% for the second day in a row, a week after the country went into a national lockdown to try to slow the spread of the disease. Total cases reached almost 25,000 while infections in Iran topped 20,000.

The U.S. Senate is continuing talks to expand an economic rescue package expected to exceed $1 trillion. Germany is considering measures including direct assistance to companies and low-income earners, according to a person familiar with the status of the talks as of late Friday.

New York City is closing all non-essential businesses Sunday and U.K. pubs are shut, as more people around the globe were told to stay home in unprecedented responses to the pandemic.

Key Developments:

Worldwide cases top 260,000, more than 10,000 deadSpain says deaths increased 32% to 1,326Iran cases exceed 20,000, number of deaths slowsU.S. infections exceed 17,000, fatalities top 220

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EU States Should Share Burden (8:40 a.m. NY)

The European Union must seek to enable its member states to share the burden placed on their budgets by the coronavirus outbreak, according to the governor of the Bank of Spain.

Economic measures enacted so far by national governments across Europe and by the European Central Bank will grant significant economic relief in the face of the pandemic, but further measures are needed, Bank of Spain Governor and ECB Governing Council member Pablo Hernandez de Cos said in an op-ed published Saturday in El Pais.

Germany Considers Aid Package (8:20 a.m. NY)

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is putting together a package of measures ahead of a cabinet meeting Monday as it readies more than 150 billion euros ($160 billion) in new debt financing to help stem the economic fallout of the pandemic.

Measures being considered include direct assistance to companies and low-income earners, according to a person familiar with the status of the talks as of late Friday. The discussions are ongoing and the final proposal could still change.

Finland Reports First Death (8:04 a.m. NY)

The elderly patient died on March 20, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare said in a statement, without providing further details. Finland now has 521 confirmed cases, though it’s only testing severely ill people and health-care professionals.

In the Netherlands, fatalities increased by 30 to 136. The total number of cases is 3,631.

French Firms Donate Masks (7:30 a.m. NY)

Bouygues SA, the French construction and telecom company, said it will donate 1 million protective masks to the French health system. LVMH said it’s arranged with a Chinese supplier to deliver 10 million masks in France in coming days and will repeat the order over at least four weeks in similar quantities. Bernard Arnault arranged for LVMH to finance the first week of deliveries, amounting to 5 million euros ($5.3 million).

In the U.K., Smiths Group said it will significantly increase production of ventilators to meet increased demand from the U.K. and across Europe. Smiths Medical is talking to contract manufacturers in the U.S. to boost production levels.

Spain Says Deaths Rose 32% (7:22 a.m. NY)

The number of deaths from coronavirus in Spain jumped by 32% to 1,326 on Saturday, according to data published by the government.

The number of confirmed cases rose to 24,926 from 19,980 cases on Friday, according to the Health ministry data.

Belgium, Portugal Cases Climb (7:20 a.m. NY)

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Belgium rose by 558, or 25%, to 2,815, Belgian authorities said on Saturday. The new cases are from Friday.

Portuguese cases increased 25% to 1,280, with 12 deaths, the government’s Directorate-General of Health said. That’s slower than a 30% increase reported on Friday.

Luxembourg cases rose to 670 from 484 and deaths to eight, while Finnish infections climbed to 521 from 450.

Hong Kong to Test All Arrivals (7:17 a.m. NY)

Hong Kong will extend Covid-19 testing to asymptomatic arrivals after a sharp rise in infections driven mainly by imported cases, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said.

The government will take other measures, including postponing university entrance exams and ordering civil servants to return to working from home, Lam told the media Saturday. The resumption of schools, which have been closed since the lunar new year in January, will be delayed until further notice, Education Secretary Kevin Yeung said at the briefing.

Egypt Suspends Friday Prayers (7:15 a.m. NY)

Egyptian government announced a slew of measures to contain the spread of the virus, including suspending Friday’s prayers in Alazhar Mosque for two weeks, shutting Orthodox churches and closing cultural sites, Skynews Arabia reported.

