Closed Coronavirus: US reports biggest one-day jump in cases in two weeks — as it happened

FILE PHOTO: Health care worker uses a swab to test man at COVID-19 drive in testing location in Houston, Texas ©Adrees Latif/Reuters

Today’s top news: Tough new restrictions for north-east England. In France, tighter measures for Lyon and Nice. Ryanair hit by major shareholder revolt.

News you might have missed

Wildfires in California over recent weeks have contributed to a drop in daily testing in the state, taking its more medium-term measures of tests below 100,000 a day on Thursday for the first time in more than two months.

Florida reported its biggest increase in coronavirus cases in nearly a week, with further 3,255 people testing positive for Covid-19 over the past 24 hours, state authorities revealed this afternoon, up from 2,355 on Wednesday. That was a six-day high.

The New York tri-state area has removed California and five other states from its coronavirus quarantine list, a major development for the state that became one of the major hotspots for the virus in the US over summer.

South Africa’s central bank has kept interest rates on hold even as it forecast a deeper hit to Africa’s most industrialised economy. Lesetja Kganyago, the governor of the South African Reserve Bank, said it had left its benchmark rate at 3.5 per cent over signs that inflation would remain low after the country’s lockdown, which is now loosening.

French health minister Olivier Véran said new restrictions to slow the accelerating spread of infections would be applied to the cities of Lyon and Nice, while Marseille and the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe could face even tighter measures than those already in place, including the possible closure of bars and bans on public meetings.

Teenage students in the largest school system in the US will recommence in-person learning later than originally planned, with New York City mayor Bill de Blasio announcing the restart date for middle and high school students had been pushed back for a second time to October.

Pharmacy chain CVS Health plans to add more than 2,000 new drive-through test sites across the US. The Rhode Island-based company said it expects to have more than 4,000 sites operating by mid-October, with over 400 sites opening this Friday.

First-time claims for unemployment aid in the US resumed their gradual decline. There were 860,000 new applications for jobless aid on a seasonally adjusted basis for the week ending September 12, compared with 893,000 the previous week, the Department of Labor said on Thursday.

England will be subject to tough new restrictions from Friday. Residents within Northumberland, North Tyneside, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Gateshead, South Tyneside, Sunderland and County Durham, will be unable to socialise with individuals outside of their household or support bubble.

Ryanair has been hit by a major shareholder revolt over its pay awards to top executives including Michael O’Leary, as investors target airline remuneration policies with the industry mired in a historic crisis.

Texas reports more than 3,000 new cases for third day running

Peter Wells in New York

Texas reported increases in new coronavirus cases and deaths on Wednesday that remained in line with recent averages.

A further 3,518 people in the state tested positive, authorities revealed this evening, up from 3,409 yesterday and following a near-three week high on Tuesday of 4,816. That also compared with 3,852 last Thursday.

Authorities continue to report old cases stemming from backlogs of tests from commercial laboratories. Today, there were 529 such historical cases across seven counties that were added to the statewide total, but left out of the daily data.

Deaths rose by 112, down from 135 yesterday and compared with 161 last Thursday.

Georgia becomes fifth US state to confirm 300,000 Covid cases

Peter Wells in New York

Georgia on Thursday became the fifth US state to surpass 300,000 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic.

A further 1,901 people there tested positive for Covid-19 over the past 24 hours, state authorities revealed this afternoon, down from 2,257 yesterday but on par with an increase of 1,902 last Thursday.

That took the total number of confirmed cases in the Peach State since the start of the outbreak to 300,903.

Deaths rose by 56, up from 24 on Wednesday and compared with 76 a week ago. That took the total number of fatalities there to 6,474, the 10th highest total among US states.

Georgia’s approach to dealing with coronavirus has been tortuous. A month ago, governor Brian Kemp signed an executive order allowing local governments to enact their own mask mandates, having long pushed back on a statewide order even as cases rose during the summer. His reluctance drew the ire of regional leaders in Atlanta, the state capital, Augusta and Savannah.

Mr Kemp, a Republican, in July sued Keisha Bottoms, the mayor of Atlanta, for introducing a mask mandate in the city, describing her order as “unenforceable”. Ms Bottoms, a Democrat, had tested positive for Covid-19 earlier that month. Mr Kemp later dropped the lawsuit.

US average daily death toll rises to highest in two weeks

Peter Wells in New York

The US reported its smallest rise in coronavirus deaths in three days on Thursday, but recent high tallies have lifted the nation’s average fatality rate to its highest in two weeks.

A further 863 people died from the disease, according to Covid Tracking Project Data on Thursday, down from Wednesday’s three-week high of 1,202 and compared with 1,170 a week ago.

Over the past week, the US has averaged 860 deaths a day, the highest seven-day rolling average since September 3, according to a Financial Times analysis of Covid Tracking Project data.

States reported 43,558 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, a six-day high and up from 40,021 yesterday. That compared with 37,581 a week ago and the seven-day rolling average of about 39,194 new infections a day, which is now at its highest since September 7.

Texas (3,518), Florida (3,255) and California (3,238) reported the biggest jump in cases.

Wisconsin (2,134) was the only state to report a record one-day increase in infections, but a total of 14 states reported a daily jump of more than 1,000 cases, the most in almost two weeks, according to an FT analysis of Covid Tracking Project data.

Queen set for financial blow from coronavirus crisis

George Hammond

Having ripped through the high street and emptied offices, the pandemic is now threatening the Queen’s coffers.

The Crown Estate said on Friday that it expected the value of its property and its profits to be badly hit by the coronavirus crisis.

