WHO vaccine scheme risks failure, leaving poor countries no COVID shots until 2024

By Francesco Guarascio

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The global scheme to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to poorer countries faces a “very high” risk of failure, potentially leaving nations home to billions of people with no access to vaccines until as late as 2024, internal documents say.

The World Health Organization’s COVAX program is the main global scheme to vaccinate people in poor and middle income countries around the world against the coronavirus. It aims to deliver at least 2 billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021 to cover 20% of the most vulnerable people in 91 poor and middle-income countries, mostly in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

But in internal documents reviewed by Reuters, the scheme’s promoters say the program is struggling from a lack of funds, supply risks and complex contractual arrangements which could make it impossible to achieve its goals.

“The risk of a failure to establish a successful COVAX Facility is very high,” says an internal report to the board of Gavi, an alliance of governments, drug companies, charities and international organizations that arranges global vaccination campaigns. Gavi co-leads COVAX alongside the WHO.

The report and other documents prepared by Gavi are being discussed at Gavi’s board meetings on Dec. 15-17.

The failure of the facility could leave people in poor nations without any access to COVID-19 vaccines until 2024, one of the documents says.

The risk of failure is higher because the scheme was set up so quickly, operating in “uncharted territory”, the report says.

“Current risk exposure is deemed outside of risk appetite until there is full clarity on the size of risks and possibilities to mitigate them,” it says. “It therefore requires intensive mitigation efforts to bring the risk within risk appetite.”

Gavi hired Citigroup last month to provide advice on how to mitigate financial risks.

In one Nov. 25 memo included in the documents submitted to the Gavi board, Citi advisors said the biggest risk to the program was from clauses in supply contracts that allow countries not to buy vaccines booked through COVAX.

A potential mismatch between vaccine supply and demand “is not a commercial risk efficiently mitigated by the market or the MDBs,” the Citi advisors wrote, referring to multilateral development banks such as the World Bank.

“Therefore it must either be mitigated through contract negotiation or through a Gavi risk absorption layer that is carefully managed by a management and governance structure.”

Asked about the documents, a Gavi spokesman said the body remains confident it can achieve its goals.

“It would be irresponsible not to assess the risks inherent to such a massive and complex undertaking, and to build policies and instruments to mitigate those risks,” he added.

The WHO did not respond to a request for comment. In the past it has let Gavi take the lead in public comments about the COVAX program.

Citibank said in a statement: “As a financial advisor, we are responsible for helping Gavi plan for a range of scenarios related to the COVAX facility and supporting their efforts to mitigate potential risks.”

SUPPLY DEALS

COVAX’s plans rely on cheaper vaccines that have so far yet to receive approval, rather than vaccines from frontrunners Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna that use more expensive new mRNA technology. The Pfizer vaccine has already been approved for emergency use in several countries and deployed in Britain and the United States, and the Moderna vaccine is expected to be similarly approved soon.

COVAX has so far reached non-binding supply agreements with AstraZeneca, Novavax and Sanofi for a total of 400 million doses, with options to order several hundred million additional shots, one of the Gavi documents says.

But the three companies have all faced delays in their trials that could push back some possible regulatory approvals to the second half of 2021 or later.

This could also increase COVAX’s financial needs. Its financial assumptions are based on an average cost of $5.20 per dose, one of the documents says.

Pfizer’s vaccines costs about $18.40-$19.50 per dose, while Moderna’s costs $25-$37. COVAX has no supply deals with either of those firms. Nor is it prioritizing investment in ultra-cold distribution chains in poor countries, necessary for the Pfizer vaccine, as it still expects to use mostly shots which require more conventional cold storage, one of the Gavi documents says.

On Tuesday a WHO senior official said the agency was in talks with Pfizer and Moderna to include their COVID-19 vaccines as part of an early global rollout at a cost for poor countries possibly lower than current market prices.

Other shots are being developed worldwide and COVAX wants to expand its portfolio to include vaccines from other companies.

Rich countries, which have booked most of the currently available stocks of COVID-19 vaccines, are also planning to donate some excess doses to poor countries, although is not clear whether that would be through COVAX.

FINANCIAL PRESSURE

To meet its target of vaccinating at least 20% of people in poor countries next year, COVAX says it needs $4.9 billion in addition to $2.1 billion it has already raised.

If vaccine prices are higher than forecast, supply is delayed or the additional funds are not fully collected, the facility faces the prospect of failure, the documents say.

So far Britain and European Union countries are the main donors to COVAX, while the United States and China have made no financial commitments. The World Bank and other multilateral financial institutions are offering cheap loans to poor countries to help them buy and deploy vaccines through COVAX.

The facility is issuing vaccine bonds which could raise as much as $1.5 billion next year if donors agreed to cover the costs, one of the Gavi documents says. COVAX is also receiving funds from private donors, mainly the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

But even under the best financial conditions, COVAX could still face failure, because of disproportionate financial risks caused by its complex deal-making process.

COVAX signs advance purchase contracts with companies on vaccine supplies that need to be paid for by donors or receiving countries that have the means to afford them.

