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Italy Deaths Top China; U.K. Brexit Chief Isolates: Virus Update

Bloomberg News
Italy Deaths Top China; U.K. Brexit Chief Isolates: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) -- The number of dead in Italy surpassed those in China, as the virus showed signs of slowing there. President Donald Trump is asking regulators to expand the use of a malaria drug to treat the disease.

The U.S. issued its highest warning to Americans not to travel abroad. The British government denied it plans to confine Londoners to their homes and ban them from leaving the capital.

AT&T is in discussions for a $3 billion loan. Ford Motor Co. suspended its dividend and withdrew its earnings guidance. Trump said he would support the U.S. taking equity stakes in companies given bailout money. Filings for U.S. unemployment benefits surged.

Key Developments:

Cases hit 231,319 worldwide, death toll tops 9,600Lagarde pledges no limits to ECB action, bonds soarEnglish Premier League postponed until April 30Younger adults aren’t as impervious as originally thoughtNew York ordered 75% of a company’s non-essential workers to stay home.The Cannes Film Festival was postponed for at least a month

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here.

Click VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus and here for maps and charts. For analysis of the impact from Bloomberg Economics, click here. To see the impact on oil and commodities demand, click here.

Johnson’s U.K. Brexit Chief in Isolation With Symptoms (5:33 p.m. NY)

The U.K.’s chief negotiator for its trade talks with the European Union, David Frost, is isolating himself after showing symptoms of coronavirus, a British official said. It comes after Michel Barnier, Frost’s EU counterpart, announced on Twitter earlier on Thursday that he had tested positive for the disease. The two men had not had contact since the first round of talks in Brussels two weeks ago.

The news is likely to crush any hopes that the negotiations over the two sides’ future trade relationship can make any substantial progress while the global pandemic continues. This week’s round of talks, scheduled for London, had already been put on hold.

Tesla Suspends Production at Lone U.S. Plant (5:07 p.m. NY)

Tesla will idle production at a northern California facility that is its lone U.S. assembly plant. The decision follows several days of public pressure by local police and city managers about the carmaker continuing to run the factory in spite of a county shelter-in-place order.

U.S. Tells Citizens Abroad to Come Home (4:45 p.m. NY)

The U.S. Justice Department escalated a global travel alert to its highest level, telling Americans to avoid all international trips. U.S. citizens in other countries should arrange for immediate return home unless they are prepared to stay abroad indefinitely, the agency said in an advisory.

“If you choose to travel internationally, your travel plans may be severely disrupted, and you may be forced to remain outside of the United States for an indefinite timeframe,” the advisory says.

CVS Begins Testing (3:28 p.m. NY)

CVS Health Corp. opened its first coronavirus testing site, in the parking lot of a pharmacy in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. The company warned there will likely be “issues that arise” that will help the program improve as it opens other sites.

Texas Takes Broad Anti-Virus Actions (2:51 p.m. NY)

Texas Governor Greg Abbott closed all schools and gyms in the state and banned public gatherings of 10 or more people in sweeping new orders to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

The state declared its first public health disaster since 1901. Abbott emphasized that the new limits didn’t amount to a shelter-in-place order, but said he holds quarantine powers if he needs to use them later.

Schools will remain closed statewide at least through April 3. He also banned visits at nursing and retirement homes and restricted restaurants and bars to take-out or drive-thru service only, consistent with advice from federal health officials.

Johnson May Issue More Restrictions (2:23 p.m. NY)

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that some Londoner aren’t doing enough to contain the spread of the coronavirus and that he would take more steps if necessary. He said earlier, however, that London wouldn’t be locked down.

He also said Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will announce actions on Friday to support struggling businesses.

“I say to businesses, stand by your employees, stand by your workers, because we will stand by you,” he told reporters.

Johnson also said there were no plans to halt London’s sprawling mass transit system.

Italy Death Toll Passes China (1:33 p.m. NY)

Italy surpassed China as the country with the most coronavirus deaths, as its number of fatalities reached 3,405 and the pandemic’s global spread accelerates. China has reported 3,245 deaths.

Italy nation remained in lockdown.

Africa Has Undetected Cases, Conditions Challenging (1:12 p.m. NY)

While African nations have some undetected cases, it’s probably not a large number, said Matshidiso Moeti, the region’s director at the World Health Organization. It’s difficult to estimate the true case load, she said.

Social distancing and proper hand-washing can be a challenge in some parts of Africa, she added. Families might not have room to isolate infected patients, and soap and clean water are limited in some locations, she said. Non-governmental organizations can help to ensure access to clean water, sanitation and soap in Africa.

While Africa has a younger population, the region has higher rates of HIV and many countries lack universal access to health treatment, Moeti said. Malnutrition is also a bigger issue than in Asia and Europe. Recently TV and radio have been talking “virtually only about coronavirus,” and authorities need to make sure messages are getting out about other health issues such as cholera, Moeti said.

National Guard Sees ‘Tens of Thousands’ Deployed (1:08 p.m. NY)

“Tens of thousands” of U.S. National Guard personnel are likely to be deployed in the fight to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

About 2,000 members of the reserve force have already been mobilized at the request of governors in 27 states, and the number could double by the weekend, Air Force General Joseph L. Lengyel, head of the National GuardBureau, said at a Pentagon briefing.

