Categories
Business

Rishi Sunak is a reluctant Keynesian. But he has no choice

‘You are Keynesian?’ ‘I wouldn’t be one with my own money, I’ll tell you that,’ said Kaufmann.”

This delightful quotation comes from John le Carré’s A Perfect Spy. I wonder if our relatively new chancellor, Rishi Sunak, knows it.

Sunak is enjoying considerable popularity, partly because people perceive him as one of the few grown-ups in the cabinet, and partly because, although a rightwinger and a Brexiter – necessary conditions for membership of the worst cabinet in living memory – he has risen to the occasion.

That occasion is the biggest economic depression since 1709. The official estimate is that output (gross domestic product) fell by 20.4% in April. That demands countervailing economic measures.

Yet, as I have said before, this is not fundamentally an economic crisis, although its repercussions may be. Economic crises tend to occur when some unexpected event throws an economy off course, or as a result of ill-conceived policies. The present depression, both in the UK and around the world, has been deliberately imposed by governments in an attempt to contain, if not eliminate, the spread of “the plague” – a no-nonsense phrase which I prefer to “Covid-19”.

The very least any government can do is attempt to cushion the damaging economic and social effects of measures they have deliberately imposed themselves. Thus it comes about that a chancellor who believes in a smaller state and reductions in public spending – how the Treasury loved him when he was chief secretary, or grand controller of public spending! – is lauded by the left for opening the floodgates.

Of course, our new chancellor is reputed, in the traditional Cockney phrase, to be not short of a bob or two himself. Like the Le Carré character quoted above, he is being Keynesian, but not with his own money.

The epithet “Keynesian” should be used with care. John Maynard Keynes wrote millions of words, and argued for more than a decade, to get his message across. But the essence of his philosophy was epitomised by that formidable Labour chancellor Denis Healey (in office from 1974 to 1979). As he put it: “When you are in a hole, don’t dig deeper.”

Sunak is trying to pull us out of the hole, with the able assistance of the Bank of England, under its governor, Andrew Bailey, and the Debt Management Office (DMO) under its director Sir Robert Stheeman.

Bailey recently gave a spirited, almost boastful, account of how, when there was a plague-induced panic in the ranks of the financial markets in mid-March, the Bank came to the rescue with an extra dose of what is comically known as quantitative easing (QE) but is actually the old-fashioned practice of printing money (although these days it is, in effect, electronic money).

Stheeman and his colleagues made an impressive virtual appearance before the Treasury committee on Wednesday. The scale of government borrowing may, as a result of the depression, have reached historic heights and frightened a number of fiscal hawks, but there is plenty of liquidity sloshing around out there, and the average maturity of UK government debt – that is, the length of time before repayment is due – is, at some 15 years, longer that any other member of the G7, and possibly any of the 37 member nations of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The impending disaster of Real Brexit does not appear to have hit the market for government debt, although it has most certainly clobbered the exchange rate – €1.10 to the pound as I write.

But back to the chancellor: we are told that he is considering all manner of further fiscal measures to limit the damage, probably including a temporary cut in VAT.

But we are also told that he is planning tax increases and public spending cuts in an autumn budget. God help us! If he is serious about this, he will be making the mistake George Osborne made in 2010 when embarking on the austerity programme, which only a few of us opposed at the time, but which is now widely acknowledged to have had disastrous social consequences.

Finally, readers who missed it may appreciate the following item from last Wednesday’s prime minister’s questions. Johnson asked Sir Keir Starmer whether he could “now confirm that he wants all children who can to go back to school this month”.

“Yes,” said Starmer.

Johnson: “He still can’t make up his mind! He still won’t say whether children should go back.”

I read that our European counterparts are prepared to compromise on the next round of Brexit negotiations. They should be on their guard. They are dealing with a bare-faced, incompetent liar.

Source: Read Full Article

Categories
Business

Nespresso Joins With Uganda in Push for Trendy African Coffee

Sign up to our Next Africa newsletter and follow Bloomberg Africa on Twitter

Uganda’s plan to improve its coffee production and income just got a boost from Nespresso’s hunt for single-origin cherries.

Working with more than 2,000 farmers, the Nestle SA unit is helping produce and market coffee from Uganda’s mountainous Rwenzori region. Nespresso’s so-called Reviving Origins program has already helped boost productivity in eastern Zimbabwe and Caqueta, Colombia. The company is selling their limited-edition capsules in markets including the U.S. and the U.K.

