Coronavirus: ‘Concerning’ rise in car journeys as people urged to stay at home

A “concerning” rise in car journeys has sparked fresh warnings for people to stay at home during the coronavirus lockdown.

Dr Yvonne Doyle, medical director of Public Health England, revealed motor vehicle usage in Britain has jumped to around a third of usual levels.

Despite a gradual drop off to 27% on Sunday, the number leaped by 10% to 37% in a single day.

Bus and underground journeys in London also rose, but National Rail train usage dipped slightly compared to the latest figures.

Speaking at the daily Downing Street briefing, Dr Doyle said that while “most people” are following the rules to stay at home “everyone needs to do that” because “we need to save lives and protect the NHS” during the COVID-19 outbreak.

She also revealed a “slightly concerning” rise of new UK cases on Wednesday by 390 to 3,009.

“It’s still too early to say whether the plateau of hospital admissions has ended but we’ve now seen three days of increases in a row,” she explained.

“We need to protect the NHS, and the best way to do that is to stay at home, to avoid catching the disease yourself and obviously avoid giving it to anyone else.”

She added that although most of the people being admitted to hospital for coronavirus are in London, the Midlands is becoming “a concern as well”, warning: “The threat is everywhere… There is no reason to be complacent.”

Globally, the UK has started pushing up towards the deaths trajectory experienced in Italy.

The latest figures announced on Wednesday said another 563 people died in the UK after testing positive for coronavirus – bringing the total number of deaths to 2,352.

More follows…

Source: Read Full Article


Equities drop as evidence mounts of deep global recession

NEW YORK (Reuters) – World equity markets began the new quarter with steep losses on Wednesday as evidence mounted that the coronavirus pandemic was sending the global economy into a deep recession.

Traders headed for the safety of government bonds, the dollar [USD/] and gold [GOL/] following sharp slowdowns in manufacturing activity in Japan and Germany, one day after data showed U.S. consumer confidence fell to 3-year lows.

The pan-European STOXX 600 sank 2.7% [.EU], while MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed 1.11%. Tokyo’s Nikkei slumped 4.5% after the worst plunge in factory activity in almost a decade.

On Wall Street, major benchmarks opened sharply lower after President Donald Trump warned late Tuesday that maintaining social distancing guidelines for the next 30 days would be a “matter of life and death.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slumped 755.87 points, or 3.45%, to 21,161.29, the S&P 500 lost 89.48 points, or 3.46%, to 2,495.11 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 209.88 points, or 2.73%, to 7,490.22.

“President Trump’s warning about two dreadful weeks ahead and 100,000 – 240,000 deaths in the coming months is definitely putting a negative tone on the market,” said Societe Generale strategist Kit Juckes. “It is pretty risk-off out there. It is definitely a day of lower bonds yields, falling equity indexes and tin hats.”

U.S. markets ended the first quarter on Tuesday, marked by the largest quarterly fall since 1987 for the Dow Jones and the steepest for the benchmark S&P 500 since the financial crisis. The fact it all happened in a month and from record highs made it feel all the more brutal.

U.S. economic activity is likely to be “very bad” and the unemployment rate could rise above 10% because of efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank President Loretta Mester told CNBC. [L1N2BO2UT]

In currency markets, the dollar’s safe-haven appeal saw it continue to rise.

“In my view, markets have still not fully priced in the damage from the coronavirus, with some people still talking about V-shaped recovery,” said Masahiko Loo, portfolio manager at Alliance Bernstein in Tokyo.

“The U.S. and Europe are hit by the first wave now, but as you can see in Asia, there could be more waves from re-imported cases. Human psychology also does not quickly recover either after an experience like this.”

Traders jumped toward the perceived safety of government bonds, pushing the yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note to 0.5957% from 0.699% late on Tuesday.

