Closed Coronavirus: New Jersey’s rate of Covid-19 transmission hits 10-week high — as it happened

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Today’s top stories: Florida’s Miami-Dade county orders dine-in service and gyms to close. UK construction activity rebounds as housebuilders return. Australia enforces strict lockdown to contain ‘explosive’ outbreak. Israel closes bars and gyms.


US reports new Sunday record for cases despite holiday lag

The US reported its highest number of new coronavirus infections for a Sunday, with 42,551 cases, even though a large number of states reduced testing and reporting over the July 4 holiday weekend.

The number follows the report of 52,000 new cases on Saturday.

“Even with the holiday weekend, Florida’s numbers are alarming. The state has reported more than 10,000 new cases three of the last four days,” Covid Tracking Project said on Twitter as it released charts and data.

It said Connecticut, Kansas, Kentucky, and Rhode Island had not reported any data at all for the past two days even though the percentage of people testing positive in Kansas had been rising rapidly ahead of the weekend.

The holiday reporting gap would result in much larger numbers later this week, the researchers said, but that 21 states set all time records for new cases in the past week.

Nearly 3m people have now tested positive for coronavirus in the US and there have been 122,673 deaths. Nearly 40,000 people with Covid-19 are currently being cared for in hospital .


Asia-Pacific stocks mixed as US coronavirus cases continue to climb

Asia-Pacific stocks diverged at the start of a new week as investors weighed moves by governments to support economies against rising coronavirus cases in the US and expanded lockdowns in Melbourne.

Japan’s Topix was up 0.4 per cent, the Kospi rose 0.6 per cent and the S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.2 per cent.

Lockdowns were expanded in Melbourne to include public housing estate blocks in a bid to contain outbreaks of coronavirus in the city.

S&P 500 futures were up 0.1 per cent, suggesting a mild gain on the resumption of trading following a three-day weekend in the US.

Brent crude edged up 0.2 per cent to $42.89 a barrel while US marker West Texas Intermediate fell 0.8 per cent to $40.34 amid concerns over the impact of growing US infections on oil demand.


News you might have missed

Rishi Sunak, the UK chancellor, has thrown a £1.5bn lifeline to Britain’s struggling theatres, music venues and museums, as he prepares to set out plans to avert a Covid-19 unemployment crisis.

Donald Trump has set out plans for a large campaign rally in New Hampshire, even as public health officials warn Americans to avoid big gatherings to slow the spread of coronavirus.

London’s Canary Wharf is preparing for the return of up to three-quarters of its workforce following the relaxation of social-distancing rules. The financial district has enforced one-way routes, limits on lift capacity and regular cleaning. As of last week, about 7,000 of its 120,000 workers had returned, about double this time last month.

Mitsubishi Corporation, one of Japan’s most active and aggressive dealmakers for more than a century, will impose a one-in, one-out policy toward acquisitions as coronavirus prompts a historic strategic shift.

Confidence in London’s property market has been shaken by the pandemic and, post-lockdown, data from property portals show that buyers are increasingly searching for homes in suburbia or further afield.

About a dozen UK universities could be at risk of insolvency because of the coronavirus pandemic, with a potential drop in the number of students and mounting pension liabilities leaving the sector facing an unprecedented financial crisis.

Greece’s prime minister has said he will not accept strict EU conditions on the use of coronavirus emergency aid, in a sign of the difficult negotiations ahead for the bloc’s leaders on its proposed €750bn recovery fund.


China reports 4 new coronavirus cases

Health authorities in China reported three new imported coronavirus cases and one new locally transmitted infection in Beijing in the 24 hours to the end of Sunday.

The new case in Beijing takes the number of infections in the Chinese capital since early June to 335 following an outbreak at a wholesale food market.

Beijing’s health authorities said on Sunday that 47 per cent of the cases were found in people who worked at the market and those infected had an average age of 42.

The number of cases identified in Beijing has slowed from its peak on June 13 and 14 to hold in the single digits over the past week following a programme of mass testing.

The new infections in mainland China take its official total to 83,557 with 4,634 deaths.

China does not include cases where a person tests positive for coronavirus but shows no symptoms in its official tally.


Melbourne housing block coronavirus cluster has ‘explosive potential’

Nine Melbourne public housing tower blocks that have been placed under lockdown have “explosive potential” to spread coronavirus, an official said on Monday as authorities said the border between the state of Victoria and New South Wales will be closed.

Victoria reported 127 new cases on Monday morning with 645 active cases in the state following targeted lockdowns of suburbs.

Brett Sutton, the state’s chief health officer, said 53 cases had been found in the towers, including 16 reported on Monday, adding that the jump in cases was “really not unexpected”. Around 3,000 people live in the towers and authorities plan to test all residents.

“This environment, this specific setting, has genuinely explosive potential for the spread of this virus,” he said. “It’s not about the people there, it’s about the entire environment and how people interact and the issue of how fast the virus spreads.”

The “early, if imperfect” control will allow authorities to get on top of the outbreak to prevent it spreading outside the blocks and beyond the postcode, Mr Sutton said.

Households have been provided with food deliveries and personal care packages including nappies, while bread and milk were delivered to the flats on Monday morning, said Daniel Andrews, Victoria’s Premier.

The border closure will be enforced from the New South Wales side so as not to place a strain on resources in Victoria.


Former chief scientific adviser says England’s Covid strategy is ‘immoral’

The UK is on track to suffer a further 27,000 excess deaths between now and April due to the “immoral” strategy for easing lockdown in England, Sir David King, a former UK chief scientific adviser and founder of the Independent Sage group of scientists told Sky News on Sunday.

He said it looked as if current policy was to maintain the current infection rate of 3,000 new cases a day in England, and that that number would result in the excess deaths figure that his group had calculated.

In contrast, he said Scotland and Northern Ireland, which have devolved powers that have allowed them to adopt them to maintain stricter lockdown policies, were heading towards “net zero” coronavirus infections.

“If we take the last three to four weeks, when we [in England] began to soften the lockdown and talk about it and we saw the rate of infection falling, it was actually then slowing down and now it’s stopped over the last two or three weeks,” he said.

He said a better way to return to full economic growth would be to get rid of the virus.

Asked if the government’s official scientific advice was wrong, or if politicians were not following it, he said: “I don’t think there is any difference between the scientists from Sage and the scientists from Independent Sage. I think the difference is that we are in the public domain.”


Republicans warn of grim outlook for Trump in Florida

Lauren Fedor in Washington

Republicans are warning the outlook is “grim” for Donald Trump in Florida, a closely watched battleground state that is seen as pivotal for the US president’s re-election prospects in November.

With four months to go until election day, Mr Trump’s poll numbers have dropped sharply across the country, with many Americans disapproving of his handling of both the coronavirus pandemic and widespread civil unrest following the killing of George Floyd.

