Bolivia extends closure of borders, declares health emergency for coronavirus

LA PAZ (Reuters) – Bolivia declared a national health emergency and extended its border lockdown on Wednesday, as the government seeks to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Interim President Jeanine Anez said in a public address that the border closure was extended to April 15 from March 31 previously. Anez said no one will be able to enter or exit Bolivia during that time.

Bolivia, which was already under a 14-day national quarantine, also tightened restrictions on movement, permitting only one person per household to go out between the hours of 7 am and noon on weekdays.

“In recent days, non-compliance with the quarantine has increased the risk of contagion,” Anez said, adding that the armed forces and national police would become more involved in enforcing the quarantine.

Bolivia has 38 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to government data.

Source: Read Full Article

UK deaths from coronavirus outbreak rise to 463 as of March 25: Government

(Reuters) – The number of coronavirus deaths in the UK has risen to 463 as of Wednesday from 422 on Tuesday, the British government said, adding that more than 9,500 COVID-19 cases have now been reported in the country.

The total number of coronavirus cases in the UK have risen to 9,529 as of Wednesday, compared to 8,077 cases as of Tuesday, the statement added.

The government is anticipating a peaking of coronavirus cases in Britain in the coming weeks and has appealed to manufacturers to supply the National Health Service with the appropriate requirements.

Britain had been in talks with over 3,000 businesses about supplying ventilators to quickly increase the health service’s capacity. The country’s existing stock of about 5,000-8,000 ventilators is inadequate if cases jump as predicted.

Britain has ordered 10,000 medical ventilators designed at breakneck speed by vacuum cleaner-maker Dyson, according to an internal email to Dyson’s staff, which was seen by Reuters.

Separately, over 170,000 people have signed up to help the NHS tackle the outbreak.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered Britons on Monday to stay at home to halt the spread of the virus, imposing curbs on everyday life without precedent in peacetime.

Source: Read Full Article

Honduran government delivers food to 3.2 million people amid coronavirus lockdown

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) – Armed Honduran soldiers began delivering food to some 3.2 million people on lockdown in their homes on Wednesday, part of the government’s efforts stop the spread of coronavirus in a nation with few resources and a limited public health system.

So far, Honduras has reported 36 cases of the virus and no deaths. To prevent the virus from spreading, President Juan Orlando Hernandez has suspended public transportation, closed government offices and businesses, and ordered people nationwide to stay indoors at all hours.

“We are doing everything in our power to save lives. This includes making sure the most vulnerable have food at home on their tables,” Hernandez told a national television network.

The distribution of beans, rice, sugar, butter, cornmeal and spaghetti along with soap, detergent and hand-sanitizer for 6,000 families began in the impoverished Los Pinos neighborhood in the capital of Tegucigalpa on Wednesday. The army will gradually bring supplies to 800,000 families total in San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba and Choluteca, some of Honduras’ biggest cities, each of which have reported cases of coronavirus.

On Tuesday, residents in various parts of Tegucigalpa protested on the streets to demand food, saying they were unable to work or shop for groceries because of the lockdown.

“This situation has been sad because we didn’t have anything – there’s no transportation, no money. We didn’t have food anymore,” said Maria Montoya, 70, a Los Pinos resident who said her husband, a security guard, has not been able to work.

In Los Pinos, which is controlled by the violent Barrio 18 gang, uniformed soldiers in bulletproof vests and carrying M-16 rifles arrived in army trucks with supplies meant to last 15 days per family, and went on foot through steep narrow streets to deliver packages.

“We are going to go door to door. We want whoever needs it, who doesn’t have money, to have this food package, while this difficult situation lasts,” Hernandez said.

Many other families were going without aid on Wednesday, however, spurring further protests in various parts of the country, with residents blocking a road for several hours outside Tegucigalpa and demanding supplies.

Source: Read Full Article

Italy coronavirus deaths pass 7,500 amid fears of spread to south

ROME (Reuters) – More than 680 people have died from coronavirus in Italy in the last 24 hours, the Civil Protection Agency said on Wednesday, as concerns grew that the disease was spreading more towards the south of the country.

The death toll increased by 683 on Wednesday. That was lower than a spike of 743 on Tuesday but more than the totals of the previous two days and the third highest daily tally since the outbreak emerged in northern regions on Feb. 21.

Italy has seen more fatalities than any other country, with latest figures showing that 7,503 people have died from the infection in barely a month.

