Global Covid-19 statistics

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Updated at September 17 2021 06:24 PM UTC — total vaccination doses given are from 233 locations. See all vaccine data.

New York judge temporarily blocks state’s vaccination mandate for healthcare workers

A judge in New York on Tuesday has temporarily blocked the state from requiring healthcare workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

The move adds to a growing list of legal actions taken in the US by individuals and entities challenging orders from schools, businesses and governments aimed at dealing with difficulties created by the pandemic.

US judge David Hurd in the northern district of New York issued the order after 17 healthcare workers, including doctors and nurses, claimed in a lawsuit filed Monday that their constitutional and state rights had been violated by New York’s mandate, which did not provide an exemption for refusing vaccination on religious grounds, Associated Press reported.

Hurd gave the state until September 22 to respond to the lawsuit.

New York’s former governor, Andrew Cuomo, issued an order in mid-August directing all healthcare workers in hospitals and long-term care facilities across the state to have received at least their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by September 27, with “limited exceptions for those with religious or medical reasons”.

Elsewhere in the US on Tuesday, Arizona’s attorney-general, Mark Brnovich, filed a lawsuit aimed at blocking President Joe Biden’s requirement for federal workers, federal contractors and businesses with 100 or more employees to be vaccinated or tested regularly.

“The federal government cannot force people to get the Covid-19 vaccine. The Biden administration is once again flouting our laws and precedents to push their radical agenda,” Brnovich said in a statement, adding to a chorus of criticism from Republican leaders and others in recent days.

Not all legal challenges have sought to block restrictions. Parents and educators are fighting orders imposed by the governors there prohibiting mask mandates in court cases in Texas and Florida.

This week, an Iowa judge ordered the state to halt enforcement of a law that prevented school districts from setting mask mandates.

Wells Fargo again delays office return until November 1

Wells Fargo has again delayed plans for its bankers to come back to the office, a response to the continued spread of Covid-19 in the US.

In a memo to staff seen by the Financial Times, Wells chief operating officer Scott Powell said the bank now planned to bring employees who had been working remotely back to the office on November 1.

Wells had previously targeted a return to the office on October 4, a delay from its earlier goal of September 7.

San Francisco-based Wells had more than 259,000 employees at the end of June.

Wells also told staff it is studying the implications for the bank of new rules by the Biden administration that requires larger US companies to force employees coming into the office to be vaccinated against Covid-19 or submit to weekly testing.

US consumers still spending despite Delta risk, banks say

US consumer spending is still outpacing pre-pandemic levels in a sign that shoppers are shrugging off concerns around the Delta variant to continue fuelling the economic recovery, according to bank executives.

At JPMorgan Chase, the largest US bank, debit and credit card spending was still tracking 18 to 19 per cent higher than 2019 levels, consumer and community banking head Marianne Lake told investors at an industry event on Tuesday.

Consumer spending accelerated in 2021 after reaching a low late last year and that “strength stayed with us through the summer season, and as we sit here today” — despite a slowdown in spending in the travel and lodging sectors, Lake said.

Her comments were echoed by Mike Santomassimo, chief financial officer at Wells Fargo. “Despite the noise that is getting created by the Delta variant, you’re still seeing [the economic recovery] move forward,” Santomassimo said, pointing to higher debit and credit card spending.

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42% of US businesses need financial incentives to lure workers, survey says

More US employers are relying on financial incentives to attract employees than in any other country, according to a survey from ManpowerGroup.

Forty-two per cent of employers in the US need financial incentives to draw workers and address talent shortages, compared with the worldwide average of 31 per cent, according to the global survey of 45,000 employers in 43 countries, including 6,000 employers in the US.

More than seven-in-10 American businesses have reported difficulty filling roles, the survey found, even as US job openings remain at a record high of about 10m.

The US continues to grapple with labour shortages as fears of catching Covid in the workplace and childcare responsibilities deter Americans from returning to work. Economists have also attributed labour shortages to a mismatch between the skills employers want and the ones prospective employees have.

Still, employers in the US reported the highest hiring prospects for the fourth quarter of all 43 countries surveyed.

Nearly six-in-10 American employers plan to add to their payrolls in the fourth quarter, with hiring sentiment at its highest since the survey began in 1982.

“Although headwinds including the Delta variant and talent shortages may impact how these intentions translate to jobs created, we are still in a worker’s market,” said Becky Frankiewicz, president of ManpowerGroup North America. “Businesses know they have to get creative to attract and retain the best skilled talent.”

Connecticut and Washington DC the first to be removed from Chicago’s travel advisory following Delta summer

Connecticut and Washington DC have become the first US jurisdictions to be removed from Chicago’s travel advisory since the latest wave of Covid-19 to sweep across the country during summer.

The extent of the summer surge in the US was reflected in last week’s update to Chicago’s travel advisory, when every state and territory was on the list.

