Breaking News

Coronavirus: Young people propelling Covid infections in US, says CDC

4/5/2021, 10:02:25 PM

Peter Wells in New York

Disinfectant wipes and household cleaners flew off shop shelves during the early days of the pandemic as households and businesses sought to keep surfaces contaminant free, but the top US public health agency now says routine disinfecting is unnecessary in most situations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report on Monday the relative risk of a person becoming infected with Covid-19 through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects (fomites) “is considered low”, at a chance of less than one in 10,000. The main routes of infection remain direct contact with infected individuals or droplet or airborne transmission of the virus.

One study found that hand hygiene “could substantially reduce” the risk of transmission of Covid-19, while the disinfecting of surfaces once or twice a day “had little impact on reducing estimated risks”, the CDC said.

Disinfecting surfaces had been shown to be effective, though, in preventing secondary transmission of Covid-19 between an infected person and other people within households. High-touch surfaces should be disinfected if there had been a suspected or confirmed Covid-19 case indoors within the past 24 hours, the CDC said on Monday in updated guidance on cleaning.

“However, there is little scientific support for routine use of disinfectants in community settings, whether indoor or outdoor, to prevent Sars-Cov-2 transmission from fomites,” the health agency said.

“Routine cleaning performed effectively with soap or detergent, at least once per day, can substantially reduce virus levels on surfaces. When focused on high-touch surfaces, cleaning with soap or detergent should be enough to further reduce the relatively low transmission risk from fomites in situations when there has not been a suspected or confirmed case of Covid-19 indoors.”

4/5/2021, 8:50:15 PM

Adam Samson in London and Colby Smith in New York

US stocks reached new heights on Monday after a report showed activity in America’s services sector accelerated last month at the fastest pace on record.

The blue-chip S&P 500 index rose 1.4 per cent to end the trading session at a record 4,078. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite gained 1.7 per cent to trade at 13,706, still shy of the all-time high above 14,000 it struck in February.

The advance was broad, with most of the big S&P 500 sectors rising, led by technology stocks.

Monday’s gains accelerated after data from the Institute for Supply Management showed activity in the services sector rose at a rapid clip in March. The gauge, one of the most timely and closely tracked proxies for economic output, rose to 63.7 in March from 55.3 the month before. Economists polled by Bloomberg forecast a rise to 59.

The reading suggested the rate of growth in the industry that accounts for the bulk of gross domestic product surged to an all-time high last month. All 18 services industries reported growth, the report stated.

The strong reading, which is based on a survey of industry executives, follows similarly buoyant data released last week on the manufacturing sector.

Read more here

4/5/2021, 7:27:02 PM

The Financial Times has been your guide to the pandemic since the first outbreak was detected. Here are some of the developments we reported a year ago today:

  • China reported a rise in new locally transmitted coronavirus cases as the country tried to fend off a second wave of infections

  • The global increase in new Covid-19 infections slowed to 84,821, down from a peak of more than 100,000 the previous day and taking the overall tally to just over 1.2m. However, it was also the second deadliest day of the pandemic, with 5,800 fatalities, taking the worldwide death toll to 64,780

  • Donald Trump called on India to release shipments of hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug identified as a potential treatment for coronavirus a month after New Delhi banned exports of the drug. Trump claimed the US had stockpiled 29m doses of hydroxychloroquine

  • Australian authorities said they would conduct a criminal investigation into Carnival after one of its cruise ships disembarked more than 600 passengers in Sydney who tested positive for coronavirus after

  • Scotland’s chief medical officer resigned after being photographed visiting her second home, having advised others to avoid unnecessary travel

  • In a rare television address Queen Elizabeth II told British people self-isolation is ‘the right thing to do’

  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was hospitalised 10 days after being diagnosed with Covid-19

  • UK health secretary Matt Hancock admitted the country was likely to fall short of its target for 18,000 ventilators

  • Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey rejected suggestions the central bank should use monetary financing to protect and boost the economy amid the coronavirus crisis

  • Governments across Europe, including France, Spain and Belgium set up expert committees to examine a gradual easing of lockdowns

  • US drug companies began to develop a new therapy to tackle coronavirus that could give people immunity for a short period of time. The treatment known as “hyperimmune globulin” involves pooling the blood plasma of patients who have had the virus and injecting it into others

For all the latest on the pandemic, visit the FT’s coronavirus home page

4/5/2021, 5:34:07 PM

Ian Mount in Madrid

Spain’s health ministry announced 10,360 new Covid-19 cases and 85 deaths since Saturday, as the infection rate rose by 12 points, to 163 per 100,000 people over the last 14 days.

