Brazil Tops Russia, Japan Success Puzzles Experts: Virus Update

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Brazil added a record number of cases, overtaking Russia as the nation with the world’s highest number of coronavirus cases after the U.S.

In the U.S., President Donald Trump declared houses of worship as essential and directed governors to let them open “right now,” even though legal experts said he lacks the authority to override stay-at-home orders. The CDC warned though that singing can speed transmission and recommended against sharing items like collection plates.

Anthony Fauci, the U.S.’s top infectious disease expert, said it may be time to consider a cautious reopening of the economy. Oxford University and AstraZeneca started recruiting for advanced human studies of one of the fastest-moving experimental vaccines, while a Russian institute said it used laboratory staff in a successful unofficial test on a potential vaccine.

25,294 in U.S.Most new cases today

-14% Change in MSCI World Index of global stocks since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

-1.​073 Change in U.S. treasury bond yield since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

-4.​8% Global GDP Tracker (annualized), April

The World Health Organization said the virus has spread now to every country in Africa, where cases have topped 100,000.

Key Developments:

  • Virus Tracker: Cases top 5.1 million; deaths around 335,000
  • Here’s what your cruises will look like after Covid-19
  • We need a name for the greatest economic crisis this century

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. For a look back at this week’s top stories from QuickTake, click here.

Japan’s Success in Managing Outbreak Puzzles Experts (7:20 a.m. HK)

Japan’s state of emergency is nearing its end with new cases of the coronavirus dwindling to mere dozens. It got there despite largely ignoring the default playbook.

No restrictions were placed on residents’ movements, and businesses from restaurants to hairdressers stayed open. And even as nations were exhorted to “test, test, test,” Japan has tested just 0.2% of its population -- one of the lowest rates among developed countries. Yet the curve has been flattened, with deaths well below 1,000, by far the fewest among the G7 nations. While the possibility of a more severe second wave is ever-present, Japan is set to leave its emergency in just weeks, and likely to exit completely as early as Monday.

Gilead’s Remdesivir Helped Only Those on Oxygen, Study Says (7 p.m. HK)

Gilead Sciences Inc.’s remdesivir, which was authorized to treat Covid-19 in adults and children who need supplemental oxygen, a ventilator or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), only significantly helped those on supplemental oxygen, not the latter two types, a pivotal study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found.

Brazil Overtakes Russia as Second-Most Infected Nation (6:28 p.m. NY)

Brazil added 20,803 cases, bringing the total to 330,890 -- topping Russia’s 326,448 infections. The number of deaths increased by 1,001 to 21,048. That’s still behind some of the most-affected countries in Europe including the U.K., Italy and Spain, along with the U.S..

With the worst-performing stock market and currency globally this year, Latin America’s largest economy no longer seems like a bargain for investors, as a bungled response to the pandemic turned the country into the world’s fastest-growing virus hotspot.

U.K. Police Question Johnson Aide (5:37 p.m. NY)

Boris Johnson’s chief adviser was interviewed by police for potentially breaking the U.K. government’s lockdown rules when he self-isolated with coronavirus symptoms. Police spoke to Dominic Cummings after he was seen more than 250 miles (400 kilometers) from his London home shortly after he went into isolation at the end of March -- a time when the prime minister and Health Secretary Matt Hancock had both tested positive.

At the time, U.K. citizens were under orders not to travel, and to stay at home. Cummings, a divisive behind-the-scenes figure within the administration, lives in London while his parents live in Durham, in northern England. Earlier Friday, Home Secretary Priti Patel said passengers arriving in the U.K. will be forced into quarantine for two weeks and face fines of 1,000 pounds ($1,200) if they break the rules.

Peru Continues Reopening Economy (5:15 p.m. NY)

Peru authorized more businesses to reopen, including hairdressers, electricians and online clothes retailers along with mining, fishing and construction companies that were cleared to reopen this month. The lockdown, which was set to expire Sunday, will continue through June 30, President Martin Vizcarra said.

