U.S. Extends Measures; Singapore Central Bank Move: Virus Update

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President Donald Trump extended federal measures that encourage social distancing to the end of April and said the peak of deaths could be reached in two weeks.

U.S. equity futures declined and oil fell to the lowest in 17 years as a top scientist suggested U.S. fatalities may reach 200,000.

Singapore’s central bank eased monetary policy to support an economy on track for its worst recession in years. Australia is expected to announce more income support for workers as part of a third stimulus package, after the country limited public gatherings to just two people over the weekend.

Key Developments:

  • Cases top 718,000; 33,800 dead, 149,000 recovered: Johns Hopkins
  • U.S. deaths pass 2,400, with more than 138,000 cases
  • Nigeria locks down main cities
  • Brazil deaths rise to 136
  • Passengers on “death ship” plea for rescue

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Click VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus and here for maps and charts. For analysis of the impact from Bloomberg Economics, click here. For BNEF’s view of the impact on energy, click here.

Singapore Central Bank Eases Monetary Policy (8:17 a.m. HK)

Singapore’s central bank eased monetary policy to support an economy on track for its worst recession in years due to the rapid global spread of the coronavirus.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore, which uses the exchange rate as its main policy tool rather than a benchmark interest rate, reduced the slope of the currency band to zero starting at the prevailing level of the nominal effective exchange rate of the Singapore dollar.

The MAS’s move comes days after Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keatunveiled a second fiscal support package of S$48 billion ($33.6 billion) for businesses and consumers, bringing the total stimulus delivered this year to about 11% of gross domestic product.​

Trump Wants to Restore Deductions for Business Meals (7:56 a.m. HK)

President Donald Trump said he wants to restore corporate tax deductions for business meals as restaurants reel from the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

The president said he’d spoken with celebrity restarateurs including Wolfgang Puck, Daniel Boulud and Jean-Georges Vongerichten on the subject.

Restaurants nationwide have been forced to close or restrict their business to take-out and delivery because of social distancing measures in place to curb the outbreak.

Trump Says GM ‘Doing a Fantastic Job’ (7:33 a.m. HK)

General Motors Co. won praise from President Donald Trump for its work on hospital ventilators, two days after he invoked a federal law to force the company to produce the devices faster and at lower cost.

“General Motors is doing a fantastic job,” Trump said Sunday at a White House news conference. “I don’t think we have to worry about General Motors now.”

GM is working with medical device maker Ventech Medical Inc. to retool some factories to make ventilators — not a simple task given the need to source dozens of parts and set up production lines. Trump and his aides said Friday that the automaker was moving too slowly and asking too high a price.

He issued a memo Friday invoking the Defense Production Act to force GM to make ventilators, but suggested hours later he might withdraw the order.

Read the story here.

Cigna, Humana Waive Out-of-Pocket Costs (7:31 a.m. HK)

U.S. health insurers Cigna Corp. and Humana Inc. said they will waive out-of-pocket costs for patients who need treatment for Covid-19.

“We’re stepping in as aggressively as we can to support care access and peace of mind,” Cigna Chief Executive Officer David Cordani said in a joint interview with Humana CEO Bruce Broussard.

Cordani and Broussard said they don’t want disputes over payment or concern about doctors being out-of-network to dissuade anyone from seeking care. Cigna said it would pay providers its in-network rates or Medicare rates, and both executives said patients would be shielded from balance or surprise billing by doctors or hospitals.

U.S. Measures Extended to April 30 (6:30 a.m. HK)

President Donald Trump said his administration expects coronavirus deaths to peak in about two weeks as he extended guidelines for Americans to distance themselves from one another until April 30.

“We can expect that by June 1 we will be well on our way to recovery” he said.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said his estimate of 200,000 deaths — made on CNN — is “entirely conceivable” if efforts to mitigate the disease fail. Deborah Birx, the State Department immunologist advising Vice President Mike Pence, said all the models predicted 1.6 million to 2.2 million fatalities if the nation didn’t mitigate the spread.

Trump had aimed to return many Americans to work by Easter Sunday, April 12. The Easter deadline “was just an aspiration,” Trump said Sunday.

Drug Tested on 1,100 Patients (5:45 p.m. NY)

President Donald Trump said 1,100 patients in New York City are getting treatment using hydroxychloroquine, a malaria treatment he earlier touted as a potential remedy for Covid-19.

“Let’s see how it works. It may, it may not,” Trump said in his daily briefing.

Trump also reported on a experiment in which blood plasma is taken from people who recovered from Covid-19 and then transfused into sick patients to boost their immune system.

”Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won,” he said.

Australia to Unveil Wage Subsidies (5 p.m. NY)

Australia will announce more income support for workers on Monday as part of a third stimulus package.

The government has already passed more than A$80 billion ($49 billion) of fiscal stimulus. In an interview with Sky News Monday, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg declined to comment on the scale of the planned wage subsidies, reported to be up to A$1,500 every two weeks per employee for the next six months.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday limited public gatherings to just two people as the national death toll climbed to 16.

Read the story here

Mexican Governors Test Positive (4:10 p.m. NY)

The governor of Mexico’s southern Tabasco state is the second regional official to test positive for the virus. Adan Augusto Lopez, a close ally of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, disclosed his test result on Sunday.

The other official with a confirmed test is Hidalgo state Governor Omar Fayad. The two men, writing on their respective Twitter accounts, said they would quarantine themselves at home and follow health protocols.

