Germany, France Take Action; Japan’s Second Wave: Virus Update
(Bloomberg) — Germany will extend a program designed to stop millions of workers losing their jobs, joining several other European nations in renewing its job-support package. Meanwhile, France is preparing to announce a 100 billion-euro ($118 billion) stimulus plan next week.
Japan’s virus czar said the country faces a second wave of Covid-19 cases larger than the first. South Korea ordered striking doctors back to work as several Asian countries tightened restrictions on travelers from the nation.
U.S. first lady Melania Trump capped the second night of the Republican convention with a speech that focused on the ravages from the coronavirus.
Global Tracker: Cases top 23.9 million; deaths pass 819,600Phantom U.S. companies got more than $1 billion in virus aidSome countries don’t want to wait for superpowers’ vaccinesA U.K. pivot on masks in schools angers Boris Johnson’s ToriesUnderstanding the virus and its unanswered questionsVaccine Tracker: Where we are in the race for protection?
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Berlin Bans Demonstrations Against Virus Restrictions (5 p.m. HK)
Berlin authorities have banned demonstrations planned for this weekend against restrictions designed to limit the spread of coronavirus. Thousands of protesters have gathered in the German capital in recent weeks, with many openly flouting hygiene and distancing rules, and have clashed with police trying to enforce them.
“This is not a decision against freedom of assembly, but a decision to promote protection against infection,” Andreas Geisel, Berlin’s interior minister, said in a statement. “We are still in the middle of the pandemic, with increasing numbers of infections,” he added.
Seaprately, the German government is extending its coronavirus travel warning for countries outside Europe until Sept. 14, Reuters reports, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter.
Marseille Tightens Curbs as Infection Rate Rises (4:42 p.m. HK)
Authorities have announced new restrictions in Marseille, France’s second largest city, from Wednesday due to the pandemic’s stiff acceleration in the region, well above the national level. Bars, restaurants and grocery stores will have to close from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. and masks will be mandatory in the whole town.
The city of Marseille is seeing 177 infections per 100,000 people, according to the AFP news agency, compared to the national average of 33 per 100,000.
France Gives Hints About Stimulus Plan Due Next Week (4:38 p.m. HK)
France’s government gave further hints on Wednesday about the contents of its 100 billion-euro ($118 billion) plan to boost the economy as it seeks to reassure the country it has the situation under control.
Measures will include 2 billion euros for the cultural sector, Prime Minister Jean Castex said in an interview on France Inter radio. Initially due earlier this week, full details of the stimulus package will be announced on Sept. 3, he added.
Phantom Companies Got More Than $1 Billion in Coronavirus Aid (4 p.m. HK)
A federal program meant to help small businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic may have sent more than $1 billion to places it shouldn’t have gone, according to a Bloomberg Businessweek analysis of Small Business Administration data.
In some parts of the country the SBA approved far more $10,000 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) grants than the number of eligible businesses, the analysis found. The epicenter was six adjacent congressional districts in the Chicago area, where 81,000 grants were approved even though there are only 19,000 eligible recipients.
Germany Pumps $12 Billion More Into Job-Saving Subsidies (3:09 p.m. HK)
Germany allocated about 10 billion euros ($11.8 billion) more to help Europe’s biggest economy recover from the coronavirus crisis by extending until the end of 2021 a program that has stopped millions of people from losing their jobs. Subsidies known in German as “Kurzarbeit,” originally intended for 12 months, pay the bulk of paychecks and allow companies to hold on to workers during an economic shock.
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said the money for the extension will come out of next year’s federal budget, adding to the 1.2 trillion euros Germany has made available to prop up the economy during the pandemic.
Hungary Sees Biggest Rise in Infections Since May (3:08 p.m. HK)
Hungary reported 73 new coronavirus infections Wednesday, the biggest daily increase since May 2, bringing the total so far to 5,288. The country’s death toll remained at 614, with 64 people currently in hospital, according to official figures.
The government has confirmed it will open schools next week despite the resurgence, though it will probably tighten travel restrictions from Sept. 1.
Myanmar Reports Record Daily Infections (2:48 p.m. HK)
Myanmar reported 70 new coronavirus infections Wednesday, its highest one-day tally, according to the Ministry of Health and Sports.
“We have noticed the rate of infections in Rakhine State has risen quickly and expect to see many more cases in the coming two weeks,” said Khin Khin Gyi, director of emerging infectious disease at the Health Ministry.
Iceland Proposes Record Fiscal Stimulus Plan (2:32 p.m. HK)
Iceland’s Finance Ministry submitted a revised fiscal plan to parliament, proposing a budget deficit of as much as 14.5% of gross domestic product this year to support the government response to the pandemic.
“Never before in Iceland’s history has fiscal stimulus been used as forcefully to counterbalance an economic cycle,” the ministry said. The plan envisages a deficit of as much as 13% in 2021 and 10.5% in 2022.
Taiwan Raises South Korea Virus Risk Level (2:28 p.m. HK)
Travelers from South Korea will need to undergo a 14-day quarantine when entering Taiwan, after the country was dropped from a list of areas that posed a low to medium virus risk due to a recent surge in cases, the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control said in a statement on its website.