“We are under no illusions about the challenges we face,” said Dan Labbad, chief executive of the estate, which manages a sprawling property portfolio on behalf of the monarch including shops and offices in central London, retail parks in other regions and the seabed off the English, Welsh and Northern Irish coastline.

The warning came as the company announced its results for the 12 months to March 31, reporting record profit of £345m, up from £343.5m a year earlier.

In normal circumstances its profits are returned to the Treasury, which then allocates a “sovereign grant” to the Queen. The grant goes towards maintaining various palaces and official residences and in recent years has been set at a quarter of the estate’s annual profits.

Read more here

Effective results for 90-minute Covid-19 test

Anna Gross in London

A 90-minute Covid-19 test that the UK government has spent £161m on has been deemed highly effective in an academic review, as companies scrabble to bring their tests to market.

The test produced by medical tech company DnaNudge was found to have 94 per cent sensitivity — identifying all real cases and avoiding false negatives — and 100 per cent specificity, which means it only picked up samples from people who were really infected with Sars-Cov-2.

The peer reviewed study was conducted by researchers at Imperial College London.

Lawrence Young, professor of molecular oncology at University of Warwick, said the paper provided “important validation” of the CovidNudge test that showed that it “compares very well” with standard laboratory approaches.

Read more here

Asia-Pacific stocks buck Wall Street falls to start higher

Alice Woodhouse in Hong Kong

Asia-Pacific equities rose on Friday morning, shaking off falls overnight on Wall Street as investors digested comments from central banks.

Japan’s Topix edged up 0.2 per cent, the Kospi in South Korea added 0.5 per cent and the S&P/ASX 200 added 0.3 per cent.

Those moves came after the S&P 500 ended Thursday down 0.8 per cent while the Nasdaq Composite shed 1.3 per cent, with major technology companies falling.

New first-time jobless claims in the US fell on Thursday, but the high level highlighted the ongoing effects of the pandemic on the labour market.

In the latest central bank decision, the Bank of England held interest rates on Thursday and said it was examining how a negative interest rate “could be implemented effectively”.

Moderna signals slower timeline for Covid-19 vaccine

Hannah Kuchler in New York

Moderna could have to wait until as late as December to analyse data from its Covid-19 vaccine trial, longer than would be necessary to meet the Trump administration’s hopes of issuing an emergency approval ahead of the US election.

The Boston-based biotech company said on Thursday it had enrolled more than 25,000 participants in its trial, with more than 10,000 of those having already received both doses in the vaccine course.

It also set out a slower analysis timeline than rival Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, which said they would have their key data by the end of October. Shares in Moderna fell 2.4 per cent to $67.22 on the news.

Stéphane Bancel, Moderna chief executive, told CNBC that if the infection rate in the US slowed in the coming weeks, it may not be able to examine data until December.

Read more here

Australia’s Victoria reports 45 new coronavirus cases

Alice Woodhouse in Hong Kong

The state of Victoria reported 45 new coronavirus cases, as steps taken to slow the outbreak continued to show results.

The new case tally was above that of the previous day, however, when 35 new infections were recorded.

Lockdown restrictions on metropolitan Melbourne will be eased further at the end of September if the 14-day rolling average remains below 50. It currently sits at 42.7.

Victoria’s health department reported five new deaths linked to the virus.

China tightens measures to prevent imported Covid-19 infections

Christian Shepherd in Beijing

China has halted frozen fish imports from an Indonesian company and suspended some flights from the Philippines after an uptick in coronavirus cases from abroad.

China’s Health Commission on Friday announced an unusually high 32 infections from travellers who entered China, bringing the total number of active cases to 165.

Twelve of those new cases arrived in Shanghai on a flight from Manila, prompting China Eastern Airlines to suspend flights from the Philippines capital in order to carry out a risk assessment.

Also on Friday, Chinese customs said it was suspending imports from an Indonesian frozen fish producer after its packaging tested positive for coronavirus.

The Chinese government has raised the alarm over frozen meat, seafood and fish as a possible means of the virus being brought to China, despite World Health Organization experts saying there is no evidence of the industry posing a risk.

In recent weeks China has started to gradually relax restrictions on international travel imposed in March, even as Beijing has emphasised a need for constant vigilance to prevent a relapse caused by infected passengers entering the country.

On Thursday, a passenger flight to Seoul took off from Wuhan, where the virus was discovered. It was the first scheduled international flight from the Chinese city since the pandemic began.

WHO chief makes last push for countries to join vaccine effort

Gary Jones in Hong Kong

The World Health Organization on Thursday urged countries that have not signed up to a global initiative that has pledged to provide fair access to a Covid-19 vaccine to do so before the deadline of Friday.

So far more than 170 countries have expressed interest in joining the Covax Global Vaccines Facility, which aims to deliver 2bn vaccine doses by the end of next year. Last month there were nine vaccines in its portfolio, with another nine under evaluation.

The Covax Global Vaccines Facility is one of four pillars of the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which was launched in April to speed up the development and production of tests, medicines and vaccines that will be available to all people anywhere in the world.

The ACT-Accelerator has received only about $2.7bn in funding, however. Last week, UN secretary-general António Guterres appealed for a “quantum leap in funding” to meet the $35bn still needed.

“Vaccines will be a vital tool for bringing the pandemic under control. But we have no guarantee that any one vaccine now in development will work,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “The more shots we have on goal, the higher the chance we will have a very safe and very efficacious vaccine.”

