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Global coronavirus cases to soon surpass 30 million – Reuters tally
17 September 2020, 5:50 AM

Global coronavirus cases are expected to pass 30 million on Thursday, according to a Reuters tally, with the pandemic showing no signs of slowing.

India was firmly in focus as the latest epicentre, although North and South America combined accounted for almost half of the global cases.

Global new daily case numbers reached record levels in recent days and deaths neared 1 million as the international race to develop and market a vaccine heated up.

The official number of global coronavirus cases is now more than five times the number of severe influenza illnesses recorded annually, according to World Health Organisation data.

Around the world, there have been almost 1 million deaths, considered a lagging indicator given the two-week incubation period of the virus. That has well exceeded the upper range of 290 000 to 650 000 annual deaths linked to influenza.

India on Wednesday became only the second country in the world, after the United States, to record more than 5 million cases.

The south Asian nation, the world’s second most populous country, has been reporting more new daily cases than the United States since mid-August and accounts for just over 16% of global known cases.

The United States has about 20% of all global cases,although it has just 4% of the world’s population. Brazil, the third worst-hit country, accounts for roughly 15% of global cases.

It took 18 days for global cases to surge from 25 million to more than 30 million. It took 20 days for the world to go from 20 million to 25 million and 19 days to go from 15 million to 20 million.

The global rate of new daily cases is slowing, reflecting progress in constraining the disease in many countries, despite a few big surges.

Health experts stress that official data almost certainly under-reports both infections and deaths, particularly in countries with limited testing capacity.

The race to develop and bring to market a novel coronavirus vaccine has grown increasingly frenetic in recent weeks with about 200 candidates in development globally.

US President Donald Trump has said his country could have a vaccine ready for distribution before the US election on November 3, while a Chinese health official this week said China may have a vaccine ready for public use as early as November.

While the trajectory of the coronavirus still falls far short of the 1918 Spanish flu, which infected an estimated 500 million people, killing at least 10% of them, experts worry the available data is underplaying the true impact of the pandemic.

Bank of England gears up for next stimulus push
17 September 2020, 5:31 AM

The Bank of England is expected to signal on Thursday that it is getting ready to pump yet more stimulus into Britain’s economy as it heads for a jump in unemployment and a possible Brexit shock.

The BoE has already cut interest rates to a record low 0.1% and ramped up its bond-buying programme to almost $1 trillion (771.37 billion pounds) to soften the impact of the coronavirus shock.

It has enough firepower to keep buying bonds until the end of 2020, so investors are expecting only a signal of intent to do more at the end of its September meeting.

Anthony O’Brien, European rates and currency strategist at First State Investments, said one or two of the nine BoE monetary policymakers might vote for more bond buying as the BoE, like other central banks, turns warier about the outlook.

On Wednesday, the US Federal Reserve promised to keep rates near zero until inflation is on track to “moderately exceed” its 2% inflation target “for some time.”

“The tone of the minutes is likely to be dovish with downside risks becoming more prominent,” O’Brien said.

Britain suffered the biggest economic contraction among Group of Seven nations between April and June, slumping by 20%.

Monthly output by the end of July was 12% below its pre-COVID level, but the bounce-back is likely to slow as the government phases out its huge job protection scheme. At the same time, trade talks with the European Union risk collapse.

The next BoE’s bond-buying expansion is expected in November. The Monetary Policy Committee member most likely to have voted for an increase this week is Michael Saunders, who has said it is “quite likely” that the economy will need more stimulus.

Others have warned the economy could take longer to recover its pre-crisis size than the BoE’s forecast of the end of 2021.

Only the central bank’s chief economist, Andy Haldane, has sounded optimistic about the recovery.

Investors will watch for more clues in Thursday’s statement about the chance of the BoE resorting to negative rates.

Governor Andrew Bailey and some of his colleagues have stressed that they are considering the lessons from other central banks, including those of the euro zone and Japan, of taking rates below zero.

