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Updated at March 05 2021 08:06 PM UTC - total vaccination doses given are from 129 locations. See all location data.

A medical worker checks the temperature of a passenger from Beijing at the Yaroslavsky railway station in Moscow

China-led bank to lend $300m to Russian Railways

The China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank will lend Rbs22.8bn ($300m) to Russian Railways to tide the state-run agency over the coronavirus pandemic.

The AIIB said the loan to RZD, as the group is known, would “help alleviate the temporary liquidity constraints” caused by the decline of long-haul passenger demand.

RZD's passenger totals have fallen as much as 70 per cent below normal in some months of this year. The AIIB lifeline would help preserve jobs at the railway company, the bank said.

“Railway services ... remain a socially significant and the most affordable means of transport for millions of citizens,” said Konstantin Limitovskiy, the bank’s vice-president of investment operations.

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The Netherlands and Austria will send 120 ventilators to the Czech Republic, which is reporting record levels of new Covid-19 cases, the European Commission said. The Dutch are providing 105 machines, while Austria is sending 15 ventilators and 30 high-flow nasal oxygen therapy devices.

Singapore’s health ministry said it would test all employees of Changi Airport Terminal 3 after a security officer and a health worker tested positive for coronavirus. “Both cases were detected under our enhanced community testing,” the ministry said in a statement.

Dubai’s government announced a Dh500m ($136m) stimulus package over the weekend aimed at reviving small businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The latest cash injection brings the total value of Covid-19-related stimulus for the second-largest of the United Arab Emirates to Dh6.8bn.

The autonomous Muslim region in Mindanao has the lowest infection rate in the country, the official Philippine News Agency reported on Sunday. Ameril Usman, acting regional health minister, attributed the low rate to “prompt reporting” and community engagement. The region has recorded 1,538 cases as of Friday.

Franklin Templeton is on track to end 2020 with the highest year-to-date outflows of any asset management company globally, bleeding a net $41.6bn, according to Morningstar data. The coronavirus market shock also forced the fund house to liquidate six Indian mutual funds managing $3bn of assets.

Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, insists the nation is making progress in tackling coronavirus as she set out plans for a five-tier system of alerts for different areas, along with support for businesses forced to close or reduce activities. She said slower rise in infections in recent weeks was a cause for optimism.

Foreign debt investors have flocked back into Egypt, reversing billions of dollars of outflows sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, according to the country’s finance minister, Mohamed Maait. He said foreign investors now held more than $20bn in debt, reflecting confidence in the only regional economy that has grown this year.

US folk singer Arlo Guthrie has retired from touring after the pandemic interrupted a planned comeback following a stroke he suffered in 2016. He announced in a Facebook post that he would no longer perform live. “Going from town to town and doing stage shows, remaining on the road is no longer an option,” Mr Guthrie wrote.

UK banks raise rates to stifle home loan boom

Jim Pickford, Nicholas Megaw, Stephen Morris and George Hammond in London

UK banks are turning away mortgage business by increasing interest rates on many new home loans, as they struggle to cope with surging demand for borrowing in a buoyant post-lockdown housing market.

In a reversal of the cut-throat competition of recent years, lenders are putting up rates to deter potential borrowers, as coronavirus restrictions have left many staff working from home, limiting their capacity to process applications.

A temporary stamp duty holiday that offers purchasers a tax saving of up to £15,000 has fuelled a V-shaped recovery in the housing market since May. Buyers are hurrying to progress deals now so they can complete before the nine-month holiday ends on March 31 2021.

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US CDC urges safer practices at polling stations

George Russell in Hong Kong

As the US prepares to choose a president on November 3, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have urged election officials to beef up polling place safety.

In a paper published over the weekend, the CDC surveyed the September primary election in Democratic Party presidential contender Joe Biden’s home state of Delaware.

The CDC, in its latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, said responses from primary election poll workers demonstrate the feasibility of implementing social distancing and other measures, but cautioned that safety gaps remain.

“[The results] highlight the large number of persons poll workers have close contact with, as well as gaps in infection prevention, including ensuring correct mask use and providing training and personal protective equipment to poll workers assisting ill voters,” they wrote.

Democratic party presidential candidate Joe Biden wears a mask as he leaves a television interview in Wilmington, Delaware

Delaware, a Democratic stronghold, reported a high level of mask wearing since April, when the state government mandated their use in public places.

In a July survey, about 79 per cent of people in the state reported always wearing a mask in public when in close contact with others.

The new survey data, compiled by a team led by Eva Leidman of the CDC Covid-19 Response Team and Noemi Hall of the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, indicate that the majority of both voters and election workers wore masks at polling places during the September primary, the CDC said.

“However, the substantial proportion of respondents who reported observing incorrect mask use by voters (i.e., masks not covering the nose and mouth) suggests that further messaging on proper mask use, including at polling locations, might be needed to strengthen the effectiveness of masks during upcoming elections,” the researchers wrote.

UK government pandemic approval rating falls to 29%

Approval of the UK government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has fallen to its lowest level since March, a poll indicates.

The Opinium Research poll showed just 29 per cent of British adults approved of the way the government has handled the pandemic, with 50 per cent disapproving.

While the poll showed approval of the financial support offered during the pandemic – 43 per cent while 26 per cent disapprove – more than 40 per cent think economic support for people and businesses should go further.

Only 32 per cent approve of how prime minister Boris Johnson has handled his role in this crisis, while 47 per cent disapprove.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has a 46 per cent approval rate, with 26 per cent disapproving, while Labour leader Keir Starmer scored 35 per cent approval and 29 per cent disapproval.

Younger people are struggling to uphold social distancing and other pandemic-related rules, with 17 per cent of those younger than 45 saying they are either “not really” or “not at all” following the rules, up from 10 per cent a fortnight ago.

Opinium carried out an online survey of 2,002 UK adults on October 22 and 23.

Covid-19 helps Japan find new tasks for robots

Kana Inagaki in Tokyo

Corporate Japan has found a new purpose for automation: business continuity in the uncertain era of Covid-19.

Shares in Japan’s office, medical and industrial goods suppliers, including Askul, MonotaRo and As One, have soared as heavy investments in robots helped these companies to handle a jump in online orders during the pandemic.

Coronavirus has boosted an existing trend in which Japanese ecommerce groups have turned to automation to counter a chronic labour shortage in a country that already makes half the world’s industrial robots.

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New outbreaks hit British Columbia aged centres

Health officials in Canada’s westernmost province are battling four new outbreaks, the British Columbia government said at the weekend.

