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WORLD VIRUS UPDATE: Trump Invokes Defense Act; Europe Passes China & More

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These translations are done via Google Translate

By Bloomberg News

(Bloomberg) President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act, allowing the government to boost manufacturing of masks and protective equipment. Europe surpassed China in the number of coronavirus infections.The president also ordered a Navy hospital ship with 1,000 beds to head to New York Harbor. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo mandated that non-essential businesses have no more than half their workforce in the office.German Chancellor Angela Merkel signaled she may be open to joint European Union debt, and bonds plunged on concern about a deluge of issuance. Financial markets spasmed, sending U.S. stocks down to 2018 levels and Bloomberg’s dollar index to a record.

Key Developments:

  • Cases hit 205,568 worldwide, deaths exceed 8,205
  • Trudeau unveils stimulus worth 3% of economy
  • Japan Olympic committee still planning summer event
  • Cases soar in Iran, Spain; Hong Kong has biggest daily increase
  • The U.S. and Canada closed its border to non-essential traffic.
  • Gap plans to close some stores, and U.K. supermarkets are rationing
  • Most new China cases come from abroad

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here.

Click VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus and here for maps and charts. For analysis of the impact from Bloomberg Economics, click here. To see the impact on oil and commodities demand, click here.

Spread of Coronavirus Has Slowed in Asia

Johnson Closes Schools in England (1:30 p.m. NY)

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said schools will close from Friday, increasing restrictions on the British population as the country grapples with a spiraling coronavirus crisis.

Johnson’s announcement covers English schools, after administrators in Scotland and Wales earlier told schools in those regions to prepare to close from Friday.

“After schools shut their gates on Friday afternoon, they will remain closed for most pupils, the vast majority of pupils, until further notice,” Johnson said.

School sites will be kept open to provide care to the children of key workers, Johnson said.

U.S. Allows Doctors to Work Across State Borders (12:59 p.m. NY)

Doctors and medical professionals will soon be allowed to practice across state lines, Vice President Mike Pence said.

The step may help health workers move to hotspots where the new coronavirus is spreading and in some cases infecting hospital staff. Pence said the Department of Health and Human Services will issue the regulation Wednesday.

New Jersey Identifies Closed Hospital (12:50 p.m. NY)

New Jersey has identified one closed hospital as a potential
acute care facility that could be brought back online to handle
an expected surge in patients, said Donna Leusner, a state
health department spokeswoman.

It would not serve as a special facility for Covid-19 patients. Rather, all hospitals in the state “need to be able to care for” such patients, she said. Leusner declined to identify the hospital under consideration.

U.S. Invokes Defense Production Act (12:19 p.m. NY)

President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act, allowing the the government more latitude in emergencies to direct industrial manufacturing. He also said the Housing and Urban Development department will suspend foreclosures and evictions through the end of April.

According to FEMA’s website, the act allows for the president “to expedite and expand the supply of resources from the U.S. industrial base to support military, energy, space, and homeland security programs.”

Navy to Send Hospital Ship to New York City (12:14 p.m. NY)

The Navy hospital ship Comfort is being dispatched to New York City.

The floating hospital, which has previously been sent to disaster zones such as Haiti and post-Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, can provide 1,000 beds.

Schiphol Shuts Majority of Piers At Airport (12:08 p.m. NY)

Schiphol Airport, Europe’s third largest by passenger traffic, will scale down operations to a core and shut five of its seven piers from March 24. Plane stands at shut concourses will be used as temporary parking spots for planes that will be grounded for a longer time.

Italy May Ban Outdoor Recreation (10:30 a.m. NY)

Italy may consider a complete ban on outdoor activities if people don’t respect advice to stay at home during the nationwide lockdown to counter spread of coronavirus, Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora told RAI television.

Eurovision Song Contest Canceled (9:40 a.m. NY)

The European Broadcasting Union canceled the Eurovision Song Contest, one of the world’s most-watched televised events, which was due to be hosted in Rotterdam in about two months.

The Netherlands earlier reported another 346 confirmed cases – the biggest daily increase – to 2,051, while deaths rose by more than a third to 58.

