News, June 9th

Brazil resumes publishing virus toll, criticizes WHO

Brazil’s government resumed publishing the country’s total death toll from the coronavirus pandemic Tuesday, after facing accusations of trying to hide the magnitude of its raging health crisis.

Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s government had stopped publishing the total number of deaths from the new coronavirus Friday, saying it was adopting a new methodology and would only report the number of deaths recorded in the past 24 hours in its daily bulletin.

That drew accusations of foul play from a long list of high-profile critics, as well as a ruling from Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes on Monday that the government must return to the old format.

The health ministry did so Tuesday, indicating the death toll had risen by 1,272, to a total of 38,406 people killed by the virus – the third-highest toll in the world, after the United States and Britain.

The ministry said the total number of confirmed infections had risen to 739,503, the second-highest caseload in the world, after the US.

Experts say under-testing means the real numbers in the country of 212 million people are probably much higher.

The health ministry did not immediately respond to questions from AFP on why it returned to the old format and its plans for the future.

COVID Emergency Credit Facility Covers All Companies and Not Just MSMEs

Union Minister of Finance Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman on 08 June 2020 said the COVID Emergency Credit Facility covers all companies and not just MSMEs. Addressing the FICCI National Executive Committee, Smt. Sitharaman assured the industry of all possible support and reviving the economy, and said, “We are committed to support if any of your members have a problem”

On the question of liquidity, the Finance Minister said, “We have clearly addressed the issue of liquidity & there is availability of the liquidity.”

She said every Government department has been told to clear dues and if there is any issue with any department, the government will look into it.

She said the Government will consider an extension in the deadline for availing the 15% corporate tax rate on new investments.

She said the Income Tax Refund to the corporates has also started and I-T refunds to the tune of Rs 35,000 crore have been issued in last few weeks.

Harvard study says COVID-19 might have hit Wuhan in August 2019; China calls it “incredibly ridiculous”

The researchers examined commercial satellite data from outside five Wuhan hospitals, comparing data from late summer and autumn 2018 to the same time period in 2019.

In one case, researchers counted 171 cars parked at one of Wuhan’s largest hospitals, Tianyou Hospital, in October 2018.

Satellite data from the same time in 2019 showed 285 vehicles in the same place, an increase of 67 per cent.

A surge in online searches for words associated with the symptoms of coronavirus on the Chinese search engine Baidu seemed to emerge at the same time.

“This is all about a growing body of information pointing to something taking place in Wuhan at the time,” Dr Brownstein said.

“Many studies are still needed to fully uncover what took place and for people to really learn about how these disease outbreaks unfold and emerge in populations. So, this is just another point of evidence,” he said.

Asked for her reaction at the media briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying dismissed the findings as “incredibly ridiculous”.

“I think it is ridiculous, incredibly ridiculous, to come up with this conclusion based on superficial observations such as traffic volume,” she said.

“(I have) Not seen the research you mentioned. If the conclusion is drawn based on traffic volumes (and) other superficial observations, it will not be a sound conclusion,” she said and referred to the allegations about the COVID-19 originating from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) by Trump.

“That allegation was proved to be wrong,” she said.

When pointed out that China says it respects science-based inquiry and Harvard is one of the top universities in the world, Hua said, “on the origin of virus there are lot of conspiracy theories against China”.

“That is very unfair. At the moment, the pressing task is to enhance coordination to contain the spread of the virus. Someday, I am sure the truth will be out. China deserves a fair and objective evaluation,” she said and referred to the whitepaper released by the Chinese government detailing evolution of coronavirus in Wuhan and how Beijing handled the situation.

Recently, the World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making body of Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO), passed a resolution to probe the origin of the virus. China also backed the resolution.

As of Monday, the overall confirmed cases on the mainland had reached 83,043, including 58 patients who were still being treated, with no one in severe condition, China’s National Health Commission, (NHC) said.

Altogether 78,351 people had been discharged after recovery and 4,634 people had died of the disease, it said.