Most national polls show the president trailing Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, by double digits. In Florida, the margins are closer. According to the Real Clear Politics average, Mr Biden, the former vice-president, leads Mr Trump by 5 points.

Members of the president’s own party are warning that a recent spike in coronavirus cases, as well as the threat of a prolonged shutdown, could hurt him at the ballot box in November. Florida’s department of health reported a record 11,458 new infections on Saturday alone.

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Hong Kong business conditions improve as restrictions ease

Business conditions in Hong Kong stabilised in June, as measures to control the spread of coronavirus were eased, according to a private survey.

The IHS Markit purchasing managers’ index for Hong Kong rose to 49.6 in June, it’s highest reading since April 2018, and nearing the 50-point level that marks expansion.

The city’s economy contracted in 2019 on the effects of the US-China trade war and mass street protests in the second half of the year.

The report shows private sector employment steadied in June and Hong Kong’s food services and accommodation sector saw higher business activity as limits on group gatherings were eased.

Despite improvements elsewhere, output and exports orders fell, while business sentiment remained negative.

“Firms also remained concerned about the long-term impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on economic activity,” said Bernard Aw, principal economist at IHS Markit. “As such, the potential of a robust recovery in the Hong Kong economy relies on the strength of the upturn in the global economy in the coming months.”


Chinese stocks rally as traders bet on economic rebound

Daniel Shane in Hong Kong

Shares in mainland China and Hong Kong rallied as investors brushed aside another record rise in US coronavirus cases and focused on the recovery in the world’s second-biggest economy.

China’s CSI 300 index of Shanghai- and Shenzhen-listed shares jumped as much as 3.7 per cent in early trading on Monday, the biggest rise since February 2019 and extending recent gains after closing at a five-year high on Friday.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index added more than 2 per cent. Traders said China’s retail investors — a dominant force in the mainland’s equity markets — were piling into stocks in the technology and internet sectors as they bet on the country’s economic recovery gaining momentum.

Data released on Friday showed that Chinese services sector activity had risen in June, with consumer spending rebounding following the coronavirus lockdown.

“Individual investors in China are really optimistic about the economic reopening,” said Dickie Wong, executive director at Kingston Securities, who added that traders were for now willing to put to one side risks linked to rising US-China tensions.

Elsewhere, Japan’s Topix and South Korea’s Kospi both added 1.3 per cent. Futures suggested that the S&P 500 would open 0.9 per cent higher when US trading resumes later on Monday following the three-day July 4 weekend.

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World Bank ditches plans for second sale of pandemic bonds

Camilla Hodgson in London

The World Bank has shelved plans for a second sale of pandemic bonds after the first drew criticism for being too slow to pay out aid to poor nations suffering from the coronavirus outbreak.

The bank issued the bonds three years ago, in a $320m deal intended to help developing countries tackle a serious outbreak of infectious disease.

In mid-April, weeks after coronavirus had started spreading around the globe, the conditions to pay out nearly $200m were finally met — though critics said this was too little, too late.

A second iteration of the “pandemic emergency financing facility”, or PEF, was expected to be launched this year, after the World Bank said in early 2019 that it was making tweaks to the structure before marketing the new product in or around May 2020. But a spokesperson has told the FT that there were now “no plans for a PEF 2.0”.

Clare Wenham, assistant professor in global health policy at the London School of Economics, said: “In the wake of this coronavirus outbreak we need to rethink financing pandemics,” she added. “We need to somehow engage with private money because public money isn’t enough or isn’t fast enough.”

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UK car sales fall by a third in June

Peter Campbell in London

New car sales in the UK fell by a third in June, the first month that most showrooms were open again after the coronavirus shutdown.

Preliminary sales data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders on Monday show that around 145,000 cars were sold during the month, compared to 223,421 a year earlier.

Dealerships and factories were closed April and May because of the pandemic, and the industry was expecting to have slow trading in the weeks following re-opening, with consumers wary about returning to showrooms and appetite dented by economic uncertainties.

The UK government has so far said there are no plans for an incentive or scrappage scheme to help drive sales.

In France, which has introduced sales incentives, car sales in June rose 1.2 per cent compared to the same month a year earlier.

The UK figures have also been affected by showrooms across Scotland and Wales remaining closed for longer.

While dealerships in England opened at the start of June, Welsh and Scottish sites remained closed until later into the month.

UK sales for the first six months of the year are roughly half the levels seen in 2019.

Around 650,000 cars were sold between January and June this year, compared to 1.3m in the same period last year, preliminary SMMT figures showed.

Detailed figures are due to be released by the SMMT at 9am UK time.


WHO suspends hydroxychloroquine trial in new blow for treatments

The World Health Organization has discontinued its trial of hydroxychloroquine, which became famous when US President Donald Trump revealed he was taking it to ward off Covid-19.

Interim trial results show that hydroxychloroquine produced little or no reduction in the mortality of hospitalised Covid-19 patients when compared to standard of care, the WHO said in a release on the weekend.

This decision applies only to the conduct of the WHO-sponsored Solidarity trial in hospitalised patients and does not affect the possible evaluation in other studies of hydroxychloroquine in non-hospitalised patients or as pre- or post-exposure prophylaxis for Covid-19, the WHO said.

Meanwhile, countries that have failed to secure stocks of remdesivir — an antiviral that received emergency US approval for the treatment of Covid-19 — should actually count themselves lucky, a specialist contributing to the BMJ medical journal argues.

James Brophy, professor of medicine and epidemiology at McGill University, refers to the scientific evidence for remdesivir’s purported clinical benefit that was provided by a randomised controlled trial of 1,063 patients published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

He argues that the NEJM remdesivir study was company sponsored, prematurely stopped and had other deficiencies that should have cast doubt on the certainty of the findings.

“I would argue that in this case, it is good to be at the back of the queue. It is worth repeating that no remdesivir study has demonstrated any reduction in hospital stay or mortality ,” he writes in the article published on Friday.


Peru infections surge past 300,000 mark

Gideon Long in Bogotá

Peru has passed the 300,000-threshold for confirmed coronavirus cases as the country with the second-highest number of cases in Latin America behind Brazil and the fifth highest in the world struggles to contain its outbreak.

The government said on Sunday it had recorded 302,718 cases and more than 10,589 deaths — the second-worst death rate per capita in the region behind Chile.

Peru imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in the region at the start of the pandemic, but many workers in the large informal labour force flouted the rules, saying they could not afford to stay at home. Internal migration and contagion at food markets were also blamed for the high numbers.

Despite the rising caseload, the government is gradually re-opening the economy, which contracted by over 40 per cent in April, one of the biggest monthly falls anywhere in the region.


AIIB approves €662m loan for Kazakhstan

The Beijing-headquartered Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has approved a €662m loan to Kazakhstan to help mitigate the adverse effects of Covid-19.

The multilateral development bank noted that the oil price shock had had a significant impact on oil revenues and forecast a 5.5 per cent contraction in Kazakhstan’s economy in 2020. It said poverty levels could double from 6.6 per cent of the population to 11-13 per cent.

