Hong Kong’s Lam: Time Has Come to Ease Social Distancing Measures
Watch: Lam says Hong Kong will soon relax some social distancing measures.
Global deaths from the pandemic topped 251,000 as countries around the world move closer to easing restrictions on people movements.
Hong Kong’s leader said the time has come to lift social distancing measures, Italy began to reopen its economy after two months and Spain started to relax its lockdown regime after weeks of confinement.
In the U.S., California and Arizona took steps toward reopening as New York reported the fewest new infections since mid-March.
- Virus Tracker: global cases pass 3.5 million; deaths top 251,000
- Trump’s 100,000-dead projection is muddied by reopenings
- Antibody tests to get tighter oversight from U.S. regulators
- Goldman, Morgan Stanley see signs world economy is bottoming
- Russia has more than 10,000 new infections for a second day
- Singapore’s battle with virus “not even at the halfway mark”
- China reports 1 new case, no additional deaths on May 4
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Hong Kong Will Relax Virus Restrictions ‘Soon’ as Cases Stay Low (10:15 a.m. HK)
Hong Kong will soon ease social distancing measures after largely containing the spread of Covid-19, Chief Executive Carrie Lam told a briefing Tuesday ahead of a meeting of her advisory Executive Council. “I would just appeal to you to be a little more patient. We will make the decision and announce as soon as possible,” Lam said without specifying a time frame for loosening the rules. It comes after reports the city could relax a ban on gatherings of more than four people and may soon open gyms and movie theaters.
Fauci Says There Are Regions, Counties Where Rules Can Relax (9:34 a.m. HK)
Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, said there are regions and counties in the U.S. where “you can pull back” restrictions put in place to contain the pandemic. While some locations have done well to manage the spread of Covid-19, other areas aren’t in a position to Fauci told CNN in an interview.
Arizona to Allow Salons, Restaurants to Open (7:50 a.m. HK)
Arizona became the latest U.S. state to relax restrictions, allowing service businesses such as salons and barber shops to reopen Friday while restaurants can start dine-in service next week. The reopenings require new protocols such as sanitation measures and limited occupancies. Governor Doug Ducey announced the reopenings ahead of a visit from President Donald Trump Tuesday. Topics of discussion during Trump’s visit will include Arizona’s testing needs and “economic resurgence for our state,” Ducey said.
Qantas Raises More Funds as Cancellations Extended (7:13 a.m. HK)
Qantas Airways Ltd. raised an additional A$550 million ($353 million) to weather the crisis as it extended international flight cancellations until the end of July. The Australian carrier warned it could take years before the public’s appetite to fly overseas returns as it extended domestic flight cancellations by a month to the end of June. In March, the company raised A$1.05 billion and furloughed most of its 30,000-strong workforce due to the coronavirus.
White House Disclaims Projection Showing Surge (6:45 a.m. HK)
An internal U.S. government projection shows the nation’s coronavirus outbreak vastly accelerating by June to more than 200,000 new cases and 2,500 deaths per day — far more than the country is currently experiencing.
The White House disclaimed the projection, calling it an “internal CDC document” but saying it had not been presented to Trump’s coronavirus task force and didn’t comport with the task force’s own analysis and projections.
It isn’t clear who produced the document, obtained and published earlier by the New York Times, or what assumptions underlie the forecasts. The projections, on two slides of a 19-slide deck, are dated May 1 and attributed to a “data and analytics task force.”
Funding Watchdog Nominee Vows Vigilance (5 p.m. NY)
Donald Trump’s nominee to oversee trillions of dollars in the effort to rescue the economy from the coronavirus pandemic pledged to “conduct every audit and investigation with fairness and impartiality.”
“I will be vigilant to protect the integrity and independence of the Office of Special Inspector General” and will work “to uncover fraud, waste and abuse,” Brian Miller said in prepared remarks released Monday. He’s scheduled to face the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday as lawmakers weigh his nomination as Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery.