Output from Africa’s largest coffee exporter and the birthplace of robusta could increase to 7.1 million 60-kilogram bags in the year through September, with a target of tripling it in five years. But after planting 800 million trees, Ugandan authorities are now emphasizing the need to improve quality of the beans in a bid for premium rates.

“There is an enormous potential,” Paulo Barone, head of coffee sustainability and origin development at Nespresso, said in an interview. “In Rwenzori, the productivity is very low.”

Mountainous Rwenzori

Rwenzori is remote, mountainous and near the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has seen recurring conflicts and Ebola outbreaks. It also wasn’t spared shocks to Ugandan coffee over the years, including price fluctuations, internal unrest, changing weather patterns and disease.

The region’s coffee output has deteriorated, with farmers collecting 1.5 kilograms of cherries per tree every year, below the national average of 2 kilograms and 5 kilograms in model farms. Rwenzori now produces around 5% of Uganda’s annual output, and the beans are mostly substandard.

The farmers can’t immediately sell what they harvest and end up mixing fresh and old beans, degrading the quality, according to Barone.

Nespresso has stationed trucks at key points to collect cherries from the farmers every day, and set up a central processor. “We are asking the farmers to collect only the red cherries, which will give us the best profile for their coffee,” Barone said.

Hip Coffees

While still chasing volumes, Uganda, like some growers in the region — Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Zimbabwe — is looking to meet demand from young consumers around the world willing to pay a bit more for niche African coffees.

The government is investing in the management of soil fertility, modern farming and branding, with a target to sell a better product at a premium of 15%. It wants to increase coffee-export earnings by 46% to an annual $2.2 billion in five years and improve the livelihoods of at least 1.2 million farmers.

The target of 20 million bags by 2025 is “a tall order,” said Francis Gonahasa, a lawmaker in the agriculture parliamentary committee. That volume could be achieved in a decade with more planting and better farming practices, Gonahasa said.

Beans from Rwenzori, if treated properly, can become the “exquisite coffees” from Uganda and among the highest graded from anywhere, according to Barone.

“I can comfortably tell you that if they produce 50% more cherries in two to three years, that wouldn’t be a surprise at all,” Barone said.

Source: Read Full Article

Categories
Business

Sweden’s Covid Expert Says the World Still Doesn’t Understand

Sign up here for our daily coronavirus newsletter on what you need to know, and subscribe to our Covid-19 podcast for the latest news and analysis.

After three months of non-stop controversy, Sweden’s top epidemiologist is about to go on vacation.

Anders Tegnell is unlikely to stray far from home, after much of the European Union excluded Sweden from safe travel lists. His decision to advise against a Swedish lockdown has coincided with one of the world’s highest Covid-19 mortality rates. But Tegnell insists Sweden’s strategy remains widely misunderstood.

Over the past week, the epidemiologist has made headlines by lashing out at the World Health Organization and labeling as “mad” countries that opted for strict lockdowns.

Throughout it all, Tegnell has argued that the world is only in the first stage of dealing with a long, uncertain battle with Covid-19. That’s why Sweden’s strategy — keep much of society open, but train people to observe distancing guidelines — is the only realistic way to cope in the long run, he says.

“I’m looking forward to a more serious evaluation of our work than has been made so far,” Tegnell said in a podcast published by Swedish public radio. “There is no way of knowing how this ends.”

Vindication

On Friday, Tegnell won a very public victory against the WHO, after lambasting the organization for making a “total mistake.” The WHO had initially placed Sweden in a group of 11 countries where it said “accelerated transmission has led to very significant resurgence that, if left unchecked, will push health systems to the brink.”

But the WHO then amended its assessment, and said Swedish contagion rates are in fact “stable.” It linked the high number of cases to an increase in testing.

William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard’s School of Public Health in Boston, said “Sweden’s policy is unusual in that it took a much less stringent approach to preventing transmission, but interestingly it implemented those measures at a very early stage in the pandemic, before large amounts of community spread had occurred.”

“Sweden’s approach may be sustainable in ways other countries’ have not proven to be,” according to Hanage. “It should be noted that lockdowns are a response to an imminent surge into health care, with the goal of stopping as many transmission chains as quickly as possible. The full accounting will only be possible after the pandemic.”