Asia-Pacific stocks stall after Wall Street hit by tech sell-off

Hudson Lockett in Hong Kong

Shares in Asia-Pacific struggled to find their feet on the back of a poor showing on Wall Street, while sterling edged lower after the Bank of England floated the possibility of negative interest rates.

Japan’s Topix index rose 0.2 per cent on Friday morning while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.1 per cent. Mainland China’s CSI 300 index added 0.4 per cent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng inched 0.2 per cent higher.

The Hong Kong-traded shares of Tencent dropped 2.4 per cent after it was reported that the Trump administration had asked video games companies including Riot Games and Epic Games about their data security processes. Tencent, one of China’s biggest internet groups, is an investor in both.

On Thursday, Wall Street’s S&P 500 fell 0.8 per cent while the Nasdaq Composite shed 1.3 per cent as shares in big technology companies dropped.

Futures markets tipped US stocks to lose more ground when trading begins later on Friday, with the S&P 500 set to drop 0.3 per cent. London’s FTSE 100 was on track to fall 0.4 per cent.

Read more here

Covid pushes millions more children deeper into poverty, UN study finds

Gary Jones in Hong Kong

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed an additional 150 million children into “multidimensional poverty” – defined as deprived of education, health, housing, nutrition, sanitation or water – a new UN study has found.

Globally, the number of children living in poverty rose as a result of Covid-19 to nearly 1.2 billion, a 15 per cent increase since the pandemic hit earlier this year, according to a statement issued on Thursday by the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) and NGO Save the Children.

“Covid-19 and the lockdown measures imposed to prevent its spread have pushed millions of children deeper into poverty,” said Henrietta Fore, Unicef’s executive director, warning that the situation would probably worsen in coming months.

“Families on the cusp of escaping poverty have been pulled back in, while others are experiencing levels of deprivation they have never seen before. Most concerningly, we are closer to the beginning of this crisis than its end.”

Australia to increase daily caps on citizens returning home

Alice Woodhouse in Hong Kong

Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, said on Friday that states will increase weekly quotas to allow more Australians to return from overseas.

Current rules, designed to limit the risk of new coronavirus cases being imported into the country, cap international arrivals each week at 4,000. Australian residents returning home must undergo a 14-day quarantine in designated hotels.

Mr Morrison said New South Wales will allow an additional 500 people to return each week from September 27, taking the number it receives to 3,000 a week. Around 40 per cent of people who arrive in New South Wales go on to other states after their quarantines.

Queensland and Western Australia will add 200 places, rising to 500 in October.
Mr Morrison said 24,000 Australians overseas had expressed a desire to return home.

Western Australia this week floated the idea of using immigration detention facilities, including one on Christmas Island, as quarantine facilities.

Mr Morrison said he was hopeful that the roadmap in place in Victoria would allow it to relax lockdown measures soon.

Victoria on Friday morning reported 45 new coronavirus cases.

India’s white-collar workers hardest hit by pandemic

Stephanie Findlay in New Delhi

White-collar workers suffered the biggest loss of jobs among salaried employees in India because of the coronavirus pandemic, said the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy.

Employment of such workers — including analysts, software engineers and accountants — fell from 18.7m for the period September to December 2019 to 12.2m from May to August 2020, said the Mumbai-based business information think-tank in a recent report.

“This is the lowest employment of these professionals since 2016,” the report said. “All the gains made in their employment over the past four years were washed away during the lockdown.”

The next loss was among industrial workers, who suffered a 26 per cent fall in employment over a year.

India’s economy is expected to contract 9 per cent this year, according to S&P, as surging coronavirus cases rule out a swift rebound. The country of 1.4bn people has the world’s fastest growing Covid-19 caseload, reporting over 90,000 cases a day. India has the second highest number of coronavirus infections, behind the United States.

Indian Premier League cricket to begin on Saturday

Benjamin Parkin in New Delhi

The Indian Premier League cricket tournament will begin this weekend after six months of delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, welcome relief to sports fans in one of the countries hardest hit by Covid-19.

The league — cricket’s most lucrative club tournament, valued at an estimated $7bn — will take place over nearly two months in the United Arab Emirates due to India’s prohibitive coronavirus outbreak.

India is recording more than 90,000 new coronavirus cases a day, bringing its total infection count to 5.2m.

Players and support staff travelled to the UAE through several rounds of quarantining and testing, which revealed that more than a dozen personnel — including several players — had been infected with Covid-19.

The Mumbai Indians, a franchise owned by the billionaire Ambani family, will face off against the Chennai Super Kings for the first match on Saturday.

Shares in CSK, the only IPL franchise with stock trading hands in the grey market, have soared ahead of the start of the season. They have more than doubled to as much as Rs55 a share from Rs25 a few months ago, according to the Business Standard.

Retail sales in Britain rise in August for a fourth month

Valentina Romei

Retail sales in Britain rose in August for the fourth consecutive month, helped by demand for home improvement goods, signalling that consumers supported the recovery through the summer.

The volume of retail sales climbed 0.8 per cent compared with July, data from the Office for National Statistics showed on Friday, marginally higher than the 0.7 per cent expected by economists in a Reuters poll.

However, August’s volume of goods sold in stores and online was 2.8 per cent larger than in the same month last year, the fastest annual increase since October 2019 and 4 per cent higher than in February, before the lockdown.

“Retail sales continued to grow, further surpassing their pre-pandemic level,” said Jonathan Athow, deputy ONS national statistician for economic statistics.

European equities steady in early trading

Harry Dempsey in London

European stocks opened little changed on Friday, as investors weighed accommodative monetary policy against weakening economic data and renewed concerns over coronavirus.

