Airlines Slash More Flights; Olympics in Doubt: Virus Update

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(Bloomberg) —

Democrats blocked the U.S. Senate from advancing an economic rescue package amid a disagreement on how to spend nearly $2 trillion, while President Donald Trump said coronavirus measures shouldn’t be “worse than the problem itself.”

European leaders scrambled to enforce restrictions to prevent health-care systems from being overwhelmed as deaths surged across the region. German Chancellor Angela Merkel went into quarantine.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said a postponement of the Olympics may be inevitable. The crisis engulfing the aviation industry deepened, with Emirates and Singapore Airlines among the latest to slash flights.

Key Developments:

  • Cases top 325,000, deaths near 14,500
  • Asian stocks and U.S. equity futures tumble
  • Europe struggles to get ahead of virus with death toll mounting
  • U.A.E. halts flights, boosts stimulus
  • New Zealand going into nationwide isolation
  • Cases with no symptoms spur call for wider testing
  • China talks up a post-virus rebound
  • What happens if the Tokyo 2020 Olympics are halted?: QuickTake

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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. To see the impact on oil and commodities demand, click here.

Emirates, Singapore Air Ground Flights (1:25 p.m. HK)

The world’s biggest international carriers continued to announce drastic measures to cope with the coronavirus outbreak, with giants Emirates and Singapore Airlines Ltd. among the latest to slash flights.

Dubai-based Emirates, the world’s largest long-haul airline, is suspending passenger flights to most destinations from Wednesday because travel restrictions imposed by governments have put many nations off limits to visitors. Singapore Airlines said it’s cutting 96% of its capacity through April, mirroring an announcement by Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. on Friday.

Trump to Make Decision on Measures After 15 Days (12:33 p.m. HK)

U.S. President Donald Trump said his administration will make a decision as to “which way we want to go” regarding coronavirus measures after a 15-day period. “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF,” Trump said in a tweet.

Thailand Reports 122 More Cases (12:23 p.m. HK)

Thailand’s coronavirus cases rose by 122, bringing the total in the country to 721. Some of the new cases are related to existing clusters from a boxing stadium event, as well as to overseas travel or foreign arrivals, Taweesilp Witsanuyotin, a spokesman for the Health Ministry, said in a briefing.

Thailand’s confirmed cases rank fifth in Asia, behind China, South Korea, Malaysia and Japan.

Amazon Delivery Delays on Many Products Extended (11:38 a.m. HK) Inc (NASDAQ:).’s delivery delays of non-essential goods will extend for at least another month for many customers in the U.S. and Europe, stirring panic among online merchants who rely on the web retailer for business.

The lengthening delivery times come on top of confusion over how the company identifies essential products, a task that appears to be performed by algorithms with little human oversight.

Japan to Impose Quarantine on Arrivals From U.S. (11:35 a.m. HK)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan will ask people coming from the U.S. to go into a voluntary quarantine for 14 days after arrival. The measure will be in effect from March 26 to the end of April, he said. The restrictions are being imposed as coronavirus cases spiral to more than 30,000 in the U.S.

Facebook Donates Emergency Wildfire Mask Stash (10:31 a.m. HK)

Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:). has donated its emergency reserve of 720,000 face masks, joining other tech corporations declaring aid in fighting the coronavirus pandemic. Facebook built up a stockpile of masks in case wildfires in its home state of California persisted. It’s now donated that supply, the Facebook chief executive officer said on his feed without specifying recipients.

China’s Top Envoy to U.S. Breaks With Foreign Ministry (10:15 a.m. HK)

China’s ambassador to the U.S. reaffirmed his opposition to promoting theories that the virus that causes Covid-19 originated in an American military lab, in an unusual break with the country’s foreign ministry.

Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai said in an interview with “Axios on HBO” that he stood by his Feb. 9 statement that it would be “crazy” to spread such theories. Since his original remarks, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing has repeatedly posted statements speculating about a possible U.S. origin for the virus, which was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

Cui’s comments represent a sharp public rebuke to Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, who has publicly questioned whether the virus originated in China and even touted the idea that it may have been introduced by U.S. Army athletes.

National Guard Ramps Up Role in U.S. (10:07 a.m. HK)

The National Guard ramped up its role in containing the coronavirus in the U.S., with 7,300 troops deployed across the country to combat the outbreak as President Donald Trump ordered new force activations to aid California, New York and Washington state.

The president’s order on Sunday will waive the typical cost-sharing arrangement where the federal government pays 75% of the costs and states pay the remaining 25%. The move affects the three states most impacted by the virus so far but could quickly be extended to other states, said General Joseph Lengyel, the chief of the National Guard Bureau.

Canada Won’t Send Athletes to Tokyo Olympics (9:57 a.m. HK)

Canada won’t send athletes to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics unless the games are postponed until the coronavirus is under control. The Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee have “urgently” called on the International Olympic Committee and other organizers to postpone the event by a year.

Meanwhile, the Australia Olympic Committee said its athletes should prepare for the event to be held in the northern summer of 2021.

New Zealand Citizens to Self-Isolate (9:03 a.m. HK)

New Zealand will go into a nationwide lockdown within two days as the government takes radical steps to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Everyone will be required to go into self-isolation, all non-essential businesses will close and schools will be shut, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday in Wellington. These measures, which will remain in place for at least four weeks, are aimed at breaking the chain of community transmission, she said.

NYC Shuts Non-Essential Businesses (8:41 a.m. HK)

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that all non-essential businesses in New York City will be closed effective 8 p.m. Sunday.

Grocery stores, pharmacies, internet providers, food delivery, financial institutions and mass transit may remain open. But they “must implement rules that help facilitate social distancing,” the mayor’s office said, adding that police will be in neighborhoods to “ensure compliance with these policies.”

The new restrictions also mandate that any concentration of people outside their home must be limited to workers providing essential services. And sick individuals must not leave their homes except to receive medical care.

“I need every New Yorker to understand how serious the situation is right now,” de Blasio said. “We have to change the way we live if we’re going to bend the curve of this epidemic.”

Japan’s Abe Suggests Postponing Olympics (8:35 a.m. HK)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told parliament that Japan must consider postponing the Summer Olympics if safety couldn’t be guaranteed for spectators and athletes due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Abe said on Monday it would be unthinkable to cancel the Olympics planned for Tokyo from July. His comments came amid mounting pressure to postpone the games.”

The comment came after the International Olympic Committee made its most public step yet toward postponing the world’s biggest sporting event. A Yomiuri poll found that 69% of respondents said the Tokyo Olympics should be postponed, while 8% said the games should be canceled.

China’s Latest Cases Are All Imported (8:28 a.m. HK)

China reported 39 additional coronavirus cases on March 22 , with all of them from abroad, according to statement from the country’s National Health Commission.

China now has 81,093 total confirmed coronavirus cases, with 353 of them being infected outside the country.

Hubei, the Chinese province at the center of the coronavirus outbreak, last week reported no new infections for the first time since the pathogen emerged more than two months ago.

China reported nine fatalities for March 22, all of them from Hubei, bringing the total death toll on the mainland to 3,270.

Australian Lawmakers Meet to Push Through Stimulus (7:22 a.m. HK)

Australia’s parliament convenes Monday for a special sitting to pass stimulus measures to support the economy, including an additional A$66 billion ($38.2 billion) package aimed at averting recession and saving jobs.

A reduced number of lawmakers are meeting from 10 a.m. in Canberra, with the stimulus plans the only legislation on the agenda. The opposition Labor party has signaled its support, meaning they should become law this week.

Biden Says ‘No Need’ to Postpone November Vote (7:20 a.m. HK)

Joe Biden rejected suggestions that the November U.S. election might be postponed amid the pandemic, saying it’s important that voting continues as it has during other crises in American history.

“We ought to be able to preserve our health and our democracy at the same time,” the 2020 Democratic front-runner said on a conference call with Atlanta-area donors. “You know, we voted in the middle of a civil war, we voted in the middle of World War I and II.”

Senate Unable to Advance Aid Measure (6:45 a.m. HK)

Democrats blocked a procedural Senate vote to advance the coronavirus economic rescue package after congressional leaders disagreed on how to spend nearly $2 trillion. This complicates Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan for the Senate to pass the bill Monday.

Both parties want immediate and extensive relief for an economy ravaged by the coronavirus. But they continue to differ on key sections, including a $500 billion chunk of the bill that could be used to help corporations, including airlines, or state and local governments.

Trump to Sign Emergency Declarations (6:10 a.m. HK)

President Donald Trump said he will issue disaster declarations for California, Washington and New York — the three states hardest-hit by the pandemic. The action lets the states deploy the National Guard to respond to the crisis.

As part of the response, the U.S. Navy hospital ship Mercy is heading to Los Angeles to provide more beds to help reduce pressure on the city’s hospital system now treating Covid-19 cases. The ship should arrive in the city within a week, officials said.

The Navy’s hospital ship Comfort, which is undergoing maintenance, will be dispatched to New York City within the next three weeks to help ease pressures on the hospitals, Trump said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also will build medical stations with 1,000 beds in New York, 1,000 in Washington state and 2,000 in California, Trump said.

Three states account for more than half of the nation’s cases.

More Senators in Quarantine After Paul (6 a.m. HK)

Two Republican U.S. senators said they’ll go into self-quarantine after Rand Paul of Kentucky announced that he’d tested positive for Covid-19.

The decisions by Senators Mike Lee and Mitt Romney of Utah have thrown a wrench into efforts by the Senate to pass a massive coronavirus economic stimulus package by Monday.

Two other Republicans, Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado and Senator Rick Scott of Florida, have also been in self-quarantine in response to possible exposure to the virus from other infected individuals.

Paul, who voted against two emergency coronavirus spending bills this month, tested positive for the virus and is in quarantine, according to a post on his Twitter account on Sunday.

Australia State Signals More Steps to Come (5:30 p.m. NY)

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews warned the stringent controls announced by the Australian government over the weekend were almost certainly not the last steps to be taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

He said the measures including closure of non-essential services such as cafes, bars and Melbourne’s Crown Casino would begin to take effect from noon Monday until at least April 13.

“There are many Victorians who are acting selfishly. They are not taking this seriously,” Andrews told reporters at a press conference in Melbourne Monday.

The school holidays, scheduled to start Friday in Australia’s second-most populous state, will be moved forward to Tuesday to allow teachers time to plan for online lessons if required.

Read the full story here

U.S. Acts Against Covid-19 Fraud (5:10 p.m. NY)

The Justice Department acted to block the operators of a website offering access to coronacvirus vaccine kits, the first U.S. action to combat fraud related to the pandemic.

The operators of claimed to offer access to the World Health Organization vaccine kits in exchange for a shipping charge of $4.95, to be paid on the website, the department said in a statement.

U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman issued a temporary restraining order requiring action to block public access to the site, the department said.

More States Issue Stay-Home Orders (4:30 pm.)

Louisiana and Ohio are joining California, Illinois and New Jersey in mandating that all residents stay at home to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s stay-at-home order will be in effect until April 6, when it will be re-evaluated. The order excludes essential activities, including taking care of others and essential businesses, he said. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards issued a stay-at-home order that takes effect Monday.

Philips Accelerates Ventilator Output (4:30 p.m. NY)

Royal Philips NV is ramping up production of ventilators to double output within eight weeks, and is targeting a fourfold increase by the third quarter to meet demand from hospitals overwhelmed by patients suffering from the coronavirus.

Balenciaga, Saint Laurent Make Masks (4:25 p.m. NY)

Luxury fashion conglomerate Kering (PA:) SA said it would switch to producing surgical masks at the French workshops of its Balenciaga and Saint Laurent brands as part of the effort to fight the virus.

French Court Rejects Total Confinement Request (3:40 p.m. NY)

France’s highest administrative court refused to order total confinement of the population to stop the coronavirus outbreak, but said the government should review whether its rules are strict enough. The Conseil d’Etat ruled on a request made Friday by doctors’ unions, which wanted total confinement or least stricter rules, including a national curfew and a prohibition on leaving home to exercise.

Fed President Sees High Jobless Rate (3:20 p.m. NY)

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard predicted U.S. unemployment may hit 30% in the second quarter from virus-related shutdowns. The gross domestic product could plunge 50%.

Bullard called for a powerful fiscal response to replace $2.5 trillion in lost income in the quarter to ensure a strong eventual U.S. recovery. The Fed would be poised to do more to ensure markets function during a period of high volatility.

“This is a planned, organized partial shutdown of the U.S. economy in the second quarter,” Bullard said by phone Sunday from St. Louis.

Read full story here

U.K. Warns of Tougher Steps (3:10 p.m. NY)

Boris Johnson warned his government will impose “tougher measures” if people continue to ignore calls to stop social gatherings and non-essential travel.

The U.K. newspapers reported Britons are meeting in parks and making trips to coastal towns after the government last week ordered pubs and restaurants to close. The prime minister said while he wanted to avoid the stringent measures taken by other countries, the U.K. may be forced to act, and will consider options in the next 24 hours.

Read full story here

Opera’s Domingo Has Illness (2 p.m. NY)

Spanish opera singer Placido Domingo, 79, said on Facebook he has tested positive for Covid-19 and is in self isolation with his family. He urged people to “stay home if you can.”

Merkel in Quarantine After Contact (1:40 p.m. NY)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in quarantine at home after coming into contact with an infected doctor, her spokesman said.

The doctor gave Merkel, 65, a precautionary immunization against bacterial pneumonia on Friday and the chancellor decided to self-isolate once she learned of his positive test, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in an emailed statement.

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