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US consumers are paying down their credit cards as the pandemic crimps spending opportunities, leaving banks fretting over their profits. Total card loans stood at $755bn in the last week of October, according to the Federal Reserve — $100bn lower than when the pandemic took hold.
The head of Donald Trump’s flagship vaccine project has called on the White House to make contact with Joe Biden’s transition team. Moncef Slaoui, a veteran pharmaceuticals executive heading Operation Warp Speed, said he wanted to make sure his project continued operating during the transfer of power.
Zambia is set to be the first African country to default on its debt since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, after Bwalya Ng’andu, the finance minister, signalled that it would miss a deadline at the end of Friday to pay $42m interest on about $3bn of US dollar bonds.
The UK government failed to properly implement EU law by not extending health and safety protections to “gig economy” workers, including the provision of personal protective equipment, the High Court ruled on Friday. The court said two EU health and safety directives were not properly transposed into UK law.
Soaring demand during the pandemic allowed food delivery app DoorDash to post revenues of $1.9bn for the first nine months of 2020, helping narrow its losses. During the pandemic, DoorDash’s revenues increased more than 200 per cent, up from $587m in the same period in 2019.
Boeing has logged 516 net cancellations for its troubled 737 Max aircraft to the end of October. While the pandemic has hit both Boeing and rival Airbus, the US company has suffered an unprecedented number of cancelled orders from airlines and lessors who can do so without penalty.
Tata Steel is in talks with Swedish rival SSAB over the potential sale of its Dutch business, a move likely to cast uncertainty over the future of Britain’s Port Talbot steelworks. The industry has taken a battering from the Covid-19 pandemic, suffering from excess capacity and high import levels.
The compiler of Hong Kong’s Hang Seng stock index said on Friday it had dropped the colonial-era trading company Swire Pacific from its list of constituents and would add Chinese food delivery app Meituan Dianping, highlighting the growing financial footprint of China’s technology giants.
EU regulator warns funds of future shocks
Chris Flood and Siobhan Riding
Fund managers must strengthen their processes to avoid a repeat of the weaknesses exposed by the coronavirus market shock, the EU financial regulator said on Friday.
The chairman of the European Securities and Markets Authority, Steven Maijoor, voiced concerns that asset managers, particularly those exposed to hard-to-sell corporate debt and real estate assets, were not prepared for dealing with a rush of investor redemption requests or valuation uncertainty prompted by fresh market ructions.
“Asset managers need to step up their efforts to ensure the liquidity of their funds is adequately managed and that they are prepared for future shocks,” he said. “This is especially relevant for funds exposed to less liquid assets.”
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MIT chemists uncover structure of key protein
Chemists in the US have determined the molecular structure of a protein found in the virus that causes Covid-19, paving a way for scientists to develop methods to block its replication.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said the protein plays a key role in the virus’s ability to replicate itself and stimulate the host cell’s inflammation response.
If researchers could devise ways to block this channel, they may be able to reduce the pathogenicity of SARS-CoV-2 and interfere with viral replication, said Mei Hong, an MIT professor of chemistry.
“Our findings could be useful for medicinal chemists to design alternative small molecules that target this channel,” said Dr Hong, senior author of a new study of the protein.
When the coronavirus pandemic began earlier this year, Dr Hong and her students decided to focus on the so-called E protein, partly because it is similar to an influenza protein she had previously studied.
How Disney cracked India with IPL cricket
As the Indian Premier League concluded this week, its hundreds of millions of viewers had long forgotten the clouds that hung over the cricket tournament earlier this year.
Originally slated for March, the two-month IPL was twice postponed, embroiled in geopolitical tension and ultimately, as India’s coronavirus cases spiralled, held in the United Arab Emirates with no spectators.
But IPL attracted record viewership and higher advertising spend despite the pandemic’s economic disruption in a welcome relief for Disney, which secured the TV and digital rights through its 2019 acquisition of 21st Century Fox.
Read more in Scoreboard here
Mask use decisive in hospital transmission, says study
The universal wearing of masks is a decisive factor in preventing transmission of coronavirus within hospitals, a US study has found.
The research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that unmasked exposure to fellow health workers posed a greater risk than wearing a mask near infected patients.
“Transmission leading to a cluster of at least 55 infections at Baystate Medical Center in western Massachusetts in July was traced back to staff who convened in a breakroom and removed their masks,” the study noted.
An outbreak at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston in September was due in part to a “lack of physical distancing among staff while unmasked while eating” as well as many patients not wearing masks.
Researchers led by Aaron Richterman, a Brigham and Women’s internist, said universal masking would make overall hospital transmission of Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, “rare, even during periods of high community prevalence”.
Previous research that studied health care workers at 12 US hospitals with more than 75 000 employees found that the SARS-CoV-2 test positivity rate among healthcare workers decreased from 14.65 per cent to 11.46 per cent in the three weeks after implementation of universal masking.
A detailed contact tracing study of 226 patients exposed to healthcare workers with Covid-19 found only one possible transmission, most likely caused by a 30-minute encounter during which both patient and healthcare worker were unmasked.
Washington state imposes 4 weeks of restrictions
Washington state, in the US north-west, will impose four weeks of tighter restrictions from midnight on Monday evening to combat a coronavirus surge.
Indoor gatherings with people outside a household will be prohibited unless they quarantine for 14 days before and seven days after the event. Outdoor gatherings are limited to no more than five people.
Restaurants and bars will be closed for indoor service, with takeaway services and restricted outdoor dining allowed. In-store retail, grocery stores and personal services are limited to 25 per cent of occupancy.
“Today is the most dangerous public health day in the last 100 years of our state’s history,” governor Jay Inslee wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “A pandemic is raging in Washington. Today, we are taking action to stop it.”
Mr Inslee, a Democrat, warned of further restrictions ahead.
“It may be months before we’re totally out of the clear, but medical advances are putting us closer to the goal of restoring all activities eventually,” he said.
Pandemic helps boost telehealth in Victoria
The government of the Australian state of Victoria said the coronavirus pandemic has underscored the benefits of medical services delivered directly to homes.
The state will earmark nearly A$121m (US$87m) for an overhaul and expansion of home-delivered post-operative care and recovery services in this year’s budget.
Victoria’s Better at Home initiative includes A$102m set aside to enable patients to make appointments and receive chemotherapy, post-surgical care and rehabilitation in their homes.
About A$5.8m will be allocated to the training of healthcare staff in the state under the programme.
A Uniqlo store employee in Montreal takes a customer’s temperature
New cases in Quebec hit record levels
Canada’s French-speaking province of Quebec reported record levels of new cases over the weekend, with 1,211 announced on Sunday following an all-time high of 1,448 new infections on Saturday.
The government of the hard-hit region also reported 40 more deaths linked to Covid-19 over the weekend, for a total of 6,626.
“In Quebec, for the moment, the spread of the coronavirus is under control, but the present weeks are critical,” the provincial government said in a statement. “There is now community transmission of the virus in all regions of Quebec.”
Quebec has the highest number of cases per head of all Canadian provinces, with 1,436 positive cases for every 100,000 people. The national rate in Canada is 854 confirmed cases per 100,000 people.
There have been at least 287,300 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country since the pandemic began, according to Public Health Agency of Canada data. More than 10,000 people have died.
NHS to open 40 clinics for ‘long Covid’ patients
The NHS will open 40 clinics in England to help those suffering from “long Covid”, the debilitating effects of the virus months after being infected.
The clinics are due to start opening at the end of November, the NHS announced on Sunday.
Long Covid is thought to affect more than 60,000 people in the UK. The after-effects of infection can include fatigue, breathlessness and pain.
NHS England said it would provide £10m to fund the clinics.
Ten sites have been earmarked for the Midlands, seven in the north-east, six each in the east, south-west and south-east, five in London and three in the north-west, the NHS said.
The clinics would “see patients who have been hospitalised, officially diagnosed after a test or reasonably believe they had Covid-19”, the NHS said in a statement.
Hospital fire kills 10 patients in Covid-19 ward
Ten people died in a fire at a Romanian hospital treating coronavirus patients at the weekend, state media reported.
The blaze spread through an intensive care ward at a public hospital in north-eastern Romania, the official Agerpres news agency said.
Most of the victims were patients, Agerpres said.
Seven other people – a doctor and six Covid-19 patients – were injured in the fire in Piatra Neamț, some critically, the news agency said.
They have been transferred to a hospital in Iași, a larger nearby city, Agerpres reported.
Nelu Tătaru, Romania’s health minister, said Cătălin Denciu, an anaesthetist, had suffered severe burns while trying to save patients.
He had been flown to Bucharest for treatment but would be transferred to the Queen Astrid Military Hospital in Brussels on Sunday, he added.
Mr Tătaru said eight patients who survived the fire had been moved to another floor of the hospital.
Pedestrians wear masks as they walk through Times Square in Manhattan
New York City schools to stay open as cases rise
New York City will keep its schools open on Monday despite almost 1,000 new cases reported on Sunday and a climbing positivity rate, authorities said on Sunday.
Health officials announced 937 new cases, including 117 admitted to hospitals.
“Thankfully, schools will remain open on Monday, but we have to keep fighting back with everything we’ve got,” mayor Bill de Blasio wrote on Twitter.