The regional benchmark Stoxx 600 edged 0.1 per cent lower, sustaining its steady trend over the past three months and a half, as the Covid-19 crisis grip returns to slow the pace of the recovery. London’s FTSE 100 slipped 0.3 per cent, while Frankfurt’s Xetra Dax and Paris’s CAC 40 barely budged.

Emmanuel Cau, head of European equity strategy at Barclays, said that the market rally driven by central bank stimulus was running out of steam and investors needed the yield on long-dated treasuries to pick up relative to short-term yields in order to move into banks and other non-tech stocks.

“The road ahead will be bumpy,” he said. “But we believe equities continue to offer an attractive risk-reward, given the still light overall positioning and the expensiveness of the safer assets.”

Covid-19 crisis: can city gyms survive?

if (typeof ftvideo_initialize != “undefined”) ftvideo_initialize();

The coronavirus pandemic has led to a shift in exercising habits with more former commuters exercising at home or with online trainers. The FT’s Daniel Garrahan examines whether traditional fitness centres – in London, New York and Hong Kong – can survive as we continue to work from home.

UK health secretary refuses to rule out nationwide restrictions

Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe in London

The UK health secretary has refused to rule out the prospect of a second national lockdown, warning that case numbers are accelerating.

Matt Hancock said that he had “learnt over the past nine months not ever to rule anything out”, but added that a second national lockdown was not one of the options currently being proposed.

“This is a big moment for the country, we are seeing an acceleration in the number of cases, we are also seeing that the number of people hospitalised with coronavirus is doubling every eight days,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Mr Hancock did not specify that he was talking about England but the devolved nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have set their own coronavirus-related restrictions. The UK government has outlined the rules for England.

Most transmission is not occurring within workplaces or schools, he said, so the government will target action towards social settings.

“The proportion of cases being passed on in workplaces is relatively low – so protecting the economy, protecting work and protecting education – these can be done alongside restrictions of our social lives basically – that is the approach that we’ve been taking in the areas of local lockdown.”

The health secretary’s comments follow news that leading scientists on the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-m) have proposed a two-week national lockdown to coincide with the October half term.

One scientist who sits on Sage warned that if the R number remained the same, the number of cases would “break the NHS”.

Roche says its drug lowers ventilator use among Covid-19 patients

Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche said on Friday that late-stage trials of its coronavirus treatment showed that it reduced the likelihood of patients requiring mechanical ventilation.

Its phase 3 clinical trials showed that patients with pneumonia associated with Covid-19 that took its Actemra/RoActemra drug were 44 per cent less likely to require a medical ventilator compared with those taking a placebo.

The study was the first late-stage global clinical trial to focus on populations often underrepresented in drug testing, with 85 per cent of the 389 patients coming from ethnic minorities, the majority of whom were Hispanic, the company said.

Roche plans to share the results with health authorities, including the US Food and Drug Administration.

However, the drug did not show evidence of helping patients to leave hospital earlier or of reducing the mortality rate from Covid-19.

Shares in Roche gained 2 per cent in morning trading in Europe.

Ryanair cuts flights again after ‘continuous’ changes to rules

Philip Georgiadis in London

Ryanair has warned it may have to slash its winter flight schedule if demand for flying remains low amid travel restrictions across Europe.

“Continuous” changes to government rules on travel has undermined consumers’ willingness to make bookings, the low-cost airline said on Friday, as it cut its schedule for October for a second time.

Airlines across Europe have had to row back their over-optimistic forecasts on how many people are willing to travel, as passenger demand stays stubbornly low more than six months since the industry was tipped into crisis by the pandemic.

Ryanair now expects to fly 40 per cent of last year’s levels in October, down from the 50 per cent it had guided in August and its original target of 70 per cent.

“If current trends and EU governments’ mismanagement of the return of air travel and normal economic activity continue, then similar capacity cuts may be required across the winter period,” the airline said on Friday.

Nearly 5m workers were on UK furlough scheme at end of July

Delphine Strauss

About 5m workers were furloughed in the UK at the end of July, down from a peak of almost 9m in early May, government figures showed on Friday.

HM Revenue and Customs said at least 4.8m jobs were furloughed on July 31, but with employers still able to submit claims, this figure was likely to rise to 5.3m. About a fifth of furloughed employees were working part of their normal hours, after “flexible furlough” become possible at the start of July.

Use of the scheme had fallen fastest in the construction sector, while the number of workers furloughed in the retail sector had halved from the April peak.

However, more than two-fifths of eligible employees were still on furlough in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector, and also in hospitality – despite the July reopening of pubs, cafes and restaurants.

Rishi Sunak, chancellor, said the figures “show the success of our furlough scheme – making sure people’s jobs are there for them to return to”.

HMRC noted the figures did not show how many people had gone back to their previous jobs, or how many had been made redundant.

Surveys conducted by the ONS show that use of the job retention scheme has fallen further since August, when employers had to start contributing to its cost, with 10 per cent of the private sector workforce still on furlough in early September. Separate data show that unemployment began to rise steeply at the end of July.

HMRC released figures for take-up of its self-employment income support scheme, showing that 2m people – 60 per cent of those potentially eligible – had claimed a second grant by the end of August.

Around 1.6m self employed people did not qualify because they had previously been trading at a loss or because less than half their usual income came from self-employment, HMRC said.

Hungary faces second wave as it reimposes restrictions

Valerie Hopkins in Budapest

Hungary climbed to a record daily number of Covid-19 infections, as active cases climbed beyond 11,000 at the end of a week when the government tightened restrictions, made mask-wearing mandatory and imposed curfews on bars.