“Managing the spread of the disease and containing poverty are the programme’s priorities,” said Konstantin Limitovskiy, AIIB vice president, investment operations, referring to the bank’s special project, co-financed with the Asian Development Bank, to help countries deal with Covid-19. “This financing responds to the country’s countercyclical funding needs to achieve these objectives,” he added.

The funding will be used to help mitigate the impacts of higher food prices on vulnerable groups, an increase in social payments, new tax incentives to alleviate the financial burden of businesses and cash payments to the unemployed, the bank said.

The AIIB has approved a total of 13 projects amounting to over $5.5bn in funding to support 11 members to navigate the challenges posed by the pandemic and its fallout.


India surpasses Russia to have third-highest case count

Amy Kazmin in New Delhi

India has surpassed Russia as the country with the world’s third-highest coronavirus caseload, after several days where the South Asian nation of 1.3bn people detected more than 20,000 new cases a day.

India, which has had one of the lowest coronavirus testing rates of any major economy, has detected more than 697,410 infections, more than Russia’s 680,280, the Johns Hopkins University tracker shows.

India ranks behind the US and Brazil as the countries with the highest known caseload. Healthcare systems in many cities, including India’s IT hub Bangalore, are struggling to keep pace with the strain.

However, of those known to have been infected with the virus, just 19,693 have died — far fewer than those of European countries like the UK, Spain and Italy, which have fewer confirmed cases but an older population.

Public health officials believe India’s true coronavirus burden is probably significantly higher, as the testing rate lags behind other countries, as different states have attempted to restrict testing in order to downplay the severity of the pandemic in their geographies.

India has conducted 7,224 coronavirus tests per million people, compared with 15,667 per million in Brazil and 113,588 tests per million people in the US, according to Worldometer.

Several cities in India — including Guwahati in the tea-growing state of Assam, and Trivandrum the capital of Kerala state — are imposing stricter lockdowns in their efforts to slow the spread of the virus.


Bolivia’s health minister tests positive for Covid-19

Gideon Long in Bogotá

Bolivia’s health minister has tested positive for coronavirus — the third member of the cabinet to contract the disease in recent days as the Andean nation struggles to cope with a recent spike in infections.

Interim president Jeanine Añez confirmed on twitter that health minister Eidy Roca had tested positive. So too have the mining minister and the minister of the presidency.

Bolivia has escaped the worst of coronavirus in Latin America compared to its neighbours Brazil, Peru and Chile. It has 38,000 confirmed cases and 1,378 deaths.

But those numbers are starting to climb rapidly and as one of the poorest countries in the region its health system is ill-equipped to cope.

The lowland region of Santa Cruz and the city of Cochabamba have been particularly hard hit and in some places workers have been hastily digging makeshift graves in cemeteries.


Fujitsu to halve office space and permanently ‘eliminate commuting’

Kana Inagaki in Tokyo

Fujitsu will redefine the way its employees work in the post-coronavirus era by cutting office space in half and eliminating commuter tickets as it moves towards making teleworking permanent.

“We are going to eliminate the concept of commuting,” Hiroki Hiramatsu, head of Fujitsu’s human resources, said during an online news conference held on Monday. “A new normal based on new values has already begun, and we believe there is no return to the past even after infections come under control.”

The coronavirus outbreak has forced Japanese companies to break with their traditional culture of long hours in the office with Hitachi, NEC and others continuing home working even as the country lifted a state of emergency in May.

Fujitsu will take even more drastic measures with 80,000 of its employees in Japan primarily remote-working from now.

As part of the shift, the use of its office space will be cut in half from what it had before the pandemic and employees will be provided commuting benefits only on days when they go into the office. The technology group will also increase the use of shared office space and set up satellite offices near areas where many workers live.

Fujitsu said it would also aim to phase out assignments where employees are separated from their homes due to domestic assignments that are far away.


European stocks set for strong open after Chinese shares gain

European equities are set to rise sharply after shares in mainland China and Hong Kong made large gains on hopes of a swift economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Futures markets tipped the European benchmark Stoxx 600 to climb 1.9 per cent when trading begins on Monday, while London’s FTSE 100 is expected to add 1.7 per cent.

China’s CSI 300 index of Shanghai- and Shenzhen-listed shares jumped as much as 5.4 per cent on Monday, the biggest one-day rise since February 2019. The surge extended recent gains after closing at a five-year high on Friday.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index added 3.4 per cent to technically enter a bull market, usually defined as a 20 per cent rise.

Traders said China’s retail investors — a dominant force in the mainland’s equity markets — were piling into stocks in the technology and internet sectors as they bet on the country’s economic recovery gaining momentum. Optimism was stoked by a front-page editorial in a state-run newspaper on Monday that talked up the prospect of a “healthy” bull market.


Cineworld to launch counter-claim against Cineplex

Cineworld said that it will initiate a counter-claim against Cineplex, the Canadian group that it had planned to buy, for damages and losses it has suffered as a result of the smaller chain’s “breaches and the acquisition not proceeding”.

Cineplex initiated proceedings against Cineworld after the second-largest cinema chain called off the $2.3bn sale that was due to be completed last month, alleging that Cineworld had breached its agreement obligations. Cineworld said it had not breached any of these obligations.

“In any event, Cineworld believes that Cineplex’s claim, if successful, would be limited to its costs and expenses incurred in relation to the acquisition and would not be assessed by reference to the consideration that was payable under the acquisition,” Cineworld said in its statement on Monday.

“Cineworld is entitled to recover from Cineplex all damages and losses that it has suffered as a result of Cineplex’s breaches and the acquisition not proceeding, including its financing costs, advisory fees and other costs incurred.”

Cineworld, the world’s second-largest cinema chain, called off the deal on June 12, saying that Cineplex had suffered a “material adverse effect”, which meant the acquisition could not go ahead.

Under the terms of the deal, the sale would not proceed if Cineplex breached a level of $725m debt. When it last reported figures in February, Cineplex had net debt of $625m.

Cineplex claimed that it had not breached the sale agreement and “that a material adverse effect has not occurred”. The smaller cinema chain also claimed that Cineworld had not complied with the requirements needed in order for the deal to receive approval from the Canadian competition authorities.


Cat Rutter Pooley’s City Bulletin: Lloyds shake-up, Cineworld, Barratt

Lloyds Banking Group boss António Horta-Osório is to step down in 2021 after 10 years stewarding the high street bank through the aftermath of the financial crisis and its return to private ownership after 2008’s bailout. His departure is part of a changing of the guard at the bank. Lloyds on Monday named Robin Bundenberg chairman to replace Lord Blackwell, who announced his plans to retire from the bank last year.

Aviva has replaced its chief executive after just a year. The insurer appointed Amanda Blanc, a non-executive at the group and former executive at Zurich and Axa, as its new boss. She replaces Maurice Tulloch, who Aviva said was stepping down for family health reasons.

