Closed Coronavirus: US reports smallest increase in coronavirus cases in 20 days — as it happened

Virus Outbreak Florida ©AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Today’s top news: Moderna begins next phase of vaccine trial for 30,000 participants. Trump’s national security adviser tests positive for coronavirus. Infections are moving from India’s urban areas to rural villages where healthcare systems are ill-equipped to handle a surge.


News you might have missed …

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has moved to isolate the border city of Kaesong from the rest of the country because of a possible coronavirus case, marking the first time the secretive state has admitted the global pandemic is inside its borders. State news agency KCNA indicated on Sunday that a North Korean who returned to the country on July 19 from South Korea has tested positive for Covid-19.

More than a third of patients who tested positive for coronavirus had not returned to their usual state of health when interviewed two to three weeks after testing, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a telephone survey, 35 per cent had not returned to normal health. “Among persons aged 18–34 years with no chronic medical conditions, one in five had not returned to their usual state of health”, a CDC report noted.

The US recorded two coronavirus milestones at the weekend, with deaths increasing by more than 1,000 for the fifth day in a row and Florida overtaking New York to become the state with the second-highest number of confirmed infections. The 1,037 fatalities registered, down from 1,178 on Friday, marked the first time since May 23 that the death toll has risen by more than 1,000 for five consecutive days.

The Australian state of Victoria recorded its deadliest day of the pandemic on Sunday, with 10 fatalities, the government announced. The victims included a man aged in his 40s, the youngest person to die from Covid-19 in the state. Victoria reported a record 459 new cases. Pedestrian movement in Melbourne, the state capital, is just 13 per cent of normal activity, according to analyses by Citymapper and The Age, a local newspaper.

New Zealand has experienced its first July weekend with no new imported cases. There have been 25 new cases discovered among arriving passengers at the country’s airports this month, but no locally sourced infections have been recorded in almost three months. Just 21 coronavirus-positive people are being quarantined and no one is receiving hospital care for Covid-19. There have been a total of 1,206 cases in the country since the pandemic began.

India plans to take its model for digital payments global as online transactions thrive in an economy among the hardest hit by coronavirus. Since 2016, India’s Unified Payments Interface has helped propel the growth of online payments in the country of 1.4bn people. Transaction volumes rose to a record 1.34bn in June as Covid-19 raged, prompting Indians to socially distance and avoid cash.

The Australian government has sent 100 ventilators to Indonesia as part of a critical medical and laboratory equipment package to help the country fight the Covid-19 pandemic, official media reported. Antara, the state-run Indonesian news agency, reported that Australia is spending A$21m (US$15m) on Jakarta’s efforts to combat coronavirus, as part of its A$298.5m total aid to the south-east Asian archipelago during this financial year.

Debenhams, the British department store chain, is seeking buyers in an effort to secure the business and prevent it going into liquidation. The retail group has appointed the investment bank Lazard to oversee an attempted sale that is expected to start this week. It is the third time that the struggling retailer has gone through some form of insolvency process in a year. The coronavirus lockdown forced it to close all 142 of its stores.


Driving the UK’s industry effort to fight Covid-19

Michael Pooler in London

Before they emerged as one of the most valuable tools for treating acute Covid-19 patients, Dick Elsy admits he knew “little or nothing” about mechanical ventilators.

As coronavirus began to take hold, the 60-year-old engineering veteran was invited to a conference call on March 16, where senior UK minister Michael Gove urged dozens of manufacturers, including Dyson, JCB and McLaren, to fill an expected shortage of the life-saving machines.

“Gove right at the end said, ‘Well there’s a specification, over to you, industry’. And I thought to myself  . . .  how on earth is that going to bring companies together to deliver this in the sort of timeframes involved,” recalls Mr Elsy, head of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, a network of independent research centres funded by the public and private sectors.

Read more here


Hiring in a pandemic not always as easy as it looks

“There was a moment on Wednesday morning last week when it looked as if something remarkable might happen,” Pilita Clark writes in her latest Work and Careers column.

“For a brief few hours, the flood of headlines from around the world about yet more Covid-related job losses slowed to a trickle. Had it stopped altogether, it would have been the first weekday this month with no word of any more cuts.

“It did not stop of course. Reports soon came of 400 jobs going in Berlin airports; up to 200 at an Australian university and nearly 660 at a Quebec restaurant chain.

“Another tsunami of losses looms once governments stop paying the wages of workers furloughed in the outbreak. Against this gloom, it was mildly jolting last week to see a LinkedIn list of dozens of companies that are hiring rather than firing.”

Read more here


UK Treasury and banks in talks to tackle bad-debt wave

Daniel Thomas, Stephen Morris and George Parker in London

The UK Treasury is in talks with Britain’s largest banks about an industry-wide plan to help tackle the tens of billions of pounds of bad debts expected under the government’s light-touch coronavirus “bounce back” loans scheme.

More than 1m of the UK’s smallest companies have borrowed £33bn in just two months under the bounce back loan scheme, which offers state-guaranteed, six-year facilities of up to £50,000 with only minimal checks on the borrower’s ability to repay.

The scheme was designed to allow banks to lend quickly to businesses struggling to survive lockdown, but bankers and officials predict many loans will never be repaid.

Read more here


UK’s record spending on PPE comes under growing scrutiny

Gill Plimmer in London

The British government spent more on personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks and hand sanitiser in the past three months than any EU country.

Faced with a public outcry over the lack of PPE for front-line healthcare staff, the government scrambled in March to purchase supplies, much of it at inflated prices.

As a result it spent £3.2bn (€3.4bn) on medical and protective equipment — far more than Germany, the next biggest buyer of PPE, which published contracts worth €2.3bn between March 1 and July 20.

Read more here


Bundesbank chief criticises €750bn EU recovery package

The head of Germany’s central bank criticised the EU’s €750bn coronavirus recovery package approved last week in an interview published on Sunday, describing joint debt for wide-ranging transfers as “dubious”.

Bundesbank president Jens Weidmann said the rescue package needs stronger oversight, warning against it becoming a regular form of budget financing.

In an interview with newspapers of the Funke Mediengruppe, which include the Berliner Morgenpost and the Hamburger Abendblatt, Mr Weidmann said the package needed controls that would ensure funds “are used sensibly and efficiently”.

The package, agreed to on July 21 after a marathon summit of EU leaders, Wwill involve the European Commission undertaking massive borrowing on the capital markets for the first time.

Mr Weidmann, pictured, has long opposed the package’s joint borrowing scheme that would allow poorer EU countries to take out cheap loans guaranteed by richer member states.


Trump attempts shift in tone on gloomy election polls

Lauren Fedor in Washington

With just over three months to go until November’s presidential election, Donald Trump is trying a new tactic: humility.

With more national opinion polls giving Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, a widening lead over Mr Trump, the president returned to the White House podium last week for his first coronavirus press briefing in almost three months with a markedly different tone.

Mr Trump, who has repeatedly downplayed the severity of Covid-19, said on Tuesday that the outbreak, which has already killed more than 140,000 Americans, would “get worse before it gets better”, and encouraged people to wear face masks if they were unable to socially distance.

Read more here


UK field hospital budget ‘better invested in community care’

Sarah Neville in London

England’s NHS would have been in far better shape to cope with the coronavirus crisis if the £1.5bn spent on creating the Nightingale field hospitals and discharging people into care homes to clear space for Covid-19 patients, had instead been invested earlier in community care, a think-tank has argued.