IAEA Expands SAFRON to Improve Safety in Radionuclide Therapy

Radionuclide therapy can be administered in many ways – applying it on selective targets such as yttrium 90 microspheres placed in the liver for the treatment of cancer or systemic uptake in the body to irradiate microscopic metastatic disease such as the treatment of remnant thyroid cancer with iodide 131. There are a host of new radionuclides that provide promising results in the treatment of tumors. But with the benefits of this treatment there are safety challenges based on the radionuclide: How is it prepared? And how is it administered to the patient?

Although there are locally based incident reporting systems for radionuclide therapy, the launch of SAFRON for radionuclide therapy allows for sharing of information and learning from good practices with the broader medical community. “The reports available in SAFRON are a valuable resource for identifying events, and published documents can assist the reviewers in understanding the complexity of incidents and identifying methodologies that might be used to prevent future errors,” Gilley said. 

The main goal of SAFRON is to globally improve the safe planning and delivery of radiotherapy and radionuclide therapy by sharing safety-related events and safety analysis. Information submitted is anonymous and dependent on facilities registering and sharing incidents that occur in their institutions.

“The SAFRON website is well designed and comprehensive for radionuclide therapy,” said Dr. Salah-Eddine Bouyoucef, a nuclear medicine physician in Algeria. “This is an excellent initiative for nuclear medicine.”

IMF Executive Board Approves 18-month US$5 Billion Stand-By Arrangement for Ukraine

The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved today an 18-month Stand-by Arrangement for Ukraine, with access equivalent to SDR 3.6 billion (about US$5 billion or 179 percent of quota). The new program aims to help Ukraine to cope with COVID-19 pandemic challenges by providing balance of payments and budget support, while safeguarding achievements to date and advancing a small set of key structural reforms, to ensure that Ukraine is well-poised to return to growth when the crisis ends.

Ukraine’s track record in stabilizing the economy over the last 5 years has been strong. However, more reforms efforts are needed to ensure robust and inclusive growth. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly worsened the outlook and has refocused government policies on containment and stabilization. Uncertainty is large, and the economy is projected to contract sharply in 2020 as strict containment measures—in Ukraine and globally—led to sizable falls in domestic and external demand. The 2020 budget is expected to be hit hard, with a sharp decline in revenues and large emergency spending needs to address the crisis. This has created large balance-of-payments and fiscal financing needs.

The new arrangement succeeds the 14-month SBA that was approved in December 2018, which was focused on maintaining stability during the election year (see Press Release No 18/483). Policies under the new arrangement will focus on four priorities: (i) mitigating the economic impact of the crisis, including by supporting households and businesses; (ii) ensuring continued central bank independence and a flexible exchange rate; (iii) safeguarding financial stability while recovering the costs from bank resolutions; and (iv) moving forward with key governance and anti-corruption measures to preserve and deepen recent gains.

The approval of the SBA enables the immediate disbursement of the equivalent of SDR 1.5 billion (about US$2.1 billion). The remainder will be phased over four reviews.

Peru’s coronavirus cases rise above 200,000

Peru’s Health Ministry on Tuesday (June 9) said confirmed cases of the new coronavirus have risen above 200,000, with 5,738 deaths.

A spokesman for the ministry said a total of 203,736 cases were now confirmed. The country registered its first case on March 6 and has seen a surge amid a rigorous testing regime, but also high levels of poverty and informal labor complicating self-isolation efforts.

The number of infections in the country is the second highest in Latin America, after Brazil, and eighth globally.

UN warns ‘food systems are failing’ amid coronavirus pandemics

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said Tuesday that nearly 50 million more people are expected to enter “extreme poverty” due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has also impacted global food distribution.

“There is more than enough food in the world to feed our population of 7.8 billion people, but today, more than 820 million people are hungry,” Guterres said in a policy brief on food security Tuesday. “Our food systems are failing, and the COVID-19 pandemic is making things worse.”

