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Cases Near 40 Million; China Broadens Recovery: Virus Update

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 10/19/2020 Bloomberg News

(Bloomberg) --

Global coronavirus cases are approaching the 40 million mark, as infections sweep across Europe and cases in U.S. and India average more than 50,000 a day.

Millions of Europeans are facing tighter restrictions on movement, with London and Paris enforcing tighter curbs. Slovakia plans to test the entire nation, while the Chinese port city of Qingdao completed testing its population.

China’s economic recovery accelerated, aided by an aggressive containment of the coronavirus that has allowed factories to quickly reopen. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said talks with the White House need to make progress within days if President Donald Trump wants to see another stimulus bill before the U.S. election.

Key Developments:

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China Broadens Recovery From Pandemic (10:28 a.m. HK)

China’s economic recovery accelerated, aided by an aggressive containment of the coronavirus that has allowed factories to quickly reopen. Gross domestic product climbed 4.9% in the third quarter from a year ago. Shoppers have been more cautious, but robust spending through the recent Golden Week holidays suggest they too are starting to open their wallets again.

Qingdao Tests Entire City (10:07 a.m. HK)

China’s eastern port city of Qingdao said over the weekend it conducted 10.9 million coronavirus tests in five days, managing to test its entire population after a cluster of 13 infections surfaced. All of the tests came out negative.

It’s another demonstration of China’s ambitious approach in mass testing whenever infections are reported. Qingdao’s campaign was completed roughly three times faster than a similar experiment by Wuhan in May. The Chinese cities have adopted a batch testing method that enables as many as 10 samples to be assessed simultaneously. The strategy is rarely used in western countries, and has been questioned by experts over its credibility and accuracy.

China Finds Active Virus on Frozen Food Packaging (8:56 a.m. HK)

China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention said it found active Covid-19 virus on the outer component of refrigerated food packaging, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

The virus was found on food packaging in the coastal city of Qingdao in Shandong province, the report said, without specifying the origin of the product. Qingdao has reported a dozen new virus cases this month, most linked to a hospital where infected travelers from overseas are being treated.

China has said several times in recent months that imported refrigerated goods are risks for re-introducing the coronavirus into the country. World Health Organization experts have suggested there’s no evidence the virus can be transported via food packaging.

Brazil New Infections Remain Low (7:35 a.m. HK)

Brazil reported 10,982 new cases, the fifth-lowest daily increase since the early days of the pandemic last spring, according to Health Ministry data. Daily deaths rose by 230, the second-fewest since late April. Brazil’s 5.2 million cases are eclipsed only by the U.S. and India.

Conte Bets Italy Can Slow Virus With Targeted Restrictions (4:22 p.m. NY)

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte held off pressure to impose radical restrictions on Italy, betting his government can slow the spread of the coronavirus and protect the economy with more targeted measures.

The premier signed a new decree Sunday night -- only five days after a previous package -- urging mayors to close piazzas and streets at 9 p.m. to stop crowds gathering, and imposing a maximum of six people per table at restaurants which must close at midnight. Amateur and school competitions for contact sports are banned.

Australia’s Hot Spot State Urged to Reopen Quicker (4:15 p.m. NY)

The government and business groups are calling on Australia’s Victoria state to reopen the economy more quickly as Covid-19 cases decline, pointing to mounting job losses across retail and hospitality.

State Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday announced an easing of stay-at-home orders, but left many businesses shuttered until next month to ensure community transmission is further curbed.

Gallery: From Wuhan to the White House: A timeline of COVID-19’s spread (Stacker)

“Every day Victoria remains under restrictions to get the second wave in Victoria under control comes at a heavy cost,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement, adding that 1,000 jobs a day had been lost on average during the lockdown.

South African Health Minister Tests Positive (3:57 p.m NY)

South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said he and his wife, May, had tested positive for Covid-19.

Zweli Mkhize wearing a suit and tie: South Africa's New Cabinet Inaugurated © Bloomberg South Africa's New Cabinet Inaugurated

Zweli Mkhize

Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

The two went for a test on Saturday after the minister, who has drawn widespread praise for his proactive approach to combating the pandemic, began showing mild symptoms.

“I was feeling abnormally exhausted and as the day progressed, I started losing appetite. My wife had a cough, was dizzy and extremely exhausted,” Mkhize said in a statement on Sunday. “I am now in quarantine at home and both my wife and I remain optimistic that we will fully recover from this virus.”

Slovenia Boosts Emergency Powers (3:44 p.m. NY)

The Slovenian government extended its emergency authority after days of record new daily coronavirus cases and an all-time high positivity rate of 19% on Saturday.

Declaring a renewed “state of epidemic,” the Alpine state is poised to introduce new restricting measures as a government expert group meets late Sunday in search of ways to tamp new infections, which reached almost 4,500 in the last seven days.

Gottlieb Says U.S. Strategy is Just to Wait for Vaccine (2:32 p.m. NY)

Scott Gottlieb said the Trump administration’s current coronavirus strategy “is just to endure the spread until we get a vaccine.”

The former FDA commissioner spoke on CBS on Sunday as total U.S. Covid-19 cases have surpassed 8 million and many states are seeing a rising rate of infection, including more severe cases.

Houston Fire EMS Faces Continued Surge Of Coronavirus Cases © Getty Images via Bloomberg Houston Fire EMS Faces Continued Surge Of Coronavirus Cases

Medics with the Houston Fire Department prepare patient for transport to the hospital.

Photographer: John Moore/Getty Images

Gottlieb said it could be February or March before the first tranche of people receive a vaccine and are actually protected from the virus.

France Reports Almost 30,000 Cases (1:56 p.m. NY)

France reported 29,837 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, according to statistics on the website of France’s national health agency.

The government is counting on a curfew that went into effect this weekend in nine cities to brake the spread of the virus without the need for a generalized national lockdown.

“The challenge is to face up to it without resorting to a broad lockdown, across the whole country and for a long time,” Prime Minister Jean Castex said in an interview in Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

U.K. Needs National Lockdown, Scientist Says (1:41 p.m. NY)

Britain needs an immediate three-week national lockdown as opposed to more limited regional restrictions, said Jeremy Farrar, a scientific adviser to the government.

“The current tiered restrictions will not bring the transmission rates down sufficiently or prevent the continued spread of the virus,” he told Sky News on Sunday.

Prague Protest Turns Violent (1:32 p.m. NY)

Hundreds of protesters clashed with riot police in Prague in a protest against social distancing rules and measures such as wearing face masks imposed by the government to stem the most acute spread of the coronavirus in Europe.

a group of people standing around a fire: Prague Becomes Europe's Coronavirus Hotspot © Getty Images via Bloomberg Prague Becomes Europe's Coronavirus Hotspot

Demonstrators gather to protest against restrictive measures in Prague on Oct. 18.

Photographer: Gabriel Kuchta/Getty Images

The police used tear gas, water cannon and an armored personnel carrier to disperse the crowd of some 2,000 protesters, which assembled at the city’s Old Town Square.

Some people, mostly hockey and football fans, refused to leave after the authorities ended the demonstration and used small explosive devices against the officers. Some 100 people were arrested after the protests and 20 people were injured, according to CTK newswire.

Slovakia Plans to Test Entire Nation (1:28 p.m. NY)

The Slovak army will carry out mass testing in November, aiming to test all of the nation’s 5.4 million people, Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad told reporters. He said Slovakia would be the first country ever to do so.

“We aren’t able to handle the pandemic, let’s be honest. This is way out of hell which we are heading for,” said Premier Igor Matovic, adding that the only other possibility would be a complete lockdown.

The nation reported 1,567 new Covid-19 cases and six deaths on Saturday.

Ireland Mulls Lockdown (12:47 p.m. NY)

Ireland’s government is considering health authorities’ recommendation to move the nation to the tightest lockdown level as it reported 1,283 cases, the most since April.

The government will take “decisive” and nationwide action on Monday, Higher Education Minister Simon Harris told broadcaster RTE on Sunday, without giving details.

Cuomo Asks White House for Guidance on Vaccine (12:25 p.m. NY)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the National Governors Association is sending the White House a letter asking for specific guidance about how to distribute a coronavirus vaccine when it is available. Cuomo, the group’s current chair, noted that the federal response so far has been to devolve to the states responsibility for battling Covid-19.

Andrew Cuomo wearing a suit and tie: Governor Cuomo Holds Press Briefing © Bloomberg Governor Cuomo Holds Press Briefing

Andrew Cuomo

Photographer: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg

“States cannot do this on their own. Period. This is a massive undertaking,” he said, adding that skepticism and conspiracy theories will complicate further the distribution of any vaccine. “We need the federal government to be a competent partner.”

Pelosi Sets Tuesday Deadline for Pre-Election Stimulus (12:18 p.m. NY)

Nancy Pelosi set a Tuesday deadline for more progress with the White House on a fiscal stimulus deal before the Nov. 3 election, while President Donald Trump renewed his offer to go beyond the dollar amounts now on the table.

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