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Updated at 10/20/2020, 11:08:43 AM BST

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US president Donald Trump said he expected a coronavirus vaccine to be available for every American by April, a more optimistic forecast than many US government scientists. On Friday Mr Trump insisted that he often knows more about such issues than experts such as Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sterling dropped and UK government bond prices pushed higher last week after traders spotted signs that the Bank of England might be seriously considering cutting interest rates below zero — a reaction that has taken the central bank itself by surprise. The BoE said it would “begin structured engagement” with regulators on how an unprecedented slide into sub-zero rates might work.

Large UK property funds are keeping trading suspensions in place because of fears that low cash buffers and regulatory uncertainty could trigger an investor run. All major commercial property funds suspended trading in March, trapping close to £22bn of investor money, after the coronavirus-induced halt in economic activity made it difficult to value real estate.

It is less than two months since Donald Trump travelled to Texas to declare that the US energy industry, laid low by this year’s oil price crash, was back on its feet. “We’re OK now,” the president said. But the latest bankruptcy numbers tell a different story. Another 16 upstream US oil and gas companies hit the wall in August, the same number as in July, according to law firm Haynes and Boone.

Rolls-Royce is in talks with sovereign wealth funds, including Singapore’s GIC, as part of a plan to raise about £2.5bn from investors next month, the Financial Times has learned. The UK aero-engine group is working with bankers at Goldman Sachs on the planned equity raise to repair a balance sheet badly damaged by the coronavirus pandemic.

Deloitte UK has been forced to drop plans to sell its restructuring practice after its global parent company vetoed the disposal on the grounds that it could have an adverse impact on the rest of the firm. The proposed sale was expected to bring in hundreds of millions of pounds that would have mitigated a drop-off in some consulting work during the pandemic.

Cathay Dragon, the short-haul subsidiary of Cathay Pacific Airways, announced on Sunday that its flights from Kuala Lumpur have been banned from landing in its Hong Kong hub until October 20 after five passengers who arrived on Friday tested positive for Covid-19. “All were connecting passengers travelling from India via an India Express flight,” Cathay Dragon said in a statement.

Spare bedrooms and living rooms could soon become part of vibrant trading floors as one of the world’s biggest investment banks considers providing staff with augmented reality headsets. UBS has experimented with Microsoft HoloLenses, which would allow London-based staff to recreate the experience of working in a packed trading floor without leaving their homes.

Covid-19 pandemic sparks a crisis in Nazareth

Ilan Ben Zion in Nazareth, Israel

In Nazareth’s old town, posters plastered on shuttered storefronts depict a flatlining red graph and the words “no tourism, no life”. Six months into the pandemic Israel’s largest Arab city — a beacon for Christian pilgrimage from across the globe — is struggling as visitor numbers plummet.

Pilgrims and tourists eager to visit the place where Jesus spent his childhood are the economic lifeblood of Nazareth. But as visitor revenue drains away, the Galilean town, unlike other tourist hotspots, is yet to receive any financial assistance from the Israeli government.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been criticised for mishandling the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis. Half a year into the crisis, hundreds of thousands remain out of work, the self-employed have received little assistance and new cases of Covid-19 continue to climb.

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UK-listed property companies collect two-thirds of rent owed

UK-listed property companies collected £730m, or two-thirds, of the £1.1bn in rent they were due in the last quarter ending June 30, according to new data.

Alternative property classes such as healthcare, social care, logistics and student housing saw the best results for landlords, with more than 90 per cent of rents due being collected.

An analysis of real estate investment trusts by Boodle Hatfield, a London law firm, said the sector saw a much weaker performance than others, partly due to larger companies such as Hammerson and Land Securities collecting lower levels of rent.

Reits are doing better than landlords overall, the data show. Boodle Hatfield suggested that the overall percentage of rents collected in the quarter was as low as 20 per cent.

Retail and leisure-focused Reits collected just over 54 per cent of rent due in the June quarter, compared to almost 70 per cent for the previous quarter.

Hammerson, which is focused on retail, collected only 16 per cent of its rent arrears for the most recent quarter.

South Korea’s megachurches take on government

Song Jung-a and Kang Buseong in Seoul and Edward White in Wellington

For South Korean Christians like CG Hwang, watching the state sue his church and suspend religious services has confirmed his suspicions: the leaders in Seoul are comparable to the rulers in North Korea.

“This coronavirus thing is a total scam,” said Mr Hwang, a 68-year-old member of Sarang Jeil church, a Presbyterian group with thousands of followers. “It is like a witch hunt. They are trying to kill our church . . . The government is using the virus to turn our country into a communist state.”

Having just brought under control South Korea’s worst coronavirus outbreak in six months, health officials are bracing themselves for another wave. Opposition groups with links to politically active churches — who were blamed for the recent virus resurgence — are planning a series of mass protests in the capital over the coming weeks.

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Long-haul flights riskier than thought, says CDC paper

George Russell in Hong Kong

Long-haul flights have the potential to cause widespread transmission of Covid-19, new research concludes.

A team led by Nguyen Cong Khanh, an epidemiologist and member of Vietnam’s National Steering Committee for Covid-19 Prevention and Control, analysed data from a Hanoi to London flight in March that created a cluster of cases.

"In-depth epidemiological investigations strongly suggest that a symptomatic passenger transmitted [Covid-19] during the flight to at least 12 other passengers in business class," the researchers found.

"Seating proximity was strongly associated with increased infection risk," the researchers concluded in the paper, published at the weekend by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We found no strong evidence supporting alternative transmission scenarios," they wrote.

Although the aviation industry has judged the risk for in-flight transmission to be low, long flights in particular are of increasing concern as many countries have started lifting flight restrictions.

The most likely route of transmission during the flight was aerosol or droplet transmission from the symptomatic passenger, the paper found.

"We conclude that the risk for on-board transmission … during long flights is real and has the potential to cause Covid-19 clusters of substantial size, even in business class–like settings with spacious seating arrangements."

The researchers recommended that guidelines for preventing infection among air passengers should “consider individual passengers’ risk for infection, the number of passengers travelling and flight duration”.

UK nightclub groups fear economic collapse

Alice Hancock and Alistair Gray in London

The UK’s largest nightclub operator, Deltic Group, has enough cash to last another two months. Its chief executive, Peter Marks, has doubts the company can survive much longer.

While retailers, restaurants and other UK businesses were given permission to reopen weeks ago, nightclubs — with their sweaty dance floors and loud music — remain out of bounds.

Deltic, which owns the Pryzm, Atik and Eden chains, has 54 clubs in the UK that have been closed since March. It is one of many club operators globally that are in a desperate financial state.

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How Uruguay beat back the pandemic

While Brazil, Argentina and Panama have seen new waves of coronavirus, Uruguay has kept "a lid on the pandemic", the British Medical Journal reported over the weekend.

Uruguay's total of 1,904 infections and 46 deaths among 3.5m people compares favourably with Panama's 106,000 cases and 2,247 related deaths in a population of 4.2m.

The Latin American country credits an early, hard lockdown, combined with domestically produced testing kits and efficient "pool testing", in which groups of samples are tested together rather than individually.

President Luis Lacalle Pou — pictured on a walkabout in Montevideo — shut down all public events and bars, churches, and shopping centres. Schools were closed, and the 1,000km border with Brazil was sealed. Stay-at-home rules were recommended but not mandatory.

