Small U.S. businesses were already struggling. Then coronavirus hit

By Jonnelle Marte

(Reuters) – Many small businesses were struggling with funding shortfalls and financial challenges even before the coronavirus pandemic hit, leaving them with little cash on hand to weather the slowdown caused by the virus, according to data released by the Federal Reserve on Tuesday.

Many small firms, particularly the smallest businesses and those owned by black and Hispanic entrepreneurs, also lack traditional banking relationships, which could make it more difficult for them to receive financial assistance during the crisis.

“Small businesses nationwide now face unprecedented challenges as the country grapples with the significant economic and social effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Claire Kramer Mills, assistant vice president at the New York Fed, said in a statement.

The majority of small employers reported growing revenue last year and more than a third even expanded their staffs, according to the 2019 survey report of more than 5,500 small firms issued by the 12 Federal Reserve Banks.

However, two-thirds of the businesses said they faced financial challenges last year, according to the report, which focused on businesses with fewer than 500 employees.

In a supplemental brief, researchers at the New York Federal Reserve assessed the ability for small businesses to cope with a substantial hit to revenue, categorizing firms according to their financial health – a metric based on their profitability, credit scores and earnings. Among the “healthy” firms, only about 20% had enough cash saved to continue operating as normal after losing two months’ worth of revenue.

Most small businesses surveyed by the Fed said they would have to shrink their staffs, delay payments or scale down operations after taking such a hit. Many firms would need to go into debt or turn to personal funds to close the gap.

That hypothetical scenario – two months without revenue – posed to businesses owners at the end of last year is now a reality for many firms, which closed down or substantially reduced their operations because of nationwide efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

A new $349 billion small business bailout fund launched last week to shore up businesses with fewer than 500 employees got off to somewhat rocky roll out last week after some banks grappled with unclear rules and inconsistent government infrastructure. Some banks initially said they were prioritizing existing customers, putting some small business owners at a potential disadvantage for the first-come, first-served program.

Only 44% of small businesses had turned to a bank for a loan in the past five years and just 6% had turned to a credit union, according to the Fed survey. Businesses with more than $1 million in annual revenue and those with white owners were more likely to have used banks for funding, while smaller businesses and those with black or Hispanic owners were more likely to have used online lenders.

(Reporting by Jonnelle Marte; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

U.S. CDC reports 374,329 coronavirus cases, 12,064 deaths

(Reuters) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday reported 374,329 cases of coronavirus, an increase of 43,438 cases from its previous count, and said that the number of deaths had risen by 3,154 to 12,064.

The CDC reported its tally of cases of the respiratory illness known as COVID-19, caused by a new coronavirus, as of 4 pm ET on April 6 compared to its count a day ago.

The CDC figures do not necessarily reflect cases reported by individual states.

(Reporting by Vishwadha Chander in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni)

New York suffers deadliest day in coronavirus crisis

By Nathan Layne and Maria Caspani

(Reuters) – New York has suffered its deadliest day in the novel coronavirus pandemic, with 731 fatalities in the last 24 hours, although Governor Andrew Cuomo said hospitalizations were reaching a plateau in a promising sign for the hardest-hit state.

Even as the total number of deaths reached 5,489 across New York, Cuomo told a daily briefing on Tuesday that he was working with governors in New Jersey and Connecticut on a plan to restart life once the crisis subsides.

Cuomo said that the closures of businesses and schools and other social distancing measures were having the intended impact and urged continued compliance, especially as New York City braces for the possible peak to hospitalizations this week.

“Our behavior affects the number of cases,” said Cuomo. “They are not descending on us from heaven.”

The 731 new deaths on Monday marked an increase from the prior day’s 599 new deaths, while new hospitalizations nearly doubled to 656, contradicting a trend of the past few days which Cuomo had touted as a possible “flattening of the curve”.

But Cuomo cautioned against reading too much into one day of data and stressed three-day averages, which still showed a downward trend in the stress on the state’s hospitals. The governor also pointed to a daily drop in admissions to intensive care units and a fall in intubations as encouraging signs.