But under clauses included in COVAX contracts, countries could still refuse to buy pre-ordered volumes if they prefer other vaccines, or if they manage to acquire them through other schemes, either faster or at better prices.

The facility could also face losses if countries were not able to pay for their orders, or even if herd immunity were developed too quickly, making vaccines no longer necessary, the Citigroup report said. It proposed a strategy to mitigate these risks including through changes in supply contracts.

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio; Editing by Peter Graff)

As America counts, the world holds its breath for U.S. election outcome

By Luke Baker, Libby George and Daria Sito-Sucic

LONDON/LAGOS/SARAJEVO (Reuters) – A day after Americans voted in a bitterly contested election, the rest of the world was none the wiser on Wednesday, with millions of votes still to count, the race too close to call and a mounting risk of days or even weeks of legal uncertainty.

Donald Trump’s pre-emptive declaration of victory at the White House was condemned by some U.S. political commentators and civil rights groups, who warned about the trampling of long-standing democratic norms.

Most world leaders and foreign ministers sat on their hands, trying not to add any fuel to the electoral fire.

“Let’s wait and see what the outcome is,” said British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. “There’s obviously a significant amount of uncertainty. It’s much closer than I think many had expected.”

But while Raab and others urged caution, the Slovenian prime minister broke ranks, congratulating Trump and the Republican party via Twitter.

“It’s pretty clear that American people have elected @realDonaldTrump and @Mike_Pence for #4moreyears,” wrote Janez Jansa, one of several east European leaders, including Hungary’s Viktor Orban, who are fervent Trump allies. “Congratulations @GOP for strong results across the #US.”

The latest vote tally showed Democrat challenger Joe Biden with a lead in the Electoral College – 224 votes to 213, with 270 needed for victory – but with counting still be completed in at least five major ‘battleground’ states: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Georgia.

In 2000, the election between George W. Bush and Al Gore hinged on Florida. It was ultimately decided in Bush’s favor by the U.S. Supreme Court, in a ruling five weeks after the vote.

In his comments, Trump suggested the Supreme Court – to which he has nominated three of the nine justices – would have to decide the winner again.

On Twitter, the hashtags #Trump, #Biden and #USElections2020 were trending from Russia to Pakistan, Malaysia to Kenya and across Europe and Latin America, underscoring how much every region of the world sees the outcome as pivotal.

In Russia, which U.S. intelligence agencies have accused of trying to interfere in the election, there was no official reaction.

But Pro-Kremlin lawmaker Vyacheslav Nikonov, the grandson of Stalin’s foreign minister, advised Russians to stock up on popcorn to watch the show he predicted was about to unfold, saying U.S. society was fatally split.

“The result of the elections is the worst outcome for America,” Nikonov, who welcomed Trump’s 2016 win, wrote on Facebook. “Whoever wins the legal battles half of Americans will not consider them the lawful president. Let’s stock up on large quantities of popcorn.”

‘IT AFFECTS US ALL’

In Australia, crowds watched the results roll in while drinking beer in an American bar in Sydney.

“The news is so much better when Trump is in,” said Glen Roberts, wearing a red ‘Make Europe Great Again’ baseball cap. “You never know what he said, it’s so good. I think it’ll be less interesting if Trump loses.”

Others were quick to underline the ramifications of the U.S. vote worldwide. “I think it affects us all, what happens over there really matters for the next four years over here,” said Sydney resident Luke Heinrich.

New York-based Human Rights Watch, one of the world’s leading civil rights groups, warned about the need to reserve judgment on the results until every vote is counted. With a very high number of mail-in ballots this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, full tallies are expected to take days in some states.

Executive director Kenneth Roth said premature declarations of victory were dangerous.

“Autocrats might be perfectly happy to undermine democracy in the United States by welcoming a premature declaration of victory,” he said.

China, whose relations with the United States have sunk to their worst in decades under Trump, said the election was a domestic affair and it had “no position on it”.

Chinese social media users, however, were quick to mock the failure of the U.S. electoral system to deliver a quick and clear result.

“Whether he wins or loses, his final mission is to destroy the appearance of American democracy,” one user on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform wrote on Wednesday.

“Let Trump be re-elected and take the U.S. downhill,” another wrote.

In Nigeria, one leading politician, Senator Shehu Sani, said the uncertainty in the United States was reminiscent of Africa.

“Africa used to learn American democracy, America is now learning African democracy,” he tweeted to his 1.6 million followers.

(Reporting by Luke Baker in London, Libby George in Lagos and Daria Sito-Sucic; Additional reporting by Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay in Geneva, Crispian Balmer in Rome, Justyna Pawlak in Warsaw, Andrew Osborn in Moscow, Gabriela Baczynska in Brussels and Tony Munroe and Gao Liangping in Beijing; Editing by Alex Richardson)

Height of fashion? Clothes mountains build up as recycling breaks down

By Sonya Dowsett and George Obulutsa

MADRID/NAIROBI (Reuters) – Clothes recycling is the pressure-release valve of fast fashion, and it’s breaking under COVID-19 curbs.