The BMJ said developing a national testing kit shielded Uruguay from market shortages and helped it ramp up capacity from 200 tests per day in March to nearly 1,000 by the end of May.

Uruguay began pool testing to maximise efficiency. Instead of testing each individual sample, multiple samples are tested together. A negative result allows large populations to be cleared, while a positive result means the group is broken down into sub-groups until the positive sample is identified.

“It's super useful because, by pool testing, we can screen populations like teachers, which means we could open schools without mandatory quarantine,” Gonzalo Moratorio, a researcher at the Institut Pasteur de Montevideo, told the BMJ.

HSBC aims to re-energise fund unit in Covid-19 era

Chris Flood in London

Nicolas Moreau, hired by HSBC to re-energise the underperforming asset management business, has undertaken a whirlwind of activity despite being infected with coronavirus in March. “It doesn’t seem to go away entirely,” he said, adding there are advantages to working from home and conducting meetings by video.

He won't discuss HSBC’s support for Beijing’s repressive new security law for Hong Kong, a stance that has drawn criticism from political leaders and investment groups.

HSBC wants a new banking licence in mainland China so the caution is understandable. Securing Beijing’s authorisation will have important implications for HSBC’s $529bn asset management unit, which Mr Moreau has led for just over a year.

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South Africa reschedules delayed local elections

South Africa will hold dozens of municipal elections on November 11 to clear a backlog caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the country's electoral authority has announced.

The Electoral Commission set the deadline after President Cyril Ramaphosa said the country would lift restrictions on political activities from Monday.

By-elections for 96 wards in 56 municipalities have been delayed since March due to lockdowns. About 600,000 voters are eligible.

ECB to review flagship bond-buying tool

Martin Arnold in Frankfurt

The European Central Bank has launched a sweeping review of its main pandemic crisis-fighting tool, which some of its top policymakers believe could lead to contentious changes to its other asset-purchase programmes.

The review will assess the impact of the flagship bond-buying scheme that the ECB launched in response to the coronavirus crisis in March and expanded to €1.35tn in June, two of its governing council members told the Financial Times on condition of anonymity.

They said important questions for the review would be to consider how long the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme should continue and whether some of its extra flexibility should be transferred to the ECB’s longer running asset-purchase schemes.

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Australia on track despite Victoria surge, says PM

George Russell in Hong Kong

Australia is on track to economic reopening despite a brutal second wave of coronavirus concentrated in Victoria, its second-most populous state, prime minister Scott Morrison said at the weekend.

Victoria on Sunday recorded just 14 new coronavirus cases in the previous 24 hours, the lowest daily level in more than three months. The state chief health officer, Brett Sutton, said Victoria was on the “home stretch” towards ending a strict lockdown.

However, the state, with 25 per cent of the country’s population, accounts for 761 deaths, more than 85 per cent of the national total.

On Sunday, Mr Morrison hailed the latest national unemployment data, which showed the rate unexpectedly fell from a high of 7.5 per cent in July to 6.8 per cent in August.

He said it was difficult to foresee if unemployment would continue to fall.

“The figures that came out this week were a pleasant encouragement in terms of their improvement but for those who still don’t have a job, that is no comfort to them," he told state broadcaster ABC's Insiders programme.

Mr Morrison said the jobless data show Australia is on the right track in rebuilding its coronavirus-shattered economy, which went into recession for the first time in nearly three decades.

The apparent ease in the pandemic will mean Australia would toughen its eligibility rules for JobSeeker, the unemployment benefit plan that the government hopes to scale down. More than 1m Australians who rely on the payment will have to prove they are applying for eight jobs a month.

On Friday, Mr Morrison compared the 12.2 per cent June quarter gross domestic product contraction in New Zealand, which imposed a harsh lockdown, with the 7 per cent drop in Australia, which has seen more relaxed measures and several anti-lockdown protests, pictured.

New Zealand officials point out that there have been 1,800 coronavirus cases and 25 deaths among its 5m people, while Australia has recorded 26,882 cases and 884 deaths among 25m.

US city seals off streets after fatal house party

Police in the city of Rochester, New York, have kept streets sealed in a neighbourhood after a mass shooting at an illegal weekend house party left two dead and 14 others injured.

Mayor Lovely Warren said the Saturday night shootings brought “needless pain” to a city already suffering under the pandemic and an economic downturn.

Under state law, non-essential gatherings such as parties, weddings and holiday picnics remain prohibited.

Police in Rochester, New York’s third-largest city and known as the home of Eastman Kodak, Xerox and Bausch & Lomb, believe at least three people fired more than 40 shots over the course of a minute.

The deaths follow another fatal house party incident on Friday in Buffalo, 75 miles west of Rochester, in which a man died and five others were injured.

Philip Day considers sale of retail empire

Jonathan Eley in London

Philip Day’s retail empire could be broken up after the tycoon launched a review of high street chains including Peacocks and the Edinburgh Woollen Mill following a number of unsolicited offers.

Mr Day, who has made a fortune by buying and restructuring distressed retail businesses, has received interest from potential bidders for all or part of value fashion chain Peacocks and his collection of “heritage brands”, which includes Jaeger, Austin Reed and Jacques Vert.

EWM trades from more than 400 stores, selling a mixture of knitwear and Scottish-themed gifts to a mainly older demographic. Many of its stores are located in tourist locations that have been slow to recover following the end of the UK’s coronavirus lockdowns.

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NZ probes unusually long incubation period

New Zealand health officials are investigating a case in which a returnee from India developed symptoms and tested positive for Covid-19 after 21 days, an unusually long incubation period.

"The source of the case’s infection is still under investigation, but genome sequencing is consistent with two confirmed cases from the same flight from India to New Zealand that landed on August 27," the health ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

“He could’ve been infected in India before departure and had a very long and unusual period of incubation,” director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield said on Monday. “He may well have been infected on the flight to New Zealand – there have been eight other cases from that flight."

Dr Bloomfield said experts were looking at the possibility of an unusually long incubation period as there is evidence that in rare instances the incubation period can be up to 24 days.

The vast majority of people who are infected with Covid-19 become unwell within 14 days. "Having returnees stay in managed isolation for 14 days remains the gold standard, and this is also the approach adopted by other countries," the ministry statement said.

This case is "another example of the tricky nature of the virus", the ministry noted, adding that anyone who has been through a managed isolation facility should "remain very aware of their health".

Asia stocks struggle in wake of Wall St weakness

Alice Woodhouse in Hong Kong

Asia-Pacific equities struggled for direction on Monday morning following a lacklustre end for Wall Street.

In South Korea, the Kospi edged up 0.1 per cent and the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia dipped 0.1 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng is set to fall 0.4 per cent when trading begins later in the morning.

Japanese markets are closed for Respect for the Aged Day.

A California judge has temporarily blocked a US Department of Commerce ban on Chinese social media app WeChat.

President Donald Trump had sought to ban the app, which is owned by Tencent, from Apple and Google app stores over security concerns.

On Friday, the S&P 500 ended 1.1 per cent lower, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite also fell 1.1 per cent after a choppy week for technology stocks.

S&P 500 futures were flat.

US admissions drop below 29,000 for 1st time since June

Alice Woodhouse in Hong Kong

The number of people receiving hospital treatment for Covid-19 in the US fell below 29,000 for the first time since late June on Sunday, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

There are now 28,615 people admitted to hospital for Covid-19 across the US.

A further 37,291 people tested positive for coronavirus on Sunday, down from 44,283 a day earlier. States reported a total of 324 new deaths linked to Covid-19.