“There have been two new health-care facility outbreaks,” provincial health officer Bonnie Henry said in a statement, bringing the number of aged-care and assisted-living centres in the province gripped by the pandemic to 16.

“In recent days, we have seen a number of new outbreaks of Covid-19 in the community and in long-term care facilities,” she acknowledged.

Dr Henry also reported new outbreaks at Coast Spas Manufacturing, a maker of outdoor leisure equipment in the city of Langley, near Vancouver, and Pace Processing, a foodservice company in nearby Surrey.

“Contact-tracing teams throughout our province are working around the clock to stop further spread,” she said.

The Covid-19 pandemic: FT readers respond

The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than a million people and countless more lives have been devastated by its impact.

But could the world have been spared such a disaster if it had responded differently? In a six-part Financial Times investigation, we examined what went wrong and what went right as Covid-19 spread across the world.

The series drew reader responses from across the world from people who had been affected by the pandemic in many different ways.

Read some of the most thought-provoking comments here.

Bulgarian PM tests positive for coronavirus

Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borissov said on Sunday that he has tested positive for coronavirus.

Mr Borissov said in a Facebook post that he feels “general discomfort and will stay at home”.

He tested positive on Sunday after two earlier negative tests, he said. “The doctors recommended that I stay at home,” Mr Borissov wrote on Sunday afternoon.

On Friday, the Bulgarian News Agency reported that Mr Borissov was self-isolating after being in contact with a deputy minister who had tested positive.

He has been Bulgaria's government leader since 2017 after serving two earlier terms from 2009-13 and 2014-17.

Mr Borissov, a former mayor of Sofia, heads the conservative GERB party.

Dunkin’ Donuts owner closes in on $9bn sale

James Fontanella-Khan and Ortenca Aliaj in New York

Dunkin’ Brands, the US parent company behind the Dunkin’ coffee and doughnuts chain, is nearing a deal to be acquired by private equity-owned Inspire Brands for about $9bn, in a move that would delist it from the stock market, said people briefed about the matter.

Inspire Brands, which is backed by consumer focused US private equity group Roark Capital, has made an offer worth $106.50 a share for Dunkin’ Brands, representing a 20 per cent premium on its closing price on Friday.

The deal is the latest in a wave of US mergers and acquisitions in recent months as companies across sectors have been bulking up despite economic uncertainty linked to a renewed spike in coronavirus cases and the outcome of the US election.

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Study notes sharp fall in non-Covid respiratory cases

George Russell in Hong Kong

Social distancing is sharply reducing the level of respiratory viral infections this year, according to a team of US researchers.

The team combed data from a 16-week period in each of the years from 2016-2020 of admissions to a hospital in the north-eastern US state of Connecticut.

They found that in the years from 2016 to 2019 the Stamford Hospital laboratory diagnosed a total 327 influenza cases and 223 cases that yielded a positive result from a Biofire test, which diagnoses respiratory infections.

That represented an average of 138 cases per season.

During the same period in 2020, only one case of influenza and three positive Biofire cases were seen. “In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, we were surprised to find that all other respiratory viral infections fell precipitously,” the researchers noted.

Kindergartners socially distance as they leave class in Stamford, Connecticut

The research team, led by Michael Parry of Stamford Health, published results over the weekend in the Infectious Diseases Society of America’s online publication, Open Forum Infectious Diseases.

They attribute the sharp drop to widespread use of public health interventions, including wearing face masks, social distancing, hand hygiene and stay-at-home orders.

“Since these interventions are usually ignored by the community during most influenza seasons, we anticipate that their continued use during the upcoming winter season could substantially blunt the caseload of influenza and other respiratory viral infections,” the team wrote.

Private jets take off as wealthy seek to avoid virus

Philip Georgiadis and Alice Hancock in London

Soaring numbers of wealthy flyers are switching to private jets to reduce the risk of catching coronavirus from other passengers on regular commercial flights.

Several private jet operators and brokers have reported an influx of business from first-time users who are happy to pay a premium for a bespoke itinerary, involving minimal contact with the travelling public.

Private jet passengers are often able to drive straight on to the tarmac to get to their flight, cutting out any mingling with other passengers at the airport or on board.

Read more here

French football match postponed after 11 test positive

The top French football league was forced to call off a scheduled Sunday game after 11 players on one squad tested positive.

RC Lens reported the outbreak among its 30-man squad to the Ligue de Football Professionel, the French governing body.

The LFP postponed the Ligue 1 match between Lens and FC Nantes in response, it said on its website.

Melbourne restrictions stay after brief hope of relief

George Russell in Hong Kong

The Australian state of Victoria recorded no new cases on Monday – for the first time since June 9 – as renewed clusters appeared to be under control.

However, the capital city of Melbourne has not been allowed to emerge as expected from strict restrictions.

Melbourne residents hoping for relief from a three-month lockdown were disappointed on Sunday after Victoria's state government said it would pause the expected lifting of restrictions.

“I know plenty of people were looking forward to some good news today. And soon, very soon, we’ll have some,” premier Daniel Andrews said in a statement.

“But for now, we need to do again what we’ve done throughout this pandemic: follow the advice of our public health experts. That means there can be no changes to restrictions in Melbourne today.”

On Sunday, Victoria recorded six new cases in Melbourne's northern suburbs, making a total of 39 cases in 11 households in what health officials fear is a previously unknown cluster.

“Concerningly, while these cases have locations in common it is not yet clear how they link together,” Mr Andrews said. “It means we may still have transmission happening where we can’t see it.”

US state governors grapple with virus surge

Patrick Temple-West in New York

US healthcare workers fear surging Covid-19 cases could overwhelm hospitals as governors scrambled on Sunday to address record rises in new infections across the country.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo on Sunday said the state was developing a new strategy to find “micro-clusters” of Covid-19 infections. Testing must get more local, he said, pointing to a birthday party at a restaurant on suburban Long Island that turned into 37 cases.

On Sunday, Texas governor Greg Abbott asked for federal permission to use an army hospital to house people sick with non-Covid ailments as hospitals in the El Paso area have seen coronavirus cases surge.

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Cluster found in Uighur region sparks testing drive

Christian Shepherd in Beijing

A cluster of asymptomatic coronavirus cases in Kashgar, a city near China’s central Asian borders, has sparked a testing drive and strict restrictions on movement in one of China’s most heavily monitored regions.

Local authorities launched extensive contact tracing and testing after a 17-year-old tested positive for Covid-19 in a routine test.

Another 137 infections, all without symptoms, were discovered on Sunday, each linked to a clothing factory in Shufu district where the teenager and her parents work, local health officials said on Sunday evening.