Rhode Island Expands Car Stops (4 p.m. NY)

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo repealed an order for police to only stop cars crossing the border with license plates from New York, and now is requiring all cars, regardless of origin, to be pulled over as they cross the state’s southern border with Connecticut.

Raimondo acted after an outcry from civil rights groups and a threat of legal action from Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, now the U.S. epicenter of the outbreak.

All visitors will be told to self-quarantine for 14 days. The National Guard is also checking for out-of-state travelers at bus and train stations and at Rhode Island’s airport.

Read the story here

Venezuela’s Guaido Seeks Coalition (3:50 p.m. NY)

Venezuela National Assembly President Juan Guaido urged formation of a “national emergency government” to replace Nicolas Maduro’s regime and get financing to save lives.

Guaido in a Twitter video Saturday night said his team has developed what’s being called the Jose Maria Vargas plan that includes seeking $1.2 billion from multilateral organizations as well as obtaining medical supplies and food, making money transfers to people staying at home, and constructing water wells for hospitals.

Read story here

South Africa Cases, Deaths Rise (3:45 p.m. NY)

South Africa reported its second Covid-19 death as total cases rose to 1,280. The 74-year-old man had an underlying skin cancer condition, South Africa’s health ministry said in a statement, and was confirmed as ill on March 27 after returning with family from Kruger National Park with flu-like symptoms.

Nigeria Cities in Lockdown (2:45 p.m. NY)

Nigeria will restrict people’s movement and ordered businesses and offices closed in its main cities of Lagos and Abuja, as well as Ogun state. The lockdown begins Monday and continues for two weeks, President Muhammadu Buhari said on state TV Sunday. Nigeria, which has 97 cases, already closed its borders and halted domestic flights.

Read the full story here

France Monitors ICU Cases for Hope (2:40 p.m. NY)

France anticipates its lockdown measures will start to bear fruit this week as the rate of intensive care cases is set to slow, a health ministry official said.

“If there has been less contact between people thanks to the confinement,” France’s health director Jerome Salomon said, “we should start to see a reduction in the number of new cases requiring intensive care each day.”

France has 40,174 infections with 4,632 cases requiring intensive care and 2,606 deaths.

Think Tank Offers Reopening Plan (2:30 p.m. NY)

The conservative American Enterprise Institute on Sunday released a “road map to reopening” the U.S., offering a four-phase plan for navigating the pandemic and emerge from tough restrictions.

Scott Gottlieb, former head of the Food and Drug Administration and a resident AEI fellow, said on CBS that aggressive social distancing measures should stay in place until there is a “sustained reduction” in the number cases for 14 days.

The 16-page “road map” he co-wrote with four others suggests an outline to transition from “sweeping mitigation strategies” to new approaches. The report offers recommendations for avoiding a similar infectious disease threat in the future, through investment into research and development, expansion of health care infrastructure and workforce, and strong preparedness plans.

Slovenia Targets $3.3 Billion in Aid (2:25 p.m. NY)

Slovenia plans economic measures worth about 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) to help protect jobs, ensure business liquidity and improve the welfare of the hardest-hit citizens, Prime Minister Janez Jansa said in live broadcast from Ljubljana.

The government will offer state guarantees to banks for loans to those hurt most by the crisis. It will temporarily freeze corporate and income tax payments and pay social contributions for all active employees, including the self-employed.

Slovenia confirmed its 11th death on Sunday.

Bulgaria to Offset Virus Fallout (1:55 p.m. NY)

Bulgaria is planning to revise this year’s budget to allow additional funding to offset the effects of the coronavirus.

The finance ministry will offer amendments to raise the maximum level of new debt, now fixed at 2.2 billion lev ($1.25 billion), Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov said Sunday on private Nova TV. The government is considering new borrowing of as much as 1 billion lev ($568 million), depending on market conditions, he said, without specifying a source of funding.

Bulgaria has 346 cases and eight deaths.

Moscow Enters ‘New Phase’ (1:30 p.m. NY)

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin ordered his city’s 12.7 million residents to stay home starting Monday, warning that the spread of novel coronavirus in the city “has entered a new phase.”

The measures in Russian capital’s are the strictest yet imposed in a major Russian city. Passes will be introduced soon, and residents who are out will need to be at least 1.5 meters from others. Sobyanin earlier ordered non-essential businesses to close to slow the spread of the illness.

Confirmed infections in Moscow jumped overnight to 1,014 on Sunday and make up two-thirds of the country’s total.

Normalcy May Be Six Months Away, U.K. Says (1 p.m. NY)

U.K. lockdown measures could last for months and the death toll will probably get worse in the coming weeks, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Jenny Harries said.

While current measures appear to be succeeding in keeping people home, the steps will take time to yield results and the government is expecting the toll to increase in the next few weeks, she said.

It will take “two or three months to see whether we’ve really squashed it,” she said, and “three to six months, ideally — and there’s lots of uncertainty around that — to see at what point we can actually get back to normal.”

Fatalities in the U.K. increased to 1,228 Sunday with 19,522 confirmed cases.

New York Deaths Reach 965 (12:25 p.m. NY)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said total deaths for the state as of Sunday reached 965 up from 728 a day earlier.

At a briefing in Albany, Cuomo said thousands of state residents will die from the virus, although he did not have precise projections

“I hope it’s wrong,” the governor said.

— With assistance by Steve Geimann, Roxanne Henderson, Slav Okov, Jan Bratanic, Misha Savic, Ilya Arkhipov, Jake Rudnitsky, Ruth Olurounbi, Elisha Bala-Gbogbo, Aditya-V Singhal, Jill Ward, Ruben Munsterman, and Arsalan Shahla

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