Germany Stops Refugee Program (9:34 a.m. NY)

Germany has stopped the resettlement program for refugees as part of the government’s measures against the coronavirus, a spokesman for the interior ministry said on Wednesday. As part of the EU-Turkey agreement, Germany has taken in refugees from Syria and Turkey since 2012.

JPMorgan Pledges $50 Million (9:12 a.m. NY)

JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s philanthropic plan is aimed at supporting people, communities and businesses impacted by the pandemic, according to statement Wednesday.

Portugal Offers Credit Lines for Tourism (9:05 a.m. NY)

Portuguese Economy Minister Pedro Siza Vieira announced new credit lines for businesses most affected by the outbreak, such as restaurants and the tourism sector. They will be guaranteed by the state, provided through the banking system and may be paid back over four years.

Austria, Italy Start Using Mobile Data to Gauge Lockdown (8:22 a.m. NY)

Officials in Austria and Italy are starting to use location data transmitted by mobile phones to determine the effectiveness of their coronavirus lockdowns.

U.K. Pledges to Support Renters, Increase Testing (8:10 a.m. NY)

In addition to measures announced on Tuesday to support homeowners through the crisis, the government is preparing legislation to protect from renters from eviction. Ministers are also preparing additional measures to help workers, after announcing a business support package. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the U.K. will ramp up to 25,000 the number of people they test daily for coronavirus and that scientists are “much closer to getting a generally available test” to see if people have had — and already recovered from — the virus.

Johnson said further steps would be taken on schools. Some of the country’s most prestigious private schools are closing, even as the government is keeping its school system open. The pound fell to its lowest level against the dollar in over three decades on the shocks caused by the outbreak.

Xi Says Pressure on China’s Economy Is Intensifying (8:01 a.m. NY)

The pressure on China’s economy is mounting as the coronavirus spreads, President Xi Jinping said, in comments reported by CCTV.

French Government May Seek to Declare Health Emergency (8 a.m. NY)

French consumption could drop 2% this year and inflation could decline to 0.6%, AFP reported, citing an amended finance bill. The government will be allowed to use orders to support companies, according to the bill cited by AFP.

Meanwhile Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the government will do “whatever it takes” to prevent unemployment and liquidity squeezes, readying funds equivalent of 38 billion euros ($42 billion), or almost 10% of its economic output to limit the fallout of the crisis.

Ackman Says U.S. Should ‘Shut Down’ for 30 Days (7:50 a.m. NY)

“The only answer” in the U.S.’s fight against coronavirus is to shut down the country for 30 days and close the borders, hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman said in a series of posts on Twitter Wednesday, addressing Trump.

All Americans should be put on an “extended Spring Break”, he added, which would lead to a plummeting infection rate and soaring markets.

Former Chairs Urge Fed to Do More (7:45 a.m. NY)

The U.S. Federal Reserve must limit the long-term effects of the coronavirus, Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen write in an op-ed for the Financial Times. The former chairs said the Fed has a “useful role to play” and that fiscal policy will have “to do more” as the impact of the virus becomes apparent.

The central bank “must ensure that the economic damage from the pandemic is not long-lasting.” It should also ensure that credit is available for otherwise sound borrowers, who face temporary issues, Bernanke and Yellen said.

Gap to Temporarily Close North America Stores (7:40 a.m. NY)

Gap will temporarily close its Old Navy, Athleta, Banana Republic, Gap, Janie and Jack and Intermix stores across North America, effective March 19.

Poland Pledges Stimulus, Oman Ready to Add Liquidity (7:21 a.m. NY)

Poland announced a rescue package designed to shield the economy that will cost around $52 billion, or roughly 9% of gross domestic product. Separately, Oman is prepared to add $20.8 billion in liquidity to provide relief from economic damages caused by the virus, its central bank said. Earlier, Iceland’s central bank made a second emergency interest rate cut in a week and injected fresh liquidity.

Israel Police Told to Prepare for Possible Lockdown (7 a.m. NY)

“I believe that under the current situation, this is a decision that can’t be avoided and will save many lives,” Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said in a call with the heads of the police and internal security services.

Erdan told police to prepare a program for enforcing a country-wide lockdown, in which only essential employees would be allowed to leave their homes. Under this scenario, the military’s Home Front Command would supply the public with necessities.