Commodity markets were much rougher. Brent crude fell nearly 6% at one point to as low as $24.80 per barrel as the United States, Russia, and Saudi Arabia jostled over a massive oversupply of oil. [O/R]

Crude oil benchmarks ended the first quarter with their biggest losses in history. Both U.S. and Brent futures got hammered throughout March by the pandemic and a Saudi-Russia price war.

Global demand has been cut sharply by travel restrictions. Forecasters at major merchants and banks see demand slumping by 20% to 30% in April, and for weak consumption to linger for months.

Graphic: Global assets in 2019,

Graphic: Global currencies vs. dollar,

Source: Read Full Article


Wall Street sinks as coronavirus anxiety grows

(Reuters) – The Dow Jones tumbled more than 700 points on Wednesday as investors fled to safe-haven assets after new orders for U.S.-made goods plunged to an 11-year low and private payrolls fell for the first time since 2017.

The blue-chip Dow and the S&P 500 ended Tuesday with their worst opening quarters in history as efforts to contain the virus resulted in deserted shopping streets, massive staff furloughs and a halt in business activity.

Meanwhile, the collapse in oil prices brought about its first major casualty with Whiting Petroleum (WLL.N) filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Its shares slumped 42%.

“There is no easy way to quantify either the economic shutdown or what the eventual recovery is going to look like as the monetary and fiscal policy initiatives are as historic as the economic decline,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities in New York.

Companies on the benchmark index have lost more than $5.6 trillion in market value so far this year, despite trillions of dollars in fiscal and monetary stimulus that helped equity markets claw back some of the sharp declines last week.

On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump warned Americans of a “painful” two weeks ahead, with White House health officials modeling an enormous jump in virus-related deaths even with strict social distancing measures.

U.S. real estate .SPLRCR, utilties .SPLRCU and consumer staples .SPLRCS stocks, which had held up so far as they are considered stable during times of extreme volatility, fell between 1% and 6.7%.

Goldman Sachs now expects sequential real U.S. GDP to plummet 34% in the second quarter on an annualized basis, foreshadowing a deep economic slump.

“Talk of a bottom in equity markets still seems remarkably premature given the continued increase in infection and death rates across Europe and the United States,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in London.

With the quarterly reporting season set to begin in two weeks, S&P 500 companies are expected to enter an earnings recession in 2020, falling 3.7% in the first quarter and 9.6% in the second.

At 9:56 a.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 658.21 points, or 3.00%, at 21,258.95, the S&P 500 .SPX was down 82.63 points, or 3.20%, at 2,501.96 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was down 213.20 points, or 2.77%, at 7,486.90.

Interest-rate sensitive stocks on the banking index .SPXBK fell 5%, while airlines, hotels and cruise operators shed between 5% and 7%.

The energy sector .SPNY shed another 3%, with experts now saying oil prices could touch single digits, exacerbated by a share tussle among top producers as the world runs out of storage space.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers more than 13-to-1 on the NYSE and 6-to-1 on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded no new 52-week high and seven new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded four new highs and 32 new lows.

Source: Read Full Article


Canada continuing to assess need for more changes to banks' capital buffers

TORONTO, April 1 (Reuters) – Canada’s financial system has the capacity to respond to further stresses and the regulator will continue to assess if additional changes to banks’ capital buffers are needed, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) said on Wednesday.

OSFI reduced the domestic stability buffer for banks in March to free up C$300 billion ($211.3 billion) of additional lending capacity.

While banks can treat loans subject to six-month payment deferrals as performing loans, they must meet higher capital requirements if they become non-performing beyond that period, OSFI officials said on a media call.

Source: Read Full Article

World News

Fractures grow among Iraq militias, spell political retreat

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – In February, an Iraqi militia commander trained by Iran took over the empty office of his slain superior, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, killed weeks before alongside Iranian military mastermind Qassem Soleimani in a U.S. drone strike.