Friday showed a daily count of 941 infected to bring the number of active infections to 11,200.

Like much of central Europe, Hungary was initially successful in containing its infection rate: in the spring, the highest daily rate was 209. However, as Hungarians returned from summer holidays and students began the academic year, the numbers have risen steadily over the past few weeks.

“Hungary is second only to France in terms of epidemic prevalence in the population,” the head of the Virology Research Group at the János Szentágothai Research Centre of the University of Pécs said this week.

“This is ahead of Spain and far ahead of Italy,” Ferenc Jakab said on Tuesday during an online conference on the pandemic. “Compared with [the rest of] Europe, the epidemic is raging brutally in Hungary.”

As a second wave of cases swept across Europe at the end of August, Hungarian premier Viktor Orban closed the borders from September 1 to foreigners, making an exception for business travelers, and imposed quarantine restrictions on citizens.

On Wednesday, he tightened restrictions, closing clubs and bars at 11pm and making it mandatory to wear face masks on public transport, in cinemas, theatres, health and social institutions and public offices.

Critics say the measures come too late, as many in the government downplayed the risks posed by a second wave.

As recently as August 26, the foreign minister laughed off requests for employees to work from home.

“There is a magic word here – home office – and some have made attempts to request this option,” the minister Peter Szijjarto told a conference of ambassadors. “I have never allowed that and will never do so.”

Deaths begin to follow surge in European cases

Harry Dempsey and Neil McIvor in London

The steep increase in coronavirus cases across Europe has begun to show signs of an uptick in deaths — but at a significantly lower level than during the first wave of infections on the continent.

Spain and France, two of the worst-hit European nations, have recorded more than 150 and about 50 daily deaths, respectively, over the past three days. The rolling weekly average of new daily cases has risen to more than 10,000 in the southern European nation and about 8,500 in France.

Compared with the first wave in late March, daily confirmed cases are higher but the deaths are yet to rise close to the daily average of 900 in each country at that time.

David Mackie, an economist at JPMorgan, said the lower death rate in Europe despite the surge in cases was largely due to older people shielding themselves.

Coronavirus-related deaths in the UK have risen above 20 per day for three days for the first time since early August.

Meanwhile, eastern European nations Czech Republic and Hungary have recently recorded the highest number of daily deaths in more than five months, although the number remains in single digits for each.

Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s director for Europe, warned on Thursday that the “alarming rate of transmission” of Covid-19 was a “wake-up call” for countries in the region, as he cautioned against cutting the mandatory quarantine period for arriving visitors.

Millions in parts of England face tighter Covid restrictions

Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe and Andy Bounds

Coronavirus restrictions have been extended to a further 3.3m people across parts of England after a surge in Covid-19 cases.

The UK government said that, in Merseyside, Warrington and Lancashire except Blackpool, people will be prohibited from mixing with those outside their household or support bubble indoors or in private gardens. Mixing in public places is discouraged and pubs and other hospitality businesses must close at 10pm.

They are the same as measures imposed on Thursday on 2m people in north-east England, including Newcastle and Sunderland. This means that more than 13m, a fifth of the UK population, are living under extra restrictions, though they vary in different places.

In Wolverhampton and Oadby and Wigston near Leicester, residents will be banned from socialising with other people outside of their own households or support bubbles in private homes and gardens from September 22. Oadby and Wigston were locked down in June along with Leicester but then had restrictions lifted.

Areas of Bradford, Kirklees and Calderdale where restrictions were lifted in early August, will also have them reimposed from September 22.

On Monday lockdown measures came into effect on Birmingham, Sandwell and Solihull, after the city’s coronavirus case rate increased to 85.4 per 100,000.

“We are seeing cases of coronavirus rise fast in Lancashire, Merseyside, West Yorkshire, Warrington, Halton and Wolverhampton,” said Matt Hancock, health and social care secretary.

“Local leaders in these areas have asked for stronger restrictions to be put in place to protect local people, and we are acting decisively to support them.”

I know these restrictions will make everyday life harder for many, but I know that residents will work together and respect the rules so we can reduce rates of transmission.

He said rates in Liverpool have increased to 100.6 per 100,000 people, with Warrington rising to 111.2, Oadby and Wigston rising to 145.5, and Wolverhampton increasing to 61.8 per 100,000 in the past week (September 5-11).

Almost 60,000 people in England had Covid-19 last week

Anna Gross

Roughly 59,800 people within the community in England had coronavirus in the last week to September 10, equating to roughly 1 in 900 people, according to weekly data from the Office for National Statistics.

The latest data come as Downing Street implements tighter restrictions across the nation to limit the spread of the disease.

The last count compares to the previous week which found an estimated 39,700 people in England had the virus, equating to around 1 in 1,400 people.

There is clear evidence of an increase in infections among those ages 2 to 11, 17 to 24 and 25 to 34, according to the latest report, and the highest rates were seen in the north west of England and London.

The rate of infection was broadly stable in Wales, where the ONS estimated roughly 1 in 2,000 people had Covid-19.

Scotland faces ‘hard but necessary decisions’, says Sturgeon

Sarah Provan and Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe

Scotland is to face some “hard but necessary decisions” to avoid a full lockdown as its cases rise, its first minister warned in her daily briefing, urging her fellow citizens to “rigorously” follow the rules.

“The coming days are likely to see some hard but necessary decisions if we want to avoid a full-scale lockdown,” Nicola Sturgeon said on Friday. “Doing nothing, almost certainly, is not an option.”

