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Updated at August 01 2021 05:48 PM UTC - total vaccination doses given are from 233 locations. See all vaccine data.

United Airlines sees ‘strong evidence’ of demand for air travel

United Airlines reported “strong evidence” of pent-up demand for air travel and was positioned to take advantage of a recovery in business and international flights.

The carrier on Monday said it is “already moving” to capitalise on the emergence of demand from countries where vaccinated travellers are welcome, and pointed to newly announced international flights to Greece, Iceland and Croatia, which are subject to government approval.

In a statement accompanying the release of first-quarter earnings, the company said these “opportunistic steps” were helping position it “to return to positive net income even if business and long-haul international demand only returns to about 35 per cent of 2019 levels”.

Scott Kirby, chief executive, said: “We’ve shifted our focus to the next milestone on the horizon and now see a clear path to profitability. We’re encouraged by the strong evidence of pent-up demand for air travel and our continued ability to nimbly match it.”

United reported a 60 per cent drop in total revenue to $3.22bn in the first three months of 2021, which was just $38m below the mean forecast among analysts surveyed by Refinitiv. Its reported net loss narrowed to $1.36bn, compared with a loss of $1.7bn a year earlier and Wall Street forecasts for a loss of $1.62bn.

The company said capacity across its network during the first quarter was down 54 per cent compared with the same three-month period in 2019. It has forecast capacity during the current quarter being about 45 per cent lower than the second quarter of 2019. Total revenue per available seat mile, a popular industry metric, is expected to be about 20 per cent lower this quarter compared to two years ago.

United shares were down about 2 per cent in after hours trading.

With an increasing number of Americans receiving vaccines, the number of airline passengers has recovered to around the highest levels since the pandemic crushed air travel a year ago.

United is responding to some of those encouraging trends and said earlier this month it planned to start hiring pilots again in May in an effort to meet growing demand. The airline said last week it would pay back some of the taxpayer money it borrowed during the height of the coronavirus pandemic after it conducted a successful $9bn fundraising across bond and loan markets.

Recovery in IT demand helped IBM return to growth in first quarter

IBM returned to growth in its latest quarter, beating stock market expectations, as the success of some countries in cutting Covid-19 infection rates coincided with signs of a recovery in IT demand.

The US computer maker said its revenue climbed 1 per cent in the first three months of 2021, the first growth it has recorded since late 2019, though it still suffered a decline of 2 per cent after adjusting for currency swings. At $17.7bn, revenue was some $400m above Wall Street expectations.

Jim Kavanaugh, chief financial officer, said IBM had continued to see demand from customers swing with infection rates, a phenomenon that had been notable throughout 2020. He added that success in combating the pandemic in the US and Canada in the first quarter coincided with resumed growth in those countries, while headway against Covid-19 in Europe and Japan had brought “nice trajectory improvement” in IBM’s business there.

IBM’s latest figures pointed to more stability across its range of businesses as it tries to reposition itself for the cloud and prepares for a large spin-off later in the year. Its cloud and cognitive software division, which had disappointed at the end of 2020 as customers pulled back from signing longer-term contracts amidst general business uncertainty, recorded revenue growth of 4 per cent.

Earnings also came in ahead of expectations, with pro forma earnings of $1.77 a share, down 7 cents from the previous year but still 14 cents above most analysts’ forecasts. Based on formal accounting rules, including acquisition-related costs and expenses associated with retirements, IBM reported earnings of $1.06 a share, down from $1.31 in the first quarter of 2020.

One year ago today

The Financial Times has been your guide to the pandemic since the first outbreak was detected. Here are some of the developments we reported a year ago today:

  • Pakistan lifted restrictions on group prayers at mosques, but put in place new conditions to block the further spread of coronavirus in the country.

  • The United Arab Emirates announced it would fine publishers who “publish, republish or circulate false and misleading health-related information or guidelines” about the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Loan loss charges at six big American banks reached a total of $25.4bn in the first quarter of 2020, a 350 per cent year-on-year surge in collective provisions due to the pandemic.

  • A proposed £300m deal by CVC Capital Partners to invest in the Six Nations, Europe’s leading rugby union tournament, was delayed as the sport reeled from a financial crisis resulting from the spread of Covid-19.

  • Local politicians in some of England’s most popular seaside towns called on the UK government to close a loophole that allowed owners of second homes to access grants designed to help small businesses weather the pandemic.

  • A group of Hong Kong secondary school students planned a protest against Zoom, the videoconferencing platform used for virtual classes, following security and privacy concerns.

  • India's aviation ministry intervened to stop airlines from reopening flight bookings before a government decision on lifting the country's lockdown.

  • Germany reported 2,458 new coronavirus cases and 184 new deaths related to Covid-19, a reduction in numbers compared with previous days.

For all the latest on the pandemic, visit the FT’s coronavirus home page

Cuomo announces further easing of restrictions on New York cinemas, indoor arenas

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that pandemic-era capacity limits at cinemas, museums and large indoor arenas were set to be eased further over the next month.

Cinemas will be allowed to operate at 33 per cent of their capacity from April 26, up from the current threshold of 25 per cent, Cuomo announced at a press conference on Monday morning. On the same date, the capacity limit at museums and zoos will be raised to 50 per cent.

The governor also said that capacity at large indoor arenas would be raised to 25 per cent beginning May 19, “before NBA playoffs begin”.

The further easing of restrictions will probably be of particular benefit to New York City, home to numerous museums and two professional basketball teams that play in indoor arenas. The city is also the US’s second-largest market in terms of box office revenue after Los Angeles.

J&J halts production at Baltimore plant during FDA investigation

The production of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine has been stopped at a plant in Baltimore by the Food and Drug Administration while it investigates the site that has been beset by manufacturing problems.

The FDA told Emergent BioSolutions not to manufacture any new material and to quarantine existing material, the company said on Monday, while the agency investigates the substances.

Two weeks ago, J&J took full control of the site in Baltimore after workers accidentally mixed ingredients for the single-shot jab and those for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, which were also being manufactured there. A reported 15m doses of the J&J jab were subsequently ruined.

Last Monday, the FDA began an inspection into the plant and told Emergent on Friday to cease production.

“We acknowledge that there are improvements we must make to meet the high standards we have set for ourselves and to restore confidence in our quality systems and manufacturing processes,” Emergent said in a statement.

“The quality and safety of our Covid-19 vaccine is paramount ... We will work with Emergent and FDA to address any findings at the conclusion of the FDA inspection,” J&J said, adding: “At this time it is premature to speculate on any potential impact this could have on the timing of our vaccine deliveries.”

