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Oil futures open lower in electronic trading
27 April 2020, 4:55 AM

United States (US) oil futures dipped in electronic trading Sunday evening, extending losses from last week that marked the eighth week of losses out of the last nine.

Trading was extremely volatile last week, in an extension of the selling that has dominated trading since early March as demand collapsed 30% due to the pandemic.

Global production cuts have not kept pace with the collapse in demand.

In this video below, US crude oil falls to 0% for the first time in history:

US West Texas Intermediate CLc1 futures were down 32 cents to $16.62 a barrel as of 6:15 p.m. ET (2215 GMT), while Brent futures LCOc1 rose 12 cents, or 0.6%, to settle at $21.56 a barrel.

Oil futures marked their third straight week of losses last week, with Brent ending down 24% and WTI off around 7%.

Traders expect demand to fall short of supply for months due to the economic disruption caused by the pandemic. Investors will be watching this week for results from oil majors including Exxon Mobil , BP Plc  and Royal Dutch Shell.

Producers may not be slashing output quickly or deeply enough to buoy prices, especially when global economic output is expected to contract by 2% this year, worse than the financial crisis.

Storage is quickly filling worldwide, which could necessitate more production cuts, even after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies including Russia agreed this month to cut output by 9.7 million barrels per day.

Countries, companies risk billions in race for coronavirus vaccine
27 April 2020, 4:00 AM

In the race to develop a vaccine to end the COVID-19 pandemic, governments, charities and Big Pharma firms are sinking billions of dollars into bets with extraordinarily low odds of success.

They’re fast-tracking the testing and regulatory review of vaccines with no guarantee they will prove effective. They’re building and re-tooling plants for vaccines with slim chances of being approved. They’re placing orders for vaccines that, in the end, are unlikely to be produced.

It’s the new pandemic paradigm, focused on speed and fraught with risks.

“The crisis in the world is so big that each of us will have to take maximum risk now to put this disease to a stop,” said Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer at Johnson & Johnson , which has partnered with the U.S. government on a $1 billion investment to speed development and production of its still-unproven vaccine. “If it fails,” Stoffels told Reuters, “it will be bad.”

Historically, just 6% of vaccine candidates end up making it to market, often after a years-long process that doesn’t draw big investments until testing shows a product is likely to work.

Ethiopia’s plans to mitigate COVID-19 pandemic

But the traditional rules of drug and vaccine development are being tossed aside in the face of a virus that has infected 2.7 million people, killed more than 192 000 and devastated the global economy.

With COVID-19, the goal is to have a vaccine identified, tested and available on a scale of hundreds of millions of doses in just 12 to 18 months.

Drug companies and the governments and investors that finance them are boosting their “at-risk” spending in unprecedented ways.

The overriding consensus among more than 30 drug company executives, government health officials and pandemic-response experts interviewed by Reuters is that the risks are necessary to ensure not only that a vaccine for the new coronavirus is developed quickly, but that it is ready to distribute as soon as it’s approved.

Investments from governments, global health groups and philanthropies have been aimed primarily at the most promising of the more than 100 vaccine candidates in development worldwide.

But only a handful of those have advanced to human trials, the real indicator of safety and efficacy – and the stage where most vaccines wash out.

Even among the more encouraging prospects, very few are likely to succeed. It’s possible more than one will work; it’s possible none will.

Back from COVID-19, Johnson urged to reveal UK lockdown exit strategy
27 April 2020, 3:35 AM

Prime Minister Boris Johnson returned to his Downing Street residence on Sunday after recovering from COVID-19, ready to take the helm again with pressure growing for the government to explain how it will ease a month-old coronavirus lockdown.

Johnson, 55, spent three nights in intensive care with the illness. A spokesperson confirmed he was back at 10 Downing Street on Sunday evening after two weeks recovering at Chequers, his country residence.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson back to work:

He will resume full-time work on Monday and is “raring to go”, his stand-in Dominic Raab said.

