Global Covid-19 statistics

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Updated at October 20 2021 05:02 PM UTC - total vaccination doses given are from 233 locations. See all vaccine data.

Texas reports small daily rise in deaths, flags new disruption to test data

Peter Wells in New York

Texas reported its smallest one-day increase in coronavirus deaths since early July and its fewest new coronavirus cases in a week, but authorities warned that a network outage meant not all laboratories were able to report test results electronically.

A further 25 people died, the state health department revealed on Monday afternoon, down from 104 on Sunday. This was the smallest one-day increase since July 6, excluding August 2 when an update to Texas's Covid-19 dashboard resulted in no data being reported that day.

Authorities reported a further 2,754 new infections over the past 24 hours, the smallest daily increase in a week and down from 3,493 on Sunday. That excludes 93 cases in Dallas county that stemmed from a recent backlog of tests from commercial labs.

Early last week, authorities revealed the backlog of cases and said they would be gradually added to the statewide and county totals over subsequent days.

On Monday, there were further signs of disruption after authorities said testing figures would not be reported. "A network outage affecting multiple state agencies means not all labs were able to report their test results through the electronic lab reporting system," the health department said in a message on its online dashboard, adding it was not able to run quality checks on the data.

Figures on Monday tend to be lower than other days of the week owing to weekend delays in testing.

Wall Street advances to fresh record highs

Matthew Rocco

US stocks posted record highs for a second consecutive session on Monday amid hopes for a coronavirus vaccine and after a new Covid-19 treatment received emergency approval.

The S&P 500 jumped 1 per cent, its biggest rise in nearly six weeks, to close at a fresh all-time high of around 3,431. Shares across the energy and financial sectors fuelled the rally. Technology names also continued to gain, helping lift the Nasdaq Composite to a record high. The tech-heavy Nasdaq was up 0.6 per cent.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 1.4 per cent, with shares in Boeing up more than 6 per cent.

Donald Trump said on Sunday the Food and Drug Administration would give convalescent plasma therapy an emergency use authorisation (EUA) to treat patients hospitalised with Covid-19.

Wall Street’s gains also came after a Financial Times report that the Trump administration could grant an EUA to a potential coronavirus vaccine before the November elections.

Peter Tchir, head of macro strategy at Academy Securities, said the announcement “renewed optimism that we are beating the virus”, although tech stocks “seem very stretched”. The Nasdaq has surged 26.8 per cent since the start of the year, while the broader S&P 500 has climbed 6.1 per cent over the same period.

“I really believe we need to see some leadership from financials and other sectors to sustain the rally,” Mr Tchir added.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose 0.02 percentage points to 0.656 per cent, as investors moved out of the debt. Gold also fell, dropping 0.7 per cent.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against half a dozen peers, was up 0.1 per cent.

Additional reporting by Mamta Badkar

California averages fewer than 6,000 cases a day for first time since June

Peter Wells in New York

New coronavirus infections and deaths in California both fell to their lowest levels in about a week on Monday.

A further 4,946 people tested positive over the past 24 hours, state authorities revealed, down from 6,777 on Sunday. That was the smallest one-day increase in six days.

Over the past week, California has averaged about 5,800 new infections a day, the first time since June 29 the state's seven-day rolling average has been below 6,000, according to a Financial Times analysis of Covid Tracking Project data.

Figures on Mondays tend to be lower than other days of the week due to weekend delays in reporting data.

The death toll rose by 18, down from an increase of 146 on Sunday. Similarly, this was the smallest one-day increase since last Monday and follows six consecutive days when fatalities rose by more than 100 each day.

California has averaged 130 deaths a day over the past week, the highest rate since mid-August.

Why workers in some countries are more comfortable about returning to the office | Free to read

FT Reporters

In some parts of the northern hemisphere, it feels almost like a normal summer: city centres are quiet, schools are on holiday, offices closed. But this illusion conceals deeper uncertainty about what happens next. Assuming those offices reopen next month, will workers return? If not, why not? 

The answers so far seem to depend where you live. Polls struggle to keep up with the pandemic but two recent surveys suggest a difference of opinion between the US and UK, and other countries. The ManpowerGroup What Workers Want survey of eight countries, published this week but carried out in June, suggests staff in the US and UK were more negative then about returning to the workplace than their counterparts in Germany, France, Italy, Mexico, Singapore and Spain.

That nervousness is reflected in the number who have returned to work, according to another poll by AlphaWise last month for Morgan Stanley. At that stage, only 34 per cent of UK office workers said they had gone back to their usual workplace, compared with 83 per cent in France.

Read the full article here

UAE pre-school sector could collapse without financial aid, nurseries warn

Simeon Kerr in Dubai

Nurseries in the United Arab Emirates have warned the government that the pre-school education sector will collapse in September without immediate financial support to cushion the blow of their six-month closure because of coronavirus.

In a letter to the Gulf state’s education ministry and various regulators, a group representing UAE nurseries said 50-75 per cent of facilities would close next month if they were not allowed to reopen, triggering bankruptcies and redundancies.

Nurseries, mainly owned and operated by small businesses, called on a financial aid package to cover salaries and rent, their main expenses.

While schools and universities have been given guidance on reopening for the new academic year, kindergartens have been left frustrated at a lack of information since they shut down and stopped receiving fees in early March as the pandemic swept across the Gulf states.

“Things are dire for our sector,” said Shaun Robison, a governor of Dubai-based IDEA Early Learning Center. “And without clarity on the situation, businesses are about to collapse and cause mass unemployment and desperation.” Mr Robison fears at least 10,000 jobs are at risk.

This “unbelievably critical situation” threatens childcare options for working parents as the UAE economy seeks to restart, the letter said.

The human toll has been “massive”, with many staff on reduced salaries already having left the country. Landlords have started to evict operators because of a lack of clarity on reopening, the letter said.

Rebuilding the sector could take at least three to five years, it added.