The accounting watchdog has fired the starting gun for operational separation of the audit practices of the Big Four firms, one of the major recommendations of a review into competition in the audit market. The Financial Reporting Council published its “final principles” for separation and has asked the Big Four to set out how they will achieve a split between audit and consulting arms by June 2024.

Barratt Developments is the latest housebuilder to call for an extension to the government’s Help to Buy scheme to support a rebound in the housing market. The company said it had a strong balance sheet and healthy forward sales. It also disclosed that it faced a £70m cost for remedial work on some of its buildings after a review of cladding carried out in the wake of the Grenfell fire.


Barratt Developments calls for Help to Buy extension

George Hammond in London

The UK’s largest housebuilder has called for an extension of the Help to Buy programme, with thousands of home purchases made using the scheme at risk of falling through because of construction delays caused by coronavirus.

Barratt Developments, which built more homes than any other housebuilder last year, said the government’s loan scheme should be extended to “help ensure the UK’s housing recovery is sustained, capacity in the industry is maintained and to ensure that customers who planned to use the current Help to Buy scheme still can”.

Research from the Home Builders Federation shows that close to 8,000 purchases made using the scheme were at risk of falling through because delays on building sites meant the homes would not be complete before April 2021, when the scheme runs out in its current form.

From April onwards Help to Buy will be limited to first time buyers and prices will be capped at different levels in different regions.

In its update to the market on Monday morning, the company also announced that it would be returning money it had tapped from the government’s furlough scheme, and that remediation work on a number of its old developments – the need for which was identified in the wake of the fire at Grenfell Tower – was likely to cost £70m.


Factories in Germany rebound with record 10% rise in orders

Martin Arnold in Frankfurt

German factory orders rose by a record 10.4 per cent between April and May, highlighting how the industrial heartland of Europe is increasing production after suffering a record drop in activity during the coronavirus lockdown.

However, German factory orders remain almost 30 per cent down from the first quarter and May 2019, the Federal Statistical Agency said on Monday, underlining the depth of the global recession and the gap that remains before demand returns to pre-pandemic levels.

Turnover in Germany’s manufacturing sector rose 10.6 per cent between April and May, Destatis said, after it revised downwards its estimate for the record fall orders in April to a decline of 26.2 per cent.

Commerzbank forecast that German industrial production would rise about 10 per cent in May when those figures are published on Tuesday, and by a similar amount again in June. But it said industrial production would still be down 17 per cent in the second quarter – a far bigger decline than the 12 per cent drop in the first quarter of 2009 after the financial crisis.

The rebound in orders in May mostly came from customers in Germany and the rest of Europe. New domestic orders increased over 12 per cent, while orders from the rest of the eurozone rose almost 21 per cent. But in the rest of the world they were up only 2 per cent.

Carsten Brzeski, economist at ING, said: “Today’s industrial orders data brings two important messages: the lifting of the lockdown measures has brought V-shaped surges in activity but the return to pre-crisis levels will not be easy.”


German car production to fall by a quarter this year

Martin Arnold in Frankfurt

Germany’s car production, one of the industries hit hardest by the crisis as sales plummeted during the pandemic, is expected to fall by a quarter to 3.5m cars this year, the auto industry association said on Friday.

Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler have recently restarted many of their production lines and brought tens of thousands of workers back off Germany’s furlough scheme.

The sprawling machinery and tool making sector has also been hit hard. The VDMA mechanical engineering industry association said on Friday that customers had ordered 13 per cent fewer machines in the year to May, mainly driven by an 18 per cent drop in foreign orders, while domestic orders were down 4 per cent.

Destatis said: “Turnover in the automotive industry increased again markedly in May 2020, after very low levels in April 2020. However, it was still nearly 47 per cent lower than in February 2020.”


Chinese stocks surge in biggest 1-day jump for over a year

Harry Dempsey in London and Daniel Shane in Hong Kong

Shares in mainland China and Hong Kong surged as state media threw its weight behind a rally driven on hopes of a swift economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

China’s CSI 300 index of Shanghai- and Shenzhen-listed shares jumped as much as 5.8 per cent on Monday, the biggest one-day rise since February 2019 and compounding a five-year high. The index is still 13 per cent off its peak of 2015. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index added 3.7 per cent to enter a bull market, defined as a 20 per cent rise.

The positive sentiment swept into the European trading session, as the regional benchmark Stoxx 600 climbed 1.7 per cent at the open on Monday, while London’s FTSE 100 added 1.9 per cent.

“The market is rallying led by a government sanctioned rally in China,” said Sebastien Galy, strategist at Nordea Asset Management.

Futures suggested the S&P 500 would open up 1.2 per cent when US trading resumes later on Monday following the three-day weekend.


UK construction activity rebounds as housebuilders return

Valentina Romei in London

UK construction activity rebounded in June as strict lockdown regulations, imposed to contain the spread of coronavirus, were relaxed and businesses reopened, although concerns about long-term demand led to further job cuts.

The IHS Markit/CIPS UK construction purchasing manager index rose to 55.3 in June from 28.9 in the previous month. The figures were better than economists had expected, and mark the steepest pace of expansion since July 2018. Readings above 50 indicate an increase in business activity.

Tim Moore, economics director at IHS Markit, said:

June’s survey data revealed a steep rebound in UK construction output as more sites began to reopen and the supply chain kicked into gear.

Housebuilding led the way with the fastest rise in activity for nearly five years, while commercial and civil engineering also joined in the recovery from the low point seen in April.

However, the index measuring business expectations for the year ahead remained historically subdued and construction businesses reported falling headcounts.

Last week, the PMI indices for the UK manufacturing and services sector showed a similar stabilisation. The UK construction PMI index for the UK outperformed that of the eurozone, which rose nearly 10 points to 48.3.


Eurozone retail sales rebound by record 18% in May

Martin Arnold in Frankfurt

European consumers went on a shopping spree after coronavirus lockdowns were lifted, helping eurozone retail sales rise a record estimate-beating 18 per cent between April and May.

The figures, released by Eurostat on Monday and which were better than most analysts expected, will add to hopes that the lifting of the restrictions imposed to contain the spread of the pandemic could unleash a flurry of pent-up purchases that people have been unable or hesitant to do until now.

However, the situation is tough for high street stores, as eurozone consumer spending in May remained 5 per cent below the same level of a year ago and the declines were much greater in many areas such as clothing, petrol, electronics and computer equipment.

The only areas that grew from a year ago were mail order and internet retailing, as well as food, drink and tobacco, indicating that the pandemic has accelerated the shift from high street stores to online shopping.

Among the biggest eurozone economies, the largest jump in retail sales was in France with a monthly rise of almost 26 per cent. That compared with 18 per cent in Spain, just under 14 per cent in Germany and almost 9 per cent in the Netherlands.