Jurisdictions where the case rate has surpassed 15 new infections per 100,000 people a day, known as “orange states”, are added to the city’s advisory. Unvaccinated travellers going to an orange state should get tested for Covid-19 between one and three days before departure. Unvaccinated individuals travelling to Chicago from an orange state should take a viral test between three and five days after travel and should also quarantine for seven days.

For a state or territory to be removed from the list, the case rate needs to remain below that 15 per 100,000 a day threshold for two consecutive weeks. California, Vermont and Puerto Rico “could come off the Travel Advisory next week” based on current trends, Chicago officials said on Tuesday.

Chicago’s travel advisory had been devoid of any orange states or territories for several weeks until mid-July. Then, the city added Arkansas and Missouri, among the earliest hotspots for the highly contagious Delta variant during summer, to the list.

Illinois governor Jay Pritzker earlier this week said he was “hopeful” the recent easing trend in Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations across the state could continue, which would, in time, allow for the alleviation of some mitigation measures, such as mask requirements, that had been reinstated to curb the spread of the virus. “It is heartening to see that hospitalisations are not going up. That’s a very important indication that maybe things have flattened out,” he said during a press briefing on Monday.

Chicago, the state’s most populous city, has averaged 16 new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people a day over the past week, according to city data.

UK to phase out free rapid Covid tests by spring, says supplier

The head of the UK’s biggest rapid Covid test supplier expects the government to end the provision of free kits to the public by spring 2022.

Dan Elliott, chief executive of Innova, said he would be “surprised” if free lateral flow testing were still available to individuals beyond early next year, adding that the ultimate end date of the scheme would depend on an evaluation of coronavirus infection rates.

Sajid Javid, UK health secretary, told the House of Commons on Tuesday that regular asymptomatic testing “will . . . continue in the coming months with a focus on those who are not fully vaccinated, perhaps those in education or other higher-risk settings”.

Lateral flow tests have come under scrutiny over their accuracy. Studies from the start of the pandemic showed the devices are only 40 to 70 per as effective at detecting infections as gold-standard PCR tests.

In June, the US Food and Drug Administration issued a stinging rebuke of Innova, over concerns that it was distributing tests to the US market without a licence, and called into question data underpinning the company’s application for approval, which Innova said exactly matched its competitors.

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Abta urges UK government to ease travel restrictions as industry faces job losses

Seven in 10 travel companies plan to cut staff once the UK’s job retention scheme ends, the body that represents the industry has found, prompting the association to urge the government to overhaul its test demands for those arriving into England.

The Travel Association, or Abta, the trade body that represents tour operators and travel agents in the UK, said new summer international holiday bookings for this year are down 83 per cent from pre-pandemic levels. Meanwhile 58 per cent of bookings with departure dates in July or August this year had to be postponed or cancelled.

Almost half of UK travel companies have reported no increase in 2021 bookings compared with last year, despite the success of the country’s vaccination programme, Abta said, quoting details from its members. The UK has vaccinated more than 80 per cent of its eligible UK adults against Covid-19.

The figures out on Tuesday show that 69 per cent of travel businesses with staff on furlough expect to make further redundancies once the government scheme ends this month. That is likely to take job losses to nearly 100,000 in the outbound travel industry, and more than 226,000 once supply chains are taken into account.

“The government’s travel requirements have choked off this summer’s travel trade,” said Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer. It “needs to wake up to the damage its policies are doing to the UK travel industry and the impact they will have on the wider economic recovery”.

Fully jabbed EU citizens have been able to travel within the continent without the need to test for months, a contrast to the expensive and complicated arrangements that have applied in the UK.

The government is due to review the requirements for international travel by October 1 while its furlough scheme that has helped protect many jobs is due to end this month.

Abta urged the government to scrap its three-tier system for a simpler way of treating all destinations as open by default, retaining a short red list to manage known variants of concern.

It called on the government to scrap its demands for fully vaccinated travellers to the UK to take a PCR test, which is mandatory at present for anybody entering into England from abroad, even from lower risk countries.

Vaccine mandate for English healthcare workers ‘highly likely’, says minister

The UK’s health secretary said it is “highly likely” that England will mandate vaccination for frontline healthcare workers, after similar rules were introduced for adult care homes.

The UK government is consulting on whether to introduce compulsory vaccines for healthcare staff, Sajid Javid told the House of Commons in a statement on Tuesday.

“Although we are keeping an open mind and we won’t be making a final decision until we fully consider the results of the consultation, I believe that it is highly likely that frontline NHS staff and those working in wider social care settings will have to be vaccinated,” said Javid.

Javid also defended the scrapping of a €1.4bn vaccine deal with biotech company Valneva.

“There are commercial reasons that we have cancelled the contract,” he said, adding that it was also clear that the vaccine would not have been approved by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.