Spain tops 400,000 cases of Covid-19

Daniel Dombey in Madrid

Spain has reported more than 19,000 new cases of coronavirus since Friday, as the country continues to contend with the highest levels of infection in Europe.

Ministry of health data issued on Monday evening recorded that the country had now crossed the threshold of 400,000 documented cases, with an accumulated total of 405,436, compared with 386,054 on Friday, the previous day when figures were issued.

However, the official number of people who died in the previous seven days after contracting coronavirus declined, from 125 on Friday to 96 on Monday, with accompanying falls in the number of people who entered intensive care in the past week - down to 74 from 93 - and those hospitalised more generally during that time, down to 1,294 from 1,467.

The number of people diagnosed in the previous 24 hours - an incomplete statistic because it excludes cases that were not notified in time - also fell, from 3,650 on Friday to 2,060 on Monday. It is not yet clear whether such declines are because of a slowing spread of the virus or a "weekend effect", which means cases, hospitalisations and deaths are reported more slowly than during days of the week.

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, an EU agency, coronavirus is more prevalent in Spain than anywhere else in the continent, with 153 people testing positive for Covid-19 per 100,000 people over the past two weeks - compared with 22 in the UK, 14.5 in Italy, 67 in France and 20 in Germany.

Florida reports fewer than 3,000 new cases for second day running

Peter Wells in New York

Florida reported fewer than 3,000 new coronavirus cases for the second day in a row for the first time in more than two months.

A further 2,258 people tested positive for the disease over the past 24 hours, the state's health department said, down from 2,974 on Sunday.

That is the first time since June 17 Florida has had back-to-back days of fewer than 3,000 new cases.

Although the downward trend in new infections in Florida, which became a hotspot for the virus over the summer, is encouraging, the state on Sunday became the second in the US to confirm more than 600,000 Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. Only California has reported more.

A further 72 people died from coronavirus in Florida, up from 51 on Sunday. It is the first time in two weeks the state has reported fewer than 100 fatalities a day for two days running.

Monday figures tend to be lower than other days of the week owing to weekend delays in reporting.

Of growing concern is that testing volumes in many US states is pulling back from higher levels earlier in the summer. Florida conducted about 45,600 tests over the past 24 hours, the fewest in a week and less than half of the 90,000-plus tests the state was averaging at the start of August. The percentage of people who tested positive was 5.2 per cent, down from 5.7 per cent on Sunday and around the lowest levels since mid-June.

Trends in hospitalisations also appear encouraging. The number of people in Florida hospitalised with Covid-19 has dropped by about 1,000 over the past week to 4,635 as of this morning. That is about half the state's peak level of more than 9,500 in late July.

Additional reporting by Matthew Rocco in New York

Hong Kong researchers find first proven case of Covid-19 reinfection

Clive Cookson

Researchers at the University of Hong Kong have recorded what they say is the first genetically proven case of Covid-19 reinfection - four and a half months after the patient originally caught the virus.

The 33-year-old man was hospitalised with moderate Covid-19 symptoms in Hong Kong in March, then tested positive again in August when he was screened at Hong Kong airport on returning from a trip to Spain. On this second occasion he displayed no symptoms of infection.

The HKU team proved that he had been re-infected - rather than the coronavirus persisting in his body - by taking genetic fingerprints on each occasion. These showed that the second virus had too many differences to have merely mutated within his body.

Although the findings suggest that immune protection from the Sars-Cov-2 virus that causes the disease may not last very long, other scientists responded cautiously to the case, which is scheduled for publication in Clinical Infectious Diseases but has not been described fully in a scientific journal.

Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead for Covid-19 at the World Health Organization, said she was still studying the Hong Kong reinfection case but urged people to put it into the context of 24m cases reported worldwide.

“I don’t want people to be afraid,” she said. “We need people to understand that if they are infected, even if it is only a mild case, they do develop an immune response.”

US equities rise to sustain tech-weighted record-breaking streak

Sarah Provan

US equities gained, with the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite index riding almost 1 per cent higher in early trading in New York.

The broader-based S&P 500 rose 0.7 per cent to build on a four-week advance that has taken Wall Street’s main barometer to a record, wiping out the steep loss caused by the coronavirus crisis.

“Big cap tech continues to ride the wave of euphoria and momentum while most other areas of the market that have lagged are more worried about the macroeconomic environment,” said Peter Boockvar at Bleakley Advisory Group. “We need the latter to reverse in order to maintain the former.”

He added: “I certainly can't give you a good fundamental reason for the rally because I can't find one.”

Apple set the pace, days after it became the first US group to hit a $2tn market valuation. The iPhone maker rose more than 3 per cent in early trading, with gains too for Amazon and Microsoft.

The S&P 500 has soared 55 per cent above the low it hit during the market ructions in March.

European equities gained strength from the buoyant mood in the US and Asia. The Stoxx 600 stepped up its pace to add 1.4 per cent in early afternoon trade on Monday, with equities advancing in Frankfurt, Paris and London. The regional benchmark is 14 per cent off its high for the year, struck in February.

Nigeria's contraction raises chance of second recession in four years

Neil Munshi, West Africa Correspondent

Nigeria's economy shrank 6.1 per cent in the second quarter compared with a year earlier, bolstering forecasts that Africa's biggest economy is heading for its second recession in four years amid the coronavirus pandemic and the oil price slump.

“The decline was largely attributable to significantly lower levels of both domestic and international economic activity during the quarter, which resulted from nationwide shutdown efforts aimed at containing the Covid-19 pandemic,” the statistics office said.

Nigeria reported last week that its unemployment rate had jumped to 27.1 per cent, while 28.6 per cent of Nigerians are underemployed, as of the second quarter.

Nigeria is Africa's largest crude producer, and oil accounts for roughly half of government revenues and nearly all of its foreign exchange receipts. But it contributes 9 per cent to gross domestic product, compared with nearly a quarter for agriculture.