Authorities cancelled flights, trains and closed some roads while tests were conducted in the city, a historically important hub of Uighur culture and architecture that has been extensively rebuilt for tourists in recent years.

Visiting travellers need to test negative before leaving, officials said on Sunday evening.

A Chinese health worker conducts a swab test in Urumqi, Xinjiang

The measures follow an early lockdown in July that brought much of Xinjiang to a standstill after hundreds of cases were found in Urumqi, the region’s capital.

That outbreak was met with more extreme measures than those adopted in other regions of the country. Residents skirted censors to raise alarm on social media about being locked in their homes and forced to take daily doses of medicines.

In recent years, Xinjiang has been turned into a security state with ubiquitous surveillance and heavy-handed policing.

More than 1m Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim-majority peoples have been interned in camps.

Uighurs living outside China have raised alarm over the possibility of coronavirus spreading through detention facilities with cramped and often unsanitary living conditions.

UK considers shorter self-isolation period

Robert Wright in London

The self-isolation period for people who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus could be reduced from the requirement of 14 days, ministers confirmed on Sunday.

Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis said a cut was being considered following reports that suggested people were failing to follow the two-week quarantine rules.

However, Mr Lewis told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show that officials were now looking at whether there was scope for a cut to the period in light of new information.

Read more here

Russia’s Covid-19 caseload tops 1.5m

Russia’s coronavirus caseload topped 1.5m on Sunday, as daily cases rose by 16,710 in the previous 24 hours, official media reported.

The country has reported a total of 1,513,877 cases since the pandemic began, the Tass news agency quoted the anti-coronavirus crisis centre as saying.

Moscow reported 4,455 new cases, while St Petersburg registered 709.

The Caucasus regions are among those reporting the lowest growth rates in new cases, according to Tass. The Chechen republic recorded a 0.4 per cent rise, while Dagestan cases rose 0.6 per cent.

There are 349,305 people receiving treatment for Covid-19 in Russia, Tass said.

An employee closes a bar in Madrid’s Plaza Mayor on Saturday

Europe’s regional leaders chafe at curbs from above

Ben Hall in London, Guy Chazan in Berlin and Daniel Dombey in Madrid

First Madrid, then Marseille, and now Manchester and Munich.

Political leaders in some of Europe’s biggest cities have fiercely resisted coronavirus restrictions imposed by national governments in a sign of how disagreements between central, regional and local authorities are increasingly weighing on efforts to contain the pandemic.

The UK in the past week joined a group of countries where tensions between different levels of government have boiled over. Each has its own structural and historical quirks, but uniting them is the challenge of balancing co-ordination and decentralisation against a backdrop of often febrile politics.

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Colombia passes grim milestone of 1m cases

Gideon Long in Bogotá

Colombia has become the latest country to record 1m cases of coronavirus, following France, Argentina and Spain, which have all hit the grim milestone in recent days.

Colombia has registered 1,015,885 cases - the eighth highest total worldwide - and 30,000 deaths.

The country escaped the worst of the pandemic in the early months but the caseload rose sharply during July and August.

The daily number of new infections has since fallen but Colombia is still averaging about 8,000 cases a day.

UK ‘should avoid mega projects’ post pandemic

Gill Plimmer in London

The government should avoid large, bespoke infrastructure projects such as the HS2 railway line when it looks to construction to boost the UK economy in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, according to a report by a leading group of University of Oxford academics.

Such projects are too slow, costly and risky to effectively stimulate gross domestic product, the academics said in the report, which looks at how the government, the public and business can manage risks posed by pandemics, natural disasters and climate change.

“HS2 is the type of project that should be avoided because it is bespoke, slow and prone to waste,” said Bent Flyvbjerg, professor of major programme management at Oxford’s Said business school. “You need the exact opposite to successfully stimulate GDP: standardised, fast and frugal.”

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India's central bank chief tests positive

Amy Kazmin in New Delhi

India’s central bank governor, Shaktikanta Das, has tested positive for coronavirus, the latest in a series of top Indian officials to be infected by the pathogen.

Mr Das, who took the helm as the Reserve Bank of India cheif nearly two years ago, tweeted on Sunday night that he had tested positive but was “asymptomatic. Feeling very much alright.”

The governor said that he would be working from isolation and that “work in RBI will go on normally.”

Numerous members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government and his ruling Bharatiya Janata party have been infected with the virus, including Amit Shah, the powerful home minister, who was in and out of hospital for months after his infection.

The RBI is playing a critical role in helping provide additional liquidity for an economy still struggling to recover from one of the world’s most severe lockdowns.

It has also been working out details of how to handle the impact of a debt moratorium imposed at the start of lockdown.

A security guard stands as people peek from behind a curtain to watch the Dussehra festival in Delhi on Sunday. Access to the celebrations was restricted

Mr Das’s announcement of his infection came on a day when India recorded 45,000 new confirmed infections, bringing its total number of reported cases to more than 7.9m, more than any country except the US.

So far, more than 119,000 Indians have had Covid-19-related deaths.

India’s daily new infections, which peak at an average of 93,000 per day in mid-September, have fallen dramatically since then, raising some hopes that the worst could be over for big, crowded cities hard hit at the start of the epidemic.

But many public health experts fear the pathogen is simply spreading into small towns and rural areas, where testing is far less.

Delhi is also seeing a resurgence of cases, with more than 4,000 new cases a day, as it also reels under a sharp deterioration of its air quality, with pollution now at dangerous levels.

British horseracing prize money dwindles

Samuel Agini in London

Coronavirus-related restrictions are driving down prize money in British horseracing, raising concerns that horse owners will look past the prestige built up over centuries of competition to race overseas.

The British horseracing industry, worth an estimated £4bn to the economy every year, is seeking a bailout from the UK government and reforms to reverse its financial flight, as it fights to survive rules that mean spectators remain barred from meetings.

“Covid has resulted in an accelerated reduction in prize money which has exacerbated the problem,” said Nick Smith, director of racing and communications for Ascot racecourse. “If you don’t address the toothache early it’ll become agony.”

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King says Malaysian PM stays to fight Covid-19

George Russell in Hong Kong

The Malaysian king on Sunday denied prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin's request for a state of emergency to be declared due to the coronavirus pandemic, but did not permit a challenge to his ruling coalition, official media reported.

The decision followed a meeting of the nine hereditary state rulers, whom the monarch, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, consulted, the Bernama news agency said.

Mr Muhiyiddin's government is being challenged by an opposition bloc headed by veteran politician Anwar Ibrahim. Mr Muhiyiddin has argued that a change of government would bring instability in the middle of a pandemic.

