U.S. ‘Very Close’ on Aid Deal; Europe Cases Surge: Virus Update

U.S. ‘Very Close’ on Aid Deal; Europe Cases Surge: Virus Update
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(Bloomberg) -- The White House and Congress may be very close to a deal on an aid package that could boost the virus-battered economy by $2 trillion.

Cases surged across Europe, including in the U.K. and France, as Italy’s deaths rose again by a record. Germany plans more than $160 billion in debt spending to help stem the economic fallout.

Illinois sought help from retired doctors and nurses. U.K. pubs are closed, and New York City will close non-essential businesses on Sunday.

Key Developments:

Worldwide cases top 289,000, more than 11,900 deadItaly deaths jump 19% to 4,825; cases rise to 53,578U.S. infections exceed 17,000, fatalities top 220Bedside test gets FDA authorizationU.K. fatalities increase to 233 from 177 in one dayFrance deaths rise to 562 from 450 a day earlierVice President Pence to be tested for Covid-19

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Bedside Covid-19 Tests Gets OK (4:10 p.m. NY)

A Covid-19 test that can deliver results in less than an hour has been approved under an U.S. emergency authorization, marking the first test that clinicians can use at the bedside.

Cepheid, a Silicon Valley diagnostics company, announced Food and Drug Administration approval to use the test, making it the 13th Covid-19 test allowed on the market as long as the public health emergency exists. It’s the first that can be used at the point of care, meaning providers don’t have to send samples to a separate lab to be processed and then come back to the hospital or provider’s office. Cepheid said it expects to start shipping tests next week.

Read full story here

Illinois Seeks Retired Doctors, Nurses (3:45 p.m. NY)

Illinois is asking former doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists to rejoin the health-care workforce to help treat cornonavirus patients, Governor J.B. Pritzker said.

The state will waive fees and expedite licenses for health professionals who are retired or work in other fields, he said. Medical licenses that are about to expire will be extended through the end of September. The state had 168 new cases, for a total of 753, and six deaths.

Hours after President Trump praised the level of testing, Pritzker complained the process is still far below what the White House promised weeks ago. “I’m hopeful in a way that the commercial laboratories and the private sector will help us figure this out because so far the federal government hasn’t,” Pritzker said.

Deaths Surge Across Europe (3:30 p.m. NY)

Two of European biggest countries reported surges in deaths and infections.

Italy had a record 793 new deaths, raising the total to 4,825, and Silvio Brusaferro, head of Italy’s National Health Institute, appealed to the country’s 60 million citizens to heed lockdown recommendations. In Lombardy, where Italy is hardest-hit, the authorities clamped down further, even going so far as to ban jogging.

Spain reported an additional 324 deaths, raising the total to 1,326, about twice the pace recorded the previous day, according to the Health Ministry. The nation is in the second week of a state of emergency that has confined most people to their homes.

Venezuela Cases Rise (3 p.m. NY)

Venezuela reported 27 new cases in the past few days, bringing the total of infections to 70, Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said. More than 10 million people have filled out a government health survey, Rodriguez said, and those who said they have coronavirus symptoms will be visited at home by health officials for testing.

FAA Briefly Delays NYC Flights (2:45 p.m. NY)

Flights to New York’s three main airports were briefly delayed when the Federal Aviation Administration closed parts of an air-traffic control center after a trainee tested positive for Covid-19.

The agency stopped departures for New York citing “staffing issues” at the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center in Ronkonkoma, New York.

Flights departing other airports for John F. Kennedy International were held on the ground. An earlier slowdown for flights to Philadelphia International was lifted by 2:50 p.m. local time.

Five Die in New Jersey (2:20 p.m. NY)

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said “we’re at war” after five more died from the coronavirus, with total cases at 1,327. He signed an executive order banning gatherings and ordering all residents to stay at home.

Apple Donating Masks (2:15 p.m. NY)

Apple Inc. is donating 2 million industrial masks to plug shortages, Vice President Mike Pence said during a briefing at the White House. He urged other industries to follow.

Trump Says Deal Near on Aid (1:30 p.m. NY)

President Trump said negotiators are close to a deal on an economic aid package that he said will provide “massive relief” for small businesses and affected industries.

“They’re all negotiating and everybody’s working hard,” Trump said. “I think we’re getting very close” to a bill.

At the same briefing, Pence said progress has been made on a bipartisan measure. “We are working to pass that legislation on Monday in both the House and the Senate,” he said.