The Institute for Public Policy Research said the taxpayer-funded health service had entered the pandemic in a deeply fragile condition, after years of cuts that prioritised efficiency over resilience.

A hasty search for extra beds as the virus took hold, meant the government had to provide more than £1.5bn in emergency funding to create the Nightingales, and discharge patients into the community. Many who left wards for care homes unwittingly spread the virus.

Read more here


Cyber-attacks on maritime installations soar during pandemic

Operators of ships, oil rigs and seaports are facing a huge rise in cyber-attacks during the coronavirus pandemic, as employees working from home expose installations to outside penetration, computer security experts say.

While cyber-attacks in all sectors have increased during the pandemic — a June survey by cybersecurity company McAfee indicated that remote attacks on cloud services have risen 630 per cent, while the US Federal Bureau of Investigation said it had received as many cyber-attack reports by the second week of June as it had in all of 2019 — the shipping and logistics businesses are especially vulnerable.

Most vessels lack any inbuilt encryption or authentication codes for the critical systems used for navigation. “Shipping could be seen as a soft target,” a recent industry survey by Marsh & McLennan noted.

A July report issued by Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, an insurer, said there had been 400 per cent increase in attempted cyber-attacks on the maritime sector since the coronavirus outbreak.

“Consequences of coronavirus and a sustained economic downturn could threaten long-term safety improvement and trigger an uptick in losses from cost-cutting measures, fatigued crew, idle vessels and weakened emergency response,” said Baptiste Ossena, Allianz’s head of hull insurance.

Robert Rizika, head of North America operations at Naval Dome, a marine cybersecurity consultancy, said the global maritime industry expected more than 500 “major cybersecurity breaches” to be reported this year, compared with 310 last year and 120 in 2018.

“The fact that people can’t travel and are not getting together physically, has forced them to connect … remotely, opening more of these systems to cyber attack [and] attacks are on the rise,” he said.

Mr Rizika said quarantine requirements for technicians — 14 days before boarding a ship or oil rig and potentially another 14 days when returning — was “too long to address problems with critical infrastructure”. Accommodation charges meant a visit from a technician now costs 14-28 times the pre-pandemic price.

“In addition, personnel working from home use their own PCs and own home networks that are not properly protected, causing vulnerabilities,” he said. “Often other family members, with no cyber knowledge use the same computer and network enabling more vulnerabilities.”

So far this year, a US gas pipeline operator and Swiss-Italian shipping company MSC have been hit by malware. US-based cargo facilities, including New Orleans, have been subjected to ransomware attacks, while hackers have targeted ports in Iran and Israel. In June, systems at Shahid Rajaee port in Bandar Abbas were hacked, restricting movements and creating a miles-long backlog of ships.


Toronto enforces Covid-19 rules at ‘cooling centres’

Canada’s largest city, which endured a weekend heatwave, ordered masks to be worn and physical distancing limits enforced at its “emergency cooling centres”, where residents can escape high temperatures.

The Environment and Climate Change Canada agency last week issued a heat warning for Toronto from Saturday to Monday, when it forecast days with daytime maximum temperatures of 31°C (88°F) or warmer.

The centres offer air-conditioned spaces for residents likely to be affected by heat and provide liquids and paramedic services. Visitors include the homeless and those unable to afford air conditioning.

The heatwave is expected to snap late on Monday, when temperatures are expected to fall.


Singapore ‘on track’ to clear dormitories of virus

Health officials in Singapore say they are on target to eliminate Covid-19 from foreign worker dormitories by next month.

Hundreds of new cases are found daily in crowded workers’ accommodation, but the health ministry said its Covid-19 task force is “on track to clear all the dormitories by the beginning of August 2020”.

However, that would exclude 17 standalone blocks of flats used as quarantine facilities for 28,000 workers still serving out their isolation period.

“This last batch of workers come from dormitories with a relatively high prevalence of Covid-19, and will be subject to a final test before they complete their isolation periods,” the ministry said in a statement at the weekend.

“We therefore expect the daily case counts to be high for the coming two weeks, before tapering down thereafter,” the statement added.


IBRD lends Belarus €90m to buy medical equipment

The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development will lend Belarus €90m to finance equipment for intensive care departments and ambulance services as well as coronavirus testing kits and other services, official media reported at the weekend.

The equipment will include 20 computerised tomography scanners, 460 ventilators, 200 continuous positive airway pressure machines, 800 patient monitors, 30 mobile X-ray machines and 22 renal replacement therapy machines, according to the Belta news agency.

The loan would also be used to buy 50 intensive-care ambulances equipped with ventilators, defibrillators and monitoring devices for the eastern European country of 9.5m people, Belta added.


New York governor asks Republicans to press for federal aid

The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, on Sunday called for Republicans in Congress and the state legislature to press for more federal aid to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Cuomo, a Democrat, said the state was facing a $14bn loss of revenue this fiscal year, including $5bn spent directly on combatting the pandemic.

“We know that we’d have to have drastic budget cuts if we don’t get aid,” he said. “If we don’t get state aid from Washington it’s going to be a very bad situation for this state and the people in this state.”

Mr Cuomo, pictured, announced 536 new cases on Sunday, bringing the statewide total to 411,736. There were new cases in 50 of New York’s 62 counties.


UK small businesses cut jobs as furloughs wind down

Daniel Thomas in London

Almost a quarter of small UK businesses have cut jobs in the past few months despite the government’s furlough scheme that has helped pay the wages of more than 9m workers.

Larger companies have unleashed a savage round of job cuts in recent weeks, with hundreds of employees losing their jobs at household names such as Marks and Spencer, John Lewis and Dyson.

From next week, the Treasury is starting the gradual winding down of the furlough scheme, which has partly covered small-business wages.

Read more here


US reports 62,000 new coronavirus cases

US states reported 62,000 new coronavirus cases on Sunday as Florida, Tennessee and Arizona recorded the highest number of new cases per million people.

There were 558 new deaths reported, down from the 1,037 deaths reported across the country a day earlier, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

Figures released on Sundays are often lower than the rest of the week because of the weekend effect.

Florida recorded 435 cases per million inhabitants with Tennessee adding 460 and Arizona reporting 455. Louisiana reported two days of cases at once, resulting in 826 infections per million.

The surge in infections in Florida this month pushed its overall infection tally above that of New York at the end of last week.


Lack of childcare a factor in redundancy, say UK mothers

Almost half of UK mothers who have lost or are about to lose their jobs say a lack of childcare played a role in their redundancy.

Of the employed mothers surveyed, 81 per cent of said they need childcare to be able to work, but 51 per cent do not have the necessary provision to enable them to do their job.

The survey polled 19,950 pregnant women and mothers across the UK online from July 16-18 2020 on behalf of Pregnant Then Screwed, an activist group of working mothers.

It found that 72 per cent of mothers have had to work fewer hours because of childcare issues, and 65 per cent of mothers who have been furloughed say a lack of childcare was the reason.

“This lack of childcare is destroying women’s careers,” said Joeli Brearley, founder of PTS. “They are being made redundant, they are cutting their hours, and they are being treated negatively all because they are picking up the slack.”