Peru is battling South America’s biggest coronavirus outbreak after Brazil, with total cases surpassing 100,000 this week. Strict lockdown measures in place since mid-March have taken a heavy toll on the economy, with economic activity slumping 16% in March and more than a million jobs lost in Lima in the three months to April.

CDC Cites Choirs, Collection Plate in Guidance (4:15 p.m. NY)

Religious groups should consider suspending or limiting choirs or singing during services and avoid passing a collection plate, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in guidance issued hours after Trump demanded governors immediately open houses of worship. “The act of singing may contribute to transmission of Covid-19, possibly through emission of aerosols,” the CDC warned.

Churches should stay in contact with local and state officials as reopening decisions are made, and provide protection for staff or congregants who are at higher risk of infection. The guidance encouraged hand washing, use of face coverings and increased cleaning and disinfection measures.

U.S. Cases Increase 1.8% (4 p.m. NY)

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. increased 1.8% as compared to the same time yesterday to 1.59 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. That’s above the 1.5% average of the past week. Deaths rose 1.7% to 95,490.

  • New York cases rose 0.5% to 358,154, in line with the average increase over the past seven days, according to the state’s health department.
  • Florida cases rose 1.6% to 49,451 on Friday, compared with an average increase of 1.7% in the previous seven days, according to data from the state’s health department. Deaths rose 2.1% to 2,190.
  • Cases in California rose 2.6% to 88,444 while deaths increased 2.5% to 3,630, according to the state’s website.

Cases Reach All African Nations: WHO (3:15 p.m. NY)

Every nation in Africa now has coronavirus cases, as the continent’s infection total exceeds 100,000, the World Health Organization said. The first Africa case was reported 14 weeks ago.

Africa’s mortality rate has been low, with 3,100 confirmed deaths. By comparison, when cases reached 100,000 in Europe, deaths topped 4,900, WHO said. Early analysis suggests the lower mortality rate may reflect that Africa is the youngest continent, with more than 60% of the population under age 25. In Europe nearly 95% of deaths occurred in those older than 60.

Italy’s Deaths, New Cases Remain Low (12:10 p.m. NY)

Italy’s new cases remained below 1,000 for a 10th day on Friday, as health authorities said the epidemic’s curve is consistently descending in all regions, including Lombardy, the hardest-hit area. Authorities reported 652 cases, up from 642 a day earlier, for a total of 228,658. Daily fatalities were 130, down from 156 on Thursday, bringing the death toll to 32,616.

China Vaccine Shows Promise: Lancet (11:20 a.m. NY)

An experimental vaccine developed by CanSino Biologics of China was safe and generated an immune response in an early study in humans. The vaccine stimulated production of both antibodies that can stop infection along with immune T-cells, according to a report Friday in The Lancet medical journal. Further research is needed to show its effectiveness against the virus. The study was funded by CanSino and conducted by researchers from the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology and other organizations.

“The challenges in the development of a Covid-19 vaccine are unprecedented, and the ability to trigger these immune responses does not necessarily indicate that the vaccine will protect humans from Covid-19,” Wei Chen, a professor at the Beijing institute that carried out the study, said in the report.

Russia Tests Covid-19 Vaccine on Researchers (8:10 a.m. NY)

A Russian government research institute said it conducted successful unofficial tests on a potential coronavirus vaccine. Laboratory staff who volunteered to receive the vaccine at the Gamaleya epidemiology institute in Moscow had no side effects and are healthy, said its director, Alexander Ginzburg, the state-run Tass news service reported. It didn’t state how many people took part in the trial.

— With assistance by Heather Smith, and Rachel Gamarski

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What the Weak Recovery in Japan Can Teach Us About Re-Igniting the U.S. Economy

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Every week, hosts Joe Weisenthal and Tracy Alloway take you on a not-so-random walk through hot topics in markets, finance, and economics.

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Even with the recent stock market rally, expectations are poor for a robust recovery in the U.S. So what does history teach us about what works and what doesn’t? Richard Werner is an economist at Linacre College at the University of Oxford, and the proponent of what he calls the “Quantity Theory of Credit.” On this episode, he tells us about what he learned studying years of the Japanese economy, and what it means for the current crisis.