Cuomo said health officials have developed an antibody testing regimen that was approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for use in the state, and said that regulators were working to bring it up to scale.

The test, Cuomo said, would determine whether a person has developed antibodies from contracting and resolving the virus, and would be part of a larger plan aimed at getting people back to work and to school.

“That’s why you would have the antibodies for the virus – that would mean that you are no longer contagious, and you can’t catch the virus because you have the antibodies in your system,” the governor said.

“You are not going to end the virus before you start restating life.”

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut and Maria Caspani and Stephanie Kelly in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

Who has the UK nuclear button? No comment

When the leader of a nuclear power falls ill, one of the first questions is: Who has their finger on the button? In the case of Britain, the current official answer is that the public doesn’t need to know.

Asked by the BBC if Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab had been handed the nuclear codes while Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in intensive care with COVID-19 symptoms, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said: “There are well developed protocols which are in place.”

“I just really cannot talk about national security issues,” Gove said.

Johnson has asked Raab to deputise for him “where necessary”.

Peer pressure

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has declared a state of emergency with a difference: while it will give authorities more power to press people to stay at home and businesses to close, he said it would stop short of imposing a formal lockdown as seen in other countries and instead rely on peer pressure for its effect.

“If each of us can reduce contact with other people by at least 70%, and ideally by 80%, we should be able to see a peak in the number of infections in two weeks,” Abe said.

The state of emergency will last through May 6 and apply in the capital, Tokyo, and six other prefectures – accounting for about 44% of Japan’s population.

A city traumatized

You’d think the residents of Wuhan would be delighted with the prospect of an end to a lockdown that has trapped millions for more than two months. Not all are, however, underlining just how many are still coming to terms with the scars of once being the world epicentre of the outbreak.

“When I heard about the lifting of the lockdown, I didn’t feel particularly happy,” said Guo Jing, a resident who runs a hotline for women facing workplace discrimination.

“I actually felt very anxious. There are many issues that we are not sure can be resolved: employment, will patients continue to experience long-term effects, and for those who died, how will we remember them?”

Europe strives for solidarity

The finance ministers of the European Union will try again on Tuesday evening to overcome national differences over the type of economic support to be offered to those hit hardest by the pandemic.

The popularity of the EU in opinion polls has been ebbing in Italy and the leaders of Spain and France have expressed varying degrees of impatience; above all the EU does not want to be seen to come late to help, as many critics argued it did after the 2008/09 global financial crisis.

China marks a milestone – no new deaths

For the first time since the coronavirus outbreak began, China reported no new deaths on Tuesday. The total number of confirmed cases in mainland China stood at 81,740 as of Monday, while 3,331 people have died.

With mainland China well past the peak of infections in February, authorities have turned their attention to imported cases and asymptomatic patients, who show no symptoms but can still pass on the virus.

Chart of the day:

The governors of New York, New Jersey and Louisiana pointed to tentative signs on Monday that the coronavirus outbreak may be starting to plateau in their states, but warned against complacency as the U.S. death toll approached 11,000 nationwide.

For the global picture, click on the “daily cases” tab of the first graphic here to see why some are starting to hope that the epidemic is starting, finally, to peak.

 

(Compiled by Mark John and Karishma Singh; Editing by Gareth Jones)

UK PM Johnson ‘stable’ in intensive care, needed oxygen after COVID-19 symptoms worsened

By William James and Alistair Smout

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was stable in intensive care on Tuesday after receiving oxygen support to help him battle COVID-19, while his foreign minister led the government’s response to the outbreak.

The upheaval of Johnson’s personal battle with the virus has shaken the government just as the United Kingdom, now in its third week of virtual lockdown, enters what scientists say will be the most deadly phase of the pandemic which has already killed 5,373 people in the country.

A general view of police officers outside the St Thomas’ Hospital after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was moved to intensive care while his coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms worsened and has asked Secretary of State for Foreign affairs Dominic Raab to deputise, London, Britain, April 7, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

Johnson, 55, was admitted to St Thomas’ Hospital across the River Thames from the House of Commons late on Sunday after suffering persistent coronavirus symptoms, including a high temperature and a cough, for more than 10 days.