But the Swedish approach has come at a cost, and its death toll per 100,000 is now five times that in neighboring Denmark, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The strict lockdown the Danes imposed in mid-March has since been wound back after the virus was ostensibly brought under control.

In Sweden, it is “bluntly not clear how the vulnerable are expected to be protected,” Hanage said. “Once you get a very large outbreak in one age group, it becomes more difficult to protect others.” It’s a scenario that has played out bleakly in Sweden’s nursing homes, where the death rate has been brutally high, prompting at least one criminal investigation.

Side Effects

Tegnell’s main concern is that strict lockdowns may temporarily contain the virus, but won’t prevent it from returning. He also says lockdowns come at an avoidable cost.

“In the same way that all drugs have side effects, measures against a pandemic also have negative effects,” he said. “At an authority like ours, which works with a broad spectrum of public health issues, it is natural to take these aspects into account.” He lists domestic abuse, loneliness and mass unemployment.

In its emailed comment on Friday, the WHO said “there are several very positive trends in Sweden, notably, a continued decrease in new cases presenting with severe disease, a gradual decrease in patients admitted into intensive care since April, and continued decreasing numbers of new Covid-19 deaths.”

“Sweden has involved the community in the response, and has been able to keep transmission to levels that can be managed by the Swedish health system,” the organization said.

The Unknowns

Ultimately, it’s too early to know which model is the smartest when dealing with the current pandemic.

“Sweden’s approach has been widely misrepresented as doing nothing. It’s not,” Hanage said. “Given a starting point in which it has been decided an outbreak is inevitable, the question becomes how to mitigate it and preserve health care, and the earlier on in the outbreak you take action to slow transmission, the less intense that action needs to be — initially.”

“Sweden’s strategy, in that sense, has been smarter than those countries’ that encouraged transmission until shutdowns became necessary,” Hanage said. “However, it has come at a great cost in terms of mortality in vulnerable groups…It also needs to be flexible and responsive; if a surge is building, you need to be able to detect it and know what you will do to avert it.”

“As for the overall outcome,” Hanage said, “time will tell.”

Source: Read Full Article

Categories
Business

WFH, H1-B visa suspension dominate Infy’s virtual AGM

The annual meet also saw some shareholders of the country’s second largest IT services company raising concerns over falling operating margins. But many congratulated the management for delivering good FY20 performance despite the tough economic conditions. 

Questions related to work from home (WFH), temporary suspension of H-1B visa and impact of the India-China border dispute dominated the proceedings at Infosys’ annual general meeting (AGM) on Saturday. 

The 39th AGM, which was held virtually for the first time, was attended by 1,771 shareholders through video conferencing. However, it lacked the usual hustle-and-bustle of past years. 

Poor audio and video connections, many a times from the shareholders’ side, also interrupted the proceedings with ‘can you hear me’ and ‘please go ahead’ emerging as the frequent phrases used throughout the AGM. 

The annual meet also saw some shareholders of the country’s second largest IT services company raising concerns over falling operating margins. But many congratulated the management for delivering good FY20 performance despite the tough economic conditions. 

Most investors were curious to know whether WFH would be a permanent operating model in the post Covid-19 world. Many shareholders even wanted to know what was the expense ratio of Infosys on lease rentals with respect to net profit. Also, how it would change in terms of savings in case WFH is adopted in a big way. 

“What is the impact of productivity (of employees) due to WFH and what has the company done to secure data in this period as we have seen more cyberattacks,” asked Anish Hegde, a shareholder. 

To this, Infosys chief operating officer (COO) UB Pravin Rao said that the future of work would be a hybrid model comprising both working from office and home. 

The anxiety related to the border skirmishes with China also reflected in the AGM as many shareholders had queries on how was it going to affect Infosys’s operations in the neighbouring country. 

Infosys CEO and MD Salil Parekh said clients in China are being served mostly by local hires and it has not seen any business disruption so far. 

On Trump administration’s decision to suspend non-immigrant visas till December, the management of Infosys said the impact would be minimal as the IT firm’s dependence on H-1B visa has come down drastically over the years. 

“We have more than 60 per cent of workers who are not dependent on visas in the US. Infosys is well prepared due to the strong localisation strategy as we have significantly reduced our dependence on visa,” Pravin Rao said. 

