U.S. Aid Bill Passed; Duterte Extends Lockdown: Virus Update

The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a $484 billion coronavirus aid package, replenishing funding to aid small businesses and provide support for hospitals and virus testing.

U.S. infections rose at the slowest pace in three weeks. Spain reported the greatest number of new cases and fatalities in almost a week, while Italy saw recoveries from the coronavirus overtake new infections for the first time. President Rodrigo Duterte extended a lockdown around the Philippines capital.

The coronavirus doesn’t last as long on surfaces when it’s exposed to sunlight, higher temperatures and humidity, according to a U.S. government study. Gilead Sciences Inc. shares sank after a summary of a Chinese trial of its Covid-19 drug appeared to show that it was a failure.

Key Developments

  • Virus Tracker: Cases top 2.7 million; deaths exceed 190,000
  • U.S. House passes $484 billion virus aid bill
  • Trump muddles virus response while public support slides
  • Indonesian recovery slowed by loose restrictions
  • The Philippines is short on nurses
  • India’s virus efforts hampered by anti-Muslim anger

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Boeing Set to Cut Dreamliner Output, Jobs (7:44 a.m. HK)

Boeing Co. is poised to cut 787 Dreamliner output by about half and announce workforce reductions when it reports first-quarter earnings next week, said people familiar with the plans.

Dave Calhoun, Boeing’s chief executive officer, warned employees last month of a “new reality” when the world emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. Global airline sales are projected to plunge by $314 billion this year, and travel may not recover fully until mid-decade.

House Overwhelmingly Passes Aid Bill (7:20 a.m. HK)

The House overwhelmingly passed and sent to President Donald Trump a $484 billion coronavirus aid package, even as members are already at odds over the next phase of rescue legislation.

Thursday’s bipartisan 388-5 approval was delivered by lawmakers wearing masks and entering the House chamber under strict health precautions. Trump said at a White House briefing he is likely to sign the bill Thursday night.

The measure would replenish funding to the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses and provide other spending for hospitals and virus testing. It’s the fourth coronavirus-related spending measure since early March, at a total cost of almost $3 trillion.

Mnuchin Weighs Lending Program for Oil Firms (7:15 a.m. HK)

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he’s considering the creation of a government lending program for U.S. oil companies, who are looking for federal aid as they cope with a devastating plunge in prices. He would not say whether the lending program would be housed at his agency or at the Federal Reserve, which has created a number of loan facilities for businesses suffering from the economic collapse brought on by the coronavirus outbreak.

Virus Dies Fastest Under Light, Humid Conditions (7:10 a.m. HK)

The coronavirus doesn’t last as long on door handles and other nonporous surfaces when it’s exposed to sunlight, higher temperatures and humidity, according to a U.S. government study.

“The virus is dying at a much more rapid pace” from exposure to humidity or heat, Bill Bryan, an undersecretary at the Homeland Security Department, said at a White House news conference on Thursday.

Trump May Extend Social-Distancing Guidelines to Summer (7 am HK)

Social distancing guidelines will be extended until “we feel safe,” President Donald Trump said at the daily White House coronavirus briefing.

Baseball School Has 25% of Venezuelan Cases (4:50 p.m. NY)

A baseball academy that recently produced prospects for U.S. teams including the Yankees and the White Sox is ground zero for the most intense outbreak in Venezuela.

The disease took hold after two players from the Roberto Vahlis Academy on Margarita Island returned from the Dominican Republic last month, unaware that they were infected, according to the government. Margarita, known for beach vacations and kite surfing, now accounts for about a quarter of Venezuela’s 298 confirmed cases .

Gilead Falls on Leaked Virus Drug Trial Data (4:45 p.m. NY)

Gilead Sciences Inc. shares were whipsawed for the second time in a week after a summary of a Chinese trial of its Covid-19 drug appeared to show that it was a failure.