Pence said he and his wife will be tested for Covid-19 later Saturday after an aide in his office contracted the virus. The staffer had mild, cold-like symptoms for a day-and-a-half and has not been to the White House since Monday, Pence said.

N.Y. Races for Hospital Beds (1:25 p.m. NY)

New York is racing to add tens of thousands of hospital beds, buy thousands of ventilators and distribute millions of masks to medical workers, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

The state is trying to increase its beds by 50,000 to 75,000 by ending elective surgeries, reconfiguring space and adding medical staff. The state is considering several sites to convert into temporary hospitals, including the Javits Center in New York, college campuses at Stony Brook and Westbury, and the Westbury Convention Center.

Read full story here.

U.K. Retailer to Close for First Time (1:15 p.m. NY)

John Lewis Partnership said it will close its U.K. stores for the first time in its 155-year history.

All 50 John Lewis outlets will temporarily shut after the close of business on Monday. Johnlewis.com will continue to operate as normal, alongside its Waitrose grocery stores and waitrose.com.

Italian Deaths Rise by Record (1:15 p.m. NY)

Deaths in Italy jumped by a record 793 in one day, pushing the nation’s total to 4,825. Infections surged by 6,557 to reach 53,578, the government said.

The country already surpassed China in terms of deaths on Thursday. Total cases also jumped by a record 6,557 to 53,578, the civil protection said by email on Saturday. Recoveries reached 6,072 while 2,857 were in intensive care.

Canada Flies Home Stranded Nationals (12:35 p.m. NY)

Canada has an agreement with airlines to bring stranded residents home, starting with a flight this weekend from Morocco, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

Flights are also planned for Peru and Spain, Trudeau said at a press conference outside his official residence in Ottawa. The government will pay the extra costs to bring them back, he said.

Poland to Aid Small Business (12:30 p.m. NY)

Poland is planning to help workers at small businesses in a program that will cost the government about 13 billion zloty ($3.1 billion) a month, President Andrzej Duda said.

The plan includes salary assistance for up to three months and will be part of a 212 billion-zloty rescue package to shield the economy from the crisis, Duda told reporters. It will cover self-employed workers and companies employing up to nine people.

Read the story here.

Nigeria Warns on Drug (12:10 p.m. NY)

Nigeria reported two cases of chloroquine poisoning after U.S. President Donald Trump praised the anti-malaria drug as a treatment for the novel coronavirus.

Health officials are warning Nigerians against self-medicating after demand for the drug surged in Lagos, a city that’s home to 20 million people.

In a tweet Saturday, Trump said two drugs -- hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin -- “taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers” in medicine. He said he hoped both will be put to use “IMMEDIATELY. PEOPLE ARE DYING. MOVE FAST.”

Read the story here.

Cases Rise in New York (12:01 p.m. NY)

New York’s coronavirus cases soared to 10,356, a jump of more than 3,000 in one day, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, cautioning the total reflected stepped up testing. The state has tested 45,000 people, the highest rate in the world, he said.

New York located 6,000 new ventilators and is setting up four field hospitals to accommodate 1,000 people, he said. The governor said a million respirator masks are being sent to New York City, which has the most cases in the state.

Virus Aid to Top $2 Trillion, Kudlow Says (11:15 a.m. NY)

The coronavirus economic package is expected to give the U.S. economy about a $2 trillion boost, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said as he arrived at the Capitol for a new day of talks on the plan.

“The package is coming in at about 10% of GDP. It’s very large,” Kudlow told reporters. Later, he said the spending bill itself is expected total $1.3 trillion to $1.4 trillion.

Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Senate will work out details this weekend with the goal to vote Monday.

Drones to Watch Paris, AFP Says (11:10 a.m. NY)

Paris police will deploy drones to step up population monitoring, AFP reports, citing police chief Didier Lallement. France’s authorities want to crack down on residents who are not complying with confinement rules. Nice Republican Mayor Christian Estrosi started using drones in the coastal town last week.

Germany Drafts Aid Package (10:11 a.m. NY)

Olaf Scholz, Germany’s finance minister, pledged more than 150 billion euros ($160 billion) in new debt -- equivalent to almost 4.5% of Europe’s largest economy -- to support small companies struggling to cover overheads or help low-income earners.

Measures being considered include direct assistance to companies and low-income earners. The government holds a cabinet meeting on Monday.

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.

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

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