UK adds India to ‘red list’

The UK has added India to the so-called “red list” of countries from which travel is severely restricted because of the surge in Covid-19 cases.

Health secretary Matt Hancock told parliament on Monday that people who are not UK or Irish residents, or British citizens, cannot enter the UK if they have been in India in the past 10 days.

UK and Irish residents and British citizens who have visited India will have to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days upon arrival in the country.

The new rules will come into force on Friday morning.

“We must protect the progress we’ve made in the country in tackling this awful disease,” he said.

More than 10m people in UK have received second dose

More than 10m adults across the UK have received a second Covid-19 vaccine dose, the health secretary has said.

“This milestone shows how far we've come in our fight against this virus [and] I want to pay tribute to the whole team involved,” Matt Hancock tweeted on Monday afternoon.

NHS chief executive Simon Stevens called it a “major achievement”.

About 27m adults — or 3 in 5 — have received at least one dose, according to government figures. The government has said a first dose will be offered to all adults in the UK by the end of July.

Between April 12 and April 18, about 17,890 people tested positive for Covid-19 across the UK, down 2.8 per cent on the previous seven days.

India to make all adults eligible for vaccine next month

India will make everyone above 18 eligible for a Covid-19 vaccination from next month, opening up shots to all adults as authorities look for ways to bring a brutal second wave under control.

The government has sought to retool its vaccination strategy as cases have risen exponentially in recent weeks. The country recorded more than 275,000 infections on Sunday, more than anywhere else currently, and 1,600 deaths.

India first targeted vaccinating its 300m most vulnerable citizens, before adding different age groups including over-45s this month. But it came under pressure to allow younger adults to get shots too in order to stem the spread.

India is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer. Yet demand for vaccines has increased so much with the second wave that states around the country have struggled with shortages, and the country also curbed exports.

India is currently administering the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and an indigenous jab developed by Bharat Biotech. Last week it granted emergency approval to Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine and fast-tracked the approval process for other foreign vaccines.

Sputnik V developers point to 97.6% efficacy rate

Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine has an efficacy rate of 97.6 per cent, its developers have said, based on data from almost 4m people who have received the jab.

The Gamaleya Center, the state-run research lab that developed the vaccine, said its data was based on information from a government database that records each citizen who has been vaccinated and the names of those who have been diagnosed with Covid-19.

The efficacy rate was calculated using vaccinations from December to March, and the infection rate was based on people who had reached 35 days after the second of two doses.

“The actual efficacy of the Sputnik V vaccine may be even higher than the results of our analysis demonstrate,” said Alexander Gintsburg, director of the Center. “Sputnik V has once again confirmed its high effectiveness in the prevention of coronavirus infection.”

Sputnik V has been approved for use in 59 countries in addition to Russia, and is seeking approval from the European Medicines Regulator to be used by EU member states. It has already been approved by the national regulators of Hungary and Slovakia using emergency powers.

UK home workers do almost six hours unpaid overtime each week, ONS finds

Employees who worked at home during the pandemic have racked up almost twice as much unpaid overtime as colleagues who never did, the UK’s Office for National Statistics has found.

Many workers have welcomed the flexibility of working from home during the coronavirus crisis, allowing them to save money and spend more time with family.

But the ONS figures, contained in a report on Monday, also show the trend has downsides for employees by extending the average working day.

Home workers did six hours of unpaid overtime on average per week compared with 3.6 hours among employees who never work from home.

About 35 per cent of employees did some work at home in 2020, up 9.4 percentage points from the year before.

Italy seeks domestic production of mRNA Covid vaccines

Italy has held talks with several manufacturers about starting production of mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccines in the country, in the latest sign that European officials want to deepen those supplies over other types of shot.

Rome has discussed the domestic production of mRNA-based vaccines with US biotech Moderna, Switzerland’s Novartis and Italy’s ReiThera, people familiar with the matter said.

The recent talks with Novartis and ReiThera included the possibility of producing the mRNA vaccine developed by Germany’s CureVac in Italy, two of the people said.

Basel-based Novartis signed an initial agreement with CureVac in March to manufacture some of the company’s coronavirus vaccine. The shot is in phase 3 trials, but the German biotech said this week that it hoped the vaccine would be approved for use in the EU in May or June. ReiThera has its own adenovirus-based jab under development, but it is in phase 2 trials. 

The talks between Novartis, ReiThera and the Italian government were at an early stage, the people said, and might not yield a final agreement. Novartis, ReiThera and CureVac all declined to comment.

Read more here.

London’s shoppers return, but in lower numbers

Shoppers have returned to the West End of London over the past week since coronavirus restrictions were lifted, but data out on Monday shows that footfall has remained well below pre-pandemic levels.

According to figures from trade body New West End Company, in the first week following the reopening of the West End, footfall was around 54 per cent of the usual number of visitors, although it was higher than the anticipated 40 per cent.

“It's wonderful to see so many people back in the West End to visit their favourite shops once again,” said New West End Company chief executive Jace Tyrrell.

“We hope that footfall continues to increase in a safe and sustainable way but, until international shoppers return, the West End will continue to need extra government support,” he added.

During the first Saturday following the relaxation of England’s lockdown, there was a 30 per cent reduction in the usual number of visitors to the area.

The mixed fortunes of the reopening have led to calls for increased support for the retail sector.

According to Tyrell, the West End and Knightsbridge areas “desperately need an extension of Sunday trading hours”. 

“We need to be able to give shoppers the flexibility they need to spend what they want, when they want, while generating more money for retailers and protecting jobs,” he added.

Ireland will trigger ‘huge consequences’ should it add UK to travel restrictions list, minister says

“Really huge consequences” will follow if Ireland were to add the UK to the countries with enhanced travel restrictions because of concerns over a coronavirus variant, the Irish finance minister has said.

Arrivals to Ireland from around 70 countries that have worrying variants and infection levels, including the US and fellow EU members France, Italy, Belgium and Austria, must quarantine for 10 days. The UK has recently identified more than 70 cases of a variant first detected in India with concerning characteristics.

“Any decision on restricting travel from the UK would have really huge consequences,” Ireland’s finance minister Paschal Donohoe told national broadcaster RTÉ, adding that if it were recommended he would ask what it meant for the open border with Northern Ireland, and capacity in Ireland’s mandatory quarantine system.

