By Powerscourt on 12/07/2020

Powerscourt Coronavirus Briefing – 12 July 2020


Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok announced on Sunday that it will start trials on humans for a Covid-19 vaccine in September after encouraging results from experiments on animals. If it works, it will be available in the second half of 2021. Globally, there are 160 vaccines at various stages of development with 19 being tried on humans.

In the US, where the rate of infection is increasing rapidly, President Donald Trump finally appeared wearing a mask, after recommendations from experts as far back as April. He had previously mocked Joe Biden, the leading Democrat candidate for his job, for wearing a mask frequently. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka Mormons) has asked all its adherents in Utah to wear masks in public for “the health and general welfare of all”.

Figures on Saturday showed 71,389 new cases, a new record, representing a 2.3% increase. In the Sun Belt states, critical to Trump’s re-election chances, a key finding is that infections soared in the young after the reopening of bars and restaurants. Younger and healthier sufferers had far fewer fatalities. Now, according to the Wall Street Journal, infections have passed from the young to the old, including in care homes, and things are getting worse.

In Victoria state, Australia, there were 273 new cases on Sunday. The state capital, Melbourne, recently started a six week lockdown with schools working remotely until August 19 at the earliest. It is notable that the total death toll in Australia to date is 108, almost negligible compared to numerous other countries.

The UK, which has had almost 45,000 deaths attributed to the virus, is reportedly preparing stricter rules on face coverings in public. The British Retail Consortium says the government will have to enforce any new rules because it isn’t fair to expect shop workers to do so. The Sunday Telegraph reports that Boris Johnson’s government, anxious to get people back into city centres, is about to change its guidance for public transport to encourage usage, having previously advised people to avoid it where possible.




Consumer & Retail 

The Sunday Times reports that Byron Burger staff are braced for job cuts and site closures as takeover talks with bidders approach a conclusion. Byron, which has 1,200 staff across 52 outlets, has lined up administrators from KPMG as it races for a sale. It is said to have received interest from three suitors, but any buyer is unlikely to take the whole business and a deal is likely to lead to closures and job losses. On Friday, Byron filed notice of its intention to appoint administrators for a second time, securing more protection from its creditors. KPMG has been trying to sell the chain since early May. The most likely outcome is a pre-pack administration, which would allow a buyer to take control of a smaller portfolio and shrug off debts. Byron, which shot to fame when then chancellor George Osborne was pictured eating one of its burgers while preparing the 2013 spending review, posted sales of £70.9m last year. It is one of many dining chains that were already under pressure before the lockdown. Café Rouge owner Casual Dining Group and Wagamama owner the Restaurant Group have announced closures and job losses. Last week, Burger King UK warned that it may close 1 in 10 of its 530 sites.

Primark is set to reject a £30 million bonus payment unveiled by the chancellor last week, a decision that piles pressure on other big companies not to cash in at taxpayers’ expense. The high-street clothing giant has said it will not claim the £1,000 Treasury handout for every worker it brings back from furlough.


Industrials & Transport 

Virgin Atlantic 
The Sunday Times reports that Virgin Atlantic is set to announce a £1 billion rescue deal to prop up the struggling airline — without an injection of taxpayers’ money. The airline is finalising a deal to release tens of millions of pounds in credit-card cash that was being withheld. Last night, Sky News reported that Virgin was racing to resolve a demand for collateral from card merchant First Data. A solution would pave the way for American hedge fund Davidson Kempner Capital Management to pump almost £200 million of debt into the airline. However, it will not acquire shares; Branson and the American carrier Delta Air Lines will retain their 51% and 49% respective holdings.

Jaguar’s new flagship electric model will not be launched until October next year as Britain’s biggest car-maker is paring back production to focus on its most lucrative vehicles. The electric XJ saloon, which had been due to roll off factory lines early next year, has been delayed because the company is cutting non-essential spending. The electric XJ is due to be built in Castle Bromwich in the West Midlands. However, the factory, which also builds the XE and XF saloons, is reopening only next month, and will initially operate at a severely reduced level.



Big banks ‘cut off credit to SMEs’ – The Sunday Times

Covid-19 deaths rise as US states impose new restrictions – The Financial Times

Government preparing to ease public transport restrictions to get people back to work – The Telegraph