U.S. to Quit WHO; Vaccine Progress in China: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) — Brazil overtook Spain to rank fifth in the world in coronavirus deaths, with no sign of easing in Latin America’s biggest economy. The U.S. will quit the World Health Organization after President Donald Trump faulted its actions with China and the virus.

A front-running vaccine candidate being developed in China is expected to be available as soon as the end of this year, according to a report published in China. A divided U.S. Supreme Court rejected calls by churches in California and Illinois to block restrictions on worship services during the virus outbreak.

Moderna began a mid-stage trial of a vaccine that showed promising safety and early efficacy data this month. Singapore and China agreed to allow essential travel between the two countries starting in early June.

Virus Tracker: Cases top 5.9 million; deaths over 365,000Brits emerge from lockdown to find affordable dining threatenedRace to the freezer: Europe’s flood glut has nowhere to goHow China tested 11 million people in just two weeksEvery worker has Covid at one U.S. farm on eve of harvestEuropeans not feeling very hopeful about their economy just yet

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Uzbekistan Extends Lockdown Restrictions Until June 15 (3:36 p.m. HK)

The Uzbek government has decided to extend lockdown restrictions until June 15. Central Asia’s most populous nation has confirmed 3,513 cases of infection of the coronavirus, with 14 deaths and 2,728 recoveries.

Singapore Reports 506 New Cases, Mostly in Foreign-Workers’ Dormitories (3:30 p.m. HK)

Singapore reported 506 new infections as of Saturday, according to a statement from its Health Ministry. A vast majority of the additional infections are of work permit-holders who live in foreign workers’ dormitories, according to the statement. The ministry is expected to provide additional details in the evening, it added.

Chinese Covid-19 Vaccine Expected to Begin Mass Output This Year (3:25 p.m. HK)

A front-running Covid-19 vaccine being developed in China is expected to be available as soon as the end of this year, according to a report published in the official Wechat account of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission.

The vaccine, jointly developed by the Beijing Institute of Biological Products and China National Biotec Group Co., has completed phase II testing and may be ready for the market at the end of this year or early next year, said the report.

The production line for the vaccine will be fully disinfected and closed in preparation for output to start Saturday, and will have a manufacturing capacity of 100 million-120 million vaccines each year.

Iran Lifts Restiction on Hours of Shopping Malls Amid Reopening (2:26 p.m. HK)

Iran has lifted a restriction on the operating hours of shopping malls in the latest step of reopening the economy. Meanwhile, all mosques in the country will be open to worshipers for daily prayers three times a day, President Hassan Rouhani said in a national coronavirus taskforce briefing broadcast on state TV.

South Korea Reports 39 New Cases Amid Outbreak at Distribution Center (1:46 p.m. HK)

South Korea reported 39 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours as health officials seek to control a new outbreak at a distribution center for Softbank-backed Coupang Corp., an e-commerce company.

A total of 108 infections are related to the center, the vice head of the Korea CDC said in a briefing. That tally includes 73 employees and 35 people who might have come into contact with the employees. A separate outbreak related to nightclubs in Itaewon, Seoul have increased to 269 infections as of Saturday, Kwon said.

Most Australians Support State Border Closures (1:40 p.m. HK)

The majority of Australians approve of states’ decisions to shut their borders amid the coronavirus crisis, according to a new poll.

More than three in four Australians surveyed this week said they back the closures, including 40% who “strongly” support them, according to a release by The Australia Institute, a public policy group that commissioned the poll. One in five opposed the states’ measures.

“The strong support for state border closures shows that while there is much public relief with some public health restrictions lifting, there is also still much community concern regarding the spread of Covid-19,” Ben Oquist, the institute’s executive director, said in the release.

U.S. Supreme Court Rejects California Church on Virus Restrictions (12:36 p.m. HK)

A divided U.S. Supreme Court refused to exempt a San Diego church from crowd limits imposed by California to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s liberals in the 5-4 majority, writing that judges should be reluctant to second-guess state officials on questions of health and safety during a pandemic. The order came hours after the court refused to intervene on behalf of two Chicago-area churches that said Illinois coronavirus restrictions were so strict they violated the Constitution.