However, Germany and the Netherlands suffered much lower declines in March and April and are among a group of mostly northern countries where retail sales have bounced back to pre-pandemic levels, including Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Austria, Poland, Finland and Sweden.

In the UK, retail sales rose 11.1 per cent in May, but they remain 12.4 per cent below the level of a year ago. Italian retail sales for May are due to be published on Tuesday.


UK teetering arts sector welcomes £1.5bn ‘better than expected’ lifeline

James Pickford in London

Arts organisations applauded the announcement of a £1.5bn government funding package on Monday, as ministers responded to the gathering crisis in the UK’s performing arts industry and culture sector following coronavirus restrictions.

Caroline Norbury, chief executive of the sector group Creative Industries Federation, said it was a “seismic step forward” for an industry on the “on the brink of cultural collapse”.

The voice of the creative sector has been heard loud and clear by the government and we warmly welcome their response. This investment acknowledges the mission-critical role that the UK’s creative industries will play in recovery and growth in all parts of the country.

Nicholas Hytner, former artistic director of the National Theatre, told the BBC’s Today programme that the government had been responsive to the argument that the arts were “the cornerstone of our international reputation”.

It’s a much better plan than anyone expected.


Photo: EPA

Announced on Sunday evening, the plan comprises £880m of grants, supplemented by £270m of loans.

James Graham, the playwright, said the government had “listened to the outpouring of not only concerns but also of great passion from audiences and artists over the threat to a much-loved part of our national life”.

Many museums and galleries will reopen over the next few weeks. Institutions in other European countries are ahead of the UK in reopening, with the Louvre in Paris welcoming visitors on Monday. The experience will be very different from that of the pre-lockdown era, with physically distanced queues, time slots and one-way systems, and mandatory mask-wearing.

As they open their doors once again, museum directors have warned that their finances will be impaired by the restrictions on visitor numbers and higher operating costs.


Photo: AFP

The funding lifeline has come in the nick of time for many theatres and music venues, which are unable to reopen in the UK, as the government and public health advisers have yet to decide when it is safe to allow gatherings in the enclosed public spaces. Organisations including the National Theatre and Cameron Mackintosh productions have announced redundancy consultations or job losses in recent weeks, as they faced the withdrawal of government support while they had no choice but to remain dark. For some, the news may be too late: financial difficulties have already caused Nuffield Southampton Theatres to fall into administration.


India blocks visitors from Taj Mahal as some tourist sites reopen

Benjamin Parkin in New Delhi

India took baby steps to revive local tourism by opening several historical monuments this week, though its plans were set back after a last-minute decision to bar visitors to the Taj Mahal.

Several popular sites like Humayun’s Tomb in the capital New Delhi were due to start reallowing visitors from Monday, as authorities move to kick-start economic activity despite a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.

But India’s best known site, the Taj Mahal, will remain closed after local officials in the city of Agra intervened to bar visitors to the 17th century mausoleum.

The city has been hit by rising coronavirus cases as the number of infections swell nationwide. India this week surpassed Russia as the country with the third-highest number of confirmed infections, just shy of 700,000.


US shares set to advance after surge in China whets investors’ appetite

Wall Street stocks are on course to rise on Monday, as bullish sentiment in China rippled across global markets to drive investors’ optimism for a recovery from the pandemic.

Futures suggested the S&P 500 would open up 1.2 per cent when US trading resumes following a three-day holiday weekend. In Europe, the regional benchmark Stoxx 600 gained 1.3 per cent in early afternoon trading, while London’s FTSE 100 added 1.6 per cent.

China’s CSI 300 index of Shanghai- and Shenzhen-listed shares jumped as much as 5.7 per cent on Monday, the biggest daily rise since February 2019. It closed at a five-year high, although still 13 per cent off its previous peak.

Nikesh Patel, head of investment strategy at asset manager Kempen Capital Management, said the positive sentiment from China was spreading across global markets on expectations that a recovery would drive demand for foreign goods.


‘Super Saturday’ fails to return England’s high streets to normal

Valentina Romei in London

England’s high streets did not get as much of a boost from so-called Super Saturday as many in the industry may have hoped, figures out on Monday revealed.

The number of people visiting English high streets, retail parks and shopping centres on July 4 was 48 per cent below the same shopping day last year, a “footfall” count by data consultancy Springboard showed.

And in central London and the West End, footfall was about 75 per cent lower.

Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at Springboard, said:

Despite what are positive signs for the hospitality industry on the first weekend of reopening, it is essential to recognise that footfall remains at around half of the 2019 level.

As the industry takes small steps in reopening post pandemic, we recognise there is still a long way to go before the industry returns to normality.

The survey showed that high street businesses did have a better weekend than the one before, however. High street, retail park and shopping centre footfall rose 18 per cent in England and 48 per cent in Scotland, compared with a week earlier. This reflected Scotland reopening non-essential shops for the first time, a move that England made on June 15.

Hair salons and barbers were among the businesses that reopened on Saturday


Louvre museum reopens while Pamplona’s streets remain still

The Louvre museum in Paris has welcomed visitors after a four-month lull while Pamplona’s streets were unusually still on what would traditionally be the first day of the San Fermin festival that kicks off with the running of the bulls.

The centuries’-old home to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa reopened its doors from 9am for those who took the time to book their slot in advance.

Spain cancelled the annual running of the bulls fiesta in the Navarrese capital as part of its efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus.

It was the first time the Spanish fiesta, heralded in Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises, has not been celebrated since the civil war years of 1937 and 1938. The streets welcome tourists from all over the world who don red scarves and dress in white. Visitors try and behave like toreros as they chase bulls in preparation for the festival’s bullfights. The weeklong fiesta often ends with several goring injuries.

Partygoers in front of the town hall where a ‘chupinazo’ or rocket would traditionally be fired to open the San Fermin festival

In England, a weekend relaxation of lockdown restrictions allowed pub goers to flood the streets swilling their beer while many on Saturday queued up for their first haircut in months.

Couples exchanged vows albeit in front of a small number of wedding guests at ceremonies where eating, drinking, singing and crying were discouraged, as was blowing a trumpet, even your own.

The UK’s frayed union has displayed its frailty in the devolved nations’ different responses to containing the spread of Covid-19.

The Financial Times’ free to read outlines some of the issues facing Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland:
Lockdown easing in England threatens cautious approach of devolved nations


Kenya outlines plan to ease lockdown measures in Nairobi

Donald Magomere in Nairobi and Andres Schipani

Kenya has unveiled plans to relax lockdown measures in Nairobi and the port city of Mombasa, in an effort to ease the impact of quarantine measures on the economy.

“To revive the economy, reopen and remain open, the government and its people must pull together,” the president said in a national address.

Uhuru Kenyatta outlined a gradual reopening of an economy that for almost four months has juggled the difficulties of economic hardship with restrictions imposed to control of the virus.

In June, the World Bank slashed Kenya’s economic growth to 1.5 per cent for 2020 from January’s full-year estimate of 6 per cent.

