Wuhan Tests Millions; Merck to Develop Vaccines: Virus Update

Wuhan, the hub of China’s coronavirus outbreak, said it tested almost seven million people in 12 days, after several infections prompted worries about a second wave. Merck & Co. unveiled development plans for a pill to the treat the infection and two vaccines to prevent it.

A U.K. government minister resigned in protest after Boris Johnson’s most senior aide refused to apologize for allegedly breaching lockdown rules, piling further pressure on the prime minister. The British government is planning to start lifting restrictions in June.

Latam Airlines, Latin America’s largest air carrier, sought bankruptcy court protection after the pandemic grounded flights across the region. Germany offered Lufthansa a $10 billion bailout, while France is set to announce measures to support the auto industry.

Virus Tracker: Cases top 5.4 million; deaths over 346,000Federal workers see risks to them in Trump’s push to reopenSingapore faces worst contraction in decades, unveils more aidVirus cracks Germany’s defense against unemployment surgeIndonesia deployed its army, Thailand extended the emergency

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Merck Advances Vaccine Candidates (6:45 a.m. NY)

Merck & Co. moved to bolster the global fight against the coronavirus, unveiling development plans for a pill to the treat the infection and two vaccines to prevent it. The U.S. drugmaker bought rights to develop a promising antiviral discovered at Emory University and will work with partners to advance candidate vaccines based on the technology behind Ebola and measles immunizations.

“This is a global pandemic. No one country can solve it, and we can’t put borders around any one country,” Chief Executive Office Kenneth Frazier said by phone. “If we’re successful, we want to ensure broad, supportable access for whoever needs it, wherever they are.” Merck, which over the past century has pioneered inoculations to stop diseases from diphtheria to Ebola, started researching ways to thwart Covid-19 and has evaluated hundreds of potential vaccines, Frazier said.

Malaysia Cases Jump (6:24 a.m. NY)

Malaysia recorded the biggest daily jump in new coronavirus cases since April 3 as it increased testing on migrant workers. The country confirmed 187 new cases on Tuesday, of which 173 are from immigration detention centers, according to the health ministry. That raised the total to 7,604 infections while the number of deaths remained at 115.

The jump in cases comes three weeks after Malaysia relaxed lockdown measures and sparks concern of a surge in cases among migrant workers which many industries rely on for cheaper labor, including construction, restaurants and plantations. The country reported 172 new cases on Monday, after daily increases stayed below 100 for more than three weeks.

U.K. Retail Sales Plunge (6 a.m. NY)

Sales at clothing and furniture shops, as well as car showrooms, plunged again in May, according to the Confederation of British Industry. Its survey also revealed that 80% of firms are having cash-flow difficulties, and about half of retailers have temporarily laid off staff. The figures come a day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson laid out a timetable for the reopening of stores over the coming weeks.

Outdoor markets and car showrooms will be able to reopen from June 1, as soon as they are able to meet the coronavirus guidelines to protect shoppers and workers. All other non-essential retail outlets including shops selling clothes, furniture, books, and electronics, will be expected to be able to reopen from June 15 if the government can control the spread of the virus.

DWS to Keep London, U.S. Staff at Home (5:58 p.m. HK)

Deutsche Bank AG’s asset management unit, DWS Group, will keep employees in London, New York City and Chicago at home for the time being amid ongoing concerns about the spread of Covid-19 and the need to use public transportation to get to the office.

At its headquarters in Frankfurt, about a fifth of staff is expected to return to the office by the end of June, Chief Executive Officer Asoka Woehrmann said in an interview Monday. Employees in Asia have already started to come back to the office, with staffing expected to reach about one-third of pre-crisis levels in the near future, he said.

European Travel Stocks Soar (5:40 p.m. HK)

European travel stocks rallied following a report saying Germany aims to lift travel warnings for 31 European countries from June 15, adding to news from the weekend of Spain’s plans to restart tourism in the country. The Stoxx European travel and leisure index jumped as much as 7% to the highest level since April 30, driven by gains for airlines, airport operators and hoteliers.

Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported that Germany’s travel warnings are to be lifted for all European Union members, along with the U.K., Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The report said the warnings will be replaced by more detailed travel advice, citing a draft proposal. The government press office and the foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

U.K. Minister Quits as Johnson Refuses to Fire Aide (4:55 p.m. HK)

A U.K. government minister resigned in protest after Boris Johnson’s most senior aide refused to apologize for allegedly breaching lockdown rules, deepening the crisis engulfing the British leader’s inner circle. The resignation piled further pressure on Johnson to fire Dominic Cummings, his top strategist, who has refused to quit over claims that he flouted the government’s lockdown advice.

The main charge against Cummings is that he ignored the government’s own orders to “stay at home” when he drove more than 250 miles (400 kilometers) to his parents’ property in northeast England to get childcare support for his four-year-old son. Douglas Ross, a junior minister for Scotland, said many voters in his district could not understand Cummings’ actions.

England & Wales Deaths 54,000 Above Average (4:49 p.m. HK)

Since the epidemic escalated after March 14 there have been about 54,000 more deaths registered than the average, significantly more than those attributed to the virus. Some Covid-19 linked deaths may not have been recorded, while the pressure the pandemic has put on medical resources may also be causing fatalities from other causes, according to research by the Continuous Mortality Investigation.

Britain has been one of the world’s worst affected nations by the virus, with the highest official death count in Europe, though methods of reporting vary.

Wuhan Tests Nearly Seven Million People (4:46 p.m. HK)

Wuhan, the hub of China’s coronavirus outbreak, said it tested nearly seven million people in 12 days, concluding a campaign to test the entire population after several infections prompted fears of a second wave. A total of 6.68 million people underwent nucleic acid tests, of which 206 asymptomatic cases were reported, according to Bloomberg calculations.

Wuhan’s mass testing campaign is part of China’s efforts to prevent the resurgence of the epidemic at all costs after it shut down large swathes of the world’s second-largest economy to get it under control. The emergence of a new cluster of cases in its northeast region led officials to lock down some 100 million residents.

The ambitious testing mission was announced on May 12, days after new infections emerged for the first time since a 76-day lockdown was lifted in Wuhan in April. The pace of testing increased rapidly over the course of the campaign, with the city offering tests to over 1.1 million people on May 23, more than 26 times the number that were completed on the first day

EU Ends Export Curbs on Protective Gear (4:18 p.m. HK)

The European Union removed controls on the export of personal protective equipment for fighting the coronavirus. The export restrictions on spectacles and visors, mouth-nose equipment and garments such as gowns lapsed on Tuesday after being introduced in mid-March for six weeks and then prolonged for 30 days to help ensure sufficient supplies within the EU.

The trade limits -- in the form of a requirement for an authorization to sell the gear outside the 27-nation bloc -- initially also applied to face shields and gloves, which were excluded when the measures were prolonged in late April.

Singapore Boosts Virus Relief (3:47 p.m. HK)

Singapore’s Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat delivered a fourth fiscal package worth S$33 billion ($23 billion) to counter the economic fallout of the coronavirus, providing specific support to saving jobs.

The latest measures will help businesses and workers affected by border closures and movement restrictions, Heng said in a Parliament session on Tuesday. The new package takes Singapore’s total support to almost S$100 billion, or about 20% of gross domestic product, Heng said. It comes with the economy headed for its worst contraction in Singapore’s history as an independent country.

Thai Government Extends Emergency (3:45 p.m. HK)

Thailand’s military-backed government extended the country’s state of emergency for a second time, to the end of June, despite opposition calls to scrap it after novel coronavirus cases dwindled.

The step is needed to lower the risk of another wave of illness as a lockdown is eased, spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat said after the Cabinet backed the move. The emergency imposed late March gives Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha sweeping powers, including a ban on large gatherings that prevents anti-government protests of the kind seen before the virus hit.

Russian Deaths, Recoveries Spike (3:43 p.m. HK)

Russia had a record 174 deaths from coronavirus over the past day, taking total fatalities in the country to 3,807. Figures showed recoveries also increased to 12,331, the highest number so far, bringing the total to 131,129.

The number of new cases increased by 8,915, or 2.5%, to 362,342 -- this is slightly below the five-day average increase of about 2.7%.

Denmark Faces Less Economic Pain Than EU (3:22 p.m. HK)

Denmark’s economy will contract less than the European Union on average this year, after it eased restrictions on movement earlier than many other countries. Gross domestic product will shrink 5.3% in 2020, the Finance Ministry in Copenhagen said on Tuesday, according to documents seen by Bloomberg before the official publication. By contrast, the European Union is set to contract more than 7%.