But his condition rapidly deteriorated over the next 24 hours, and he was moved on Monday to an intensive care unit, where the most serious cases are treated, in case he needed to be put on a ventilator. He was still conscious, his office said.

“He is receiving standard oxygen treatment and breathing without any other assistance,” Johnson’s spokesman told reporters.

“The prime minister has been stable overnight and remains in good spirits,” the spokesman said. “He has not required mechanical ventilation, or non-invasive respiratory support.”

But the absence of Johnson, the first leader of a major power to be hospitalised after testing positive for the novel coronavirus, has raised questions about who is truly in charge of the world’s fifth largest economy at such a crucial time.

While Britain has no formal succession plan should a prime minister become incapacitated, Johnson asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, 46, to deputise for him “where necessary”, Downing Street said..

Queen Elizabeth wished Johnson a “full and speedy recovery” and sent a message of support to his pregnant fiancée, Carrie Symonds, and his family.

WHO LEADS?

Raab on Tuesday chaired the government’s COVID-19 emergency response meeting, though ministers refused to say who had ultimate control over the United Kingdom’s nuclear weapons – a role held by the prime minister.

“There are well-developed protocols which are in place,” said Gove, who himself went into self-isolation on Tuesday after a family member displayed coronavirus symptoms.

British leaders do not traditionally publicise the results of their medical examinations as some U.S. presidents including Donald Trump have.

Raab, the son of a Czech-born Jewish refugee who fled the Nazis in 1938, takes the helm at a pivotal time. Government scientists see the death toll rising until at least April 12 and Britain must ultimately decide when to lift the lockdown.

Johnson’s move to intensive care added to the sense of upheaval that the coronavirus has wrought after its spread caused global panic, sowed chaos through financial markets and prompted the virtual shutdown of the world economy.

The United Kingdom is in a state of virtual lockdown, a situation due to be reviewed early next week, and some ministers have suggested it might need to be extended because some people were flouting the strict rules.

The pound dipped in Asian trading on news of Johnson’s intensive care treatment but then rallied in London trading. Against the dollar, sterling traded to a high of $1.2349, up 0.9% on the session.

CRITICISM

Even before coronavirus, Johnson had had a tumultuous year.

He won the top job in July 2019, renegotiated a Brexit deal with the European Union, fought a snap election in December which he won resoundingly and then led the United Kingdom out of the European Union on Jan 31 – promising to seal a Brexit trade deal by the end of this year.

The government has said it is not planning to seek an extension to that deadline in light of the epidemic.

Johnson has faced criticism for initially approving a much more modest response to the coronavirus outbreak than other major European leaders, though he then imposed a lockdown as projections showed half a million people could die.

He tested positive for the virus on March 26.

After 10 days of isolation in an apartment at Downing Street, he was admitted to hospital. He was last seen in a video message posted on Twitter on Friday when he looked weary.

James Gill, a doctor and a clinical lecturer at Warwick Medical School, said the news of Johnson’s admission to intensive care was “worrying” but not completely out of line with other people suffering complications.

(Additional reporting by Paul Sandle, Michael Holden, Costas Pitas, Kylie MacLellan, Alistair Smout and Kate Kelland; Writing by Kate Holton, Elizabeth Piper and Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Long lines, face masks in Wisconsin as voters head to polls despite coronavirus

By John Whitesides and Joseph Ax

(Reuters) – Wisconsin voters faced long lines at limited polling locations on Tuesday, as the state’s presidential primary and local elections moved ahead despite mounting fears about the coronavirus outbreak.

Outside Riverside High School in Milwaukee – where officials were forced to close 175 of 180 normal voting sites due to a lack of poll workers – masked voters stood several feet apart in a line that stretched for several blocks early on Tuesday, according to video taken by onlookers and local news media.

More than half of Wisconsin’s municipalities reported shortages of poll workers, prompting the Midwestern state to call up 2,400 National Guard troops to assist.