The multi-billion-dollar trade in second-hand clothing helps prevent the global fashion industry’s growing pile of waste going straight to landfill, while keeping wardrobes clear for next season’s designs. But it’s facing a crisis.

Exporters are struggling, as are traders and customers in often poorer nations from Africa to Eastern Europe and Latin America who rely on a steady supply of used clothes.

The signs are everywhere.

From London to Los Angeles, many thrift shops and clothing banks outside stores and on streets have been deluged with more clothes than could be sold on, leading to mountains of garments building up in sorting warehouses.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began early this year, textile recyclers and exporters have had to cut their prices to shift stock as lockdown measures restrict movement and business slows in end markets abroad. For many, it’s no longer commercially viable and they can’t afford to move merchandise.

“We are reaching the point where our warehouses are completely full,” Antonio de Carvalho, boss of a textile recycling company in Stourbridge, central England, wrote to a client in June, asking for a price cut for clothes he collects.

De Carvalho pays towns for clothing collected in his containers then sells it on at profit to traders overseas.

Since May, he said, the price he has been able to charge overseas buyers had dropped from 570 pounds ($726) a tonne to 400 pounds, making it hard for his company, Green World Recycling, to cover the costs of collecting and storing items.

Buyers were also asking to increase the credit periods before they had to pay from 15 days to 45-60 days, adding to cash-flow problems, de Carvalho wrote.

“We are losing … a huge amount of money, making a big loss for the operation.”

‘GOING OUT OF BUSINESS’

De Carvalho’s experience is mirrored across the sector, suggesting that, even once the pandemic passes, the battered trade could take a long time to recover.

Recyclers are removing clothes banks from streets, reducing the number of times they are emptied per week and looking at laying off workers to conserve cash, according to Reuters interviews with 16 market players in Britain, the United States, Germany and the Netherlands.

At the same time, in a bleak irony for such firms, donations have mounted as people stuck at home clear out their wardrobes – a boon in normal times.

“This is unlike any other recession in a century,” said Jackie King, executive director of U.S. trade body the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART). “I would anticipate there will be companies going out of business.”

The retreat of recyclers is having far-reaching consequences for an industry that has seen an annual average of more than $4 billion of used clothing exported globally over the five years to 2019, according to U.N. trade data.

Exports have shrunk this year.

In Britain, the weight of used clothing exported from March to July was around half what it was for the same period last year, official trade data shows. Exports improved in July – the latest month on record – as merchants rushed to shift stock as countries began to re-open, but were still down around 30%.

In the United States, the value of exports from March to July fell 45% compared with the same period last year, government data shows.

Up to a third of clothes donated in the United States – the world’s biggest exporter of used clothing – ends up for sale in markets in the developing world.

KENYAN WOES

The consequences of the decline can be seen in countries like Kenya, which imported 176,000 tonnes of second-hand clothing in 2018, equivalent to over 335 million pairs of jeans.

Business is sluggish in the open-air Gikomba market in Nairobi, one of the biggest second-hand clothes market in East Africa. Shop assistants stand idle while traders call out to shoppers asking them to try their garments

Traders have been hit with a double-whammy of the shrinking supply, exacerbated by the government banning the import of used textiles in March on concerns they could carry the novel coronavirus, and a drop in footfall due to people staying home.

“Before coronavirus came in, I would manage to sell at least 50 (pairs of) trousers a day,” said trader Nicholas Mutisya, who sells jeans and hats. “But now with coronavirus, even selling one a day has become difficult.”

“We cannot buy bales (of clothes) directly, so we buy our stock from those who have already bought them.”

The ban on used textiles imports was lifted in August after pushback from traders in Kenya and industry bodies in Europe and the United States who said second-hand clothes were safe as the virus could not survive the journey to Africa.

Yet the struggle continues for traders like Mutisya and Anthony Kang’ethe, who works as a driver for a shop selling second-hand clothes in bales shipped from Britain. He said the business had been hit hard by the supply crunch.

“Before we used to have five workers in our company,” Kang’ethe said. “We are left with two.”

DARK SIDE OF FASHION

Large-scale commercial trade in second-hand clothing from Europe and the United States to emerging markets took off in a big way in the 1990s due to growing African and Eastern European demand for Western fashion.

Such demand has provided a badly needed release value for a booming fashion market, where clothing production has approximately doubled over the past 15 years, according to sustainability charity the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

The fashion industry is the second-biggest consumer of water and is responsible for up to 10% of global carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined, the U.N.’s environment program said in March 2019.

Meanwhile, clothes account for a massive, and growing, pile of waste that ends up in landfills.

In Britain, shoppers buy more clothes per person than any other country in Europe, amounting to some five times more than what they bought in the 1980s, according to a 2019 UK parliamentary report by the Environmental Audit Committee.

About 300,000 tonnes of clothing goes to landfill or incineration per year, the report said.

The United States produces just under 17 million U.S. tons (15.4 tonnes) of textile waste per year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency – equivalent to around 29 billion pairs of jeans. Two-thirds of this ends up in landfills.