The economy had barely recovered from a recession brought on by the 2014-15 oil price crash when the coronavirus crisis again hit crude and forced the country to lock down Lagos, its commercial centre.

The World Bank, the IMF and the finance ministry, which has had to slash the national budget, have estimated that Nigeria could fall into its deepest recession for decades.

Nigeria's central bank has devalued the naira twice this year, first at the height of global market volatility in March, when oil prices collapsed, and again last month.

US stock futures gain strength from pre-market trading in tech shares

US stock futures climbed, as shares in the technology industry look set to extend their record-breaking streak.

Investors meanwhile are looking ahead with some optimism to the US Federal Reserve’s economic symposium, due to start on Thursday.

The technology-based Nasdaq Composite appeared to show the way, with futures suggesting the index will gain 1.1 per cent while the more broad-based S&P 500 was tipped to pick up 0.8 per cent. Both closed at an all-time high on Friday, with the Nasdaq up more than 70 per cent from its 2020 closing low, struck in late March just as the Covid-19 crisis was beginning to grip the US.

Apple was poised to set the pace, days after it became the first US group to generate a $2tn valuation. The iPhone maker rose more than 3 per cent in pre-market trading, with gains too for Amazon and Microsoft.

European equities gained strength from the buoyant mood in the US and Asia. The Stoxx 600 stepped up its pace to add 1.7 per cent at midday on Monday, with equities advancing in Frankfurt, Paris and London. The regional benchmark is 14 per cent off its high for the year, struck in February.

Market participants said, in addition to Covid-19 developments, they would be paying close attention to the Kansas City Fed’s virtual Jackson Hole economic summit. Economists are expecting Jay Powell, the central bank chair, to unveil details of the Fed’s wide-ranging review of monetary policy.

“Indications that the Fed might adopt a so-called flexible-average-inflation-targeting approach could lead yields and rates of market-based inflation compensation slightly higher, while keeping a lid on real rates,” UniCredit analysts said in a note.

More than 150 arrested after post-match violence in Paris

Victor Mallet in Paris

French prosecutors said on Monday that 151 people had been arrested after violence erupted on the Champs-Elysées in central Paris following Bayern Munich’s 1-0 victory over Paris Saint-Germain in the European Champions League final on Sunday night.

The authorities criticised fans for gathering without taking social-distancing precautions against coronavirus. Police stopped more than 400 people for failing to wear face masks. The game took place in a crowdless Benfica stadium in Lisbon.

The arrests were made for attacks against the police, looting and damage to property.

Gérald Darmanin, interior minister, complained of “the savagery of some delinquents”. He said 16 members of the security forces had been injured, a dozen shops attacked and several vehicles set on fire.

Tesco to create 16,000 permanent jobs to support online business

UK supermarket chain Tesco has said it will create 16,000 permanent roles to bolster its rapidly growing online grocery business. 

The openings are to include 10,000 “pickers” who assemble customer orders and 3,000 drivers to deliver the goods to British households. The 16,000 permanent jobs are in addition to 4,000 created since the crisis started, the FTSE 100 group said. 

Tesco, other grocers and delivery services such as Ocado have recorded vigorous growth to their digital businesses as the pandemic has prompted more consumers to order their groceries rather than travel to supermarkets to purchase them.

The group said on Monday online sales now account for 16 per cent of the total, adding that it expects its internet sales to jump by two-thirds in the current year to £5.5bn.

The biggest UK supermarket by market share expects “the majority” of the permanent openings to be filled by temporary employees who joined since the Covid-19 crisis began earlier in 2020.

The plans come during a bleak time for the UK and global labour market. Britain has shed almost 750,000 jobs during the pandemic. Economists worry that those ranks will rise sharply as the government winds down its job retention scheme.

Boris Johnson urges parents to send children back to school

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged parents to send their children back to school for the start of the September term, after teaching unions warned the government was unprepared for a new wave of coronavirus cases.

Mr Johnson said on Twitter:

I have previously spoken about the moral duty to reopen schools to all pupils safely, and I would like to thank the school staff who have spent the summer months making classrooms Covid-secure in preparation for a full return in September.

He added:

It’s vitally important that we get our children back into the classroom to learn and to be with their friends. Nothing will have a greater effect on the life chances of our children than returning to school.

The UK's deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries on Monday told BBC radio that the risk for school workers of contracting the virus was highest “between staff”, and not from pupils.

Teachers and other school workers should carefully maintain social distancing and hand hygiene, she said, arguing that most transmissions of the virus in schools had occurred between adults.

But the National Teaching Union, Britain’s largest education trade union, has said that schools remain unprepared for a new mass outbreak of the virus. Speaking on LBC Radio, NEU joint chief Kevin Courtney said schools required more precise guidance from the government on issues such as when and where pupils over 12 should wear masks.

He also said that teachers and school staff would feel more confident about returning to work if the government’s highly criticised test and trace scheme was working better.

Taiwan's industrial output weakens as Covid-19 weighs on exports

Kathrin Hille in Taipei

Growth in Taiwan’s industrial production has weakened again in July, after a bump the previous month, as the global spread of coronavirus continues to weigh on export demand.

Industrial production increased 2.7 per cent last month compared with the same month a year earlier, Taiwan’s economy ministry said on Monday.

The country has avoided a recession, partly because its early containment of the pandemic allowed it to avoid the lockdowns that forced an almost complete halt in economic activity in many other countries.

Demand for IT gadgets and infrastructure that workers around the world have needed to set up their home-offices has boosted Taiwan’s economy, which is dominated by electronics exports.

Production of electronic components expanded 14.4 per cent in July, the eighth month of double-digit growth, with semiconductor production increasing 22 per cent driven by 5G and components for cloud servers, the ministry said.

In June, industrial production had jumped 7.2 per cent on firmer demand for chemicals, machinery and metals. Those industries shrank in July.