The northern region of Lombardy, by far the hardest-hit, showed a steep decline in the number of deaths and new infections on Wednesday, raising hopes that the epidemic may be slowing at its original epicentre.

However, optimism was tempered by warnings from the south, where contagion and deaths are far less widespread but are rising steadily, and could overwhelm a health service which is much less well equipped than in the rich north.

“At this point there is the real prospect that Lombardy’s tragedy is about to become the south’s tragedy,” Vincenzo De Luca, president of the Campania region around Naples, wrote in an open letter to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

“We are on the eve of a major expansion of infections which may not be sustainable,” he said, complaining that the central government had failed to provide Campania with promised ventilators and other life-saving equipment.

So far there have been 74 deaths in Campania, the worst affected southern region. The central region of Lazio, around the capital Rome, has registered 95 fatalities.

The total number of confirmed cases in Italy rose to 74,386 from a previous 69,176, the Civil Protection Agency said.

The rise of 7.5% was the lowest since the outbreak began, but only severely ill people are being tested and the head of the agency, Angelo Borrelli, said this week that the true number of infections was probably 10 times those officially recorded.

Borrelli was not present at the customary news conference to illustrate the latest figures because he came down with a fever on Wednesday and was himself being tested for coronavirus.

With Italy in lockdown for the last two weeks and its economy on its knees, Conte on Wednesday promised a second stimulus package in April worth at least as much as the 25 billion euro ($27.17 billion) one he adopted in March.

With his approval ratings at record highs, the prime minister appealed to the opposition to get behind the government’s efforts and halt its attacks on his handling of the crisis until it is over.

“There will be a time for everything, but now is the time for action and responsibility,” he told the Chamber of Deputies.

One source of potential conflict for Conte was defused on Wednesday when the government reached an agreement with trade unions who had threatened strikes because they wanted more companies shuttered to protect workers’ health.

Conte agreed to extend the production sectors that will be temporarily closed because they are not deemed essential to the country’s supply chain.

Source: Read Full Article

U.S. auto sales in states with coronavirus lockdown orders to drop 80%: analysts

(Reuters) – Vehicle sales in U.S. states that implemented lockdown orders to curb the spread of coronavirus will drop 80% or more, analysts said on Wednesday.

Auto retail sales through the week of March 22 declined 22% nationwide on a yearly basis and as much as 40% in some cities on the U.S. West Coast, according to an analysis by research firm J.D. Power based on data from dealership stores around the country.

Last week’s data did not yet fully account for various U.S. states passing so-called shelter-in-place orders at the end of last week.

“We expect to see a much broader and wider impact from these restrictions next week with sales declining 80% or more,” said Tyson Jominy, the firm’s vice president of data and analytics.

Tyson said New York in particular, a market that has so far proven rather resilient, is expected to change dramatically over the coming week.

New York on March 20 ordered the state’s roughly 19 million residents to stay at home.

But Thomas King, J.D. Power’s president of data and analytics, said car buyers will likely bounce back after an extended shutdown, which will help the auto industry recover.

The crisis is also likely to accelerate the move to online sales by auto dealerships, a business practice car retailers have been slow to embrace.

Source: Read Full Article

Germany plans quarantine for air arrivals from outside EU – Funke media

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany plans to insist that airline passengers arriving from non-EU countries go into quarantine for 14 days to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus, the Funke media group reported on Wednesday.

A decision could be taken by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “crisis cabinet” as soon as Thursday and would affect the country’s main airports such as Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin, the media group reported.

Until now, people arriving from countries badly hit by the virus, including Iran, South Korea, Egypt, Italy, France and the United States, have merely had to fill in a form, a situation that has triggered criticism.

However, government ministers now think that differentiating between countries makes little sense given the extent of the infection, Funke media reported, without citing sources.

There was no immediate comment from the government.

The government can make recommendations but quarantine questions are ultimately decided by the federal states.

Source: Read Full Article

U.S. Senate bill to grant airlines bailout to weather coronavirus

WASHINGTON/CHICAGO (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate will vote on Wednesday to give the U.S. aviation industry $58 billion in aid, half in the form of grants to cover some 750,000 employees’ paychecks, in a badly needed lifeline for an industry facing the worst travel downturn in history.