In the close to two and half hour proceedings, the management sent the message to shareholders that the IT firm is well placed to weather the storm despite near-term challenges like dip in operating margin. 

“In the near term, some slowing in closure of deals is seen due to the pandemic. But, we have not seen any largescale cancellations. In the near-term, our operating margin may see some headwinds due to falling utilisation. However, we will try to offset it with less travel cost and other optimisation moves,” said Parekh. 

Terming a second wave of Covid-19 as key risk factor, Parekh added that sectors like retail, manufacturing and travel & hospitality have been mostly affected due to Covid. 

“For Infosys, travel and hospitality is a small segment. So, we don’t expect any material impact due to this,” Parekh said. He, however, said verticals like communications and hi-tech are witnessing a positive push due to the pandemic with companies accelerating digital adoption. 

Infosys chairman and co-founder Nandan Nilekani said the robust balance sheet, steady growth momentum and strong executive team put the company in good stead to overcome the crisis. 

Answering shareholders’ queries, the chairman said, “We can confidently say that the matter is closed with regard to whistleblower allegations.” He added that the IT firm would look at tuck-in acquisitions in digital capabilities apart from captives as opportunities in acquisition.

Source: Read Full Article

Categories
Business

Bankers in India Are More Productive Working From Home

Sign up here for our daily coronavirus newsletter on what you need to know, and subscribe to our Covid-19 podcast for the latest news and analysis.

Work from home may remain part of the norm for many in India’s financial industry beyond the end of the world’s biggest lockdown. The reason: elimination of lengthy commutes in the past three months has boosted employee productivity.

Take Jefferies’ India team for example. On average, its 60 members have managed to save over an hour every day on commute and 70% of them have seen higher productivity, according to a note from the brokerage, drawing on a survey of its staff.

As banks and asset managers around the world try to figure out how they’ll manage their offices after the coronavirus pandemic, many in Mumbai — India’s finance hub — see the opportunity for permanent change in how they work. The average commute time on the city’s major routes is over an hour, more than twice the averages of Singapore, Hong Kong and New York, according to a study by the IDFC Institute, a public policy think-tank.

Neil Parikh, chief executive officer of Parag Parikh Financial Advisory Services, like many others is finding the experience better than expected — so much so that he’s reconsidering plans of adding to the money manager’s offices in India’s top cities. He plans to equip new hires with laptops and high-speed Internet connections instead.

“Now there’s no stigma around working from home,” he said. “I can see some from my research team being much more productive. Working from home saves almost 3-to-4 hours everyday in travel time for some people.”

Reliance Securities Ltd. has shelved plans to shift to a new premise. The firm, one of India’s leading retail broking houses, will have half its staff continue to work from home as it implements a rotational program to comply with social distancing norms, according to Chief Human Resource Officer Meenaa Sharma.

“Many of our employees are saying that their productivity has gone up, and feedback from clients on research reports is good,” she said.

Second Wave

While the daily number of virus cases in Mumbai, India’s worst-hit city, has been stable in recent days, concerns over a second wave means businesses have little choice but to operate remotely. With economy set for its first full-year contraction in 40 years, India has begun reopening from the lockdown imposed on March 24 even as the country has the fourth-highest number of infections in the world.

Yet, not everyone in the world of finance is in a position to work remotely on a long-term basis. While banks and stock depositories had been open through the lockdown, designated as “essential services,” dealers who execute trades may have to return to office in greater numbers once regulatory relaxations are rolled back.

“Businesses like ours where there’s sensitivity of information, at least some part of staff like dealers have to be in the office” said Jinesh Gopani, head of equities at Axis Asset Management Co. “Those parts were allowed at home because it was a crisis. But it is not ideal from the regulator’s point of view in the long term.”

For now, only a fraction of the staff in the financial-services industry is back in office. The unexpected benefits of working remotely mean it’s likely to be a favored option well into the future.

“Productivity has improved dramatically because of removing unproductive travel time,” said Gopani. Working from home one or two days a week may become “the new normal.”

Source: Read Full Article

Categories
World News

China Lawmaking Body Adds HK Security Law to Agenda, NOW TV Says

China’s top legislative body added Hong Kong’s security legislation to its latest agenda, NOW TV reported, signaling Beijing may soon hand down a still-secret measure that pro-democracy activists and business groups say could erode the city’s unique freedoms.