The city’s positivity rate’s seven-day rolling average has steadily crept up and is now at 2.57 per cent, a rate not seen since June.
On Friday, Mr de Blasio said: “We made a promise to our parents, educators and staff” that if the Covid-19 positivity rate went above 3 per cent, schools would close. New York state’s positivity rate passed 3 per cent on November 10.
Since Friday, New York City bars and lounges, restaurants, gyms and fitness clubs, and liquor and wine stores have been forced to close at 10pm.
Johnson in self-isolation after Covid-19 contact
George Parker and Sarah Neville
British prime minister Boris Johnson has been forced to self-isolate after meeting a Conservative MP who later developed symptoms of Covid-19.
Mr Johnson had been trying to repair political damage from his Downing Street operation falling apart when he was notified by NHS Test and Trace of the need to go into isolation.
The prime minister, who had been expected to make a big speech on the “green economy” on Wednesday, would follow the rules but would carry on working from Downing Street, his office said.
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Fion Phua, right, founder of Keeping Hope Alive, talks to a tenant in a low-income housing project in Singapore. The charity delivers goods and services to people in need during the pandemic
Singapore workers celebrate Diwali online
More than 170,000 of Singapore’s migrant workers celebrated an online Diwali this weekend, making do with pre-recorded religious services because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The island nation’s labour ministry coordinated with community groups to distribute traditional food to the mostly Hindu and Sikh workers, who live in 144 dormitories across the country and were unable to attend temple services because of restrictions on gatherings.
Singtel, the mobile phone network, and the Migrant Workers’ Centre – run by the National Trades Union Congress and Singapore National Employers’ Federation – organised a digital performance by Indian singers.
“Hindu temples across Singapore and Sikh organisations have banded together to do something meaningful for our friends from the migrant worker community,” said R Jayachandran, chairman of the Hindu Endowments Board.
Sunday marked Singapore’s fifth consecutive day without reporting a locally transmitted case of Covid-19.
Australian state cautions over falling STI testing
The Australian state of Victoria on Sunday urged its residents to be checked for sexually transmitted infections after data showed a drop in testing since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Figures released by the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre showed a 68 per cent drop in people without symptoms seeking testing this year over 2019.
State authorities said the reduction is most likely due to people delaying health checks during the pandemic.
Sexually transmitted infections are on the rise, the state government said, “due to changing sexual behaviour, persistent stigma, decreasing and inconsistent condom use, migration and social media networking”.
Hong Kong reimposes curbs on bars and restaurants
Hong Kong has reimposed tighter social-distancing restrictions after a rise in locally transmitted Covid-19 cases.
From Monday, restaurants and bars must operate at no more than half of capacity, while the maximum number of people allowed at tables in bars is halved to two people and in restaurants reduced from six to four people.
Restaurants will be able to serve food from 5am to midnight.
The new measures were announced on Saturday by Sophia Chan, food and health secretary.
The Chinese city recorded 14 new cases of Covid-19 on Sunday.
The city also closed barbecue sites and campsites from Friday.
Ireland’s bikers in post-pandemic pedal push
Bicycle shop sales have soared in Ireland with the lifting of coronavirus pandemic restrictions, according to AIB data released on Sunday.
Reduced traffic, good weather and investment in cycling infrastructure has seen sales in bicycle stores increase 32 per cent in the first nine months of 2020 over the previous year, the Irish bank noted.
“The month of June, when restrictions as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic started to lift, saw consumers rush to bicycle stores, with sales 70 per cent higher than those in June 2019,” AIB said.
July and August sales in bicycle stores rose 63 per cent and 53 per cent year on year respectively, the bank added, “with this trend continuing into September with sales 63 per cent higher than September 2019”.
Florida’s new Covid-19 cases approach 10,000
Health officials in Florida reported 9,928 new cases on Sunday, the US state’s highest daily toll since July.
The state health department said 885,201 of Florida’s 21.5m people have now contracted the virus.
The new figure followed 4,419 new coronavirus cases announced on Saturday.
Another 30 deaths were reported, bringing the state’s total to 17,734.
Officials said more than 146,000 test results were received on Sunday, one of the highest daily levels recorded.
Mexico City faces new curbs as national tally passes 1m
Mexico has passed more than 1m confirmed Covid-19 infections and is nudging 100,000 deaths, as rising infections and hospital admissions in the capital have forced authorities to impose new restrictions.
Health authorities at the weekend reported 1,003,253 confirmed cases and 98,259 confirmed deaths. Excess mortality figures suggest the true numbers are likely to be at least three times higher.
Testing in Mexico is very low and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador shuns the use of face masks.
Mexico has refused to impose lockdown measures because of the large numbers of workers in the informal sector, who receive no benefits and cannot afford to stay at home.
But in Mexico City, bars which had reopened have been ordered to close for two weeks.
Restaurants are shutting an hour earlier at 10pm and cinemas, museums and other indoor spaces which had been allowed to open until 10pm must now close at 7pm.
However, widespread fatigue with coronavirus has encouraged some to defy recommendations and to attend concerts or weddings.
New cases in LA County continue to exceed 3,000
Los Angeles County reported its second straight day with more than 3,000 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, as a surge worse than its summer spike continued.
On Sunday, the Department of Public Health reported 3,061 new infections after reaching a high of 3,780 on Saturday.
More than 1,000 residents of the urban California county remain in hospital, with more than a quarter of those in intensive care.
Three more deaths were recorded on Sunday, but the county health department said the low number reflects weekend reporting delays. Twenty fatalities were announced on Saturday.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce
Qantas hopes to be high flier in post-Covid aviation
Australia’s adept handling of Covid-19 and tough decisions taken by Qantas management have positioned the airline to be one of the winners in a post-pandemic aviation world, the carrier’s chief executive said.
Alan Joyce told the Financial Times he expected the airline’s seat capacity to return to at least half of its pre-virus levels by Christmas, as state borders in Australia continue to reopen.
The nation appears on the brink of eliminating local transmission of the virus, which would enable Qantas to stop burning cash – reported at A$40m (US$29m) a week in May – and rebuild its balance sheet as it seeks opportunities in a market ravaged by the worst crisis in aviation history.
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Lockdowns curtail antenatal services, researchers say
Lockdowns implemented to curb the spread of coronavirus are having adverse effects on pregnant women, according to a study published on Monday.
A study conducted in Jordan showed a significant increase in the percentage of pregnant women not receiving antenatal care, rising from 4 per cent in normal circumstances to 59.5 per cent during lockdowns.
“Some of these women were suffering from significant underlying medical conditions or serious pregnancy complications that require close antenatal surveillance,” the study, by a team led by Nadia Muhaidat of the University of Jordan, noted.
The researchers said other studies indicated a reduction of only 10 per cent in the provision of antenatal services in low- and middle-income countries during the Covid-19 outbreak could lead to “catastrophic increases in the number of maternal and neonatal deaths”.
The paper, published in the International Journal of Women’s Health, noted that the survey demonstrated that lockdown affected the “physical, social, and mental wellbeing” of participants.
Lockdowns have the potential to cause antenatal health issues that are not directly related to the spread of Covid-19, they said.
“Although the lockdown measures in Jordan have succeeded so far in relative containment of Covid-19, this research suggests that significant disruption to antenatal services has occurred,” the researchers concluded.
The researchers surveyed 944 pregnant Jordanian women.
Thessaloniki residents pass a billboard advertising the city’s virtual film festival
Greece closes schools as Covid-19 infections rise
Greek primary schools and kindergartens will close from Monday for two weeks, as coronavirus deaths passed the 1,000 mark at the weekend.
Greece confirmed 1,698 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, of which 25 were imported, the National Public Health Organization reported.
That figure followed 2,835 new cases announced on Saturday and a record 3,098 on Friday.
The Greek president, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, said on Sunday that the closing of schools was part of “extraordinary measures” that needed to be taken to fight Covid-19.
“Nobody wants closed schools and the children isolated at home far from their friends and teachers,” she said in a Facebook post. “However, what is imperative is to safeguard public health.”
Education minister Niki Kerameus told the ANA-MPA news agency on Sunday that distance learning would be a challenge. She said 40,000 digital classes would operate this week, expanding to 200,000 classes for 4m pupils.
Ms Kerameus acknowledged there were technical problems with the elearning system. “Difficulties will continue to exist but we are here to resolve them.”
Greece has reported a total of 74,205 Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began. The health authority also registered 71 new deaths, bringing coronavirus fatalities to 1,106.
J&J to launch UK trial of vaccine candidate
Donato Paolo Mancini
US pharmaceutical group Johnson & Johnson is launching a UK trial of its experimental Covid-19 vaccine, after analysis of a rival jab last week sparked optimism that scientists are making progress in their efforts to combat the virus.
Through its Janssen subsidiary, the New Jersey-based drugmaker will study its experimental vaccine on 6,000 UK volunteers on a two-dose basis in a phase 3 trial. Such trials are typically the last step before drugmakers approach regulators for approval.
The vaccine under development by J&J uses an adenovirus vector to transport the immunising protein into the body. It is the third experimental vaccine to enter late-stage trials in the UK, following one developed by US company Novavax and another being jointly worked on by Oxford university and UK drugmaker AstraZeneca.
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A shopper wears a mask as she walks along a street in Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward
Japan rebounds with 5% growth in 3rd quarter
Japan’s economy expanded by 5 per cent in the third quarter of 2020 as the rebound from Covid-19 produced its first growth in four quarters.