A draft text for a $2 trillion economic rescue deal seen by Reuters would offer passenger airlines $25 billion in grants and $25 billion in loans, cargo carriers another $8 billion in loans and grants, and contractors like caterers up to $3 billion in grants.

Republicans had fought what they called a give away to airlines, while unions said the cash was crucial to keep workers on the job.

“This is not a corporate bailout; it’s a rescue package for workers,” said Association of Flight Attendants Sara Nelson, who spearheaded the idea of direct payroll grants for employees ranging from janitorial staff and gate agents to mechanics and pilots.

Reuters reported Chao worked the phones late into the night talking to air carriers about what they needed to ensure they could maintain payrolls, a person briefed on call on Tuesday that lawmakers were nearing agreement on a deal for cash grants for payroll and other employee costs, after airlines made a last-minute effort to convince lawmakers they needed the cash to prevent furloughing tens of thousands of workers.

U.S. airline shares extended a Tuesday rally on hopes for cash relief and airlines could get cash assistance in as little as two weeks from passage.

Republican Senator Pat Toomey, whose party had proposed $58 billion in loans, said on Wednesday the grants were a key sticking point. He said Democrats insisted “we give away money to airlines and never get it back.”

In a win for labor, companies receiving funds cannot lay off employees before Sept. 30 or change collective bargaining agreements.

The draft bill has restrictions on stock buybacks, dividends and executive compensation, and allows the government to take equity, warrants or other compensation as part of the rescue package.

Airlines would also receive tax relief on fuel purchases and, in a move that will bring down passenger fares, a temporary suspension on ticket taxes.

As the coronavirus has spread around the world, travel demand has plummeted, with airlines drastically reducing flights and warning of more cuts to come.

Airlines keep canceling flights and slashing costs as demand falls. United Airlines (UAL.O) said Wednesday would now cut 52% of U.S. flights and overall capacity by 68%. On Tuesday, 279,018 people were screened at all U.S. airport checkpoints, down 87% over last year.

Airlines accepting loans may have to ensure certain air services in order to maintain health care and pharmaceutical supply chains, including to remote communities.

However, other consumer and environmental protections sought by many Democrats did not make it into the draft bill.

Airlines and unions won crucial support for the grants from U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who worked the phones late into the night, telling lawmakers and others in the administration she was concerned about the impact of job losses and a decline in the U.S. aviation sector on competition, people briefed on the matter said.

“Without grants, airlines may be forced to choose bankruptcy over federal loans, if loan conditions are too inflexible,” Chao warned in a memo seen by Reuters.

Airlines have argued that they are key to restarting the economy once the coronavirus outbreak subsides.

U.S. airports, whose concourses have been nearly empty, are set to receive $10 billion in grants in the draft text.

The government will also provide $25 billion in grants for U.S. transit systems and $1 billion for U.S. passenger railroad Amtrak, that have seen ridership fall dramatically as states ordered tens of millions of Americans to stay home and avoid non-essential travel.

Boeing Co (BA.N) could receive government loans under a $17 billion fund set aside for direct national security-related loans, Toomey said, adding that many companies could qualify. Boeing could also qualify under the broader $454 billion loan program.

“It is not meant to be exclusively for Boeing… You should not think of it as a Boeing allocation,” Toomey said.

Boeing had sought at least $60 billion in government loan guarantees for itself and the entire aerospace manufacturing sector. Boeing did not immediately comment on Wednesday.

Source: Read Full Article

Canada coronavirus stimulus package promises cash, student loan delays

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s C$27 billion ($18.8 billion) aid package will give people affected by the coronavirus outbreak C$2,000 a month and delay student loan repayments, among other measures to boost the economy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday.

After almost a day of wrangling, the House of Commons agreed early on Wednesday to approve the stimulus. The Canada Emergency Response Benefit bill was being debated in the Senate.

“We are hopeful that the system will be up and running by April 6 and the checks and direct deposits will be flowing days after that,” Trudeau told reporters outside his house.

A few dozen legislators – maintaining social distancing in the face of the highly contagious disease – backed the measures after the Liberal government agreed to remove proposals that would have given Ottawa emergency spending powers without Parliamentary approval until the end of 2021.

The bill – which also includes C$55 billion in the form of tax deferrals – must now be approved by the unelected Senate, which will meet later on Wednesday.

Government officials say they anticipate senators will quickly approve the measures.