The election took place even though Wisconsin, like most U.S. states, has imposed a stay-at-home order on its residents. More than a dozen other states have postponed their elections in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has transformed Americans’ daily lives and plunged the economy into an apparent recession.

A flurry of 11th-hour legal wrangling failed to stop the balloting, as two late court rulings on Monday put the election, which will include Democratic and Republican presidential primaries and voting for thousands of state and local offices, back on track after days of uncertainty.

In deciding separate lawsuits brought by Republicans, the state Supreme Court blocked Democratic Governor Tony Evers’ order to delay the election until June and the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal judge’s decision extending absentee voting, instead ruling ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday to be counted.

“Now voters will be forced to choose between their health and their right to vote, an untenable choice that responsible public officials tried to avoid,” said Satya Rhodes-Conway, the Democratic mayor of Madison, Wisconsin.

The legal maneuvering overshadowed the Democratic presidential primary in Wisconsin, the first nominating contest held since March 17 in the race to pick a challenger to Republican President Donald Trump for the Nov. 3 election. The outbreak has pushed front-runner Joe Biden and rival Bernie Sanders off the campaign trail.

Former Vice President Biden has built a nearly insurmountable lead over Senator Sanders in the delegates who will pick the nominee at the national convention this summer. The convention, scheduled to be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has been postponed to August from July by the pandemic.

After a late-night meeting on Monday, the Wisconsin Elections Commission said no results of Tuesday’s voting would be released until April 13, the deadline for absentee ballots postmarked by Tuesday to be received.

In Milwaukee, the health commissioner in Wisconsin’s biggest city, Jeanette Kowalik, asked voters to wear masks, avoid reusing pens and stand at least six feet apart.

“I’m sorry, I wish I had the authority to protect us from this,” she wrote on Twitter.

(Reporting by John Whitesides and Joseph Ax; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Jonathan Oatis)

U.S. health officials say death toll may fall short of most dire projections

By Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two senior U.S. health officials have said they now believe the coronavirus outbreak may kill fewer Americans than some recent projections, pointing to tentative signs that the death toll was starting to level off in New York and other hot spots.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams on Tuesday said he concurred with the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that some research models have projected death totals that may prove too high, though neither would offer an alternate estimate.

The White House coronavirus task force projected a death toll of 100,000 to 240,000 a week ago, saying containing deaths to that range was possible if strict social distances measures were respected, implying it could go even higher.

Adams on Tuesday told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that he was encouraged by recent data showing a possible “flattening” of the outbreak in some areas, referring to the shape of the curve when deaths are shown on a graph.

Asked if he believed the death toll would come in below the dire White House task force projection, Adams said, “That’s absolutely my expectation.”

“I feel a lot more optimistic, again, because I’m seeing mitigation work,” he said, adding that he agreed with CDC director Robert Redfield that deaths could fall short of totals that some computer models showed.

The governors of New York, New Jersey and Louisiana pointed to tentative signs on Monday that the coronavirus outbreak may be starting to plateau but warned against complacency.

The coronavirus death toll has surpassed 10,000 in the United States and confirmed cases have topped 367,000.

President Donald Trump, who previously said the coronavirus would miraculously disappear, responded to the recent White House projection by saying any death toll less than 100,000 would be considered a success.

Redfield on Monday told KVOI radio in Tucson, Arizona, that social distancing of the type ordered by nearly all state governors was effective.

“If we just social distance, we will see this virus and this outbreak basically decline, decline, decline. And I think that’s what you’re seeing,” Redfield said. “I think you’re going to see the numbers are, in fact, going to be much less than what would have been predicted by the models.”

A research model from the University of Washington – one of several cited by leading health authorities – forecasts 81,766 U.S. coronavirus fatalities by Aug. 4, down about 12,000 from a weekend projection.

The pandemic has upended daily life around the globe, killing more than 74,000 people and infecting at least 1.3 million.

American hospitals have been overwhelmed with sufferers of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, reporting shortages of personnel, protective garments and other supplies while patients agonize alone, prohibited from receiving guests.