The government will probably receive advice on spacing out vaccine doses “by the end of the week”, Donohoe said on Monday. Such a course would “undoubtedly” offer some benefits, but there could also be adverse consequences, he said.

Sinopharm vaccine 93% effective at preventing hospitalisations, UAE study finds

China’s Sinopharm vaccine is 93 per cent effective at preventing hospitalisation among those infected by coronavirus, a new study in the United Arab Emirates has found.

The Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre said the jab’s efficacy in reducing entry to intensive care units was 95 per cent.

The study also found a “significant decrease” in the rates of Covid-19 infection among those who had received a second dose, according to the Abu Dhabi government media office.

It found that those who were infected after vaccination showed mild symptoms and no one who had received the required doses had died after contracting Covid-19.

The study said immunity against Covid-19 is best achieved through vaccination and precautionary measures, adding that immunity was not limited to the presence of antibodies.

UAE authorities have previously said that people who have a low antibody response to Sinopharm can take a third booster shot.

Sinopharm, the most widely administered vaccine in the UAE, is used exclusively in the capital Abu Dhabi. The commercial centre, Dubai, also offers the BioNTech/Pfizer, Oxford/AstraZenica and Russian Sputnik V jabs.

The UAE has one of the most successful vaccination campaigns in the world, second only to Israel in terms of the number of doses administered per capita in populous nations.

The World Health Organization has said it hopes to issue recommendations on the use of two Chinese vaccines, including Sinopharm, by the end of April after the manufacturers last month provided data showing levels of efficacy in line with those required by the WHO.

EU to receive 100m extra BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine doses this year

The EU will receive 100m extra Covid-19 vaccines this year as part of its agreement with Pfizer and BioNTech, bringing the bloc’s total to 600m doses for its 27 member states.

Brussels will exercise its option to buy the extra shots under an agreement signed in February.

“We remain committed to moving as quickly and safely as possible to bring this vaccine to more people in Europe,” said Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chair and chief executive, adding that the US pharmaceutical group has met its supply commitments to the EU.

Pfizer plans to deliver 250m doses to the EU in the second quarter, he added, a fourfold increase on the previous quarter’s agreed quantity.

The global race for Covid-19 vaccination has pushed producers to raise capacity and ensure supply lines. Pfizer and its partner BioNTech aim to produce 2bn doses this year.

The latest figures show that the bloc has inoculated 110.7m people, with 6.7 per cent of the population fully vaccinated.

This year’s expected 600m jabs cover two-thirds of the EU population, representing “the largest cumulative supply agreement for Cominarty that we have agreed to date globally”, said Sean Marett of BioNTech.

Boris Johnson cancels planned trip to India

Downing Street on Monday said that Boris Johnson’s trip to India next week would no longer go ahead as planned.

In a statement, Downing Street blamed the change in plans on the “current coronavirus situation”.

In recent weeks, concerns have grown surrounding the surge of cases within India, sparked by a new variant of the virus known as B.1.617. Over the weekend, the country recorded 261,500 new infections and 1,501 deaths.

“Prime Minister’s Modi and Johnson will speak later this month to agree and launch their ambitious plans for future partnership between the UK and India,” Downing Street said.

The trip to India had initially been scheduled to take place over four days in the last week of April, but last week it was scaled back to one day for public health reasons.

European stocks tick higher to new record

European equities and government bonds edged higher on Monday as markets cheered strong corporate earnings and economic data while also banking on continued support from the US Federal Reserve.

The regional Stoxx 600 index gained 0.3 per cent in early trading to set a new record.

The gains follow a week of upbeat quarterly earnings from US banks as investors await results from big companies including Coca-Cola and IBM later on Monday. Data released last week showed US homebuilding surged to a nearly 15-year high in March while retail sales increased by the most in 10 months.

Yet haven government bonds also remain in demand. The yield on the benchmark 10-year US Treasury note fell by 0.02 percentage points to 1.553 per cent as investors purchased the debt, while the yield on the equivalent German Bund fell by 0.01 percentage points to minus 0.271 per cent.

Deaths in Pakistan reach second highest level of pandemic

Pakistan has reported the second highest daily number of Covid-19 deaths of the pandemic so far. The country on Sunday reported 149 deaths, the highest daily toll since a record 153 last June.

The south Asian country, which has a population of almost 220m, has recorded a total of about 760,000 Covid-19 cases and about 16,300 people have died.

The latest fatality figures come as Pakistan prepares to begin vaccinations of under-60s this week.

To deal with a surge in cases authorities have also imposed lockdowns on local hotspots, including restrictions on the number of non-residents who can enter particular areas.

Despite the challenges, health experts say Pakistan has improved its capacity to cope with stress on health facilities. Arrangements put in place in the past year include installation of more ventilators at hospitals and emergency training of doctors and paramedics.

However, public compliance with coronavirus safety measures remains patchy. Anecdotal evidence suggests many Pakistanis are ignoring safeguards such as the use of face masks and hand sanitiser.

Vendors selling watches sit beside a closed market after a  lockdown was imposed in Quetta, northern Balochistan
Watches offered for sale beside a market closed by a lockdown in Quetta, northern Balochistan. Pakistan authorities have introduced restrictions on local coronavirus hotspots. © AFP via Getty Images

Oxford university under-30s Covid trial to probe immune response

An Oxford university trial is calling out for healthy under-30s to take part in a study that will re-infect them with Covid-19 to investigate antibodies and how much protection people can get from the virus.

Volunteers, who will have had Covid-19, will be screened and admitted to an in-patient quarantine unit to be given the “lowest possible dose” of the coronavirus.

Researchers will monitor the participants for two weeks to determine when they become infected and will do follow-up checks during the course of one year.

“We’re trying to understand how the immune response” protects people against a second infection, said Helen McShane, professor of vaccinology at Oxford university. The study will recruit those at the “lowest possible risk” of any serious Covid-19 consequences, she added.

“One of the things we can determine with this study is how long that protection lasts,” said McShane, who is leading the research that received ethics approval last week. 

The trial will help us understand the immune response that protects a person against a second infection, information that can be used to develop and test vaccines more quickly, she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday. That will help determine the level of protection gained from the coronavirus.

A parallel study led by Imperial College London will infect people who have not had Covid-19 with a similar low dose of coronavirus.

Individuals will only be reimbursed for their time and inconvenience. 

Melrose to dispose of air conditioning unit to Madison for $3.6bn

Industrial buyout specialist Melrose Industries has agreed to sell its US air conditioning business to Madison Industries for about $3.6bn in an all-cash deal.