Global growth expectations tumble as inflation fears mount, BofA survey finds

Investors have pared their expectations for the global economy to grow considerably a Bank of America fund manager survey has found, with inflation fears overriding concern about the Delta variant as the catalyst for pessimism.

A net 13 per cent of the study’s 258 asset managers, who had a total of $859bn under management, expect global economic growth to accelerate, the lowest number since spring last year.

The growth expectations in the bank’s September survey compare with a 91 per cent peak in March, which subsided to 75 per cent of respondents in June. In the latest survey, however, only 6 per cent expect the economy to slide into recession.

Global profit expectations have slipped, with a net 12 per cent of the investors surveyed anticipating an increase, the lowest since May last year and down from a peak of 89 per cent in March.

“The Delta variant is anecdotally quoted as the reason for economic pessimism,” the survey said in a note alongside the research. “Covid-19 as a tail risk has however trended lower despite a drastic drop in economic expectations.”

Eurozone debt, Chinese growth, populism, quantitative tightening and trade wars were among the topics that have dominated investors concerns over the past decade and before the coronavirus pandemic struck last year. Fund managers are now more concerned with inflation, BofA said.

Among the respondents, 84 per cent expect the US Federal Reserve to signal tapering by the end of the year, while their predictions for the timing of the central bank’s first rate rise have been pushed back to February 2023 from November next year, with $1.9tn of US fiscal stimulus expected.

Pace of US consumer price rises cools slightly in August

US consumer prices rose at a more moderate pace in August in a sign that inflationary pressures associated with the economic reopening from Covid-19 lockdowns are easing slightly even as headline figures steadied near a 13-year high.

The consumer price index published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Tuesday rose 5.3 per cent in August from a year ago — just below the 5.4 per cent level reported previously, which is the highest since 2008, and in line with the 5.3 per cent forecast by economists.

Month-over-month price gains slowed, with an increase of 0.3 per cent from July. That is markedly lower than the 0.9 per cent jump reported between May and June and a drop-off from the most recent 0.5 per cent rise from June to July.

“Core” CPI, which excludes volatile items such as food and energy, also decelerated. On a year-over-year basis, it climbed 4 per cent compared to 4.3 per cent in July. The monthly pace also fell to 0.1 per cent.

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UK government outlines plan to avoid winter lockdowns

The UK government has outlined how it plans to avoid more lockdowns over the autumn and winter, relying on vaccinations and self-isolation to keep the country open but suggesting that vaccine passports and face masks may be needed as well.

Ministers have said that lockdowns will only be used as a “last resort” to tackle further outbreaks of Covid-19, and the government’s autumn/winter Covid plan, published on Tuesday, expanded the policy.

“The country is learning to live with Covid-19, and the main line of defence is now vaccination rather than lockdown,” said the government’s plan, adding that “rules and regulations have mostly been replaced with advice and guidance on the practical steps people can take to help manage the risks to themselves and others.”

The five-part plan for the coming months focuses on vaccines, isolating positive cases, managing pressure on the NHS, offering clear guidance to the public and managing risks at the border.

However there is also a “plan B” which will be used if the NHS is coming under “unsustainable pressure”. This includes telling the public that the risks have increased, using Covid vaccine certificates in some places, and legally mandating face coverings in certain locations.

“The pandemic is far from over, but thanks to our phenomenal vaccine programme, new treatments and testing we are able to live with the virus without significant restrictions on our freedoms,” said prime minister Boris Johnson in a statement.

UK to offer booster jabs to over-50s

Britons aged over 50, clinically vulnerable individuals and healthcare professionals will be offered a third shot of a Covid-19 vaccine as part of a wide scale booster programme aimed at combating waning immunity and staving off a winter crisis in the NHS.

People will become eligible for a third dose six months after they received their second dose. All booster recipients will be offered an mRNA vaccine — either the Moderna jab or preferably the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine — as their third dose, after data from Southampton university’s CovBoost study confirmed they provoked the best immune response. 

The booster programme, which was given the go ahead following advice from the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, will largely be delivered by general practitioners and pharmacies, and is set to begin in the coming days.

Former leaders and Nobel laureates urge Germany to waive IP rules on vaccines

More than 140 former world leaders and Nobel laureates have called on Germany to waive intellectual property rules for Covid-19 vaccines and help boost global manufacturing and supply.

Ending German opposition to waiving patents “is vital to overcoming vaccine monopolies, transferring vaccine technology and scaling up vaccine manufacturing”, said a letter to the candidates to be the next German chancellor.

The letter, published on the day the World Trade Organization is set to debate the issue, urged Annalena Baerbock, Olaf Scholz and Armin Laschet to declare themselves in favour and make these “the policies of any future coalition government”.

Signatories include former leaders such as the UK’s Gordon Brown, France’s François Hollande, Ireland’s Mary Robinson, and Spain’s José Zapatero as well as Nobel Prize winners such as Joseph Stiglitz, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Michael Houghton.