The figure beat consensus expectations of a 4.4 per cent rise. But in a sign of the severe damage wreaked by coronavirus, Asia’s largest advanced economy is still almost 6 per cent smaller than it was a year ago.
The partial rebound suggests a full recovery will be protracted and difficult, especially if a recent rise in coronavirus cases develops into a larger wave of the disease. The most recent daily figure was 1,722 cases of Covid-19 compared with 868 a fortnight earlier.
At an annualised rate, the pace of economic recovery was 21.4 per cent. The scale of the rebound is similar to that in other advanced economies, with the US regaining about two-thirds of its lost output in the third quarter.
The weakness of the economy will probably accelerate discussions on a third supplementary budget for this fiscal year. Yoshihide Suga, the prime minister, has ordered a new spending package that could amount to ¥10tn ($95bn).
South Australia cluster ends week-long run of no cases
Australia has reported a cluster of 17 new Covid-19 cases in Adelaide, ending a week-long run without any cases of community transmission of the virus in the nation.
The outbreak appeared to be linked to a hotel used to quarantine returning travellers from overseas, with one employee and members of his family testing positive for the virus.
Local health authorities said they are moving speedily to trace contacts of the infected people and isolate anyone who has come into contact with them.
The outbreak marks the first local transmission of the virus in the state of South Australia for three months, underlining how difficult it is to eliminate Covid-19 even when tough travel restrictions remain in place.
Steven Marshall, South Australian premier, said “time is of the essence” in efforts to contain the spread of the virus and urged anyone with Covid-19 symptoms in the state to get tested.
“It is a very, very dangerous situation ... in South Australia at the moment,” he said.
“It’s really going to require the cooperation of every single citizen for us to get on top of it,” Mr Marshall told Adelaide radio station 5AA.
Several Australian states have already closed their borders to travellers from South Australia in a blow to efforts by Canberra to have all internal borders lifted in time for Christmas.
“Anyone about to leave Adelaide should be advised we are assessing the Covid-19 outbreak and may place restrictions on travel, including mandatory quarantine on arrivals,” Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk wrote on Twitter.
Australia has been lauded for its adept handling of the pandemic, which has seen authorities successfully suppress and almost eliminate local transmission of the virus.
Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer speaks at a campaign rally in Detroit
Michigan orders 3-week pause to curb Covid-19 surge
The Midwest US state of Michigan on Sunday ordered a three-week pause on indoor dining and restricted group gatherings in a bid to combat a surge of coronavirus infections.
Indoor residential gatherings would be limited to two households at any one time, but health officials urged families to mingle only with the same other household for three weeks.
“Right now, there are thousands of cases a day and hundreds of deaths a week in Michigan and the number is growing,” said Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan governor.
The health department said the order is aimed at limiting residential and non-residential gatherings where Covid-19 spreads rapidly.
Bars and restaurants would be open for outdoor dining, takeaway orders and delivery only. Gyms would remain open for individual exercise only, while casinos and cinemas would close.
Colleges and high schools can continue with remote learning but must end in-person classes.
“Indoor gatherings are the greatest source of spread and sharply limiting them is our focus,” said Robert Gordon, the state's health chief.
Walmart sells majority stake in Japanese chain
Alistair Gray and Kana Inagaki
Walmart has agreed to sell a majority stake in its Japan supermarket chain Seiyu in the latest move by the world’s biggest retailer to reshape its footprint outside the US.
Private equity group KKR will acquire 65 per cent and Japanese ecommerce company Rakuten will buy 20 per cent of Seiyu, one of Japan’s largest supermarket chains, in a deal that values it at ¥172.5bn ($1.6bn). Walmart will hold the remainder.
For KKR, the deal comes as the private equity fund continues to position Japan as its “highest priority” market outside of the US, particularly as the coronavirus crisis has accelerated restructuring and disposal of assets by Japanese businesses.
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Pandemic bloats Indonesia’s medical waste pile
Indonesia’s medical waste output has grown 30-50 per cent since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, official data show.
More than 1,600 tonnes of waste has been generated since the Covid-19 outbreak in March, the Environment and Forestry Ministry told the state-run Antara news agency.
The estimate was based on data from 34 provinces, said Rosa Vivien Ratnawati, the ministry’s head of waste management.
Ms Ratnawati told Antara that authorities need to step up supervision of the disposal of infectious waste across the country.
South Korean police rest during a protest by workers in Seoul on Saturday
South Korea set to reimpose tougher restrictions
Edward White and Kang Buseong
The South Korean government is on the verge of reinstating tougher social distancing and virus protection measures following a resurgence in coronavirus transmission.
Health officials in Seoul on Monday reported the daily rate of new Covid-19 infections was above 200 for the third straight day with cases spread across the country.
Park Neung-hoo, the health minister, said community transmission was at a “serious stage” with infections stemming from both private gatherings and public facilities.
South Korea this month launched a new five-stage social distancing scheme after criticism that its system for determining rules that affect business and school closures were too vague.
While the country of 52m has won international praise for its handling of the pandemic officials have continued to grapple with sporadic flare-ups in transmission.
On Sunday, a preliminary warning was issued for tighter restrictions in the greater Seoul region – an area home to about half the country’s population.
New CSL Melbourne plant to make vaccines from 2026
A subsidiary of CSL, the Australian biotech company, is to build an A$800m (US$580m) manufacturing plant in Melbourne, Victoria’s state government announced on Monday.
Seqirus is expected to begin production in 2026 at the facility, to be built near Melbourne’s international airport.
The government said more than 1,000 people would be employed at the plant.
In September, Seqirus said it would produce 81m doses of two Covid-19 vaccine candidates — one from AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, and one from the University of Queensland — for the Australian government from early 2021.
The new factory will be used to produce vaccines for influenza and query fever as well as anti-venom for a variety of Australian snakes, spiders and sea creatures.
Simon agrees to revised deal for rival Taubman
Sujeet Indap, James Fontanella-Khan and Ortenca Aliaj
Simon Property Group, the largest shopping centre owner in the US, has reached a revised deal to buy rival Taubman Centers, ending the last big court battle among corporate buyers looking to exit a transaction struck before the coronavirus pandemic hit the country in March.
The companies announced the new terms on Sunday, just a day before they were set to meet in a Michigan court over Simon’s attempt to walk away from the transaction following the Covid-19 outbreak.
Under the agreement, Simon will pay $43 per share, a 9 per cent premium on Taubman’s current stock price but significantly below the $52.50 per share deal the two companies had agreed in February.
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A fruit vendor arranges her produce at a Bangkok market stall
Thailand’s economic output falls 6.4% in 3rd quarter
Thailand’s gross domestic product shrank by 6.4 per cent in the third quarter, easing back from the 12.1 per cent drop reported in the second quarter, thanks to stimulus measures, improved exports and the lifting of coronavirus lockdown restrictions imposed in April and May.
As it reported the July to September data on Monday, Thailand’s government also revised upward its full-year economic forecast for south-east Asia’s second-largest economy.
Bangkok now expects GDP to shrink by 6 per cent year on year in 2020, as compared to the minus 7.3 to 7.8 per cent contraction in its previous forecast.
The Thai Office of the National Economic and Social Development Council said it expected growth to recover to 3.5-4.5 per cent in 2021.
Thailand has been one of the Asian economies struck hardest by the pandemic because of its reliance on tourism, with arrivals falling by 38 per cent year on year to 6.7 per cent in the first quarter, when the kingdom was reporting its first Covid-19 cases and closing its airspace to most flights.
According to Monday’s data release, economic stimulus measures allowed the manufacturing and service sectors to slow the sharp losses they reported in the second quarter.
Agricultural production fell 0.9 per cent in the quarter, compared with the 6.8 per cent drop reported in the non-agricultural sector.
Cash-starved Mumbai to pay debts with credit notes
Municipal authorities in Mumbai will begin paying contractors and business partners with credit notes rather than cash after the coronavirus pandemic drained their supply of funds.
The move points to the growing financial strain facing India’s financial capital, which was among the hardest hit cities by the virus in the early months of the pandemic.
Low on cash, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation will instead issue credit notes that can be traded in the open market or used to pay property tax or penalties, according to the Mumbai Mirror.
The BMC’s revenues collapsed when India went into lockdown, but it was forced to increase spending as part of its emergency response, creating a severe cash crunch.
Retail sales in China rise at fastest rate of 2020
Retail sales in China rose at their fastest rate this year in October, in a sign that improved demand from consumers is contributing to the country’s rapid economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
Sales rose 4.3 per cent compared with the same month last year, exceeding the 3.3 per cent increase recorded September.
Retail sales returned to growth in August after seven straight months of decline.
Consumer spending has remained a relatively weak source of growth in an economic rebound driven by industrial activity, which rose 6.9 per cent year-on-year in October.
In the first 10 months of 2020, retail sales are still down 5.9 per cent compared with last year, but there were indications of consumption improving in October.
Catering sales turned positive for the first time this year, adding 0.8 per cent.
A national holiday at the start of October helped boost domestic travel, but total trips and revenues remained well below the levels of a year earlier.
New cases of the coronavirus have remained low for months in China, and the trajectory of its recovery is being closely watched at a time when the pandemic continues to affect other major economies.
