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Italy, UK Report Record Deaths, US-Canada Border Closes: Live Updates

Courtesy of ZeroHedge View original post here.


  • US deaths hit 114
  • Senate to vote on 2nd economic rescue bill
  • Iran reports another 147 deaths
  • Hong Kong reported 14 new confirmed cases
  • Trump says China hasn’t asked the US to suspend tariffs
  • UAW succeeds in pushing Detroit automakers to shut down factories
  • UK reportedly about to close schools as Boris scrambles to catch up with policy U-turn
  • HUD suspends evictions
  • Cuomo bars NY companies from having more than 50%
  • Wal-Mart shares hit record high
  • US, Canada agree to close border
  • Cuomo says state “looking into” reports of Covid-19 cluster in Borough Park
  • White House now pushing to send 2 $1,000 checks to every American
  • Spanish Olympic Committee head says Tokyo Games should be postponed

*  *  *

Update (1350ET): UK PM Johnson just ordered all schools across the UK to close, and promised to “do more” after passing a massive stimulus package yesterday.

NEW: Boris Johnson announces:

-Schools closed from Friday ‘until further notice’

-Staying open for children of key workers & vulnerable children

-Working on voucher scheme for children on free school meals

-Exams in May and June cancelled

— Daniel Hewitt (@DanielHewittITV) March 18, 2020

The prime minister promised nervous students that “exams will not take place as planned in May and June” and that schools would ‘remain open’ on some level to accommodate the children of emergency workers as well as ‘vulnerable pupils’.  To lessen the financial blow to families, Johnson added that the government will provide vouchers for free school meals for those eligible.

*  *  *

Update (1330ET): Italy has reported another record jump in deaths on Wednesday: 475 new deaths were confirmed, bringing total to 2,978. Meanwhile, the total number of confirmed cases has climbed to 35,713 from 31,506, with a total of 2,978 deaths.

UK also reported its largest jump in deaths, reporting an additional 37 fatalities, bringing its total to 104, while it’s case total lingers below 3,000, while government epidemiologists project that the true number infected is likely closer to 50k, given the death toll.

Schools in Scotland and Wales are set to close on Friday, with PM Boris Johnson and his education secretary Gavin Williamson hinting that the situation in schools is getting harder to control, and with ensuring safety becoming more difficult, it’s about time to close up shop.

*  *  *

Update (1255ET): The UAW has reportedly succeeded in convincing Detroit automakers to shut down all US factories, following similar decisions by German and South Korean car companies.

As the reporters in the briefing room chew over Trump’s insistence on blaming China while maintaining a 4ft perimeter of personal space, we’d like to highlight the results of a study by the University of Southampton showing there could have been a 95% reduction in cases world wide if China had acted to contain the virus 3 weeks earlier.

The UK is reportedly about to close schools across the country as PM Boris Johnson continues his policy about-face after the experts advising the administration’s shifted their view and warned that if Johnson were to stay the course – ignoring the quarantines and closures being implemented everywhere else – it would likely result in “hundreds of thousands” of deaths.

The education secretary has said that the situation for schools has become “increasingly challenging” and that the circumstances are “shifting.”

*  *  *

Update (1250ET): Trump said China hasn’t asked the US for any leeway on the ‘Phase 1′ trade pact, though he speculated that they might thanks to the enormous economic hit they are taking. 

Regarding Mexico, Trump said he’s not closing the border, but is invoking a “provision” giving him greater latitude.

In unrelated, but encouraging, news for some of the most vulnerable Americans during this time of crisis, HUD has suspended all foreclosures/evictions until the end of April, Trump said.

*  *  *

Update (1220ET): President Trump has invoked the Defense Production Act and deploys FEMA to all regions of the country.

After once again calling on Americans to heed the governments guidance, Dr. Birx said she has seen some preliminary data suggesting that young people are being infected at much higher rates because of their indifference to the virus – which would explain the unusually large number of young people in serious condition in Italy and other parts of the country.

With tests about to become widely available, the US could see numbers of cases rise pretty swiftly, potentially provoking claims that the US is “worse than Italy”. She advised the public to ignore this, adding that Roche and Thermo-Fisher have really stepped up in providing tests.