“Intellectual property rules are today locking out people across the world from the benefits of life-saving science,” said Stiglitz, Nobel economics prize laureate. “It is time for Germany to ensure the transfer of vaccine technologies and join the rest of the world in backing a temporary waiver at the WTO.”

India and South Africa first proposed the waiver of the trade-related aspects of intellectual property agreement for Covid-19 vaccines and treatments at the WTO in October. It is now backed by more than 100 nations, with France and the US adding their support this year.

“Having helped create the most successful vaccine technology against Covid-19, by overcoming pharmaceutical monopolies and insisting that the technology be shared, Germany has the ability to help end this pandemic,” Tuesday’s letter said.

It called on the next German chancellor to ensure that “German pharmaceutical companies openly and rapidly share life-saving messenger RNA vaccine technology with qualified producers around the world”.

JD Sports’ profits surge to record as online demand drives sales

© REUTERS

JD Sports’ first-half profits surged to a record, surpassing pre-pandemic levels, as fiscal stimulus in the US combined with increased spending online and pent-up demand in the UK.

Profit before tax and exceptional items rose to £439.5m in the first six months of the year, from £61.9m last year and £158.6m pre-pandemic.

Shares in the Lancashire-based athleisurewear group rose 7.3 per cent in morning trading on Tuesday.

“The group continues to demonstrate outstanding resilience in the face of numerous challenges” from the Covid-19 pandemic, said executive chairman Peter Cowgill.

The retailer’s US business, which recently bought sportswear brands Shoe Palace and DTLR, benefited from the second round of fiscal stimulus from the US government, with the $1,200 economic impact payments made to US citizens acting as a powerful stimulus among younger shoppers.

Profit before tax and exceptional items in the US climbed to £245m, from £73.4m last year and £35.7m in 2019.

In the UK and Ireland, online sales increased in the first quarter while lockdowns closed stores.

However, footfall has not rebounded in all markets, with Cowgill noting a “widespread strain on international logistics [and] materially lower levels of footfall into stores in many countries”.

Putin to self-isolate after entourage members get Covid

© AP

Russian president Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday he would self-isolate “for a certain period of time” after members of his entourage fell ill with Covid-19.

Putin told Tajik president Emomali Rakhmon that he would participate in regional security meetings in Dushanbe this week via video link, the Kremlin said in a readout of the call.

The announcement, which came a day after China’s Xi Jinping said he would not attend the summit, is a remarkable admission for Putin, 68, who is regularly depicted in rude health and full sporting mettle on state television.

Putin, who said he took Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine in the spring, usually does not wear a mask during his rare public appearances since the pandemic began and requires people to undergo extensive quarantine and testing before meeting him in person.

Resurgence of Covid in Asia pushes down oil demand, says IEA

Global oil demand has declined for three consecutive months since July due to a resurgence of coronavirus cases in Asia, but is expected to rebound in October due to pent-up demand for travel, according to the International Energy Agency.

In July, August and for the rest of September global oil consumption will contract on average by 310,000 barrels per day before rebounding by a “sharp” 1.6m b/d in October, the IEA estimated in its monthly oil market report published Tuesday.

Hurricane Ida led to the loss of at least 1.7m b/d in offshore oil production along the US Gulf Coast at the end of August and total supply losses of almost 30m barrels, according to the report. The decision by the US Department of Energy to sell up to 20m barrels from its strategic petroleum reserve could offset some of those losses, it said.

Looking ahead, the IEA said that global oil demand is now expected to rise by 5.2m b/d this year and by 3.2m b/d in 2022.

“The latest news on the Covid front is more optimistic, with global cases falling in recent weeks, continued progress in vaccine manufacturing and inoculations, and less restrictive social distancing measures in many countries,” it said.

Lockdowns in England will be ‘last resort’, says UK minister

Another lockdown in England would be a “last resort” to contain any spread of Covid-19, the UK vaccines minister has said, as the government is preparing to start vaccinating 12- to 15-year-olds.

“Lockdowns will be an absolutely last resort,” Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News on Tuesday. “What we’re trying to do at the moment is to transition the virus from pandemic to endemic through a massive vaccination programme.”

Vaccines have saved more than 112,000 lives, he said, adding that the government is “about to embark on a massive booster campaign”.

Zahawi said clinicians will be in charge of jabs for the younger adolescents in schools, which will demand parental consent.

Broker Peel Hunt to IPO after pandemic boom in activity

Peel Hunt, the London broker catering to mid- and small-cap companies, is to go public following a pandemic-driven boom in activity.

The company said on Tuesday that the initial public offering would take place this month on London’s Aim and would support its expansion plans, including a push into Europe.

Revenues at Peel Hunt, which was founded in 1989, jumped from £96m to £197m in the year to March 2021, as trading climbed during the early stages of the pandemic.

As well as helping clients trade, the company provides corporate broking and research. It has 157 corporate clients with an average market capitalisation of £775m, while its research goes to 1,200 institutions.

