Britons saved almost a third of their income during the lockdown, data showed Wednesday as Conservative lawmakers warned Prime Minister Boris Johnson to give them control over his strategy to combat the virus.
In the U.S., seven former Food and Drug Administration commissioners appealed for the agency to decide on vaccine approvals free of political interference, to gain public trust and help combat the pandemic. Meanwhile, an early study showed Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. antibody cocktail may help reduce virus levels and symptoms in patients.
Walt Disney Co. is laying off 28,000 employees in its U.S. resort business, while Royal Dutch Shell Plc will cut as many as 9,000 jobs by the end of 2022. In Thailand, the tourism council expects the slump in arrivals to continue through the yearend.
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Becton Dickinson 15-Minute Virus Test Cleared in Europe (2:30 p.m. HK)
Becton Dickinson & Co.’s Covid-19 test that returns results in 15 minutes has been cleared for use in countries that accept Europe’s CE marking, the diagnostics maker said Wednesday.
The test is part of a new class of quicker screening tools named for the identifying proteins called antigens they detect on the surface of SARS-CoV-2. Becton Dickinson expects to begin selling the test, which runs on the company’s cellphone-sized BD Veritor Plus System, in European markets at the end of October. It will likely be used by emergency departments, general practitioners and pediatricians.
Shell to Cut Up to 9,000 Jobs as Virus Forces Reorganization (2:16 p.m. HK)
Royal Dutch Shell Plc will cut as many as 9,000 jobs as Covid-19 precipitates a companywide restructuring into low-carbon energy.
Job reductions of 7,000 to 9,000 are expected by the end of 2022, including around 1,500 people taking voluntary redundancy this year, Shell said Wednesday in a statement. The company sees sustainable annual cost savings of $2 billion to $2.5 billion by that time.
Britons Saved on Unprecedented Scale During Coronavirus Lockdown (2:07 p.m. HK)
Britons saved almost a third of their income during the lockdown as the coronavirus pandemic shuttered stores and sent the economy into its deepest slump for centuries.
The saving ratio soared to an unprecedented 29.1% in the second quarter, the Office for National Statistics said Wednesday. The figures confirmed Britain as the worst-performing major advanced economy during the quarter, with gross domestic product shrinking 19.8%, slightly less than previously estimated.
Rebel Tories Warn Boris Johnson Faces Defeat on Virus Powers (2:04 p.m. HK)
Boris Johnson will try to regain control of his coronavirus strategy as a rebellion from his own Conservative colleagues and a series of government gaffes knocked his plans off course.
The U.K. prime minister was warned by Conservative lawmakers that he faces a damaging defeat on his Covid regulations Wednesday if he fails to give Parliament more powers to scrutinize the rules before they come into force.
Gasoline Prices Overtake Diesel With Cars Favored Amid Virus (12:29 p.m. HK)
Asian gasoline has surged to a record premium to diesel as the use of private vehicles rise while public transport and industrial activity remain sluggish, highlighting the uneven demand recovery from Covid-19.
After a brief slump in early September, motor fuel prices have rebounded amid signs cars and motorbikes are being favored to avoid infection. Diesel — commonly used by buses and trains — has fallen amid weak demand and a global glut of middle distillates that’s being caused by many refiners having only limited scope to adjust the mix of oil products they’re making.
Thailand’s Fiscal Deficit Reaches 3.9% of GDP in Oct.-June (12:08 p.m. HK)
Thailand’s fiscal deficit was 614.4 billion baht, or 3.9% of gross domestic product, in the first nine months of the 2019-2020 fiscal year, according to the Finance Ministry’s Fiscal Policy Office.
Government revenue dropped 10.3% year-on-year to 2.34 trillion baht due to the impact of the pandemic and implementation of government relief measures to support people impacted by the virus, which includes tax relief measures, the ministry said in a statement Wednesday.
Zhifei Biological Rises on License for Covid Vaccine Production (11:48 a.m. HK)
Chongqing Zhifei Biological rose as much as 5.2%, after saying its wholly-owned subsidiary won a government license to produce a coronavirus vaccine.