Stocks climb as traders look beyond rising infections to Jackson Hole

Global stocks kicked off Monday on a high note as investors look ahead to the Federal Reserve’s economic symposium this week.

European equities took a lead from Asia, which climbed on the heels of Wall Street’s fourth straight week of gains.

Traders looked beyond the rising coronavirus caseload in Europe, which has unsettled some regional governments, and instead focused on continued signs of progress on developing a vaccine.

The Trump administration is considering bypassing US regulatory standards to fast-track an experimental vaccine being developed in the UK by Oxford university and AstraZeneca before the November general election, the Financial Times reported at the weekend. AstraZeneca rose nearly 3 per cent in early Monday trading.

Europe’s Stoxx 600 gained 1.3 per cent while Frankfurt’s Dax and the CAC 40 in Paris advanced 1.4 per cent. London’s FTSE 100 gained 1.2 per cent. S&P 500 futures rose 0.4 per cent.

Market participants said in addition to Covid-19 developments, they would be paying close attention to the Kansas City Fed’s virtual Jackson Hole economic summit. Economists are expecting Jay Powell, the central bank chair, to offer new details of the Fed’s wide-ranging review of monetary policy.

Sports Direct parent to scoop up some DW Whelan assets

Patricia Nilsson

Mike Ashley's Frasers is set to buy parts of DW Whelan for £37m, saving "a number of jobs" at the UK fitness retailer and gym group that fell into administration this month.

Frasers, which also owns Sports Direct, on Monday said the deal would focus on DW's gym business — the second largest in the UK — as well as "certain stock" but that it would not buy the DW brand.

The deal comes a few days after Frasers warned of more store closures at its House of Fraser chain once the business rates holiday comes to an end.

DW warned it was on the brink of administration in early August as coronavirus had wiped out its income, putting 1,700 jobs at risk. The company, which was owned by former footballer Dave Whelan, at the time said it was hoping to save “as many gyms as possible” and protect jobs — but that its 75 stores across the UK would permanently close.

The fitness group made a loss of £20m in the year ending March and held gross assets worth £195m, according to Frasers.

Alarm across Europe over surge in coronavirus cases

FT reporters

A sharp rise in the number of coronavirus infections over the past two weeks has put European governments on high alert as holidaymakers return home to big cities and teachers and pupils prepare for the start of the school year after months of disruption. 

But leaders are eager to avoid reimposing drastic controls on freedom of movement because they want to allow economies to recover from the deepest recession since the second world war. France has opted to control the spread of the virus rather than attempt to eliminate it completely, and French president Emmanuel Macron has said there is no such thing as a “zero risk” society.

Before the latest upsurge, strict national lockdowns in the spring sharply reduced the spread of Covid-19 in Europe. But in Spain in particular the virus is now returning rapidly, with 8,000 new infections reported on Friday alone.

According to the latest figures from the EU’s European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Spain recorded 153 cases per 100,000 in the previous 14 days — compared with 121 for Malta, 96 for Luxembourg, 87 for Romania, 60 for France, 56 for Belgium, 22 for the UK and 20 for Germany. 

Click here to read more.

Wetherspoons warns of annual loss after virus hit

Naomi Rovnick

British pub group JD Wetherspoon has warned the coronavirus crisis will push its business into an annual loss and that the boost it has garnered from subsidies for eating out will fade when the programme ends.

Wetherspoons said that sales for the 44 days to August 16 — the period following the reopening of pubs and restaurants in England — were 17 per cent below the same period last year.

The group, whose industry was hit hard by the closure of public spaces in Britain from mid-March, explained that while it was currently receiving a boost from chancellor Rishi Sunak’s scheme to subsidise restaurant meals, its performance would falter when the Eat Out to Help Out programme ends.

“Sales have gradually improved, with a rapid acceleration recently, largely due to subsidised food, coffee and soft drinks in the early part of the week,” Wetherspoons said.

“The company nonetheless expects a period of more subdued sales once the scheme for subsidised early-week meals and drinks ends.”

In Monday’s trading update, Wetherspoons said it expected to incur an annual loss, both before and after exceptional items relating to Covid-19, for the year ended on July 26. The group, which had won loan covenant waivers from its banks in April and July, added that it “proposes to enter discussions with its lenders regarding waivers for the current financial year, in due course".

Education experts urge caution as pupils return

Andrew Jack in London

Schools around the world have reopened their doors or are preparing to restart, in many cases while coronavirus transmission rates are rising, provoking fresh concerns about whether and how the process should take place.

After a near global shutdown of education settings as the pandemic spread earlier this year, 22 countries have now fully reopened their schools. By mid-September, 12 more will do so and 55 have permitted partial reopenings.

Scientific studies have largely shown the health risks to children of Covid-19 to be less severe than for adults while pressure on governments has increased to reopen education to mitigate the long-term impact on students’ learning and accelerate economic recovery.

Read more here

No Covid-19 compensation fund, Lebanon minister warns

The Lebanese government said on Monday it had not set aside money for families of Covid-19 victims, saying rumours that it had established a compensation fund were false.

Hamad Hassan — the country's caretaker public health minister since the resignation of the government on August 10 over a devastating explosion that killed hundreds in Beirut six days earlier — condemned the funding reports.

He wrote on Twitter that "there is no compensation or aid to the families of the victims who die of coronavirus, contrary to all the rumours".

Lebanon’s health ministry announced on Sunday that it had detected 507 new coronavirus cases, bringing the cumulative number to 12,698. There have been at least 123 deaths.

Danish companies urged to reinstate guidance for investors

Richard Milne in Oslo

Danish companies have been some of the few to reinstate full-year guidance with their second-quarter results as Denmark’s financial regulator pushed them to tell investors how the rest of 2020 could be despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Companies from shipping group AP Moller-Maersk and brewer Carlsberg to wind turbine maker Vestas and jeweller Pandora have reintroduced their outlook for this year’s sales or profits in recent weeks.