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Deaths Exceed 300,000; Japan Eases Emergency Steps: Virus Update

The death toll from the coronavirus pandemic topped 300,000, after reaching the 200,000 threshold just three weeks ago. Japan prepared to lift the state of emergency for most of the country’s prefectures.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has sought to blame China for the coronavirus pandemic, said he doesn’t want to talk to Chinese President Xi Jinping right now. Fears are growing that the pandemic is reviving all the worst-case scenarios about ties between the two nations, edging them closer to confrontation.

The American Medical Association said people shouldn’t use antibody tests to determine whether someone is protected from the virus, but only to determine how broadly the virus has spread or whether the person could be a plasma donor.

Key Developments:

  • Virus Tracker: Cases top 4.4 million; deaths exceed 301,000
  • Covid-19 revives worst-case scenarios for U.S.-China relations
  • Migrant workers on front line in return to work across Asia
  • Tokyo to remain under emergency even as situation eases

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. See this week’s top stories from QuickTake here.

Apple Helps Suppliers Fight Virus (4:35 p.m. NY)

Apple Inc., whose globe-spanning supply chain has been tested by the pandemic, is helping suppliers reconfigure factories to limit the spread of Covid-19, one of several steps the iPhone maker is taking to protect workers. In an annual supplier responsibility report released Thursday, Apple detailed a range of responses from its partners, including health screenings, deep cleaning, deployment of face masks and hand sanitizer, and limiting the density of work areas.

Trump Mulls Made-in-U.S. Order (4:15 p.m. NY)

The Trump administration is preparing an executive order that would require certain essential drugs and medical treatments for a variety of conditions be made in the U.S. The order comes in light of drug and device shortages during the pandemic. A draft of the order is circulating inside the government and was obtained by Bloomberg News.

“It is critical that we reduce our dependence on foreign manufacturers for essential medicines, medical countermeasures” to “ensure sufficient and reliable long-term domestic manufacturing” that prevents shortages and supplies to “mobilize our nation’s public health industrial base” when needed, says the nine-page draft.

U.S. Cases Rose 1.6%, Below 7-Day Average (4 p.m. NY)

U.S. cases rose 1.6% from the day before to 1.4 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. That was below the average daily increase of 1.8% over the past week. Deaths rose to 85,066.

  • New York reported 157 deaths, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo. That makes it the fourth day in a row that the toll was below 200.
  • New Jersey cases rose by 1,216, or 0.9%, below the week’s average of 1%. Beaches will open May 22, with social-distancing rules and capacity limits in place.
  • Florida reported 43,210 cases, up 1.9% from a day earlier, according to the state’s health department, compared with an average increase of 1.6% in the previous seven days.. Deaths rose 2.6% to 1,875.
  • California’s cases increased 2.8% to 73,164, while deaths increased 3.3% to 3,032, according to the state’s website.

Italy Cases, Deaths Rise (12:05 p.m. NY)

Italy registered an increase of new cases and the most daily fatalities in seven days on Thursday, as the government prepares to further ease a lockdown starting May 18, with shops as well as bars and restaurants expected to reopen on a regional basis.

Civil protection authorities reported 992 cases — the most since Tuesday — compared with 888 a day earlier, and raising the total to 223,096. Daily fatalities rose to 262 from 195 on Wednesday, with a total of 31,368.

Trump Says He Doesn’t Want to Talk to Xi as Tensions Rise (8:31 a.m. NY)

Trump mused about eliminating the largest trading relationship in the world, with tensions high over the coronavirus outbreak. Asked in a Fox Business Network interview whether he had spoken to Xi recently, Trump said that they have “a very good relationship” but “right now, I don’t want to speak to him. I don’t want to speak to him.”

Trump has sought to blame China for the outbreak as public confidence in his handling of the U.S. response has sunk. There have been more than 1.3 million cases of Covid-19 in the U.S. and at least 82,900 deaths, the most in the world. China has reported only about 4,600 deaths from the disease.