On his desk, Johnson will find a letter from opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer urging him to set out when and how an economic and social lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus might be eased, one of many demanding more information.

Raab, the foreign secretary, said speculation about this risked diluting the message that people should stay at home.

“We are at a delicate and dangerous stage and we need to make sure that the next steps are sure-footed,” he told Sky News.

The official number of deaths related to COVID-19 in hospitals across the United Kingdom rose to 20,732, up by 413 in 24 hours, while confirmed cases stood at 152,840, up by 4,463.

Deaths in the community and in nursing homes are slower to arrive, meaning that the overall toll is likely to be significantly higher.

Stephen Powis, medical director of the National Health Service in England, said the “very definite” downward trend in the number of coronavirus cases in hospital demonstrated that social distancing was reducing virus transmission and spread.

US should avoid phased approach in trade talks with Kenya
27 April 2020, 2:35 AM

The United States should work to achieve a single, comprehensive agreement with Kenya that removes barriers to trade and investment, instead of pursuing a phased approach, the US Chamber of Commerce said in a document viewed by Reuters.

In comments submitted to the US Trade Representative, the Chamber’s US-Africa Business Center said a high-standard agreement that eliminated all tariffs would boost the long-term economic outlook for both countries, and further position Kenya as a model for economic reform across Africa.

It said the bilateral negotiations would enhance work by African countries to forge a broader African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

US President Donald Trump and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on February 6 announced the intention to start formal talks on what would be first US bilateral trade deal with a sub-Saharan African country.

The Trump administration last month invited comments on negotiating objectives for the talks.

Two-way goods trade between the United States and Kenya totaled $1.1 billion in 2019, up 4.9% from 2018.

To be effective, negotiators should work out a comprehensive deal that addresses “all issues under negotiation … rather than seeking agreement on a subset of issues or pursuing a phased approach,” the Chamber said.

The US government has recently concluded partial or phased trade agreements with Japan and China, frustrating some US companies that had been pressing for broader agreements on issues such as intellectual property (IP) rights and improved access for their products.

The Chamber said the trade talks should focus on achieving a high-standard bilateral agreement that sets a precedent for future US trade deals with other sub-Saharan African nations.

It should eliminate all tariffs and address non-tariff barriers for industrial and farm goods, including US tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum from Kenya, while expanding market access for remanufactured goods exports.

Amampondomise revive old burial tradition to combat COVID-19
27 April 2020, 1:30 AM

The Amampondomise nation is reviving an historical cultural practise to fight the spread of COVID-19.

The nation has resolved to postpone all funerals and only do burials according to the ukuqusheka (private funeral , attended by close family members) tradition.

This means a deceased is buried by close family and the dignified funeral is then held at a later date.

Mass funerals are in violation of lockdown regulations and are said to be the cause of the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the Eastern Cape.

Government raise concerns about the role of funerals in the transmission of COVID-19:

There are currently 535 cases in the Eastern Cape. Ten deaths have been reported.

The Amampondomise kingdom is the first in the Eastern Cape to suspend funerals.

This decision was not taken lightly.

King Luzuko Matiwane says: “We have a pandemic in our doorstep, we have seen what it is doing in Port st Johns so we are appealing to all Amampondomise to suspend these funerals, at a later stage we will continue once everything is ok.”

By practising ukuqusheka all lockdown regulations will be adhered to.

Once the lockdown is lifted then proper services will be accorded to those buried under ukuqusheka (private funeral , attended by close family members).

Amampondomise Kingdom Spokesperson Chief Bakhanyisele Rhanuka says: “It is required that only immediate family members attend and there’s no gathering and there’s no service or programme.”

The move by the Amampondomise is welcomed.

Contralesa Secretary in Eastern Cape Mkhanyiseli Dudumayo says: “This is a great initiative and we urge other kingdoms and also people to follow suit as this will save their lives.”

The kingdom also called on its people to suspend other traditional events like weddings and home comings.

Funerals in Eastern Cape a major concern when it comes to the spreading of COVID-19:



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