The Danish Financial Supervisory Authority told companies to give guidance wherever possible when reporting second-quarter results even if great uncertainty remained over how Covid-19 could affect the economy and individual industries.

Read more here

Asia stocks edge up on eve of Jackson Hole meeting

Thomas Hale in Hong Kong

Asia-Pacific equities rose on Monday as traders looked ahead to the US Federal Reserve’s annual Jackson Hole meeting later in the week.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index added 1.5 per cent while the CSI 300 gauge of Shanghai- and Shenzhen-listed stocks rose 0.8 per cent.

In Tokyo, the Topix edged 0.2 per cent higher and South Korea’s Kospi index gained 0.9 per cent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was flat.

Chinese tech group Tencent jumped 4.2 per cent — its most in two weeks — after it was reported that a White House executive order banning its WeChat app may not be as severe as previously believed.

Earlier in August, US President Donald Trump gave American companies 45 days to stop their “transactions” with the app. The move has prompted legal action from a coalition of users and came as tensions rise between Washington and Beijing.

Asian markets have reacted cautiously over recent weeks to signs of new waves of the coronavirus across the region, as well as mixed growth prospects. This month, Seoul reinstated virus measures after its worst outbreak in five months.

Analysts said traders were looking to Thursday’s Jackson Hole summit, where discussions of the growth outlook may have an impact on US markets.

Wall Street continued to rise last week, with the S&P 500 adding 0.3 per cent to close at another record high on Friday. Big tech companies have propelled equities higher while short positions have dropped to their lowest level in a decade.

In commodities, Brent crude, the international benchmark, was little changed at $44.33 a barrel on Monday.

UAE to focus on post-pandemic food and water security

The United Arab Emirates said it will focus its planning on food and water security in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, state media reported on Sunday.

"The objective is to launch specialist initiatives that will ensure our readiness to confront all types of crises," Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE's vice-president and prime minister as well as ruler of Dubai, was quoted as saying by the Wam news agency.

Sheikh Mohammed, speaking after a weekend cabinet reshuffle, said an investigation into proposed post-pandemic measures would be led by Mariam Hareb Almheiri, pictured, the UAE food security minister.

The pandemic disrupted global supply chains, especially worrying for countries such as the Gulf federation of seven emirates, which is dependent on food imports.

"Our food and water security is part of our national security, and the sustainability of our food and water resources will ensure our sustainable development," Sheikh Mohammed said, according to Wam.

UK Treasury under fire over silence on virus loans

Michael Pooler and Robert Smith in London

The government has been criticised by politicians and campaigners for refusing to reveal the names of businesses that have secured state-backed coronavirus loans with a combined value of £52.7bn.

About 1.2m loans that each come with a government guarantee have so far been approved under schemes devised by chancellor Rishi Sunak to help businesses survive the Covid-19 pandemic.

The government has provided regular updates on the number of loans authorised through the schemes, and their cumulative value, plus some information about which regions and industries have benefited.

Read more here

India passes 3m cases as economy opens up

Amy Kazmin in New Delhi

India has now detected more than 3m coronavirus infections, and is now reporting more new cases daily than anywhere else in the world, as authorities move to further relax restrictions in a bid to revive the country’s flagging economy.

Nearly 57,700 Indian have died from complications due to coronavirus infections, the fourth-highest death count of any country in the world after the US, Brazil and Mexico.

In the past 24 hours, India detected more than 61,000 new infections — after touching an all-time high of 70,000 new cases on Saturday — bringing the total case count to 3.1m.

Hindus celebrated the annual Ganesh festival at the weekend, which included events such as immersing a clay idol of the elephant-headed deity in the waters off Mumbai, pictured. But tough restrictions prevented devotees from holding large celebrations and carrying out traditional rituals.

Despite the high death toll and severe disruption caused by coronavirus, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has portrayed India as waging one of the world’s most successful battles against the pathogen, noting the country’s relatively low case fatality ratio.

But the virus has cast a long shadow over India, as schools have little prospect of reopening any time soon, and economic activity remains severely depressed.

New Delhi is continuing to ease restrictions on activities, as it seeks to revive the flagging economy.

This weekend, authorities announced it would now permit the resumption of film and television production as long as all crew members — except actors in front of the camera — wore masks on the set.

The city of Delhi is also permitting the re-opening of hotels, though the city is seeing a renewed rise in the daily case detection.

Myanmar approved for multilateral loan of $250m

The Asian Development Bank said it would lend Myanmar $250m to help the government respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Despite a limited number of confirmed cases, Myanmar remains vulnerable to Covid-19, due to its limited public health system, a mobile population, crowded living conditions and limited water and sanitation infrastructure," the bank said in a statement.

The money will be used to provide social assistance to the poor, including those in conflict-affected areas, ADB said.

Some would be diverted to micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises, "30 per cent of which are owned by women”, the lender added.

Opinion: Pandemic shows US must make vital products

Kevin McCarthy, US House of Representatives minority leader

As the coronavirus pandemic swept the world, we as a nation were forced at times to rely on other countries for supplies critical to our health and wellbeing. We must learn the lesson.

Our vulnerability to unreliable foreign supply chains for products we rely on, especially in emergencies, demands attention.

We must encourage a variety of domestic makers of medicines and personal protective equipment, so that we are less vulnerable when other supply chains fail, as they did in China earlier this year.

Read more here

Breaking news

Qantas merges international and domestic operations

Australia's Qantas Airways on Monday announced a thinning of its management ranks, as the carrier expects its international flights to be grounded indefinitely.

The airline said the chief executive of Qantas International, Tino La Spina, would leave the group on September 1 "in light of what is likely to be the extended grounding of this part of the airline".

His responsibilities will be taken over by the domestic chief executive, Andrew David.

Group chief executive Alan Joyce said the Covid-19 crisis was "forcing us to rethink our business at every level".

He said he expected international flights to be grounded until at least mid-2021.