Melrose had considered selling the business at the start of 2020 but the sale was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The price tag paid by the Chicago-based private industrial group for Nortek Air Management exceeds the value expected and the $2.8bn paid by the FTSE 100 group in 2016 to acquire the business. Melrose received about $1bn of cash inflow during ownership.

The London-based group intends to use the proceeds to reduce net debt, contribute £100m to GKN UK’s pension scheme and provide a payout to shareholders, the company said on Monday.

Simon Peckham, Melrose chief executive, told the Financial Times last month that it was hoping to use the proceeds from the sale to make a large acquisition as early as the end of this year.

Melrose stripped out central management functions and invested in new products at Nortek to help improve its profitability.

Lycamobile names chief executive to lead push beyond expats

Lycamobile, the UK-based virtual network operator, has named Navanit Narayan chief executive to lead a £70m investment push that will expand it beyond its traditional business of selling cheap airtime to expatriate communities. 

Narayan joined Lycamobile in October as chief operating officer, having been chief strategy officer of Indian telecoms network Vodafone Idea before moving to the UK. He will replace Chris Tooley, who will join the company’s executive board.

Lycamobile, which has 16m customers across Europe, the US and Australia, is one of the world’s largest “virtual” networks. The company has come under financial pressure during the pandemic with fewer migrants travelling to countries including the UK for work.

Read more here shares rise on Hong Kong debut

Online travel platform Group shares rose in their Monday debut in Hong Kong, amid expectations of a busy travel season in China. shares opened 4.8 per cent higher and were up 3.4 per cent at HK$277 in early afternoon trading, compared with their IPO price of HK$268 a share.

The company raised about HK$8.33bn (US$1.07bn) in net proceeds from its offering in Hong Kong. The platform has a market value of $23.3bn. said it would use the proceeds to fund an expansion as well as general corporate purposes and working capital needs.

The listing also comes as domestic travel in China is poised for further recovery, as more Chinese residents are vaccinated against the coronavirus under an accelerated government rollout.

The country is set for a busy Labour Day holiday, a five-day period from May 1.

China’s travel activity has bounced back with domestic airport departures in February just 1 per cent below pre-pandemic levels, according to a recent Barclays analysis.

Remittances help cushion central Asia

Remittances from Russia are helping to ease the economic impact of the pandemic on central Asian nations, which are recovering from their first recession in a quarter of a century but have been hit by a drop in gas revenues from China and the slow pace of vaccination.

Earnings sent home by central Asian workers in Russia dropped 25 per cent in the first half of 2020 when the virus first took hold, but have since begun to rise again, according to the IMF. 

Millions of central Asians live and work in Russia, and the cash they send home is one of the region’s biggest earners, accounting for up to 30 per cent of gross domestic product in some countries. By the end of last year the number of labour migrants living in Russia or entering for seasonal work had shrunk to 6m, from between 9m and 11m in most years, according to official data. 

Read more here

Turkish university works on vaccine spray

A Turkish university said it is developing a Covid-19 vaccine candidate that can also be used in the form of a spray, state media reported on Sunday.

The vaccine has been developed from protein produced on the leaves of a species of tobacco plant found in Australia, Nicotiana benthamiana, researchers at Akdeniz University in Turkey’s southern province of Antalya told the Anadolu news agency.

Tarlan Mammedov, who heads the research team, said the plant contains angiotensin-converting enzyme 2, or ACE2, which he said could help prevent the Sars-CoV-2 virus from entering cells.

Mammedov said protein-based vaccines have advantages over other vaccines. “They are effective against various mutations of coronavirus,” he said.

India’s rupee tumbles amid new virus wave

India’s currency has swung from emerging market leader to laggard as the country battles a ferocious new coronavirus wave, prompting concerns among global investors that a nascent economic recovery will crumble.

The rupee has dropped about 3 per cent to 75.14 per dollar since the start of April, the worst performance among a basket of two dozen emerging market peers tracked by Bloomberg which includes Russia’s rouble and Turkey’s lira.

That marks a stark reversal after a stellar start for India’s currency in 2021. A rise of just under 1 per cent between January and March meant the rupee was the only emerging market currency to gain ground on the dollar.

Read more here

Philippine hospitals dose patients with coconut oil

A Philippine infectious diseases agency is pushing virgin coconut oil as a supplement to Covid-19 patients in hospital with mild symptoms.

Boxes of oil are being distributed to hospitals in metropolitan Manila, said Karlo Nograles, co-chair of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

“It’s about time we explore potential alternative treatments against Covid-19, alternatives that are backed by science and do not pose a threat to the health of Covid-positive individuals,” Nograles said in a news release.

He said the oil was an abundant, locally-produced, antiviral and antibacterial food supplement.

The task force said 61 patients at three Manila region hospitals — Caloocan City Medical Center, San Lorenzo Ruiz Women’s Hospital and Ospital ng Malabon — have agreed to undergo a coconut oil-supplemented diet to complement their Covid-19 treatment.

Qantas puts 600 to work on NZ travel bubble

The new travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand has allowed Qantas to bring 600 people back to work, the airline’s chief executive said on Monday, as he remained hopeful for further travel agreements.

Alan Joyce told Australia’s ABC news that the airline had increased its daily flights from one to 16 to meet demand for the quarantine-free travel agreement between the two Pacific countries. All flights were full on the bubble’s first day on Monday, he said. 

He said he hopes further travel bubbles will follow with Pacific Island countries or nations in Asia with low infection rates, such as Taiwan.

“Of course we’d like to see the rest of the international borders opening up,” he said, “But we want it to happen in a safe way because we don’t want all the good work that’s happened in the domestic market to go backwards.”

Joyce pointed to the Iceland model which allows vaccinated visitors to skip quarantine as a potential future path for Australia as quarantine requirements depress travel demand.

“What is really key is to get a system that allows us to open safely with the medical advice but does it in a way that can get economic activity going again,” he said.

India puts curbs on oxygen cylinders amid surge

India has prohibited the use of oxygen cylinders, except for essential industries, as it battles a surge in coronavirus cases linked to a new variant that is overwhelming hospitals across the country.

The country continues to set single-day records of coronavirus cases, reporting more than 275,000 new infections and 1,622 deaths on Saturday, while states are running short of beds, drugs and oxygen.

Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi's chief minister, said that “oxygen has become an emergency in Delhi” because the national capital territory's quota has been diverted to other states. Delhi reported 25,000 new cases on Sunday with Kejriwal warning that there were fewer than 100 intensive care unit beds left.