Indonesia to Open Malls Even as Virus Cases Rise (12:30 p.m. HK)

The Indonesian government will gradually open shopping malls, entertainment sites and restaurants starting in June in an attempt to jump-start the economy, even as coronavirus cases continue to climb.

Resumption of activities will be prioritized in so-called green zones, which are areas with a virus reproduction rate below 1, according to the Trade Ministry. There are 100 such green zones scattered across eight provinces, including the country’s capital Jakarta. Semarang, the capital of Central Java province, is deemed as one of the most ready locations, said Trade Minister Agus Suparmanto in a statement Friday.

A reproduction rate of 1 means that 10 infected people are estimated to infect an average of around 10 others. The coronavirus has taken the lives of 1,520 people in Indonesia, the highest in Southeast Asia. New cases have more than doubled in May, with the total reaching 25,216 on Friday.

Australia to Urge Eliminating Payroll Tax as It Seeks to Revive Economy (11:20 a.m. HK)

Australia’s government will call on states to eliminate payroll taxes as part of the nation’s efforts to jump-start the economy and create jobs, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.

“I’d love the states to get rid of the payroll tax,” he said.

The government’s coronavirus recovery plans will involve changes to taxes on income, and for small and medium businesses, Frydenberg said in the interview. The proposals should be finalized ahead of the government’s annual budget release in October, he said, according to the report.

Sotheby’s Realty Gets Trump Backing to Fight Michigan Lockdown (10:40 a.m. HK)

A group of small business owners in Michigan fighting stay-at-home orders by the state’s governor, saying they threaten their livelihoods, got a boost from the Trump administration.

“As the president and many states have recognized, the onerous restrictions on civil liberty that Americans have tolerated to slow the spread of Covid-19 cannot continue forever, and the Constitution will not allow them to do so,” the Justice Department said in a court filing in support of a lawsuit challenging executive orders by Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Michigan’s Democratic governor has sparred frequently with President Donald Trump over her response to one of the country’s worst coronavirus outbreaks. The lawsuit the Trump administration is backing was filed in late April by a franchise of Sotheby’s International Realty, along with a lawn and property maintenance company, an automotive glass exporter, an engine oil and auto parts distributor, a jewelry store, a dental office and an association of car washes.

Singapore, China Agree to Allow Essential Travel Starting in June (9:42 a.m. HK)

Singapore and China have agreed to allow essential travel for business and official purposes between the two countries in early June, according to a joint emailed statement.

The Fast Lane arrangement will be first applied between Singapore and six Chinese provinces or municipalities directly under the central government, and will gradually expand to include additional areas. Covid-19 prevention and control measures will remain in place.

The agreement comes as countries cautiously seek to begin so-called “travel bubbles” after the pandemic shut down borders. China, where the coronavirus first emerged, appears to have brought its cases under control, while Singapore is moving toward opening its economy after wrestling to contain an outbreak among thousands of foreign workers.

China Cargo Ship Source of Two New Reported Infections (9:35 a.m. HK)

Two crew members of a Chinese-registered cargo ship, Zhong Chang Rong Sheng, tested positive for Covid-19 in China’s Shandong Province after they arrived from India via Singapore, state television CCTV reported on its official Weibo account.

The two Chinese nationals, and another crew member who hasn’t tested positive, have been hospitalized, while the remaining 19 people on board are still under quarantine on the vessel. It docked at Lanshan Port of Rizhao in Shandong province on May 27. The two infections are among four new coronavirus cases, all imported, reported by China.

Chile Gets Flexible Credit Line From IMF for Virus (8:35 a.m. HK)

The International Monetary Fund approved a $23.9 billion credit line for Chile as one of South America’s wealthiest nations grapples with a recession amid the virus that the central bank forecasts may be the worst since the 1980s.

The two-year flexible credit line is a precautionary measure that should boost market confidence and provide insurance against downside risks, the fund said in an emailed statement late Friday. Managing Director Kristalina Georgievasaid that although the nation has a good track record, its trade openness exposes it to external risks.

United Airlines Will Add Back International Flights in July (8:30 a.m. HK)

United Airlines Holdings Inc. will add back some international flying in July, saying demand has “risen modestly” in some markets after the Covid-19 pandemic all but wiped out travel.

Flights will resume or increase on 40 international routes in July, United said in a statement Friday. The Chicago-based airline will serve only 27 foreign routes in June. United has said its overall schedule will be down about 75% from a year earlier in July, compared with a 90% reduction currently.