Ms Brearley criticised the UK government for reopening workplaces from August 1 just as schools break for summer holidays, drawing criticism from both the opposition and his own party.


Asia-Pacific equities fall while gold climbs above $1,900

Stocks in Asia-Pacific were broadly lower on Monday and gold prices climbed to a record high amid mounting US-China tensions.

In Japan, the Topix fell 1.2 per cent, South Korea’s Kospi added 0.3 per cent and the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia slipped 0.1 per cent.

Gold, which is seen as a haven in times of geopolitical uncertainty, rose 0.7 per cent to $1,914 an ounce. Concerns over the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic also helped drive prices higher.

Those moves came after the US last week ordered China to shut its Houston consulate over spying allegations with China in turn demanding Washington shut its base in Chengdu.

Chinese stocks fell sharply on Friday on the news of Beijing’s decision to close the US consulate.

The negative reaction rippled through to Wall Street with the S&P 500 closing down 0.6 per cent.

S&P 500 futures fell 0.1 per cent.


Topps issues baseball card marking Fauci pitch

The US baseball commemorative card maker Topps issued a special card at the weekend to mark the ceremonial opening pitch by immunologist Anthony Fauci at the Washington Nationals-New York Yankees game on July 23.

In the season opener, which the Walt Disney Co. said drew a record 4m viewers on its ESPN channel, Dr Fauci threw a wild pitch. However the New York-based Topps diplomatically describes his throw on the card as “a strong effort to the plate”.

The 79-year-old Brooklyn native, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, wore a Nationals hat, jersey and matching facemask. Dr Fauci has become a public face of the science-led approach to the pandemic in the US.


Resort fund raises €680m in show of faith in tourism

Alice Hancock in London

A Spanish real estate company once backed by George Soros has raised €680m for a new €1.5bn fund to invest in “sun and beach” hotels around the Mediterranean, in a sign of confidence that Europe’s struggling tourism sector will soon recover from the pandemic.

Madrid-based Azora raised €80m more than its initial goal from investors including Asian and Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds and other large institutional funds.

The fund is one of only a few in Europe to specifically target hotels and the only one focused solely on leisure travel.

Read more here


UK consumer confidence inches up from record low: Deloitte

The second quarter saw UK consumer confidence climb just one percentage point, to minus 17 per cent, from a record low in the first quarter, a survey by Deloitte published on Monday shows.

While sentiment around the state of the British economy fell a further 17 percentage points from the previous quarter, to minus 88 per cent, consumers hinted at a third-quarter bounceback with a net intent to spend rising across every discretionary category.

The Deloitte Consumer Tracker, which measures UK consumer confidence quarterly, saw UK consumers in a “cautious but slightly more positive mood”, following a record decline in consumer confidence in the first quarter of the year.

“Following a huge contraction in March and April, activity is seeing a post-lockdown bounce,” said Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte UK. “However, with confidence about the economy at record lows and high levels of concern about jobs and health, consumer spending is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels until next year at best.”

Deloitte surveyed more than 3,000 UK consumers from June 19-23, as some lockdown measures were lifted and non-essential shops reopened.


Malaysia warns of reimposition of movement restrictions

Malaysia’s cabinet may decide as early as Monday to reimpose movement control orders in the face of rising coronavirus cases, official media reported on Sunday.

The government would consider bringing back MCOs if the daily number of new Covid-19 cases reaches three digits, the Bernama news agency quoted senior defence minister Ismail Sabri Yaacob as saying.

The country recorded 23 new cases on Saturday, according to the health ministry, the highest daily toll since the MCOs were relaxed from June 10.

“The report from the health ministry is that cases are increasing due to our complacency,” Mr Sabri said.

He said cabinet would be likely to make an announcement on Monday on a proposed interstate travel ban and arrangements for Eid al Adha, an important Muslim holiday that begins on the evening of July 30.

Malaysia has reported 8,884 cases of Covid-19, including 123 deaths.


China reports 57 new local Covid-19 cases

Health officials in China reported 57 new locally transmitted cases of Covid-19 as outbreaks in Xinjiang and Liaoning continued to grow.

The western region of Xinjiang reported 41 new cases, its highest one-day tally since an outbreak was discovered in mid-July. The new infections take its total over an 11-day period to 178.

Liaoning province reported a further 14 cases of Covid-19 in Dalian on Sunday, taking the total since the outbreak was first discovered to 39.

Twelve people also tested positive for the virus but showed no symptoms. China does not include asymptomatic cases in its official tally.

Officials in the northern port city of Dalian announced a city-wide testing programme following an outbreak that has been linked to a seafood processing plant. The city has a population of about 6m.

Authorities in Dalian said early detection of cases would allow early treatment and early isolation to allow a speedy return to normal economic activity.

Jilin province, which neighbours Liaoning, reported two new cases.

The new local cases and four imported infections take China’s Covid-19 tally to 83,891.


Hong Kong records another 261 Covid-19 cases over weekend

An abattoir, a police station and a university hall of residence are among sites that recorded cases of coronavirus for the first time in Hong Kong, as the city announced 261 new cases at the weekend.

The city’s Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said two people in a slaughterhouse in Sheung Shui, near the boundary with Guangdong province, preliminarily tested positive for Covid-19. A spokesman said meat from the facility is fit for consumption.

Among other confirmed cases is a student living in a University of Hong Kong hall of residence. One of the affected student’s roommates tested preliminary positive for the virus, while another with symptoms is pending testing, the government announced.

“For the University of Hong Kong residential hall, because they are living on the same floor, they share bathrooms and toilets, there are around 10 to 20 students there, so we plan to put them under quarantine,” said Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of communicable diseases at the Centre for Health Protection.

A 48-year-old policeman also tested positive, authorities said.

Hong Kong reported 128 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday following a daily record 133 on Saturday.

A 76-year-old woman died in Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Sunday evening. A 92-year-old man died in the same hospital on Monday, bringing Hong Kong’s Covid-19 death toll to 20.

Passenger ship crews will have to remain on board their vessels during shift changes under new quarantine rules announced at the weekend.

Crew members leaving ships will no longer be permitted to go ashore in Hong Kong. They will have to stay on board until transport is arranged to take them to the airport “to avoid contact with the local community”, the government announced.

Incoming crew members arriving at the airport must be able to prove a negative result of a nucleic acid test for Covid-19. They will have to travel directly to their vessel and cannot mix with the public.


Victoria reports another record number of new cases

Health officials in the Australian state of Victoria reported 532 new Covid-19 cases overnight, a daily record, as nursing homes threatened to be overwhelmed by the pandemic.

The state government has already taken over one elderly care centre in Melbourne, St Basil’s Homes for the Aged, where several patients have died of coronavirus in recent days.

Victoria has faced a surge of thousands of new cases since the second half of June, which prompted a lockdown of 5m residents in and around Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city.

“We now have a challenge that is very different from what we had in the first wave,” said Victoria’s premier, Daniel Andrews, on Monday.

Mr Andrews said one of the main drivers of the surge was people continuing to go to work while having symptoms of Covid-19.

Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison said his government was working with state authorities to bring the aged homes outbreaks in Victoria under control. “This is a reminder that when community transmission occurs with Covid-19 the aged care sector will always be impacted,” he said.

He added that the federal government has sent 1.5m masks into care homes and dozens of patients had been transferred from aged care facilities into hospitals.

