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Coronavirus latest: Infections rise as US cases top 100,000

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Via Financial Times

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Fitch cut the UK’s sovereign debt credit rating on economic damage from coronavirus, citing “deep near-term damage to the … economy” as well as “lingering uncertainty” over post-Brexit trade relations with the EU.

British prime minister Boris Johnson and KPMG UK chairman Bill Michael have tested positive. Mr Johnson is in self-isolation. The White House said the prime minister and US president Donald Trump agreed to collaborate closely, along with the G7, the G20, and other international partners, to “defeat the coronavirus pandemic and boost the global economy”. Mr Michael, who took over the Big Four accounting and advisory firm in 2017, has been in hospital for one week after becoming unwell but was only diagnosed with the Covid-19 virus on Friday.

US stocks fell on Friday, but Wall Street still had the biggest week in a decade. The benchmark S&P 500 index ended 3.4 per cent lower, but was still up more than 10 per cent on the week — its biggest such gain since March 2009. The Nasdaq Composite fell 3.8 per cent on the day and was up 9 per cent on the week.

Donald Trump signed into law a $2.2tn stimulus package designed to prop up a US economy crippled by the spread of coronavirus, after more than a week of wrangling on Capitol Hill. The package includes one-off “helicopter money” cheques of up to $1,200 for individuals, an extra $600 a week in unemployment insurance for those without work, and a $450bn bailout fund for US businesses, states and cities, among other provisions. The US now has more than 100,000 cases of Covid-19 infections.

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The US has relaxed restrictions on issuing H-2A visas to agricultural labourers as a result of the coronavirus crisis, after facing a critical shortage of Mexican labourers on US farms. Consular officers can now waive the visa interview requirement for eligible first-time and returning applicants. More than 250,000 H-2A workers were approved in 2019, and 93 per cent of such labourers were from Mexico in 2018.

United Airlines chief executive Oscar Munoz and president Scott Kirby today told employees their jobs were safe—but only for six months. The airline industry will receive $58bn in aid from the $2tn stimulus bill passed by the US Congress. As a result, United will not furlough employees or cut pay until September 30, the executives said in a memo to staff.

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