Pandemic deepens economic rifts, says Gates Foundation

The Covid-19 pandemic has dragged more than 31m people into extreme poverty and widened economic divides, a report by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has found.

The additional numbers mean that the foundation expects 700m to remain living in poverty by 2030.

An estimated 90 per cent of advanced economies will recover their pre-pandemic per capita income levels by next year, whereas only a third of middle and low income countries will as the coronavirus pandemic has deepened disparities, the report showed. The incomes of 13m women would remain below 2019 levels this year while men’s salaries are expected largely to recover.

The study adds to a chorus of concerns about the disproportionate economic impacts of the pandemic on poorer nations. In August, a survey by the Asia Development bank estimated that as many as 80m people in developing Asia had fallen into extreme poverty as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.

“Over the past year, it has been impossible to ignore stark disparities not only in who has gotten sick and who has died — but also in who had to go to work, who could work from home, and who lost their jobs entirely,” said the Gates Foundation report.

“Health inequities are as old as the health systems themselves, but it took a global pandemic to forcefully remind the world of their consequences.”

Fire at Ocado’s biggest warehouse costs £35m in lost revenues

Ocado’s joint venture with UK retailer Marks and Spencer lost about £35m in sales from a fire at its largest warehouse over the summer, the online supermarket said on Tuesday.

Quantifying the impact for the first time, the company said it had lost 300,000 orders as a result of the blaze at the site in south-east London. Revenues at Ocado Retail, its partnership with M&S, fell by almost a fifth following the incident.

The fire at the facility in Erith was caused by a robot malfunction and was the second major blaze at one of Ocado’s facilities in the past three years.

Revenues for the joint venture declined 10.6 per cent in its third quarter, mainly as a result of the fire, the group said in a statement on Tuesday.

Before the incident, the company said, the venture had been performing “in line with expectations”. Revenue over the first six weeks of the quarter dipped 1.8 per cent compared with the same period a year earlier, when coronavirus restrictions caused a surge in demand for home deliveries.

UK job vacancies shoot pass 1m for first time

More than a million jobs stood open in the UK in the three months to August as the economy restarted in a hiring frenzy, while payrolled employment last month rose by almost quarter of a million as more people rejoined the labour market.

The Office for National Statistics said unemployment fell to 4.6 per cent in the three months to July, meeting analysts’ expectations and sliding from 4.7 per cent a month earlier. The employment rate rose to 75.2 per cent. More timely data from HM Revenue & Customs showed that the jobs boom continued in August, with payroll employment up by 241,000 on the month to match pre-pandemic levels.

The number of job vacancies were at 1.034m in the three months to August, rising above 1m for the first time on record. More people entered the labour market as opportunities became available: economic inactivity fell, partly because of a sharp rise in the number of students working or job hunting, while fewer people said they were looking after family.

The ONS said young people — the hardest hit at the start of the pandemic — had seen a strong increase in employment, with joblessness and inactivity falling.

The upbeat figures will support the government’s assertion that the jobs market has recovered to a point where it can withdraw wage subsidies and other emergency income support.

Cases fall in Auckland as Ardern ramps up vaccine drive

Jacinda Ardern said the vaccine is ‘the best tool we have in our toolbox’ © Getty Images

New Zealand on Tuesday reported 15 new Covid-19 cases, down from 33 the previous day, as the prime minister called for more people to be vaccinated.

All of the new cases were in the city of Auckland, epicentre of a recent Delta-driven outbreak in the country. They take the outbreak total to 970.

Urging people to accept jabs as the best way for New Zealand to fight the highly infectious Delta variant, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that six special buses — to become 12 at a later date — would hit the streets of Auckland offering mobile vaccination services from Thursday.

Curbs were eased in much of the country last week, but Auckland — New Zealand’s largest city, with a population of 1.7m — remains under lockdown, shutting schools, offices and public places. People are allowed to leave home only for exercise or to buy essential items.

“The vaccine is the best tool we have in our toolbox and our ticket to greater freedom,” Ardern told a press conference on Tuesday. “The more people who are vaccinated, the fewer restrictions you have to have.”

New Zealand has recently bought in close to 800,000 additional vaccine doses from Spain and Denmark, and Ardern said Auckland had capacity to administer 220,000 jabs this week alone. “There is nothing holding us back in Auckland when it comes to vaccines,” she said.

Grab lowers forecast amid Delta variant concerns

Grab, the southeast Asian ride-hailing, food delivery and payments company, deepened its net losses to $815m for the three months to June and trimmed its full-year forecast over pandemic uncertainty.

The company, with its headquarters in Singapore, expects earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation to equal a loss of $700m to $900m for the full year, compared with previous projections of $600m. The forecast was due to the extension of lockdowns in several of the countries it operates due to Covid-19, it said.