Many pro-Iran militiamen hoped this was the answer to their problems: the experienced commander Abdul Aziz al-Mohammedawi might replace Muhandis as overall leader of Iraq’s paramilitary groups, scattered after the killing of their two mentors.

Instead, it has led to new splits.

Factions refused to recognize Mohammedawi, known by his nom de guerre Abu Fadak, as commander of Iraq’s militia umbrella grouping, the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF). Even within his own group, Kataib Hezbollah, some oppose him taking on that mantle, according to militia insiders.

The deaths of Soleimani and Muhandis in January challenged Iran-backed militias in Iraq, where the United States wants to reverse the influence of its regional foe Tehran.

Now, sources in the Iran-backed factions of the PMF and commanders in groups less close to Tehran describe growing fractures over leadership and reduced Iranian funds, thwarting attempts to unite in the face of adversity.

The rifts are accelerating a retreat from the political arena, where militia leaders who once controlled government jobs and parliament seats are in hiding for fear of assassination by the United States and confront anti-Iran dissent on the streets. They face the installing of a U.S.-aligned prime minister who signals he would check the dominance of Iran’s proxy groups.

Bruised, the militias have stepped up attacks on U.S.-led forces in Iraq. Western military and diplomatic officials say this raises the prospect of a U.S.-Iran escalation Baghdad will be powerless to stop.

The focal point for the splits has been leadership of the PMF, which was formed to fight Islamic State after Iraq’s top Shi’ite Muslim cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called all able bodied men to take up arms against the Sunni militants.

The state-funded PMF comprises dozens of mostly Shi’ite militias with different loyalties but is dominated by powerful factions who take their orders from Iran, including Muhandis’s Kataib Hezbollah, the Badr Organization, Nujaba and others.

Soleimani held ultimate authority over Iraq’s toughest Shi’ite militias. But for those groups, loss of PMF military chief Muhandis, a rare unifying figure, was more significant.


Kataib Hezbollah in February announced Mohammedawi would be PMF military chief. Mohammedawi now works in Muhandis’s old office in Baghdad, according to a senior militia source. He requested anonymity to talk about splits among paramilitaries.

“This created divisions, including within Kataib,” the source said.

He and two other militia officials described shifting alliances, including within two pro-Iran groups. They said the splits were over both Muhandis’s succession and where Iranian funds should go – into military action or political influence.

“One camp in Kataib is led by Abu Fadak. Another opposes him taking over the PMF,” the first source said. “In Badr, there’s a wing that supports him and was closer to Muhandis – and another that doesn’t, the political wing.”

The sources did not provide details on reduced funding from Iran, which is being hit hard by coronavirus and U.S. sanctions.

A PMF spokesman could not immediately be reached to comment.

The divisions mean groups are beginning to stage attacks on their own, without consulting each other, the militia sources said.

“Not everybody agreed Taji military base should be targeted,” one official said, referring to an attack that killed two U.S. troops and a British soldier in March. “Some groups just operate without consulting the PMF chain of command.”

The militia sources report an additional PMF split.

Several factions closer to Sistani, who oppose Iran’s hegemony over the PMF, publicly rejected Mohammedawi taking over in February in a rare show of defiance of the pro-Iran camp.

Their commanders said they have since agreed in principle with the defense ministry to integrate into the military, a move that would clearly separate them from Iran-backed factions. A source close to Sistani confirmed his office had blessed the move.


Pro-Iran militias worry.

“If Sistani is backing this maybe 70 percent of lower-ranking fighters in all groups might follow – they joined up only because of his edict,” the first militia source said.

None of those moves can be official until a new government is in place. But lawmakers and government officials say it is likely the designated prime minister, Adnan al-Zurfi, will be approved this month – a result of pro-Iran militia weakness.

“Before, the Iran-backed groups and politicians were able to get their choice of prime minister,” one lawmaker from Iraq’s biggest parliamentary bloc said, declining to be named.