Korea airline shares rise on $700m backing for merger
Song Jung-a and Edward White
Shares in South Korea’s cash-strapped airlines surged on Monday after confirmation of an injection of $700m from a state lender that would back a merger of the country’s two biggest carriers.
State-run Korea Development Bank will invest Won800bn ($722m) into Hanjin KAL, enabling the parent group of Korean Air to take control of Asiana Airlines.
The resulting merger will see the creation of the world’s seventh-largest airline, according to KDB. The deal marks the latest massive state bailout for the airline industry stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, which has brought much international travel to a standstill and battered the aviation sector.
Under the deal Hanjin KAL would use the state funds to participate in Korean Air’s Won2.5tn rights offering. Korean Air would inject Won1.8tn into Asiana, becoming its biggest shareholder.
KDB said in a statement that it would also pursue the gradual consolidation of budget carriers such as Jin Air, Air Busan and Air Seoul.
“The integration of the two airlines is aimed at enhancing their competitiveness amid intensifying competition in the global airline industry and the prolonged outbreak of the coronavirus,” KDB said.
“They are aware that operations at domestic flag carriers cannot be normalised without consolidation even after the pandemic is contained,” the bank added.
South Korea’s travel sector was one of the earliest to suffer from the coronavirus after a big outbreak in February prompted more than 100 countries to introduce travel bans or tough entry restrictions on people travelling from the Asian country.
The industry has been kept afloat as part of Seoul’s record financial stimulus measures.
Asiana stock soared 28 per cent to its highest since January in morning trading in Seoul on Monday, while Korean Air shares rose 8 per cent.
PNC nears deal to buy BBVA’s US unit for $11bn
Robert Armstrong and James Fontanella-Khan
PNC was nearing a deal to buy the US operations of the Spanish bank BBVA for more than $11bn in an all-cash deal, said people briefed about the matter.
An agreement, which could be announced on Monday, would create the fifth-largest US retail bank by assets, delivering a jolt to a fragmented industry that has been slow to consolidate.
The transaction would come six months after PNC sold its stake in BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, for $17bn as it wanted to bolster its balance sheet amid growing concerns over the future of the US economy amid the coronavirus crisis.
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Asia shares make gains on international trade deal
Asia-Pacific equity prices rose on Monday after leaders in the region signed one of the biggest trade deals in history.
Japan’s Topix gained 1.6 per cent, while in China the CSI 300 index of Shanghai and Shenzhen-listed stocks rose 0.8 per cent. The Kospi in South Korea added 1.9 per cent.
In Australia, shares rose but trading was suspended because of a data issue.
The trade deal involves taking existing agreements between south-east Asian nations and expanding them to include China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
Monday’s increases in Asia added to recent strength across global equity markets, with the S&P 500 on Friday hitting an all-time high.
Official economic data released on Monday in China showed a broadening economic recovery, with retail sales rising at their fastest pace this year.
Masks made mandatory for Auckland public transit
The New Zealand government on Monday ordered that masks would need to be worn on all public transport in the country's largest city, as well as on all domestic flights, from midnight on Wednesday evening.
The requirement would apply to buses, trains, ferries, taxis and ride-hailing cars within Auckland, as well as in and out of the region around the city, said Chris Hipkins, the country’s Covid-19 response minister.
“I will be issuing an order ... requiring the wearing of face coverings on all public transport into, out of and through the Auckland region, including for taxi and Uber drivers, and on all New Zealand passenger flights,” Mr Hipkins said in a statement.
“We’ve determined that now is the right time to make mask use mandatory in these situations,” he added. “It will provide another line of defence, is a low-cost and practical option and presents a minor inconvenience by comparison.”
The decision was made at Monday’s cabinet meeting in Wellington headed by prime minister Jacinda Ardern.
Kuala Lumpur emerges as new Covid-19 hotspot
Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia’s newest coronavirus hotspot, as the country recorded more than 1,200 cases on Sunday, health officials said.
The south-east Asian country’s largest city accounted for 475 cases out of the total, while the Klang Valley, part of Kuala Lumpur’s metropolitan sprawl, recorded another 186 cases.
Another 381 new cases were reported in Sabah, the Borneo state that emerged as a hotspot in recent weeks.
Malaysia has identified 47,417 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, with 309 deaths.
Separately, bystanders detained a man believed to be a Covid-19 patient who escaped from Penang Hospital and fled on foot for 25km, the official Bernama news agency reported on Monday.
The 23-year-old man was recovered by health workers wearing personal protective equipment, Bernama said.
Japan tries to avert lockdowns and keep economy open
Japan can make it through the winter without lockdowns or mass screening for Covid-19 but the public will have to socialise — and drink — with care, according to the doctor leading the country’s response.
Shigeru Omi, chair of the government’s expert committee on the virus, told the Financial Times in an interview that Japan was determined to keep the economy open even as case numbers were rising.
Japan has been relatively successful in living with the virus — rather than seeking near elimination as has been pursued in Australia, New Zealand, China and Taiwan — making it a potential model for Europe and the US.
Read more here
A temple in Mumbai is sanitised before reopening on Sunday
India’s Maharashtra to reopen places of worship
The Indian state of Maharashtra, home to the financial capital of Mumbai, has reopened places of worship after more than six months of closures.
The state government announced the move on Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, at the weekend.
Maharashtra and Mumbai were the worst affected by coronavirus in India and the state has recorded more than 1.7m cases and 45,000 deaths, but new cases have fallen in recent weeks.
The extended closure of religious sites prompted political fighting between the state government and its arch-rival, prime minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata party, which accused it of neglecting worshippers.
Temples, mosques, churches and other religious sites can open subject to conditions, including a ban on touching idols or holy books and no live singing, according to The Times of India.
Trustpilot shakes up top team as IPO looms
Trustpilot, the online reviews platform, is making sweeping changes to its executive team as it prepares for an initial public offering and braces for potential regulatory action.
The company, which was founded in Denmark in 2007 and has raised $173m in private financing, has become one of the world’s dominant providers of online ratings that are submitted outside of retail sites such as Amazon.
Usage of Trustpilot has grown even more this year, as consumers turned to its online reviews during a spike in ecommerce driven by coronavirus lockdowns.
Read more here
Islamic cleric fined over Jakarta public event
A prominent Islamic cleric has been fined more than $3,500 for breaking Covid-19 social distancing rules, Indonesian state media reported on Sunday.
Rizieq Shihab, who heads the conservative Islamic Defenders Front, was fined Rp50m for organising a public event over the weekend.
Mr Shihab said he had tried to impose social distancing at the event but said the numbers of guests had made it impossible to enforce.
The Saturday evening event was a celebration of the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed, Antara reported.
Two UK testing ‘megalabs’ planned for 2021
Two new “megalabs” capable of processing a total of 600,000 diagnostic tests a day will be opened in the UK next year as the government seeks to bolster a testing operation bedevilled by capacity shortages and slow turnround times.
The government scaled back testing and tracing early in the pandemic in large part because of insufficient processing capacity in public labs. That decision is now regarded as having been one of the crucial errors in handling an outbreak that has so far cost more than 50,000 UK lives.
A concerted push to build up capacity, particularly through the creation of a network of so-called Lighthouse labs, allowed Matt Hancock, health secretary, to meet his target of 500,000 tests a day by the end of October.
Read more here
Saudi Aramco to sell international bonds as pandemic hits revenues
Simeon Kerr in Dubai and Anjli Raval in London
Saudi Aramco is seeking to sell billions of dollars in international bonds to bolster its balance sheet and meet its $75bn dividend target as the coronavirus crisis hits earnings, bankers said.
Global lenders have been mandated to arrange investor calls from Monday as Saudi Arabia’s state energy company markets bonds with maturities of between three and 30 years.
Citi, Goldman Sachs International, HSBC, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and NCB Capital are the underwriters, according to a statement to the Tadawul stock exchange in Riyadh.
Saudi Aramco, which became a publicly listed company in 2019, has had a brutal year as the pandemic hit demand for oil. Earlier this month it reported a 45 per cent drop in third-quarter net income to $11.8bn.
Still, the company has maintained its commitment to pay out $75bn to investors this year, almost all of which will go to its largest shareholder, the Saudi government.
Saudi Aramco is under growing pressure to cut its spending and raise cash to help buffer the kingdom, which faces a ballooning budget deficit as the pandemic and lower oil prices hit its economy. The company has cut capital expenditure by an estimated $25bn-$30bn this year.
Last week, ratings agency Fitch lowered the outlook on Saudi Aramco from positive to negative over concerns about the government’s weaker finances. Its long-term rating was reaffirmed at A.
Fall in roaming revenue hits Vodafone
Vodafone’s revenue dipped 2.3 per cent in the first half of the year as lower roaming revenue and handset sales because of the Covid-19 pandemic hit its growth.
The UK-based telecoms company, which has been returning to growth in recent quarters after a major shake-up of its operations in the past two years, said that growth would have been positive without the impact of lower roaming revenue as fewer people were able to travel due to the lockdowns imposed across Europe to stem the spread of Covid-19.
Nick Read, chief executive of Vodafone, said: “Covid-19 and the reduction in roaming revenues, through the significant reduction in international travel, is currently obscuring our underlying commercial progress, with Q2 service revenue growing by 1.5 per cent excluding roaming.”