New South Wales reported 17 new cases on Monday, with premier Gladys Berejiklian saying her government was “increasingly optimistic” the state would be able to contain community transmission.

Western Australia on Monday launched the country’ first state economic recovery package in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Premier Mark McGowan said the A$5.5bn (US$3.9bn) plan would focus on creating jobs, waiving many government fees and investing in renewable energy.


Philippine police suspect 2,657 officers have Covid-19

The Philippine National Police reported on Sunday that more than 2,500 of its 205,000 officers are confirmed or probable coronavirus cases.

Most of the 1,932 confirmed cases in the force are asymptomatic, PNP spokesman Brigadier General Bernard Banac told a radio programme, adding that 10 cases have been fatal.

Brig Gen Banac said the police health service is also monitoring 725 probable cases. He said most of the officers affected by Covid-19 had been assigned to quarantine checkpoints.


Online junk food ads face total ban in Britain

Laura Hughes and Sarah Neville in London

The UK unveiled a number of sweeping curbs on the sale of unhealthy foods in Britain on Monday as well as a consultation on banning all online advertising for them.

Large restaurants, cafés and takeaways with more than 250 employees will be required to put calorie labels on menus under the government’s plans, which include tough limits on promotions by price.

The Food and Drink Federation’s chief operating officer, Tim Rycroft, denounced the proposals. “The UK’s food and drink manufacturers and the half a million people we employ — so recently the heroes heralded by the government for feeding the nation during the Covid-19 crisis — will be reeling today from this punishing blow,” he said.

Read more here


US oil production wells up after Covid-19 price crash

Derek Brower in New York and Myles McCormick in London

US oil companies have increased production by 1.2m barrels a day over the past six weeks, as they restore wells shut earlier this year and start producing from others they left unfinished as prices sank.

Output bottomed out at 9.7m b/d in the second week of June but has since risen to 10.9m b/d as activity starts to pick up in the big shale fields of Texas, according to Genscape, a division of consultancy Wood Mackenzie that monitors energy flows.

US production should now stabilise at about 11m b/d through to the end of 2020, analysts said. That is well below the 13m b/d in March before the Saudi-Russian price war and coronavirus pandemic devastated US oil prices.

Read more here


Gold hits record high as dollar weakens amid US-China tensions

Hudson Lockett in Hong Kong

Gold rose to its highest level on record and the dollar weakened as concerns over the US economic outlook and deteriorating relations between Beijing and Washington weighed on investor sentiment.

The price of the precious metal, often viewed by investors as a haven in times of uncertainty, gained as much as 1.1 per cent to a record $1,923 per troy ounce in Asian trading on Monday.

The gains for the yellow metal came as doubts mounted about the prospects for a smooth economic recovery in the US after states including Florida, Tennessee and Arizona recorded a total of 62,000 new coronavirus cases on Sunday.

Tensions between the US and China also continued to ratchet up with the arrest of a Chinese researcher US authorities said had been hiding in the country’s San Francisco consulate.

The jump for gold came as the dollar lost ground to a broad swath of global currencies. The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of peers, was down 0.3 per cent on the day.

Japan’s yen, also viewed as a haven in periods of uncertainty, touched a four-month high against the dollar, rising 0.5 per cent to ¥105.60. The pound and euro both rose 0.5 per cent to $1.2847 and $1.1706, respectively.

In equities markets most Asia-Pacific bourses notched decent gains aside from Japan, where the benchmark Topix index dipped 0.5 per cent on return from a long weekend. China’s CSI 300 index of Shanghai- and Shenzhen-listed stocks climbed 0.8 per cent while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.5 per cent.

Futures markets tipped US stocks to climb at the open on Wall Street, with the S&P 500 set to rise 0.5 per cent after finishing Friday’s session down 0.6 per cent. The FTSE 100 was expected to gain 0.3 per cent.


Food box provider Gousto seeks 1,000 extra staff

Daniel Thomas in London

UK-based Gousto is planning to recruit an extra 1,000 staff as demand for its online meal kits soars during the pandemic.

The company, which made as much revenue in the first half of the year as in all of 2019, wants to take its workforce above 2,000 across sites in London and Lincolnshire.

Gousto provides pre-packaged meal kits for more than 50 recipes, from chilli paneer masala to pesto chicken caprese salad. The group delivered 5m meals in June, up from 2.5m in January 2020.

Read more here


China’s Xi to address virtual AIIB annual meeting

The China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank said it would hold a virtual annual meeting on Tuesday.

Chinese president Xi Jinping will give the opening address to representatives of the lender’s 102 members.

The meeting, the fifth since the bank launched in 2016, would be the first to be held online, due to the spread of the coronavirus.

Finance ministers of China, Iceland and Myanmar — all AIIB vice-governors — would also speak, the bank said in a statement on Monday.

AIIB said it had approved about $19.6bn for 87 projects in 24 countries and territories since it began operations.


Ben Sherman owner plans closures to avoid collapse

Patricia Nilsson in London

The owner of UK menswear retailer Ben Sherman has entered last-resort negotiations with creditors with a plan to close more than a third of its stores and renegotiate rent with remaining landlords.

Baird Group, which also owns Suit Direct and Jeff Banks, has filed for a so-called company voluntary agreement, an insolvency proceeding that allows businesses to renegotiate debts with creditors while they continue trading.

The Leeds-based company has been hit particularly badly during the pandemic, with insolvency and closures at department store chain Debenhams, through which it runs 87 concessions, making up 60 per cent of third-party retail outlets.

Read more here


New cases in India threaten fragile rural healthcare

Stephanie Findlay in New Delhi

India has reported almost 50,000 new coronavirus cases in each of the past four days, as the virus spreads from urban areas to rural villages where the healthcare systems are ill-equipped to handle a surge in infections.

The world’s second-most populous country has more than 1.3m coronavirus cases and more than 32,000 deaths, with no sign that the spread of Covid 19 is slowing as it rages across cities and into the countryside.

State governments have been forced to reimpose lockdowns to try to contain Covid 19 infections, but the closures have come at a massive cost to economic growth.

The states of Bihar, Karnataka, West Bengal, pictured, and Andhra Pradesh are emerging as the new hotspots of the virus, recording a surge of cases that threaten to overwhelm underfunded hospitals.

In contrast with Delhi and Mumbai — which have a high concentration of private and government-run hospitals — these states do not have the same resources, with staff shortages already an issue.


Swedish companies reap benefits of Covid-19 approach

Richard Milne in Stockholm

As a debate rages in Sweden over whether its lighter-touch approach to managing coronavirus has been the correct course, most European analysts were braced for dreadful quarterly earnings from the Scandinavian country during the height of the pandemic.

But every day for the past two weeks, Swedish companies— from telecoms equipment maker Ericsson to consumer appliances manufacturer Electrolux via lender Handelsbanken and lockmaker Assa Abloy — have delivered profits well above what the market was expecting.

The bumper crop begs the question of how many of the positive surprises are due to Sweden’s more controversial approach to managing coronavirus.

Read more here


China’s industrial profits rise at fastest rate in over a year

Chinese industrial companies’ profits grew at the fastest pace in more than a year in June, suggesting signs of recovery following the Covid-19 outbreak.

Profits grew by 11.5 per cent year on year in June, up from a 6 per cent expansion in May. That was the strongest increase since March 2019.