Even so, rates of growth and hospitalizations were slowing, possibly signaling a peak was at hand in three U.S. epicenters of the pandemic, the governors of New York and New Jersey said on Monday.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said statewide deaths from COVID-19 had leveled off around 600 per day in recent days, highest in the nation. But hospitalizations, admissions to intensive care units and the number of patients put on ventilator machines to keep them breathing had all declined, Cuomo said.

In neighboring New Jersey, the state with the second-highest number of cases and deaths, Governor Phil Murphy said efforts to reduce the spread “are starting to pay off.” Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards likewise expressed cautious optimism, noting that new hospital admissions were trending down.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Howard Goller)

One in five U.S. children with coronavirus may need hospital care: CDC

By Gene Emery

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Up to 20% of U.S. children infected by the novel coronavirus require hospitalization, with infants under age 1 most likely to be in that group, according to the government’s first in-depth analysis of the disease in the youngest patient population.

Compared with adults, children infected with the coronavirus are less likely to have symptoms and more likely to have a mild illness, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) analysis also found.

That confirms published studies from China, where the virus originated, suggesting the illness known as COVID-19 might be overlooked in children even as they are spreading it to adults.

Although children under age 18 make up 22% of the U.S. population, they accounted for only 1.7% of the 149,082 confirmed COVID-19 cases for which the patient’s age was known, researchers wrote in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Up to 2% of infected children required intensive care unit admission, the analysis found.

The rates for children are significantly lower than for adults under age 65, up to a third of whom require hospitalization, with up to 4.5% needing intensive care.

CDC researchers emphasize the findings are still based on incomplete data, as most cases lacked information on disease symptoms, severity or patients’ underlying conditions.

Despite the limitations, the data show COVID-19 may be producing different symptoms in the young.

While 56% of children for whom data was available had fever, the rate was 71% in adults. Cough was a symptom in 54% of kids versus 80% of adults. Shortness of breath developed in 13% of those under 18 versus 43% of adults under age 65.

Muscle aches and pains, sore throat, headache, and diarrhea were also less common in children.

One child who tested positive for the disease had no symptoms at all. Three infected children have died.

More than 355,000 people in the United States have tested positive for the disease, with coronavirus-related deaths crossing the 10,000 mark on Monday.

Among all the 2,572 cases in U.S. children through April 2, 33% were in New York City, 23% were from the rest of New York, 15% were in New Jersey and 29% were from the rest of the country.

The first pediatric case in the U.S. was reported to the CDC on March 2.

(Reporting by Gene Emery; editing by Nancy Lapid and Bill Berkrot)

U.S. small-business rescue loan program enters fourth day plagued by technical problems

By Pete Schroeder and Michelle Price

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. government’s $350 billion small-business rescue program entered its fourth day on Monday, plagued by technology and processing problems that are delaying disbursements to businesses hurt by the novel coronavirus, according to industry groups, bankers and an email seen by Reuters.

U.S. lenders, inundated by thousands of loan applications, struggled to access the government’s technology system for processing the paperwork over the weekend, and the paperwork itself changed more than once, the sources said.

“We know that your efforts have been frustrated with system issues, policy questions and slower than usual responses,” the Small Business Administration’s regional offices wrote to bankers on Saturday evening, according to an email seen by Reuters.

Many lenders have had problems signing up for new user accounts with the SBA’s platform, while bankers who already had accounts have had issues unlocking them or resetting passwords, the email said. It said the SBA was working to unlock all of the existing user accounts in one batch.

SBA also alerted lenders in the email that its technology platform’s loan authorization form was “not at all” compliant with the terms of the rescue program.

“Please do not close any loans using the current version of the loan authorization!” it said.

Congress created the unprecedented program as part of a $2.3 trillion stimulus package passed at the end of March to help businesses that have either shut down or have been dramatically curtailed by the coronavirus pandemic. Borrowers could apply for the loans via participating banks from Friday until June 30.

Over the weekend, the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA), which represents thousands of small banks, complained to the Treasury and SBA about the “failed technology” and “massive delays” its members were experiencing with the SBA platform, which was not designed to process the huge program.