Many fashion retailers, including Zara owner Inditex and H&M, encourage shoppers to bring unwanted textiles to their stores for collection and, in the case of H&M, even offer discounts on new purchases in exchange.

Only a small proportion of clothes collected by Inditex end up for sale in international markets, a company spokesman said. H&M said clothing collected in its stores was processed by I:CO, a unit of German textile recycling company Soex.

“The whole problem is just getting bigger,” said Anna Smith, a doctoral researcher at King’s College London looking at a so-called circular economic system, which aims to eliminate waste.

“People are consuming more and more.”

(Additional reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles and Anna Ringstrom in Stockholm; Editing by Pravin Char)

Delivering super-cooled COVID-19 vaccine a daunting challenge for some countries

By Matthias Inverardi and Ludwig Burger

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Getting a coronavirus vaccine from manufacturing sites to some parts of the world with rural populations and unreliable electricity supply will be an immense challenge, given the need to store some vials at temperatures as low as minus 80 degrees Celsius (-112 Fahrenheit), Deutsche Post warned on Tuesday.

The German logistics firm said that distribution of an eventual vaccine across large parts of Africa, South America and Asia would require extraordinary measures to keep deliveries of so-called mRNA vaccines refrigerated at Antarctic-level temperatures.

Companies developing vaccines requiring exceptional cold storage, such as Moderna and CureVac, are working hard to make their injections last longer in transit.

The novel class of mRNA vaccines is among the furthest advanced in a field of 33 immunization shots currently being tested on humans globally, but they may need to be cooled at minus 80 degrees Celsius.

But upgrading cold storage infrastructure in regions outside the 25 most advanced countries, home to one third of the global population, will pose an immense challenge, said Deutsche Post in its study, conducted with consultancy firm McKinsey.

Vaccine developers Translate Bio and Moderna said in June they are working to produce evidence in time for the roll-out that their respective products can be shipped and stored at less extreme temperatures.

A spokesman for CureVac said its vaccine candidate is based on an experimental rabies vaccine which has already been shown to keep its molecular structure when stored in a regular fridge for months. Tests are underway to show the COVID-19 product has the same durability and the company is confident the data will be “competitive”, he added.

Deutsche Post said that even if the vaccine cold chain requires temperatures of only minus 8 degrees Celsius the share of the world’s population with reliable access to it increases only to about 70%, with substantial parts of Africa at risk of missing out.

“We anticipate 10 billion vaccine doses will have to be distributed across the world, and that includes regions that don’t have motorway access every five miles,” Katja Busch, Chief Commercial Officer of Deutsche Post’s DHL global forwarding unit, told Reuters.

(Additional reporting by Lisa Baertlein, editing by Louise Heavens)

World Bank approves record $500 million to battle locust swarms

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The World Bank on Thursday approved a record $500 million in grants and low-interest loans to help countries in Africa and the Middle East fight swarms of desert locusts that are eating their way across vast swaths of crops and rangelands.

Four of the hardest-hit countries – Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda – will receive $160 million immediately, Holger Kray, a senior World Bank official, told Reuters. He said Yemen, Somalia and other affected countries could tap funds as needed.

“The Horn of Africa finds itself at the epicenter of the worst locust outbreak we have seen in a generation, most probably in more than a generation,” he said, noting the new coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating the crisis.

Locust swarms have infested 23 countries across East Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, the biggest outbreak in 70 years, the World Bank said. It threatens food supplies in East Africa where nearly 23 million people are facing food shortages.

See graphic:

The World Bank estimates the Horn of Africa region could suffer up to $8.5 billion in damage to crop and livestock production by year-end without broad measures to reduce locust populations and prevent their spread. Even with the measures, losses could be as high as $2.5 billion, it said.

Desert locusts can travel up to 150 km (95 miles) a day, sometimes in swarms as large as 250 km (155.34 miles) across, eating their own body weight in greenery.

In Kenya, the locusts are eating in one day the amount of food consumed by all Kenyans in two days, Kray said.

The new World Bank program will help farmers, herders and rural households by providing fertilizer and seeds for new crops, and cash transfers to pay for food for people and livestock.

It will also fund investments to strengthen surveillance and early warning systems to make the region more resilient over the medium- to longer-term, Kray said.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Latest on the worldwide spread of the new coronavirus – 5-7-20

(Reuters) – More than 3.79 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 263,682 have died, according to a Reuters tally as of 1427 GMT on Thursday.

DEATHS AND INFECTIONS

* For an interactive graphic tracking the global spread, open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.

* For a U.S.-focused tracker with state-by-state and county map, open https://tmsnrt.rs/2w7hX9T in an external browser.

EUROPE

* Russia’s cases overtook France and Germany to become the fifth-highest number in the world after a record daily rise. Moscow’s mayor said the real number of cases in the capital was more than triple the official, TASS news agency reported.

* Restrictions in Moscow have been extended until May 31, said Mayor Sergei Sobyanin.

* Black people and men of Bangladeshi and Pakistani origin are nearly twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than whites, even when adjusting data for deprivation, a British report said.