Mr La Spina worked previously at the defunct Ansett airline in Australia and as chief financial officer of the National Express Group in the UK.

China and Hong Kong report 41 new Covid-19 cases

China on Monday reported 16 new confirmed cases in the previous 24 hours, all of which were imported.

There were five in Shanghai, three each in Fujian, Sichuan, and Yunnan, and one each in Shanxi and Shandong.

Officially, China has 215 confirmed cases imported from abroad.

Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection said late on Sunday that 25 additional confirmed cases had been reported in the territory.

Don’t shun healthcare, government tells New Zealanders

New Zealanders have no reason to avoid the healthcare system during the coronavirus pandemic, the country's health ministry said at the weekend.

Officials were responding to reports of people who are reluctant to get an ambulance or go to hospital.

“All of the [Covid-19] cases who are in hospital are isolated and carefully managed separately from other patients," the ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

"Hospitals continue to be safe places to receive medical care, and people should feel confident going to hospital to receive treatment."

New Zealand reported just three new confirmed cases of Covid-19 on Sunday.

One case, the ministry said, is epidemiologically linked to the cluster in Auckland that shut the country down this month after more than 100 days without community cases.

The others are imported, including a woman in her 20s who arrived on August 16 from Croatia via Switzerland and Hong Kong. The ministry did not provide the second person’s travel details.

There are now 114 active Covid-19 cases in the country of 4.9m, of which 18 are imported.

On Sunday the government slightly eased quarantine restrictions around the country’s largest city. People can now transit through Auckland without stopping to travel for work.

England and Wales criminal trial backlog lengthens

Jane Croft in London

The UK government is facing mounting criticism over its efforts in England and Wales to deal with a backlog of criminal court cases which has caused some jury trials to be scheduled for 2022.

The backlog originates from a government miscalculation of the number of crown court hours needed to deal with criminal cases in 2019, but the issue has been made worse by the coronavirus crisis. Crown courts were closed and jury trials suspended between mid-March and mid-May.

The number of outstanding cases in crown courts in England and Wales increased from 39,549 in early March to 43,676 by July 26, according to HM Courts and Tribunals Service.

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Victoria records sharp drop in new daily case total

The Australian state of Victoria reported 116 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, a sharp drop over recent days.

Health officials had expressed optimism the surge was under control after two days in a row with fewer than 200 new cases, before the barrier was breached again at the weekend.

There were 208 new cases reported on Sunday, following 182 on Saturday.

Victoria, the second most populous state, reported 15 deaths on Monday and another 30 over the weekend.

The north-eastern state of Queensland cracked down on gatherings after two new cases were recorded on Saturday.

The new cases are relatives of workers at the state's largest youth detention centre in Wacol, after six cases linked to the facility on Friday. None of the inmates have tested positive.

Gatherings in private homes and public spaces will be restricted to a maximum of 10 people, down from 30, in Brisbane, the state capital, and several other population centres in the state.

Shares show little movement as virus battle heats up

Daniel Shane in Hong Kong

Shares across Asia-Pacific were little changed as investors assessed new measures in the region to combat coronavirus.

Japan's Topix fell 0.1 per cent in early trading on Monday while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 benchmark was flat.

South Korea's Kospi slipped 0.1 per cent as Asia's fourth-largest economy considered strict new lockdown measures to combat its worst outbreak in almost six months.

Futures for Hong Kong's Hang Seng and mainland Chinese shares were slightly higher. Trading in both markets begins later in the morning.

Traders were also weighing up the latest implications for the health crisis in the US.

The Financial Times reported that President Donald Trump was considering bypassing normal regulatory procedures to fast-track an experimental Covid-19 vaccine from the UK ahead of US elections.

S&P 500 futures were 0.2 per cent higher while the dollar was a hair lower as measured against its trading peers.

EU commissioner pressed to quit over Covid-19 rules violation

Arthur Beesley in Dublin

EU trade commissioner Phil Hogan has apologised for attending a large golf dinner in his native Ireland the day after the government imposed a ban on such gatherings, as pressure mounted on him to resign.

The apology came after Micheál Martin, Ireland’s prime minister, and Leo Varadkar, deputy prime minister, issued a joint statement calling on Mr Hogan to consider his position.

The European Commission said on Sunday afternoon that Mr Hogan had been asked to provide a full report to its president, Ursula von der Leyen, so she can assess the situation.

The Irish commissioner provoked a furore by attending a dinner with 81 people organised by a golf society in the country’s parliament in violation of rules established in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Hours after issuing his apology, Mr Hogan disclosed that he was stopped by police “for using his mobile phone while driving” to the event.

The affair has already prompted the resignation of Dara Calleary, Ireland’s agriculture minister, the morning after a newspaper reported he was at the hotel event in county Galway.

Americans go back to movies despite continuing pandemic

Anna Nicolaou in New York

The first big US film release since the pandemic drew more than $4m in box-office sales, in a tentative sign that Americans are ready to come back to the movies after a five-month shutdown.

Unhinged, a thriller starring Russell Crowe, managed to earn $4.06m across 1,823 cinemas in North America according to ComScore. Jeff Bock, box office analyst for Exhibitor Relations, called the results “a surprisingly robust start”.

Leading US exhibitors AMC and Regal reopened locations across the country last week. Their task: to safely lure audiences back, snap Hollywood out of its hibernation and revive the $40bn movie industry.

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Covid-19-positive Australians sought for sensory survey

Australians who have tested positive for Covid-19 are being urged to participate in a global survey to help scientists learn more about the impact of the virus on the senses of smell and taste.

“We need more data from Australians confirmed or presumed to be Covid-19 positive to help fill the gaps of knowledge about the dramatic impact on the loss of sense of smell and taste,” Eugeni Roura, a University of Queensland nutritional chemosensing scientist, said at the weekend.

Prof Roura is part of a UQ team working with the Global Consortium for Chemosensory Research to undertake the survey in Australia.