VW Sees Longer Shutdown (7:10 a.m. NY)

Volkswagen Chief Executive Officer Herbert Diess told workers that factory closures are likely to drag on longer than the two to three weeks currently planned, as the world’s largest carmaker girds for government lockdowns aimed at fighting the spread of the coronavirus.

“Drastic measures to protect liquidity” are needed to cope with the crisis, Diess said Saturday in a message on VW’s intranet and later posted on LinkedIn. He said safeguarding the availability of spare parts and battery-cell supply are among the initiatives that are also “extremely important to cope with the crisis.”

Iran Cases Top 20,000 (5:30 p.m. HK)

In Iran, the death toll reached 1,556 after the country reported a further 123 fatalities in the past 24 hours, the first slowdown in the number of reported deaths since March 9. The total number of confirmed cases in Iran stands at 20,610 after 966 new infections were confirmed over the past day, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said in a statement on state TV.

Angola Has First Cases (4:38 p.m. HK)

Angola reported its first two Covid-19 cases on Saturday, RNA said. President Joao Lourenco flew to Namibia for the inauguration of President Hage Geingob, about 24 hours after his country started a 15-day suspension of all passenger flights because of the coronavirus.

Cornwall Asks People to Stay Away (4 p.m. HK)

The U.K. region of Cornwall, a popular summer holiday destination in England’s remote southwest, is urging people who aren’t from there but are seeking a pleasant place to self-isolate to stay away, the Guardian reported on Saturday. The municipal and health authorities and the local tourist organization issued a joint statement asking people to stay away, the newspaper said, citing concerns about whether local hospitals would be able to cope and panic buying at supermarkets.

Thailand Imposes Partial Lockdown (2:23 p.m. HK)

Thailand’s capital imposed a partial shutdown from Sunday after novel coronavirus cases surged past 400 with a rising number of people in critical condition.

Malls in Bangkok will be closed, and shops offering food and essential services will be among the few that can remain open, Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang said in a briefing Saturday. The restrictions will last from March 22 to April 12, he said.

India Extends Virus Testing (1:33 p.m. HK)

India expanded the criteria for people who should be tested for coronavirus, as the world’s second-most populous nation aims to limit the outbreak locally.

All patients with pneumonia symptoms or severe respiratory illnesses must be tested, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said Friday. Earlier, the bulk of India’s testing was aimed at individuals who have traveled internationally.

Jack Ma Sending 1.8 Million Masks to Asia (1:25 p.m. HK)

Jack Ma, Asia’s richest man, pledged 1.8 million face masks and 210,000 coronavirus test kits to some of the continent’s poorest nations, the latest step in an ongoing effort from his foundation to push back against what’s become a global pandemic.

Olympic Organizers Not at Stage to Make Decision (1:08 p.m. HK)

The Tokyo 2020 organizing committee isn’t yet at the stage where it can make a decision on whether or not to cancel or postpone the Olympics, Kyodo News reported Saturday, citing an interview with Executive Board Vice President Toshiaki Endo.

Endo made the remarks in response to the Norwegian Olympic Committee’s release of a letter urging the International Olympic Committee not to hold the games in Tokyo until the coronavirus outbreak is “under firm control on a global scale,” according to Kyodo.

Google Coronavirus Website Launches (12 p.m. HK)

Google launched a website dedicated to information about Covid-19 a week after U.S. President Donald Trump touted the company’s help in the fight against the pandemic.

The internet giant said it worked with “relevant agencies and authorities” to roll out the site — google.com/covid19 — which went live on the web late Friday offering education, prevention and local resources related to the novel coronavirus.

Singapore Reports First Coronavirus Deaths (11:50 a.m. HK)

Two people died of the coronavirus in Singapore on Saturday morning, the first confirmed fatalities in the Southeast Asian nation.