She urged Scots to “rigorously” follow the rules in place: Scotland’s coronavirus-related measures include avoiding non-essential travel, meeting up to six people and in some parts of the country it is forbidden to visit other households. She said Scotland was determined to keep schools and childcare open.

“The virus is on the rise,” Ms Sturgeon said, adding that the spread was not as fast as in March but measures to stem the spread of the disease must be adhered to.

England’s surging caseload should “sound a warning signal for Scotland”, she said, adding that Scotland’s reproduction number has reportedly risen beyond 1, which suggests Covid-19 is spreading fast.

“We are facing the risk of exponential growth,” she said, “which is why it is so important to seek to avoid it.”

She added: “It may well be that if we are to break this growth we will have to do more. This weekend will be critical in the assessment of how best to do that.”

Official statistics released on Friday indicate that the R number range for the UK now stands at 1.1 to 1.4, meaning that for every 10 people infected with Covid, a further 11 to 14 people could be infected.

On Thursday, 3,395 coronavirus cases were reported within the UK, bringing the total caseload to 381,614.

Devolved nations call for a more unified Covid policy

Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe and Sarah Provan in London

Scottish and Welsh leaders have called for a more unified response to the UK’s coronavirus crisis as infections surge.

Scotland’s first minister on Friday called on the UK prime minister Boris Johnson to convene a Cobra crisis meeting and warned that there was a risk that coronavirus infection rates could rise exponentially.

Such a meeting involves a cross-departmental committee that gathers to respond to national emergencies and crises. They are held in cabinet office briefing rooms in London, hence the name.

“We are on a similar trajectory to France, maybe four weeks behind, but we shouldn’t accept the inevitability of following that path,” Nicola Sturgeon said on Friday.

“I think we need to consider what we need to do to interrupt this and break it,” Ms Sturgeon said. “I do want to have four nation discussions around this. I asked the prime minister to consider convening a Cobra over the weekend so that we can have those discussions.”

Her concerns were echoed by Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford who told a news conference in Cardiff that he had had “one brief phone call” with the prime minister since May 28.

“All of these issues need to be discussed at a UK level by the four governments, working together, but as far too often in this crisis that opportunity has not been there,” he said.

The UK’s four devolved nations have set their own Covid-19 rules and regulations, with each diverging in their decisions to lock down or ease restrictions.

Shopping centres face transformation into ecommerce hubs, BofA warns

Harry Dempsey in London

Retail sites run the risk of turning into ecommerce fulfilment centres at an accelerated pace due to the coronavirus crisis, Bank of America analysts warned, as shares in Europe’s major shopping centre owners plummeted to historic lows.

Shares in Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield fell 9.7 per cent to €32.43 on Friday, extending their recent losses to hit a more than two-decade low a day after the Westfield shopping centre owner announced a €3.5bn equity raise to pay down its debt. That dragged shares in fellow France-based shopping outlet owner Klepierre down 9.6 per cent to their lowest level since 2009.

The bank cut its price target for URW in half to €25 on expectations that the value of its assets will depreciate 25 per cent and rents will fall 15 per cent from peak to trough because “retail faces the risk of turning into fulfilment centres”.

While the recovery in footfall to URW’s European shopping centres to 80 per cent relative to the same period last year indicated that “physical shopping is still part of our habits”, major headwinds were still ahead, said Marco Mozzi of BofA.

Tenants in retail are likely to negotiate rents when their contracts expire, while “retail and logistics rents are likely to converge,” putting further pressure on rental prices, he said.

Daily deaths in France’s 2003 heatwave exceeded Covid-19 toll

Victor Mallet in Paris

More people were killed in France each day by the 2003 heatwave than by Covid-19 at the peak of this year’s pandemic, with most victims among the elderly in both cases, an analysis of the official figures found.

The national statistics institute measured “excess mortality” — the number of extra deaths compared with the average of the previous four years — for the 24 days of the deadly summer heatwave in 2003 and the 60 days of the worst of the coronavirus pandemic in France in the spring of this year.

During these periods, the 2003 heatwave was killing 638 extra people a day or 48 per cent above normal, while Covid-19 accounted for 455 extra daily deaths or 28 per cent above normal, Insee reported on Friday.

Insee compares the number of daily deaths in 2003 and 2020 with the average of the previous four years.

At the peaks of the two crises, 3,540 people died of all causes on August 12 2003 and 2,760 on April 1 2020.

Overall, more excess deaths were recorded in France in the worst two months of the 2020 pandemic — 27,300 — than the 15,300 during the 2003 heatwave, but the critical period of the Covid-19 outbreak lasted more than twice as long.

Adjusted for the ageing of the population in the past two decades, the relative lethality of the heatwave is more striking because France now has more people of a vulnerable age than it had then.

US consumer sentiment hits highest since March

Mamta Badkar in New York

A measure of US consumer sentiment improved this month to reach its highest level in six months when coronavirus-related lockdowns were just starting to take effect.

The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment gauge rose to 78.9 in early September, from 74.1 the previous month and ahead of economists’ expectations for a reading of 75.

“Improving expectations for the labour market — including diminishing fears of job loss — business conditions and the country as a whole account for the overall improvement,” said Ian Shepherdson, economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

The uptick in consumer sentiment comes even as Americans retrenched some spending last month. Retail sales growth unexpectedly slowed last month, raising concerns that the rebound from the reopenings have lost course and that the expiration of government stimulus measures could be undermining the economic recovery.

The survey found that in the coming months “how the election is decided and the delays in obtaining vaccinations” would be the main factors affecting consumer confidence.