“Research published by the GCCR has found that … a significant loss in the sense of smell is an accurate predictor of Covid-19,” he said in remarks published on the UQ website.

“Covid-19 penetrates deeper, causing the death of olfactory neurons which transmit information to the brain — and this is what results in an acute and often long-lasting loss of the sense of smell,” Prof Roura added.

Daniel Hwang, another UQ researcher, said Covid-19 was also associated with severe impairment of chemesthesis — the ability to sense food’s chemical properties such as the “heat” from spice and the “cooling” effect of mint.

“This information is important, not only because it is predictive of Covid-19 but also because the loss of appetite associated with the loss of sensing may slow down the path to recovery,” Dr Hwang said.

Eurozone industry fears rebound will be short lived

Martin Arnold in Frankfurt

European manufacturing’s bounceback from its pandemic-induced crash this spring is slowing — and in Germany, the region’s industrial heartland, executives worry that the recovery could soon run out of steam, leaving them with years of painful rebuilding ahead.

Manufacturing activity and output in the eurozone continued to rise in August, according to the IHS Markit flash purchasing managers’ eurozone manufacturing index published on Friday, but at a slower rate than in previous months.

While German manufacturing activity continued to increase, there was a surprise contraction in France and some economists expect to see a softening in Italy and Spain when their sentiment data is published next week.

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Raid on Peru club violating Covid-19 rules kills 13

Gideon Long in Bogotá

At least 13 people have been crushed to death or asphyxiated in a nightclub in Peru after police raided it to enforce coronavirus restrictions on mass gatherings.

Officers raided the Thomas Restobar club in the capital Lima on Saturday night, the interior ministry said.

More than 100 people inside rushed for the only exit to escape prosecution and became trapped on a staircase leading to the street.

Several revellers at the club in the Los Olivos district were injured and police arrested at least 23 people amid the chaos.

Of the dead, 11 had coronavirus, and 15 of those arrested tested positive, the ministry said.

Friends and relatives waited outside a local clinic early on Sunday awaiting news of the injured.

Peru has been under one of the strictest and longest lockdowns in the world in a bid to stem the spread of Covid-19, although it has done little to help.

The country has recorded more than 575,000 cases of the virus – the sixth highest total in the world – and has the highest death toll per capita in Latin America, with more than 27,000 deaths.

The government has been gradually easing the lockdown in recent weeks in a bid to revive one of the worst-hit economies in the world, but still has strict bans in place on social gatherings.

Many commentators say that although the rules in Peru are tough, many people are simply ignoring them – hence the high coronavirus numbers.

Johnson calls for sending children back to school

Sebastian Payne in London

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has appealed to parents in England to send their children back to school next week, warning that pupils’ life chances will be harmed if they stay at home from fear of the coronavirus.

The government is under pressure to ensure a successful reopening of primary and secondary schools next month after it struggled with efforts to get some pupils back into classrooms before the summer holidays.

The resumption of schooling is seen by Downing Street as vital to boosting the economy and allowing parents to return to work, as well as critical for pupils, many of whom were last in classrooms just before the lockdown in March.

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Global dividends hit by record 20% fall in 2nd quarter

Global corporate dividend payouts in the second quarter fell nearly 20 per cent over the previous three months, according to asset manager Janus Henderson.

Its Global Dividend Index indicated total payouts fell by $108.1bn to $382.2bn, equivalent to an underlying decline of 19.3 per cent and the worst quarterly drop since the index started at the end of 2009 after the global financial crisis.

More than a quarter of companies reduced their second-quarter dividends, and more than half of this group cancelled them altogether.

"Despite the cuts witnessed so far, we still expect global dividends to exceed $1tn this year and next," said Jane Shoemake, Janus Henderson's global equity income investment director.

For shareholders, the worst-affected regions were Europe and the UK, where payouts fell by two-fifths. France saw total dividends reach their lowest level in at least a decade.

Healthcare and communications company dividends proved most resistant to cuts, while financial services and consumer discretionary payouts were particularly vulnerable.

"A temporary halt in dividends does not change the fundamental value of a company, though it can affect short-term sentiment, and it remains important for income investors to be diversified both by geography and sector," said Ms Shoemake.

Minnesota man charged over $841,000 payout

A Minnesota construction company owner has been charged with fraudulently obtaining $841,000 from the US Paycheck Protection Program designed to help small businesses through the coronavirus pandemic.

Kyle Brenizer, 32, of St. Paul, faces wire fraud and money laundering charges after he allegedly submitted two false and misleading PPP applications, the US justice department alleges.

While the first was denied, the second was submitted using another name and was approved.

The US government said Mr Brenizer falsely stated that his company, True-Cut, had an average monthly payroll of more than $330,000 for about 30 employees.

Mexico reports ‘catastrophic’ 60,000 deaths

Jude Webber in Mexico City

Mexico surpassed its “catastrophic” worst-case scenario of 60,000 Covid-19 deaths over the weekend, and is shaping up as one of the worst health and economic casualties of the global pandemic.

Latin America’s second-biggest economy, which has the world’s third highest overall coronavirus death toll, hit the grim milestone on Saturday, when the health ministry reported 60,254 and 556,216 confirmed cases.

Hugo López-Gatell, the health under-secretary who is in charge of Mexico’s Covid-19 strategy, predicted in June that 30,000 to 35,000 people could die and “in a very catastrophic scenario [the death toll] could reach 60,000”.

Mexico’s Liga MX premier football league played without spectators at the weekend but fans congregated outside stadiums, including the Jalisco arena in Guadalajara, pictured, to cheer Atlas in its 1-0 defeat of Querétaro on Sunday.

S Korea on brink of near-lockdown nationwide as virus surges

Edward White

South Korea is on the brink of shutting down schools, suspending sports events and recommending employees nationwide work from home, as the country struggles to contain its worst coronavirus resurgence in nearly six months.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control on Monday reported 266 new infections, marking close to 3,000 new cases over the past 10 days as an outbreak, mostly linked to church groups, has spread from Seoul across the country.