“The acceleration of monthly industrial profit growth in June further confirms that the economic recovery was still on track,” economists at Citi said in a note.

“Looking ahead, we see a continuation of economic recovery driven by investment and a further easing of industrial deflation.”

China has managed to largely control the pandemic following strict lockdowns in the spring. Health officials are now quick to reimpose restrictions and roll out mass testing when localised outbreaks are discovered in a bid to contain the virus.

Iris Pang, chief China economist at ING, said profit growth was concentrated in “stimulus driven industries”, such as steel and non-ferrous metals used in infrastructure projects.

Technology-related industries also recorded growth, which was “most likely due to domestic 5G infrastructure developments”, Ms Pang said.


Pandemic drives boom in ‘air button’ technologies

Siddharth Venkataramakrishnan in London

The coronavirus pandemic is driving a boom in “air button” technologies that allow users to operate devices without physically touching them, as concerns persist over the spread of the virus through contact with surfaces.

This week, Jaguar Land Rover announced that it was trialling a contactless movement-tracking system — dubbed “predictive touch” — for its dashboard control panel.

“Predictive touch technology eliminates the need to touch an interactive display and could therefore reduce the risk of spreading bacteria or viruses on surfaces,” said Lee Skrypchuk, a human-machine interface technical specialist at JLR.

Read more here


North Korea defector coronavirus-free says Seoul

Edward White in Wellington

A defector blamed by Pyongyang for potentially spreading coronavirus inside North Korea after apparently swimming across the border from South Korea does not appear to have been infected, Seoul said on Monday.

The statement from health officials in Seoul, which comes two days after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un moved to lock down the border city of Kaesong in response to the potential Covid-19 outbreak, raises further questions about the veracity of Pyongyang’s claims over the source of transmission.

“The [defector] is neither registered as a Covid-19 patient nor classified as a person who came in contact with virus patients,” said Yoon Tae-ho, a health ministry official.


Coronavirus turns the City into a ghost town

Daniel Thomas, Stephen Morris and Oliver Ralph in London

A week after prime minister Boris Johnson announced he would relax lockdown rules to allow workers to return to offices, the City’s largest employers show little sign of accelerating plans to get staff back at their desks.

Coronavirus is threatening to permanently transform the traditional workplace and with it London’s semi-autonomous financial centre, which traces its roots back to 1376.

Many of the executives who spoke to the Financial Times said some staff would not return at all given the success of working at home during the lockdown.

Read more here


Modi stumbles: India’s deepening Covid-19 crisis

Amy Kazmin in New Delhi

India’s draconian lockdown — imposed with no warning, no planning and no transparency into the policy deliberations or scientific advice behind it — fit perfectly with prime minister Narendra Modi’s highly personalised, muscular leadership style.

Virtually all economic activity — including logistics, manufacturing, public transport and most healthcare — came to a near total standstill. About 140m vulnerable workers were thrust into crisis as their earnings collapsed.

Yet for all the human suffering and economic damage it inflicted, India’s lockdown failed to flatten — or even slightly bend — the country’s coronavirus curve.

Read more here


Top medic urges delay to Sydney Black Lives Matter march

Australian health officials have urged Black Lives Matter organisers to call off a march scheduled for Tuesday in Sydney.

Nick Coatsworth, Australia’s deputy chief medical officer, said on Monday that the protest, expected to draw at least 4,000 people, should be postponed.

“Our activities have had to be put on hold for Covid-19,” he said on Monday. “It’s definitely not the time now.”

He urged organiser Paddy Gibson to schedule the march for after the pandemic.

On Sunday, the New South Wales Supreme Court banned the march, but Mr Gibson said it was “critical” the rally went ahead as scheduled.

But Dr Coatsworth noted there were unlinked cases of community transmission in New South Wales. “It’s not our view that gathering together can be done safely.”

He told Mr Gibson he would be part of the protest held at a future date. “When it can be done safely, I’ll be out there with you, Paddy.”


Ryanair slides to €185m loss as passenger numbers collapse

Bethan Staton in London

Ryanair’s profits plummeted in its most recent quarter, as the coronavirus pandemic forced airlines to ground their fleets and caused passenger numbers and revenues to slump.

The budget carrier’s first-quarter results released on Monday showed a net loss of €185m in the first quarter of this fiscal year, compared with a net profit of €243m in the same period the previous year.

“The past quarter was the most challenging in Ryanair’s 35-year history,” the carrier said in a statement.

More than 99 per cent of flights were grounded and the number of passengers fell from 42m to 500,000 in April-June as the lockdown took hold. Revenue fell by almost €2.2bn, to €125m.

“A second wave of Covid-19 cases across Europe in late autumn (when the annual flu season commences) is our biggest fear right now,” the airline said in a statement.


European corporate news round-up

Rating agency Moody’s cut engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce’s credit rating to junk status on the negative outlook for the commercial aerospace industry over the next 12 to 18 months. It follows a similar move by S&P two months earlier, which downgraded the group to below investment grade.

Ryanair suffered a €185m loss in the three months to June, compared with a net profit of €243m a year earlier, as the coronavirus pandemic forced airlines to ground their fleets and caused passenger numbers to fall 99 per cent.

French clinical diagnostics group Novacyt, whose shares have increased more than 19 times this year, revealed plans to launch a range of products to test and detect Covid-19. The products include mobile testing kits, an antibody test and a respiratory testing panel to distinguish between coronavirus and other diseases such as influenza.

Amigo Loans has secured an extension to the waiver on covenant tests for its securisation facility from July 24 to August 14. The securitisation will move into gradual amortisation if amendments are not agreed by that date.

Oil producer Cairn Energy sold its 40 per cent stake in Senegalese assets to Russia’s Lukoil for a cash consideration of up to $400m, following a collapse in oil prices due to the pandemic and price war. Cairn Energy will be reimbursed for capital expenditure on the oilfields since the start of the year and it intends to pay investors $250m in a special dividend.


German business confidence climbs out of doldrums

Federica Cocco in London

German business confidence has increased sharply, a survey has shown, although optimism among the nation’s companies remains below pre-pandemic levels.

The Ifo Institute’s business climate index rose to a reading of 90.5 in July from 86.2 in June. This was its highest level since February and topped economists’ expectations. Before coronavirus spread across the globe, the index had been above 95.

The Ifo survey showed a considerable improvement in the business climate in the manufacturing sector, although sentiment remains depressed. The manufacturing section of the index hit a reading of minus 12, compared with minus 22.7 in June.

Capacity utilisation increased from 70.4 per cent to 74.9 per cent, but remained below its long-term average of 83.5 per cent.

In Germany’s service sector, the business climate index rose strongly into positive territory, rising to 2 from minus 6 in June.

“The German economy is recovering step by step,” said Clemens Fuest, president of the Ifo Institute, adding that companies were considerably more satisfied with the current business situation than in previous months.


Airline shares tumble following travel restrictions

Shares in Europe’s biggest travel companies tumbled on Monday as newly imposed travel curbs raised fears over the pandemic’s lasting impact on the industry.

Low-cost carrier easyJet led the declines among major airlines with a fall of more than 13 per cent, while British Airways owner IAG lost 9 per cent. Tour operator Tui slid more than 15 per cent. 

Ryanair slipped 8 per cent, having posted a big loss earlier on Monday and warned that a new wave of infection in the autumn was “our biggest fear right now”. 


