By Powerscourt on 10/01/2021

Powerscourt Coronavirus Briefing – 10 January 2021


We really have a long way to go. Bloomberg has painstakingly counted all of the vaccine shots administered to date and the total stands at 24 million – in a world of about 8 billion people. Take off the infants and the penetration is 0.3%.

The US has seen the most jabs with almost 8 million inoculated so far. West Virginia, a relatively poor state, has the greatest market penetration with 5% of the population covered. Globally, Israel is miles ahead with 18% of the population targeted, followed by its new friends in the United Arab Emirates with 9.5% and Bahrain with 5.6%. No-one else comes close.

Bloomberg’s graphics are worth a look as we start on the greatest logistical challenge in the history of our species. https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/covid-vaccine-tracker-global-distribution/?sref=4FLwUbFS

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged a vaccine rollout of 15 million doses by mid-February, which does raise the question of why he is setting himself yet another highly ambitious (and seemingly unachievable) target. It is reported the strategy is to reach the vaccination goal and open up the economy in just 5 weeks’ time. Many officials say privately that the plan will not go smoothly.

Only 1.5 million doses have been administered thus far and Johnson is yet to deliver on his promise of everyone in the UK being within 10 miles of a vaccination centre. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip didn’t have to go to a centre as they have announced they had their vaccine in the comfort of their own home yesterday. In an attempt to ease any of the public’s fears, they sent a message to the world – if it is good enough for royalty, it is good enough for you.

Pope Francis has also confirmed he will be getting the vaccine, presumably with a similar underlying motive to the royals. “I believe that ethically everyone must take the vaccine, it is an ethical option, because you stake your health, your life, but you also play the lives of others,” he said.

Such guidance cannot come soon enough as data suggests that the UK public are not taking the latest rules as seriously as previous lockdowns and public mixing is more prevalent than in previous lockdowns. The slackness can be blamed on previous inconsistency and a lack of clarity on the rules across the UK, lockdown fatigue and desensitisation to the severity of the virus.

Surrey Council has even launched a social distancing campaign asking Londoners to stop driving to the county for their daily exercise, as they could bring the new strain with them. The UK’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, is also issuing stark warnings to encourage rule-following: “Every unnecessary interaction you have could be the link to a chain of transmission, which has a vulnerable person at the end.

Over in the U.S, President-elect Joe Biden has announced plans to release every available dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as he takes office in just 10 days. This is opposed to President Donald Trump’s current tactic of holding half the supply back to ensure second doses are available.

Pfizer seems happy with Biden’s approach and has assured the U.S that it is working around the clock to meet the plans of the incoming president. Pfizer currently has a contract with the U.S for 200 million doses by July 31. This is good news to the nation as cases are still breaking state records and Friday saw the second-highest number of new cases across the country since the pandemic started. The total number of deaths in the U.S is over 370,000.



Consumer & Retail

The Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EWM)
The retailer specialising in clothing, along with interests in homewares and destination shopping for tourists, could potentially be saved after administrators to Philip Day’s empire accepted a rescue offer for the Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EWM) chain. FRP Advisory has issued sale contracts to the potential buyer, providing a rare ray of positive news in the virus-hit retail industry, although a source said the deal was likely to save only a small number of EWM’s 400 stores. Almost one third of its 2,571 employees have been made redundant since the chain collapsed in November. EWM was the bedrock of Day’s 1,100-store retail empire, spanning Peacocks, Bonmarché, Jaeger and Austin Reed. After being overwhelmed by Covid, Day’s group is being dismantled, with Marks & Spencer on the verge of a deal to acquire Jaeger. A planned buyout of Peacocks, led by the group’s head of e-commerce development, Josh Lowes, is said to have stalled.

G-III Apparel Group Ltd.
The American clothing company has emerged as a bidder in the auction of Arcadia, Sir Philip Green’s bust high street empire. G-III Apparel, led by chairman Morris Goldfarb, whose father Aron founded the business in 1956, is among a quartet of leading contenders in a sale by administrators that has become a transatlantic tussle, The Telegraph said. The Nasdaq-listed company owns the DKNY brand and has licences for Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Levi’s, among others. G-III is now one of two American bidders for Arcadia assets including Topshop and Dorothy Perkins, alongside Authentic Brands, the  Blackrock-backed owner of the Manhattan department store Barneys. The American pair are up against British opposition from Boohoo and Next, which has teamed up with the investment firm Davidson Kempner.


Financial & Real Estate

HSBC Bank plc
The British multinational banking and financial services organisation is being pushed by a coalition of investors to reduce its financing of coal assets as the climate-change debate moves further into banking. A group including the European fund manager Amundi and London-listed hedge fund Man Group, co-ordinated by campaign group ShareAction, aims to table a climate-change resolution ahead of the annual meeting in April. The group is thought to be urging HSBC to reduce its exposure to fossil fuels, in particular coal, in line with the 2016 Paris agreement, which aims to limit global warming to 1.5C. The move will put corporate Britain — and the banking sector lenders — on notice that investors are increasingly focused on climate change at a time when the world is reeling from the Covid-19 crisis. HSBC chief executive Noel Quinn told Reuters last October: “Covid has been a wake-up call to us all. We have seen how fragile the global economy is to a major event… and it brings home the reality of what a major climate event could do.”



Covid has left hospitals facing ‘worst crisis in living memory’, says Chris Whitty – The Times

Collapse in cancer treatment as coronavirus overwhelms hospitals – The Telegraph

Mass testing for asymptomatic Covid to be rolled out across England – Financial Times