The National People’s Congress Standing Committee planned to discuss the legislation to punish acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces at a meeting beginning on Sunday, NOW TV said. One participant in the discussions, Maria Tam, told a Hong Kong radio station Friday that the body was “very likely” to pass the law before the three-day session’s scheduled conclusion on Tuesday.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government announced plans in late May to impose the legislation on the former British colony following an unprecedented wave of protests last year. If the proposed law passes during this NPC session, it could come into effect in time for the symbolic July 1 anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese rule in 1997.

Pro-democracy politicians and foreign governments including the U.S. have criticized the proposed law as a blow to the “one country, two systems” principle that keeps Hong Kong’s legal system separate from the mainland. About 56% of residents oppose the legislation, compared with 34% who support it, according to a Reuters/Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute poll released Friday.

Hong Kong officials have defended the new law as necessary to maintain social stability after last year’s protests, despite acknowledging they haven’t seen the full proposal. Details released by state media last week showed that Beijing planned to set up a local intelligence bureau, take control of some sensitive cases and remove the court’s ability to select judges on security matters.

Source: Read Full Article

Categories
Business

2 Dead After Shooting At Business Center in California

Red Bluff, Calif (AP) — Two people were killed and at least four people were in fair condition at a hospital Saturday after a man drove into a distribution center and started shooting at people.

The two deceased people and the four injured ones were taken to St. Elizabeth Community Hospital in Red Bluff, spokeswoman Allison Hendrickson told The Associated Press. She declined to provide more details.

The shooting by a man with “AR-type weapon” started about 3:30 p.m. at the Walmart distribution center south of Red Bluff, emergency dispatchers told the Record-Searchlight newspaper.

There also was a fire at the site, and the suspect appears to have rammed a vehicle into the building, dispatchers said. There were about 200 workers inside the facility, some of whom locked themselves in a room , employees at the center told the KHSL TV station.

The suspect was described as being in a white vehicle that had wedged into the building, the Sacramento Bee reported. The shooter was in the middle of the parking lot, dispatchers said.

The suspect had been shot in the chest by about 3:45 p.m., dispatchers told the newspaper.

Scott Thammakhanty, an employee at the facility’s receiving center, said he heard the shooter fire from a semi-automatic weapon.

“It went on and on — I don’t even know how many times he fired,” Thammakhanty said. “I just know it was a lot.”

Thammakhanty and others started running for their lives, and he saw people lying on the ground as he went, he said.

Thammakhanty told the newspaper that he didn’t know his identity.

Fellow employee, Franklin Lister, 51, told the New York Times he had just started work when a coworker ran down the hallway shouting: “Active gunfire! Active shooter!”

Dispatchers told the Record-Searchlight that at least one woman had been shot. A man had also reported his leg getting run over when the shooter rammed a vehicle into the store, but the man wasn’t sure whether he’d been shot, dispatchers said.

Walmart spokesman Scott Pope told the Record-Searchlight that the company is “aware of the situation” and working with law enforcement.

“We don’t have any additional information to share at this time,” Pope said.

Red Bluff is a city of about 14,000 people about 131 miles (210 kilometers) north of Sacramento, California.

Source: Read Full Article

Categories
World News

Back From Golfing, Trump Denies Knowing About Russian Bounties to Kill U.S. Soldiers

On Friday night the New York Times reported a blockbuster story: U.S. intelligence has found that Russian military intelligence offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants in Afghanistan to strike coalition forces, including U.S. and British military members.

President Trump has known about the bounties since March and has done nothing to retaliate. The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal have both confirmed the Times’ reporting.

According to the Times, after Trump was briefed months ago about the role that Russia’s military intelligence agency played in initiating attacks on American soldiers, the president was given a “menu of potential options” on how to respond. But the Trump administration has not acted on any to date.

Late Saturday, the White House denied that President Trump or Vice President Mike Pence had been briefed by U.S. intelligence officials regarding the payments made to militants by Russia to kill American troops.

“The United States receives thousands of intelligence reports a day, and they are subject to strict scrutiny… The CIA Director, National Security Advisor, and the Chief of Staff can all confirm that neither the President nor the Vice President were briefed on the alleged Russian bounty intelligence,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement.

In 2019, twenty Americans were killed during combat in Afghanistan, but officials do not know if any of those killed were included in the bounties.