Japan to Help Firms Pay Rent: (2:17 p.m. HK)

Japan will subsidize up to two-thirds of the rent of small and medium-sized firms and freelancers impacted by the coronavirus, according to draft documents seen by Bloomberg for a second extra budget.

German New Cases Decline (1:26 p.m. HK)

Germany recorded a decline in the number of new coronavirus cases, while the infection rate dropped further below the key threshold of 1.0. The country had 272 new cases in the 24 hours through Tuesday morning, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That compares with 342 infections the previous day and almost 7,000 at the peak of the outbreak in late March.

The reproduction factor of the virus, known as R-naught, dropped to 0.83 on Monday from 0.94 the day before, according to the latest estimate from the Robert Koch Institute. Separately, Germany plans to lift travel warnings for 31 European countries as of June 15, DPA reported, citing a government draft.

South Korean Nightclub-Linked Cases Rise to 255 (1:05 p.m. HK)

Nightclub-linked coronavirus cases in South Korea rose to 255 on Tuesday from 247 at midnight, the country’s Centers for Disease Control said. The CDC also said it was investigating as two suspected cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children were reported.

Indonesia Deploys Army to Enforce Lockdown (12:18 p.m. HK)

Indonesia deployed hundreds of thousands of army and police personnel across the vast archipelago to enforce social-distancing rules after a record surge in infections in the past week cast doubt on plans to reopen Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

Almost 350,000 officers will guard public transport, shopping malls and tourism sites in four provinces and 25 cities including the capital Jakarta, which have implemented partial lockdowns, according to National Military Chief Hadi Tjahjanto.

Army and police personnel will “discipline citizens and make the society abide” by the large-scale social-distancing rules, President Joko Widodo said after visiting a subway station in central Jakarta on Monday.

Latam Airlines Files Chapter 11 Bankruptcy (12:11 p.m. HK)

Latam Airlines Group SA, Latin America’s largest air carrier, sought bankruptcy court protection in New York after the Covid-19 pandemic grounded flights across the region.

The Chapter 11 petition allows Latam to keep operating while the Chilean carrier works out a plan to pay creditors and turn around the business. Latam, whose shareholders include Chile’s Cueto family and Delta Air Lines Inc., continues to operate on a reduced schedule, and it has commitments for a bankruptcy loan of up to $900 million.

Hong Kong to Resume Airport Transits (10:41 a.m. HK)

Hong Kong will further ease social-distancing measures this week as concern over the coronavirus pandemic wanes.

Karaoke parlors, bathhouses, party rooms and nightclubs will be allowed to return to business starting this Friday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at a regular press briefing. Transit services will gradually resume at the Hong Kong International Airport starting June 1, she said.

Philippines Seeks $26 Billion Stimulus (10:03 a.m. HK)

The Philippines’ Trade Department wants lawmakers to pass a 1.3 trillion peso ($26 billion) stimulus package that will aid the recovery of industries and workers.

Of the total stimulus being discussed at the House of Representatives, about 628 billion pesos is planned for wage subsidies and loans for businesses hit by the lockdown, the Trade Department said in a statement. The remaining half of the proposed package will be used to build facilities for health, education and food security.

China Reports 7 New Cases, All From Abroad (8:29 a.m. HK)

China reported seven additional coronavirus cases by the end of May 25, with all of them from abroad, according to a statement from the National Health Commission. Of the seven cases, five were reported in Inner Mongolia. The country also reported 29 asymptomatic cases, with one of them from abroad. It had no coronavirus deaths for May 25.

U.S. Resets Brazil Travel Limit (6:40 a.m. HK)

The Trump administration advanced the effective time for limiting the entry of non-U.S. citizens traveling from Brazil, a nation that has the world’s second-most infections. The order will take effect at the end of Tuesday, two days earlier than stated in a proclamation issued Sunday by the White House.

Wuhan Tests Millions; Merck to Develop Vaccines: Virus Update Wuhan Tests Millions; Merck to Develop Vaccines: Virus Update Reviewed by Anson Moore on May 26, 2020 Rating: 5

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