* Poland plans to test 1,000 miners a day at drive-through sites as data show rapid growth in new cases in the coal region.

* German officials warned the crisis is far from over despite the country slowly reopening its economy.

* After standing empty for two months, Greece’s ancient sites, including the Acropolis hill, will reopen to visitors on May 18, authorities said.

* A European coalition is forming around an approach to using smartphone technology to trace infections that, its backers hope, could help to reopen borders without unleashing a second wave.

AMERICAS

* The first immigrant in U.S. detention has died of the coronavirus, local health authorities said as infections steadily climbed among the country’s around 30,000 immigrant detainees.

* Indigenous groups from nine countries in the Amazon basin called for donations to help protect 3 million rainforest inhabitants, vulnerable because they lack adequate access to healthcare.

* Brazil, one of the world’s emerging hot spots, registered a record number of cases and deaths on Wednesday, prompting the health minister to flag the possibility of strict lockdowns in hard-hit areas. President Bolsonaro’s spokesman has tested positive and is quarantined in his home.

* Argentine President Alberto Fernandez is rising in the polls on approval of his handling of the response, as he faces off against creditors with a major debt revamp.

* Colombia has removed the contact-tracing feature in its official coronavirus app after experiencing glitches, but aims to rebuild it using potentially more reliable technology.

* At least 47 residents and three workers have been infected at a retirement home in Mexico, in one of the biggest outbreaks yet reported in the country.

* A war of words broke out between Costa Rica and El Salvador after the Salvadoran president accused the other country of massaging statistics by deliberately carrying out fewer tests.

* El Salvador said it would from Thursday temporarily suspend public transport.

ASIA-PACIFIC

* China said it supports the WHO in trying to pinpoint the origins of the pandemic and accused the U.S. Secretary of State of lying in his attacks on Beijing.

* Japan has approved Gilead’s remdesivir as a treatment for COVID-19, the health ministry said, making it the country’s first officially authorized drug for the disease.

* Cases in India rose past 50,000 on Thursday, with the pace of new infections showing no signs of abating despite a strict weeks-long lockdown.

* India will roll out a version of its coronavirus contact-tracing application that can run on Reliance Jio’s cheap phones, as it looks to widen use.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

* Iran is scrambling to buy millions of tonnes of grains to shore up reserves, officials and traders said, despite the president’s assertions that the coronavirus would not endanger food supplies.

* Pakistan’s lockdown will be lifted on Saturday, its prime minister said, despite the number of cases still accelerating.

* The head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention rejected the Tanzanian president’s assertion that tests it supplied are faulty.

* Saudi Arabia has formed a police unit to monitor violations of rules banning gatherings, state news agency SPA said.

ECONOMIC FALLOUT

* World shares largely shook off data on Thursday showing millions more Americans sought unemployment benefits, with sentiment sustained by stronger than expected Chinese exports. [MKTS/GLOB]

* The IMF has approved 50 requests for emergency aid for a total of about $18 billion, and is continuing to work quickly through remaining requests, IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said.

* Millions more Americans likely sought unemployment benefits last week, suggesting a broadening of layoffs from consumer facing industries to other segments of the economy and could remain elevated even as many parts of the country start to reopen.

* The Bank of England said Britain could be headed for its biggest economic slump in over 300 years and kept the door open for more stimulus next month.

* Sweden will not provide state aid to companies paying dividends to shareholders and could claw back funds from recipients that have already done so, the agency charged with disbursing the emergency support said.

* Border controls, lockdowns and flight shortages are making illegal drugs more expensive and difficult to obtain around the world, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said in a report published on Thursday.

(Compiled by Sarah Morland; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

Latest on the worldwide spread of the new coronavirus

(Reuters) – More than 3.59 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 250,386 have died, according to a Reuters tally as of 0200 GMT on Tuesday.

DEATHS AND INFECTIONS

* For an interactive graphic tracking the global spread, open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.

* For a U.S.-focused tracker with state-by-state and county map, open https://tmsnrt.rs/2w7hX9T in an external browser.

EUROPE

* WHO said on Tuesday that a report that COVID-19 had emerged in December in France was “not surprising”, and urged countries to investigate early.

* More than 30,000 people in the United Kingdom have died with suspected COVID-19, the highest official toll yet reported in Europe, according to data published on Tuesday.

* The United States and Britain launched trade negotiations by videoconference, as both struggle with the effects of the pandemic and aim to shore up domestic supply chains.

* The mayor of The Hague ordered police to break up a demonstration against government measures to slow the country’s outbreak.

* Spain reported its third day in a row of under 200 deaths, but a record number of people claiming social security benefits for April.

* Austria’s first lockdown loosening three weeks ago has not led to a new spike in infections, though further vigilance is necessary, its health minister said.

AMERICAS

* The U.S. Senate will start scrutinizing the lawyer tapped by President Donald Trump to oversee a $500 billion fund to rescue larger businesses.

* A newly revised coronavirus mortality model predicts nearly 135,000 Americans will die from COVID-19 by early August, almost double previous projections.