A spokesman for the rulers, Keeper of the Seal Syed Danial Syed Ahmad, said they “emphasised the importance of the principles of constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy”, Bernama reported.

He said they would uphold a system that “prioritises the welfare of the people”.

Health workers collect a swab sample in Bandar Utama, outside Kuala Lumpur

Several state parliamentary leaders backed the king’s decision.

Amirudin Shari, the chief minister of Selangor, a state near Kuala Lumpur that has emerged as a Covid-19 hotspot, said on Twitter: “Respect for the decision of His Majesty the Yang Di Pertuan Agong and the Malay rulers. Now I & the Selangor machinery can focus fully on: 1. 2021 Budget 2. Fighting Covid 19 3. Water quality & service. 4. Cooperation with all parties for the welfare of the state and the people.”

Mr Muhiyiddin said the cabinet would take note of the decree by the king that a state of emergency was unnecessary, and would have further discussions.

Nine of Malaysia’s 13 states have hereditary rulers, who elect the king in a rotating system. The other four have federally appointed governors. The current monarch, Abdullah, is also sultan of Pahang state.

Mask use ‘could save 130,000 Americans’

Hannah Kuchler in New York

Universal mask use could save 130,000 lives in the US in the coming months, according to a forecast that warns the country’s Covid-19 death toll could reach 500,000 by February.

Christopher Murray, director of the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation and an author of the paper published in Nature, said masks were an “easy win” to save lives and delay other restrictions being imposed.

The researchers said that states that have already suffered considerably — including California, Texas and Florida — would face particularly high levels of disease and death.

Read more here

Singapore to pilot rapid antigen test for workers

George Russell in Hong Kong

The Singapore labour ministry said it would trial a rapid antigen test for migrant workers, even though it is less accurate than the one currently used.

Migrant workers are tested every 14 days using the polymerase chain reaction test, widely regarded as the current gold standard of coronavirus testing.

But the Ministry of Manpower and Ministry of Health plan to also test on the seventh day using the rapid antigen test to complement the PCR test on the 14th day.

The pilot started on October 18 and will run for four weeks, the manpower ministry said on Sunday.

The initial testing will be of 1,000 migrant workers residing in a dormitory.

“The benefit of the [rapid antigen test] is that results can be obtained within half an hour even though it is less accurate than PCR tests, which take at least a day for results to be returned,” the manpower ministry said.

“Migrant workers who test positive can be isolated immediately and conveyed to a medical facility for a confirmatory PCR test.”

Italy and Spain introduce sweeping measures

Miles Johnson in Rome and Daniel Dombey in Madrid

The governments of Italy and Spain, the European countries hardest hit by the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, announced sweeping measures on Sunday to combat a surge in the number of new cases.

Italy said it would introduce the harshest public health restrictions since the end of its first national lockdown in May as new coronavirus cases hit a fresh daily record.

Spain announced a nationwide curfew and triggered emergency powers after the country’s infection rate jumped by almost a third over the past week.

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South Korea to lend $200m for Asia coronavirus fight

South Korea will lend three Asian countries a total of $200m to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s economy ministry said on Monday.

The Ministry of Economy and Finance said the loans would be provided to Bangladesh, the Philippines and Cambodia from its Foreign Economic Cooperation Fund.

The fund is expected to help developing nations build test and trace systems, the ministry said.

NZ's merchant mariner caseload rises to 29

George Russell in Hong Kong

Three merchant mariners were among five new imported cases in New Zealand, the Pacific country's health ministry said on Monday.

There were no cases of community transmission reported.

“This brings the total number of mariners who have tested positive to 29,” a ministry statement said.

Health authorities continue to investigate three cases linked to the Sofrana Surville, a container ship now anchored off Brisbane after it was refused permission to dock.

“The genome sequencing shows the three workers all have an identical form of the virus – further evidence their infections are from a common source,” the ministry said.

Queensland state authorities are undertaking genome sequencing on the three other crew members of the Sofrana Surville who tested positive on arrival in Brisbane.

The Liberian-registered ship left New Zealand with a new crew from the Philippines before stopping in New Caledonia on its way to Brisbane.

Hong Kong to focus on testing taxi and bus drivers

George Russell in Hong Kong

Hong Kong will focus testing on taxi and bus drivers over the next fortnight, as it seeks to control the coronavirus pandemic.

The semi-autonomous city's transport department announced on Monday that its free testing service would prioritise cabbies and drivers of public light buses, 16-20 seat vehicles that serve mostly minor routes, for the next two weeks.

Hong Kong has reported mainly single-digit daily new cases in recent weeks, with five cases reported on Sunday.

Despite the low numbers, Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection continues to recommend social distancing and the wearing of masks.

“Members of the public [should] avoid going out, having social contact and dining out,” a CHP statement said. “They should put on a surgical mask and maintain stringent hand hygiene when they need to go out.”

Italy seeks demand unleashed by Covid-19 bonds

Tommy Stubbington in London

The boost provided by the EU’s Covid-related borrowing is helping Italy stretch out the maturity of its public debt and insulate it from a future rise in interest costs, Rome’s debt chief has said.

Davide Iacovoni, who oversees a debt pile worth more than €2.4tn, said the red-hot demand for the EU’s inaugural sale of Covid-linked debt last week — which attracted a record-breaking €233bn of orders — was supportive for Italy’s bonds.

The Italian treasury followed up the EU deal with its own sale of €8bn of 30-year debt, part of a transaction that included buying back almost €10bn of shorter-dated debt from investors.

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Nursing home clusters add to rising Seoul caseload

Song Jung-a in Seoul

South Korea on Monday reported an uptick in new coronavirus cases despite the lower number of tests carried out over the weekend, due to cluster infections in nursing homes in the greater Seoul area.

The country added 119 more cases, increasing the total caseload to 25,955, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

The latest uptick highlights ongoing challenges for health authorities to contain the virus, following the ups and downs in daily new virus cases over the past several weeks.

Health officials said the situation was still manageable but expressed concern over a possible jump in new outbreaks ahead of this Halloween weekend and amid increasing domestic travel to enjoy autumn leaves.

A man walks past a closed nightclub in Seoul’s Itaewon district

“We are concerned that cluster infections could increase as more younger people are likely to go to clubs or bars [for Halloween],” deputy health minister Kang Do-tae said on Monday, urging people to refrain from such visits.

In May, South Korea suffered major cluster infections of around 270 cases traced to clubs in Itaewon, Seoul's nightlife district.

Health minister Park Neung-hoo also urged caution on Sunday, after the country eased social distancing measures two weeks ago. “A moment of complacency can lead to a difficult winter for everyone,” he said.