“Now, they can’t even agree among themselves who they want for the post,” he said, adding many favoured Zurfi for the job.

President Barham Salih last month designated Zurfi, who is opposed by Iran-backed militia commanders. He has signaled he would come down hard on the factions, posting on Twitter in March that the PMF’s “loyalty will be to Iraq, and Iraqis”.

Iran-backed militias will not go quietly. Kataib Hezbollah warned last week it would fight any force cooperating with Washington in attacking militias.

Source: Read Full Article

World News

Britain working with industry on reagent shortage: PM's spokesman

LONDON (Reuters) – The British government is working with industry to address a shortage of chemicals required for coronavirus testing kits to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday.

“We’ve been working with industry throughout but as the chief medical officer and the deputy chief medical officer have both set out, there is a global demand for reagents. But it is clear from industry that they are working as hard as they can to support the NHS (National Health Service),” the spokesman told reporters.

Addressing concerns that Britain is lagging other countries in introducing a large-scale testing regime, the spokesman said: “A clear instruction has been issued that where there is capacity available it should be used on testing frontline staff and we expect that to happen.”

Source: Read Full Article

World News

Muslim minority doctors first to die on front line of UK pandemic

Family and patients remember the four doctors who contracted coronavirus while fighting for others with the disease.

London, United Kingdom – The United Kingdom is paying tribute to the first doctors on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic who have died after contracting COVID-19.

All four men – Alfa Sa’adu; Amged el-Hawrani; Adil El Tayar and Habib Zaidi – were Muslim and had ancestry in regions including Africa, Asia and the Middle East.


  • UK coronavirus deaths rise 27 percent in one day

  • UK: Boy, 13, dies of coronavirus ‘without any family close by’

  • Coronavirus: Which countries have confirmed cases?

Dr Salman Waqar, the general secretary of the British Islamic Medical Association, said the contribution of these doctors was “immeasurable”.

“They were devoted family men, committed senior doctors, and dedicated decades of service to their communities and patients,” he said.

“They gave the ultimate sacrifice while fighting this disease. We urge everyone to do their part and stop further deaths from happening – stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives.”

As the country fears a shortage of medical staff amid the pandemic, which has so far killed 2,352 people and infected 29,474 according to government figures, the loss of the doctors has highlighted the vital contribution of medics from minority backgrounds to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).

The NHS is the largest employer of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) staff in the UK with 40.1 percent of medical workers from BME backgrounds.

Priti Patel, the home secretary, announced on Tuesday that about 2,800 medical staff whose visas expire before October 1, will have their visas extended for a year “free of charge”. 

Here, we profile the four doctors who have sadly passed away:

Amged el-Hawrani – A father figure who fought for people

Born in Sudan, the second of six brothers, Amged el-Hawrani was an ear, nose, and throat consultant at university hospitals in the north of England.

Despite having no underlying health issues, el-Hawrani died in hospital on Saturday aged 55.

His youngest brother Amal paid tribute to his sibling who selflessly “took on the burdens of others” and became a “father figure” following the deaths of their eldest brother and father.

“Amged was someone who was very strong in character, both mentally and physically, but in a calm and gentle way,” he said. “His strength was one that was always used as a force for good. He was a protector, a shielder, fighting for people, fighting for his brothers.”

Weeks before his death, el-Hawrani was concerned for his elderly mother who was ill again after having recovered from pneumonia. El-Hawrani finished his night shift and drove a long distance to see her in Bristol, in southwest England. At the time, he had mild flu symptoms which he put down to being overworked.

His funeral went ahead on Tuesday, with only immediate family in attendance. He was buried in Bristol.

El-Hawrani’s colleagues held a minute’s silence for the doctor at Queen’s Hospital in Burton on Monday.

Habib Zaidi – A kind, caring GP whose dedication cost him his life

A general practitioner with Pakistani origins, Habib Zaidi moved to the UK almost 50 years ago and worked in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, southeast England, for more than 45 years.