More than 20 million people across the Horn of Africa are struggling with acute food insecurity, according to United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Even countries with abundant food supplies like the United States have experienced food disruption, as the U.S. meat industries reported earlier this year when they warned 10 million pigs, chickens and cows could be culled as a result the coronavirus.

Just over a dozen of the over 800 slaughterhouses in the U.S. closed due to the pandemic, but only about 50 plants process 98 percent of U.S. beef supply, the New York Times reported.

“We need to act now to avoid the worst impacts of our efforts to control the pandemic,” Guterres said Tuesday.

The secretary-general said that all food and nutrition services need to be designated as essential while ensuring increased safety precautions for all workers.

He also said countries need to provide more support for food distribution to ensure that trade routes stay open and local markets are able to be served.

“Countries need to safeguard access to safe, nutritious foods, particularly for young children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, older people and other at-risk groups,” Guterres explained in his food security policy brief.

Guterres also suggested that the global community needs to become more inclusive and sustainable when it comes to food distribution and the environment, pointing out that “food systems contribute up to 29 percent of all greenhouse‑gas emissions.”

“If we do these things and more, as indicated by the brief we are launching today, we can avoid some of the worst impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on food security and nutrition,” Guterres added. “And we can do so in a way that supports the green transition that we need to make.”

Unemployment Rates, OECD – Updated:  June 2020

The OECD unemployment rate increased by an unprecedented 2.9 percentage points in April 2020 to 8.4%, compared to 5.5% in March, reflecting the impact of Covid-19 containment measures. The number of unemployed people in the OECD area increased by 18.4 million to 55 million in April. The United States accounted for the main part of this increase, with a rise in unemployed of 15.9 million.

The unemployment rate rose faster among women than among men in OECD countries; increasing by 3.3 percentage points in April (to 9.1%) compared to an increase of 2.6 percentage points (to 7.9%) for men. Younger people (aged 15 to 24) have been particularly affected by the crisis. The youth unemployment rate surged by 5.5 percentage points (to 17.6%), compared to an increase of 2.7 percentage points for people aged 25 and above.

However, there have been significant differences in the pace of increases across OECD economies. In the euro area (up to 7.3% from 7.1% in March) and in Japan (2.6% from 2.5%), they were moderate but in Canada (13.0%, from 7.8%), Colombia (19.9%, from 12.2%) and the United States1 (14.7%, the highest level since the series started in January 1948, from 4.4%), unemployment rates surged.

Early data for May (referring to the week ending 16 May) show that the unemployment rate continued to increase in Canada (by 0.7 percentage point, to 13.7%, the highest level since comparable data became available in 1976) but it decreased by 1.4 percentage points (to 13.3%) in the United States.2 Administrative data for May showed an increase of 0.5 percentage point in the registered unemployment rate for Germany but stability in Belgium and a fall in Norway (although still about five percentage points higher than in February 2020).

It should be noted that unemployment statistics do not account for the full amount of labor market slack due to Covid-19. In Italy, the 1.7 percentage points fall in the unemployment rate in April mainly reflects the rise in the number of persons of working age (15-64 years) classified as out of the labor force, e.g. people reporting that they were unavailable to work as the closure of schools and care services during the lockdown had increased their family responsibilities.

World Bank Prices 4-Year USD 1 Billion SOFR Index-Linked Bond

The World Bank (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, IBRD, Aaa/AAA) today priced a USD 1 billion 4-year benchmark bond linked to the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) index. The bond matures on June 17, 2024.

A strong order book, led by demand from bank treasuries, allowed for a tightening from initial guidance of SOFR +40 area to SOFR +39 at printing. Joint lead managers for this transaction are BMO Capital Markets and Wells Fargo Securities.

This transaction responds to investor demand for high quality assets and helps develop the market for SOFR – a broad measure of the cost of borrowing cash overnight collateralized by the U.S. Treasury securities and an alternative reference rate to USD LIBOR. This was the World Bank’s first-ever transaction using the SOFR Index published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the third transaction for which the World Bank has referenced SOFR.

Published by jim

Curator of things...

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