The number of new cases and new deaths is often lower on Sunday due to a slowdown in reporting over the weekend.

Investing in infrastructure alone won’t 'level up' UK

Andy Bounds in Manchester

Boris Johnson’s promise to “level up” prosperity across the UK will fail unless his government puts as much emphasis on improving people’s health and skills as it does infrastructure, a group of distinguished economists have found.

The updated Greater Manchester Independent Prosperity Review, launched on Monday, warned that the coronavirus pandemic would widen the north-south economic divide without urgent intervention.

The report comes as many parts of Greater Manchester remain subject to tougher Covid-19 restrictions than the rest of the country, first introduced at the end of July to curb the spread of the virus in the north-west of England.

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Myanmar arrests 600 people over Covid-19 rule violations

More than 600 people were arrested in Myanmar over the past week for violating restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic, official media reported on Sunday.

A total of 444 people nationwide were charged with violating curfews, the Myanmar News Agency quoted police as saying.

Another 33 people were detained for attending karaoke rooms, massage parlours and brothels without maintaining social distancing, the agency said.

There were 205 people arrested for not wearing masks in public, it added.

On Saturday, Myanmar recorded 403 more new cases of Covid-19, making a total of 4,870 cases in the country of 54m people. At least 81 people have died.

Virtual Emmys dole out awards remotely

Catherine O’Hara as she appears in Schitt’s Creek

The Canadian-developed series Schitt's Creek dominated the comedy Emmy awards at a near-virtual ceremony in Los Angeles on Sunday.

Host Jimmy Kimmel, who referred to the night as the "PandEmmys", said he thought it was "frivolous and unnecessary" to hold the awards during the Covid-19 crisis.

Most presenters appeared remotely via video link but actresses Jennifer Aniston of The Morning Show and Tracee Ellis Ross of Black-ish were at the event.

Schitt's Creek actors Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy and writer Daniel Levy picked up awards.

Seoul schools reopen as new cases show downward trend

Song Jung-a in Seoul

South Korean schools in the greater Seoul area reopened on Monday as new cases of the coronavirus fell to the lowest level in more than a month despite lingering concerns over sporadic clusters and untraceable cases.

Schools in the metropolitan area had been closed for remote learning since August 26 as the country’s daily new infections rose to the triple digits, following a massive anti-government rally in downtown Seoul held by ultra-right-wing civic groups and churches.

But the country reported 70 new cases on Monday, bringing the total caseload to 23,045, after the number fell to below 100 for the first time on Sunday thanks to strong social distancing measures.

Although the government relaxed some of the tougher anti-virus measures a week ago, allowing restaurants and cafes to reopen in the evening, it has maintained some restrictions on high-risk facilities such as clubs, buffets, karaoke bars and big cram schools.

Health authorities remain on alert ahead of the five-day Chuseok Thanksgiving holiday at the end of the month, when millions of South Koreans are expected to travel across the country to visit relatives.

UK teacher hiring rises in coronavirus lockdown

Bethan Staton in London

A surge of teacher training applications during the Covid-19 lockdown could help plug staff shortages in education in England and Wales, according to new analysis that suggests the pandemic has increased interest in public sector work.

The overall number of teacher training applications rose 16 per cent this year, and between mid-March and mid-August rose 35 per cent compared to 2019, according to UCAS figures analysed by the National Foundation for Education Research, a think-tank.

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics, published last week, showed redundancies in the three months to July were 58,000 higher than over the same period in 2019, heightening fears over a rise in unemployment later this year — particularly among young people.

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Muslim group calls for delay of Indonesian elections

Indonesia's largest Muslim organisation has called for a delay in regional elections after 63 candidates have tested positive for coronavirus, official media reported on Monday.

The executive board of Nahdlatul Ulama asked the General Election Commission to postpone the elections scheduled for December 9, the Antara news agency reported.

The polls, postponed from September 23 due to the pandemic, will elect nine provincial governors, 224 heads of regencies — administrative units below a province — and 37 mayors.

NU chairman Said Aqil Siroj said in a statement that it would be "very difficult" to avoid crowds during the election campaigns.

At least 63 prospective candidates have contracted Covid-19, and Antara reported that the figure is likely to increase.

Election commission chair Arif Budiman announced on Friday that he tested positive for Covid-19 and would work from home. Another commissioner, Evi Novida Ginting Manik, also tested positive.

MBA hiring demand recovers to pre-pandemic levels

Jonathan Moules in London

MBA graduates can feel less gloomy about their employment prospects after a survey of recruiters indicated that demand had returned almost to pre-pandemic levels.

The number of consultancies, banks and large technology groups, the mainstay of MBA employment, saying they planned to hire MBA graduates this year fell from 92 per cent of 712 companies in a survey conducted before March, to 77 per cent by July.

However, in the most recent update to the figures, which are compiled by the Graduate Management Admission Council, the global administrator for business school entrance exams, 90 per cent said they would be hiring MBA graduates next year.

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South Korean export recovery wobbles, preliminary data show

Edward White and Kang Buseong

The recovery in South Korean exports is showing signs of stalling, despite rising shipments of computer chips, preliminary data showed.

In the first 20 days of September, exports from Asia’s fourth-biggest economy rose 3.6 per cent year on year, according to Korea customs data. Shipments of semiconductors, the country’s most important export item, were up 25 per cent year on year.

However, accounting for workdays and seasonal adjustments, exports actually fell 5.4 per cent on the month prior, marking the first decline after three months of consecutive gains, Goldman Sachs analysts noted.

“Total headline exports generally weakened across most destinations except notably to China and Vietnam,” the bank’s analysts wrote in a report.

Technology exports have underpinned South Korea’s comparatively early economic rebound over the past three months.

Computer chip exports have been buoyed by data centres grappling with increased internet usage during the pandemic.

And Huawei’s urgent moves to stockpile components ahead of new US restrictions have further boosted demand from South Korean suppliers like Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix, with the tight supply reflected in rising spot prices for some computer chips, people familiar with the matter said.

However, other major South Korean sectors, including Hyundai Group companies producing cars and ships, as well as petroleum producers, have struggled with supply chain issues and softening consumer demand in markets like the US.

For the first eight months this year the value of South Korean exports were $323bn, down 10 per cent from $361bn in the same period in 2019.

Dubai cracks down on sporting venue violations

Dubai, one of the seven United Arab Emirates, has cracked down on sporting venues that violated rules designed to stem the spread of coronavirus, official media reported on Sunday.

Three facilities — a playground, a swimming pool and a sport academy — were ordered shut until they comply with precautionary measures, the Wam news agency said.

Six other facilities were fined during the September 15-19 crackdown.

The violations included overcrowding, failure to maintain safe distancing, allowing prohibited gatherings, not wearing face masks and failure to check body temperatures.

HBO dominates socially distanced Emmys

Anna Nicolaou in New York

HBO dominated Sunday’s Emmy awards, reinforcing the network’s long-held position as television’s creative powerhouse even as Netflix has upended the industry.

The AT&T-owned network won 30 Emmy awards, including the coveted best drama series category for Succession and best limited series for Watchmen, in an event held virtually and without a live audience for the first time ever due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With the end last year of Game of Thrones and an exodus of executives including longtime chief Richard Plepler, observers had questioned whether HBO under new ownership could continue to churn out top shows.

That question was answered as the critically acclaimed programmes Watchmen and Succession each won four awards, helping HBO nab more trophies than any other network for the second year in a row.