The two were a 75-year-old female Singaporean, and a 64-year-old Indonesian man, the health ministry said.

Iran Calls for Removal of Sanctions (11:04 a.m. HK)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urged the U.S. public to call on their government to remove sanctions against the Islamic Republic amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“People of the United States, in the name of justice and humanity, I address your conscience and Godly souls, and call upon you to make your Administration and Congress see that the path of sanctions and pressure has never been successful and will never be so in the future,” Rouhani said in a message addressing U.S. citizens.

Senate’s Virus Stimulus Getting Larger (10:56 a.m. HK)

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Senate Democrats are pushing to expand the Senate GOP’s economic rescue plan to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, continuing negotiations into the weekend on a package expected to exceed $1 trillion.

Republican and Democratic senators working out the details called it a night on Friday without a final deal. They promised to return Saturday to continue talks, with the goal to vote Monday.

Bondi Beach Closed After Australians Flout Advice (10:52 a.m. HK)

Australian authorities closed Sydney’s world-famous Bondi Beach, where thousands of people have flouted physical-distance guidelines designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

The temporary measure, effective immediately, may also be enforced at other beaches.

NYC to Close All Non-Essential Businesses (10:21 a.m. HK)

New York City is closing all non-essential businesses from Sunday to curb the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies, internet providers, mass transit, banks and other financial institutions will still be permitted to operate, the mayor said in a statement. The new restrictions will take effect Sunday 8 p.m. local time.

Read story here

Trump Approves New York Declaration (10:01 a.m. HK)

President Donald Trump declared that a major disaster exists in the State of New York and ordered federal assistance to be given to the state to aid local recovery efforts in areas impacted by the outbreak.

The move will unlock federal funding for New York state, the White House office of the press secretary said in a statement.

Read story here

North Korea Fires Missiles (9:16 a.m. HK)

North Korea appears to have fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea shared with Japan, hours after leader Kim Jong Un oversaw a military exercise.

The launches may be linked with the coronavirus pandemic, serving as a move by North Korea to tighten internal order and control, Japan’s Minister of Defense Taro Kono said.

Read story here

First Virus Death in Israel (8:53 a.m. HK)

Israel reported its first death from the coronavirus after an 88-year-old man died in Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek hospital on Friday night, the Times of Israel reported.

Meanwhile, Mexico confirmed its second death and Peru reported its first fatalities as medical experts worry that Latin America is unprepared for a larger outbreak.

Washington State Urges Residents to Stay Home (8 a.m. HK)

Washington Governor Jay Inslee stopped short of issuing an order to keep people isolated, but encouraged residents to stay home to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Inslee, whose state has reported the most deaths so far, said people aren’t treating the illness as a mortal threat.

U.S. Team Rescued From Honduras (7:55 a.m. HK)

An Air Force C-130 transport flew 89 Americans — including members of a U.S. women’s football team — out of Honduras to Charleston, South Carolina, the second mission to fetch citizens unable to leave the Central American country.

Earlier, a C-17 flew from Honduras’ Soto Cano Air Base with other passengers, including half of the team, the U.S. Southern Command said in a statement.

The 55-member team became trapped after Honduras closed its borders in response to the coronavirus. They were on a charity visit for a local homeless shelter, and to play in a tournament, CBS Sports said on its website.

Pence Aide Confirmed With Virus (6:30 a.m. HK)

An employee in the office of Vice President Mike Pence, leading the government’s response to the outbreak, has tested positive for the illness, according to a statement.

“Neither President Trump nor Vice President Pence had close contact with the individual,” said Katie Miller, Pence’s press secretary. “Further contact tracing is being conducted in accordance with CDC guidelines.”

NYC Leads U.S. in Cases (6:20 a.m. HK)

New York City accounts for almost a third of the U.S. cases of Covid-19, and half the infections in the state.

“We are now the epicenter of this crisis,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference.