“The supply of oxygen for industrial purposes by manufacturers and suppliers is prohibited forthwith from 22/04/2021 till further orders,” the government said on Sunday.

Bed shortages have forced authorities to reestablish emergency coronavirus hospitals in banquet halls, train stations and hotels that had been shut down after the previous peak in September.

A Delhi police officer checks the occupants of an autorickshaw during a weekend lockdown
A Delhi police officer checks the occupants of an autorickshaw during a weekend lockdown © Altaf Qadri/AP

Crematoriums in the state of Gujarat and the Delhi national capital region are running 24 hours a day, while cemeteries are running out of plots.

Coronavirus patients struggle to access key drugs that they need for their treatment. Over 800 injections of remdesivir — an antiviral that is commonly used in India as part of Covid 19 treatment — were stolen from a government hospital in Bhopal in the state of Madhya Pradesh over the weekend.

India is also facing a vaccine crunch. New Delhi pledged on Friday to raise monthly production of the indigenous vaccine Covaxin, manufactured by Bharat Biotech, to 100m doses by September.

The majority of Indians have taken the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer. 

But the Serum Institute has said it has struggled to ramp up its monthly capacity of over 60m doses a month owing to a fire at its plant earlier in the year and equipment supply shortages from the US.

HSBC top brass forced to hot desk in London

HSBC chief executive Noel Quinn has abolished the entire executive floor of its Canary Wharf skyscraper in east London, as the bank becomes the latest to drive through sweeping changes to post-pandemic working practices. 

Top managers have been booted out of their 42nd-floor private offices, which have been turned into client meeting rooms and collaborative spaces, Quinn told the Financial Times. 

Executives — the CEO included — now hot desk on an open-plan floor two storeys below. “Our offices were empty half the time because we were travelling around the world. That was a waste of real estate,” he said. “If I’m asking our colleagues to change the way that they’re working, then it’s only right that we change the way we’re working.

Read more here

Singapore warns of labour market uncertainty

Pedestrians pass a shopping mall in Singapore’s Orchard Road
Pedestrians pass a shopping mall in Singapore’s Orchard Road © Lauryn Ishak/Bloomberg

Singapore registered its sharpest employment contraction in more than two decades due to the coronavirus pandemic, as a new report warned that a labour market recovery this year was “surrounded in uncertainty”.

The labour ministry said government measures had helped cushion the impact and while unemployment rates rose, they did not exceed levels recorded in previous recessions.

“Even though retrenchments rose, the incidence of retrenchment was lower than previous recessions after accounting for the increase in our workforce size over the years,” the Ministry of Manpower said in its labour review of the second half of last year.

It warned that resident unemployment and long-term unemployment rates are still elevated, adding that a budget package would “help to secure the rebound, and every segment of the workforce to emerge stronger”.

Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry said the city-state’s gross domestic product growth forecast for 2021 was 4-6 per cent and the economy is expected to see a gradual recovery over the course of the year.

The “pace of recovery is likely to be uneven across sectors”, according to the labour ministry. “Outward-oriented sectors” such as trade-related services sectors and manufacturing are projected to benefit from the pickup in external demand. 

Information and communications as well as financial services and insurance are also expected to post steady growth.

But tourism and aviation-related sectors are projected to see slower recovery, the labour ministry said, due to the slow lifting of global travel restrictions as well as weak global demand for air travel.

“While Singapore’s Covid-19 situation remains under control and our vaccination programme is underway, uncertainties and risks in the global economy remain,” the ministry added.

“Consequently, the labour market conditions remain uncertain although we have started 2021 on a firmer footing than in 2020.”

NZ-Australia ‘travel bubble’ opens path for airlines

The launch of a quarantine-free “travel bubble” between Australia and New Zealand could provide a template for elsewhere in the world and pave the way for an airline industry recovery, according to the countries’ leading carriers.

However, cash-strapped Air New Zealand and Qantas Airways have warned that delays in Covid-19 vaccinations in both nations threatened to upend the resumption of international flights to parts of the world that are struggling to contain the spread of coronavirus.

“Getting Australia back up and running for Air New Zealand is a significant boost to us,” said Greg Foran, Air New Zealand’s chief executive, ahead of the launch of the trans-Tasman travel bubble on Monday.

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German-speaking nations look at digital passport

Europe’s German-speaking countries are looking at a digital passport that would enable travel among the five nations.

Foreign ministers from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein, who met in Lugano last week, said an electronic registration form for regional border travel was raised in discussions, as well as other “interoperable cross-border digital solutions”.

“The pandemic has clearly shown that constant dialogue and ensuring the free movement of people and goods are essential – not only for us, but for a functioning, healthy Europe,” said Ignazio Cassis, Swiss foreign minister.

Cassis said cross-border permit schemes “have already proven useful during the Covid-19 pandemic and will be indispensable in the future”. 

Nearly 340,000 people commute to Switzerland every day from neighbouring countries, and their work has been interrupted by lockdowns and other pandemic-related restrictions.

“For Switzerland, this cooperation has involved finding workable solutions,” Cassis said.

The ministers, who meet annually, also discussed the growing importance of science diplomacy in international relations. 

“Switzerland is looking to digitalisation and science diplomacy – central pillars of its foreign policy strategy – for new ways of conducting foreign policy,” Cassis said.

EG Group buys restaurant chain Leon for £100m

EG Group, the petrol station business whose billionaire founders have pushed for rapid growth through debt-fuelled acquisitions, has bought fast-food chain Leon for £100m as it expands into food retailing.

Mohsin and Zuber Issa said the deal to acquire pandemic-hit Leon offered “fantastic opportunities” to build out the network, including drive-through sites.

The £100m sale price, including debt, values the business at about 20 times its UK arm’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation, according to three people familiar with the transaction.

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Japan exports climb in March on China rebound

A crane moves a container while trucks wait to be loaded at a shipping terminal in Yokohama
A crane moves a container while trucks wait to be loaded at a shipping terminal in Yokohama © Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

Japanese exports grew at a faster pace than forecast in March as shipments to China rebounded a year on from the country’s lockdowns.

Exports grew 16.1 per cent year on year in March, exceeding economists’ estimates compiled by Reuters of an 11.6 per cent rise. That marked a rebound from the 4.5 per cent fall in February.

Shipments to China increased by 37.2 per cent compared to the same period in 2020 when the country’s factories were shuttered to stem the spread of coronavirus.

Japanese machinery exports rose 18.7 per cent year on year, up from 1.4 per cent growth a month earlier.