Vodafone was expected to report a dip in growth. It also reported earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation of €7bn which was above expectations. Pre-tax profit was €2bn in the six month period compared to a €511m loss in the same period last year. It will pay a dividend of 4.5c a share and reported net debt of €44bn.
Vodafone is the latest European telecoms company to report numbers showing a resilient performance during the lockdown. The company maintained its guidance for adjusted ebitda of between €14.4bn and €14.6bn and free cash flow of €5bn for the full year.
“Today’s results underline increased confidence in our full year outlook,” said Mr Read.
Jerry Dellis, an analyst at Jefferies, said Vodafone had reported a “notable” improvement in its performance in Spain and the UK.
UK health secretary highlights role for mass testing in Christmas plans
Harry Dempsey and Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe
Matt Hancock, the UK health secretary, has said that expanding coronavirus testing — including a target for regular tests for visitors at every care home in the UK — could help ensure as normal a Christmas as possible.
“We’re working with the devolved administrations to try to get a set of rules, a set of arrangements, for Christmas that can work across the whole of the UK,” said Mr Hancock in an interview with Sky News. “The expansion of testing may be able to help to deliver on that.”
On Monday, the UK government revealed plans to build two megalabs that can process 600,000 diagnostic tests a day, more than double the current capacity.
Those plans come after the government's testing and tracing programme has been hampered by insufficient processing capacity in public labs. However, those labs will not open until early next year under government plans.
In a separate BBC interview, the health secretary said that the government aims to ensure old people can see their families at Christmas by putting regular testing for visitors in place at every UK care home by December 25. A pilot at 20 locations including Cornwall and Devon is currently being conducted.
“Our goal is to ensure that we have the testing available in every care home by Christmas to ensure people can take a test and therefore see their loved ones safely,” he said.
Mr Hancock insisted that videoconferencing services such as Zoom would help prime minister Boris Johnson work effectively. Mr Johnson is self-isolating after coming into contact with an MP who later tested positive for Covid-19. The health secretary defended the lack of mask wearing and the social distancing practices in Downing Street, calling it a “Covid-secure workplace”.
The health secretary was questioned on ITV’s Good Morning Breakfast why he had not resigned following a series of policy failings at the beginning of the crisis including the decision to allow events to go ahead such as the Cheltenham Festival in March.
While defending the government response, he admitted that mistakes had been made, for example surrounding the policy on funerals, which initially meant that spouses were unable to attend the funeral of their partners. “That was wrong and we have changed it”, he added.
Kainos buoyed by public sector and NHS demand
Public-sector demand for digital services during the pandemic has fuelled strong half-year revenue growth for Kainos.
Sales for the FTSE 250 technology company climbed by almost a quarter over the six months to September, reaching £107m. Pre-tax profits doubled to £24m.
The trends observed across Kainos’s end-markets support the idea that coronavirus has “accelerated the move towards greater digitisation”, the company said, while conceding that the crisis has taken place over a “relatively short period” characterised by volatility.
Within Kainos’s digital services business, revenues rose by 16 per cent to £71.4m. As part of its NHS Digital work, the group supported home testing and the track-and-trace system.
At the same time, other existing clients in the public sector have continued with their digital transformation programmes “at pace” during the crisis. Many commercial customers paused their projects earlier in the year, but sales activity showed a “marked increase” in the second part of the reporting period.
Meanwhile, revenues for Kainos’s Workday operations – which tie into the products of HR software company Workday – grew by two-fifths to £35.8m. Bookings slowed down in the first weeks of the pandemic but have since picked up.
The group plans to pay an interim dividend of 6.4p, having already made a special 6.7p return to shareholders in September. It opted out of a final dividend earlier this year as the Covid-19 crisis gathered pace.
Shares in Kainos have risen by more than a half year-to-date and rose 2.4 per cent to 1,216p in early trading on Monday. By comparison, the FTSE 250 index has contracted by more than a tenth since early January.
Russia reports record number of new infections
Henry Foy in Moscow
Russia reported a record number of new coronavirus cases on Monday as the country continued to struggle to clamp down on a resurgence in infections.
The daily total of 22,778 new infections is the country's third record high in four days, and takes the overall number of Covid-19 infections to 1.95m.
The surge comes as the country's eastern Siberian republic of Buryatia began a two-week long lockdown, the first since a national shutdown of public places earlier in the year when the pandemic first peaked.
While local authorities in Moscow and other cities have reintroduced some restrictions on offices, bars and restaurants in recent weeks, the Kremlin has consistently stressed that it does not plan to impose a nationwide quarantine this winter.
Russia has the world's fourth-highest total of Covid-19 infections but a far lower death rate from the virus than the global average.
The Kremlin has focused on a rapid roll-out of a domestic-made vaccine as its primary strategy for tackling the winter resurgence of infections, fearful of the economic impact of closing businesses.
Stagecoach secures waiver extension on debt covenants
Stagecoach Group, the UK transport company, has agreed an extension to waivers on its banking covenants as vaccine hopes lift the beleaguered travel sector.
In June, the company agreed covenant waivers with its lenders for the periods ending October 31, 2020 and May 1, 2021 for loans expiring in March 2025. Further waivers have now been agreed for the period to October 30 2021.
The UK's largest regional bus operator said it had agreed to a minimum liquidity threshold "as an alternative to the covenants," before stressing that it had "committed bank facilities of over £800m" as of early October.
Like its competitors, shares in the company have risen by around 40 per cent since news of the breakthrough for Pfizer and BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine earlier this month. Its share price is still down 55 per cent on this time last year, however, illustrating the damage done by the pandemic.
FT Lex digs into the business impact of coronavirus
The Financial Times' Lex column has taken a look at what Covid-19 means for business. In their latest video, the team argue that companies will become "beasts of burden", weighed down by interest, taxes and other costs. They also dive into the prospects for airlines, cruise companies, the pharma sector, banks and big tech.
Kenyan doctors threaten to strike to avoid 'suicide mission'
Andres Schipani in Nairobi
Doctors in Kenya are threatening to strike amid a sharp rise in coronavirus infections saying they "will not embark on a suicide mission".
The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union issued a 21-day "strike notice" late on Sunday due to “longstanding unresolved issues” following the death of dozens of health workers since the pandemic began earlier this year.
“The loss of 30 health care workers, of which 10 are senior specialist doctors, is a great loss to the country in the war against Covid-19,” said a statement on the union’s Twitter account.
Kenyan doctors are demanding provision of standard and adequate personal protection equipment, comprehensive medical insurance cover, workman’s compensation, and dedicated medical facilities for healthcare.
In a statement, Kenya's health cabinet secretary Mutahi Kagwe, sent his "condolences" to the family and friends of four doctors who died of Covid-19 this Saturday.
Earlier this month, Kenya's government extended and tightened a previously relaxed nationwide curfew until January after infections have surged. As of Sunday, the east African country recorded 70,245 confirmed infections and 1,269 deaths, according to Kenya's health ministry.
Iran poised for first full lockdown ahead of expected surge in deaths
Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran
Iran is set to impose its first full lockdown from Saturday, as daily fatalities are predicted to double soon and hospitals are struggling with strained capacity.
“The government has no other choice but to impose a lockdown to curb further progress of this destructive virus,” president Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday evening. “I announce national mobilisation to fight against the third wave of coronavirus.”
The government of Mr Rouhani — which is dealing with the toughest US sanctions and hence unable to provide businesses and the poor with any financial support —previously resisted imposing a lockdown on fears that many people who lived on daily wages could starve.
But doctors and the health ministry’s officials have pressured Mr Rouhani in recent weeks by arguing that a far bigger national disaster would happen if the country was not shut down for a while. Iraj Harirchi, deputy health minister, predicted over the weekend that the daily death toll would double soon.
Iran has so far had 41,493 deaths out of a total of 558,818 confirmed cases, with its daily mortality rate exceeding 400 since last month. Officials have said that if the fatalities of those who did not receive tests were included, the total figure could be up to three times as high.
The details of the lockdown are yet to be notified to people which will depend on the severity of the situation in different cities and towns. But officials have so far referred to a ban on traveling between most cities and towns and closure of most businesses other than essential ones in the food and medical sectors for at least two weeks.
Many state-run offices will be operated with few staff. The police and the voluntary forces of the elite Revolutionary Guards will supervise the implementation of new restrictions but they are not expected to impose a curfew.
European stocks follow Asian markets higher on trade pact optimism
European stocks followed Asian equities higher on optimism about a historic trade pact in Asia and hopes for the eventual rollout of a Covid-19 vaccine.
Stocks in the Asia-Pacific region rose across the board after 15 nations, including China, Japan, Australia and Malaysia, signed one of the biggest trade agreements in history. MSCI’s index of Asia-Pacific shares, excluding Japan, rose more than 1 per cent to a record high, while Japan’s Topix rose 1.7 per cent and China’s CSI 300 climbed 1 per cent.
In Europe, the region-wide Stoxx 600 and London’s FTSE 100 were both up 0.7 per cent, while Frankfurt’s Xetra Dax climbed 0.6 per cent. Futures contracts pointed to Wall Street opening higher, with the large-cap S&P 500 index set to rise 0.8 per cent.