The plan to increase flying reflects a modest rebound in demand for all U.S. airlines as travel restrictions ease and economic activity picks up.

Germany, EC Settle Lufthansa Aid (7:15 a.m. HK)

Germany settled a dispute with the European Commission over a 9 billion-euro ($9.9 billion) bailout of Deutsche Lufthansa AG, clearing the way for the carrier to accept a rescue package to help it weather a collapse in travel demand triggered by the pandemic.

The deal requires Lufthansa to reduce the number of aircraft kept at Frankfurt and Munich airports. Lufthansa said it would surrender up to 24 takeoff and landing slots, making room for new competitors at each hub.

Germany on Monday offered Lufthansa a package of loans and equity investment to keep the carrier flying through the coronavirus. But after the EU demanded the carrier give up slots in Munich and Frankfurt, the airline’s supervisory board unexpectedly held off on accepting this lifeline — throwing the rescue plan into turmoil after weeks of talks.

Brazil Deaths Go Past Spain (6:30 a.m. HK)

Brazil eclipsed Spain and now ranks fifth worldwide in coronavirus deaths with no sign the pandemic is slowing in Latin America’s largest economy. The country reported 1,124 new deaths Friday, pushing the total to 27,878, past Spain with 27,121. Brazil registered 465,166 cases, trailing only the U.S.

Infections are reported in 70% of Brazilian cities, the Health Ministry said on Friday. Earlier this week, the ministry said the curve of cases was still growing, and a report by UBS published Wednesday said that six of Brazil’s 27 states are peaking, while total deaths are increasing in 21 states.

Moderna Begins Vaccine Trial (5:15 p.m. NY)

Moderna Inc., one of the leading companies developing a coronavirus vaccine, said it had started a mid-stage trial and given doses to the first patients.

The 600-person, phase 2 study will give healthy participants one of two doses of the shot, or a placebo, Moderna said in a statement. They’ll be examined for potential side effects as well as whether it creates an immune-system response that could protect against the virus that causes Covid-19.

The company plans to launch a larger phase 3 study in July with many more patients, working with the U.S. government. Published results of the phase 1 study are pending, though the shot showed promising safety and early efficacy data earlier this month.

U.S. Cases Rise 1.2% for Third Day (4 p.m. NY)

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. increased 1.2% from the same time Thursday, to 1.73 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. That’s in line with Wednesday and Thursday’s rates, and below the average of 1.3% over the past seven days. Deaths rose 1.1% to 102,201.

New York reported 67 deaths, the lowest daily total since the start of the pandemic, Governor Andrew Cuomo said. Cases rose 0.4% to 368,284, in line with the average in the past week.Florida reported 54,497 cases, up 2.3% from a day earlier, according to the state’s health department. It was the third-largest daily increase since Florida started reopening on May 4.California cases rose 2.2% to 103,886 while deaths increased 2.4% to 4,068, according to the state’s website.Texas reported a 2.1% rise in new cases, above the 1.9% seven-day average and less than the 3.2% jump on Thursday.

Trump Says U.S. to Sever WHO Ties (3 p.m. NY)

President Donald Trump said the U.S. will sever ties with the World Health Organization, the United Nations body he accuses of failing to provide accurate information on the spread of the coronavirus that broke out in China.

“Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving, urgent global health needs,” Trump told reporters in the Rose Garden of the White House. “The world needs answers from China on the virus. We must have transparency.”

The U.S. contributes more than $450 million to the WHO, Trump said.

NYC Set to Reopen June 8 (1:30 p.m. NY)

New York City will start reopening some businesses on June 8, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, as officials meet the set of metrics the state is following to end the mandatory lockdown. The city could see 400,000 workers back on the job as the first phase of reopening begins, he said.A sticking point for the city is a high infection rate in some communities. Cuomo said the overall rate is about 20% but that in some neighborhoods in the Bronx and Brooklyn, the rate exceeds 40%. The governor said officials will concentrate on those hot spots next week, which he said will set the stage for reopening. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the subways, commuter rail and bus services, is preparing for the return of workers, he said.“Reopening does not mean we’re going back to the way things were,” Cuomo said. “We go forward.”

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