The government plans to strengthen the enforcement of distancing rules at high-risk facilities in major nightlife districts in the greater Seoul area ahead of Halloween on Saturday.

The Hut Group raises guidance as 'pipeline remains robust'

Jonathan Eley

The Hut Group has raised its full-year revenue forecast in its first comments on trading since its £5.4bn initial public offering last month.

Sales are now forecast at £1.48-1.52bn, up around a third from last year and above previous guidance of £1.43bn. The group said its “pipeline remains very robust” with inquiries for THG’s services at an all-time high.

For the three months to September 30, group sales were up 38 per cent to £378m, a slight acceleration from the 35 per cent growth reported for the first half. The beauty and nutrition businesses, which include websites such as Lookfantastic and Myprotein, accounted for over £300m of the total.

Hut Group shares have risen 11 per cent since they floated at 500p in September, giving the Manchester-based company a market capitalisation of almost £6.5bn. Its IPO provided a boost to a market struggling for new listings during the coronavirus pandemic.

Commerce revenues — money that Hut Group makes from selling its proprietary ecommerce system to third parties — nearly tripled from the same quarter a year ago to £5.1m.

Its founder Matthew Moulding, who remains chairman and chief executive, stands to receive substantial additional equity in the group if the market value reaches £7.25bn by the end of 2022.

The group plans to create 500 jobs, reports last week said.

Small recovery for Japan's restaurants but curfew hits pubs

Harry Dempsey in London

Business at restaurants and pubs in Japan recovered at a sluggish pace last month, as the decline in daily confirmed coronavirus cases lost steam and office workers continued to base themselves at home.

Sales at major restaurant chains were 14 per cent lower in September compared with a year earlier, a slight improvement on the 16 per cent decrease in the previous month, data from the Japan Food Service Association showed.

A public holiday in September, as well as a higher volume of Covid-19 cases being chalked up in August, were behind the improvement but the industry body said that those gains were held back by falling coronavirus infections tapering off at around 500 cases per day.

Japanese pubs, known as izakayas, have been hit particularly hard with sales down 47.2 per cent last month, due to fewer employees gathering for post-work drinks in business districts and Tokyo putting a 10pm curfew in place on hospitality venues for a month until September 15.

Turkey's lira sinks to 8 against US dollar for first time

Laura Pitel in Ankara

The Turkish lira reached a new record low, trading at 8 against the US dollar for the first time, after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan goaded European leaders and dared the US to hit Ankara with sanctions.

The currency fell past the symbolic threshold after Turkish markets opened on Monday at a time of high tensions between Turkey and its traditional allies. Its 1 per cent decline on Monday left the currency down by more than a quarter since the end of 2019. Turkish equities markets were also under pressure, with Istanbul’s Bist 100 index down 2 per cent.

The renewed tumult in the country’s asset markets followed a series of combative exchanges between senior Turkish officials and western counterparts over the weekend.

France recalled its ambassador to Ankara after Mr Erdogan said that Emmanuel Macron needed mental treatment in response to the French president's controversial comments about Islam. Other senior Turkish officials also launched a series of strongly-worded attacks on Europe, comparing its treatment of Muslims to the demonisation of Jews in the 1920s.

Read the full story here

Boots to introduce 12-minute swab tests at stores next month

Jonathan Eley

UK pharmacy chain Boots is to launch 12-minute Covid-19 swab tests in some of its stores while it has begun to offer a private pre-flight testing service for those travelling abroad or visiting family.

The Nottinghamshire-based group plans over the next few weeks to launch LumiraDx devices to selected stores, which will be able to process swab test Covid-19 results in 12 minutes. However, it cautioned that the Lumira system is not recognised for pre-flight tests.

Polymerase chain reaction tests check for genetic material from the Covid-19 virus in saliva and are designed for those without symptoms or who want to use it before seeing friends and family.

The test is available in 10 of its stores, in for example in London and Birmingham, and the group plans to expand the service to more than 50 stores in the UK over the next few weeks.

The instore service will cost £120 apiece and the results will be available within 48 hours. Boots said that, "depending on demand and feedback", the launch may extend to 200 stores over the coming months.

Seb James, managing director of Boots, said the company could "help ease pressure on the NHS and the government by providing additional access to testing and crucial reassurances for people across the UK".

The company provides testing services and resources to the UK's network of drive-through testing centres.

SAP shares plunge as software maker cuts forecasts

Joe Miller in Frankfurt

SAP, Europe’s largest software company, cut its revenue and profit forecasts for this year as the resurgence of coronavirus depresses business spending, pushing the group’s shares down as much as 20 per cent on Monday.

The German company, which is in the midst of transforming into a cloud-based business, warned that its customers, which include many of the world’s largest corporations, were spending less as a resurgence in Covid-19 cases hit business confidence.

“Lockdowns have been re-introduced in some regions, recovery is uneven and companies are facing more business uncertainty,” SAP said, adding that it expected this to continue through at least the first half of next year.

As a result, SAP cut its revenue and operating profit forecasts for 2020. It also scrapped targets for 2023 announced last year, due to negative currency effects, the impact of Covid-19, and a surge in demand for its cloud-based products.

While licenses for on-premise software suites bring revenues into the business upfront, customers pay very little up front for cloud subscriptions, with the bulk of the payments coming through 3 or 4 years later, the company said.

Having dropped as much as 20 per cent, the shares were down 17 per cent in mid-morning trading in Frankfurt, giving the company a market capitalisation of €120bn.

UK health secretary dims hopes of Covid vaccine launch this year

Harry Dempsey in London

Matt Hancock, the UK health secretary, damped expectations of an expedited launch of a Covid-19 vaccine by the end of the year but sees the "bulk" to be in the first half of 2021.

Mr Hancock, asked on BBC Radio 4's Today programme about a vaccine for NHS staff, said: “We’re not there yet,” adding “on my central expectation I would expect the bulk of the roll out to be in the first half of next year”.

Meanwhile, a leading Covid-19 vaccine candidate being developed by the University of Oxford has produced a robust immune response in elderly people, the Financial Times reported on Monday.

Doctors in London are ready to take deliveries of the vaccine from as early as next week, the Sun reported.

The health secretary sought to put distance between preparing plans and logistics for the introduction of a treatment and having the vaccine ready for delivery after regulatory approval.

“Preparing for a roll out and actually having the stuff to roll out are two different things,” he said.

He added that: “We want to be ready in case everything goes perfectly, but it’s not my central expectation that we will be doing that this year.”

In a separate interview on BBC Breakfast, the health secretary said that the UK government was not ruling out introducing stricter “tier 4” restrictions in England, as he noted that the three-tier system of coronavirus rules was only slowing -- and not reversing -- the rise in cases.