The survey also found that “data from July to September indicate a virtual tie” at the upcoming presidential election. President Donald Trump was viewed as more likely to benefit the economy and finances than Democratic candidate Joe Biden, “although most consumers said there was no difference with regard to their own finances”.

Florida reports more than 100 daily deaths for fourth day running

Peter Wells in New York

Florida reported more than 100 daily coronavirus deaths for the fourth day in a row, the first such streak since the start of September, but testing reached its highest level in more than a fortnight.

A further 140 people died from Covid-19, state authorities revealed this morning, down from 147 yesterday and compared with 176 last Friday. Tuesday and Wednesday this week had increases of 146 and 154, respectively.

It is the first time since September 4 — just before the Labor Day long weekend — that Florida has reported more than 100 daily fatalities for four days in a row.

A further 3,204 people in the state tested positive for Covid-19 over the past day, up from 3,255 yesterday, and compared with 3,650 last Friday.

Authorities revealed 84,098 tests had been conducted over the past day, up from 80,704 yesterday and compared with 73,806 last Friday. This was the highest number of tests since the start of the month.

Of those, the percentage of people who tested positive for Covid-19 fell to 4.18 per cent from 4.44 per cent on Thursday and compared with 5.46 per cent last Friday.

Ireland imposes new restrictions in Dublin as cases mount

Arthur Beesley in Dublin

Ireland has imposed tough new Covid-19 restrictions on Dublin, stopping indoor dining in the capital’s restaurants for three weeks and banning all social and family gatherings except for small weddings and funerals.

The measures, which come into force at midnight on Friday, follow a tenfold rise in coronavirus cases in two months. “We are in a very urgent situation. We need to act now and act decisively,” Micheál Martin, prime minister, said in a televised speech.

“Without further urgent and decisive action, there is a very real threat that Dublin could return to the worst days of this crisis.”

The restrictions will apply to 1.2m residents of Dublin city and county, who were told they can only leave the county if they need to travel for work, education and other essential purposes. People outside Dublin were told not to travel into the county, with the same exceptions.

The move to close restaurants, cafés and gastropubs except for outdoor dining or takeaway service was heavily criticised by trade representatives when it was first signalled by the government on Thursday night.

But Mr Martin insisted the measures followed medical advice. “We are doing this because we want to minimise the number of places where people can congregate and where the disease can spread for the next three weeks.

CDC reverses course and recommends people without symptoms to take tests

Hannah Kuchler in New York

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reversed its controversial guidance on Covid-19 testing, recommending even people without symptoms take the tests.

The move comes after the public health agency changed its recommendations last month to say that people who had been in contact with a Covid-19 patient did not need a test if they did not have symptoms.

Scientists were concerned that last month’s change may have been politically motivated, as a way to reduce the number of tests being carried out, thereby slowing the rise of the Covid-19 case count.

The CDC now believes close contacts of an infected person should be tested. “Due to the significance of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, this guidance further reinforces the need to test asymptomatic persons,” it said in an update on Friday.

New cases in California jump by the most in five days

Peter Wells in New York

California reported its biggest daily jump in cases this week, but deaths dipped below 100 for the first day in three.

A further 3,630 people tested positive over the past 24 hours, state authorities revealed this afternoon, up from 3,238 on Thursday. That was the biggest one-day jump since Sunday and compared with 3,326 last Friday.

Statewide deaths from the disease rose by 91, down from 106 on Thursday and compared with 111 a week ago.

Although Gavin Newsom, governor, has acknowledged that recent testing volumes have been adversely affected by the wildfires in the state, California reported 97,149 tests over the past day, up from 79,515 on Thursday. That helped push the 14-day average of tests back above 100,000, having dipped below the key level yesterday for the first time since early July.

Trump expects US to be able to provide vaccine for all Americans by April

Kiran Stacey in Washington

Donald Trump has said he expects the US will be able to provide a coronavirus vaccine for every American by next April, striking a more optimistic tone than his most senior scientific officials.

The US president said on Friday he thought there would be 100m doses of a vaccine available by the end of the year, and enough for every American by April.

Three vaccines are currently in phase 3 clinical trials, involving tens of thousands of patients. Mr Trump did not say which of those he expected to be available by when.

His comments come a day after Robert Redfield, the head of the US Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, said he believed that everyone in the US would have access to a vaccine some time between April and September.

Mr Trump told a press conference on Friday: “We will have manufactured at least 100m vaccine doses before the end of the year. Hundreds of millions of doses will be available every month, and we expect enough vaccines for every American by April.”

Mr Trump said he agreed with Dr Redfield’s assessment, but said he expected to do better than the CDC chief’s more cautious prediction.

France’s finance minister tests positive for Covid-19

Leila Abboud in Paris

France’s finance minister Bruno Le Maire tested positive for covid-19 on Friday and began to self-isolate at his home, according to a tweet from his account.

“I do not have any symptoms. I will remain in isolation for seven days and continue to exercise my functions,” he said.

Mr Le Maire is the second member of government to be forced into quarantine lately. Prime Minister Jean Castex had a similar week of isolation after spending several hours with a person who later tested positive for the virus.

The announcement comes as France is witnessing a resurgence of coronavirus cases with the steepest recent increases seen in the southern cities of Marseille and Bordeaux.

French health authorities reported that 13,215 people have been diagnosed positive with Covid-19 in the past day, an uptick from recent levels. It was a one-day record seen since the worst of the outbreak earlier this spring, but comparisons are difficult given that France is now testing much more broadly now then it was back then.