The cast of HBO's Succession

HBO faced stiff competition from Netflix, which had scored a record 160 nominations this year for TV’s highest honours. The pair have duelled in the past few years, leading the pack in nominations and setting up a battle of HBO’s careful curation versus Netflix’s volume of programming.

In Hollywood, the Emmys have a commercial impact because winning awards enhances a studio’s standing with top talent. Reed Hastings, Netflix chief executive, told investors earlier this year that there was a “business benefit” to winning awards because it helped “win deals that we couldn’t have otherwise won”.

Coming in third in terms of awards was Pop TV, the Viacom-owned TV channel that airs Schitt’s Creek, a Canadian comedy that garnered broad popularity after Netflix picked up old seasons of it in 2017. The series won seven awards on Sunday, sweeping the comedy categories.

This year’s ceremony was constrained by the pandemic. Instead of lavish red carpets and hundreds of stars packed into a room together, Jimmy Kimmel hosted from a largely empty Staples Center in Los Angeles while nominees appeared via video links from their preferred locations around the globe.

Fujifilm seeks Japan approval for favipiravir

Yukinori Hanada in Tokyo

Fujifilm Holdings is planning to apply for permission to produce and sell its antiviral drug favipiravir as a treatment for coronavirus in Japan.

The health ministry could give the go-ahead this year, making favipiravir the third drug overall and the first Japanese domestic pharmaceutical to receive such approval.

Japan previously approved dexamethasone and remdesivir as coronavirus treatments.

Favipiravir, sold as Avigan, was originally developed as a flu treatment by what is now Fujifilm Toyama Chemical.

Clinical trials began in March and concluded in September. The results are still under review.

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Hong Kong students unveil new mask filter design

A group of Hong Kong students has developed a reusable face mask with a new filter design aimed at offering better protection during the coronavirus pandemic.

The University of Hong Kong engineering students created a "nanofibrous" filter material that they claim is more efficient at removing particles compared with existing filter materials.

Led by Zhang Junwei and Yan Tung-lo, the undergraduates hope to put masks that are more efficient and have longer reusable lives into large-scale production.

They used a process known as "electrospinning" to make the filters, which consist of nanofibres thinner than regular mask filter fibres.

The team has filed for a US provisional patent.

Indonesia’s daily new caseload tops 3,000

Mercedes Ruehl in Singapore

Indonesia recorded more than 3,000 coronavirus cases a day last week as the world's fourth most populous country struggles to contain the pandemic.

The south-east Asian nation reported its biggest daily rise to date on Saturday, with 4,168 new infections, according to government data.

Indonesia also has the region's highest death toll, with 9,553 coronavirus-related casualties as of Sunday, against a total of 244,676 cases.

The majority of cases are in the capital, Jakarta, which re-imposed large-scale social-distancing restrictions on September 14 for two weeks.

Bank to fund Covid-proof air-conditioner project

The Asian Development Bank announced on Monday it would back a project to make and deploy smart air-conditioners that would mitigate the risks of the coronavirus disease pandemic and other airborne pathogens in public buildings.

The bank said it would provide an initial $1m grant to develop "high-efficiency particulate filtration, proper humidification, and ultraviolet air purification to reduce airborne contaminants".

The resulting air-conditioning units would also be more energy efficient than existing designs, using up to 45 per cent less electricity, the Manila-based multilateral lender said in a statement.

“Improving resilience to diseases and mitigating climate change are priorities for our developing members," said Zhai Yongping, ADB's head of energy projects.

"This project will help address both health- and climate-related concerns associated with air-conditioning systems in public buildings and help to make cities more livable,” Mr Zhai added.

UK round-up: what you might have missed

Naomi Rovnick in London

British newspaper front pages are dominated by predictions of tighter coronavirus-related measures after health secretary Matt Hancock said the UK was at a "tipping point" and urged people to follow the rules.

The UK recorded 3,899 more cases on Sunday. The government said people who break rules such as the requirement to quarantine for 14 days after returning home from certain countries could be fined up to £10,000.

The regulations will come into force on September 28 in England.

In this article, the Financial Times' George Parker sums up prime minister Boris Johnson's situation as "political agony", as his MPs battle restrictions that could harm the economy while "his scientific advisers press for new national lockdowns".

The Times on Monday reports comments from Downing Street that Britain faces a difficult six months of tighter lockdown measures, although the cabinet is split over which ones to implement.

The Guardian leads on an appearance on Monday morning from the chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser, when they will make a direct appeal to the public to help stop the spread of the virus.

The Daily Telegraph quotes government sources warning the country is in the "last chance saloon" before heading into a second lockdown.

The Daily Mirror says that prime minister Boris Johnson will address the nation later this week, in a follow-up from Mr Hancock's "tipping point" comments.

Informa lowers sales forecast as exhibitions organiser delays events

Patricia Nilsson in London

Informa downgraded its full-year revenue forecast and has postponed events planned for early next spring as the pandemic has been "more volatile and far-reaching" than initially expected.

The exhibitions organiser had expected its events business to start picking up from September, something that it said on Monday had "not been possible" outside of China. The delayed recovery pushed the FTSE 100 group to lower its forecast on annual revenue to about £1.7bn, down from its June guidance of about £2bn.

"Over recent months, whilst government control restrictions have been gradually relaxed in many countries, more often than not this has been followed by a resurgence in infections and an increasing cycle of on/off targeted local lockdowns and extended travel restrictions," Informa said.

The world’s biggest exhibitions operator swung to a pre-tax loss of £801m in the six months ending June, driven by £1bn in lost sales from cancelled physical events. Sales fell 42 per cent from the same period last year to £814.4m.

Informa said China was back to "operating capability" and that the group has scheduled 20 events there before the end of the year.

UK's top medical experts to brief public

Daniel Thomas and George Parker in London

Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, and Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser, will give a public briefing on the latest Covid-19 data on Monday.

“The trend in the UK is heading in the wrong direction,” Prof Whitty will say. “We are at a critical point in the pandemic. We are looking at the data to see how to manage the spread of the virus ahead of a very challenging winter period.”

Hospitalisations in England are doubling every eight days and the R number — or reproductive rate — for the virus was between 1.1 and 1.4 on Friday. Scientists fear Britain is tracking France and Spain, where the virus has spread quickly in recent weeks.

Boris Johnson, UK prime minister, says he wants to avoid a national lockdown and has agreed with Mr Sunak that — for now at least — restrictions should focus on curbing social interaction rather than business closures.

But Matt Hancock, health secretary, said: “We are looking at all the options.” Prof Whitty is pushing for tough new national restrictions — a “circuit breaker” strategy lasting perhaps two weeks — to delay the spread of the virus.

G4S earnings improve as security group faces hostile approach

Harry Dempsey in London

Underlying earnings at G4S in the first eight months were ahead of a year earlier, strengthening the security contractor’s hand after batting off a £3bn approach by Canada’s GardaWorld.

Revenue for the security group was 1.9 per cent lower than the previous year but cost-cutting measures and lower borrowing costs helped to brighten the outlook for underlying earnings in the year to date, the group said. In its previous update in June, underlying earnings were in line with the previous year.

G4S is the world’s largest security company with £7.7bn in revenues. The earnings update came after its board rejected a 190p-a-share indicative offer from a smaller private equity-backed rival.