France gripped by 'critical' situation as it faces up to 100,000 cases a day

Sarah Provan

France is facing up to 100,000 cases a day as the coronavirus pandemic steers the nation into a “very difficult, or even critical situation”, the government's chief medical adviser said.

Jean-François Delfraissy, who chairs the scientific team that advises President Emmanuel Macron's government on the coronavirus pandemic, has been surprised by the “brutality” of how much the virus has spread over the past two weeks.

“This second wave will definitely be stronger than the first,” he said.

"There are actually probably around 100,000 [cases] a day,” Mr Delfraissy told RTL radio on Monday morning, between those who have not been diagnosed and asymptomatic cases. “The virus is spreading extremely rapidly.”

France’s latest 24-hour figures published on Sunday showed a record 52,010 cases, bringing the total number since the pandemic began to 1,138,507, the health ministry said. On Sunday, the country recorded 116 Covid-19 deaths to total 34,761.

German confidence falls for first time in six months as pandemic bites

Martin Arnold in Frankfurt

German business confidence has fallen for the first time in six months, with companies in the services and manufacturing sectors growing anxious about the second wave of coronavirus infections, a survey showed.

The Ifo Institute in Munich said its business climate index fell to 92.7 in October, from a seven-month high of 93.2 in September, highlighting concerns that tightening government restrictions could trigger another economic downturn.

“Companies are considerably more sceptical regarding developments over the coming months,” said Clemens Fuest, head of Ifo. “In view of rising infection numbers, German business is becoming increasingly worried.”

German regions have restricted the number of people who can meet publicly and tightened rules on alcohol sales and mask-wearing in busy public places, while imposing a curfew on bars and restaurants from 10pm in areas with the highest infection rates.

The number of coronavirus-related deaths in Germany crossed the 10,000 mark over the weekend, while the number of daily infections hit an all-time high of 14,714 on Saturday.

Mr Fuest said the resurgence of the virus was most worrying for companies in the services sector. While German manufacturers were more optimistic about the current climate, services companies grew more pessimistic. Companies in both sectors were more gloomy about the outlook for the coming months.

Manufacturers reported that they had increased their capacity utilisation “considerably”, said Mr Fuest, adding: “However, recent optimism about the coming months has evaporated.”

“Service providers were less satisfied with their current situation,” he said. “Moreover, their optimism of recent months with regard to the business outlook has disappeared.”

Businesses also turned more pessimistic in the trade and construction sectors.

Youth twice as likely to have lost job during pandemic, LSE study shows

Harry Dempsey in London

Young people in the UK are more than twice as likely to have lost their job during the coronavirus pandemic, revels a study that casts a light on how the health crisis has widened generational and educational inequality.

About one in 10 of those aged 16-25 have lost their job during the crisis, double the number for older age groups, while the income of almost 60 per cent of young people has fallen.

The survey by the London School of Economics confirms the trend for younger workers to be harder hit by the pandemic’s blow to the labour market has persisted through to October, despite the temporary easing of virus restrictions over the summer.

Stephen Machin, co-author of the report, warned that the “unprecedented” hit to the jobs market for young people has raised concerns that many are heading towards “long-term unemployment”.

The pandemic has set back students from poorer backgrounds compared with those from more affluent backgrounds, the survey showed, leading the report to caution about “permanent educational scarring” unless action is taken to combat the widening gap.

Lower income students at university have lost more than half of their teaching hours versus a smaller 40 per cent loss for high income students.

Meanwhile, three-quarters of private school students were taught full school days, twice the proportion of those in state schools, which have faced greater challenges in switching to online learning.

Hasbro upbeat on parents splurging on games for holiday season

Harry Dempsey

Hasbro expressed confidence that strong demand for its board games, toys and Play-Doh among families ahead of the end of year holiday season would help maintain strong momentum into its final quarter, despite the worsening Covid-19 situation in Europe and the US.

The US toy maker reported $1.78bn of revenues in its third quarter, down 4 per cent on the same three months a year ago but beating analysts’ expectations of $1.75bn. Adjusted net earnings at $1.88 a share were ahead of consensus for $1.63 a share.

Revenue for its total gaming category, which includes card game Magic: The Gathering and board game Monopoly, soared by a fifth to $543.1m in the three months ending September, as parents sought to keep their housebound kids entertained.

The forecast-beating results follow rival Mattel recording its biggest increase in quarterly sales in a decade as parents splashed out on toys for their kids during lockdowns.

Hasbro was bullish on the positive trend strengthening as shoppers buy Christmas gifts. The forecast of robust seasonal buying came despite growing fears of a “digital Christmas”, when the spread of coronavirus is expected to become so severe that families will be banned from meeting in person and so unable to give each other presents.

“Building off this quarter's growth in toys, games and digital we are positioned to deliver a good holiday season,” said chief executive Brian Goldner, adding that the improvement in delivery of live-action TV shows and films using its intellectual property would further boost results to the end of the year.

Shares in Hasbro were up as much as 3 per cent in pre-market trading before paring gains to be flat.

China’s Ant Group set to raise more than $34bn in record IPO

Hudson Lockett in Hong Kong

Ant Group is set to raise more than $34bn after setting the price of shares in its initial public offering, putting the Chinese payments group on track to top Saudi Aramco as the biggest ever market listing.

The financial technology company, controlled by Alibaba’s billionaire founder Jack Ma, will sell shares in a dual-listing across Shanghai and Hong Kong. It is expected to make its market debut on November 5.

Ant said it will sell shares for the Shanghai portion, which will trade on the technology-focused Star market, at Rmb68.8 ($10.28) each, according to documents published by the city’s stock exchange on Monday evening. Ant also said it had set the price for its Hong Kong shares at HK$80 ($10.32).

Together the sale of the roughly 3.34bn shares, which account for 11 per cent of Ant’s total outstanding stock, will fetch $34.4bn. The Shanghai portion alone will bring in Rmb114.9bn ($17.2bn) or more than double the Rmb53bn raised by chipmaker SMIC in July.

The pricings for both share offerings value Ant at about $313bn, roughly on equal footing with Wall Street bank JPMorgan Chase. The Chinese company’s valuation could rise to almost $320bn if underwriters on both portions exercise an option to sell additional shares that could bring total funds raised to $39.6bn.

“It’s been a good year for IPOs [in Asia] but this one is hard to miss and I think everyone feels it’s going to do well in the after-market,” said Philippe Espinasse, a Hong Kong-based investment banking consultant, referring to Ant’s potential share price performance after it begins trading.