On Wednesday, at 76 years old, died of COVID-19.

He had been self-isolating for a week when he was taken to hospital and died 24 hours later in the intensive care unit.

His family said they were “heartbroken” by his death, in a statement.

Christine Playle, 73, one of Zaidi’s former patients on whom he performed minor surgery less than three weeks before his death, said she was “shocked and saddened”.

“Dr Zaidi was a very well-liked and respected doctor and was the embodiment of what everyone looks for in their GP – kind, caring, friendly and jolly,” she told Al Jazeera.

“He was a dedicated GP, and that dedication cost him his life.”

In accordance with distancing restrictions, only his immediate family attended his funeral. His widow has now gone into self-isolation.

Adil El Tayar – A consultant who gave his life volunteering in emergency

Adil El Tayar, an NHS surgeon, died on March 25, aged 64.

An organ transplant consultant, he graduated from the University of Khartoum in 1982.

El Tayar had been working at Hereford County Hospital in the west of England as a volunteer in the emergency department, where his family believes he caught the virus.

He began to self-isolate when he displayed symptoms but was eventually hospitalised and placed on a ventilator.

The British ambassador to Sudan, Irfan Siddiq, paid tribute to the father of four on Twitter and thanked healthcare workers everywhere for showing “extraordinary courage”.

He went on to become a medical director before retiring and becoming a volunteer.

Sa’adu’s son Dani told Al Jazeera: “He was a very passionate man, who cared about saving people. As soon you spoke to him about medicine his face would light up. He worked for the NHS for nearly 40 years in different hospitals across London.

“He loved to lecture people in the world of medicine, he did so in the UK and Africa. My dad retired and was working part time at the Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital in Welwyn, Hertfordshire until his passing. He was a massive family man and we did everything together, family came first. He left two sons and a wife, who is a retired doctor herself.”

The former president of the Nigerian Senate, Bukola Saraki, paid tribute to Sa’adu on Twitter, saying he provided “leadership for our people in the diaspora”

Source: Read Full Article

World News

Swiss coronavirus death toll rises to 378, positive tests hit 17,139

ZURICH (Reuters) – The Swiss death toll from the coronavirus has reached 378, the country’s public health ministry said on Wednesday, rising from 373 people a day earlier as Switzerland prepares additional measures to mitigate the epidemic’s economic hit.

The number of positive tests also increased to 17,139 from 16,176 on Tuesday, the ministry added.

The Swiss government is preparing to expand an emergency liquidity programme for coronavirus-hit businesses, as banks have already handed out more than half of the 20 billion Swiss francs ($20.70 billion) set aside for state-backed loans.

Source: Read Full Article

World News

Yob dragged from car and strapped to stretcher after spitting on police – video

The incident in Tenerife prompted a full-scale alert, not just once but twice within 48 hours. The 41-year-old man, understood to be Spanish, had only just been released by the courts for screaming at passers-by that he had the coronavirus and would infect them all. He then did exactly the same thing a day later, again spitting at the Civil Guard and local residents.

The man is now facing prison for aggressive behaviour, disturbing public order,  assaulting the police, causing damage and injuries and flouting Spain’s State of Emergency laws.

The police had to call in the special biological and chemical defence team, with full protection gear and masks as a result of the incidents in the town of Buenavista del Norte in the north of Tenerife.

The video shows how the man was pulled from a police car and pinned to the ground whilst medical staff fitted him with a mask. He was then strapped to a stretcher and taken away in an ambulance.

“In both the first and second arrests, this 41-year-old man spat and attacked the civil guards who had to intervene,” said a police spokesman. “The detainee screamed that he had the virus and threatened agents and residents with infecting them. “

After the first arrest, the man underwent a coronavirus test which proved negative.

He has now appeared before the courts for the second time and has been remanded in custody.