Anhui Zhifei Longkema Biological Pharmaceutical has gotten approval from the medical products administration of Anhui province, which has recently expanded production licenses to include coronavirus vaccine efforts, according to a filing late Tuesday.
Thai Tourism Council Sees 99.5% Drop in Fourth-Quarter Visitors (11:37 a.m. HK)
The Tourism Council of Thailand expects 50,000 foreign visitors to enter the country in the fourth quarter, generating about 4.5 billion baht in receipts, a contraction of 99.1% from a year earlier.
It forecast 2020 foreign tourist arrivals will drop 83% to 6.74 million, while revenue slides by a similar percentage to 336.5 billion baht.
South Africa’s Lockdown Reverses Nine Years of Job Gains (11 a.m. HK)
The number of people who work in South Africa fell to the lowest level in almost a decade in the second quarter as a lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic resulted in 2.2 million job losses.
Still, the official unemployment rate declined to 23.3% because the restrictions meant people were unable to seek work, and were therefor not counted as officially unemployed. According to the expanded definition, which includes people who were available for work but not looking for a job, unemployment rose to 42%.
Zhoushan Port Restricts Ships With Recent Indian Crew Changes (10:46 a.m. HK)
China’s Zhoushan port is restricting the entry of ships that recently conducted crew changes involving Indian nationals, said shipbrokers and an official at the Zhoushan government’s propaganda office.
Ships that have conducted Indian crew changes within a month of arriving at the Chinese port will not be allowed to berth, or will be requested to wait at anchorage. The new rules will be effective for two weeks from Sept. 29 as part of a trial.
AirAsia Japan Plans to End Operations, Yomiuri Says (7:08 a.m. HK)
AirAsia Japan told relevant authorities that it plans to end its operations, Yomiuri reports, without attribution.
The low cost carrier, whose major investors include AirAsia and Rakuten, resumed flight operations in August, but demand remained weak on the back of the coronavirus pandemic.
U.K. Ventilators Sit in Storage (7:01 a.m. HK)
The vast majority of the thousands of ventilators manufactured under an emergency U.K. program to treat Covid-19 patients have gone unused and are sitting in storage, the government’s public spending watchdog said in a new report.
The U.K. government spent about 277 million pounds ($356 million) on a program called the Ventilator Challenge that produced 15,200 ventilators, according to the report released Wednesday by the National Audit Office. Of those, only about 450 units, or roughly 3%, have been distributed.
CDC Director Overruled on Extending Cruise Ship Ban: Axios (6:55 a.m. HK)
Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was overruled when he advocated extending the ban on passenger cruises into next year, Axios reports, citing two unidentified people with direct knowledge of the conversation.
Redfield argued for extending the ban until February at a meeting today of the administration’s coronavirus task force. Vice President Michael Pence, who led the meeting, told Redfield they would pursue a different plan, two task force members said. The administration plans to extend the no-sail order until Oct. 31, which matches the industry’s self-imposed ban.
American Air Joins Virus Testing Rush (6:15 a.m. HK)
American Airlines Group Inc. joined the dash among U.S. carriers to offer preflight coronavirus testing. The initial phase, starting next month, will involve Jamaican residents traveling to their home country through American’s hub at Miami, the carrier said in a statement Tuesday. A negative test would waive a 14-day quarantine requirement on arrival in the country. The program could be expanded later to all passengers traveling to Jamaica.
American also will offer tests between Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Hawaii as of Oct. 15. Further expansion could include the Bahamas and other Caribbean countries.
Former FDA Commissioners Seek End to Interference: Washington Post (5:20 a.m. HK)
Seven former Food and Drug Administration commissioners appealed for the agency to decide on coronavirus vaccine approvals free of political interference, to gain public trust and help combat the pandemic.
“With more than 750 Americans on average dying a day from Covid-19, the FDA must be supported to play its unique and essential role,” they wrote jointly in an opinion column in the Washington Post. “Scientists should make decisions based on data, unfettered by political pressure or the intrusions of ideology or vested interests. Political intrusion only prolongs the pandemic and erodes our public health institutions.”
The former commissioners — Robert Califf, Scott Gottlieb, Margaret Hamburg, Jane Henney, David Kessler, Mark McClellan and Andy von Eschenbach — cited alleged incidents of interference by the Trump administration in their column.