Bundesbank expects German economy to slow

Martin Arnold in Frankfurt

Germany’s central bank has forecast the economy will slow while continuing to grow in the fourth quarter, as the impact of coronavirus-related restrictions on the services sector is partly offset by a resilient manufacturing sector.

“The recent sharp rise in the number of infections and the containment measures that have therefore been expanded in some regions are likely to have a particularly negative impact on some service sectors such as the hotel and catering industry,” the Bundesbank said in its monthly report.

“From today's perspective, the German economy is likely to continue its recovery in the current quarter, albeit at a much slower pace.”

Europe’s largest economy suffered a record postwar contraction of 9.7 per cent in the second quarter of this year, but on Friday it is expected to rebound with third-quarter growth of more than 7 per cent.

The Bundesbank said the trend for German banks to report rising provisions for expected bad loans was “likely to continue”, adding that this would compound the pressure on earnings from negative interest rates.

“This increases the likelihood that the pressure on margins will lead to a shortage of credit,” it said, while adding that relief measures taken by the government and central bank “counteract such a risk”.

Sales of US new build homes ease from 13-year high

Matthew Rocco

Sales of newly built homes in the US slowed for the first time in five months, retreating from a 13-year high.

New home sales came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 959,000 single-family houses in September, the Census Bureau said on Monday. That was down 3.5 per cent from a revised 994,000-unit pace in August, which was the strongest level since December 2006. Economists had expected new home sales to top 1m last month.

The US housing market has helped lead the economy’s rebound from the worst of the coronavirus-fuelled crisis in the spring, as buyers seek out roomier dwellings during the pandemic and capitalise on record-low mortgage rates. Existing home sales – which account for the majority of transactions – hit a fresh 14-year high in September, their fourth straight month of growth.

Although demand is strong, housebuilders are facing cost pressure from rising lumber prices. Economists have also cautioned that some budget-conscious buyers may be priced out of the market.

The median price for new homes sold last month was $326,800, up 3.5 per cent year on year.

“Bottom line, inventory is most needed in the under $300k price range but that is where the margins are the slimmest. As most of the buyers here are first time, they are very sensitive to higher prices notwithstanding the mitigation of lower rates,” said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group.

There were 284,000 new homes for sale at the end of the month on a seasonally adjusted basis, compared with 282,000 in August. At the current sales pace, the sector has 3.6 months’ worth of supply, up from 3.4 months in August.

“The shortage of homes for sale, along with strong homebuilder sentiment and lean inventories of existing homes, should support new home construction even if the pace of sales cools in the months ahead,” analysts at Oxford Economists said.

They estimated that new home sales will moderate in the fourth quarter, citing a “weak labour market” and a rise in Covid-19 cases.

New home sales in September fared worst in the northeast, which was down 28.9 per cent versus the prior month. Sales in the Midwest and south fell 4.1 per cent and 4.7 per cent, respectively. The west bucked the downward trend, with sales up 3.8 per cent.

US and European stocks slide on worsening Covid outbreaks

Camilla Hodgson

Wall Street followed European bourses sharply lower on concerns a rising number of coronavirus infections will prompt a new wave of social restrictions that will damp business activity.

The US benchmark S&P 500 fell 2 per cent in morning trading on Monday. The Vix index rose more than 4 points to 31.6, well above its long-term average of 20, in a sign investors are bracing themselves for flare-ups in volatility in the month ahead.

US coronavirus case numbers have surged in recent days, with new weekly cases rising the most since a major summer outbreak. In Europe, Italy and Spain announced sweeping measures on Sunday to address a jump in new cases.

“Spain and Italy moving to enhanced restrictions to combat their growing case numbers is clearly spooking European equities,” said Charles Hepworth, investment director at Zurich-based asset manager GAM. With the pandemic worsening globally and the US presidential election looming, “it’s a very choppy trading period that we’re going into”, he added.

Traders were also watching out for news of US stimulus measures, although the chances that a deal might be passed before the election dimmed this weekend. On Friday, Mark Meadows, White House chief of staff, said a deal could emerge in the next day or two, but Steven Mnuchin, Treasury secretary, said there remained hurdles to reaching an agreement. Read more in the Markets Briefing.

Norway tightens restrictions despite low infection rate

Richard Milne in Oslo

Norway is imposing extra restrictions because of rising coronavirus infections as even one of the least affected European countries is forced to tighten rules.

The centre-right government in Oslo announced on Monday night that only 50 people would be allowed at private gatherings, down from 200, while people should have no more than five people from other households in their homes.

“We are facing the most serious situation to stop the spread of infections since March. If we take action now, there is a much greater chance that we can have a normal Christmas with extended family,” said Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

Norway is also tightening its rules around foreign workers after a rise in cases from employees with coronavirus coming from Poland.

The capital city Oslo separately announced new restrictions on Monday including the need to wear face masks in public spaces when it is not possible to keep one metre away.

Norway has one of the lowest infection rates in Europe and had relatively few deaths in the first phase of coronavirus earlier this year.

Arizona's average Covid case rate hovers at highest in five weeks

Peter Wells in New York

The number of new coronavirus cases in Arizona eased back below 1,000 on Monday from a five-week high.

A further 801 people tested positive over the past 24 hours, the health department revealed this morning, down from 1,392 on Sunday and compared with 748 on Monday last week.

Yesterday's increase was the largest since September 17, according to Financial Times analysis of Covid Tracking Project data.

Arizona was among the US sunbelt states to experience a surge in cases over the summer, but managed to bring it under control towards the end of the season thanks to the governor's decision to restrict parts of its economy and allow counties to decide whether to impose mask mandates.

By the second week of September, the Grand Canyon state's seven-day average of cases had eased to about 373 a day, the lowest rate since late May, and compared with a peak in early July of more than 3,800. That average is now about 1,010 a day, having crossed above 1,000 on Sunday for the first time since August 13. Among other trends, the number of people currently in Arizona hospitals, at more than 800, is hovering at its highest level since late August. 

More encouragingly, the seven-day average of coronavirus deaths is hovering around its lowest levels since April. More knowledge about the virus and better treatments have helped keep death rates across the US lower than during earlier stages of the pandemic. Arizona's health department attributed one further death to coronavirus today, a two-week low, down from five on Sunday and compared with three on Monday last week.

The recent surge in new infections at the national level has been propelled by states in the interior of the US, primarily the Midwest region. But "Mountain" states — a sub-region of the West and which includes Arizona — have also experienced a jump in cases. Arizona and Nevada are the only two in the eight-state Mountain sub-region that are not currently reporting record daily rates of new cases, according to FT analysis of Covid Tracking Project data.