In response, the government of Emmanuel Macron has encouraged cities to impose more localised restrictions on large gatherings and partying. For now, Mr Macron’s government is seeking to stem the virus spread without resorting to a broad national lockdown as it did in March.

Technology stocks drag Wall Street lower to end volatile week

Colby Smith, Camilla Hodgson, Henry Sanderson and Hudson Lockett

US stocks closed lower for a third straight day as technology shares slipped, capping off another choppy week on Wall Street that included some unsettling central bank meetings.

The S&P 500 fell 1.1 per cent, extending losses that first began on Wednesday following the Federal Reserve’s meeting on monetary policy. For the week, the benchmark index was down 0.7 per cent — its third week of declines. Meanwhile, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite closed down 1.1 per cent and was 0.6 per cent lower for the week.

“Stocks remain technically overbought in the short term and vulnerable to a further correction,” said analysts at BCA Research. Investors should pivot into cheaper areas of the stock market, such as financials, non-US stocks and value stocks, they added.

Earlier this week the Fed chairman Jay Powell provided fresh details on the US central bank’s plan to allow for inflation to run above its 2 per cent target in order to make up for periods of undershooting it.

While Mr Powell affirmed the Fed’s commitment to keeping interest rates low for the foreseeable future, investors were left guessing to what extent it would put its balance sheet to use to bolster the nascent economic recovery. This bred scepticism about the US central bank’s ability to really stoke inflation.

“The market is currently saying we are not convinced, and it puts the ball back in the Fed’s court,” said Padhraic Garvey, global head of debt and rates strategy at ING. Investors are “struggling with the notion that talking about inflation doesn’t generate inflation”.

Mr Garvey also expressed concern about the lack of progress on the fiscal front. Democrats and Republicans remain at an impasse over the scope and scale of a new relief package for Americans hardest-hit by the coronavirus outbreak. Hopes for a deal ahead of the US presidential election in November have dimmed.

Texas reports more than 100 daily deaths for fourth day running

Peter Wells in New York

Texas reported more than 3,000 new cases and more than 100 deaths a day for the fourth day running.

A further 3,978 people tested positive for the disease over the past day, authorities revealed this afternoon, up from 3,518 on Thursday and compared with 3,397 a week ago.

New cases have been up by more than 3,000 a day for the past four days, including 4,816 and 3,409 new infections on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Texas continues to add historical cases to its statewide total, although these are excluded from the latest figures. There were 512 such cases from six counties, stemming from a backlog of tests at commercial laboratories.

Like new cases, fatalities have risen by more than 100 a day for the past four days.

A further 123 people died, up from 112 yesterday and compared with 144 last Friday. That followed increases of 132 and 135 on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Wisconsin reports record daily jump in Covid cases

Peter Wells in New York

Wisconsin reported a record one-day jump in coronavirus cases, positioning it among US states with the highest average rate of new infections.

A further 2,533 people in the state tested positive over the past 24 hours, authorities revealed this afternoon, surpassing Thursday’s then-record jump of 2,034 and compared with 1,369 last Friday.

That takes the Badger State’s seven-day average to 1,576 new infections a day, the sixth-highest rate in the US, according to a Financial Times analysis of Covid Tracking Project data.

Only Texas, California, Florida, Illinois and Georgia have averaged more new cases over the past week, but most of these states have brought their case rates down substantially from much higher levels during the summer.

Wisconsin on Thursday became the 22nd state in the US to surpass more than 100,000 confirmed coronavirus cases.

Senior health officials in the White House such as Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci have for weeks warned of rising Covid-19 caseloads in the Midwest region.

Wisconsin’s recent surge in infections has coincided with the start of the new academic year. Counties such as Dane — home to the state’s biggest college, the University of Wisconsin-Madison — have had a 41 per cent rise in total cases since the end of August, taking the region’s total since the start of the pandemic to 8,455.

Wisconsin is one of the main battleground states in the upcoming presidential election. Donald Trump, president, on Thursday evening held a campaign rally in Mosinee, in the centre of the state, to make his case to voters.

Friday’s report showed a further seven people died from coronavirus, up from two yesterday and compared with four a week ago. That took the total number of Covid-19 fatalities in Wisconsin since the start of the pandemic to 1,283, which ranks 29th among US states.

US reports biggest one-day jump in cases in two weeks

Peter Wells in New York

The US had its biggest daily jump in coronavirus cases in a fortnight on Friday, with 19 states reporting more than 1,000 new infections.

A further 47,486 people in the US tested positive for the disease, according to Covid Tracking Project data, up from 43,558 on Thursday and compared with 44,927 a week ago.

That was the biggest daily jump in infections since September 4, when states reported a combined 51,591 cases.

The summer hotspots of Texas (3,978), California (3,630) and Florida (3,204) again revealed the most new cases, but they were among a record-equalling 19 states that today reported more than 1,000 new cases.

Wisconsin (2,533) reported a record increase for the second day running, while Utah (1,117) cracked the thousand level for the first time. North Dakota (507), Oregon (492) and Montana (227) were the other three other states that set new peaks.

The national death toll rose by 901, up from 863 on Thursday and compared with an increase of 1,018 last Friday.

The total number of deaths in southern states since the start of the pandemic (65,332) exceeded those in northeast (64,901) for the first time in six months. The northeast of the US was hit hard early on in the pandemic — New York and New Jersey still have two highest death tolls among all states — but fatalities across the south have generally accumulated at lower, albeit steadier, nominal rates.

Among more encouraging developments, the number of people currently in US hospitals with coronavirus fell to 29,492, the lowest level since June 22.