The FTSE 250 group has been relatively unscathed through the pandemic but it drew up plans in July to cut 1,000 jobs from its cash handling business in the UK, as the health crisis accelerated the move towards cashless payments.

Singaporean and Australian scientists work on vaccine for elderly

Mercedes Ruehl in Singapore

Researchers from the National University of Singapore and Australia’s Monash University are developing a Covid-19 vaccine aimed at the elderly that could be ready for clinical trials by the end of next year.

Called Clec9A-RBD, the vaccine is one of several the Asian city-state is involved in. It was modified from a drug that triggers immunity against diseases ranging from cancer, influenza and other infectious diseases.

The researchers are using the technology to target the spike protein characteristic in Covid-19, part of the outer layer of the virus and critical for entry into cells.

The team will conduct further animal studies and then aim for clinical trials of the vaccine for older patients. Tests so far indicated a “strong immune response” in both young and old mice, the researchers said.

“Given the enormous impact that Covid-19 has had on aged care facilities globally, there is an urgent need for a vaccine that can work in older people,” said Mireille Lahoud, associate professor from the Monash University Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI).

Superdry's full-year sales squeezed by coronavirus

Sarah Provan

Superdry’s full-year sales fell by nearly a fifth as Covid-19 lockdown measures hit the fashion chain and prompted its stores to be closed in the final month of its fiscal year.

The clothing retailer's shares dropped more than 10 per cent in early London trading on Monday. The company has provided no formal guidance and will not issue a final dividend as it recognises “material uncertainty”.

Total revenue for the 52 weeks to April 25 dropped 19.2 per cent to £704.4m, the fashion chain said on Monday. All the group’s stores were closed from March 22 until the end of its fiscal year.

The year’s underlying loss before tax came to £41.8m, which included charges of £19.7m for inventory adjustments plus a net tax credit of £16.7m.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has created unprecedented levels of uncertainty,” the group said. “Trading continues to be disrupted, but has improved from the end of fiscal year 2020 as social distancing measures are relaxed and consumer demand gradually returns.”

Superdry said it has discounted more in recent months compared with a year earlier to help clear excess stock, which piled up when stores were closed.

It reported a “stronger than anticipated performance” in the first quarter but remains “cautious” about the economic recovery and the impact this may have on its turnround plans.

The group completed the refinancing of its facilities to an asset-backed lending facility of up to £70m, whose expiry date it extended to January 2023.

UK consumers pull back on visits to shops and restaurants

Valentina Romei in London

Britons have been reducing visits to pubs, restaurants and shops this month, non-official data show, suggesting that the consumer-led UK economic recovery could be losing steam as infections rise.

In mid-September, footfall to pubs, take-away outlets and restaurants fell to the lowest level since early August, revealed data updated on Monday by Huq, a company tracking geospatial location data.

The findings are in line with separate daily figures from the retail consultancy Springboard that showed the number of visitors to high street shops, retail parks and shopping centres were weakening in September after a steady climb during the summer.

Separately, the high street sales tracker BDO, which monitors around 10,000 stores, reported that in-store sales “tumbled” in the week to September 13. Overall sales recorded their first drop since the summer.

Over the same week, the share of Britons who had left their home to eat or drink out decreased for the first time, following continued increases since early July, reported an Office for National Statistics survey among 2,500 adults released on Friday.

Consumer spending and activity increased during the summer, largely helped by a low number of infections and the government’s “eat out to help out” scheme, which ran through August. However, real-time data suggest that economic recovery might have stalled in September.

The weakening trend is confirmed by the widely-used Google mobility report, which in September showed the first decrease in the number of UK trips to retail and entertainment venues after the post-lockdown steady climb.

The weakening in trips to entertainment and shopping hubs in the UK contrasted with a pick-up in Germany, France and Italy, resulting in a widening mobility gap.

India cuts back on Covid testing

Amy Kazmin in New Delhi

India has significantly reduced its coronavirus testing, lowering its daily tally of reported cases, as the South Asian nation was poised to breach the threshold of 100,000 infections a day.

In the past seven days, India carried out 7 per cent fewer tests than in the previous week, when it conducted more than 1m tests a day, said health economist Rijo M John, who teaches at the Indian Institute of Management in Kozhikode.

India detected an all-time high of 97,859 new cases on September 16, as it was testing more than 1m. But tests have been dropping and on Saturday labs carried out 730,000 tests, down 30 per cent from the previous Saturday.

India reported 87,392 cases on Sunday, based on the 730,000 tests the previous day, a positive rate of 12 per cent.

The previous day India had detected more than 92,500 cases with more than 1.2m tests, a positivity rate of 8.8 per cent.

India has nearly 5.5m confirmed infections and is adding more new cases than any other country. More than 1,100 Indians are dying daily from Covid-19, with a total death toll of more than 87,900.

It has relatively low coronavirus test rates compared with the other countries hardest hit by the virus. It carries out 46,500 tests per million population compared with nearly 300,000 tests per million in the US, and 70,500 per million in Brazil.

The World Health Organization considers a positivity rate of below 5 per cent to be an indication that a country is testing adequately and is bringing the pandemic under control.

European stocks drop as renewed virus concerns hit sentiment

Camilla Hodgson in London

Monday morning proved a miserable start to the week for European equities with surging coronavirus cases sparking further concern about the economic recovery and bank shares under renewed selling pressure.

The bloc-wide Stoxx 600 fell 1.9 per cent, Germany’s Dax lost 2.3 per cent and the UK’s FTSE 100 shed 2.5 per cent in early dealings, with the European banks index extending last week’s losses to fall to its lowest level since May. US stock futures also fell, with those tracking the benchmark S&P 500 off about 1 per cent.

Anxiety about rising coronavirus infections has gripped economists and politicians in recent days, with countries, including the UK, having imposed stricter social restrictions in some regions, and eyeing tougher action still.

“We do expect the pace of recovery to slow over the next several quarters in most, if not all, economies as the virus spreads faster with the arrival of cold weather in the northern hemisphere, and thanks to a likely halt in US fiscal support until after the election this November,” said analysts at Deutsche Bank.

Travel and leisure shares were among the biggest fallers during Monday’s trading session, with the Stoxx index tracking the sector down 4.1 per cent.

Germany plans 'fever clinics' to help cope with autumn's caseload

Erika Solomon in Berlin

Germany plans to set up "fever clinics" for Covid-19 testing and treatment as part of the government's strategy to fight the virus during the autumn and winter when cases are likely to rise.

The centres, which will take patients with typical coronavirus or flu symptoms away from general hospitals, should "ideally be accessible nationwide in autumn", health minister Jens Spahn told the Rheinische Post on Monday.

Germany aims to step up protection measures and testing for risk groups, such as nursing homes.

By mid-October, the federal health ministry and German states should agree a general testing strategy that will include rapid antigen tests and new quarantine periods for those returning from risk areas, Mr Spahn said. He did not specify how those periods might change.

Cases in Germany, like many other European states, have been rising even before the start of the colder season when flu and other viruses traditionally rip through communities. The Robert Koch Institute reported 10, 735 coronavirus infections in the past 10 days and noted that the increasing cases required careful monitoring.

Mr Spahn pointed out that testing capacities have been greatly increased.

"In the past four weeks alone, about one-third of all tests since the beginning of the pandemic have been performed," he said.

UK government fines thousands for breaking 'unclear' rules

Naomi Rovnick in London

Thousands of Britons have been fined for breaking “unclear and ambiguous” coronavirus regulations, a parliamentary committee has said.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights said in a report that people had paid fixed penalty notices of up to £10,000 in circumstances where the police “do not fully understand their powers”.