Tokyo to Stay Under Emergency Even as Japan Eases (6:12 a.m. NY)

Abe will maintain a state of emergency for Tokyo and Osaka due to the coronavirus while lifting it for 39 of the country’s 47 prefectures earlier than scheduled, as infection cases have waned. The government will evaluate next week if it can release the remaining areas before the declaration ends on May 31, which could help Japan re-activate more of its virus-battered economy.

The government will immediately start work on a second extra budget to aid people and businesses reeling from the effects of the pandemic, Abe said. The plan will include subsidies for rents and raise the maximum subsidy for furloughed workers to 15,000 yen ($140) a day, he said.

— With assistance by Reed Stevenson, Jonathan Levin, Emma Court, and Michelle Fay Cortez

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Tokyo’s Homeless Seek Olympic Athletes Village as Shelter

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Tokyo (AP) — A group representing the homeless is asking to use the Athletes Village for next year’s Tokyo Olympics as a shelter during the coronavirus pandemic.

An online petition addressed to Tokyo Olympic organizers and the city government has drawn tens of thousands of signatures for permission to occupy the massive housing complex going up alongside Tokyo Bay.

The village was to be home to 11,000 Olympic athletes and 4,400 Paralympic athletes. It is largely complete and empty with the Olympic opening postponed by the virus outbreak until July 23, 2021.

“We don’t know how long this downturn will last, and so we have to change how we think,” Ren Ohnishi, chairperson of the Moyai Support Center for Independent Living, told Associated Press. “That includes how we work, how we deal with housing, how we give aid to those who need it.”

Tokyo Olympics organizers declined comment, and the Tokyo metropolitan government also had no immediate comment on the petition. Organizers said it’s unclear when the petition will be submitted.

The petition reads in part: “If the outbreak continues for some time, many people may fall into poverty or lose their homes.”

The homeless in Tokyo living on the streets total about 1,000 people. Another 4,000 are estimated to be staying at so-called “net cafes,” — numbering about 500 — that offer net access and cubicles to spend the night, according to a Tokyo city government study.

Many net cafes were shut after the government asked businesses where the coronavirus might spread to voluntatarily close.

The city government as prepared about 500 rooms at hotels for those who are no longer able to stay at the net cafes, and more are being readied if needs grow, city official Kazuo Hatananaka said.

Experts say homeless communities may worsen the pandemic’s spread because of the inability to practice social distancing.

“Society needs to grow more inclusive or else the outbreak will spread,” Ohnishi said. “Our society is being tested. In Japan, many people still blame the poor as causing their own plight.”

Although Tokyo appears orderly and prosperous, the city has an underclass of homeless. They can be seen alongside rivers, under railway tracks and tucked into parks. Communities of the homeless have sprung up, many living out of cardboard boxes.

Nearly 16% of Japanese people fall below the poverty rate with annual income below the cutoff of 1.2 million yen ($11,000), according to 2017 Japanese government data. The poverty rate for single-adult households with children is higher at 51%.

The unraveling of extended family support networks and job insecurity have left many in Japan vulnerable to setbacks that can lead to homelessness. Japan’s culture of conformity also leaves many ashamed to seek help.

The Athletes Village complex is a joint real-estate venture involving major developers and the city of Tokyo. It will eventually have 24 buildings, including upscale condominiums that are priced at more than $1 million. Some units have been on sale with occupancy planned after the Olympics close.

Japan has more than 9,000 reported cases of the coronavirus with about 200 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Tokyo’s daily reports of cases have climbed to more than 100 in recent weeks, and worries are growing hospitals will run out of beds.

The coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people and can include a fever, coughing and mild pneumonia. But those who don’t have severe symptoms have added to the problem by unintentionally spreading the sickness. Worldwide cases have surged to more than 2 million people.

Japan declared a “state of emergency,” initially centered around Tokyo and six other urban regions. This week it was expanded nationwide.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has mentioned using the village complex to house those under quarantine or patients that don’t require intensive care in hospitals. But the city has bought hotel space and secured other housing, such as prefabricated homes built for security during the Olympics, for such use.


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Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter

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