Imports rose 5.7 per cent compared to a year earlier, slightly higher than the 4.7 per cent increase forecast by economists.

Tom Learmouth, Japan economist at Capital Economics, said the growth figure was a result of weakness in March 2020 when countries shut down to contain the virus.

“While export values rose in March, the rebound in exports slowed significantly across Q1 and external demand is unlikely to provide much of a tailwind to growth this year,” Learmouth said. 

UK pubs and restaurants warn of staff shortages

UK pub and restaurant owners have warned of staff shortages after thousands of workers left the hospitality industry to return to their home countries or take other jobs during the pandemic.

Operators from across the industry told the Financial Times that when they recalled furloughed staff in preparation for the reopening of outdoor drinking and dining in England this week, they discovered many did not want to return.

“We have some businesses where we have lost quite a few of the team [and because of furlough] it is not until now that operators have realised that they may not have all the staff come back,” said Phil Urban, chief executive of Mitchells & Butlers, the UK’s largest listed pub group.

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US defaults fall by more than half, says S&P

Corporate defaults have slowed in the US this year, as fiscal stimulus and other measures from central banks have supported market liquidity, according to a rating agency.

This year’s global corporate default tally has reached 28, following those of Argentina-based power utility company YPF Energia Electrica and Texas-based seismic company ION Geophysical.

“So far in 2021, defaults have slowed considerably,” said Sudeep Kesh, head of S&P Global Credit Markets Research. “At this point in 2020, there were 36 defaults from the US, compared with only 16 in 2021.” 

He said defaults in 2020 accelerated markedly as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the pace has since slowed.

With the default of ION, the oil and gas sector now leads the default tally with six globally, half of which are US-based, Kesh said. 

Australia targets vaccine nationalism 

Australia will ask the EU to lift export restrictions on vaccines and drop a plan to introduce carbon tariffs on imports from outside the bloc in high-stakes talks due to begin on Monday.

Dan Tehan, Australia’s trade minister, told the Financial Times that he would warn his European counterparts about the dangers of introducing protectionist measures as the world seeks to bounce back from a coronavirus-induced recession. 

He will also try to re-energise talks on an Australia-UK free trade deal, which have stalled over concerns in London about opening its market to Australian farm imports.

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Los Angeles to build memorial to pandemic

Los Angeles would erect a memorial to victims of the pandemic, the city’s mayor said.

The Covid-19 commemoration was one of 18 findings in a report released last week by the Mayor’s Office Civic Memory Working Group.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said the recommendations would inform how Los Angeles can “more accurately and appropriately” commemorate “triumphant and tragic” moments in the city’s history.

He said the working group had already helped inform early discussions within City Hall about the most equitable approach to developing a memorial or memorials to victims of Covid-19.

“Los Angeles is a place where everyone’s story is welcome and everybody belongs, yet that spirit is too often lost in the way we pay tribute to our history, confront the pain of our predecessors, and learn from our darkest moments,” he said.

The working group also urged the city to build monuments to the victims of the 1871 Anti-Chinese Massacre.

It recommended a city historian be appointed and suggested a task force be formed to study the establishment of a Museum of the City of Los Angeles.

Venezuela says it will make second Covax payment

A healthcare worker wears a face mask reading “Vaccine, Now!” during a protest demanding jabs for all in Caracas
A healthcare worker wears a face mask reading “Vaccine, Now!” during a protest demanding jabs for all in Caracas © Leonardo Fernández Viloria/Reuters

Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro said on Sunday his country would make a second and final payment to the Covax initiative to ensure the delivery of about 11m doses of Covid-19 vaccine to tackle coronavirus.

Without saying where his cash-strapped state had got the money, he said it had been “liberated” from the embargo which he said the US and other countries have imposed on Venezuela.

A week ago, Maduro's vice-president Delcy Rodríguez said Venezuela had made a first payment to Covax of $64m. The second payment, to be made on Monday, would take the total paid to about $120m, Maduro said.

Venezuela is in the midst of one of the biggest economic meltdowns in Latin American history and has little money to buy vaccines. 

It has so far received about 800,000 doses from Chinese and Russian manufacturers and has vaccinated less than 1 per cent of its 28m population, one of the lowest rates in the region.

The government and the US-backed opposition have been in talks to try to reach a deal under which the US would release money held in frozen Venezuelan bank accounts on the condition that the money is used for vaccines. So far the talks have not been successful.

During the Trump era, the US imposed a series of crippling sanctions on Venezuela to cut off funding to Maduro and try to force him from power. 

Hong Kong airport reports 89% passenger drop

Hong Kong’s airport handled 58,000 passengers in March, a year-on-year drop of 89.9 per cent, official data released on Sunday showed.

There were 10,620 flights, a 12.5 per cent decline, while cargo throughput saw a year-on-year rise of 4.9 per cent to 397,000 tonnes.

“Passenger traffic remained weak in March as the pandemic continued,” the Airport Authority said in a statement.

The growth in cargo volume last month was mainly attributed to double-digit growth in imports. “Overall cargo throughput saw an increase during the month, most significantly in the traffic to and from the Middle East, south-east Asia and Taiwan,” the authority said.

Just 6,675 visitors landed in Hong Kong in March, a 92 per cent drop year on year, the Hong Kong Tourism Board said. Cumulatively, arrivals in the first quarter of 2021 totalled 16,538, amounting to a year-on-year decrease of 99.5%.

Arrivals from mainland China accounted for 4,916 individuals, or 73.6 per cent of the total in March. They accounted for about 70 per cent of total arrivals in the first quarter.

The figures followed the release of Cathay Pacific data, which showed the city's unofficial flag carrier carried an average of 598 passengers a day in March as new crew quarantine rules forced the Hong Kong airline to operate a “skeleton schedule”.

The airline carried a total of 18,539 passengers last month, down 94 per cent on a year earlier after quarantine requirements meant it operated flights to just 18 destinations.

Capacity was cut by 47 per cent compared to February following the arrangements with average daily passengers falling to under 600 from 755 a month earlier.

New South Wales reclassifies 3 cases as local

The Australian state of New South Wales has reclassified three of seven overseas cases of Covid-19 as locally acquired, after it emerged that the virus was likely to have spread across rooms in a quarantine hotel.

The seven returned overseas travellers — from two separate family groups — were diagnosed with the same viral sequence. The two families had arrived from different countries on different days.

They were being quarantined on the 12th floor of the Adina Apartments Hotel in the central Sydney neighbourhood of Town Hall.