De Blasio reported 5,151 infections as of Friday morning out of 17,041 nationwide and 7,102 in New York state. The virus has caused 29 deaths, the mayor said.

Three states have a majority of U.S. cases: New York, Washington and California.

Target, Walmart Aid Workers (6:15 a.m. HK)

Target Corp. is boosting hourly wages, expanding its paid-leave policy and delivering bonuses to thousands of store employees to reward rank-and-file staff for coping with the coronavirus.

The retailer is raising hourly pay by $2 until at least May 2, and offering paid sick leave of up to 30 days for staffers who are 65 or older, pregnant or have underlying medical conditions. It’s doling out bonuses from $250 to $1,500 for hourly workers who oversee departments like beauty or food and beverage.

The moves come just hours after rival Walmart Inc. said it would hire 150,000 additional staff and disperse bonuses of as much as $300 to its hourly associates.

United, Southwest Warn on Flights (5:40 p.m. NY)

United Airlines Holdings Inc. said it will lay off employees in less than two weeks unless Congress passes a package to help carriers amid a collapse in air travel. Southwest Airlines Co. said it will cut more flights.

United trimmed 60% of its typical schedule for April, cutting 85% of its international service and 42% of domestic flying. The schedule for May may be cut even further, Chief Executive Officer Oscar Munoz and President Scott Kirby told employees in a memo.

Southwest, which carries the most passengers in U.S. markets, will cut 1,000 daily flights starting Sunday because of a plunge in demand. International service will end after Sunday until at least May 4 as more nations restrict cross-border travel.

Hospital Stockpile Potential Covid-19 Drug (5:30 p.m. NY)

Hospitals are stockpiling a decades-old antimalarial drug touted by President Donald Trump and others as a treatment for the new coronavirus.

Hydroxychloroquine is being snapped up at more than twice the typical pace as U.S. hospitals seek to build inventories in anticipation of the medication’s potential use in patients with Covid-19.

In the first 17 days of March, hospitals bought an average of 16,110 units of hydroxychloroquine, up from an average 8,800 units a month from January 2019 through February 2020, according to Premier Inc., which helps member hospitals buy and manage their supplies.

Read story here

D.C. Extends Limits to Late April (5 p.m. NY)

Washington, D.C., extended the prohibition on mass gatherings until April 25 and will keep district schools, which shuttered this week, closed until April 27.

Restaurants and bars in the nation’s capital will continue to offer carry-out food to customers or delivery services. All indoor dining or drinking is banned.

Delta Workers Take Unpaid Leave (4:40 p.m. NY)

Delta Air Lines Inc. said more than 13,000 employees accepted voluntary unpaid leaves as the carrier struggles with the coronavirus outbreak, which slowed travel and led to cutbacks in flights.

“While I’m grateful to the thousands that have volunteered, we could use more,” Chief Executive Officer Ed Bastian said in a message to employees.

Bastian said revenue in the June quarter will be down 80% from a year earlier and the company is burning through about $50 million in cash every day. Delta suspended its capital return program, including stock repurchases, and future dividend payments.

Illinois Issues Shelter-in-Place Order (4:20 p.m. NY)

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker ordered residents to shelter in place starting Saturday, following California, New York and New Jersey in restricting the movement of residents to combat the coronavirus.

Earlier this month, Pritzker closed schools, dine-in service at bars and restaurants and banned gatherings of more than 50. Chicago earlier ordered sick residents to remain home.

Similar shelter-in-place actions were taken by governors in Connecticuty and Nevada.

Read story here

N.J. to Shut ‘Nonessential’ Businesses (4 p.m. NY)

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said he will sign an executive order requiring all “nonessential” businesses closed to help slow the spread of the virus. Murphy said he would give more details when he signs the order Saturday.

“The only way we’re going to beat this darn virus is if we literally stay home and stay away from each other,” Murphy said at a news conference in Paramus.

Read story here.

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