However, adjusted net sales hit $550m, up 92 per cent on the same period in 2020, as GrabSupermarket and other food delivery services gained traction during worsening lockdowns across the region.

Grab has trimmed its full-year forecast over pandemic uncertainty © EPA

“While the Covid-19 situation on the ground is challenging, our business continues to be resilient, and we are increasing our investments in our superapp ecosystem in anticipation of the market recovery as vaccination rates improve,” said Peter Oey, chief financial officer.

The higher net loss, which exceeded last year’s $718m, was largely due to an increase in interest expense on Grab’s convertible redeemable preference shares, the company said.

Grab has now launched its third online supermarket — in the Philippines, following launches in Malaysia and Singapore. It plans to launch another GrabSupermarket in one more country before the end of the year.

Grab’s management expects demand for ride-hailing to improve as vaccination rates increase across the region.

The company said it was still on track to merge with Altimeter Growth Corp, a US-listed special purpose acquisition company, later this year. Grab is targeting a valuation of $40bn.

India’s civil aviation authority approves drone experiment for vaccine delivery

India’s ministry of civil aviation has approved the experimental use of drones to deliver Covid-19 vaccines to remote parts of the country.

In a statement, the ministry said that the Indian Council of Medical Research could deploy drones flying at heights of up to 3,000 meters to distribute Covid-19 vaccines to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the north-eastern states of Manipur and Nagaland over the next year.

India administered 6.3m vaccines doses on Monday, with more than 730m jabs distributed in the country so far. It has struggled, however, with the logistics of getting vaccines to hard to reach places.

In recent days, India launched an experimental “medicines from the sky” project in Vikarabad district of the southern state of Telangana.

Around 42 per cent of India’s population has so far received a single dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, while 13.4 per cent are fully vaccinated. Nearly 40 per cent of India’s population is below the age of 18, however, and not yet eligible for any vaccine. 

South Korea cases below 1,500 but threat of holiday contagion looms

South Korean health authorities reported 1,497 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, the second day in the row that the count stayed under 1,500.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency expressed concerns, however, about the potential for the virus to spread during the Korean autumn harvest celebration, starting later this week.

The KDCA said South Korea added 1,497 Covid-19 cases in the previous 24 hours, up 64 from the previous day and including 1,463 local infections, raising the total number of cases since the start of the pandemic to 275,910. There were seven more fatalities, raising the total Covid-related death toll in the country to 2,367.

The KDCA urged people to follow virus prevention and social distancing measures more strictly during the five-day Chuseok holiday that will begin at the weekend, when millions of people are expected to travel within the country.

New cases double in China’s Fujian province outbreak

China reported 59 new local cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday, all of them in Fujian province, where a new outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant is gathering pace.

The numbers were an increase from the 22 local cases reported in Fujian on Monday. The outbreak was discovered on Friday when two schoolchildren in the city of Putian tested positive for the virus.

Local authorities believe the father of the children, who returned from Singapore on August 4, was the source of the infection.

China has kept cases of Covid-19 extremely low by imposing stringent travel restrictions and quickly enforcing lockdowns when outbreaks are discovered. The total number of cases in the country of 1.4bn people is just 810, the health commission said.

The new cases were mostly found in Putian and the city of Xiamen.

A child undergoes a nucleic acid test in Fujian’s Putian city on Monday © CNS/AFP via Getty Images

Putian has enacted lockdowns in high-risk areas and brought in preventative measures such as closing public venues such as bars and restaurants and halting offline classes, but has stopped short of the city-wide lockdowns seen during the country’s last outbreak in August.

Xiamen’s container port was the 14th largest in the world in 2020, according to Lloyd’s List, whilst Putian is a manufacturing and export centre.

Global house prices rise at fastest pace since 2005, report says

Global house prices rose are rising at their fastest pace since 2005 as low interest rates, a shortage of housing and bountiful household savings continue to boost the housing market.

The average annual price change across 55 countries rose to 9.2 per cent in the 12 months to June, according to property consultancy Knight Frank. It is the fastest rise since the 12 months to March 2005, and is up from 4.3 per cent over the same period last year as more countries’ property markets heat up.

Overall, one in three countries registered double-digit price growth, including Russia and Germany. The US, Australia, New Zealand, Turkey and Canada registered nominal house price growth of more than 16 per cent, Knight Frank data showed.

Column chart of 12-months to end of quarter, annual % change showing Global house prices grow at the fastest pace since 2005

“The pandemic-induced housing boom continues,” said Kate Everett-Allen, head of international residential research at Knight Frank. However, “this is a story largely confined to advanced economies where support measures have protected jobs and enabled significant savings”.

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Australia rolling out digital arrivals pass as cases remain high

The Australian government has said it has “taken the next step” in preparing for international travel by unveiling a digital pass for arrivals, as the country rushes to vaccinate enough of its population to reopen borders.