Carnival Offers Cruise Ships for Response (1:07 p.m. NY)

Carnival Corp. is making its cruise ships available for possible virus response efforts, President Donald Trump said Thursday, citing talks with the company’s chairman, Micky Arison.

U.S. Should Get Shares in Bailed-Out Companies (12:47 p.m. NY)

President Donald Trump said he’d support the U.S. taking an equity stake in companies that receive coronavirus-related aid from taxpayers and prohibiting firms from increasing executive bonuses and stock buy-backs.

U.K. Contacts As Many as 15,000 Retired Doctors (12:45 p.m. NY)

The U.K. is contacting 15,000 retired and former doctors who have left the profession in the last three years to see if they are willing to help with efforts to fight the pandemic, the General Medical Council said in a statement Thursday. A third of those being contacted are aged 44 and under.

The GMC will grant the entire group automatic temporary registration to practice with no reassessment. Those that don’t want to participate can opt out. About 33% were previously general practitioners, while 35% were specialists.

Trump Touts Malaria Drug as Potential Treatment (12:26 p.m. NY)

The Food and Drug Administration has been told by President Donald Trump to see if it can expand the use of an experimental malaria drug, chloroquine, to treat patients in the middle of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak.

At a press conference at the White House Thursday, Trump and the head of the FDA gave apparently conflicting comments about the availability of the drug. Trump said chloroquine had been approved and could be given to patients by doctors with a prescription.

“It’s been around for a long time, so we know that if things don’t go as planned it’s not going to kill anybody,” Trump said.

Minutes later, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, said that use of the drug would be in a clinical trial to find out whether or not it works, and if so, what dose would safe and effective.

U.S. to Tell Americans Not to Travel Overseas (12:21 p.m. NY)

The State Department is preparing to raise its travel alert to Level 4 for the entire world, a move aimed at stopping Americans from going overseas as the Trump administration tries to get control of the coronavirus, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Level 4 is the highest advisory in the State Department’s travel alert system and essentially tells Americans not to travel overseas at all. It is normally reserved for countries in a state of war such as Yemen and Somalia.

Trump: FDA Approves Malaria Drug for Coronavirus (12:05 p.m.)

A drug used for the treatment of malaria will be allowed for treatment of Covid-19, President Donald Trump said Thursday, putting an experimental, largely unproven therapy onto the market in the middle of the U.S.’s coronavirus outbreak.

The decision to approve the drug, chloroquine, is a nearly unprecedented step by U.S. drug regulators, who typically conduct careful trials of drugs to determine their safety and effectiveness.

“It’s been around for a long time, so we know that if things don’t go as planned it’s not going to kill anybody,” Trump said of the drug at a press conference with Food and Drug Commissioner Stephen Hahn at the White House on Thursday.

Trump also said that an experimental drug from Gilead Sciences Inc., remdesivir, is also “essentially approved.” Trump didn’t elaborate on what that meant.

Blue Apron Extends 1,100% Surge (10:15 a.m. NY)

Blue Apron Holdings Inc. shares extended a record four-day surge that has seen the stock jump more than 1,100% this week alone.

The meal-kit delivery company opened above $25 a share for the first time since the fall of 2018, as investors flock for safety from the coronavirus-driven rout. The optimism comes as Americans prepare for a potential “shelter-in-place” order that would restrict their ability to leave their homes.

NJ Transit Seeks $1.25 Billion in Federal Aid (10 a.m. NY)

New Jersey Transit is seeking $1.25 billion of federal aid to make up for a plunge in fare revenue in the wake of the new coronavirus, according to a letter sent by the agency to the state’s congressional delegation.

Ridership has dropped 88% since March 9. The financial toll will be “extraordinary and beyond anything experienced in our company’s history,” NJ Transit wrote in a letter seen by Bloomberg News.

Ford Halts Dividend, Withdraws Guidance (9:17 a.m. NY)

Ford suspended its dividend and withdrew its guidance as the automaker addresses effects of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s offering new-car customers six-month payment relief.

White House Mulls 50-Year Bond (8:25 a.m. NY)

The Trump administration is revisiting the idea to issue ultra-long bonds as it grapples with how to finance a $1.3 trillion fiscal stimulus plan. President Donald Trump’s advisers are considering, among many options, 50-year and 25-year bonds as they seek financing for additional federal debt with the lowest cost to taxpayers.

Separately, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said he will propose a massive expansion of unemployment insurance when he meets with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell this morning.

Israel Uses Powers to Override Drug Patent (8:01 a.m. NY)

Israel approved the import of a generic version of Kaletra, a patent-protected drug that is intended for treatment of HIV, for use in coronavirus cases, the Justice Ministry said. This is the first time since the 1967 patent law came into force that the Attorney General is making use of an article in the law that permits approval of a generic version of a patent-protected drug.

India Curbs Incoming Flights (7:51 a.m. NY)

India barred all international flights from landing in the country for a week starting March 22, as part of measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The federal government also asked states to enforce work-from-home for all private-sector employees except those working in emergency and essential services.

Germany May Authorize Emergency Borrowing Next Week (7:46 a.m. NY)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is considering taking steps as early next week that would allow the government an unlimited increase in borrowing to help stem fallout from the coronavirus crisis.

Merkel’s Cabinet may meet Monday to sign off on the higher borrowing and ask for a special session of the Bundestag to approve the request, said people with direct knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations.

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