A total of 2,792 Canadians have been diagnosed with the coronavirus and 27 have died, while more than a million people have applied for unemployment benefits in less than two weeks.

Trudeau, who unveiled the stimulus package last week, said on Tuesday the crisis meant the government needed flexibility to react quickly.

But after almost 18 hours of wrangling, and faced with opposition threats to drag out approval of the aid, Trudeau officials agreed to dilute some of their demands.

“Because we fought back, the Trudeau government has backed down from its power grab,” said Pierre Poilievre, finance spokesman for the official opposition Conservatives.

The modified bill caps Ottawa’s emergency spending power at six months. It also says the House of Commons finance committee – which is controlled by opposition legislators – can probe government spending and force Parliament back in 48 hours if it thinks abuses are occurring.

Trudeau’s Liberals only have a minority in the House of Commons and rely on other parties to govern.

Once senators have voted for the bill, it needs formal assent from the Governor-General, the representative of Queen Elizabeth, Canada’s head of state. This is a formality.

Source: Read Full Article

Senate bill set to give aviation sector up to $33 billion bailout: sources

WASHINGTON/CHICAGO (Reuters) – A compromise $2 trillion economic rescue package that will be voted on by the U.S. Senate on Wednesday is set to give passenger airlines about $25 billion in grants, and up to another $8 billion for cargo carriers and airport contractors like caterers, three people briefed on the negotiations said.

Reuters reported Chao worked the phones late into the night talking to air carriers about what they needed to ensure they could maintain payrolls, a person briefed on call on Tuesday that lawmakers were nearing agreement on a deal for cash grants for payroll and other airline employee costs, after airlines made a last-minute effort to convince lawmakers they needed the cash to prevent the layoff of tens of thousands of workers.

The aid package is expected to include a further $29 billion in loans for airlines, and the government could receive equity, warrants or other compensation as part of the rescue package. U.S. airports are set to receive $10 billion in grants under the agreement.

The final text is still being drafted but will include restrictions on stock buybacks, dividends and executive compensation.

Senate Republicans on Sunday rejected any grants for airlines and instead proposed $58 billion in loans for airlines. Major airlines sounded the alarm and emphasized in recent days that without grants, they had short-term plans to quickly furlough tens of thousands of workers as travel demand collapses amid the coronavirus pandemic.

On Sunday, the carriers promised not to lay off workers through Aug. 31 if they won grants.

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants said on Twitter it was a “HUGE fight but we WON on this – We got the deal structured around maintaining payroll, no (involuntary) furloughs.”

Airlines and airline unions won crucial support from U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who spoke to lawmakers and others in the administration about the crisis.

In a memo Chao had drafted that was seen by Reuters, she noted that airlines employ 750,000 U.S. workers. She was worried about a dramatic decline in the U.S. aviation sector that could reduce competition, and the potential loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, people briefed on the matter said.

“Without grant assistance, U.S. airlines have warned that they may be forced to furlough employees or declare bankruptcy,” Chao’s memo warned. “Without grants, airlines may be forced to choose bankruptcy over federal loans, if loan conditions are too inflexible.”

Chao worked the phones late into the night talking to air carriers about what they needed to ensure they could maintain payrolls, said a person briefed on call.

The government will also provide significant funding to Amtrak and U.S. transit systems that have both seen ridership fall dramatically as states order tens of millions of Americans to stay home and avoid non-essential travel.

Boeing Co (BA.N) could also receive government loans or loan guarantees under the bill, but it was not clear if they would tap $17 billion in loan funding set aside for national security-related loans that were part of the Republican bill released on Sunday. Boeing had sought at least $60 billion in government loan guarantees for itself and the entire aerospace manufacturing sector.

Source: Read Full Article

Coronavirus death toll in Italy's Lombardy rises by around 296 in a day: source

ROME (Reuters) – The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in the northern region of Lombardy, which has borne the brunt of Italy’s contagion, has risen by around 296 in a day to some 4,474, a source familiar with the data said on Wednesday.

The figure is down sharply compared to some 402 deaths on Tuesday. If confirmed, it will be the lowest daily death toll in Lombardy since March 19.

The number of cases in the region, which includes Italy’s financial capital Milan, increased by some 1,643 to roughly 32,346, the source said.

The nationwide tally will be released around 6.00 p.m. (1700 GMT). On Tuesday, the national death toll stood at 6,820, the highest in the world.

Source: Read Full Article