The rise comes despite slower testing over the holiday weekend, and on Monday several cities in the centre of the country announced the closure of the interior of bars and restaurants in the face of rising case numbers.

“It is a softer rise than the one that [other] European countries have had in recent weeks. We will have to see, at the beginning of next week, what has been the impact of the mobility during Holy Week,” said Fernando Simón, Spain’s chief epidemiologist. “What is showing a clear decline to date is the number of deaths. This has a lot to do with the immunisation of the elderly.”

The health ministry on Monday also announced that the country had received another 1.2m doses of the BioNtech/Pfizer vaccine and administered 195,000 vaccine doses over the Easter weekend, down from a record of 306,000 daily doses reached last week. Spain had administered 8.7m doses, or close to 19 per 100 people.

The numbers come as a new report from the health ministry showed the highly infectious B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in Kent, UK is rapidly becoming the country’s dominant strain.

Data published Monday showed that in 11 of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions the variant accounted for more than 70 per cent of cases in the most recent week, and for over 90 per cent in five of those.

4/5/2021, 5:04:08 PM

Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe in London

Boris Johnson on Monday said Covid certification passports will not be introduced within England before May 17, when certain restrictions on travel and social distancing are set to expire, acknowledging that there remain “ethical and practical” issues surrounding the so-called vaccine passports.

Speaking at the Downing Street press conference, the UK prime minister said the government would be introducing pilots involving coronavirus certification in the coming weeks, but said it was conscious of the need to act “cautiously” in order to avoid a potentially “discriminatory system”.

“The most important thing to say is that there is absolutely no question of people being asked to produce certification or Covid status reports when they go to the shops or to the pub garden or to the hairdresser or whatever on Monday”, he said. “Indeed we are not planning that for step 3 either”. Step 3, which will allow households in England to mix indoors, is scheduled to begin May 17.

Johnson also argued that other factors, such as whether or not a person has recently contracted coronavirus or whether they have tested negative, would also feature within the Covid-19 certification process.

“The NHS is now offering free lateral flow tests for asymptomatic people — I do think that they are an important part of the way forward,” he said adding that the government recognised that some people including pregnant women would be unable to get vaccinated for medical reasons.

In regards to international travel, Johnson said all countries were now “looking at” some form of vaccine passport, adding: “I do think that is going to be part of the way people deal with it.”

The prime minister said he was “hopeful” international travel could recommence as planned but argued that uncertainties remained because of the rise in infections, particularly in Europe. “We don’t want to see the virus being imported into this country from abroad”

4/5/2021, 5:01:24 PM

Simeon Kerr in Dubai

Oman will only allow the entry of nationals and residents from April 8 as the Gulf state seeks to curb a new wave of Covid-19 infections.

The sultanate’s coronavirus committee said it would from April 8 lift a curfew imposed at the end of March, which bars the movement of people and vehicles between 8pm and 5am. But the curfew will be reinstated during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in mid-April.

The committee also extended a ban on commercial activities until the end of Ramadan.

The tighter restrictions for Ramadan, when families and friends usually gather to break their fast, come after the authorities last week reduced attendance at government offices to 50 percent, suspended sports activities and mandated remote learning for private school students, in line with the existing policy for government schools.

Oman has experienced a rise in new cases since mid-February, with the pace of infections accelerating from mid-March.

4/5/2021, 4:32:22 PM

Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe in London

Boris Johnson on Monday said that further lockdown measures will be lifted in England from April 12, but warned the public against “complacency”.

Speaking at the Downing Street briefing, the prime minister said that the country will enter into the second step of the roadmap on April 12, with non-essential retail outlets permitted to open alongside personal care businesses such as hair salons and barber shops.

Indoor leisure facilities, including gyms, and public buildings, such as libraries, will also reopen. Outdoor hospitality venues, such as pub gardens, and outdoor entertainment venues, including zoos and theme parks, can also reopen under step 2.

“We think that these changes are fully justified by the data, which show that we are meeting our four tests for easing the lockdown”, he said, adding: “We still don’t know how strong the vaccine shield will be when cases begin to rise.”