The updated list of low-to-mid risk countries now has Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam. Taiwan currently classifies 15 countries and regions as low-risk, including New Zealand, Macau and Thailand.
Melania Trump Focuses on Virus in Convention Speech (2:21 p.m. HK)
U.S. first lady Melania Trump capped the second night of the Republican convention with a speech that focused on the ravages from the coronavirus. She acknowledged the deaths of more than 178,000 Americans and called for national unity in response.
“I know many people are anxious and some feel helpless, I want you to know you’re not alone,” she said. President Donald Trump “will not rest until he has done all he can to take care of everyone impacted by this terrible pandemic.”
Germany to Extend Suspension of Insolvency Rule: Paper (1:46 p.m. HK)
German coalition parties are close to agreeing on a compromise that would allow overly indebted companies to hold off from filing for insolvency until the end of the year, the Boersen Zeitung reported.
The extension wouldn’t apply to companies suffering cash shortages, which would have to file for insolvency from October, the newspaper said, citing unidentified industry sources. The proposal still needs cabinet approval. Insolvency rules have been suspended since March as part of government measures against the pandemic.
Dutch Govt to Repay Less Salary in Aid Plan: Telegraaf (1:07 p.m. HK)
The Dutch government aims to focus only on the most affected companies in a third state-wage support program, which will reimburse less salary, De Telegraaf newspaper reported Wednesday, citing people it doesn’t identify.
Under the second state aid program, which covers June-September, companies that expect to lose at least 20% of sales can ask for reimbursement of as much as 90% of staff wage costs. The Cabinet wants to raise the lost sales cap, possibly to 30%, which would lower the maximum reimbursement to 70% or 80%, the paper said. Two government ministers are scheduled to meet representatives of trade unions and employers Wednesday to discuss the third aid package.
China Criticizes Australia’s Push for Covid-19 Inquiry (12:44 p.m. HK)
China feels unfairly “singled out” by Australia’s push for an inquiry into the origins of Covid-19, with a diplomat suggesting Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government was helping the U.S. attack Beijing.
Speaking Wednesday to reporters in Canberra, China’s deputy head of mission to Australia, Wang Xining, noted Covid-19 was first identified in China but scientists must still report their findings on its origin. He provided no clear answers when asked if Beijing’s trade sanctions on beef and barley exports were retaliation over Morrison’s calls for the investigation.
Jakarta to Open Cinemas Under Strict Virus Protocols (11:32 a.m. HK)
Jakarta plans to ease social-distancing measures further by reopening cinemas soon, despite a rising number of virus cases in Indonesia’s capital, Governor Anies Baswedan said Wednesday.
Cinema operators must adhere to strict protocols, such as requiring face masks and only allowing customers between 12 and 60 years old. Total infections in the city of more than 10 million people jumped to nearly 35,000 as of Tuesday as Indonesia grapples with the second-worst outbreak in Southeast Asia.
Singapore Tightens Restrictions for S. Korea Travelers (11:25 a.m. HK)
Singapore will tighten border measures for travelers arriving from South Korea after a resurgence of virus cases there.
Those who have traveled to or transited in South Korea within the past two weeks will be required to serve a 14-day quarantine at government-run facilities when they enter Singapore, the Health Ministry said in a statement. Travelers will need to take a Covid-19 test before the end of their quarantine.
Fluidigm Test Gets FDA Emergency Use Authorization (11:21 a.m. HK)
Fluidigm received Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a saliva-based test to detect nucleic acid from Covid-19, the company said in a statement.
Each Advanta Dx SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR Assay system can run 6,000 tests a day, the South San Francisco-based company said.
Hong Kong to Accept Online Registration for Mass Testing (11:15 a.m. HK)
All Hong Kong ID card holders, including permanent and non-permanent residents, can register online for the government’s city-wide voluntary coronavirus testing program Aug. 29, according to the government’s website.
Medical staff will take nasal and throat swabs at community testing centers in all 18 districts. Participants will be notified of negative results by SMS, while the Health Department will call those who test positive to arrange for isolation and treatment.
Canada to Announce Funds for School Reopening: Report (10:39 a.m. HK)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to announce a C$2 billion ($1.5 billion) package Wednesday to safely reopen schools, the Globe and Mail reported, citing unidentified federal officials.
The funds would be in addition to the C$19b Safe Restart Agreement package, which is aimed at helping provinces mitigate the pandemic’s impact on their economies and health-care systems.
South Korea Dismisses Rumors of Tighter Restrictions (10:32 a.m. HK)
A South Korean official said the government is discussing what would need to happen to raise anti-virus measures to the strictest level, but dismissed rumors that such a policy would be announced today.
Yoon Tae-ho, a senior health ministry official, said in a briefing that the government will monitor the situation this week before deciding whether to strengthen social-distancing measures to Level 3, from Level 2 currently. Official issuance of the highest-level regulations is not currently under discussion, Yoon said.
Japan Could Strengthen Social-Distancing Rules (9:30 a.m. HK)
Japan is considering how to make social-distancing rules more binding as it confronts a second wave of coronavirus cases larger than the one that prompted a state of emergency in April-May, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said.
Any emergency declaration in the future could be targeted to specific areas or industries, said Nishimura, who heads the country’s virus response.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will unveil new measures against coronavirus as soon as this week, the Sankei newspaper reported without attribution.
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