* Some 40 Cuban sugar mills remain open out of season despite a partial lockdown of the country, in a last-ditch effort to add foreign exchange to the government’s all-but-empty coffers.

* Brazilian officials expect a rise in global agricultural protectionism as countries seek to secure local food supplies, according to a draft report seen by Reuters.

* Indigenous leaders in Brazil have asked the WHO to set up an emergency fund to help protect their communities.

* At least 300 people held in two centers set up by the Salvadoran government protested on Monday, demanding to be released and given their test results.

ASIA-PACIFIC

* China reported one new case for May 4, down from three the day before.

* Hong Kong said it will relax restrictions on public gatherings and allow gyms, cinemas and beauty parlours to re-open this week as new cases dwindle.

* One of Bangladesh largest drugmakers, Beximco Pharmaceuticals will begin producing experimental antiviral drug remdesivir, a senior executive said.

* Pakistan has raised concerns with the United Arab Emirates that workers are returning home with high infection rates and that crowded living conditions in the UAE may be helping the virus spread.

* Indonesia reported on Tuesday its biggest daily rise in infections with 484 new cases, taking the total to 12,071.

* Thailand may see the economic impact from the pandemic stretch over another nine months, its prime minister said.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

* Yemen’s Houthis said a Somali national, the first case in the capital Sanaa, died on Sunday, the group’s al-Masirah TV reported.

* Afghanistan’s government began distributing free bread to hundreds of thousands of people across the country as supplies have been disrupted and prices have soared.

* Lebanon’s supreme defence council will advise the government to extend a shutdown until May 24, a security source said.

* A parliamentary panel authorised Israel’s Shin Bet security service to continue using mobile phone data to track infected people until May 26.

* Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas extended to June 5 a state of emergency declared in areas under his administration in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

ECONOMIC FALLOUT

* Stock markets snapped a three-day losing streak on Tuesday and oil was on its longest run of gains in nine months as moves to ease major economies out of their coronavirus lockdowns lifted sentiment. [MKTS/GLOB]

* Banks in the European Union could end up paying annual contributions to an industry rescue funds by tapping government support for coronavirus-hit companies, lawmakers said on Tuesday.

* South Africa’s tax revenue losses due to the coronavirus and credit ratings downgrades could reach $15.5 billion this fiscal year, the commissioner of the revenue services said.

* Egypt’s budget deficit for the financial year that will begin in July will widen to 7.8% of gross domestic product if the crisis continues until the end of December, the finance minister said.

* The International Coffee Organization sees lockdowns flipping the global coffee market into a 1.95 million 60kg bag surplus in 2019/20 from previously forecast 474,000 bag deficit.

(Compiled by Sarah Morland, Vinay Dwivedi and Uttaresh.V; Editing by Arun Koyyur, Anil D’Silva and Tomasz Janowski)

Factbox: Latest on the worldwide spread of the new coronavirus – May 1st

(Reuters) – More than 3.27 million people have reportedly been infected by the novel coronavirus globally, and 232,200 have died, according to a Reuters tally as of 0200 GMT on Friday.

DEATHS AND INFECTIONS

* For an interactive graphic tracking the global spread, open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.

* For a U.S.-focused tracker with state-by-state and county map, open https://tmsnrt.rs/2w7hX9T in an external browser.

EUROPE

* Britain was now past the peak of its coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, promising to set out a plan next week on how the country might start gradually returning to normal life.

* Death toll in Italy climbed by 285, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 1,872.

* Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has been diagnosed with the coronavirus, as confirmed cases surged past the 100,000-mark.

* Ukraine reached 10,000 cases.

AMERICAS

* More than 1.07 million people have been infected with the new coronavirus in the United States and 62,891 have died, according to a Reuters tally as of 0200 GMT on Friday.

* Half of all U.S. states forged ahead with their own strategies for easing restrictions on restaurants, retail and other businesses shuttered by the coronavirus crisis.

* U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday his hard-fought trade deal with China was now of secondary importance to the coronavirus pandemic and he threatened new tariffs on Beijing, as his administration crafted retaliatory measures over the outbreak.

* California ordered beaches in Orange County to close after crowds defied public health guidelines to throng the popular shoreline last weekend.

* Canada’s coronavirus curve is flat but worrying trends are emerging, according to its top medical officer, as Alberta unveiled a plan to reopen its economy gradually.

* Brazil reported a record 7,218 cases in the last 24 hours and 435 additional fatalities.

* Peruvian authorities closed a busy food market in Lima after mass rapid testing confirmed more than 160 positive cases.

ASIA-PACIFIC

* China reported 12 new cases for April 30, up from four a day earlier, bringing the national tally to 82,874.

* Japan will formally decide as early as Monday whether to extend its state of emergency, which was originally set to end on May 6.

* Thailand reported six new cases and no new death.

* Malaysia will allow majority of businesses to resume operations from May 4.

* Australia will consider next Friday whether to relax coronavirus-related mobility restrictions.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

* Turkey’s death toll rose by 93 in the last 24 hours to 3,174, with 2,615 new cases of the virus.

* The International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved $411 million in emergency assistance for Ethiopia.