Unsurprisingly, one of the first questions posed to Trump was an inquiry about why he keeps referring to the virus as the “Chinese virus”, with the reporter snarkily noting that more Europeans now have the virus than Chinese people.

“Because it comes from China,” Trump calmly replied, before going on to explain that “China was saying that US soldiers spread the virus to China…I can’t have that.”

Trump also said that the economy is “nowhere close” to the 20% unemployment number that has been bandied about since Mnuchin reportedly brought it up during a meeting with Republican lawmakers.

*  *  *

Update (1200ET): Mitch McConnell has called a vote on the second part of the federal coronavirus response package for 2 pm. The bill was stalled after some GOP lawmakers insisted on making ‘technical alterations’.

In a series of tweets, McConnell says he will support the bill, though he feels it doesn’t go far enough to help small business owners. Of course, in the middle of a crisis, we suspect the small businesses McConnell is championing would rather have something concrete, than all the empty soundbites in the world.

The Senate is going to vote on the House’s proposal. I will support it. But it does not help enough Americans and, crucially, it adds even more uncertainty for small businesses. It will make it all the more urgent for the Senate to pass bold legislation to help small businesses.

— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) March 18, 2020

The market is moved higher in recent trade. Is the Trump Administration about to show investors that it has the capacity to step up in times of crisis? Stay tuned…

*  *  *

Update (1150ET): Cuomo and NY public health officials just confirmed that they’re “looking into” reports about a “cluster” of cases in Borough Park, Brooklyn, a neighborhood that’s overwhelmingly populated by ultra-orthodox Jews, stirring up memories of last year’s measles outbreak.

In other news, the total cases diagnosed in Europe has now passed the total from China.

*  *  *

Update (1140ET): As we wait for the inevitably tardy White House task force, accompanied by President Trump, to deliver Wednesday’s briefing, here are a few more updates:

Companies in NY shouldn’t have no more than 50% of their workforce in their facilities at any time, NY Gov Andrew Cuomo said, as his daily presser began.

Providing an update on the #Coronavirus pandemic. WATCH LIVE:

— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) March 18, 2020

After initially proposing a $50 billion airline bailout, Trump is reportedly proposing lending to air carriers from the Exchange Stabilization Fund, a pool of capital at the Treasury used for direct FX-market interventions. The administration is also reportedly planning to set aside another $150 billion for other industry bailouts.

With NY still leading the country in testing thanks to a handful of ‘drive thru’ testing centers that have opened in the southern part of the state, Cuomo said the state has now confirmed 2,382  cases in the state, up 1,008 since yesterday, slightly larger than yesterday;’s jump.

In Norway, lawmakers passed a bill granting the country’s executive emergency powers, what appears to be a first in Europe.

*  *  *

Update (1110ET): The EU has reportedly decided on a plan that will ‘pave the way’ for the ECB to make the bond purchases that it has promised.

In other news: Amid the market carnage, Wal-Mart shares climbed 6.1% higher on Wednesday to hit a fresh record high. In Canada, PM Trudeau confirmed that the decision to close the northern border was a mutual decision.

And once after again trashing President Trump’s fiscal plan of giving every American $1,000, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday that the payments to Americans need to be “bigger” and “more frequent”. He’s not the only one: Bernie Sanders said he would double the amount to $2,000 per adult American during a post-primary announcement on Tuesday. Even Andrew Yang tweeted that he was “consulted” about his infamous ‘freedom dividend’ policy.

Like a teenager intent on acing that first job interview, when it comes to the market chaos, the White House simply won’t take ‘no’ for an answer, and has repeatedly tried to jawbone us out of this crisis, even as the reaction has made plain that only concrete action from the Trump Administration and Congress can save us from this meltdown.

Steve Mnuchin was in the middle of an interview with CNBC Wednesday morning when the Washington Post reported that the White House now intends to send two $1,000 checks to adult Americans, in addition to the $300 billion in ‘emergency liquidity’ (ie zero-interest loans) it’s also promising.

Here’s a few headlines from the Mnuchin interview.


In a few minutes, we’re bound to hear more from the White House task force.

*  *  *

Update (1000ET): In a statement released by the Pentagon, 49 American members of the American military have now tested positive for the virus, 13 more than Tuesday.

Three of them have been hospitalized.

In addition, 14 DoD contractors have tested positive, 19 spouses of service members and 7 contractors.