Pandemic leads to wave of litigation in US

Oliver Ralph in London

Covid-19 has unleashed a wave of litigation across the US, with shareholders, employees and customers all suing companies over their response to the pandemic.

According to data from Praedicat, a risk analysis company, more than 200 complaints have already been filed in US courts over coronavirus. More than half of the complaints come from cruise ship passengers and care home staff and residents. Hospitals, warehouses, restaurants and meat packing facilities are also the targets of legal action.

“Already, we are seeing that nursing home complaints are accelerating while cruise line complaints are levelling off,” said David Loughran, chief economist at Praedicat.
Praedicat’s data does not include disputes over insurance coverage, which have led to hundreds more cases in front of US courts.


Bitcoin rises to highest level since February

Cryptocurrency bitcoin has hit its highest level against the dollar since February,

A single bitcoin now trades at $10,177, according to Refinitiv data, a level it has not reached since February 14.

The cryptocurrency, which is often volatile, has rallied in the past two weeks, tracking a similar run-up in the gold price and after trading in a tight range since late May.

Fans of bitcoin believe investing in the cryptocurrency provides a haven against market volatility and the effect on fiat currencies such as the dollar and the euro from central banks’ stimulus efforts.

As our colleagues on FT Alphaville pointed out in this March article however:

Whereas other safe havens tend to show negative correlations with so-called risk assets like stocks or oil or high-yield bonds, bitcoin tends to show no correlation to anything (apart from other cryptocurrencies).

On March 9, a day when stock markets fell sharply, US government bonds rallied and gold hit a seven-year high, the price of bitcoin fell by almost 10 per cent, Alphaville reported.


Hong Kong to implement new safety and distancing measures

Nicolle Liu in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has banned gatherings of more than two people, stopped people dining in restaurants and made face coverings mandatory in all public places after a resurgence in coronavirus cases.

The local government announced the safety and distancing measures as total confirmed cases of the virus in the Chinese territory topped 2,700.

Hong Kong moved swiftly and aggressively to contain Covid-19 in January, and with its continued efforts to prevent the spread of the virus only 20 local lives have been lost to the pandemic.

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung said on Monday that dining-in will be banned for seven days, wearing masks will be mandatory for indoor and outdoor public places, and sports premises and swimming pools will be temporarily closed.

He added that Chief Executive Carrie Lam had made a request to the central government in Beijing to help boost Hong Kong’s testing capacity and assist with setting up a mobile hospital.

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan said the sources of many recent infections remained unknown and the government would expand voluntary virus testing to about 500,000 people from high-risk groups in the community, including minibus drivers and wet market stallholders.


UK defends Spain quarantine as industry warns of ‘hammer blow’

The travel industry and business lobby groups have criticised the British government’s decision to impose new travel restrictions on Spain, measures that have dealt a significant blow to hopes of a late-summer revival for the tourism industry.

About 600,000 British tourists are due to fly into Spain this week, according to estimates based on flight-tracking data from the PC Agency, a travel PR group.

The British Chambers of Commerce said the “abrupt” decision to impose quarantine measures on anyone returning from Spain “will be yet another hammer blow for the fragile travel and tourism industries”.

Tui, Europe’s largest tourism group, said it would not cancel holidays to the Balearic or Canary Islands, and called for a more “nuanced” policy allowing quarantine-free travel to some parts of Spain.

The UK has defended the imposition of quarantine rules without warning over the weekend, saying it had been forced to act “quickly” after seeing data at the end of last week showing a rapid rise in infections in parts of Spain. The decision led to an angry response from Madrid, which has insisted the pandemic is under control.


New: FT global economic recovery tracker

The world is slowly emerging from the coronavirus pandemic that has resulted in the most severe global economic contraction since at least the 1930s.

Where lockdowns have eased and the virus is under control, economic activity is starting to recover — but because there is a lag of weeks to months between when official economic data is produced and the period of time it covers, it is out of date before it is published.

The FT will be tracking the most relevant alternative indicators to provide a first snapshot of changes in activity as they happen across key sectors and countries.

Below are some of today’s charts.

Open the tracker here.


US gas driller EQT falls to $263m loss after production shut-ins

Myles McCormick

Closure of production wells and weak prices pushed EQT, the biggest natural gas producer in the US, to a $263m loss in the second quarter.

The shale gas group slashed production by 1.4bn cubic feet of natural gas equivalents (bcfe) in May as a result of the slump in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic. While it has begun bringing supply back online, the shut-ins meant sales volumes were down 7 per cent in the three months to June.

The curtailments — coupled with a 9 per cent slide in prices — left it nursing a net loss of $263m, down from a $126m profit in the same period last year and worse than analysts had anticipated.

But chief executive Toby Rice sought to draw attention to the company’s efforts to cut costs since management was overhauled last year, with capital expenditure down by a third.

“Since last July, this management team has been unrelenting in our quest to deliver on our promises, which have been validated by our operational results.”

Free cash flow, a closely watched metric in the US oil and gas industry, remained weak at negative $82m, roughly in line with the same quarter last year.


Moderna begins Phase 3 trial for potential vaccine

Hannah Kuchler in New York

Moderna has kicked off its largest clinical trial for its potential Covid-19 vaccine, dosing the first of 30,000 participants.

Shares in the Boston-based biotech rose 8 per cent in pre-market trading after it said it had begun the phase three trial, which is usually the last before a vaccine is submitted for regulatory approval.

The trial is being conducted in conjunction with the US National Institutes of Health at sites across the US. Francis Collins, the NIH director, said having a vaccine by the end of 2020 was a “stretch goal” but the “right goal for the American people”.

Stephane Bancel, Moderna’s chief executive, told CNBC that he estimated the vaccine had a 75 per cent chance of meeting the Food and Drug Administration’s requirement of being 50 per cent effective. The company expects efficacy data from its phase two trial to be available in late August or September, he added.


US durable goods rise for second straight month

US demand for long-lasting goods grew for the second straight month, as business spending continued to recover from the depths of coronavirus-related shutdowns.

Durable goods orders advanced 7.3 per cent in June versus the prior month, better than the 7.2 per cent gain that economists anticipated. In May, orders were up 15.1 per cent, having been revised down from 15.7 per cent.

The US Census Bureau said transportation equipment led the increase last month, including strong gains in motor vehicles and parts. Primary metals, fabricated metal products and machinery also recorded increases in new orders.

Orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft – a gauge of business investment – were up 3.3 per cent. That beat economists’ forecast for a 2.3 per cent rise and outpaced a 1.6 per cent gain in May.

“Durable goods orders and shipments are unlikely to post a repeat of their strong performances in May and June in the coming months,” said economists at Oxford Economics.

“The sugar rush from reopenings has now faded and a resurgence of domestic coronavirus cases, alongside very weak demand, supply chain disruptions, historically low oil prices, and high levels of uncertainty will weigh heavily on business investment.”

Wall Street futures pointed to a higher open on Monday. Futures for the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite were up 0.4 per cent and 0.9 per cent, respectively.


Trump’s national security adviser tests positive for coronavirus

James Politi in Washington

Robert O’Brien, Donald Trump’s national security adviser, has tested positive for coronavirus, making him the highest ranking official in the White House to contract the disease.