A dawn-to-dusk curfew will remain in place for another 30 days. Domestic air travel is to resume on July 15 while commercial international flights will return on August 1. Under the measures outlined by the president, churches and mosques will reopen with 100 people allowed in at any one time.

Should the pandemic get out of hand and pose a challenge to the health service, Mr Kenyatta said he would reimpose the lockdown. Kenya has recorded 7,886 positive coronavirus cases with 160 deaths.

In the next 21 days we shall study patterns of interactions and the spread of the disease. Any trends that signal a worsening of the pandemic, we will have no choice but to return to lockdown.


US stocks gain as Chinese rally drives optimism for recovery

Wall Street stocks rose sharply on Monday, as bullish sentiment in China rippled across global markets to drive investors’ optimism for a recovery from the pandemic.

The S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average opened up 1.4 per cent on Monday, despite elevated numbers of new coronavirus cases across the US as trading resumed following a three-day weekend.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite added 1.6 per cent, extending its record run. The index rose to as high as 10,376 points on Monday. President Donald Trump tweeted: “Nasdaq hits all-time high!”

The positive open follows increases by a similar margin for European stocks, which were buoyed by strong hopes of an economic recovery in China.

China’s CSI 300 index of Shanghai- and Shenzhen-listed shares jumped 5.7 per cent on Monday, its biggest daily rise since February 2019.


US services sector nears pre-pandemic growth

Growth in the US services sector nearly matched its pre-pandemic pace, mounting a sharp turnround in June as the economy continued to emerge from coronavirus shutdowns.

Economic activity in the vast non-manufacturing sector jumped to 57.1 last month from 45.4 in May, according to a closely watched survey from the Institute for Supply Management. That marked a return to growth after two consecutive months in contraction. The index hit a low of 41.8 in April, the worst reading in 11 years. It read 57.3 in February, the month before US states began shutting down businesses.

Economists had expected a June reading of 50.1, above the threshold of 50 that separates growth from contraction.

The latest data on the US economy has fuelled hopes for a recovery, even as a rise in Covid-19 cases in some parts of the country has led to a rollback in reopening plans.

“The larger than expected rebound in the ISM non-manufacturing index is another clear sign that reopenings in the Northeast contributed to another solid rise in consumption and output in June. But with the high frequency indicators now turning down, not just in the south but nationwide, the recovery looks set to slow in July,” said Michael Pearce, senior US economist at Capital Economics.

The ISM index tracking the manufacturing sector also returned to growth in June, climbing to 52.6 from 43.1 in the previous month. The labour department said last week that employers added 4.8m jobs last month, following an unexpected 2.5m jobs gained in May.

In its survey of the services sector, the ISM said business activity and new orders grew in June, while the sub-index for employment improved to a reading of 43.1, up from 31.8.

“Respondents remain concerned about the coronavirus and the more recent civil unrest; however, they are cautiously optimistic about business conditions and the economy as businesses are beginning to reopen,” said Anthony Nieves, chair of the ISM non-manufacturing business survey committee.


Israel closes bars, gyms as virus resurgence threatens repeat lockdown

Mehul Srivastava in Tel Aviv

Israel shut down bars, gyms, swimming pools and cultural venues as a resurgent outbreak of the coronavirus spread to thousands of people in just the past week.

The decision will also require about a third of government employees to work from home, and instruct restaurants to allow no more than 20 people into their premises, while shutting down cultural venues and limiting synagogues to 19 worshippers.

Swimming pools and event halls — often used for weddings — will also be shut down, and public gatherings will be limited to no more than 20 people, with strictly enforced social distancing.

The country is a “step away from a full lockdown”, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet, according to local newspapers, while the deputy health minister told reporters that the government was trying to “put the genie back in the bottle”.

Israel’s full reopening of its economy in May was being closely watched abroad, after widespread quarantines in February and a mid-March to late-April lockdown brought new infections down to approximately 20 a day.

Since then, new infections have soared, crossing 1,000 a day twice in the past week, causing widespread concern that the nation may have opened up too fast and could soon be in the midst of a full-blown outbreak.

Muted business activity, especially in the leisure sector, showed Israelis already resisting the lure of restaurants and crowded bars as they dealt with unemployment that still hovers over 20 per cent and the sudden increase in Covid-19 cases.

In the West Bank, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh demanded that Israel shut down its checkpoints into the occupied territory, as Palestinian workers brought the fresh outbreak into the region, which lacks the medical infrastructure and testing facilities of Israel.


US small business relief kept 51m people in jobs, says government

Courtney Weaver in Washington and Laura Noonan in New York

The US’s small business bailout programme has kept 51.1m people in work and loaned $520bn to ailing companies, the government said on Tuesday, ahead of the release of a highly anticipated database showing who got the money.

The Paycheck Protection Program is expected to come under intense scrutiny after the release on Monday of the names of all businesses and self-employed people who got more than $150,000 under the scheme.

The data does not include any figures on companies that received PPP loans but ended up cancelling or returning them, either because they realised they could not meet the terms of the loan, or because they had been told they were not one of the programme’s intended beneficiaries.

According to the Small Business Administration, a total of 170,000 loans —amounting to about $38.5bn — had been returned by the end of May. Those are known to include restaurant chains Shake Shack and Ruth’s Chris Steak House, which were initially granted loans totalling $10m and $20m each, despite the fact that both are publicly listed and so could have sought funding from other sources.


Florida’s Miami-Dade county orders restaurants and gyms to close

The mayor of Miami-Dade county has ordered restaurants and gyms in Florida’s most populated region to close in response to the “spike” in the percentage of people testing positive and being hospitalised for coronavirus.

Restaurants, except for takeout and delivery services, along with ballrooms, party venues, gyms, fitness centres and short-term rentals have been ordered to close, with effect from July 8, mayor Carlos Gimenez said in a statement on Monday morning, adding he wanted to ensure the county’s hospitals “continue to have the staffing necessary to save lives”. Office buildings, retail and grooming services “will remain open for now”, he added.

Beaches in the county are due to open on July 7, “but if we see crowding and people not following the public health rules, I will be forced to close the beaches again,” said Mr Gimenez.

The move by Miami-Dade county, which has 2.8m residents, follows the state government’s decision on June 26 to order bars statewide to close, throwing Florida’s reopening into reverse. Governor Ron DeSantis has pushed back on issuing an order requiring all Floridians to wear face coverings, which has led to a number of individual counties issuing their own mask mandates or other business guidelines, such as rolling back restaurant occupancy levels.

Bars and indoor dining at restaurants are suspected to have helped spread the virus in a number of states across the west and south of the US that were quicker to reopen their economies.

Florida reported a further 6,336 people tested positive over the past 24 hours, taking the total number of cases in Florida since the pandemic began to 206,447, the state’s health department revealed on Monday morning.