“We are facing a serious situation on the verge of a large-scale, nationwide pandemic,” Jeong Eun-kyeong, the KCDC chief, warned on Sunday.

South Korea has a three-stage classification system for social distancing. Health officials are considering moving the country Level 3, the strictest stage, from Level 2.

This would mean all school, kindergarten and day-care centres either move to online classes or close, all gatherings are restricted to fewer than 10 people and office workers not considered essential are told to work from home, among other measures.

The decision facing officials comes after moves over the past week to reinstate social distancing across the country and restrict travel in and out of Seoul.

The latest surge in South Korean infections comes after the government in Seoul won international praise for its rapid deployment of mass testing and tracing in response to the outbreak in February and March, underscoring the risk countries face from new Covid-19 outbreaks despite having efficient systems for monitoring and suppressing outbreaks.

Officials have blamed the resurgence in part on the Sarang Jeil Church, a conservative church group.

More than 800 of the church’s members have been diagnosed with Covid-19, the country’s biggest cluster since the virus swept through the quasi-Christian religious sect, the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, in February and March.

Singapore probes new case of unknown origin

Singapore at the weekend detected the lowest number of migrant workers with coronavirus since August 12, building confidence the city-state has curbed its spread through labourers’ dormitories.

The health ministry reported just 43 new cases on Saturday, the lowest since the 30 found 10 days earlier.

Singapore recorded 73 worker cases on Sunday, marking 13 consecutive days of sub-100 new case tallies.

There were a total of 87 cases on Sunday, including 13 imported and one of unknown origin.

“There is one case in the community today who is currently unlinked,” the ministry said on Sunday. “Epidemiological investigations of the cases are in progress.”

The ministry said all the identified close contacts of the cases have been isolated and placed in quarantine.

Australians liken travel bans to N Korean diktats

Jamie Smyth in Sydney

Australian residents who have had their request for a travel exemption rejected say their country's tough Covid-19 travel rules are more typical of North Korea than a liberal democracy.

Apart from banning residents and citizens from leaving the country, the centre-right Liberal-National government has closed its borders to non-residents and implemented caps of 4,000 passengers on the number of expats permitted to return each week.

Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, said the measures were needed to tackle an outbreak of Covid-19 in Victoria, which was caused by breaches in Australia’s hotel quarantine system for returning residents.

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UK Japanese food chain Wasabi files for insolvency

UK casual-dining chain Wasabi has become the latest casualty of the coronavirus pandemic, said it had launched a company voluntary arrangement to stave off its financial troubles.

The sushi and bento chain is to undergo “a financial and operational restructuring programme” involving extra funding from its investors.

Wasabi employs about 1,500 people in its 51 UK outlets, mostly in London. Some restaurants might be closed, the company said.

Founded by Korean businessman Dong Hyun Kim, Wasabi sold a minority stake to Capdesia Group in 2019.

Wasabi said in a statement it had held “constructive engagement with landlords
regarding ... rents” and had appointed KPMG to run the CVA.

“Grab-and-go food retailers have been some of those businesses most significantly affected by the Covid-19 crisis,” said Paul Berkovi, KPMG’s head of UK leisure restructuring.

US public pension plans face ‘vicious cycle’

Chris Flood in London

Coronavirus, disappointing investment returns and declining interest rates pose a triple threat to the health of the US public pension system, which is haemorrhaging cash and heading for a record funding shortfall.

The total funding gap for the 143 largest US public pensions plans is on track to reach $1.62tn this year, significantly higher than the $1.16tn recorded in 2009 in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, according to Equable Institute, a New York-based non-profit think-tank.

The weak financial condition of the US public pension systems poses severe risks for the living standards of millions of employees and retired workers.

Read more here

News you might have missed …

Large US corporate bankruptcies are running at a record pace this year and set to surpass the levels of the financial crisis in 2009. As of August 17, 45 companies with assets of more than $1bn filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a common way for distressed businesses to reorganise, according to New Generation Research.

US stocks this week hit a record high, back losses inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic. But share prices of a fifth of S&P 500 companies were more than 50 per cent below their all-time highs on Friday and the average stock in the index is 28.4 per cent below its peak, according to Cornerstone Macro, a research group.

Frantic buying by Malaysian retail investors of hot stocks such as rubber glove makers has driven trading volumes on the country’s stock exchange to record highs, prompting the bourse to consider steps to curb the frenzy. Turnover in the year to date has already topped last year’s total by 20 per cent at 143.8bn ringgit ($34.5bn).

The French champagne industry cartel of growers and producers last week agreed to a sharp cut to the annual grape harvest as sales have collapsed during the coronavirus pandemic. “Champagne is synonymous with partying,” said David Faivre of Champagne R. Faivre. “And the whole world isn’t doing that right now.”

UK business activity stood at its strongest level in almost seven years in August, according to the latest purchasing managers’ index, rising to 60.3 from 57 in July. Tim Moore, economics director at IHS Markit, said "staycations" and the “eat out to help out” scheme, pictured, would boost service-sector growth in August.

Hedge fund Gammon Capital has chalked up a 600 per cent gain so far this year, ranking it as one of the world’s best performers, thanks to well-timed bets on volatility during the coronavirus-driven market ructions. The New York firm, correctly wagered on soaring volatility in early March.

Nippon Paint has agreed to a $12bn deal that will combine it with Singapore’s Wuthelam Holdings to create a regional titan. Masaaki Tanaka, Nippon chief executive, warned the effects of Covid-19 had been severe, particularly for the automotive paint business once expected to deliver strong growth in China.

The cost of London’s east-west Crossrail rail line has ballooned to nearly £19bn, with the heavily delayed project now not expected to open fully until mid-2022 as the pandemic compounded engineering problems. The price tag was expected to rise to £18.7bn, more than £450m over the last estimate in November.