ECONOMIC FALLOUT

* Initial claims for state unemployment benefits totalled a seasonally adjusted 3.839 million for the week ended April 25, the U.S. Labor Department said, while the Commerce Department said consumer spending slumped by a record 7.5% in March.

* Irish manufacturing activity suffered its sharpest monthly decline on record in April as output collapsed, while British factory output risks falling by more than half during the current quarter, a trade body said.

* South Korean exports plunged at their sharpest pace since the global financial crisis in April.

* Consumer prices in Japan’s capital city fell for the first time in three years in April and national factory activity slumped, increasing fears that the pandemic could tip the country back into deflation.

* France suffered its sharpest economic contraction since records began in 1949 in the first quarter.

* Democratic Republic of Congo has cut its 2020 economic growth forecast to -1.9% and is expecting its economy to contract, its central bank said.

* Chile’s unemployment rate rose to 8.2% in the first quarter from the same period a year ago, hitting a decade high.

(Compiled by Vinay Dwivedi and Uttaresh.V; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Sriraj Kalluvila)

Latest on the worldwide spread of the new coronavirus

(Reuters) – More than 3.21 million people have reportedly been infected by the novel coronavirus globally, and 227,864 have died, according to a Reuters tally as of 1400 GMT on Thursday.

DEATHS AND INFECTIONS

* For an interactive graphic tracking the global spread, open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.

* For a U.S.-focused tracker with state-by-state and county map, open https://tmsnrt.rs/2w7hX9T in an external browser.

EUROPE

* Italy’s prime minister said he would gradually relax the country’s lockdown taking into account differences in contagion levels in different parts of the country.

* The United Kingdom’s COVID-19 death toll is probably higher than 27,241, making it one of the worst-hit countries in Europe, opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said.

* The pandemic is fuelling extremism on the far-right and far-left in Europe and giving Islamic State and other militants cover to regain influence, the European Union’s counter-terrorism chief has warned.

* Ukraine reached 10,000 cases on Thursday and its health minister urged people not to violate lockdown measures.

* Slovakia will consider letting shops reopen sooner as its daily tally of infections has dropped to single digits and the numbers of recovered patients is outpacing new ones, its prime minister said.

* Leading privacy advocates in Britain have urged the government to prevent a soon-to-be launched COVID-19 contact tracing app from turning into a form of state surveillance.

* A town in southern Sweden has turned to a traditional source to try to prevent the coronavirus spreading during an annual festive event on Thursday – chicken manure.

AMERICAS

* The top U.S. infectious disease official said Gilead’s experimental antiviral drug remdesivir will become the standard of care for COVID-19 after early clinical trial results showed it helped patients recover more quickly.

* Florida’s governor, among the last to lock down his state, said he would permit a limited economic reopening next week while leaving restraints intact for the dense greater-Miami area.

* Some contract workers in America’s fast food restaurants, hospitals and warehouses could find it harder to demand equipment and other measures to protect themselves from the coronavirus under a new labor agency rule, according to workers’ advocates and unions.

* About two dozen migrants deported from the United States to Colombia last month have tested positive.

* The International Monetary Fund approved $650 million in emergency financial assistance to help the Dominican Republic respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

* Deaths from the outbreak have piled up so fast in the Amazon rainforest’s biggest city that the main cemetery is burying five coffins at a time in collective graves.

* Mexican tomato farmers are so hard pressed to sell their product due to the disruptions that they have had to donate some of their produce to food banks or use it to feed cattle.

* Latin American drug lords have sent bumper shipments of cocaine to Europe in recent weeks, including one in a cargo of squid, even though the pandemic has stifled legitimate transatlantic trade, senior anti-narcotics officials say.

ASIA-PACIFIC

* China has cancelled the 2020 Boao Forum for Asia, which Beijing is trying to promote as the region’s answer to Davos.

* South Korea on Thursday reported no new domestic cases for the first time since February, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

* Japan is preparing to extend its state of emergency, originally set to end on May 6, for about a month, government sources told Reuters.

* Indonesia confirmed 347 new infections on Thursday, taking its total to above 10,000.

* Thailand will start reopening on Sunday some businesses, such as outdoor markets, barber shops and pet groomers, after the numbers of new infections dropped into single digits this week.

* As the pandemic empties bazaars that have long dominated Uzbekistan’s food trade, supermarkets are driving into the vacuum.

* Tajikistan has confirmed its first 15 coronavirus cases.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

* Yemen reported multiple infections and deaths for the first time and an official in the southern port of Aden said the number of cases was very likely to increase in the coming days.

* The World Health Organization is worried by the community spread of the coronavirus in a significant number of West African countries, the regional head of the organization said.

* In Kibera, Kenya’s largest slum, hairdressers have created a new hairstyle, designed to emulate the prickly appearance of the virus under a microscope.

ECONOMIC FALLOUT

* World stocks suffered a slip on their way to record monthly gains on Thursday, as the European Central Bank held back from providing another instant hit of stimulus and millions more Americans filed unemployment claims. [MKTS/GLOB]

* Economic lockdowns brought on by the pandemic look set to cut global energy demand and carbon dioxide emissions by record amounts, the International Energy Agency said.