Trump to Hold News Conference (6:55 a.m. NY)

Trump said he is planning to hold a news conference today to “discuss very important news from the FDA concerning the Chinese Virus.” In a second post on Twitter, the U.S. President said he would “totally protect” Medicare and social security.

Cases Soar in Iran and Spain (6:50 a.m. NY)

More than 1,100 people have died from the coronavirus in Iran as the country reported 147 deaths in the last 24 hours. With nearly 1,200 new positive cases since yesterday, total infections in Iran have now reached 17,361.

Separately, Pakistan’s coronavirus cases jumped after more pilgrims returning from Iran tested positive for the disease. The nation reported 204 cases on Wednesday from 94 two days ago, with about 60% of the cases are people with recent travel history to bordering Iran.

In Spain, cases increased to 13,716 from 11,178. About 598 people have died, compared to 491 reported on Tuesday.

Santander Portugal Unit Chairman Dies From Coronavirus (6:40 a.m. NY)

Banco Santander Totta Chairman Antonio Vieira Monteiro has died after being infected with coronavirus, Portuguese newspaper Expresso reported on Wednesday, citing a source at Santander in Portugal. The 73-year-old Vieira Monteiro was CEO of Santander’s Portuguese unit from 2012-2018 before becoming chairman. Vieira Monteiro is the second known death from coronavirus in Portugal.

Moscow Police Tap Cameras to Track Violators(6:35 a.m. NY)

Moscow police have used the city’s massive camera network to nab over 200 people for violating quarantine required after returning from high-risk countries. The authorities say they are using one of the world’s most-comprehensive facial-recognition systems to monitor the more than 13,000 people in the Russian capital under mandatory self-isolation measures. People found to transmit coronavirus to someone else could face jail time in Russia, with a maximum sentence 5 years if the sick person dies.

European Banks Get $130 Billion, Easing Dollar Stress (6:30 a.m. NY)

Lenders from the euro zone borrowed the bulk of the money — $112 billion in operations coordinated by the European Central Bank. That’s the biggest use of the crisis-era swap lines since the global financial meltdown more than a decade ago. U.K. lenders took $15.5 billion via the Bank of England, and Swiss institutions took $2.6 billion.

ECB sees biggest use of swap lines since financial crisis

Japan Adds Travel Curbs (6:05 a.m. NY)

Japan will ban visitors from Italy and Spain from Thursday and impose voluntary quarantine of 14 days on visitors from 38 countries including Iran and nations in Europe.

Natixis’s H2O Apologizes for Heavy Losses on Virus (6 a.m. NY)

London-based H2O, which is majority-owned by French bank Natixis SA, has endured large losses across many of its funds this year as bets on the oil price rising, calmer markets and Italian bonds soured. Its funds were hit hard again on Monday, with its Multiequities fund dropping by more than 24%, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Italy Could Extend Lockdown (5:50 p.m. HK)

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte may extend a national lockdown beyond April 3, as coronavirus cases continue to climb in Europe’s worst outbreak, newspaper La Stampa reported.

Conte is likely to maintain measures including travel restrictions and the closure of schools as well as of virtually all retailers. Italy has the world’s second-highest number of diagnosed cases, with more than 30,000 known infections and more than 2,500 deaths. The government has approved a 25 billion-euro package ($27.5 billion).

Earlier, French Health Minister Olivier Veran said the country may start to see the number of new cases level out after 8-12 days of confinement measures, while the Robert Koch Institute warned Germany could have up to 10 million infections in two to three months if residents don’t follow the social distancing recommendations in place.

Meanwhile, JPMorgan Chase strategists extended their projected peak of active cases in Italy to about 38,000 and said it’s still possible for Italian cases to peak in the next seven days. If adjusted for the more pessimistic Italian scenario, JPMorgan’s model now would project a peak across Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the U.K. of close to 95,000 cases, rather than 80,000 toward the end of March

–With assistance from Sophie Alexander, Angus Whitley, Lily Nonomiya, Reed Stevenson, Debby Wu, Adveith Nair, John Viljoen, Daniel Schaefer, Jake Rudnitsky, John Follain, Deana Kjuka, Arsalan Shahla, Katharina Rosskopf, Alex Morales, Angelica LaVito and Thomas Penny.

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