“All guests staying on the same floor of the hotel have been retested and returned negative results,” the NSW health department wrote on Twitter. “Staff who worked on level 12 are in self-isolation and undergoing testing.”

NSW, the most populous state, has accounted for 5,181 Covid-19 cases out of the 29,485 identified in Australia since the start of the pandemic. There have been 58 deaths in the state among the 910 fatalities recorded nationally.

There are 63 active cases in NSW, including two patients being treated in intensive care units, state chief health officer Stephen Conaty said.

Oral antiviral drug shows promise in study

An experimental antiviral drug that can be delivered orally significantly decreased levels of the virus and damage in the lungs of hamsters treated for Covid-19 infection, according to a new study. 

The drug, known as MK-4482, is now in human clinical trials, the US National Institutes of Health said. 

In their study, published in the Nature Communications journal, NIH scientists found the MK-4482 treatment effective when provided up to 12 hours before or 12 hours after infecting the hamsters with Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. 

“The data suggest that MK-4482 treatment potentially could mitigate high-risk exposures to Sars-CoV-2, and might be used to treat established Sars-CoV-2 infection alone or possibly in combination with other agents,” NIH said in a statement. 

Remdesivir, an antiviral drug already approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use against Covid-19, must be provided intravenously, making its use limited to clinical settings.

Kuwait’s new cases stay persistently high

The Gulf emirate of Kuwait continued to post four-digit tallies of new cases as it expanded its vaccination programme on Sunday.

The health ministry reported 1,388 confirmed cases in the previous 24 hours, bringing the country’s total to more than 255,000 since the pandemic began.

The Middle East country of 4.2m people last posted a daily new case tally under 1,000 on February 28.

There were four more deaths announced, raising the tally to 1,448.

Abdullah Al-Sanad, health ministry spokesman, said there were 15,393 Covid-19 cases in Kuwait’s hospitals, including 250 in intensive care units.

Residents queue at a vaccination centre in Kuwait City
Residents queue at a vaccination centre in Kuwait City © Yasser Al-Zayyat/AFP via Getty Images

The surge prompted Kuwaiti authorities in February to impose a ban on entry to the country by non-Kuwaitis.

A maximum of 1,000 passengers per day are allowed to enter Kuwait through the country’s only airport as part of virus control measures.

A nighttime curfew imposed from March 7 is expected to be in force until at least April 22.

Kuwait kicked off a vaccination campaign in December, starting with elderly and vulnerable groups as well as healthcare workers.

The rollout has been extended to workers in customer-facing sectors such as retail. On Sunday, Kuwait opened jabs to workers in the financial services sector.

San Francisco to reopen train line early

San Francisco will restore service to one of its main commuter rail lines that was closed down last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, city officials said.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency said the Muni K Ingleside line, which runs through the city’s west wide, would reopen on May 15, joining the previously announced N Judah line.

Officials said they had expected only the N line to reopen next month but maintenance crews had worked ahead of schedule during the subway system’s shutdown.

The transit agency said it used the closure to install Wi-Fi, improve signage, grind rails for smoother runs and install public art at station entrances.

“This last year forced us to change so much about how our city operates, and one of the hardest parts was the impact it had on our public transit,” said London Breed, San Francisco mayor.

Bollywood costume designer tests positive

Manish Malhotra, the Indian fashion designer who later turned his talents to cinema costumes, announced at the weekend he had tested positive for coronavirus.

“I have tested positive for Covid-19,” he told his 6.4m Instagram followers on Saturday.

He added: “I have immediately isolated myself and will be under home quarantine. I am following all safety protocols under the advice of my doctors.”

The 54-year-old Mumbai-born designer has been working in Indian films since 1999. 

He has since expanded his design output to homewares.

Enjoy parks but keep your distance, says Biden

Visitors hike in Great Sand Dunes National Park near Mosca, Colorado, earlier this month
Visitors hike in Great Sand Dunes National Park near Mosca, Colorado, earlier this month © Christian Murdock/The Gazette via AP

This week is National Park Week in the US, by presidential proclamation, but Joe Biden urged caution as he encouraged Americans to take advantage of local beauty spots.

The US president highlighted recent additions to the country’s park system, such as the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument in Jackson, Mississippi; the Reconstruction Era National Historical Park in Beaufort, South Carolina; the Stonewall National Monument in New York City; and the César Chávez National Monument in Delano, California.

The commemoration, which began on Saturday, came with a warning. 

“I encourage all Americans to find their park, recreate responsibly, and enjoy the benefits that come from spending time in the natural world,” said Biden. 

“I also ask all park visitors to do their part to stop the spread of the coronavirus by wearing masks and practicing social distancing,” he added.

Biden evoked the healing power of national parks as he recalled a trip to Dinosaur in Utah and Yellowstone in Wyoming with his sons after their mother and sister were killed in a 1972 car crash.

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts,” he said, quoting the environmentalist Rachel Carson.

Hong Kong bans Manila and Mumbai flights

Hong Kong health authorities on Sunday halted two flight routes for two weeks after passengers who tested positive for coronavirus arrived in the city.

Cathay Pacific flights from Manila and Vistara flights from Mumbai were suspended from April 19 to May 2.

The health department said two flights, both designated CX906 and operated by Cathay Pacific, had each carried two passengers on April 14 and April 17 who were confirmed to have Covid-19 when they were tested on arrival. 

Another flight, UK6397, operated by Vistara arriving from Mumbai to Hong Kong on April 18, carried three passengers who tested positive.

Canada to boost anti-pandemic fight in Ontario

Canada will deploy federal healthcare workers to pandemic-ravaged Ontario, as the country’s most populous province struggles to contain a third wave.

Justin Trudeau, prime minister, said workers in those provinces that had managed to contain the pandemic — such as Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia — would be sent to Ontario.

He said on Sunday that more rapid testing units would be deployed, especially for testing of essential workers in Ontario.

The federal health department’s mobile health units would be set up in the Toronto metropolitan region, which has been particularly badly affected, and the city of Hamilton, the prime minister said.

Trudeau said the third wave featured “more dangerous variants” and urged Ontario residents to roll back the surge.

“Starve the virus by restricting your interactions with others,” he said.

Ontario has accounted for more than 417,000 of Canada’s 1.1m cases and 7,700 fatalities out of 23,000 nationally.

The province has reported record numbers of new cases in recent days, with 7,833 infections confirmed on Saturday.