Source: Read Full Article

World News

EU weakness EXPOSED: Orban’s coronavirus power-grab shows how toothless Brussels really is

The notoriously authoritarian leader has given himself infinite power to lock down all aspects of daily life and borders in the country – without any specified end date. His ruling Fidesz party, which holds a two-thirds majority in the Hungarian parliament, won a crucial vote on Monday, that essentially handed Mr Orban opportunities to bypass their assembly on any law, putting the country under his sole control for as long as he sees fit. Mr Orban’s new powers include imposing prison sentences of up to eight years for anyone spreading misinformation or flouting the coronavirus quarantine rules.

The indefinite state of emergency hands him the right to rule-by-decree, with any planned national elections cancelled until further notice, effectively enabling him to remain in power.

After the Bill was passed in the Hungarian parliament, Mr Orban insisted the emergency measure “poses no threat to democracy”.

In an astonishing repose to the move, the European Commission claimed it would not stand in the way of any capital’s restrictive measures to curb the coronavirus outbreak in Hungary, which has seen 525 infections and 20 deaths so far.

The Commission’s chief spokesman said: “We are blocking no one from doing what it takes.

“We will, however, remain vigilant across the board in all member states on the fact we do this based on the standards that we have in the European Union in all policy areas.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned emergency pandemic measures enforced by EU governments should be “strictly proportionate”, but stopped short of naming Hungary.

The EU figurehead said only that it would “analyse” the new Hungarian law and “closely monitor” its application

Brussels has now come under attack for this response from furious critics, accusing the EU of being powerless.

R. Daniel Kelemen, Professor of Political Science and Law, and Jean Monnet Chair in EU Politics at Rutgers University in New Jersey, lashed out at several of the bloc’s leaders, including Ms von der Leyen, Donald Tusk and Manfred Weber.

He tweeted: “Well @EPP @EPPGroup @vonderleyen @donaldtuskEPP @ManfredWeber @CDU @CSU @cdavandaag @lesRepublicains – what do you have to say for yourselves now?

“Proud of giving the EU its first dictatorship?”

He also told the Los Angeles Times newspaper: “It’s a dangerous signal to aspiring autocrats as to what they can get away with during the crisis.”

EU issues coronavirus warning as bloc shatters during crisis [COMMENT]
The reason Germany can do SEVEN times the coronavirus tests UK can [ANALYSIS]
Coronavirus WAR: Russia and China attacking West with fake news [REPORT]

Norbert Röttgen, head of the German parliament’s influential foreign affairs committee, tweeted: “The EU Commission has to act immediately.

“The EU26, including Germany, have to demonstrate that they will not tolerate this abuse of the corona-crisis.”

Kenneth Roth, executive director at the Human Right Watch campaign group, raged: “Hungarian PM Viktor Orban’s planned emergency rule would let him “govern without meaningful control,” giving him “a free hand to do away with even what’s left of the free press.”

“Wake up, European Union!”

A furious Twitter user said: “European Union is useless. Why pretend to care about human rights and European values if you let Orban and the Polish right to do what ever they want?”

Several other leaders have demanded Hungary be stripped of EU membership.

Sophie in’t Veld, a Dutch liberal MEP who chairs the European Parliament’s rule of law group, said: “Viktor Orbán has completed his project of killing democracy and the rule of law in Hungary. Clearly, the actions of the Hungarian government are incompatible with EU membership.”

Mr Röttgen also tweeted the move from Mr Orban “effectively eliminates opposition” and was a breach of basic principles the EU “cannot accept”.

Alexander Stubb, a leading figure in the European People’s Party, the EU’s main centre-right grouping, said that if ever the time had come to expel Mr Orban’s Fidesz party from the EPP, “that moment is now”.

The former Prime Minister of Finland said: “When you start encroaching on the basic principles of what we stand for the punishment needs to be as severe as possible.

“This is in many ways a test of leadership for the whole EU and the EPP as well.”

Source: Read Full Article