Figures on Monday tend to be lower than other days in the week because of weekend delays in reporting. New cases may not be directly comparable to earlier stages of the pandemic because of the increase in testing capacity that has occurred since then.

Florida's average cases at 2-month high; fatality rate lowest since July

Peter Wells in New York

Florida's average daily coronavirus case rate hit its highest since the start of September on Monday and was accompanied by its positivity rate reaching the highest in five days.

A further 3,337 people tested positive over the past 24 hours, the state's health department revealed this morning, up from 2,385 on Sunday and compared with 1,707 on Monday last week.

That took the seven-day average of daily cases to about 3,612 a day, the highest level since September 1, according to Financial Times analysis of Covid Tracking Project data.

Authorities reported 61,509 tests over the past 24 hours, up from about 53,800 on Sunday and compared with about 39,700 on Monday last week.

Of the latest batch of tests, the percentage of people who tested positive for coronavirus for the first time jumped to 5.94 per cent, a five-day high, from 4.71 per cent yesterday and compared with 4.84 per cent on Monday last week.

The health department attributed a further 20 deaths to coronavirus, up from 12 on Sunday and compared with 54 on Monday last week. The state has averaged about 61 deaths a day over the past week, which is its lowest rate since early July.

Monday figures tend to be lower than other days of the week because of weekend delays in reporting.

Nottingham to enter highest level of UK Covid restrictions

Andy Bounds in Huddersfield

The Midlands city of Nottingham and some surrounding boroughs have agreed with the UK government to enter the highest Tier 3 level of coronavirus restrictions after mounting numbers of cases.

The measures will take effect in Nottingham, Broxtowe, Gedling and Rushcliffe, covering 680,000 people, a minute after midnight on Thursday.

Under Tier 3 restrictions, pubs that cannot function as restaurants must close, along with betting shops, adult gaming centres, casinos and soft play centres, but specific measures will be announced tomorrow.

People must not socialise with anyone who is not in their support bubble indoors, in any private garden or at most outdoor hospitality venues and ticketed events.

“The single package of measures across these specific areas will be formally announced tomorrow and have been agreed to achieve a sustained reduction in infection rates, especially to help protect our vulnerable residents, the NHS and social care services,” said a statement from council leaders.

Details of extra funding were not announced but based on previous deals the local authorities will get £5.6m to support enforcement and around £14m for additional business support measures.

Nottingham had 451.2 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in the week to October 22.

Nottingham University Hospitals Trust has had to postpone some non-urgent operations until November 6 as beds filled with Covid-19 patients. It said numbers had hit the same level as the peak in April.

There are now more than 8m people in, or heading for, Tier 3 in England, including Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield.

Talks with West Yorkshire, including Leeds and Bradford, are continuing.

California becomes first US state to confirm 900,000 Covid cases

Peter Wells in New York

California has become the first US state to confirm 900,000 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic.

A further 2,981 people tested positive over the past 24 hours, authorities revealed this afternoon, down from 5,219 on Sunday and compared with 3,474 on Monday last week.

That took the total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in California to 901,010, according to state data. Adjusted for population, that equates to about 2,273 cases per 100,000 people since the start of the outbreak, ranking 33rd-highest among US states.

It has taken the Golden State 29 days to add its most recent batch of 100,000 infections, slowing slightly from the 27 days it took to go from 700,000 cases to 800,000.

Authorities attributed a further 12 deaths to coronavirus, down from 34 on Sunday and compared with 27 on Monday last week. It was the smallest daily increase in nearly a fortnight.

A record 194,944 tests were conducted over the past 24 hours, up from 178,706 on Sunday.

The 14-day average percentage of people who have tested positive for coronavirus fell to 2.8 per cent, from a one-month high yesterday of 3 per cent. The positivity rate hit a historic low of 2.5 per cent a little over a week ago.

The number of people currently in California hospitals with Covid-19 rose slightly to 2,991 from a historic low of 2,969 on Sunday. Until yesterday, hospitalisations had never been below 3,000 since the state began reporting the metric in early April.

New daily cases ease from record levels in several Midwest states

Peter Wells in New York

Wisconsin reported fewer than 3,000 coronavirus cases for the first time in a fortnight on Monday, mirroring a trend among several Midwest states that saw new infections pull back from record levels.

A further 2,833 confirmed cases were revealed by the state health department this afternoon, down from 3,626 on Sunday and compared with 3,777 on Monday last week.

It was the smallest increase in new confirmed cases since the 1,956 reported on October 12, the most recent time before today Wisconsin had fewer than 3,000 daily cases, according to state data.

The state reported a one-day record of 4,591 confirmed cases on October 20, highlighting the state's transformation into one of the country's coronavirus hotspots this autumn.

A further 10 deaths were attributed to coronavirus, on par with Sunday's increase.

Illinois reported a further 4,729 people had tested positive over the past 24 hours, up from 4,062 on Sunday and compared to a one-day record of 6,161 on Saturday.

Ohio's new cases eased from a record for the second day running, with 2,116 infections over the past 24 hours. That is down from 2,309 on Sunday and a record 2,858 on Saturday, according to the health department.

South Dakota's health department revealed 525 new confirmed cases on Monday, down from 984 on Sunday and nearly half the record 1,105 reported on Thursday.

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

Texas averaging 5,000 new cases a day for first time in two months

Peter Wells in New York

Coronavirus trends in Texas continue to deteriorate, with both the average daily case rate and current hospitalisations each at their highest levels in two months.

A further 4,418 people tested positive over the past 24 hours, authorities revealed this afternoon, up from Sunday's six-day low of 3,793 and compared with 2,273 on Monday last week.

That took the seven-day average of new infections to just over 5,000 cases a day, the first time over that threshold since August 22. That metric peaked at nearly 10,000 in late July, according to state data, and reached a three-month low in late September of about 3,000.

Texas's health department has for months been adding older cases stemming from backlogs of tests at commercial laboratories to its statewide total, although these are excluded from the daily figures. There were about 500 historical cases revealed by authorities this afternoon, including 118 from the area around El Paso and 103 from the region around Houston.

The number of people currently in Texas hospitals with coronavirus edged up to 5,278, from 5,206 on Sunday, to the highest level since August 21, authorities revealed this afternoon.

That represents about 13 per cent of the total number of people currently hospitalised around the country.

Authorities attributed a further 10 deaths to coronavirus, from 48 on Sunday and compared with eight on Monday last week. 

Texas has averaged about 70 fatalities a day over the past week, its highest level in nearly a fortnight. The state's seven day average reach about 65 in mid-October, which was the lowest it had been in three months.

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