Johnson also urged the public to take advantage of the twice weekly coronavirus testing due to be offered to the public from April 9, adding that many who test positive do not show symptoms.

More than 31m people throughout the UK have been vaccinated with their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine as of April 4, according to the latest data.

As of April 1, the seven-day rolling average of hospitalisations in the UK was 3,536, down from more than 35,000 people in January, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty added.

4/5/2021, 4:29:40 PM

Kiran Stacey in Washington

Young people are predominantly driving rising numbers of Covid-19 infections in parts of the US, public health officials have warned, with the country now reporting about 64,000 new cases a day.

Rochelle Walensky, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said youth sports and extra-curricular activities were in part to blame for a recent rise in the number of people infected with the disease, as she urged Americans not to return completely to normal life yet. But even as the case numbers rise, deaths continue to fall, with the US now reporting fewer than 800 deaths a day for the first time since October.

Walensky said: “We are now entering our fourth week of increased trends in cases, while we are watching these increasing case counts with concern … The trends and data have been indicating cases are increasing nationally and we are seeing this occur predominantly in younger adults.”

She added: “We are learning that many outbreaks in young people are related to youth sports and extracurricular activities. According to CDC guidance, these activities should be limited … I understand that people are tired, and that they are ready for this pandemic to be over — as am I. But please continue to hang in there and to continue to do the things that we know prevent the spread of the virus.”

Walensky also said the decline in death rates appeared to be a positive sign the US vaccination campaign was proving successful. Nearly 40 per cent of US adults have received at least one shot, according to CDC data, including three-quarters of those aged over 65.

“We are seeing a change in demographics, as I think we were expecting, and it’s good news with regard to the power of vaccination,” she said.

4/5/2021, 3:43:57 PM

Adam Samson in London and Colby Smith in New York

US stocks rallied to new highs on Monday after a report showed activity in America’s sprawling services sector accelerated last month at the fastest pace on record.

The blue-chip S&P 500 index rose 1.5 per cent in New York dealings, hitting a high of 4,078. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite posted similar gains to trade at 13,671, still shy of the all-time high above 14,000 it struck in February.

The advance was broad, with most of the major S&P 500 sectors advancing, led by technology stocks.

Monday’s gains accelerated after data from the Institute for Supply Management showed activity in the services sector rose at a rapid clip in March as the US further loosened coronavirus restrictions. The gauge, one of the most timely and closely tracked proxies for economic output, rose to 63.7 in March from 55.3 the month before. Economists polled by Bloomberg forecast a rise to 59.

The reading suggested the rate of growth in the industry that accounts for the bulk of GDP surged to an all-time high last month. All 18 services industries reported growth, the report stated.

Read more here

4/5/2021, 3:14:28 PM

Kiran Stacey in Washington

A bar re-opening in rural Illinois in February was linked to at least 46 cases of Covid-19, leading indirectly to an outbreak in a care home, the closure of a local school and the hospitalisation of one person, according to a new study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A report published on Monday by the US public health organisation found that a single event was linked to dozens of cases among those who attended, and 17 secondary cases. The CDC said the findings underscored the need to enforce strict coronavirus prevention measures even as the country continues to vaccinate millions of people a day.

The report’s authors said:

Opening up settings such as bars, where mask wearing and physical distancing are challenging, can affect the community.

As community businesses reopen, prevention measures should be emphasised, including limiting building occupancy, improving ventilation, prioritising outdoor seating, enforcing correct mask wearing and physical distancing, staying home when ill, and encouraging Covid-19 vaccination to reduce transmission on site and within the community.

The US has delivered over 160m doses of coronavirus vaccine — more than any other country — but cases have begun to rise once more in parts of the country as people return to normal activities following the winter surge.

Biden administration officials have said they are worried about another surge before the virus is brought properly under control. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, said last week she felt a sense of “impending doom” as she watched the case numbers rise again, especially in northern states such as Michigan, Illinois and New Jersey.

4/5/2021, 3:00:55 PM

James Politi in Washington

Janet Yellen, the US treasury secretary, has called on other countries to join Washington in setting a global minimum corporate tax for corporations as she vowed to reassert America’s leadership in international economic policy.

“Together we can use a global minimum tax to make sure the global economy thrives based on a more level playing field in the taxation of multinational corporations, and spurs innovation, growth, and prosperity,” Yellen said in a speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on Monday.