“Europe is one of the areas where we could see quite a meaningful catch-up” in sectors of the equity market that have been hit hard by the pandemic, said Maya Bhandari, a fund manager at Columbia Threadneedle.
Although global coronavirus infections have continued to rise, last week’s positive vaccine results from Pfizer and BioNTech helped propel the US S&P 500 to a record high on Friday and was a boon for cyclical stocks, such as airlines car manufacturers.
Cases in Iran reach new record
Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran
Iran hit new record highs in the number of coronavirus deaths and daily cases on Monday, amid warnings that the winter would be tougher than autumn.
There were 486 deaths over the past 24 hours while 13,053 people tested positive -- both the highest daily records since the pandemic began. So far, 41,979 out of 775,121 patients have died. Iran has the highest number of fatalities in the Middle East.
“The winter is going to be tougher than autumn,” said Sima Lari, the health ministry’s spokesperson. “Despite numerous warnings by the health ministry on the necessity of social distancing, wearing face masks…we are still witness to big gatherings...in scenes which are below the dignity of our people.”
House prices edge down as stamp duty deadline looms
A race to beat the stamp duty holiday cut-off has spurred a drop in UK house prices this month, according to property portal Rightmove.
The average value of property coming to market has dipped by 0.5 per cent, or £1,505, compared with October, as new sellers strive to push deals through before the March 31 deadline.
Just last month, Rightmove revealed that prices of newly listed properties had reached record highs, buoyed by rising demand after the government temporarily scrapped stamp duty for homes worth up to £500,000 in July.
The housing market has remained open under fresh England-wide lockdown restrictions, which are due to last until at least early December.
Rightmove said the housing market remains “very active” despite the dip in prices. Buyers have “jumped back into action” after uncertainty over lockdown rules was resolved, Rightmove said, with demand soaring by almost a half in the first six days of their implementation.
Demand has been strongest where buyers are likely to make the largest stamp duty savings, Rightmove said. National sales agreed are up by a half compared with October last year, and the company estimates that there are 650,000 sales currently going through the buying and selling process, up by more than two-thirds compared with the same period in 2019.
Tim Bannister, director of property data at Rightmove, said that this large pipeline of transactions means that “millions of people are on tenterhooks until their sale or purchase has completed”.
Moderna’s vaccine shows 94.5% efficacy in clinical trials
Donato Paolo Mancini and Sarah Neville in London and Hannah Kuchler in New York
US biotech Moderna said its Covid-19 vaccine had shown 94.5 per cent efficacy in clinical trials, in the second positive set of results for a potential coronavirus shot in the past eight days.
Last week, US giant Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech also said their vaccine, which uses the same messenger RNA technology, was found to be more than 90 per cent effective.
The Moderna finding will further boost optimism that the world can turn the corner in the management of the pandemic.
Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s chief executive, said the moment was “pivotal”.
“This positive interim analysis from our phase-3 study has given us the first clinical validation that our vaccine can prevent Covid-19 disease, including severe disease,” he said.
Out of 30,000 participants in the clinical trials, 95 had been identified with confirmed cases of Covid-19, the company said. Among those infected, only five people had received the two-dose vaccine, known as mRNA-1273, while 90 had received a placebo.
Moderna said it intended to submit the vaccine for approval by the US Food and Drug Administration “in the coming weeks”, raising the prospect of at least two emergency-approved vaccines before the end of the year.
Read more here.
Global equity markets boosted by Moderna Covid vaccine data
European equities, US stock-index futures and oil prices added to their gains while after biotech group Moderna revealed that its coronavirus vaccine was found to be highly effective.
The news on Monday that Moderna’s vaccine was found in a late-stage trial to be 94.5 per cent effective in preventing the disease followed a similar development from Pfizer and BioNTech a week ago.
Hopes that vaccine breakthroughs will significantly slow the spread of coronavirus in as little as a few months have triggered a powerful rotation into economically sensitive sectors and away from groups that have been perceived as beneficiaries of the pandemic.
That trend continued on Monday: S&P 500 futures were up 1 per cent after the Moderna announcement, while those tracking the Nasdaq 100 index were slightly down. The Nasdaq is heavily weighted towards big tech companies that rallied sharply earlier this year as governments enacted sweeping lockdowns to slow the spread of the virus.
In Europe, the Stoxx 600 index climbed by 1.4 per cent. Energy companies, financials and industrials — three industries that struggled during the pandemic — were among the biggest gainers. Technology and healthcare stocks lagged behind.
A rally in oil prices also accelerated after the Moderna news, with international benchmark Brent crude recently up 3.5 per cent at $44.29 a barrel.
US government bonds also declined in price as investors continued betting on more solid growth and inflation on the horizon. The 10-year Treasury yield was up 0.03 percentage points at 0.926 per cent.
Moderna data buoys travel and retail stocks but knocks lockdown winners
News of another major vaccine breakthrough has sparked fresh enthusiasm for the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, while dampening the prices of ‘stay at home’ stocks such as Ocado and Zoom.
On Monday, US biotech company Moderna revealed that its Covid-19 jab had shown 94.5 per cent efficacy in late stage trials. The news prompted a broad based rally for equities but knocked some stocks that have benefitted from people spending more time at home.
Travel, leisure and retail on the up: Shares in International Consolidated Airlines, owner of British Airways, rose by more than a tenth on the back of the Moderna news, changing hands at 162p. Budget airline operator easyJet also climbed by 7 per cent, while the share price of tour group Tui advanced 8 per cent. Travel companies have been among the worst affected by the coronavirus crisis, as widespread lockdowns and border closures have grounded flights and squeezed cash flows.
At the same time, shares in Cineworld, which has suffered badly from virus-induced closures and film release delays, leapt by almost a fifth to 52p.
Retailers also enjoyed renewed gusto on Monday afternoon, with shares in Primark’s parent company Associated British Foods edging up by 4 per cent to 2,060p. Its physical stores are currently closed under new England-wide lockdown rules. Likewise, shares in FTSE 100 landlord Land Securities, which owns offices and retail properties, rose by 5 per cent.
'Stay at home’ declines: Shares in online grocery platform Ocado slipped by 5 per cent to 2,203p. Investors fear surging demand for digital shopping during the pandemic could wane, as swathes of people transition back to normality.
The share price of US video conferencing group Zoom also declined by roughly 6 per cent in pre-market trading as investors digested the idea that face-to-face meetings could make a come-back.
Pharma competitors slip: Pfizer shares fell 1.8 per cent following the Moderna update and BioNTech shares were down 6 per cent in pre-market trading. A week earlier, the two companies had revealed that the separate Covid-19 vaccine they are developing was more than 90 per cent effective.
Shares in Aim-traded biotech company Synairgen took a hit to the tune of 10 per cent on Monday afternoon. The group revealed last week positive trial data for its Covid-19 drug in a leading medical journal. But the market is ostensibly concerned that a successful vaccine – if it passes through regulatory approvals and safety checks – will do away with the need for such treatments.
Likewise, shares in London-listed, France-based Novacyt fell by roughly 10 per cent to 800p. They started the year at 14p, but have been buoyed by the group’s development of specialist Covid-19 tests.
Sweden adopts strictest Covid restrictions to date
Richard Milne, Nordic and Baltic Correspondent
Sweden unveiled its toughest restrictions yet to fight coronavirus as Europe’s outlier on Covid-19 is forced to move from recommendations to bans to stem rising cases, hospitalisations and deaths.
Prime minister Stefan Lofven struck a harsher tone on Monday, warning that the situation was “going to get worse” in Sweden as he said the limit on public gatherings would be cut from 50 people to eight.
“It is a clear and sharp signal to every person in our country as to what applies in the future. Don’t go to the gym, don’t go the library, don’t have dinner out, don’t have parties – cancel!” Mr Lofven told a press conference on Monday.
Sweden has stood out from the rest of Europe by refusing to order a legal lockdown and instead preferring to rely on recommendations to people to wash their hands, keep a distance, and work from home.
New York manufacturing measure unexpectedly slips in November
Mamta Badkar in New York
A gauge of manufacturing in the New York region lost steam for the second consecutive month signalling activity could be slowing as the US faces a resurgence in coronavirus cases.
The headline general business conditions index of the New York Fed’s Empire state manufacturing survey slid four points to 6.3 in November. That missed economists' expectations for a slight increase to 12.5, according to a Reuters survey.
There were increases in new orders and shipments, while employment levels and hours worked both climbed as well, however inventories edged lower.
Although New York’s manufacturing sector isn't a major driver of economic activity in the state or the country, the weak reading comes as coronavirus cases have surged both at home and abroad and could signal a loss of momentum for the overall manufacturing sector. And while there have been Covid-19 vaccine breakthroughs a number of US states have already begun to reintroduce restrictions in an attempt to curb the spread of the disease during winter.
"Manufacturing’s resilience will be tested in the months ahead as the health situation rapidly deteriorates," said Oren Klachin, economist at Oxford Economics. "We expect that stronger headwinds from escalating virus fear, softening demand, and persistent supply chain disruptions will constrain manufacturing activity in the coming months."
Value stocks rally on vaccine news
Shares in US value stocks rallied on Monday after drug maker Moderna reported trial data indicating that its experimental Covid-19 vaccine was almost 95 per cent effective and could be stored and transported more easily than rivals’ developmental drugs.