Community bankers also took to social media to complain about the form changes and being locked out of the system, rebutting claims by President Donald Trump that all was going well.

“Going well?! Hell nearly every community bank in the nation is locked out of the … SBA platform!” Noah W. Wilcox, chief executive and chairman of Grand Rapids State Bank, who chairs the ICBA, tweeted on Sunday.

A senior Trump administration official on Monday defended the progress made so far and said launching such a huge program in just one week was unprecedented.

“As of today – Day 4 – we’ve surpassed $35 billion originated; more than 100,000 small businesses have successfully applied and more than 2,000 lending institutions are up and running,” the person said.

“Starting today, the SBA is offering a lender hotline and our 68 district offices across the country will be available to assist lenders,” the official added.

The Trump administration originally promised the loans in a matter of days. It was unclear how much of that $35 billion had been dished out to businesses as of Monday since the banks are the ones who disburse the funds. According to two industry sources, paperwork problems have prevented all but a fraction of banks from distributing the funds.

“It would have been better to have all these things resolved at the front end,” said Carrie Hunt, general counsel for the National Association of Federal Credit Unions.

Some small businesses say they have had problems even finding a willing lender given that many are backed up with thousands of applications and are not processing new clients.

Grant Geiger, CEO of EIR Healthcare, which makes modular healthcare products, said he spent Friday unsuccessfully searching for a bank to take his application after his current bank said it was not yet accepting submissions.

“We were ready last week. Friday morning, we had no place to go,” he told Reuters on Monday.

(Reporting by Michelle Price; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Sonya Hepinstall)

Sterling drops as PM Johnson sent to intensive care

By Karen Brettell

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Sterling dropped against the dollar and the euro on Monday after it was reported that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been moved into intensive care after his COVID-19 worsened.

“Over the course of this afternoon, the condition of the Prime Minister has worsened and, on the advice of his medical team, he has been moved to the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital,” Downing Street said.

Sterling dropped against the greenback to $1.225, from around $1.230 before the report. The euro gained to 0.881 pence against to pound, from 0.877 pence before the news.

“If he is impaired from resuming his official duties, then it creates some complications but we have to wait and watch,” said Ilan Solot, an FX strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman.

British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab is designated to take over leadership of the country if Johnson is unable to fulfil his role.

“It is unclear what the emergency succession plan would be for the prime minister. Markets hate uncertainty and this does not bode well for further steps in battling COVID-19 and for future Brexit trade negotiations,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA in New York.

The drop in sterling came as the market more broadly reflected stronger risk appetite on optimism that the spread of the novel coronavirus in the United States and Europe could be tapering.

The governors of New York and New Jersey said on Monday their states were showing tentative signs of a “flattening” of the coronavirus outbreak, but they warned against complacency as the nationwide death toll topped 10,000 and the number of cases reached 350,000.

European nations including hard-hit Italy and Spain have started looking ahead to easing coronavirus lockdowns after steady falls in fatality rates.

“Today’s currency moves are following the risk-on playbook closely,” analysts at Wells Fargo led by Erik Nelson said in a report on Monday.

The Australian dollar <AUD=> jumped 1.55% to $0.6088.

The dollar gained 0.64% against the Japanese currency <JPY=> to 109.14 yen.

Japan is to impose a state of emergency in Tokyo and six other prefectures as early as Tuesday to contain the coronavirus, while the government prepares a $990 billion stimulus package to soften the economic blow.

But, “we think today’s JPY weakness has more to do with the strength in global equities than reports of a possible state of emergency declaration in Tokyo,” Wells Fargo said.

The euro dipped before euro zone finance ministers are expected to converge on Tuesday on three quick options to support the economy during the epidemic.

Officials have until April 9 to design a package that satisfies members with completely opposing views: those calling for joint debt issuance and those fiercely against it.

The single currency <EUR=> was last down 0.11% against the dollar at $1.0796.

(Additional reporting by Saikat Chatterjee and Dhara Ranasinghe in London; Editing by David Gregorio and Marguerita Choy)