Yellen’s appeal on the eve of the spring meetings of the IMF and the World Bank comes as the Biden administration puts a crackdown on tax avoidance and tax shelters at the heart of its economic agenda.

Last week, the White House released a plan to invest more than $2tn to revamp decaying infrastructure and boost clean energy products. It pays for the proposal with a higher corporate tax rate, an increase in its own global minimum tax and other measures designed to stop profit-shifting across borders for tax reasons.

“Competitiveness is about more than how US-headquartered companies fare against other companies in global merger and acquisition bids,” Yellen said. “It is about making sure that governments have stable tax systems that raise sufficient revenue to invest in essential public goods and respond to crises, and that all citizens fairly share the burden of financing government.”

4/5/2021, 2:30:31 PM

Mamta Badkar in New York

The US services sector hit a record high in March boosted by warmer temperatures and a further easing of coronavirus restrictions.

The Institute for Supply Management’s index measuring activity in the services sector rose to a record high of 63.7 last month, compared with 55.3 in February.

That exceeded economists’ expectations for a rise to 59 and marked the 10th consecutive month of growth. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.

“There was a substantial increase in the rate of growth in the services sector in March,” said Anthony Nieves, chair of the ISM services business survey committee. “Respondents’ comments indicate that the lifting of coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic-related restrictions has released pent-up demand for many of their respective companies’ service,” he added.

The report showed production, employment and new orders grew, while new export orders also expanded, albeit at a slower rate. Supply chain disruptions worsened, however, due to slower supplier deliveries and rising costs.

4/5/2021, 2:10:55 PM

Victor Mallet in Paris

French health minister Olivier Véran said the number of people hospitalised with Covid-19 infections is set to keep rising for at least two to three more weeks, and he did not rule out the possibility that intensive care numbers could approach the peak of 7,000 reached in the first wave a year ago. 

In an interview on Monday with TF1 television, Véran said he hoped infections would peak this week. There were signs that the latest wave of the pandemic had already peaked in eastern France, but it was still rising fast in the west, which has so far been the least affected region of the country, he said.

“There are always two to three weeks between the peak of infections and the peak of severe cases of illness,” he said. “In the next three weeks, whatever happens, the number of patients in intensive care will automatically continue to rise.” 

France’s vaccination programme, like those of other EU countries, has until now been constrained by supply shortages, but is expected to accelerate in the coming weeks as manufacturers increase deliveries. 

According to the latest health data released on Sunday, 29,356 people are in French hospitals with Covid-19 — of whom 5,341 are in intensive care. In the previous 24 hours 66,794 people tested positive for the virus. Nearly 97,000 people have died since the start of the pandemic. 

4/5/2021, 2:05:18 PM

Martin Arnold in Frankfurt

Germany aims to speed up its vaccination programme to provide jabs to 20 per cent of the population by the end of April, after taking three months to reach 10 per cent, its health minister said on Monday.

Jens Spahn said the country’s vaccination campaign would “gain more and more speed in the second quarter” having been delayed by a shortage of vaccinations in the first quarter, which left it lagging well behind the US and UK. 

But Spahn warned that “vaccination does not stop the third wave” of coronavirus infections, which has increased the number of people in intensive care in Germany to more than 4,000 over the Easter weekend — its highest level since February.

Armin Laschet, the prime minister of North Rhine-Westphalia and chair of the ruling CDU party, called for a strict and short “bridge lockdown” to tackle rising coronavirus infections, which he said could include an evening curfew and more home working.

4/5/2021, 1:11:36 PM

Adam Samson in London

US stocks are set to build on record highs as investors respond to last week’s strong jobs data and await a key report that is expected to show that activity in the sprawling American services industry has gathered pace.

Futures tracking the blue-chip S&P 500 index climbed around 0.7 per cent in early New York dealings, with those following an index of the biggest 100 stocks on the Nasdaq Composite advancing 0.8 per cent.

The upbeat start to the week came after the S&P 500 last Thursday closed above 4,000 for the first time. New York equities were shut for the Good Friday holiday the following day.

Equity traders will on Monday have their first chance to respond to a report released on Friday that showed the US economy added 916,000 jobs in March, a figure that exceeded economists’ expectations and provided the latest indication the labour market is recovering.

A closely followed report from the Institute for Supply Management, due to be released at 10am ET (3pm BST), is expected to set a similarly optimistic tone. Activity in the vast services sector is forecast to have climbed at a more rapid pace in March than the prior month, echoing a similar survey released last week that covered the factory sector.