* France suffered its sharpest economic contraction since records began in 1949 in the first quarter, as a coronavirus lockdown from mid-March left shops shuttered and consumers hunkered down at home.

* A sudden stop in tourism caused by border closures and lockdowns will cause a 6.2% contraction of the Caribbean economy in 2020, the deepest recession in over half a century, the IMF said.

* Preventing an increase in soured bank loans is a top priority for Greece as it grapples with the economic fallout, its prime minister said.

(Compiled by Sarah Morland; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Factbox: Latest on the spread of the coronavirus around the world-Thursday

Reported cases of the coronavirus have crossed 2.62 million globally and 183,761 people have died, according to a Reuters tally as of 0200 GMT on Thursday.

DEATHS AND INFECTIONS

* For an interactive graphic tracking the global spread, open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.

* For a U.S.-focused tracker with state-by-state and county map, open https://tmsnrt.rs/2w7hX9T in an external browser.

AMERICAS

* Hundreds of members of the U.S. House of Representatives will gather in Washington on Thursday to pass a $484 billion relief bill, bringing the unprecedented total of funds approved for the crisis to nearly $3 trillion.

* U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday ordered a temporary suspension of the issuance of green cards and permanent residence permits, in a move he said aimed at protecting American workers and jobs.

* Mexico, whose total cases exceeded 10,000, will increase spending on social programs and infrastructure projects by $25.6 billion.

EUROPE

* The northern Italian region of Lombardy began an antibody testing programme on Thursday as it prepared to start opening up its economy following weeks of lockdown.

* Spain’s daily increase in fatalities further steadied at around 2% on Thursday, as the government apologised for confusion over lockdown rules for children.

* French president told mayors that unwinding the lockdown would not be done region by region, with a plan to be unveiled around Tuesday next week.

* The French government wants all retail outlets other than restaurants, bars and cafes to be able to reopen once a nationwide lockdown is lifted on May 11.

* Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans to show endurance and discipline to get through the pandemic that is “still at the beginning”, and called for a bigger European Union budget to support economic recovery in the bloc.

* The British government came under sustained pressure over its coronavirus response when members of parliament got their first major opportunity in a month to hold it to account.

* Life is unlikely to return to normal even when the tightest restrictions are lifted, and social distancing measures could stay for the rest of this year and beyond, Scottish first minister said.

* Russia showed tentative signs of a flattening infection curve, but the Kremlin said the situation remained tense and officials moved to tighten lockdown measures in 21 regions.

* Hungary will decide next week on the future of lockdown measures as it prepares for a restart of the economy.

* Greece extended its general lockdown by a week to May 4, saying any relaxation would be staggered over May and June.

ASIA-PACIFIC

* Mainland China reported 10 new cases as of the end of April 22, bringing the total to 82,798. The death toll was unchanged at 4,632.

* South Asia’s infections have crossed 37,000, with more than half in India, complicating the task of governments looking to ease lockdowns.

* Indonesia will temporarily ban domestic air and sea travel starting Friday, barring a few exceptions.

* Spooked by a sharp increase in cases in the navy, Taiwan is debating whether to consider a broad lockdown.

* Nearly 50 crew members on an Italian cruise ship docked for repairs in Japan’s Nagasaki have tested positive, raising concern about the strain on the city’s hospitals.

* All member nations of the WHO should support a proposed independent review into the pandemic, Australia’s prime minister said, further threatening strained ties with China.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

* Iranians have returned to shops, bazaars and parks this week as the country eases restrictions, and the daily increase in the death toll remained below 100 on Thursday.

* African nations that lack ventilators will receive some from a donation of 300 supplied by the Jack Ma Foundation.

* The governors of Nigeria’s 36 states agreed to ban interstate movement for two weeks.

* Botswana’s president and lawmakers were released from two weeks in quarantine after testing negative.

ECONOMIC FALLOUT

* Caution gripped markets on Thursday, with stocks falling before a key Eurogroup meeting to discuss joint stimulus measures, offsetting optimism from a fresh round of U.S. coronavirus aid and a recovery in oil prices.

* European Union leaders will on Thursday take their first step towards joint financing of an economic recovery but will kick any difficult decisions about the details into the long grass.

* A record 26 million Americans likely sought unemployment benefits over the last five weeks, meaning all the jobs created during the longest employment boom in U.S. history were wiped out in about a month.

* Japan offered its bleakest assessment of the economy in over a decade as the pandemic threatens to tip the world’s third-largest economy into a deep recession.

* South Korea’s ruling party and the government agreed to provide cash handouts to every household, not just to families below the top 30 percentile of income as previously announced.

* Britain’s economy is crumbling and government borrowing is soaring to the highest levels in peacetime history, increasing pressure on the government to set out an exit strategy.

* India froze inflation-linked increases in salaries and pensions for more than 11 million federal employees and pensioners to generate nearly $10 billion to help combat the outbreak.

(Compiled by Milla Nissi; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)