“He has mild symptoms and has been self-isolating and working from a secure location off-site. There is no risk of exposure to the president or the vice president,” the White House said in a statement.

Mr O’Brien was infected following a family event and is working from home, Bloomberg News reported.

Mr O’Brien, previously a Los Angeles-based attorney, was tapped last year by Mr Trump to serve as his national security adviser following the tumultuous exit of John Bolton, his predecessor, amid clashes with the president. He had recently returned from a visit to multiple European capitals for talks on China policy, in a bid to shore up western support for Washington’s hardline approach.


US equities make gains as dollar slips to two-year low

US stocks started the week on the front foot ahead of the Republicans unveiling on Monday their proposals for a new round of stimulus to support the economy and the Federal Reserve convening this week for its latest meeting on monetary policy.

The S&P 500 gained 0.6 per cent in early trading on Monday, after falling in the previous two sessions. Meanwhile, the technology-heavy Nasdaq gained 1.3 per cent.

The dollar weakened to a two-year low on Monday as sharp increases in US coronavirus cases and flare-ups around the world weighed on investor confidence.

The dollar index, which measures the currency against a basket of peers, slipped 0.8 per cent to its lowest level since June 2018, as fears mount that the continuing spread of Covid-19 in the US will dampen the economic recovery.


Belgium tightens restrictions further limiting social contact

Mehreen Khan in Brussels

Belgium has announced new limits on social contact as the country has reported a spike in new Covid-19 cases.

Speaking after a meeting of the country’s national security country, Belgian prime minister Sophie Wilmès announced a restriction in the “social bubble” of contact to five people per household from Wednesday for the next four weeks. This is a reduction of 15 new people a week that has been in place since late June as the country had gradually lifted its confinement measures.

Belgium has reported a steep rise in new Covid-19 cases in the last week, up 71 per cent from an average of 163 to 278 in the week ending July 23.

“We are worried about the situation,” said Ms Wilmès, who added Belgium’s rising cases was not unique to the country.

The epicentre of new cases has been the Flemish town of Antwerp. Ms Wilmès urged the country’s regional authorities to impose “strong” measures to limit the spread of the virus but stopped short of announcing a local lockdown in Antwerp.

The prime minister said shopping trips should be limited to one person and for no longer than 30 minutes. Restaurants, gyms and health centres will also be required to keep a register of visitors.

“The measures taken today are very strong. We need time to observe their effect. We ask for your patience”, said Ms Wilmès .


Florida reports fewest new Covid-19 cases and deaths in weeks

Peter Wells and Matthew Rocco in New York

Florida reported fewer than 9,000 new coronavirus cases on Monday for the first time in almost three weeks and the fewest new deaths in a fortnight.

A further 8,892 people tested positive for Covid-19 over the past 24 hours, the state health department revealed this morning, from 9,344 on Sunday. That is the first time since July 9 Florida has reported fewer than 9,000 new cases.

Coronavirus-related fatalities in the state rose by an additional 77, from 78 a day earlier, but this was the lowest number of new deaths since July 13.

Figures on Monday tend to be lower than other days of the week owing to weekend delays in reporting.

Although Florida reported back-to-back days of more than 12,000 cases on Friday and Saturday – among its biggest ever – and on Saturday overtook New York to become the US state with the second-highest number of total infections,
there are glimmers of hope things might be levelling off.

The seven-day average now sits at 10,336 new cases a day, down from a record rate of 11,870 on July 17, according to Financial Times analysis of Covid Tracking Project data.

In another encouraging sign, the rate of tests coming back positive has dipped below 12 per cent for three consecutive days. It hit 11.4 per cent in the last day, according to state figures, even with the fewest number of daily tests conducted (88,814) in about a week. Florida reported a one-day positivity rate of 15.1 per cent two weeks ago.

Florida did report 173 new fatalities last Thursday, a one-day record for the state, which pushed its seven-day average death rate to a record of slightly more than 127 a day on Saturday. It was about 124 today.


Google delays return to office until July 2021 for most employees

Richard Waters in San Francisco

Google has told its workers around the world that most will not need to come back to the office until at least next July, as Silicon Valley companies continue to push out the boundaries of working from home.

The biggest US tech companies were the first to send workers home when the pandemic struck earlier this year, and were also among the first to push out their return-to-work dates until next year. Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has also said that he expects half of his company’s employees to work remotely a decade from now.

Google’s decision makes it the first big US company to give workers a full year to decide where to work from. On Monday, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google’s parent, Alphabet, told staff the delayed return was to give workers more leeway to organise their lives to cope with the extended uncertainty from Covid-19.

“I hope this will offer the flexibility you need to balance work with taking care of yourselves and your loved ones over the next 12 months,” Mr Pichai wrote.

Google has already reopened many offices to let people come back on a limited rotation, with a small number in key jobs required to be in the office.


Major League Baseball postpones two games after Marlins’ coronavirus outbreak

Sara Germano

A coronavirus outbreak among one of its teams forced Major League Baseball to postpone two games on Monday, leaving the future of the sport’s season in the balance less than a week after beginning play.

The postponements underscore the deep challenges facing US sports, which are in the very early stages of attempting restarts amid the pandemic which is only escalating in America.

MLB said it is postponing two games scheduled for Monday, between the Baltimore Orioles and Miami Marlins, and between the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies, amid reports of a coronavirus outbreak among the Marlins.

ESPN on Monday reported that 11 players on the team have contracted the virus. The Florida-based team played three games in Philadelphia to start the season over the weekend. As a precaution, the league said the Marlins are quarantining in place as they undergo further testing, and the games between both teams and their next opponents are thus postponed.

Baseball became the first of the four major US sports to resume play when its postponed season launched on Thursday after acrimonious negotiations between the league and its players association played out earlier in the spring. Ratings showed its first match was the most-watched regular-season game in nine years.


Greece poised to ban traditional August village festivals

Kerin Hope in Athens

Greece is poised to ban scores of traditional August festivals around the country because of fears that overcrowding in village streets and squares could cause a rapid upsurge in coronavirus cases.

The festivals, featuring local folk music and all-night dancing, are popular with tourists but could become hotspots for the virus to spread, Nikos Hardalias, the deputy minister for citizens’ protection, warned at the weekend.

Greece has recorded significantly fewer cases of Covid-19 than its Balkan neighbours Bulgaria and Serbia but the number of new coronavirus cases has edged up this month with more infections recorded in Athens and the northern city of Thessaloniki.

Out of 35 new cases reported on Monday, 17 were in Athens and two in Thessaloniki, the public health organisation EODY said. Four tourists tested positive for Covid-19 at airports around Greece.

Stelios Petsas, the government spokesman, warned on Monday that Greeks were becoming complacent about social distancing and were regularly gathering in large crowds on beaches and in bars.

“With the number of imported cases [from tourists] remaining low, it seems that we in Greece are too relaxed, which is shown by recent unacceptable levels of overcrowding,” he said.

Greece has recorded 4,227 cases of Covid-19. The death toll stands at 202.


Kenya extends curfew as coronavirus cases jump

Donald Magomere in Nairobi and Andres Schipani in Manaus

Kenya has extended a nationwide dusk-to-dawn curfew for another 30 days as coronavirus cases in the east African country have rocketed.

President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Monday that police will continue to enforce anti-coronavirus orders as he further decried the aggressive surge of infections among Kenya’s young population that is endangering the elderly.