Energy companies, considered “value” plays because of their relatively high dividend yields, poor share price performance so far this year and sensitivity to economic growth or contraction, were the top performers on the S&P 500.
They were followed by financial stocks, which have also fallen more deeply into the value investing category so far this year.
Technology shares, which have been popular during the pandemic and make up four of the top five constituents in MSCI’s index of “growth” stocks because of their rising sales and earnings, were the worst performers in the S&P in opening trades.
The gap between the performances of value and growth shares has widened during the pandemic, partly driven by quantitative trading strategies run by asset managers and hedge funds.
Some investors believe that there could be a sharp rotation back into value shares over the coming months, while others caution that value shares have broadly underperformed growth since 2007, and may simply stage a small recovery.
“If you take a 10-year view, what is happening now is a drop in the ocean,” said Kasper Elmgreen, head of equities at fund manager Amundi.
He added that "value" companies often have high dividend yields and low price-to-book ratios because they are financially weak and may become more so as economies continued to be hobbled by virus restrictions and lockdowns. “You need to look selectively for companies that have the balance sheet to weather the coming storm,” he said.
EU hopeful of reaching deal soon for Moderna vaccine
Michael Peel in Brussels
The European Commission said it hoped to seal a deal soon with Moderna for its coronavirus vaccine, which the US biotech company said has shown 94.5 per cent efficacy in clinical trials.
“We have already concluded exploratory talks with Moderna,” Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, told reporters on Monday. “We hope to finalise a contract soon.”
She added that the commission expected on Tuesday to reach agreement to buy 405m doses of a candidate jab being developed by Germany’s CureVac, the fifth vaccine purchase deal the EU has reached. If proven effective, the CureVac product will be distributed to all 27 member states simultaneously.
Tyson Foods outlines Covid expenses as results top view
Mamta Badkar in New York
Tyson Foods, the largest US meat company, reported fourth quarter results that topped Wall Street expectations, but outlined hefty expenses tied with operating its facilities during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The Arkansas-based company behind Hillshire Farm and Jimmy Dean said sales grew 5 per cent to $11.46bn in the fourth quarter. That exceeded expectations for $11.01bn, according to a Refinitiv survey of Wall Street analysts.
Sales volumes in the beef and pork units rose in the fourth quarter having declined for the first nine months of its fiscal year when volumes were affected by temporary plant closures during the pandemic.
Net income climbed to $692m or $1.90 a share, compared with $369m or $1.01 a share in the same quarter a year ago. Adjusting for one-time items, the company reported earnings of $1.81 a share, ahead of expectations for $1.19 a share.
Tyson incurred $200m in Covid-19 related expenses during the quarter including costs associated with worker health and availability and production facility downtime such as costs for personal protection equipment, facility sanitisation and testing. For the full-year the costs amounted to $540m.
Looking ahead the company expects sales of between $42bn and $44bn for fiscal 2021, compared with sales of $43.2bn in 2020. However, Tyson warned that it expects $330m of Covid-19 related costs and the pandemic could impact demand.
Tyson shares, which are down 30 per cent year-to-date, rose more than 1 per cent on Monday morning.
Moderna’s shares jump while Pfizer’s drop on vaccine storage requirements
Shares in drugmaker Moderna rallied and those in rival Pfizer dropped as investors assessed the relative merits of their experimental Covid-19 vaccines.
Moderna reported trial data on Monday that suggested its vaccine was almost 95 per cent effective, and could be kept in normal refrigeration conditions for 30 days.
Pfizer and German partner BioNTech reported last week that trials indicated their vaccine was 90 per cent effective, but analysts believe it will be harder to store and transport than Moderna’s.
Shares in Moderna gained almost 7 per cent in the first hour of trading in New York, while Pfizer’s fell almost 4 per cent.
Shore Capital analyst Adam Barker wrote in a research note:
Very significantly, Moderna has announced today that its vaccine can remain stable for 30 days at a temperature of 2-8 ºC.
This is a very significant development from Moderna and will greatly simplify the vast logistical effort that will be required to co-ordinate this mass vaccination campaign.
Pfizer/BioNTech’s candidate can last for perhaps one to two days at this temperature.
One of the major difficulties for Pfizer/BioNTech’s candidate is that it has to be stored at -60 to -80ºC, meaning it has a limited shelf-life once removed from this temperature. This greatly complicates the co-ordination of vaccination campaigns.
Vaccine rollout success could prompt 20% drop in dollar in 2021 — Citi
Eva Szalay in London
The dollar could be on course for the biggest drop in 20 years if positive developments in coronavirus vaccines lead to a widely distributed antidote and allow global markets to rebound in 2021, according to strategists at Citi.
The US bank said on Monday the currency could decline as much as 20 per cent next year, its biggest drop since 2001, once vaccines hit the market and become widely distributed. When that happens, global trade is expected to rebound and create conditions for dollar weakness to accelerate.
Investors turned negative on the currency this year and pushed the dollar index, the exchange rate against a basket of peers, nearly 4 per cent lower since the start of 2020.
“Vaccine distribution we believe will check off all of our bear market signposts, allowing the dollar to follow a similar path to that it experienced from the early to mid-2000s,” Citi said in a research note.
The US central bank is expected to continue providing stimulus to the economy and to “err on the side of caution” before considering rate rises even as the global economic recovery speeds up, strategists added, keeping the dollar under pressure. Better growth prospects and an extremely dovish Federal Reserve will encourage investors to find a home for their money elsewhere, accelerating the dollar’s falls.
“Can the dollar decline 20% next year alone? We think yes,” Citi said.
UK to order 5m doses of Moderna vaccine
Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe in London
The UK has secured access to 5m doses of the Moderna vaccine, health secretary Matt Hancock has announced.
In a televised press briefing on Monday, Mr Hancock said that while vaccine trials were still ongoing, there was “hope” for the public, following the news that initial trials have shown the Moderna vaccine to be nearly 95 per cent effective.
The health secretary said the latest results were encouraging, however, he stressed that those of the Moderna trial were “preliminary” and safety data were limited.
Mr Hancock said the UK would continue to invest in its diagnostics industry and expand mass testing through the use of two megalabs that will open in the new year, and will add 600,000 to the UK’s current testing capacity.
He also said the NHS would have a “network” of 40 long-term coronavirus clinics throughout England by the end of the month that will bring together doctors, nurses and other health professionals to help those suffering with the long-term effects of coronavirus.
“Coronavirus is not a short-term problem that can easily be fixed; we must focus on the long-term solutions underpinned by the best possible science,” he added.
Despite the positive news, the health secretary warned that the virus was still “a potent threat” to not “just to the oldest and most vulnerable but to anyone of any age and any background”.
The average number of new cases within the UK is now 25,329 up from 22,443 last week, Mr Hancock said. Meanwhile as of November 16, 14,915 individuals have been hospitalised with Covid-19 across the UK compared with 13,025 a week ago.
He added: “We can see the candle of hope and we must do all that we can to nurture its flame.”
US adds more than 1m cases in a single week
Peter Wells in New York
The US continues to reach new milestones in the coronavirus pandemic, with states reporting more than 1m new cases over the past week for the first time.
A record of nearly 1.02m infections were reported by states in the past seven days, according to Financial Times analysis of Covid Tracking Project on Sunday.
Putting that in perspective, the seven-day tally in the US is more than the overall number of cases confirmed in Mexico, which on Sunday became the 11th country to top 1m infections since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
On Sunday, the US reported a further 139,109 cases, the fewest in five days, but taking the total number of infections in the country since the start of the pandemic to about 10.9m as of Sunday, according to Covid Tracking Project. Johns Hopkins University's tally crossed 11m today.
Donald Trump has been vocal in claiming the increase in Covid-19 cases is a result of increased nationwide testing capacity. On a rolling seven-day basis, the US is averaging 456 tests per 100,000 people, a rate surpassed only by the likes of Singapore, Luxembourg, UAE, Bahrain and Lithuania, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Although record testing volumes may partly account for these higher case rates, hospitalisations at a peak of 69,864 and a seven-day average of coronavirus deaths at 1,101 paint a much more troublesome view of the latest phase of the pandemic.
Monday data tend to be lower than other days of the week because of weekend delays in reporting, and several states stuck to that trend today. Arizona had a further 1,476 new cases, down from 2,383 on Sunday, while North Carolina reported 1,972 new infections, down from 3,117 yesterday.
New Jersey reported 2,232 new cases, down from a record 4,540 on Sunday. The state was among those in the northeast that were hit hard during the early state of the pandemic, but has experienced a surge in cases in recent weeks.
Fed vice-chair signals possible changes to central bank’s bond-buying programme
James Politi in Washington and Colby Smith in New York
Richard Clarida, the vice-chair of the Federal Reserve, hinted at possible changes to the US central bank’s bond-buying programme as it seeks ways to keep the recovery going in the world’s largest economy.
“The Federal Reserve is committed to using all of our available tools — not just the federal funds rate and forward guidance, but also large-scale asset purchases — to achieve our dual mandate goal,” Mr Clarida said in remarks to the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institution.
A text of his speech circulated ahead of the event emphasised the word “all”.
Mr Clarida noted that the Fed’s bond purchases — which were ramped up sharply at the start of the pandemic — were already providing “substantial support” to the recovery and this “critical role” was discussed at the central bank’s monetary policy meeting in early November.