The notices, the committee said, could not be reviewed or appealed, even though there was evidence of their being incorrectly applied.

In a review of the government’s coronavirus rulemaking, the committee, led by Harriet Harman QC, argued for a national policy on controversial "do not resuscitate” decisions, explaining:

The evidence suggests that the absence of such a policy has, in the context of the pandemic, led to systematic violation of the rights of patients.

The committee outlined concerns that government efforts to protect the NHS from running out of capacity to deal with coronavirus cases had:

been made without adequate consideration of the impact on particular groups of others whose treatments have been cancelled or postponed in consequence.

Blanket bans on prison visits, meanwhile, had been “incompatible with the right to family life”.

Read the full report here

Iran's supreme leader urges faithful to shun holy visit as cases worsen

Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran

Iran's supreme leader has called on the faithful to avoid lining up at the closed border with Iraq to visit its holy shrines as the nation braces itself for another wave of surging coronavirus cases.

If officials "don’t allow you to go, all should succumb. You can pay tribute [to Hossein] from your home,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said. “Do not underestimate the impacts of coronavirus."

Millions of Shia Muslims commemorate Arbaeen every year, which is the 40th day of martyrdom of the third Imam of Shias Hossein who is buried in Iraq.

This year the commemoration will be on October 8. Thousands of Iranians, however, have rushed to the border with Iraq in recent days while clashes with the police are reported.

Every day, Ayatollah Khamenei said, 150 Iranians on average are dying.

Health officials say some areas, including the capital Tehran, have been subject to a “third wave” of the virus. The situation in some other cities such as Isfahan, Qom and Tabriz are reported to be highly critical.

“The time gap between the second wave and the third wave in Tehran was short,” said Alireza Zali, who is in charge of Tehran province’s headquarters to fight against coronavirus. “The disease has exhausted people, which has led to a decline in observing guidelines [such as wearing face masks].”

In Iran, 24,301 have died out of 422,140 testing positive, which makes Iran the worst hit in the Middle East in terms of Covid-19 deaths.

Czech health minister steps down as Covid crisis worsens

Harry Dempsey in London

Czech Republic’s health minister Adam Vojtech has resigned as the central European country’s outbreak reaches its most critical point to date.

He stepped aside to make space for a fresh approach for dealing with the pandemic, after a surge in cases that has made the Czech Republic one of the worst hit countries in the most recent outbreak.

Prime minister Andrej Babis thanked Mr Vojtech for his service. “He managed the first wave of the virus unbelievably,” the prime minister said in a tweet. “I understand that it must have been too much for him, that he was disgusted with politics and the media and decided to leave.”

He said that he has nominated Roman Prymula, who is serving as the deputy health minister, to take over and lead the Covid-19 response.

The Czech Republic recorded more than 2,000 confirmed daily cases for four straight days last week and its case number has risen to 172.8 cases per million on a seven-day rolling basis, putting it among the European countries with the highest rate of infection.

Breaking news

UK's Covid cases could hit 50,000 a day, scientific advisers warn

Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe, George Parker and Jim Pickard in London

Coronavirus cases could reach 50,000 a day by mid-October if more is not done to stop the spread of the virus in Britain, the government's top medical and scientific advisers have said, as they warned of a tough six months ahead.

In a televised address from 10 Downing Street, Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, and Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser, said that the country was facing a challenging winter.

"At the moment, the epidemic is doubling roughly every seven days," Sir Patrick said. "If – and this is quite a big if – that continues unabated and this grows, doubling every seven days, by mid-October you'd end up with something like 50,000 cases in a day."

He added: "Fifty thousand cases a day will be expected to reach 200 deaths a day" by mid-November.

Sir Patrick said the challenge was to “make sure the doubling time does not stay at seven days” to avoid entering a period of exponential growth.

“This requires, speed, this requires action,” he said. “Cases are increasing, hospitalisations are following, deaths unfortunately will follow that.”

Sir Patrick said that fewer than 8 per cent of the public – under 3m – had been infected and thus had antibodies.

“The vast majority of us are not protected in any way and are susceptible to the disease,” he said. “We also know that they fade over time and there are cases of people becoming re-infected so this is not an absolute protection and this will potentially decrease over time.”

The advisers’ slides suggested that, if there was a doubling of cases every seven days, the number of new daily cases could grow from 3,105 on September 15 to 49,000 by October 13.

The prime minister is expected to set out the next steps in the fight against the virus on Tuesday, while London mayor Sadiq Khan met local officials to discuss new restrictions on social activity in the capital.

Data released during the briefing showed how the biggest increase in new cases has been among 20 to 29-year-olds, followed by 30 to 39-year-olds.

Scotland's Sturgeon urges UK-wide action to fight Covid

Mure Dickie in Edinburgh

Scotland will "almost certainly" outline deeper restrictions within days to curb growing Covid-19 transmissions as the first minister urged UK-wide action on containing the spread of the disease.

Nicola Sturgeon said on Monday she was frustrated that the UK government had not confirmed when it would convene a meeting of its Cobra emergency committee, but said that she would soon be speaking to Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister.

“I will impress upon the prime minister my view that we need decisive, urgent and, as far as possible…coordinated action across the UK,” Ms Sturgeon said.

Ms Sturgeon hopes Scotland's new rules will be aligned with England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, but that Scotland would proceed alone if necessary. “Additional restrictions will almost certainly be put in place in Scotland over the next couple of days,” she said.

Every mainland health region in Scotland has reported new cases of Covid-19 and the rate of positive tests for the virus had risen to 6.3 per cent and in some areas was even higher, she said.

Wales imposes more local lockdowns after rapid rise in cases

Andy Bounds in Huddersfield

Wales is to impose tighter restrictions on about 300,000 people, the day the first minister is to discuss a possible national lockdown with the UK prime minister as cases rise in the devolved nation.

As part of the rules unveiled on Monday, no one will be able to visit or leave Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport in south Wales from 6pm on Tuesday, unless they have a "reasonable excuse", such as travel for work or education, health minister Vaughan Gething said.

Residents in those towns will be forbidden to meet other households indoors, while pubs and all other licensed premises have been given a strict closing time of 11pm.

First minister Mark Drakeford will speak to Boris Johnson on Monday.

Caerphilly and Rhondda Cynon Taf had similar measures imposed last week.

Merthyr Tydfil has the highest infection rate in Wales with 94.5 cases per 100,000 people in the week to September 20.

Measures could be imposed on the capital Cardiff with all 10 councils between the English border and Bridgend meeting on Tuesday to discuss the problem.

Mr Gething said the cases were linked to “people socialising indoors without social distancing”.

Across the UK more than 13m have had restrictions imposed on them after the government said the second wave of infection had begun.

Johnson to meet devolved nations' leaders before Cobra meeting

Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe in London

UK ministers are discussing the case for coronavirus-related restrictions across England as the prime minister prepares to hold talks with the leaders of the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The prime minister will convene a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee on Tuesday and hold a regular cabinet meeting before setting out his new approach. He said last week that another national lockdown would be “disastrous” for the economy.

The meetings will come after warnings from England’s chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser, who on Monday said the country faces a “very challenging winter”.

In an interview with ITV’s This Morning on Monday, health minister Matt Hancock said the country has reached a “tipping point”.