That is the state’s smallest single-day increase since June 30, but follows back-to-back increases of more than 10,000, including Saturday’s record of 11,458. Among US states during the pandemic, only New York on April 15 has reported a bigger single-day rise in cases.


Harvard, Princeton plan limited return to campus

Major US colleges including the universities of Harvard and Princeton have laid out plans for a limited return to their campuses during the next academic year, after shifting to remote learning during the pandemic.

Harvard University announced on Monday it will keep all courses online in 2020-21 but bring up to 40 per cent of its undergraduates to its campus. The plan calls for all first-year students and others who need to be present to be on campus at the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based school.

Harvard’s proximity to Boston and its “intergenerational residential communities” have made adapting to pandemic conditions a challenge, the school said. “Without a vaccine or effective clinical treatments for the virus, we know that no choice that reopens the campus is without risk.”

Fellow Ivy League school Princeton University said it will have each student class back on campus for one semester – first-year students and juniors in the autumn, followed by sophomores and seniors in the spring. Most courses will be taught online.

Some US colleges have said they expect to reopen classrooms and dormitories in the autumn, albeit with social-distancing and sanitisation protocols in place and expanded remote learning.

Also on Monday, Rutgers University in New Jersey revealed plans to keep most courses online with exceptions made for lab work and other instruction that would “benefit from direct access to campus facilities”. Housing on the school’s campus will be “extremely limited”.

“We have wanted very fervently to be able to resume some version of a normal semester,” said Rutgers president Jonathan Holloway.

“But given the continued increase in Covid-19 cases across the country, the near-term outlook for the public health crisis in our state, and the uncertainty about the course of the pandemic, we had to make a different decision.”


S&P 500 seeks longest winning streak of the year

A rally in US stocks has put the S&P 500 on track to register its best winning streak of the year.

Gains across the consumer discretionary, financial and technology sectors helped the S&P 500 to a 1.3 per cent rise in afternoon trading on Monday. The Nasdaq Composite was up 1.9 per cent, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 1.4 per cent.

The benchmark S&P 500 is seeking its fifth consecutive day in positive territory, which would mark its longest run since December. It jumped 4 per cent last week.

Wall Street has swung higher in recent days as investors weigh positive signs for the economic recovery against the prospect of a slower reopening amid an increase in Covid-19 cases in some parts of the country.

Growth in the vast US services sector nearly matched its pre-pandemic pace in June after two months in contraction, according to the latest survey from the Institute for Supply Management on Monday. Last week, the ISM said manufacturers also returned to growth last month.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose 0.02 percentage points to 0.691 per cent, as investors moved out of the debt. The dollar index, which measures the greenback against global peers, was down 0.4 per cent.


New Jersey’s rate of Covid-19 transmission hits 10-week high

New Jersey’s rate of coronavirus transmission reached its highest in more than two months, governor Phil Murphy said on Monday.

“Today the rate of transmission, the rate at which Covid-19 spreads from one person to another exceeds 1.0 for the first time in 10 weeks,” he said at a press conference.

For the past two days, the rate of transmission, often referred to as Rt or the R number, has been at 1.03 statewide, Mr Murphy said, meaning, on average, each coronavirus case leads to at least one more new case.

“This is an early warning sign that, quite frankly, we need to do more,” he added.

Last Monday, Mr Murphy announced indoor dining — widely suspected to have exacerbated the spread of coronavirus through states in the west and south that eased lockdown restrictions faster than the harder-hit northeast region — would not be a service offered by restaurants as part of the next stage of New Jersey’s phased reopening. New York followed its neighbour’s lead and made the same decision last Wednesday.

The two states, along with Connecticut, recently decided to impose a 14-day quarantine on people visiting or returning from a list of new hot spot states in a concerted effort to avoid a second wave of coronavirus infections.

Several recent outbreaks in New Jersey have been tied to out-of-state hot spots. Ravinder Bhalla, mayor of Hoboken, said that 12 of 13 cases in his city over Thursday and Friday were directly related to travel from hot spot regions.

A further 209 people tested positive for coronavirus in New Jersey over the past 24 hours, according to the state health department.


Eni to cut up to €4.2bn from value of assets

Anjli Raval

Italy’s Eni said it will cut up to €4.2bn from the value of its assets, marking the latest warning by an energy company about the long-lasting impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the global economy.

“Having considered the prospect of the pandemic having an enduring impact on the global economy and the energy scenario, Eni has revised its view of market fundamentals,” the company said.

Energy groups’s finances have taken a hit after the pandemic triggered a drop in oil and gas demand as well as a decline in prices as governments imposed lockdowns and travel bans.

Claudio Descalzi, chief executive, said the company was also assessing “how to speed up our plans” to decarbonise the company despite the pandemic, in line with European peers.

Eni has set new emissions targets as it responds to pressure to take greater accountability for its role in enabling climate change.

The non-cash impairment charges in the second quarter of between €2.8bn and €4.2bn come after Eni revised its energy price assumptions.

Eni sees the international crude marker Brent at $60 a barrel in 2023, versus prior assumptions of $70 a barrel. For the 2020-2022 period, prices are expected to range between $40-$55 a barrel, down from $45-$70 a barrel.

The price of Italian spot market natural gas is estimated at $5.50 per million British thermal units in 2023 compared to the previous assumption of $7.80 per mmbtu. For 2020-2022 it is expected between $3-$5.20 per mmbtu, from $3.9-$7.3 per mmbtu.


Trump stresses slowdown in deaths amid rise in Covid-19 cases

Donald Trump called attention to a slowdown in US deaths attributed to coronavirus, which has coincided with an increase in cases outside early hotspots in the northeast.

“Deaths from the China Virus are down 39%, while our great testing program continues to lead the World, by FAR! Why isn’t the Fake News reporting that Deaths are way down? It is only because they are, indeed, FAKE NEWS!” Mr Trump said in a tweet on Monday.

He added in a separate tweet:

BREAKING NEWS: The Mortality Rate for the China Virus in the U.S. is just about the LOWEST IN THE WORLD! Also, Deaths in the U.S. are way down, a tenfold decrease since the Pandemic height (and, our Economy is coming back strong!).

The number of new deaths reported each day in the US has remained below 1,000 since May 29 – excluding June 25, when New Jersey retroactively added probably deaths to its count. There have been 3,447 fatalities reported during the last seven days, down 39 per cent versus the previous week, according to data from the Covid Tracking Project.

The current total of US coronavirus deaths equal 4.3 per cent of all confirmed infections since the start of the pandemic, down from a peak of 5.7 per cent in May.

Some officials have noted a shift in the spread of coronavirus to younger Americans, which may be contributing to a lower rate of fatalities. “This is a virus that does not affect all age groups equally,” Florida governor Ron DeSantis said on Monday. In Florida, the median age of confirmed cases has dropped to 36 from numbers in the 60s early in the pandemic, Mr DeSantis said.

