U.S. Is Deadliest Epicenter; Singapore Clamps Down: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) —

The U.S. became the world’s epicenter for the coronavirus as deaths passed Italy, while Singapore said it will immediately impose fines on people who flout social-distancing rules.

The pace of deaths slowed in Spain, France and Germany, though Italy reported the most new cases in a week. China reported 99 new cases from Saturday, 97 of which were imported. Authorities in Shanghai said 51 of the 52 new imported cases in the city came on a flight from Russia.

The Pentagon is using a wartime law to fund production of N95 masks. U.S. governors sought $500 billion in federal aid to offset the economic hit from social-distancing measures. The Trump administration said it’s on track to roll out the diagnostics needed to determine when normal activities can resume.

Key Developments

Coronavirus Tracker: Global cases exceed 1.77 million; deaths top 108,000U.S. deaths reach 20,600China reports 99 new cases from April 11, 97 of which are importedU.K. pledges $81 million to the WHOEU backs Sweden, Belgium on aviation aidU.S. testing capacity in “ballpark” for May reopening: White HouseNew York officials at odds over schools

China Stops Trial of a Gilead Drug (11:45 a.m. HK)

A Chinese trial of Gilead Sciences Inc.’s antiviral drug remdesivir was stopped after failing to enrol enough patients with severe symptoms, the company’s Chief Executive Officer Daniel O’Day wrote in an open letter dated April 10.China previously said it would announce the results of two remdesivir trials for patients with mild to severe symptoms on April 27. The discontinuation of the severe patient trial came as the number of cases dropped in China. “The publication of data from the China remdesivir trials rests with the Chinese investigators, but we have been informed that the study in patients with severe symptoms was stopped due to stalled enrollment,” O’Day said

Singapore to Fine Flouters (11:35 a.m. HK)

Singapore will impose fines on people flouting social-distancing rules, while those who aren’t wearing masks may be barred from entering some premises that provide essential services. The government has closed beaches and some parts of parks and nature reserves, saying tougher measures are necessary.

Philippines Needs Deeper Rate Cut: Diokno (10:30 a.m. HK)

The Philippine central bank will have to cut its policy rate below 3% to support the economy, Governor Benjamin Diokno said, adding that another cut in banks’ reserve requirement ratio “is forthcoming.” The policy rate currently is 3.25%.

Tycoon Teresita Sy-Coson, who helps run an empire ranging from banking to retail under SM Investments Corp., said the Philippines should gradually reopen the economy and allow businesses to operate at 50% capacity to protect jobs.

Japan to Expand Childcare Subsidy Program (9:50 a.m. HK)

Japan plans to include private-business owners and freelancers in its subsidy program for covering the hiring of babysitters from this month as nursery and elementary schools remain closed in many areas, Tokyo Shimbun reported, without saying where the information came from.

U.K. Provides Aid to UN Health Agency (7:15 a.m. HK)

The U.K. is giving 65 million pounds ($81 million) to the World Health Organization to tackle the pandemic as part of a broader package, days after President Donald Trump threatened to pull U.S. funding from the organization.

The U.K.’s Department for International Development said the funding will help prevent the virus from spreading in developing countries and sparking a second rise of infections in the U.K.

The new measures take the amount of U.K. aid to tackle the virus to 744 million pounds. Trump criticized the WHO for being too lenient about China’s effort to contain the virus.

Read the story.

Canada Passes Wage Subsidy Bill (7 a.m. HK)

Canadan lawmakers approved a bill to subsidize wages by 75% in a bid to stabilize the economy as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the coronavirus his generation’s greatest challenge yet.

The flagship C$73 billion ($52 billion) program is more than one-quarter of Canada’s emergency fiscal plan to date as the government seeks to stem a huge wave of layoffs. Air Canada is among companies that plans to use the program for 36,000 Canadian employees, nearly half of whom were furloughed.

Pentagon Funds N95 Mask Production (5 p.m. NY)

The Pentagon will award $133 million in contracts using funds allowed under the Defense Production Act to make N95 masks needed by heath-care workers and other first responders, a spokesman said.

The funding, to be awarded as early as next week, marks the first use of Korean War-era powers that allow for targeted investments for critical capabilities. Delivery would be within 90 days.

U.S. Cases Rise, Led by South Dakota (4:10 p.m.)

U.S. cases increased 5.6% in the past 24 hours to 514,415, according to data collected Saturday by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. The increase was below the average daily pace of 8.8% over the past week. Deaths nationwide rose by 10% as of midday Saturday, according to the data.

New York’s cases rose about 6% from the previous day, according to the data. The state also saw the largest number of deaths in the past 24 hours, with 783.

Cases in South Dakota climbed 17%, the most nationally, bringing the total to 626. The state had no increase in deaths. Alaska, Montana and West Virginia also reported no new deaths.

Fatalities rose by more than 10% in New York, New Jersey and Michigan, and increased 20% in Pennsylvania, the data showed.

Illinois reported 1,293 new cases, raising the total to 19,180, and 81 deaths in the past 24 hours, for a total of 677. Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike asked churches to forgo Easter Sunday services.

“If there are churches that were planning to convene tomorrow, please cancel now. We can’t risk spreading through this mechanism,” Ezike said in a tweet.

Elsewhere:

Florida reported 526 new cases on Saturday, raising the total to 18,494. An additional 19 people died, raising total fatalities to 438.Louisiana reported 761 new cases, bringing the total to 20,014. The Department of Health reported 51 deaths, raising the total to 806.

U.S. Diagnostic Testing Ready by May (3:44 p.m. NY)

A top White House adviser on testing said that by May, the U.S. will be in the “ballpark” of the diagnostic capacity it needs, should the president decide to recommend parts of the country relax economy-crushing social-distancing practices.

Admiral Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, said four forms of diagnostics are being developed: widespread surveillance to catch new flare-ups; testing of people who have specific symptoms; contact-tracing for confirmed cases; and antibody testing to know who’s recovered, which he said in an interview is weeks away.

Read the full story.

Irish Toll Climbs to 320 (2:30 p.m. NY)

Ireland’s death toll rose by 33, taking the total to 320, health authorities said. The Health Ministry said Irish laboratories confirmed 553 new cases, the biggest number reported in a single day since the start of the outbreak. Another 286 Irish cases were reported by a German laboratory, taking the total to 8,928.

French Deaths, New Cases Slow (2:25 p.m. NY)

The number of new French deaths fell for a second day and new infections rose the least in three days, Director General for Health Jerome Salomon said in Paris. Cases rose by 4,785 to 129,654. Deaths reached 13,832, an increase of 635 from the Friday toll.

“Now is not the time to end confinement,” Salomon said.

President Emmanuel Macron will address the nation on Monday about extending confinement measures in place for more than three weeks.

Read the full story.

Cuomo, de Blasio at Odds Over Schools (1:15 p.m. NY)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said there hasn’t been a decision on whether to close New York City schools for the rest of the academic year, contradicting comments by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who said the city’s schools would remain shut through June.

“He didn’t close them, and he can’t open them,” Cuomo said. “That’s the mayor’s opinion. There has been no decision on the schools.”

De Blasio called the decision to close schools, affecting more than 1.1 million students, difficult and “painful,” and said “it’s the right thing to do.”

Read the full story.

Italy’s New Cases Highest in Week (12:05 p.m. NY)

Italy reported its highest number of new cases in a week. There were 4,694 new cases, an increase from 3,951 a day earlier, civil protection officials said. Testing for the virus is ramping up, with a record number conducted at the end of the week and about 110,000 performed in recent days. Confirmed cases in the country now total 152,271.

Italy registered 619 deaths in the past 24 hours, compared with 570 the day before. That brings the total number of fatalities to 19,468.

Global Epicenter Shifts to U.S. (11:55 a.m. NY)

The U.S. is now the epicenter of the global pandemic. Deaths from the virus reached at least 19,563 after New York reported 783 new fatalities, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News and Johns Hopkins University.

That the U.S. has more deaths than Italy, which has the most deaths in Europe, isn’t that surprising given that its population of 330 million is five times greater.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the state’s toll over the latest 24-hour period. “It is stabilizing, but it’s stabilizing at a horrific rate,” Cuomo said at an Albany news conference.

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