The news comes on the heels of the administration finalizing a plan that would see more than 4,000 U.S. troops removed from Afghanistan this fall. The move would leave approximately 4,500 service members in the country.

Astonishingly, while the controversy swirled from Friday night and into the next day, the president didn’t address the story head-on aside from the White House’s statement. Instead, he used his Saturday to play golf, retweet false conspiracy theories from QAnon accounts, and share selectively edited videos of Joe Biden and the recent protests.

Russia has denied the allegations, calling the reports “fake stories” in a tweet from their U.S. embassy Twitter account.

Trump, who has often bragged about his friendly relationship with Russian President Vladimir, spoke with the Russian leader on the phone on June 1, the same day that the G-7 nations voted down a Trump-backed proposal to allow Russia back into its membership.

“I don’t feel that as a G-7 it properly represents what’s going on in the world,” Trump said.

The president told Fox News radio on June 3 that Putin’s past should have nothing to do with his reentry into the G-7.

“It’s not a question of what he’s done. It’s a question of common sense,” Trump said.

Unlike the president, other politicians and former military members have reacted to the news on Twitter.

Candidate for U.S. Senate in Arizona Mark Kelly, who is a Navy combat veteran retired NASA astronaut, said the report was “staggering.”

“This report that the administration has had no response to Russia putting a bounty on the lives of American soldiers in Afghanistan is just staggering. As a combat veteran, I can’t imagine how this could go without a response. We need answers,” Kelly said.

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) wrote, “President Trump was cozying up to Putin and inviting him to the G-7 all while his Administration reportedly knew Russia was trying to kill U.S troops in Afghanistan and derail peace talks with the Taliban.”

And Congressman Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), an Iraq War vet, reacted emotionally to the report, apologizing to members of the military for having to serve under a president like Trump.

Popular on Rolling Stone

Source: Read Full Article

Categories
World News

Pence’s Arizona, Florida Events Scrapped as Virus Cases Jump

Vice President Mike Pence has postponed campaign events scheduled for Arizona and Florida next week as coronavirus cases jump in those states, said a senior Trump campaign official.

Pence, the leader of the White House coronavirus task force, still plans to travel to both states, as well as to Texas on Sunday, to meet with governors and health care officials, a White House official said.

Another Trump campaign official said that Pence’s campaign events were postponed out of an abundance of caution.

All three states have been among the hardest hit as a wave of Covid-19 cases crashes across the Sun Belt, weeks after the worst of the virus subsided in states like New York, New Jersey and Illinois.

Florida had a record 8,924 new cases on Friday, Texas saw 5,706 and Arizona had 3,378, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Republican-run states were among the first to lift stay-at-home orders, which were designed to slow the virus’ spread, in their leaders’ effort to restart local economies.

“Coronavirus cases in Florida and Arizona are spiking thanks to Trump’s ineffective response to this crisis — and the fact they were trying to hold unsafe events in these states at all is just another demonstration of their incompetence and bad judgment,” Democratic National Committee spokesman David Bergstein said in a statement.

The vice president said at a coronavirus task force press briefing on Friday, its first in two months, that he was traveling to Arizona, Florida and Texas in order to get a “ground report” from officials there.

Trump’s Rally Drew People From Dozens of Virus Hot Spots

On Sunday, Pence is scheduled to meet with Texas Governor Greg Abbott, and talk to media, after speaking at a “Celebrate Freedom Rally” at a Baptist church in Dallas — an event his office said will honor “America’s freedom and spiritual foundation.”

Pence was due to speak at events in Tucson, Arizona, and Sarasota, Florida, later in the week as part of the Trump campaign’s “Faith in America” tour. The administration’s public health experts have warned against holding large public gatherings, but President Donald Trump has rejected their advice, speaking at rallies in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Phoenix, Arizona, in the past week.

When asked about the decision to continue holding large events despite the health risk, Pence on Friday said that “the freedom of speech, the right to peaceably assemble, is enshrined in the Constitution of the United States.”

“We have an election coming up this fall, and President Trump and I believe that taking proper steps — as we’ve created screening at recent events — and giving people the very best counsel that we have, we still want to give people the freedom to participate in the political process. And we respect that,” Pence said.

— With assistance by Justin Sink

Source: Read Full Article

Categories
Business

Pence Delays Campaign Events; U.S. Cases Rise 1.9%: Virus Update

Sign up here for our daily coronavirus newsletter on what you need to know, and subscribe to our Covid-19 podcast for the latest news and analysis.

U.S. cases jumped the most since May 15 as Florida and Arizona had the largest one-day rise in infections. Vice President Mike Pence postponed campaign events next week in both states, citing Covid-19 concerns, but will meet with the governors.

Miami will close its popular beaches for the July 4 holiday weekend to stem the spread s southern U.S. states wrestle with the coronavirus. Texas ended four straight days of above average new infections.

New York is investigating an outbreak tied to a traveler from Florida who went to a graduation ceremony then tested positive. Brazil is in a deal with the U.K. to locally make a vaccine developed by Oxford University.

Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases top 9.88 million; deaths pass 495,000
  • Second-generation vaccines are built for impact over speed
  • What a century of disease outbreaks teaches us about Covid-19
  • Virus fatality picture obscured by ultimate lagging indicator
  • U.S.-EU discord imperils rebound in prime transatlantic flights
  • Germany’s billionaire ‘sausage king’ faces virus reckoning

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.

Myanmar Extends Measures (5:35 p.m. NY)

Myanmar is extending until July 15 virus measures and directives to prevent the spread of the virus from inbound travelers and within the country, according to a statement Saturday by the Central Committee on Covid-19 Control.

The restrictions include a temporary suspension of international flights and a ban on issuing all visas and visa-exemption services. A nightly 12 a.m. to 4 a.m. curfew remains in place, along with the ban of gatherings of more than five people.

Pence Postpones Rallies in Arizona, Florida (4:40 p.m.)

Vice President Mike Pence has postponed Trump re-election events in Arizona and Florida next week as coronavirus cases surge in those states. Pence, who heads the White House coronavirus task force, still plans to meet with governors and health-care teams in both states as well as Texas, a senior campaign official said.

At a briefing on Friday, Pence defended the decision to hold rallies in two hot spots in the past week — in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Arizona. American’s political rights aren’t superseded by the potential health threat of the gathering, Pence said.

“Freedom of speech, the right to peacefully assemble, is enshrined in the Constitution of the United States,” he said. “And we have an election coming up this fall.”

Texas Cases Increase in Line With Average (4:05 p.m.)

Texas reported new cases rose in line with the 4.2% rate of the previous seven days, ending four days of above-average increases. The state, which on Friday closed bars and imposed limits on restaurants as cases spiked, recorded 5,747 new infections, raising the total to 143,731. Deaths climbed by 42, to 2,366.

U.S. Cases Rise the Most Since May 15 (4 p.m. NY)

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. increased by 45,450 from the same time Friday, to 2.49 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. It was the biggest percentage jump since May 15. The 1.9% increase was above the average daily rise of 1.5% over the past week.

Fatalities rose 0.5% to 125,340.

  • New York reported 703 new cases, a 0.2% increase, for a total of 391,923, with 13 new deaths, raising the toll to 24,830.
  • New Jersey had 347 cases, a 0.2% rise, pushing the total to 170,873, with 36 deaths for a toll of 13,094.
  • California cases rose 5,972, or 3% to 206,433, with 60 new deaths raising the total to 5,872.
  • Michigan reported 314 new cases, a 0.5% rise, bringing the total to 63,009, with 19 deaths for a total of 5,907.

Brazil in U.K. Vaccine Deal (3:30 p.m. NY)

Brazil reached a deal with the U.K. to locally produce the Covid-19 vaccine that’s been developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca Plc. Brazil will spend $287 million to buy doses and ingredients to make as many as 100 million shots, Health Ministry Executive Secretary Elcio Franco said at a press conference in Brasilia.

The first order, regardless of the final results of the vaccine clinical trials, will cost Brazil $127 million, Franco said. That will include 30.4 million doses delivered in December and January, as well as the technology transfer. Brazil has second-highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths worldwide.

Miami-Dade’s Covid-19 Patients Fall (2:20 p.m. NY)

Miami-Dade County reported 917 patients with Covid-19 admitted to hospitals, a decline of 77 from a day earlier.

The number of Covid-19 patients in intensive-care unit beds rose to 197 from 195, according to a report from the county, which is Florida’s most populous. The number of Covid-19 patients on ventilators fell to 84 from 85 a day earlier.

The county noted the latest report didn’t include hospitalizations from two facilities that reported more than 100 admissions on Friday, suggesting the apparent drop could be due to a distortion.

N.Y. Reports Cluster at Graduation Ceremony (2 p.m. NY)

New York is investigating potential Covid-19 exposure in Westchester County after an individual recently in Florida attended a high school graduation ceremony then tested positive. Since then, four people at the event tested positive and are in self-isolation, the state said.

The state Health Department urged anyone at the Horace Greeley High School drive-in graduation ceremony June 20 at Chappaqua Train Station to get tested. Florida has reported record new cases for two days in a row.

“The pandemic is far from over and we need to stay vigilant,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “We’re prepared to do the aggressive testing and contact tracing required to slow and ultimately control any potential clusters of new cases like the one in Westchester County.”

Greece Sets Entry Requirement (1:40 p.m. NY)

Greece will require all arriving international travelers to fill in a passenger location form at least 48 hours before check-in, the Civil Aviation Authority said Saturday. The requirement is being introduced ahead of the resumption of inbound flights to all Greek airports starting Wednesday. The measure is in effect until Aug. 31 and is part of efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the Authority said.

Ireland’s Cases Most in 2 Weeks (1:30 p.m. NY)

Ireland reported the most new cases since June 13, amid increasing worries about the virus spreading to younger people. 10 of the new cases are people under age 35, the health ministry said in a statement, while a further eight are between 35 and 54.

“This is now a real concern and a worrying trend,” chief medical officer Tony Holohan said. Some recent cases have had “large numbers of close contacts,” he added. Overall, Ireland has 25,437 cases and 1,734 deaths.

Texas Town Imposes Covid Curfew (1 p.m. NY)

After a month of protest-related curfews, a town outside of Houston is imposing a curfew starting Saturday to stem the rapidly rising number of Covid-19 cases. The curfew in Galena Park will run from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., Mayor Esmeralda Moya tweeted.

“It is crucial to continue to practice good hygiene, stay home as much as possible, avoid unnecessary trips, gatherings, and wear a face-covering at all times when you leave your home,” Moya said in a statement reported by KHOU-TV. The town has 10,000 residents.

Peru to Ease Quarantine Measures (12:50 p.m. NY)

Peru will lift quarantine measures for most of the country starting Wednesday, easing one of the world’s strictest lockdowns as it faces a severe economic slide. The state of emergency will remain in effect until July 31, according to a government decree late Friday.

Children and the elderly continue to face restrictions and borders will remain closed. Severe lockdown measures imposed in mid-March included soldiers on the streets to enforce stay-at-home measures.

But the virus spread, leaving Peru with the almost 9,000 deaths and more than 272,000 cases as of Friday, highest caseload in Latin America after Brazil and the sixth-highest in the world. The International Monetary Fund forecasts the economy will contract 13.9% this year, the steepest drop among major economies in the region.

Italy Cases Cross 240,000 (12:30 p.m. NY)

Italy registered 175 new cases on Saturday, down from 259 on Friday, the health ministry said. The agency reported eight deaths in the past 24 hours, compared with 30 on Friday, leaving total fatalities at 34,716. Total infections reached 240,136.

Lombardy, the hard-hit recgion that includes Milan, reported 77 cases, or 44% of the new national cases.

Arizona Cases Rise by a Record (11:40 a.m. NY)

Arizona’s new cases increased by a record 3,591 to 70,051, a 5.4% jump that matched the rate of change on Friday, the state reported Friday.

The number of deaths rose by 44 to 1,579.

Florida Cases Jump 7.8% (10:55 a.m. NY)

Florida reported 132,545 cases on Saturday, up 7.8% from a day earlier, compared with an average increase of 4.6% in the previous seven days. Deaths reached 3,390, an increase of 0.7%, according to the report, which includes data through Friday.

The state reported 9,585 new cases, a record for one day.

New York Reports 13 Deaths (9:46 a.m. NY)

Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state had just 13 deaths in the past 24 hours and 703, or less than 1%, of 73,262 tests conducted were positive.

“Today’s numbers show a continued, steady decline in our hospitalization and death rates, and proves that a response based on science, not politics, is the only way to defeat this virus,” Cuomo said in a statement. “While this is good news, New Yorkers cannot become complacent.”

— With assistance by Steve Geimann, Joao Lima, Paul Tugwell, and Peter Flanagan

Source: Read Full Article