Powerscourt

By Powerscourt on 09/10/2020

Powerscourt Coronavirus Briefing – 09 October 2020

ANALYSIS

Dr Chris Whitty, the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, told nearly 150 MPs yesterday that the hospitality sector is driving soaring infections.

It’s widely expected that the government will order all pubs and restaurants to close in the worst-hit areas in the North of England, with speculation rife that the whole of the UK could be subject to these rules within weeks.

Scientists from the government’s Sage advisory group have told the Guardian that a shutdown of pubs and restaurants in the North and Midlands, expected to be announced next week, doesn’t go far enough.

John Edmunds, a member of Sage, said the coronavirus is “holding a gun to the PM’s head”.

But the Telegraph cites data from Public Health England suggesting that three quarters of people infected with COVID-19 came into contact with the virus at home, as opposed to in hospitality venues.

The government is reported to be working on a patchwork approach to restrictions which will be calibrated according to levels of vulnerability and reflect these nuances, with shielding reinstated in virus hotspots across the country, according to the newspapers, with Jenny Harries, deputy Chief Medical Officer, driving the plans. The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is reported to be preparing the equivalent of a local furlough scheme.

Data on Friday morning showed that the UK economy grew by just over 2% in August, suggesting that the controversial “eat out to help out” scheme may not have been as effective as hoped in stimulating the economy.

In the UK 609 coronavirus patients were admitted to hospital on Thursday, with a further 17,540 cases and 77 deaths reported.

In the US President Trump, recovering from coronavirus, appears to be more erratic than before. On Wednesday, after learning that organisers of the next election debate had made it a virtual event for public health reasons, Trump said he would not participate: “I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate,” he said, promising to do a rally instead.

He also attacked his Democratic challenger Joseph Biden as being “mentally incapable” and called his running mate Kamala Harris a “monster” and a “communist” in interviews on Fox News, before promising to discipline or dismiss various members of his government and broader entourage including the Attorney General, William Barr and the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

Trump’s supporters are accustomed to his purple language and claims about rivals. But it is his management of safety in and around the White House which may do him the most damage ahead of the election. Polls show his handling of the coronavirus crisis is his Achilles Heel among US voters, with many polls suggesting he is trailing Biden by double digits. Republican Majority leader, Mitch McConnell, normally one of Mr Trump’s staunchest supporters, said on Thursday he had not been to the White House in two months because of his concern over Trump’s approach to coronavirus guidelines.

A group of pharma companies including Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical has begun enrolling patients in a global trial for a COVID-19 treatment using convalescent plasma from patients who have recovered from the virus.

Trial subjects will be given the new drug, hyperimmune intravenous immunoglobulin (H-Ig) alongside Gilead’s remdesivir. The control arm will be remdesivir and a placebo.

China, apparently using COVID-19 diplomacy with greater elan than the US, said it will join a World Health Organisation initiative designed to ensure vaccines are distributed equitably when they become available. The so-called Covax initiative has struggled to attract rich nations, most of whom have done private vaccine deals.

Asian stocks rose into Friday morning amid increased US stimulus hopes.

 

WHAT ARE COMPANIES SAYING?

 

Industrials 

Stagecoach
The transport group said its UK bus business continues to be affected by the substantial fall in passenger demand for public transport, but highlighted that vehicle mileage was now exceeding 93% of the previous year’s levels. CEO Martin Griffiths said: “We have a strong business, with good liquidity, devolved operating companies closely focused on our customers and local communities, good financial discipline and a supportive relationship with government and our local authority partners.”

 

Financials & Real Estate 

British Land
The property company announced the resumption of its dividend and updated on its operations. It said all its retail assets and 86% of its stores are open, with its open air, out of town retail parks ‘driving outperformance’. It will pay a semi-annual dividend of 80% underlying EPS, with an intention to declare an interim dividend on this basis next month.

 

Retail & Consumer 

Treatt
The flavour and fragrance ingredients supplier said its FY20 PBT is in line with pre-COVID-19 expectations. The company noted that on-trade demand had been particularly felt in Q3 and that new product launches in its consumer markets had been less prevalent over the last six months. CEO Daemmon Reeve said: “We have delivered a strong performance in spite of the difficult backdrop during the year and I thank our colleagues across the Group for their skill, flexibility and determination in what has been an extraordinary period.

Carnival
The world’s largest cruise operator provided a business update yesterday in which it said advanced bookings for 2021 were improving, particularly for the second half of the year. President and CEO Arnold Donald said: “We have come full circle from initiating a suspension in the early days of the pandemic, to transitioning the fleet into a pause status, right sizing our organization and, now, embarking on the phased resumption of guest operations.”

 

IN THE NEWS

Local furlough pays two thirds of wages in firms forced to shut – THE TIMES

Working from home hits productivity, companies warn – THE TELEGRAPH

Johnson faces northern backlash over new Covid-19 measures – FINANCIAL TIMES




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