4/5/2021, 12:37:32 PM

Mamta Badkar in New York

Easter weekend helped fuel the highest US airport passenger numbers of the coronavirus pandemic on Friday.

The Transportation Security Administration said it screened 1.58m passengers at US airports on Good Friday — the most since March 12 just before coronavirus lockdowns began.

Over Saturday and Sunday the TSA screened an additional 2.94m passengers, taking the number of travellers at US airports to more than 4.5m over the three-day holiday weekend — the highest levels since March last year.

The ramp up in US vaccinations, with more 165m doses administered in the US, and loosening of coronavirus restrictions have unleashed pent up travel demand.

US airline chiefs expressed optimism last month as air travel surged, with chief executives predicting slower cash burn. Recently, Delta Airlines, the last hold out, announced it will stop blocking middle seats on flights starting in May as vaccinations accelerate and demand rises. And United Airlines announced plans to start hiring pilots again next month.

4/5/2021, 12:35:48 PM

Mamta Badkar in New York

A throwback monster movie and easing coronavirus restrictions drove a surge in box office ticket sales on Easter weekend. 

Warner Bros’ Godzilla vs Kong pulled in $32.2m over Friday, Saturday and Sunday for a pandemic-best weekend opening, data provider Comscore said. The movie, which premiered late on Wednesday has thus far nabbed $48.5m at the North American box office. 

The movie, which simultaneously streamed on HBO Max, set a number of pandemic records, according to Comscore analyst Paul Dergarabedian. These included the largest number of movie theatres at 3,064, the largest opening day at $9.6m, and the largest single-day of ticket sales: $12.5M on Saturday. 

Only 55 per cent of North American movie theatres were open over the weekend, according to Comscore.

Overseas, Godzilla vs Kong, drew in $71.6m at the box office, taking its overall box office tally to $285.4m. The movie launched in international markets the previous week.

4/5/2021, 12:34:30 PM

Benjamin Parkin in Mumbai

The Indian state of Maharashtra, home to financial capital Mumbai and more than 100m people, introduced sweeping restrictions on the public and businesses as the country’s daily Covid-19 caseload hit a record high.

India reported 103,000 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday, registering the highest number of daily infections globally. It surpassed its previous peak of nearly 100,000 daily cases in September.

The country recorded more than 500 deaths on Saturday, up from 100 or less at the start of March.

Maharashtra has led the resurgence, with more than 57,000 new infections announced on Sunday, and has accounted for many of the deaths. The western state is India’s economic powerhouse, accounting for 14 per cent of gross domestic product, according to research firm Capital Economics.

The restrictions in Maharashtra include a night-time curfew and weekend lockdown, while all but essential shops are to close. Most private offices will shut, restaurants only be available for takeaway and public gatherings have been curtailed.

The state introduced the measures amid fears health systems could be overwhelmed by the surge.

Read more here

4/5/2021, 12:33:34 PM

FT reporters

Boris Johnson will on Monday confirm that England’s “non-essential” shops, pubs and restaurants can start to reopen from April 12, as he outlines the next stage of the lifting of the Covid-19 lockdown, officials said.

US-based Johnson & Johnson said it was “assuming full responsibility” of a Baltimore vaccine factory owned by Emergent BioSolutions after workers accidentally ruined a reported 15m doses of J&J’s vaccine by mixing ingredients for the jab and those for the Oxford/AstraZeneca shot.

The Indian state of Maharashtra, home to financial capital Mumbai, introduced sweeping restrictions on the public and businesses as the country’s daily Covid-19 caseload hit a record high of 103,000 new cases on Sunday. That marked the highest number of daily infections globally.

The likelihood of a co-ordinated global economic rebound from the coronavirus pandemic has diminished as slower vaccination rollouts and a fresh wave of infections in some countries result in “sharply divergent growth prospects”, according to exclusive research for the Financial Times.

US companies are facing the largest number of demands from investors to address environmental and social concerns in four years, as shareholders press management teams over their handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Shareholders were dissatisfied with companies’ efforts to protect their workers from Covid-19. And Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson are facing calls from shareholders for greater disclosure on pricing of Covid-19 vaccines and therapeutics.

Everyone in England will be able to access free twice-a-week coronavirus tests from April 9 as the government prepares to loosen lockdown restrictions further with the reopening of non-essential shops, pubs and restaurants.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *