By Powerscourt on 12/09/2020

Powerscourt Coronavirus Briefing – 12 September 2020


Public health officials in the UK have warned of “worrying signs” of infection among the elderly, as an official measure indicated the UK’s epidemic is growing again. The R number was raised to between 1 and 1.2 for the first time since March. The virus is still at much lower levels across the UK than at the peak in April, but a study of thousands of people in England found cases doubling every seven to eight days. The Government has reiterated the need to introduce tougher restrictions to curb a surge in cases, such as a hotline to report those who are breaking quarantine rules to the police, but is facing a mounting backlash from its own Conservative MPs over its new ‘rule of six’ law, amid reports that cabinet ministers were split over the measures. However, though cases are rising, the number of patients in hospital remains largely flat.

The US budget deficit climbed by $200 billion in August to put the total gap for the current fiscal year to over $3 trillion, a record increase due to the massive government spending to keep the economy afloat. The country is on course for a record $3.3 trillion deficit in fiscal 2020. The magnitude of the spending is almost on the scale of that of the World War II era. Last year, the budget deficit was just under $1 trillion.

A possible Covid vaccine has become a divisive political issue in the election campaign with Donald Trump pushing for a speedy approval while Democrats urge caution. Alongside this, the US Senate has rejected a slimmed-down Republican Coronavirus US$300bn aid bill.

Dr Anthony Faucci, America’s best-known expert on infectious diseases told MSNBC last night that we have another year of dislocation to go. When ask how long it would be before people could live “normally” and go to the movies, as an example, he said: “ By the time you mobilize the distribution of the vaccinations, and you get the majority or more of the population vaccinated and protected, that’s likely not going to happen till the mid or end of 2021.”

He said he disagreed with President Trump who says America has “rounded the final turn” against the virus.

The 19th anniversary of the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil was a complicated occasion across the US with some 9/11 ceremonies cancelled due to restrictions, while others went ahead with modifications. The Pentagon’s observance was so restricted that not even victims’ families could attend.

In France, the Prime Minister Jean Castex said that the government is not planning a return to full lockdown despite a surge in the virus as daily cases rose by 9,406. Other countries across the world – from Ukraine to Indonesia to Hungary – are showing a record high of new confirmed coronavirus cases, prompting leaders like Hungary’s Viktor Orban to draft a “war plan” to defend against the second wave of the pandemic.

With pledges of a coronavirus vaccine, China is on a charm offensive to repair strained diplomatic ties and bolster engagement with other countries. The Philippines will have quick access to a Chinese coronavirus vaccine and Latin American and Caribbean nations will receive US$1 billion in loans to buy the medicine. Bangladesh will get over 100,000 free doses from a Chinese company. China also said that it will suspend imports from companies for a week if frozen food products test positive for coronavirus for the first or second time.

Japan is debating completely removing coronavirus curbs on some events with Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura saying that he would to remove coronavirus-related restrictions on events such as Kabuki theatre performances and classical music concerts.




Retail & Consumer

Arcadia Group
The Times reported that leak documents showed the Arcadia Group is “exploiting furlough rules to cut pay while taking tens of millions in government handouts.” It has made 300 staff redundant at its head office and used a loophole in government rules to pay them at reduced rates during their notice period. Many higher-earning employees could end up receiving as little as 50% of the notice period pay they would have been entitled to if Arcadia Group had not taken advantage of the furlough scheme. Arcadia Group is facing a legal challenge over the decision from the trade union Unite, which called it “morally repugnant”, saying: “Arcadia has taken the taxpayer-funded furlough cash during the pandemic, but now is using it as a shoddy smokescreen to slash notice pay.”



Tata Steel
Tata Steel’s European arm has warned that there was “material uncertainty” from the pandemic on its future funding requirements, which “may cast significant doubt” on its ability to continue. The Indian-owned manufacturer’s annual report said it had access to adequate liquidity and resources to keep operating “for the foreseeable future.” Accounts for steelmaker published at Companies House showed a pre-tax loss of £857m before one-off items in the 12 months ending on March 31, compared with a deficit of £146m the previous year. 

Heathrow Airport
Heathrow’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, urged the government to approve its Covid-19 testing regime to enable more travel, as the airport reported 1.4 million passengers in August, less than one-fifth of its normal traffic for the peak summer month. Britain’s biggest airport is “ready to go” on testing” having now trialled three “rapid point of care testing solutions” and setting up a facility for screening passengers on arrival at Terminal 2. 



Science Group
The science and technology-based consultancy involved in the government’s drive to produce ventilators during lockdown has reinstated its dividend, paying an interim dividend of 2p per share next month. The Group has declined to clarify to The Times if it had returned or plans to return the government furlough money that it claimed, after furloughing about 5% of its staff. The Science Group said this week that it had “a strong balance sheet”, including gross cash at the end of August of £22 million, and expected adjusted operating profit for 2020 to be in line or ahead of expectations for the year.



New Covid cases in England doubling every 7-8 daysFinancial Times

Coronavirus: Hospitality and retailers hit for six by latest diktat The Times

Johnson Pledges Millions of Covid Tests But U.K. Labs Can’t CopeBloomberg

World’s Insurers Await U.K. Covid Ruling With Billions at StakeBloomberg