Via Zerohedge

Summary:

  • Italian PM says “EU could fail” if bailout package isn’t handled
  • Russia, Tokyo report record jumps
  • Russian case total passes 10k
  • Over the past 24 hours, the US reported 32,176 new cases
  • US moves to try and stop the IMF from approving Iran’s request for a $5 billion bailout
  • South Korea warns risk of virus “reactivating” in cured patients
  • Dr. Fauci says US deaths might be “closer to 60k”
  • 19 Syrians have tested positive as health orgs alarmed by outbreak
  • President Trump says US could reopen in phases “ahead of schedule”
  • Spain has now confirmed 152,446 cases of the virus
  • EU pressures Netherlands to drop opposition to bailout plan
  • Support for ‘Unity Government’ surges in the UK
  • Italian PM says lockdown might start to lift at end of April
  • Spain government celebrates lockdown achievements as opposition suspects cases are undercounted

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Update (0800ET): Offering some more surprisingly optimistic comments, Dr. Fauci said in what have become routine morning comments in the press that he now expects US fatalities due to the virus to be “closer to 60k” than the 100k-200k previously anticipated. Trump once said that as many as 240k might die.

“The real data are telling us it is highly likely we are having a definite positive effect by the mitigation things that we’re doing, this physical separation,” said Dr. Fauci during a Thursday morning interview with NBC.

“I believe we are going to see a downturn in that, and it looks more like the 60,000, than the 100,000 to 200,000” projected fatalities, he said.

Futs have been somewhat volatile this morning, but as it stands, it looks like the Dow will open lower by less than 1%.

However, the trickle of optimistic headlines garners a lot of attention, even more concerning signs that recovered patients might still be vulnerable to the virus have emerged. The coronavirus may be “reactivating” in people who had appeared to be cured of the illness, according to Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

*    *    *

As Holy Week draws to a close and the long Holiday Weekend begins, the optimism that helped inspire the biggest bounce since the ‘rona rout appears to have faded, and Dow futs are back to being three figures in the red Thursday morning, pointing to a lower open as traders realize the ‘plateaus’ supposedly reached in Italy, Spain and New York didn’t really mean anything. And while the Germans truly do seem to be on top of things, other hotspots in Europe are already cropping up, as China tightens its borders as experts warn about a ‘second wave’.

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Over the past 24 hours, the US reported 32,176 new cases of coronavirus and 1,901 new deaths, raising its totals to 432,727 cases and 14,768 dead, with the most widely followed projections suggesting that the US will pass half a million confirmed cases before Easter Sunday. Yesterday, NY reported its biggest one-day jump in deaths yet, and the pace of spread appeared to accelerate across Europe.

Now, we wake of Thursday morning to find that officials in Tokyo and Moscow have reported record numbers of new cases (that, and Russia recorded its biggest daily jump in deaths).

Meanwhile, as the US moves to try and stop the IMF from approving Iran’s request for a $5 billion bailout, the Ayatollah has once again chosen to retaliate in the only venue Trump truly understands: Twitter.

Experts in Europe insist that the lockdowns, social distancing and other measures taken to combat the spread of the virus, and that may be true, but what about places like Iran, Afghanistan or other battered, broken countries that simply don’t have the resources to combat the virus. To be fair, Iran, despite the sanctions, still has money and resources, relative to places like Syria, which is struggling with an outbreak that has alarmed international aid agencies.

Despite the continuing civil war, a war seemingly without end as it nears the 10-year mark, enough tests have been run on Syrian citizens that 19 have been confirmed, and two deaths have been confirmed. Testing, however, is “virtually non-existent” throughout the country, and many fear that the camps of impoverished, displaced peoples in the country will be rapid breeding grounds for the virus.

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However, since the west and Iran have their hands full, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is going to need to rely on whatever he receives from Russia to combat the virus. And  on Thursday, Russia reported 1,459 new cases of coronavirus and 13 new deaths, the biggest daily increase to date, bringing its total case load past 10k. In total, 76 Russians have died.

As the race for treatments continues, Pfizer reportedly expects to be able to test a new antiviral medication for coronavirus in humans by August or September, accelerating the clinical trial timeline as the US drug giant expands its work in the battle against the virus. On the political front, Oliver Dowden, the UK culture secretary, has suggested the public should prepare for an extension of the current three-week coronavirus lockdown that ends on Monday. Foreign secretary Dominic Raab, who is deputizing for Mr Johnson while the prime minister is in intensive care, will chair a virtual meeting of the government’s emergency planning committee (Cobra) on Thursday afternoon. Meanwhile, polls show support for a national unity government – as it gradually becomes clear that, after spending his third night in the ICU, the PM might need another week or two to recover.

As the numbers of new cases continue to fall, Spain’s government is hailing “encouraging” progress, a sign that the strict lockdown imposed by PM Pedro Sanchez last month, is working. However, members of the opposition have accused the government of deliberately undercounting cases, and since testing is uneven across the country, it’s extremely likely that the true number of cases is at least modestly higher than the total recorded.

According to official figures published on Thursday, so far 15,238 people with coronavirus have died, 683 of them in the last 24 hours, compared with 757 the previous day and a peak of 950 a week ago. Overall, Spain has now confirmed 152,446 cases of the virus as of Thursday morning, an increase of 4% over Wednesday’s count. This is roughly the same rate of increase that has been observed throughout this week, and is below the 25%-30% growth rates seen in the very recent past.

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And apparently, even an unprecedented pandemic isn’t enough to inspire comity among the member states of the fractious EU. As we noted last night, the ECB’s Christine Lagarde urged them in a letter published in several European dailies to set their differences aside and agree on a multilateral plan that will be strong enough to help revive Europe’s recession-bound economy. EU governments ratcheted up the pressure on the Netherlands on Thursday to unblock half-a-trillion euros of economic support ahead of a meeting of finance ministers, as the country has emerged as a key antagonist to Italy in the negotiations to help support Europe’s most damaged economies. The Scandinavian countries like Netherlands have seen the virus spread, but mortality rates have remained low. 

Still, the optimistic numbers seen this week are apparently inspiring the Italian government toward some dangerous thinking: Italy may start lifting some restrictions by the end of April provided that the slowing trend continues, PM Giuseppe Conte said during an interview with the BBC. That doesn’t seem like responsible talk for a country with roughly 20k deaths and a health-care system that was completely overwhelmed just weeks ago. Conte also warned that the “EU could fail” if members don’t step up and do what’s right. Using language that has been employed by Angela Merkel and others, Conte warned that the outbreak is the biggest challenge facing Europe since WWII. The BBC noted it was Conte’s first interview with the English-language press since the outbreak exploded in Italy 7 weeks ago.

As the first European countries start to plan their course back to normal, President Trump is doing the same in the US, critics be damned. He said last night that he had a plan to reopen the country in phases that might help get the economy back up and humming “ahead of schedule.”

Conte added that if member states don’t agree to an “adequate” fiscal package for the states hurt the worst by the outbreak (a group that includes Italy) the project could collapse.

But even as the outbreak finally appears to be heading down the back slope in Italy and Spain, other European nations, the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK, etc., are rising up to take their place.