The synopsis, which the company and a scientist working on the trial said didn’t fairly represent the actual results, saw Gilead’s shares closed down 4.3% on Thursday in New York. The drug, remdesivir, is one of the most closely-watched therapies of the dozens being developed and tested as a potential treatment for Covid-19 patients. The World Health Organization, which has been helping coordinate the global response to the virus, said it accidentally posted the results on a website that helps track therapies for the disease.

The summary was quickly removed, but details of the post were reported by the Financial Times and posted by the publication Stat. They showed that the drug wasn’t associated with patients getting better more quickly; and 13.9% of patients getting the drug died, versus 12.8% getting standard care.

Brazil Deaths Rise (4:20 p.m. NY)

Brazil has 3,313 deaths confirmed by the novel coronavirus, there were 2,906 on April 22, according to the Health Ministry press office. Confirmed cases jumped to 49,492 from 45,757 on Wednesday. Sao Paulo state has 16,740 confirmed cases and 1,345 deaths, the ministry said.

U.S. Cases Rise at Slowest Pace This Month (4 p.m. NY)

U.S. cases rose 2.5% from the day before to 856,209, the lowest daily increase this month, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. That was lower than Wednesday’s rate of 3.1% and below the average daily increase of 4.1% over the past week.

New York’s cases rose 2.5% to 269,756, according to the Johns Hopkins and Bloomberg News data. Deaths rose 1.7% to 19,551. Texas reported its third-straight increase in the number of daily cases, with an additional 875 sickened residents, bringing the total to 21,944, according to the state’s health services department.

Italy, France See Slowed Spread, Eye Reopening (3:40 p.m. NY)

Italy and France reported progress in slowing the spread of the coronavirus, offering encouragement to leaders who plan to start easing nationwide lockdowns next month.

Patients who recovered from infections outnumbered new cases in Italy on Thursday for the first time since the country became Europe’s original center of the outbreak. In Brussels, European Union leaders backed a 540 billion-euro ($580 billion) relief plan for companies and economies.

Italy’s unprecedented shutdown, which began March 10, has closed factories, confined people to their homes and brought daily life for 60 million people in the euro area’s third-biggest economy to a near standstill. An initial reopening of businesses is planned for May 4, provided they observe protective and social distancing guidelines.

France is working on a plan to gradually lift restrictions on non-essential travel and reopen the economy starting May 11. President Emmanuel Macrontold mayors on Thursday that the end of the lockdown will happen within a national framework that can be adapted locally, depending on health conditions and mass transit, according to a government official. Macron also told them schools would gradually restart.

Study Finds 14% of New Yorkers Had Signs (12:35 p.m. NY)

A New York state-led study seeking to learn how many people have been infected found that 13.9% of those tested had signs of the virus, in one of the biggest U.S. reviews to date.

In New York City, the hardest-hit area in the U.S., 21.2% tested positive for a blood marker showing that they had been infected at some point. Statewide, 2.7 million people may have has Covid-19, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

New York has reported 15,500 deaths. If 2.7 million people have been infected, that would put the fatality rate at around 0.6%.

Lagarde Warns GDP Could Fall 15% (10 a.m. NY)

European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde told the EU’s leaders that the bloc’s gross domestic product could fall by as much as 15% and that they’ve done too little, too late, according to two people familiar with the remarks.

Lagarde spoke during a video conference meeting of the 27 European Union leaders, who are discussing how to mitigate the economic fallout of the global pandemic. The people asked not to be identified because the summit is private.

EMA Warns of Heart Risk From Malaria Drug Combination (9:30 a.m. NY)

Europe’s health regulator warned of exacerbated heart risks from the combination of an old malaria medicine with an antibiotic, a treatment regimen for Covid-19 that was endorsed by Trump. Hydroxychloroquine and an older cousin called chloroquine can cause heart-rhythm problems and the antibiotic azithromycin has a similar effect on the heart, according to the European Medicines Agency.

— With assistance by Heather Smith

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