“Looking ahead, we will continue to monitor developments and assess how our ongoing asset purchases can best support achieving our maximum employment and price-stability objectives,” Mr Clarida added.
The focus on asset purchases comes as the Fed explores additional measures to help the US economy, which is confronting a surge in coronavirus cases with limited help from fiscal policy.
The Fed in September made a very dovish pledge to keep its main interest rate close to zero until the economy reaches full employment and inflation is at 2 per cent and on track to exceed it for some time.
The Fed is currently buying Treasury securities at a pace of $80bn per month, spread across all maturities. In September, it said the aim of the asset purchases was not simply to improve the functioning of the market but also to support the economic recovery.
Philadelphia announces new coronavirus restrictions
Peter Wells in New York
Philadelphia has ordered schools to shift to online learning, announced limits on indoor gatherings such as weddings and banned indoor activities and businesses including dining at restaurants, gyms and casinos in a sweeping effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.
These and other steps constitute new “safer at home” restrictions and will take effect in Pennsylvania’s most populous city from November 20, 2020 through to January 1, 2021, Philadelphia health commissioner Tom Farley announced this afternoon.
The moves follow several other states that in the past few days have announced new restrictions on activities and even statewide mask mandates in a bid to curtail record daily cases of Covid-19.
High schools and colleges in Philadelphia must now move to online instruction only while theatres, bowling alleys, museums, libraries, gyms and casinos have been ordered to close, the city’s health department said in a statement on Monday. Indoor dining at restaurants will not be allowed, while table sizes for outdoor dining have been cut to four people with the recommendation that they should be “household members only”.
Indoor gatherings including weddings and funerals will only be permitted for people from a single household, while events at religious institutions will be allowed with density capped at five people per 1,000 square feet, or 5 per cent of maximum occupancy.
Non-essential retail stores and indoor malls will be allowed to operate with a maximum density of five people per square foot. Barbershops and salons can remain open, but staff and customers must wear a mask at all times.
Offices are permitted to only have employees who cannot work remotely.
Pennsylvania’s health department today reported 9,675 new coronavirus cases for the past two days, or an average 4,837 for each of those days, bringing its total since the start of the pandemic to nearly 270,000. The state had a single-day record of 5,551 new cases on Saturday.
Merkel urges Germans to further limit interactions
Guy Chazan in Berlin
Angela Merkel appealed to Germans to further restrict their social contacts, but stopped short of tightening the "lockdown-lite” imposed at the end of last month.
Following a video conference with the 16 leaders of Germany’s federal states, Ms Merkel said they had agreed to urge people to refrain from private parties and said gatherings should be restricted to the members of two households. “Every contact that doesn’t happen is good,” Ms Merkel told reporters after the meeting.
Ms Merkel said there would be a further meeting on Wednesday next week, and additional restrictions may be imposed if the number of infections has not dropped by then.
The leaders agreed that social contacts should be kept “to an absolute minimum”, and people should refrain from private travel and visits to elderly relatives unless they are entirely healthy.
They said all people with cold symptoms should stay at home until they feel better, even if they have not had a test for coronavirus. And they agreed that 15 special FFP2 masks will be distributed free of charge to members of all vulnerable groups of the population.
Germany got through the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic with fewer mortalities than other European countries. But the number of confirmed cases has risen by more than 50 per cent since the end of October, from 520,000 to about 800,000 now, while the number of Covid-19 patients in German ICUs has increased by 70 per cent in that period.
In late October the government decreed a “lockdown-lite”, closing all pubs, restaurants, gyms and theatres for the whole month of November while keeping schools and businesses open. Ms Merkel told a press conference after Monday’s video conference that those measures had halted the “exponential growth” in infections, “and we’re very pleased about that”.
But Markus Soeder, the prime minister of Bavaria, said that wasn’t enough. “The numbers have stagnated, but our goal must be to reduce them,” he said. “And I have little hope that by the end of November everything will be okay again.” He hinted that the restrictions imposed for the month of November may need to be extended into December. “It is better to extend than to break off prematurely,” he said.
Ms Merkel said the aim must be to reach a level of 50 cases per 100,000 people over 7 days — down from 140 currently.
Biden warns of more Covid fatalities without smooth transition
James Politi in Washington
Joe Biden, the US president-elect, has warned that America could suffer more coronavirus fatalities if Donald Trump does not allow a smooth transition of power on the response to the disease and vaccine distribution.
“More people may die if we don’t coordinate,” Mr Biden said in a briefing with reporters on the economic fallout from the pandemic.
“To have to wait until January 20 to start that planning puts us behind a month-and-a-half. It’s important that there be coordination now — now or as rapidly as we can get done,” he added.
Mr Biden’s remarks were among his most forceful attempts to put pressure on the White House to concede defeat and launch the transition between the two administrations, which would allow the president-elect to start receiving classified intelligence briefings and government agencies to collaborate with the incoming administration.
“I am hopeful that the President will be mildly more enlightened before we get to January 20,” Mr Biden said. “I find this more embarrassing for the country than debilitating for my ability to get started.”
US stocks hit new closing record after Moderna vaccine data
Mamta Badkar, Camilla Hodgson and Adam Samson
US stocks set a record close on Monday after biotech group Moderna lifted global markets with trial data that showed its coronavirus vaccine was highly effective.
Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index ended the day up 1.2 per cent while the Russell 2000 of US small-cap stocks — seen as a barometer of the domestic economy — also closed at a record. The tech-heavy US Nasdaq Composite advanced a more modest 0.8 per cent.
Hopes that a successful vaccine could be deployed to slow the spread of coronavirus in as little as a few months triggered a powerful rotation into economically sensitive sectors that began last week, as investors moved away from groups perceived as beneficiaries of the pandemic.
“That’s a reflection of increased likelihood of and visibility into the normalisation of corporate profits and lifestyles in 2021,” said Dan Suzuki, deputy chief investment officer at Richard Bernstein Advisors.
The announcement that Moderna’s vaccine was 94.5 per cent effective in preventing the disease for participants in a late-stage trial followed a similar result for a similar product from Pfizer and BioNTech a week earlier.
The stock market rotation continued on Monday, with energy and financial stocks leading gains on both sides of the Atlantic. Travel stocks also benefited with shares in the biggest US airlines up between 4 and 5 per cent, and cruise lines gaining even more.
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California pushes most counties into most restrictive reopening phase
Peter Wells in New York
California has pulled the “emergency brake" on reopening its economy and tightened restrictions in an effort to curb a doubling in daily coronavirus cases so far this month.
Governor Gavin Newsom in making the announcement on Monday afternoon, said there was a possibility the country’s most populous state may announce further restrictions by the end of the week and also revealed that his office had been studying the efficacy of potential curfews.
Mr Newsom said that as of today, 41 of the state’s 58 counties would be moved to the highest “purple” level in the state’s tiered system of economic restrictions, up from 13 earlier this month. All of southern California, which includes Los Angeles county, was in the purple tier before today’s announcement. Counties will be moved into more restrictive tiers after one week of data that does not meet the standard of a lower tier, rather than the previous two-week period.
Rather than changes being announced at state health secretary Mark Ghaly’s weekly Tuesday press conference, any adjustments will be made “as necessary”, Mr Newsom said, adding that Dr Ghaly could speak again on Friday about the “prospect of more tiered restrictions”.
The governor also said officials had begun considering the “notion of a curfew” and were assessing studies from Germany, France and Saudi Arabia, but that no decision had yet been made on whether one should be imposed. In the US a statewide curfews recently adopted in Massachusetts and an alcohol-focused curfew in Virginia were also being watched closely, Mr Newsom added.
The tougher line on restrictions were announced as Mr Newsom on Monday revealed a further 9,890 new coronavirus cases in the state over the past 24 hours, taking the seven-day average to 8,198 infections a day. That compares with a level of just over 4,000 at the end of last month.
Hospitalisations due to coronavirus, at 3,852, are up 48 per cent over the past fortnight, but represent about 5 per cent of total hospital capacity in California.
“Those trend lines are very challenging and that’s why we have to be aggressive with what we’re doing today,” Mr Newsom said.
California has confirmed just over 1m coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, a tally second only to Texas.
Texas hospitalisations hit three-month high
Peter Wells in New York
Daily rates of new coronavirus cases in Texas continue to climb, while hospitalisations hit their highest in about three months on Monday.
A further 6,858 people in Texas tested positive for Covid-19, the health department revealed this afternoon, up from 6,390 new cases on Monday and compared with 3,816 on Monday last week.
The Lone Star state has averaged about 8,500 new cases a day over the past week, the highest level since late July.
Authorities have for months been adding older cases stemming from backlogs of tests at commercial laboratories to the statewide total, although these are excluded from the new daily figures. There were 310 historical cases revealed by the health department on Monday.
Some of the state's other coronavirus metrics have been trending higher, and not necessarily for the better. Texas is averaging more than 100,000 tests a day, around record levels, and its statewide positivity rate has dropped nearly 1 percentage point since hitting a three-month high of 12.45 per cent about a week ago. But hospitalisations jumped by about 200 to 7,468 on Monday, the highest in three months.
A further 20 deaths were attributed to coronavirus on Monday, but the state late last week began averaging more than 100 fatalities a day for the first time since late September.
Monday figures tend to be lower than other days of the week due to weekend delays in reporting.
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