*  *  *

Update (0940ET): President Trump just tweeted that the US will be closing the 5,500-mile Canadian border “by mutual consent” – adding that trade and other “essential” traffic wouldn’t be interrupted.

We will be, by mutual consent, temporarily closing our Northern Border with Canada to non-essential traffic. Trade will not be affected. Details to follow!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 18, 2020

Since the order comes via “mutual consent”, American citizens won’t be able to cross into Canada. This comes after PM Trudeau closed the country’s borders to all foreigners except Americans earlier this week.

In other news, NYC Mayor de Blasio said the city needs the military’s help to combat the virus, eliciting mental images of phalanxes of soldiers walking down Fifth Avenue, like something out of a disaster movie.

As we wait to see if the rest of the Olympic Committee will take the advice of Spanish Olympic Committee head Alejandro Blanco and push to cancel the games…especially as quarantines make it impossible for athletes to train.

In the UK, a reporter for the London-based ‘City AM’ business newspaper said she’d heard that the government is planning in order to ban nonessential traffic in and out of London. The quarantine order would also shutter all stores besides groceries and pharmacies.

Additionally, the Eurovision 2020 contest has been cancelled.

An official statement from the European Broadcasting Union on the #Eurovision Song Contest 2020.

— Eurovision Song Contest (@Eurovision) March 18, 2020

*  *  *

With US equity futures limit-down again overnight, the novel coronavirus outbreak is beginning to feel like ‘Groundhog Day’.

And if the market’s performance isn’t enough to get readers doubting their own sanity, some of the novel coronavirus headlines hitting in the early morning and overnight just might do the trick. One day after Chinese health officials reported just a single case of Covid-19 that was transmitted domestically, President Xi has warned that “inbound” cases of the virus – ie foreigners traveling to China who are already infected – are placing China at risk for reinfection. So, after China infected the world, President Xi is warning that the world might soon reinfect China.

Overnight, Hong Kong reported 14 new confirmed cases – its largest single-day jump – after new cases slowed to a trickle in recent weeks. According to the SCMP, all except one of those cases was a foreigner bringing the virus back to HK.

Singapore and Taiwan, which were widely praised for acting swiftly to stamp out the virus via mandatory closures, travel restrictions and – as the NYT explained in a story published Wednesday morning – swiftly tracing and isolating contacts of the recently diagnosed. In South Korea, a spate of new clusters around densely populated Seoul has raised fears about another runaway outbreak, per the SCMP.

The KCDC reported 93 new cases on Wednesday, up from 84 a day earlier and 74 on Monday. The new cases took the total infection caseload to 8,413.

As Republican “deficit-hawks” like Lindsey Graham pushed back against the Trump Administration’s latest ‘helicopter money’ stimulus plan yesterday that will inject $1 trillion into the economy (on top of $300 billion in deferred tax payments), Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin took a page out of the ‘TARP’ playbook and warned a group of GOP senators during a closed-door meeting on Tuesday that the unemployment rate in the US could soar to depression levels of around 20% if they failed to pass the legislation, then promptly leaked his comments to Reuters, with the stipulation that Mnuchin’s comments didn’t represent an official “forecast”, merely one of many worst-case scenarios that could come to pass if the federal government continues to sit on its hands.

In the Middle East, Iran reported another 147 deaths from the virus on Wednesday, bringing its death toll to 1,135. Elsewhere, the Sultanate of Oman entered an almost full lockdown beginning at noon local time on Wednesday as the sultanate imposes the most restrictive measures across the Gulf states to limit the spread of coronavirus after the region recorded its first death outside Iran two days ago.

In the UK, Sainsbury’s supermarket chain said Wednesday that it would begin limiting customer purchases to between 2-3 items to combat hoarding.

Globally, the total number of Covid-19 cases passed 200,000 overnight – more than doubling over two weeks – after health officials around the world reported the largest jump in cases yet, with an additional 15,615 confirmed on Tuesday, and even more confirmations following overnight.

So far, the US has confirmed 6,496 cases, including 114 deaths. In Italy, the second worst-hit country after China (and likely Iran, which lags Italy on the official death toll but likely has thousands of dead or deathly ill who aren’t being counted. In Italy, infections topped 31,500 and deaths reached 2,503 by Wednesday morning.

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