Lone gainers on FTSE 100: supermarkets and delivery group

Harry Dempsey in London

A pair of supermarkets, an outlet store and Just Eat Takeaway were the only stocks to rise on London’s blue-chip share index on a downcast day for global stocks as investors seek out defensive equities that may prosper during another strict lockdown.

Tesco and Morrisons gained 1.5 per cent and 0.9 per cent, respectively, by afternoon trading on Monday in London. Discount store B&M edged up 0.2 per cent, while the food delivery group rose 0.9 per cent.

Their gains contrasted to the gloomy day for UK companies. The broader FTSE 100 index shed 3.1 per cent, dragged lower by travel companies and banks.

Along with Spain’s Ibex 35, the FTSE 100 has been one of the worst performing major stock indices in the world this year, down 22.8 per cent in the year to date.

The severe initial coronavirus outbreaks and persistent fears of further coronavirus restrictions have hit both countries’ economies hard, causing share prices to languish after rebounding from March’s collapse.

US stocks dive as Covid lockdown fears accelerate

Camilla Hodgson in London and Hudson Lockett in Hong Kong

Wall Street opened lower on Monday, with the S&P 500 dropping 2 per cent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite falling about 1.9 per cent.

The large-cap S&P 500 tied up its third consecutive week of losses with a drop of 0.6 per cent last week. Elsewhere, European shares tumbled as a rise in coronavirus cases has prompted concerns about tighter restrictions and even another strict lockdown.

Renewed virus concerns dealt a blow to bank and travel shares in the US and elsewhere, pushing Bank of America down 3 per cent and United Airlines down 6 per cent.

Nasdaq-listed shares in electric truck maker Nikola shed a fifth of their value. Its founder said he would step down from his role as executive chairman, following allegations by a short-seller that the company was an “intricate fraud”.

In Europe, London’s FTSE 100 was down 3.1 per cent by afternoon trading. Shares in British Airways' owner IAG fell 11 per cent, while Trainline lost 12 per cent and InterContinental Hotels slipped 3 per cent.

The Stoxx Europe 600 dropped 2.6 per cent, leaving the continent-wide index on track for the steepest decline since June, while the sub-index of European banks extended last week’s losses to reach its lowest level since mid-May.

The sell-off was “mainly down to what’s happening in terms of Covid-19 and potential second lockdowns”, said Artur Baluszynski, head of research at investment manager Henderson Rowe.

Lufthansa to cut jobs and fleet size further on slow recovery in air travel

Joe Miller in Frankfurt

Lufthansa has warned that it will be forced to cut more jobs and dispose of a further 50 jets because of a “significantly lower” recovery in air traffic as a brief boost in demand during the holiday season fades away.

Following a board meeting, the German carrier, which secured a €9bn bailout from Berlin in June, said that while it had expected to be operating roughly 50 per cent of its pre-crisis schedule in the last three months of 2020, that forecast had been lowered to between 20 and 30 per cent.

The company’s shares fell by more than 10 per cent in Frankfurt on Monday, to their lowest level in more than a month.

The Frankfurt-based group, which includes brands such as Austrian, Brussels, Swiss and Eurowings, had already announced that it would be faced with at least 22,000 excess staff as a result of Covid-19, and cautioned that those numbers would need to be “further adjusted”.

It added that 20 per cent of management positions would be axed next year but the airline refused to specify how many more jobs would be at risk in total.

Lufthansa, which unlike most of its competitors owned some 760 jets when the pandemic hit, said it would permanently decommission a total of 150 planes, and confirmed that all 14 of its Airbus A380s would be put in “long-term storage”, along with 10 A340-600s. Those decisions would lead to a writedown of €1.1bn in its third quarter results, the company added.

Florida reports smallest daily rise in cases since June

Peter Wells in New York

Florida reported its smallest increase in new coronavirus cases in more than three months, even as it conducted the fewest daily tests in a fortnight.

A further 1,685 people in Florida tested positive for the disease, state authorities revealed this morning, down from 2,521 yesterday and compared with 1,736 last Monday.

It was the smallest one-day increase in cases since a reported 1,371 on June 10 and continues to demonstrate the progress the Sunshine State has made in bringing under control its summer surge of coronavirus. In July, Florida routinely reported more than 10,000 cases a day.

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

The state reported 43,198 tests had been conducted, down from 60,202 yesterday and compared with nearly 51,000 reported last Monday. It was the smallest amount of daily tests conducted in two weeks.

Of those, the percentage of people in Florida who tested positive for Covid-19 for the first time slid to 4.36 per cent from 4.62 per cent on Sunday and compared with 3.85 per cent a week ago.

The statewide death toll rose by 21, up from nine on Sunday and compared with an increase of 36 a week ago.

CDC says guidance on airborne transmission was posted in error

Hannah Kuchler in New York

The US federal public health agency has said it mistakenly published a draft update to its recommendations, paving the way for a possible reversal on the recent guidance about whether the virus behind Covid-19 spreads through the air.

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that Sars Cov-2 can spread in small particles that stay in the air — and that people therefore needed to be cautious about poorly ventilated indoor spaces, even if they kept six feet from others.

But on Monday, the agency said that was "posted in error" and that another update would come soon.

The World Health Organization said in July that there was “emerging evidence” for airborne transmission after 200 scientists wrote a letter compiling the research done so far. A study published in August by researchers at the University of Florida, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, showed they were able to capture live virus in the air in hospital rooms, further than six feet away from patients.

Northern Ireland tightens coronavirus rules again as cases rise

Arthur Beesley in Dublin

Northern Ireland has tightened coronavirus restrictions for the second time in less than a fortnight and warned of further steps to come as the pandemic escalates.

Household gatherings will be curtailed under measures that come into force on Tuesday evening but Robin Swann, the region’s health minister, said he expected “further restrictions will be required sooner rather than later” to tackle the virus.

The restrictions on household gatherings will apply to all of Northern Ireland, extending throughout the region measures that were imposed 11 days ago on Belfast and the county Antrim town of Ballymena, in its first localised measures.

These steps were set out on Monday by Arlene Foster, first minister in the region’s devolved executive, and Michelle O’Neill, the deputy first minister, after 222 new infections were reported on Saturday and another 176 on Sunday.

“Coronavirus has been on the increase since early July and confirmation that almost 400 people tested positive over the weekend, and a further 125 today, is of grave concern to the executive,” Mrs Foster told an online press conference.

“We would say the decisions we’ve made today are appropriate and they certainly are proportionate.”

The executive said there should be no mixing of households in private dwellings, with only a few exceptions. A maximum of six people from no more than two households will be allowed to gather in a private garden, although children aged 12 and under from the two households are not included in the total.

Ms O’Neill accepted that many people would be concerned at the new measures but said they were necessary. “The increasing rate of infection and the steps taken by the executive should shake people from any complacency or misbelief that we are through the worst of the virus.”

California becomes third US state to confirm 15,000 Covid deaths

Peter Wells in New York

California became the third US state to confirm 15,000 coronavirus deaths since the start of the pandemic, even as it reported its smallest daily increase in fatalities in two weeks.

A further 31 people died, state health authorities revealed on Monday afternoon, down from 75 yesterday and compared with 56 a week ago.

That pushed California's overall death toll to 15,018, ranking behind only New York and New Jersey among US states.

A further 3,294 people in California tested positive for Covid-19 over the past 24 hours, down from 4,265 on Sunday and compared with 2,855 last Monday.