Canada will set aside another C$12bn (US$9.6bn) in pandemic support measures in a budget to be presented on Monday, the Toronto Star newspaper reported.

NY state hospital cases drop to 5-month low

There were 3,684 Covid-19 cases in New York state hospitals, the lowest figure since November 30, health officials reported over the weekend.

The statewide seven-day average positivity rate dropped to 3.04 per cent, the lowest since November 25.

The figure rose to 3,754 on Sunday, but remained at a near five-month low.

“Covid-19 hospitalisations are down to their lowest level since Thanksgiving, so we are fully back to the point before the holiday surge,” Andrew Cuomo, state governor, said.

He called on the state’s residents to exercise caution to prevent more surges.

“I want to make it especially clear that it is the actions of a community — the actions of individuals as a collective — that matter,” he said. 

“We know how the virus spreads, so it’s a question of your behaviour and the precautions you take. The more precautions you take, the fewer people get infected.”

Kathy Hochul, New York’s lieutenant-governor, on Sunday urged residents to ensure they received a second dose of vaccine.

“Those who skip the second dose will not get the full protective benefit of the vaccine,” she wrote on Twitter.

Hong Kong quarantines 81 over mutant strain

Residents queue for a Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in Hong Kong
Residents queue for a Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in Hong Kong © Vincent Yu/AP

Hong Kong authorities transferred 81 residents of a building in Kowloon to quarantine centres at the weekend after identifying a Covid-19 case with the N501Y mutation first found in South Africa.

It is the first time the mutation has been detected in a locally transmitted case in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

Authorities cordoned off the building in the teeming Jordan district for mandatory screening.

The lockdown ended at 8am on Saturday, and those in the building were told to stay in their homes until all residents had been tested.

A government spokesman said that because the preliminary test result involved a mutant gene and subdivided flats were common in the relatively old building, the risk of infection was “higher than usual”.

Last week, health officials said 16 Covid-19 cases imported from the Philippines and two from Pakistan in the previous seven days all carried the N501Y mutation, which can trigger a shutdown of all flights from a country

FDA revokes authorisation for antibody therapy

The US Food and Drug Administration has revoked its emergency use authorisation for bamlanivimab, an investigational monoclonal antibody therapy to be administered alone as treatment for mild-to-moderate Covid-19.

The FDA announced on Friday that it had determined that the “known and potential benefits of bamlanivimab, when administered alone, no longer outweigh the known and potential risks for its authorised use”.

Viral variants resistant to bamlanivimab alone had increased, the agency said, “resulting in the increased risk for treatment failure”. 

In November 2020, the FDA issued an EUA to Eli Lilly authorising the emergency use of bamlanivimab alone for adult and paediatric Covid-19 patients who were at high risk for progressing to severe disease or hospitalisation.

This month, Eli Lilly, said it would supply the US with bamlanivimab and etesevimab together, rather than bamlanivimab alone as previously agreed. In February, the FDA gave the antibody combination the green light after it was shown to significantly reduce hospitalisations and deaths.

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Pregnant women in the UK can now be offered a Covid-19 shot, government advisers said on Friday, but should not have the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommended expectant mothers should only have the BioNTech/Pfizer or Moderna shot.

The US will invest $1.7bn to tackle Covid-19 variants, as public health experts warn that new strains of the virus could drive up infections even as more Americans are vaccinated. The White House announced on Friday that it was allocating funds from the $1.9tn economic relief package signed into law last month, to fight the variants.

There have been 77 cases of a new variant linked to a surge in Covid-19 cases in India found in the UK, as the government seeks to fortify its defences against strains that may be able to evade existing vaccines. The cases were reported by the government on Thursday evening, along with 56 new cases of the variant first identified in South Africa.

The number of EU citizens arriving in the UK before the pandemic has been revised upwards by the official statistics body. The Office for National Statistics on Friday said that during the nine years to March 2020, before the first lockdown, EU net migration averaged 216,000 people per year, 76 per cent higher than previous figures.

A worker prepares a dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at Dae Hueng Presbyterian Church in Gardena, California
A worker prepares a dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at Dae Hueng Presbyterian Church in Gardena, California © Patrick T Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Moderna has warned that it will deliver fewer than expected vaccines to the UK, Canada and some other countries, after a shortfall in production in its European supply chain. The Boston-based biotechnology company said on Friday that it will reduce the number of doses it is sending to the UK from April.

Apple has temporarily closed its stores in Michigan, which has become the latest hotspot for coronavirus in the US. “Due to current Covid-19 conditions, we are temporarily closing our stores in Michigan. We take this step with an abundance of caution as we closely monitor the situation,” the company said on Friday.

Santander has told UK mortgage brokers that when assessing the mortgage application of a self-employed borrower it would set aside the 2020-21 accounting period if their business had been adversely affected by the coronavirus crisis. From Monday, Santander will base its assessment on income in the two tax years prior to the pandemic

The chief executive of the Co-operative Group will receive a bonus of more than £1m this year despite the mutual choosing not to relinquish business rates relief. Steve Murrells will receive £1.35m, an increase of £735,000 on 2019’s outcome, taking his total pay to £2.2m. More than half of this year’s bonus is a deferred award from 2018.

US takes action against chiropractor’s claims

The US Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission said they would jointly take action against a business allegedly selling bogus Covid-19 treatments.

The authorities said Eric Anthony Nepute and Quickwork, doing business as Wellness Warrior, advertised that their vitamin D and zinc nutritional supplements could prevent or treat Covid-19.

There was no “competent or reliable scientific evidence to support their claims”, the justice department said in a statement. 

Nepute is a chiropractor based in St Louis, the FTC said in a filing.

The defendants allegedly claimed their supplements were equally or more effective therapies for Covid-19 than the currently available vaccines. 

The complaint seeks civil penalties and to stop the defendants from continuing to make “deceptive advertising claims”.

The justice department said the enforcement action was the first under the Covid-19 Consumer Protection Act, which was enacted in December 2020.

New York City expands walk-in jabs

New York City residents aged 50 and older can now walk into city-run Covid-19 vaccine sites and get a shot without an appointment. The expansion began on Saturday.

Previously walk-in appointments were exclusively for New Yorkers 75 and older. “Our priority for the next few months is clear: we need to vaccinate as many New Yorkers as possible,” said Bill de Blasio, the city’s mayor. 

“By making it easier for New Yorkers 50 and older to get vaccinated, we are on our way to fully vaccinating 5m New Yorkers by June.”

The jabs are offered at 31 centres across all five boroughs.