Disney to Lay Off 28,000 Resort Workers (5:20 a.m. HK)
Walt Disney Co. is laying off 28,000 workers in its U.S. resort business, the latest sign that travel and other communal experiences will be slow to recover from the pandemic.
The cuts span the company’s theme parks, cruise ships and retail businesses, Disney said on Tuesday. They include executives, although 67% of those being terminated are part-time workers. Disney is offering benefits to the workers being cut, including 90 days of severance.
The Covid-19 crisis closed Disney parks around the world. Although the resorts in some areas have reopened — including Florida, in July — Disney still hasn’t received clearance to restart operations at its two theme parks in Anaheim, California.
Regeneron Antibody Cocktail Lowers Virus Levels (4:30 a.m. HK)
A Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. antibody cocktail may help treat coronavirus patients outside of the hospital by reducing virus levels and symptoms.
In an early-stage clinical trial of 275 Covid-19 patients, those who received Regeneron’s experimental therapy had lower virus levels in the bloodstream seven days later compared with patients who received a placebo, the company said in a statement.
The results are a sign that experimental antibody treatments could become a powerful part of the arsenal for treating the coronavirus. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious-disease official, has referred to antibody-based medicines that could treat infected patients sooner after they contract the virus as a bridge to a vaccine.
U.S. Cases Rise 0.6%; Texas Hospalizations Spike (4 a.m. HK)
Coronavirus cases in the U.S. increased 0.6% as compared with the same time Monday to 7.17 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. The increase matched the average daily gain over the past week. Deaths rose to 205,547.
Texas reported the highest number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 in two weeks, with the number rising to 3,251 Tuesday. The steady declines seen since mid-July, when hospitalizations peaked at more than 10,000, have slowed and reversed from the lowpoint of 3,081 on Sept. 20. The state has recorded 743,284 cases since the start of the outbreak, and 15,604 deaths.
San Francisco to Expand Reopenings (4 a.m. HK)
San Francisco moved into a less-restrictive classification under California’s tiered guidelines for reopening the economy, paving the way for the city to reopen more businesses. The county, with a test positivity rate of 2%, is the only part of the Bay Area to have improved to a “moderate” status in the state’s tiers.
Indoor restaurants and places of worship will open at 25% capacity starting on Wednesday, Mayor London Breed said in a statement. Movie theaters are slated to reopen at limited capacity on Oct. 7, while public playgrounds will open mid-month.
North Dakota’s Outbreak as Bad as Florida in July (2:50 a.m. HK)
Covid-19 extended its march across the Midwest on Tuesday, with the surge in North Dakota looking similar to Florida’s two months earlier. Cases were also on the rise in South Dakota and Wisconsin.
In North Dakota, the seven-day average of new cases climbed to a record 413, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. That’s about 54 daily cases per 100,000 residents.
France New Infections Decline (2:45 a.m. HK)
France reported 8,051 new coronavirus cases on Monday and a decline in the seven-day rolling average of new infections.
The seven-day average fell to 11,803 from 12,083 on Monday, when it had declined for the first time since August. France’s virus-related deaths increased by 85 to 31,893.
Finland to Stop Serving Alcohol at Midnight (1:45 a.m. HK)
Finland unveiled new restrictions on restaurants and bars after the resurgence of the pandemic began to pick up pace.
Bars and restaurants will have to stop serving alcoholic drinks at midnight starting Oct. 8, Krista Kiuru, minister for family affairs and social services, said on Tuesday.
Finland had about 20 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people over the past two weeks, according to Kiuru. Just under 10,000 people have been infected and about 350 have died since the pandemic began in March.
Germany Reins In Partying (12 a.m. HK)
Germany is taking aim at public and private parties, joining several other European countries in stepping up restrictions to contain a resurgent wave of coronavirus infections.
Europe’s largest economy will “urgently” recommend that state governments restrict at-home gatherings to 25 people and it will limit meetings in public or rented locations to 50 people if infection numbers rise, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday after discussing the pandemic with the leaders of Germany’s 16 states.
— With assistance by Reinie Booysen