The pass will replace the incoming passenger form and travel declaration, carrying information such as the passenger’s vaccination status, the Australian home affairs department said.

“This will help us to welcome home increasing numbers of Australians, and welcome tourists, travellers, international students, skilled workers and overseas friends and family,” said Karen Andrews, home affairs minister. The government has awarded the contract to develop the pass to Accenture.

Australia has said it will begin to gradually reopen its borders to international travel once 80 per cent of the country have received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine but it remains unclear when that point will be reached.

As of Monday, just 42.1 per cent had been given two doses, according to government figures.

Covid-19 cases in the country, meanwhile, have remained stubbornly high, despite a month-long lockdown in some areas and an accelerated vaccination campaign.

On Tuesday, New South Wales, the country’s hotspot, reported 1,127 new local cases, down from a peak of over 1,500 a day over the weekend, but still much higher than other states.

Cases in Victoria were also down on Tuesday, to 445, falling slightly from Monday’s peak of 473. Queensland lodged one new local case.

Vietnam proposes plan to resume domestic flights

The Vietnamese aviation authority has suggested domestic flights could be fully resumed after the completion of a four-week roadmap, ending a two month ban enacted to help the country battle its first outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant.

The roadmap would restart domestic flights in three stages.

The first stage, slated to last for two weeks, would allow airlines to resume flights at half the frequency of the first week of April this year, when domestic cases of Covid-19 in the country were close to zero.

Passengers would need to be on official business, work in pandemic control or hold written consent to travel from the localities of departure and arrival. They would have to be fully vaccinated, have recovered from the virus in the past year or have completed a mandatory quarantine period.

In the second stage of the roadmap, to begin two weeks later, flight frequency would increase to 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. The second phase would also last two weeks.

Under the final phase, flights would resume to pre-lockdown levels, with no restrictions on who can fly.

The suggested roadmap would restart domestic flights in Vietnam in three stages © REUTERS

Airlines can participate in the scheme only if all flight crew have received at least one dose of a vaccine and tested negative for the virus in the previous 72 hours, the CAAV said.

Vietnam suspended nearly all domestic flights in July this year, as cases of the Delta variant began to soar.

The CAAV said the plan to resume flights would begin as soon as it received approval from the Ministry of Transport.

Indonesia relaxes Covid-19 restrictions on Bali

Indonesia has relaxed Covid-19 restrictions on the holiday island of Bali, though conditions of entry for international arrivals are to be made more stringent.

Many locations on the island popular with international visitors will reopen for guests, maritime and investment minister Luhut Panjaitan said at a virtual press conference on Monday evening. International visitors must now take three polymerase chain reaction tests before they enter Bali, however, and undergo eight days of quarantine. 

The new social mobility restrictions on Bali will be reevaluated weekly.

Indonesia is to tighten entry protocols for foreign arrivals to Bali © AFP via Getty Images

Plans to reopen Bali to foreigners were shelved earlier in the year when Indonesia was hit by a second wave of Covid-19 and the highly infectious Delta variant.

Indonesia has been one of the countries worst impacted by Covid-19 in Asia, with more than 4m cases and over 138,000 Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

UK chancellor takes taxpayer stakes in more than 150 start-ups

The UK Treasury has taken taxpayer stakes in more than 150 British companies, including a vegan foodmaker, a trendy cinema chain and a kombucha-based drinks brewer, in an unprecedented shift into state-backed capital.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak, a former hedge fund executive and Goldman Sachs analyst, approved the novel expansion of the state as part of a Covid support scheme launched last year.

The Treasury has published the names of the 158 companies that have converted loans under the £1.1bn state-backed Future Fund scheme into equity for the first time, revealing the scores of largely lossmaking companies that now count the UK taxpayer as a shareholder.

These include shopping app Cherryz, mobile beauty service Secret Spa, ticketing platform Dice FM, car-selling site Motorway.co.uk and Snoop, the banking app founded by former Virgin Money boss Jayne-Anne Gadhia.

The Secret Cinema chain, a group partly backed by private equity and family office money that recently recruited former Sony Entertainment boss Michael Lynton as a director, also used the Future Fund to raise cash during the pandemic.

Read more here

CDC lowers Brazil’s Covid ranking, urges Americans to avoid travel to Israel

The top US health agency lowered its Covid-19 travel advisory for Brazil and is now urging Americans not to travel to Israel.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention placed Brazil on Level 3, a ranking reserved for countries with a “high level” of Covid-19, down one notch. The agency is urging Americans to ensure they are fully vaccinated before travelling to the country.

The CDC added Israel, West Bank and Gaza to its Level 4 list of countries with “very high level” of Covid-19, urging Americans to avoid travel to these places. Several island nations including Grenada, Mauritius and St Kitts and Nevis were also placed on the list.

Israel experienced a fresh wave of coronavirus cases this summer and has turned to booster shots to bring down the country’s infection rate.