His remarks come amid complaints of police brutality in enforcing coronavirus restrictions. Human Rights Watch has already warned about violence from Kenyan security forces enforcing measures to fight the pandemic.

“The harsh reality is that we are at war with an invisible, ruthless and relentless enemy,” said Mr Kenyatta. “This is not politics or tribalism.” Mr. Kenyatta also ordered that no alcoholic drinks will be sold in restaurants and eateries. The curfew was first imposed on March 27.

Reported cases have more than doubled in the east African country, in part due to improved testing capacity, since the lockdown was first lifted three weeks ago. Kenya recorded 17,975 infections on Monday as the virus spreads from urban centres to rural areas where the healthcare systems are poorly equipped to handle the escalating number of cases. The day before the lockdown was lifted on July 6, the country recorded 7,886 cases.

Mr Kenyatta has called for authorities and citizens to do their part to combat the virus, which has already killed 285 people in Kenya, as health officials warn that the rising number of cases can overrun the available health infrastructure. “The government cannot police the morality of its citizens. We cannot have a policeman on every street, village, home to enforce the rules. In war, survival is key, self-preservation is the priority for all in a theatre for war,” he said.


Luxury retailer LVMH’s profit dives as Covid-19 bites

Leila Abboud in Paris

The world’s biggest luxury group LVMH slashed spending on store leases, hiring, and advertising to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic yet saw operating profit dive by 68 per cent in the first half of the year.

The group controlled by billionaire Bernard Arnault delivered a weaker-than-expected operating profit of €1.67bn and an operating margin of 9 per cent as store closures and travel restrictions gored its business, which relies heavily on Chinese and American tourists shopping in Europe’s fashion capitals.

Analysts had forecast first-half operating profit of €2.7bn, according to FactSet consensus.

Sales of fashion and handbags, led by its biggest brands Louis Vuitton and Dior, held up better than those of watches and jewellery from brands like Bulgari and TAG Heuer. Second-quarter sales contracted 38 per cent on a like-for-like basis to reach €7.8bn, worsening after a 17 per cent like-for-like decline in the first quarter.

“Our big brands have proven quite resilient, often more than the smaller ones, in terms of top and bottom line, but travel restrictions have hit parts of our business, such as DFS, quite hard,” said chief financial officer Jean Jacques Guiony. The DFS business unit includes duty-free stores in airports and the beauty retailer Sephora.

“We cut costs by about 30 per cent in the second quarter but we do not want to cut too deeply so as to be ready for the recovery when it inevitably comes,” he said.


US stocks advance while dollar falls

Wall Street advanced on Monday driven by tech stocks and expectations for further stimulus as Republicans’ readied to reveal their proposals.

The S&P 500 rose 0.7 per cent led by technology and materials sectors. The Nasdaq Composite rose 1.7 per cent.

The gains come as Republican lawmakers are set to unveil their proposals for a fresh round of stimulus to help blunt the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy.

Investors also continued to weigh up rising coroanvirus cases across the US, which now include President Donald Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien, alongside hopes of a treatment. Moderna began the first Phase 3 study of a Covid-19 vaccine in the US on Monday, sending shares in the biotech 9 per cent higher.

Elsewhere in markets, gold climbed more than 2 per cent in intraday trading on Monday to a record high of $1,945.16 a troy ounce before slightly trimming its gains as the US dollar dropped. The dollar index, a gauge of the buck against a weighted basket of peers, fell 0.8 per cent to 93.70 — its lowest level since June 2018.

The gains also come ahead of the Federal Reserve’s latest monetary policy decision and earnings from tech heavy-hitters such as Amazon, Apple and Alphabet due Thursday.


Sunbelt states show signs of slowdown in new infections

The recent surge in coronavirus across the US sunbelt is showing tentative signs of slowing, even as the spread remains at sustained levels compared with a few months ago.

Florida on Monday had its smallest increase in cases — fewer than 9,000 — for the first time in nearly three weeks and California and Arizona both reported the fewest number of new infections in about a week.

These smaller increases may be the nascent sign of a more encouraging trend in US coronavirus data, even though last week the national total of cases since the pandemic began topped 4m and overall infections in California and Florida separately overtook New York’s caseload.

Seven-day averages for new cases in a number of hard-hit states such as Florida, Texas and Arizona are now below longer-term measures of infection: a potential sign record daily increases are behind them. Although it is still early days, such crossovers accompanied the improvement for northeastern states that were the hardest hit during the earlier stages of the national crisis.

The seven-day average of new cases in the US, of 66,158 a day, on Sunday fell below the 14-day average of new cases for the first time since June 13, according to Financial Times analysis of the most recent data from Covid Tracking Project. In mid-June, the seven-day average was just over 21,000.

Florida reported 8,892 new cases on Monday, the fewest since July 7, which brought its seven-day average to a two-week low of 10,336 a day and back from a record 11,870 on July 17. The state’s seven-day average has now been below its 14-day measure for six consecutive days, which previously occurred with any consistency in May.

Texas has seen its seven-day average remain below its 14-day average for three straight days as of Sunday. The most recent time that happened was late May.

Arizona is showing some of the most notable progress. The state on Monday confirmed a further 1,813 coronavirus cases, the fewest in a week. Its seven-day average has eased to 2,663, from a peak of 3,844 in early July, and has been below its 14-day average since July 13.

Helped by Florida and Texas, as well as turning trends in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, the seven-day average for cases in the south has been below the 14-day measure on Friday for the first time since May 28.

Shorter-term averages for states in the west and midwest still remain slightly above their 14-day trends, but have been converging.

Crossovers do not always lead to a decline in cases thereafter. Since the start of June, California’s seven-day average has fallen below its 14-day average a handful of times, and caseloads still continued to climb.

In financial markets, shorter-term price averages moving below longer-term averages is often interpreted by technical analysts of further declines. In the case of coronavirus, that would suggest decreasing numbers of daily cases.


US reports smallest increase in coronavirus cases in 20 days

The US reported its smallest daily increase in daily coronavirus deaths in three weeks, helped by an apparent slowdown in new infections in hard-hit states such as Florida, California and Texas.

A further 55,134 people tested positive for the disease in the past 24 hours, according to Covid Tracking Project, from 61,713 on Sunday. That is the smallest increase since July 7.

Helping that trend, Florida (8,892) and Texas (4,267) reported their smallest daily increases since early July, while California (6,891) had its smallest jump in a week.

Data on Mondays tend to be lower than other days of the week owing to weekend delays in reporting. The case counts last Thursday and Friday were both above 70,000.

Overall, 17 states reported one-day increases of more than 1,000 cases, a near-record proportion.

Deaths rose by 1,059, from 558 on Sunday. This is the sixth time in seven days fatalities have increased by more than 1,000 a day, a pace last seen in May.

Texas’s health department announced it would now report coronavirus fatalities based on death certificates. A fatality is counted as a coronavirus fatality when the medical certifier attests on a death certificate that Covid-19 is a cause of death.

This change meant the state has now identified 5,713 fatalities among Texas residents since the pandemic began, including 44 that were newly reported on Monday. This compares with the total of 5,038 deaths reported on Sunday using the previous method.

Covid Tracking Project said it had “located backfill dates” for most of the remaining 631 fatalities, but that manually adjusting these “will take some time”.