Created by the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed in March, the role’s purview will include key stimulus programs including $454 billion in backstops to lending programs through the Federal Reserve, as well as money for airlines and defense companies. The central bank is leveraging funds from the Treasury Department into trillions of dollars in liquidity for the economy.
California to Start Modest Reopening Friday (4:37 p.m. NY)
California, the first state to shut down its economy over the coronavirus, will start loosening its lockdown on Friday by allowing stores to sell items such as books, clothes and flowers through curbside pickup.
Governor Gavin Newsom announced the changes Monday, saying the most populous U.S. state had sufficiently slowed the virus’s spread to allow for more commercial activity. Bowing to pressure from rural areas, Newsom said individual counties could relax stay-at-home rules even further, if they are effectively able to track and trace infections.
“We are definitely at a point, a sort of hinge moment in this pandemic,” Newsom said Monday during his daily virus update with reporters.
The state reported 39 more deaths Monday, the lowest daily tally in three weeks. Hospitalizations and intensive-care stays have stabilized, Newsom said.
Virus Will Be AIG’s Biggest Catastrophe (4:35 p.m. NY)
American International Group Inc. was hit by about $272 million in costs tied to the coronavirus as the insurance industry braces for what Chief Executive Officer Brian Duperreault said would probably be its “single largest” catastrophe loss ever. The insurer withdrew previously issued guidance, including a forecast for 10% adjusted return on common equity by the end of 2021.
The losses were focused in business lines including travel, commercial property, trade credit and workers’ compensation policies. That drove an $87 million underwriting loss in the sprawling property-casualty operation, AIG said in reporting first-quarter earnings.
“While we believe Covid-19 will be the single largest CAT loss the industry has ever seen, the significant body of work our team has undertaken since late 2017 has served us well as we navigate through this evolving situation,” Duperreault said. “AIG was in a strong financial position before this crisis began and remains in a strong financial position today.”
U.S. Cases Rise 2% (4 p.m. NY)
U.S. cases rose 2% from the day before to 1.17 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. That was lower than Sunday’s growth rate of 2.3% and below the average daily increase of 2.6% over the past week. Deaths rose 1.7% to 68,326.
- Cases in New York rose 0.8% while deaths rose 1.5%, according to the data from Johns Hopkins and Bloomberg News.
- Florida has 36,897 cases, up 2.3% from a day earlier, according to the state’s health department. Deaths reached 1,399, an increase of 1.5%.
- Texas reported that 17 more people died, the fifth-consecutive day that number has declined, bringing total deaths to 884. There were 784 new virus cases confirmed, the first time in five days the daily increase dropped below 1,000. Hospitalizations stabilized a second day at around 1,500.
- California reported 39 new deaths from the virus, the lowest daily toll since April 12. Confirmed cases rose 2.5% to a total of 54,937, while hospitalizations declined.
- Nebraska had the biggest daily increase in cases, which rose 11% to 5,891.
WHO Will Seek Talks With Gilead (1:40 p.m. NY)
There are signals of hope for the potential use of Gilead’s remdesivir drug, according to Mike Ryan, head of the World Health Organizations’s health emergencies program. The WHO plans to engage in talks with the company and the U.S. government on how the drug may be made more widely available as further data emerges on its effectiveness.
Evidence from the novel coronavirus’s genetic sequence shows that the virus is of natural origin, Ryan said. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that “enormous evidence” shows the novel coronavirus outbreak began in a laboratory in Wuhan, China. He provided no proof for his claims.
“We have not received any data or specific evidence from the U.S. government regarding the purported origin of the virus, so from our perspective, this remains speculative,” Ryan said. “We would be very willing to receive any information that purports to the origin of the virus.”
Tens of Millions Could Lose Health Coverage (1:38 p.m. NY)
Between 25 million and 43 million Americans could lose their employer-sponsored health coverage if the unemployment rate reaches 20%, according to a new report from the Urban Institute.