Mr Trump reiterated his call for schools to open in the fall, after the universities of Harvard and Princeton announced plans to reopen campuses with limited capacity.


Wall Street extends win streak

US stocks jumped on Monday in the first trading day since the Fourth of July holiday, extending what is now the S&P 500’s longest winning streak of the year.

The S&P 500 closed 1.6 per cent higher, its strongest gain in nearly three weeks and its fifth consecutive daily rise, as the consumer discretionary and communication services sectors led a broad rally. Utilities were the lone sector in the red.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite was up 2.2 per cent, with Amazon and Netflix hitting record highs. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 1.8 per cent.

Wall Street has climbed in recent sessions with investors remaining hopeful that US states will avoid a second round of widespread business shutdowns despite an increase in Covid-19 cases. Economic data has also contributed to optimism in the market. On Monday, the Institute for Supply Management’s closely watched survey showed the services sector nearly matched its pre-pandemic growth in June after two straight months in contraction.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note ticked up 0.01 percentage points to 0.681 per cent. The dollar index fell 0.4 per cent.


Greece sees jump in Covid-19 cases led by tourists from Serbia

Kerin Hope in Athens

Greece on Monday reported 36 new confirmed coronavirus cases among tourists entering the country by road from Bulgaria, the highest daily number since the crossing point re-opened on June 15.

Health authorities said 20 were Serbian passport-holders who were tested at the border on Sunday while the remainder came from other central and eastern European countries.

The crossing with Bulgaria is the only land entry point for visitors to Greece, after borders with Albania and North Macedonia were shut earlier this year.

Greece closed its borders to Serbians on Monday in response to a spike in Covid-19 cases in Belgrade, which prompted the government to declare a state of emergency in the capital.

However, the Greek government spokesman confirmed on Monday that direct flights from the UK to Athens and tourist destinations around the country would resume on July 15.

He said government health authorities would continue to monitor the situation before deciding whether to lift a ban on tourism from Sweden.

The decision to lift the ban on UK tourism raised hopes that this year’s tourist season can be partly rescued, with a sharp increase in bookings expected for August, September and October. British tourists normally come second behind Germans in terms of annual visitors to Greece.

A health ministry official said 51 people tested positive for coronavirus out of more than 8,000 tested at Athens airport since it re-opened to tourists from almost 30 countries on July 1. Three tourists staying on Crete have been isolated in a special “quarantine” hotel on the island.

Greece has recorded 192 deaths from Covid-19 following 3,562 infections since February.


Mississippi governor takes Covid-19 test, Grassley to skip Republican Convention

It was a long weekend for all Americans, and could now feel like a long wait for some after a handful of the nation’s lawmakers had brushes with coronavirus.

Mississippi governor Tate Reeves announced today he was waiting on the results of a Covid-19 test.

“It appears numerous members of the Mississippi House are confirmed to have contracted the virus last week-only one of whom I was briefly in contact with,” he said in a Twitter message.

The state’s house speaker, Philip Gunn, was among those who contracted the virus.

Another governor under the microscope is South Dakota’s Kristi Noem. Soon after watching fireworks above Mount Rushmore with Donald Trump on Friday, she accompanied the president aboard Air Force One despite recently interacting closely with Donald Trump Jr’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, who turned out to have the virus.

Ms Noem and Ms Guilfoyle had attended a campaign fundraiser. A spokesperson for the governor said she did not wear a mask on Air Force One and had chatted with Mr Trump.

Meanwhile, coronavirus concerns have got the better of Chuck Grassley, who will sit out this year’s Republican National Convention — the first time in four decades he has skipped the event.

“I’m not going to go. And I’m not going to go because of the virus situation,” the Republican senator from Iowa told reporters during a call on Monday.

This year’s convention, where Mr Trump will accept the Republican party’s nomination for reelection, will be held in Jacksonville, Florida — a state that has emerged as one of the new coronavirus hot spots in the US.


Foreign students at US universities face online course dilemma

Aime Williams in Washington

Foreign students at US universities and schools will no longer be eligible to stay in the country if their courses move fully online because of coronavirus, US immigration authorities said on Monday.

Several prominent universities have announced they will try to teach academic subjects through online lectures and classes in the autumn term to avoid students gathering in person.

Students holding visas for either academic or vocational courses that have moved fully online should either depart the country or transfer to a school with in-person teaching to “remain in lawful status”, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said, adding that a failure to do this could result in deportation proceedings being launched.

Harvard and Princeton Universities on Monday said they planned to reintroduce some students back to campus in the autumn, but many students would be offered online instruction.

The tightening of visa restrictions for foreign national students comes as the Trump administration suspends a range of different guest worker visas, affecting scientists, doctors, au pairs and some seasonal workers, among others. Mr Trump has also suspended green cards — which offer permanent residency — to respond to the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs as coronavirus ravaged the US economy.

Restrictions on travel and a blockage in the visa issuance process caused by the closure of consulates and embassies overseas have already hit non-US students hoping to study at American universities, with many unable to travel.


Percentage of people testing positive for Covid-19 hits highest since May

The US reported more than 47,000 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, as the percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus hit its highest in two months and hospitalisations continued to rise.

Although the national increase was below recent record jumps of more than 50,000 a day, California, the most populous US state, reported a record increase of more than 11,000 cases.

A further 47,375 people in the US tested positive over the past 24 hours, according to data from Covid Tracking Project, and up slightly from 42,578. In the first four days of this month, the US case tally increased by more than 50,000 each day, including a record of more than 57,500 on July 4.

California represented most of the increase, with a record 11,529 new cases. That is a record for the state and is eclipsed only by New York’s biggest jump of 11,571 on April 15.

Florida reported a further 6,336 new cases. Last week the state become the first since New York to report a daily increase of more than 10,000.

Texas reported 5,318 new cases, down from a record jump on more than 8,200 on Saturday. However, more patients are hospitalised with coronavirus here — almost 8,700 — than in any other US state at present, which is heaping pressure on its public health system.

Dallas county reported its largest one-day increase (1,214) in hospitalisations on Monday, said Clay Jenkins, the county’s chief elected official. Last week, Houston’s main hospital said the number of patients in its intensive care unit wards in the area surpassed normal capacity of 1,330 as it had to deal with a jump in Covid-19 patients.

Based on the nearly 518,400 tests conducted over the past day, the positivity rate for the US jumped to 9.1 per cent, the highest since May 8, from 6.5 per cent yesterday, according to Financial Times calculations using Covid Tracking Project data. On a seven-day rolling average, the per cent positive rate is 7.9 per cent, the highest since mid-May.

Earlier today, New Jersey governor Phil Murphy said the state’s rate of coronavirus transmission reached its highest in more than two months. The figure, often referred to as Rt or the R number, has been at 1.03 for the past two days, he said, pointing out that a number above one meant, on average, each coronavirus case leads to at least one more new case. “This is an early warning sign that, quite frankly, we need to do more,” he said.