The CDC uses a four-level system ranging from “low” to “very high” levels of Covid-19 for travel destinations and US territories.

Germany searches for ways to boost flagging vaccination campaign

Germany is using both a carrot and a stick to encourage more people to get Covid-19 vaccinations after its immunisation campaign fell behind other European countries, raising fears about a “fourth wave” of infections.

The government on Monday launched a “vaccination week”, offering free jabs to people without appointments in more than 700 public places, including a zoo in Rostock, an ice hockey stadium in Cologne and an airport in Berlin.

“There are still those who actually have nothing against the vaccination, who maybe even had an appointment before, they missed it and they simply didn’t make a new one,” Jens Spahn, the German health minister, said in a radio interview.

While urging people to take advantage of the chance to get a jab in a nearby location, Spahn suggested the government could also make life tougher for unvaccinated people.

Germany’s vaccination rate has stagnated in recent weeks with close to 62 per cent of its population fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data.

Chart showing a smaller proportion of Germany’s population is fully vaccinated than comparable European countries’, Share of population that is fully vaccinated (%)

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US Covid hospitalisations under 100,000 for third day running

US Covid-19 hospitalisations have remained below 100,000 a third day running for the first time in more than three weeks, in a further sign the summer wave may have peaked in several states.

There were 95,851 people in US hospitals being treated for coronavirus, according to a Financial Times analysis of updated data on Monday from the Department of Health and Human Services.

That marked the first time since August 22 that US hospitalisations have remained under 100,000 for three days in a row. On August 23, hospitalisations topped that milestone for the first time since late January and remained above that threshold for 19 consecutive days.

Several states that were hotspots for Covid-19 during summer and reported levels of hospitalisations that neared or surpassed previous phases of the pandemic have experienced recent declines. The seven-day average level of hospitalisations in Louisiana is down more than 40 per cent compared with its rate four weeks ago, while Florida is down 24 per cent over the same period and Arkansas is down 19 per cent.

Alaska, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and Washington make up states that have reported record levels of hospitalisations so far in September.

In its most recent update on Friday, members of the White House’s coronavirus task force pointed to some recent encouraging trends for the US overall. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, showed data indicating the average rate of new hospital admissions across the country had eased 4.1 per cent from a week earlier to 11,754 a day. The seven-day averages for new cases and fatalities related to Covid-19 had also retreated from levels a week earlier.

Current evidence does not support booster jabs, says WHO

Current evidence does not show a need for Covid-19 booster jabs in the general population, according to a new report from a panel of leading scientists.

Researchers analysed studies on vaccine efficacy and said the available data did not provide credible evidence of substantially declining protection against severe disease following inoculation.

The report, which was published in medical journal The Lancet on Monday, was authored by figures including the World Health Organization’s Soumya Swaminathan, Ana-Maria Henao-Restrepo and Mike Ryan.

“Although the benefits of primary Covid-19 vaccination clearly outweigh the risks, there could be risks if boosters are widely introduced too soon, or too frequently,” the scientists said.

“Current evidence does not, therefore, appear to show a need for boosting in the general population, in which efficacy against severe disease remains high,” they continued.

The World Health Organization’s Soumya Swaminathan, one of the authors of the report published on Monday in The Lancet © AFP via Getty Images

A recent study on the experience in Israel during the first three weeks of August “has suggested efficacy of a third dose”, relative to two doses.

But a very short-term protective effect would not necessarily imply worthwhile long-term benefit, the researchers said.

According to the report, effectiveness against severe disease in Israel was lower among people vaccinated either in January or April than in those vaccinated in February or March, “exemplifying the difficulty of interpreting such data”.

The scientists called for careful and public scrutiny of the evolving research to ensure that decisions about boosting are informed by reliable science rather than by politics. 

“Even if boosting were eventually shown to decrease the medium-term risk of serious disease, current vaccine supplies could save more lives if used in previously unvaccinated populations than if used as boosters in vaccinated populations,” the scientists said.

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The UK will begin vaccinating 12 to 15 year olds against coronavirus, the UK’s four chief medical officers have announced, in an effort to stem the spread of the virus over the winter. The independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation did not recommend jabbing teenagers, stating that the health benefits were marginal. Instead they said the decision should be made by medical officers who could take wider factors into consideration.

Scotland is to roll out vaccine certificates in nightclubs and other large venues, despite the UK government deciding not to do the same in England. “We took a decision in parliament [to] in principle … move ahead with vaccine certificates,” Scotland’s deputy first minister John Swinney told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday.

England recorded more than 250 “breakthrough” deaths in the months after it began its vaccination programme, in statistics that revealed the likelihood of dying despite being fully jabbed increased for immunocompromised people, men and the elderly. The 256 deaths, recorded between January 2 and July 2, refer to those among people who had received two doses of the vaccine against Covid-19 and tested positive at least a fortnight after receiving their second jab.