 

BOJ holds fire, offers brighter view of economy as pandemic impact eases
17 September 2020, 5:16 AM

The Bank of Japan (BOJ) kept monetary policy steady on Thursday and offered a slightly more upbeat view of the economy than in July, suggesting that no immediate expansion of stimulus was needed to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

But the central bank warned of various risks to the outlook and repeated its readiness to ramp up monetary support “without hesitation” should the pandemic’s woes derail Japan’s recovery.

“Japan’s economy remains in a severe state but has started to pick up as business activity gradually resumes,” the BOJ said in a statement announcing its widely expected decision to keep monetary settings unchanged.

At the two-day rate review that ended on Thursday, the BOJ maintained its -0.1% short-term interest rate target and a pledge to guide 10-year government bond yields around zero. The decision was made by a 8-1 vote.

BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda is expected to hold a news conference to explain the policy decision.

Trump urges reluctant Republicans to go higher on coronavirus relief
17 September 2020, 4:54 AM

President Donald Trump urged his fellow Republicans on Wednesday to go for “much higher numbers” in a coronavirus aid bill, as Washington remained deadlocked over economic relief from the crisis ahead of the November 3 elections.

“Go for the much higher numbers, Republicans, it all comes back to the USA anyway (one way or another!)” Trump wrote on Twitter Wednesday. Later in the day he spoke favorably about a proposal for $1.5 trillion in aid made by a bipartisan group of centrist lawmakers.

“They’re well on their way to suggesting some pretty good things,” Trump said about the centrist plan during an evening press conference. “I agree with a lot of it. The things I don’t agree with, we can probably negotiate”.

Senate Republicans, whose last coronavirus aid offer was $300 billion and some of whom would prefer doing nothing more, reacted cautiously to Trump.

But Democrats Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader, said in a joint statement they were encouraged and hoped White House negotiators would now “meet us halfway.”

Pelosi spoke by phone on Wednesday to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has helped negotiate previous coronavirus aid packages. They talked about a government funding bill, and at the end of the conversation, Pelosi reiterated the points she had made in her statement with Schumer, Pelosi’s spokesperson said on Twitter.

The Washington standoff over coronavirus relief dates to mid-May, when the Democratic-majority House approved $3.4 trillion in new aid, including unemployment benefits, money for schools, the US Postal Service, and testing. Pelosi meanwhile offered to drop the demand to about $2.2 trillion.

The Senate’s Republican leaders countered with a $1 trillion plan, but some of their own members balked at that. Last week they put a $300 billion bill up for a vote that Democrats blocked as insufficient.

Congress and the White House approved more than $3 trillion worth of coronavirus relief measures earlier this year.

The Senate’s number two Republican John Thune said on Wednesday proposals should stay in a “realistic” range. Noting the original $1 trillion Senate Republican plan, he said: “As you go upwards from there you start … losing Republican support pretty quickly.”

The $1.5 trillion compromise floated Tuesday by the House Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan centrist group, was attacked by members of both parties. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, however, said it deserved consideration.

The approaching elections increase the political stakes for Republicans and Democrats. Pelosi faces growing pressure from moderate House Democrats for more action on COVID-19 relief. Some of them welcomed Trump’s tweet on Wednesday, including Representative Max Rose, from a competitive congressional district in Staten Island, New York.

Rose said leaders of both parties should “Stop the game, stop the stupidity and get to work” on a coronavirus aid plan.

Several Senate Republicans said their recent $300 billion offer was about the right amount, signaling doubt they could go higher.

“So the President has his opinion, we have ours,” Senator Ron Johnson said.

Mainland China reports 9 new COVID-19 cases vs 12 a day earlier
17 September 2020, 4:41 AM

Mainland China reported nine new COVID-19 cases as of September 16, down from 12 reported a day earlier, the country’s national health authority said on Thursday.

The National Health Commission said in a statement all new cases were imported infections involving travellers from overseas.

The number of new asymptomatic patients also fell to 14 from 16 a day earlier, though China does not count these patients as confirmed cases.

Total of confirmed COVID-19 cases in mainland China now stands at 85 223, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4 634.

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