A giant shift in how Americans get health care is likely already underway, with millions moving from getting coverage through an employer to enrolling in state Medicaid programs or the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, the report suggests. The number of people who have no health insurance could grow by 7 million to 12 million, according to the projections. States that didn’t expand Medicaid under Obamacare would see a higher proportion of people lose coverage entirely.
A separate estimate last week suggested almost 13 million people have already lost coverage in the coronavirus crisis. The Labor Department will report unemployment statistics on Friday. Economists project the unemployment rate will spike from 4.4% in March to 16% in April, in the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg.
U.K. in Talks With Roche on Test Rollout (1:15 p.m. NY)
The U.K. is in talks with Roche about a mass rollout of its antibody tests. “Roche made a very positive announcement,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said at televised press briefing in London on Monday. “We are in discussions with them about a very large-scale rollout of antibody testing, as well as with some others, who may be able to bring this forward.”
Hancock added that “there’s been false hope before in antibody testing and so we’ll make announcements when we’re absolutely ready.” Roche received regulatory approval in the U.S. for emergency use of its antibody test over the weekend.
Finland to Start Reopening June 1 (1:01 p.m. NY)
Finland’s government set out steps to the gradual reopening of services as the pace of new coronavirus infections slowed.
Gatherings of fewer than 50 people will be permitted from June 1, up from the current limit of 10, Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in Helsinki on Monday. Restaurants may resume dine-in services from June and the government will allow work-related travel to and from the European Union’s Schengen area.
Finland has about 5,300 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with at least 3,500 recorded recoveries and 240 dead.
N.Y. New Cases at Lowest Since Mid-March (12:48 p.m. NY)
New York reported 2,538 new virus cases, the lowest level since mid-March. Total hospitalizations are down, though Governor Andrew Cuomo noted the decline hasn’t been as sharp as the rise had been.
The state is planning to begin reopening on a regional bases so upstate, which hasn’t been as hard hit as the New York City and Albany regions, doesn’t have to wait as long. Businesses will reopen in four phases. Phase 1: Construction, manufacturing and wholesale supply chain, with select retail curbside pickup. Phase 2: Professional services, finance and insurance, retail, administrative support and real estate. Phase 3: Restaurants, food services and hotels/accommodations. Phase 4: arts, entertainment, recreation and education.
EU Raises $8 Billion in Pledges (12:38 p.m. NY)
The European Commission registered $8 billion in pledges from donors worldwide at the starting day of a Coronavirus Global Response fundraiser on Monday. The goal is to finance the collaborative development and universal deployment of diagnostics, treatments and vaccines to fight the coronavirus.
The pledging event was co-hosted by the European Union, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Norway, Spain and the U.K. Donors can continue pledging in the weeks ahead.
Antibody Tests Get Tighter U.S. Scrutiny (11:11 a.m. NY)
Blood tests that can tell whether patients have been infected with the new coronavirus will get tighter oversight from U.S. health regulators, after some manufacturers made allegedly false or inappropriate claims and questions arose about the accuracy of some tests.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Monday that makers of the tests, which since mid-March have been allowed to be sold without any government sign-off, will have to apply for authorization within 10 days of their products coming to market. The FDA also laid out requirements that tests must meet to gain clearance.
Gilead Drug’s Sales Could Top $2 Billion (10:40 a.m. NY)
At $4,500 for a round of treatment for Covid-19, remdesivir, Gilead Sciences Inc.’s new medicine could be reasonably priced and still generate over $2 billion in revenue for the biotech, according to analysts at Piper Sandler.
That’s the maximum price that the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review recommended for a 10-day treatment of Gilead’s remdesivir, which received emergency approval from U.S. regulators on Friday. Gilead promised to give away the first 1.5 million vials but has been quiet on its pricing plans after that supply is used up. The company didn’t immediately respond to e-mailed requests for comment.
— With assistance by Robert Fenner