Governor Gavin Newsom acknowledged last week that wildfires burning through the state had weighed upon the number of coronavirus tests that were being conducted each day. Last week, the rolling 14-day average of tests fell below 100,000 for the first time since early July.

Testing in recent days has bounced back. Monday's official report revealed 149,624 tests conducted over the past day, down from 179,292 on Sunday, which was the second-biggest testing day on record, according to state data. That has helped drag the 14-day average of daily tests back above 108,000 a day.

Also encouraging was that despite the jump in tests over recent days, the percentage of people testing positive for Covid has remained low. On Monday, the 14-day average of the percentage of people who tested positive held steady at 3.1 per cent, the lowest level since the state government began tracking the metric in April.

Wall Street slides on coronavirus fears

Colby Smith in New York, Camilla Hodgson in London and Hudson Lockett in Hong Kong

Global stocks suffered a heavy hit on Monday, while government bonds rallied and the US dollar snapped a losing streak in a rush of nerves about the fate of the economic recovery and a potential new set of lockdowns to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

The S&P 500 index dropped 1.2 per cent, the fourth down-day in a row for US stocks, which have remained under pressure since the Federal Reserve’s most recent meeting on monetary policy last week.

Investors had expressed disappointment that the central bank did not spell out in greater detail its plans to support the economic recovery through its bond-buying programme, which it rolled out in March amid a surge in volatility.

Beyond the Fed, Patrick Leary, chief market strategist at Incapital, flagged the upcoming US presidential election in November as well as the stand-off between Democrats and Republicans over a new relief package. Policymakers have been unable to come to a compromise over how much new stimulus to provide, jeopardising an economic recovery that began haltingly in May.

“There is just little reason to not take profits . . . before such a volatile thing like the election,” Mr Leary said. As well, “there are enough reasons to be concerned that there may be long-term damage to the economy”. 

Declines in Europe were even more pronounced, with Germany’s Dax dropping by 4 per cent in its worst day since June.

Read more on this story here.

Airline and cruise stocks tumble on fears of fresh restrictions

Mamta Badkar in New York

Travel stocks were hit hard by fears that a rise in coronavirus cases could restrict movement and could potentially signal fresh lockdowns.

Delta shares tumbled 9.2 per cent, while United fell nearly 9 per cent, American Airlines declined 7.4 per cent and Southwest fell nearly 6 per cent. The broader NYSE Arca airline index dropped 7 per cent.

Shares in cruise operators were also under pressure with Carnival shares off nearly 7 per cent, Royal Caribbean down 7.2 per cent and Norwegian Cruise off 7.8 per cent.

The sell-off in travel stocks came alongside a sharp decline in global stocks, as fears about the global economic recovery and the potential for new lockdowns amid a steep rise in European cases unnerved investors.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson warned that daily coronavirus cases could rise to almost 50,000 within weeks if they continued on this trajectory as he proposed closing pubs early as part of a move to curb the spread of the virus. This heaped further pressure on carriers and cruise operators that have already seen demand for their service plummet during the pandemic.

The Cruise Lines International Association, a trade group that represents most of the global cruise industry on Monday pledged to test all passengers and crew members when voyages gradually resume. The CLIA said with the support and approval of regulators "cruises could feasibly begin" in the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America this year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a no-sail order in effect until the end of the month.

Powell says Main Street businesses may need direct aid

James Politi in Washington

Jay Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, will tell Congress that struggling small and medium-sized businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic may need “direct fiscal support”, rather than more generous lending from the central bank.

In prepared testimony released ahead of his appearance before the US House financial services committee on Tuesday, Mr Powell sought to defend the Fed from criticism that its crisis measures have failed to help “Main Street” America as much as financial markets in recent months.

In particular, some lawmakers have pointed to the fact that the Fed’s flagship $600bn fund to lend to medium-sized companies needing assistance has barely been used because many potential borrowers and their banks feel that the terms are too strict.

But Mr Powell stressed the limit of the Fed’s powers in lending directly to businesses, and said it was up to Congress to offer aid to stricken sectors of the economy if they wanted.

The Fed chair said its crisis lending facilities were only a “backstop” and reflected its “lending powers” rather than “spending powers”, which are the purview of Congress.

Powell says Main Street businesses may need direct aid

James Politi in Washington

Jay Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, will tell Congress that struggling small and medium-sized businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic may need “direct fiscal support”, rather than more generous lending from the central bank.

In prepared testimony released ahead of his appearance before the US House financial services committee on Tuesday, Mr Powell sought to defend the Fed from criticism that its crisis measures have failed to help “Main Street” America as much as financial markets in recent months.

In particular, some lawmakers have pointed to the fact that the Fed’s flagship $600bn fund to lend to medium-sized companies needing assistance has barely been used because many potential borrowers and their banks feel that the terms are too strict.

But Mr Powell stressed the limit of the Fed’s powers in lending directly to businesses, and said it was up to Congress to offer aid to stricken sectors of the economy if they wanted.

The Fed chair said its crisis lending facilities were only a “backstop” and reflected its “lending powers” rather than “spending powers”, which are the purview of Congress.

“Many borrowers will benefit from these programs, as will the overall economy, but for others, a loan that could be difficult to repay might not be the answer. In these cases, direct fiscal support may be needed,” Mr Powell said.

The Fed chair’s comments come as lawmakers remain deadlocked on a new fiscal stimulus package to prop up the US economy, with dimming chances of a compromise before the November general election — particularly as lawmakers gear up for a bitter fight over the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday.

Texas nears 700,000 mark after revealing thousands of backlogged cases

Peter Wells in New York

Texas reported its smallest daily increase in new coronavirus infections in almost two weeks, but a dump of more than 7,000 backlogged cases put it on the cusp of becoming the second US state to confirm 700,000 cases overall.

A further 1,742 people in Texas tested positive for Covid-19 over the past 24 hours, authorities revealed on Monday afternoon, down from 2,241 yesterday and compared with 2,554 last Monday. It was the smallest daily increase in 13 days.

The state health department has for weeks been adding backlogs of tests from commercial laboratories, which are excluded from the daily figures but added to the statewide total. There were 7,070 such historical cases from two dozen counties, authorities revealed in Monday's update.

Combined, that takes the total number of confirmed cases in the state since the start of the pandemic to 698,387. Only California has more infections among US states.

A further 24 people in Texas died from Covid-19, down from 45 on Sunday and compared with 21 a week ago. It was the smallest increase in a week.

US reports smallest rise in Covid deaths in two weeks

Peter Wells in New York

The US reported its smallest increase in coronavirus deaths in two weeks on Monday, while new infections again hovered around the 40,000 mark.

The national death toll rose by 287, according to data from Covid Tracking Project, down from 327 on Sunday and compared with 404 a week ago. It was the smallest daily increase since the Labor Day public holiday on September 7.

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

The national tally of confirmed coronavirus cases rose by 39,467, up from 36,925 on Sunday and compared with 33,864 last Monday.

Among the notable daily increases were California (3,294), Kansas (1,674) and Michigan (1,575). Florida (1,685) reported its smallest jump in new infections in about three months.

Texas (1,742) reported its smallest daily increase in new Covid-19 infections in almost two weeks, but revealed a large backlog of more than 7,000 historical cases. That puts it on the cusp of becoming the second US state to confirm 700,000 infections since the start of the pandemic.

Owing to several days last week when the number of new infections rose by more than 40,000, the rolling seven-day average of cases in the US today reached a 20-day high of 41,115 a day.

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