(Bloomberg) -- China said the U.S. was trying to shift the blame for its own outbreak after American intelligence officials concluded Beijing concealed infections. Earlier, a county in central China was locked down again after a flare-up in cases, pointing to the difficulty of sustained containment.
There are signs that the worst may soon be over in Italy, but deaths in New York and New Jersey doubled in three days and the mayor of Los Angeles asked the whole city to wear masks outside. The Pentagon is seeking 100,000 body bags amid warnings deaths could soar.
In Britain, almost one million people have claimed welfare payments in the past two weeks and a financial regulator proposed freezing some credit card repayments. Spanish jobless claims rose by a record, and filings for U.S. unemployment benefits are set to top 3 million again.
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Trump, Pelosi Put 2017 Tax Law on Table in Next Aid Round (4 p.m. HK)
Some of the most contested pieces of the 2017 tax overhaul are being revisited as the White House and Congress begin to discuss another round of economic stimulus, including restoring the break for entertaining business clients and lifting the cap on state and local deductions.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said the next coronavirus response bill should suspend the $10,000 cap on deductions for state and local taxes. President Donald Trump wants to restore a tax break for corporate client outings, dinners, sporting games, concerts and cruises, which were limited under the tax overhaul.
Global Food Prices Fall to Five-Month Low (4 p.m. HK)
World food prices fell 4.3% from the prior month to 172.2 points in March, the United Nations' Food & Agriculture Organization said. The drop to the lowest level since October was driven by demand contractions because of the pandemic.
Global cereal markets are expected to remain "balanced and comfortable" despite worries over the impacts of COVID-19, the agency said.
Russia Reports 28% Increase in Cases (3:34 p.m. HK)
Russia reported 771 new cases overnight, bringing the total number of infected to 3,548, Interfax reported, citing Russian consumer health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor. Moscow accounts for 595 out of the new cases.
Western Australia to Close Border (3:19 p.m. HK)
Western Australia state will close its border from 11:59 p.m. local time on Sunday to minimize the coronavirus spread, Premier Mark McGowan told reporters. "We will be turning Western Australia into an island within an island," McGowan said. "Our isolation is now our best defense"
Spanish Jobless Claims Rise by Most on Record (3:03 p.m. HK)
Claims rose by 302,265 in March, the highest monthly increase on record and the services sector saw the most significant jump. The increase in jobless hits particularly hard in Spain, where the unemployment rate is already 13.8%, among the highest in the developed world.
Spain is one of the countries at the center of Europe's coronavirus outbreak, with more than 9,000 deaths. In mid-March, the government ordered most people to stay home and since then companies have temporarily laid off hundreds of thousands of workers. A similar situation is unfolding elsewhere, with jobless claims jumping in the U.S., and thousands of companies in Germany cutting workers' hours.
China Accuses U.S. of Shifting Virus Blame (2:53 p.m. HK)
China accused the U.S. of seeking to shift the blame for its own coronavirus outbreak after the American intelligence community concluded that Beijing had concealed the extent of the problem. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying defended China's response to the virus first discovered in the city of Wuhan last year as open and transparent.
Hua was responding to a Bloomberg News report saying that the U.S. intelligence community had concluded in a classified report to the White House that Beijing under-reported both total cases and deaths from the disease. "Some U.S. officials just want to shift the blame," Hua said.
China's public reporting on cases and deaths is intentionally incomplete, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing three officials, who asked not to be identified because the report is secret. Two of the officials said the report concludes that China's numbers are fake.
Outbreak Spurs Near-Sealing of Israeli Ultra-Orthodox City (2:31 p.m. HK)
Israel has taken the unprecedented step of nearly sealing off an ultra-Orthodox Jewish city where a coronavirus outbreak is raging after many residents flouted social distancing orders.
Entry and exit to Bnei Brak will be limited "to the necessary minimum," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said late on Wednesday, adding that some parts of the ultra-Orthodox community are showing a "redoubled rate" of new virus cases.
Ultra-Orthodox accounted for as much as 60% of the patients at Israel's major hospitals, Channel 12 reported earlier this week. On Thursday, Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, an ultra-Orthodox Jew, tested positive for the illness.
U.K. Proposes Freeze on Credit-Card Payments (2:19 p.m. HK)
The Financial Conduct Authority, the U.K.'s top market regulator, set out its expectations of firms to offer a temporary payment freeze on loans and credit cards where consumers face financial difficulties from the virus.
Boeing May Announce Staff Buyouts (1:16 p.m. HK)
The U.S. planemaker is expected to announce voluntary staff buyouts in a message to its 161,000 employees on Thursday, said a person familiar with the plans. Boeing and rival Airbus SE face a contraction in demand as airlines around the world pare schedules during the outbreak.
No details were available on the size of the workforce reductions at Boeing, or the areas where they might occur, said the person, who asked not to be identified as the matter is confidential.
Germany Sees 'Marathon' Battle (1:15 p.m. HK)
Germany is deploying 15,000 armed forces personnel to help civil authorities tackle the outbreak. "The fight against corona will be a long one," Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said in an interview with public broadcaster ARD. "It's a marathon, and in the end it will be about everyone being able to stay the course."
Philippine Lockdown Protesters Can Be Shot (1:09 p.m. HK)
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gave authorities the green light to shoot dead protesters who attempt to riot or disrupt food distribution during a lockdown prompted by the Covid-19 outbreak.
Chinese County Back Under Lockdown (1:05 p.m. HK)
A county in central China has been put under lockdown again after a flareup in cases, pointing to the difficulty of sustaining containment when carriers show no signs of sickness.
Jia county, with a population of about 640,000, issued a directive Wednesday asking all residential compounds to be sealed off, and those visiting and leaving homes to produce identity cards, wear masks and submit to temperature checks.
Outbreak Approaches Key Milestones (12 p.m. HK)
The world will hit 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases this week. While the real figure is almost certainly past that mark due to undercounting or lack of testing, the official tally may surpass 1 million in the next 24-48 hours.
The U.S. will also shortly have twice as many confirmed cases as any other country. If you're in America, this may possibly happen by the time you wake up in the morning. Read more here.
Australia Offers Free Childcare (11:34 a.m. HK)
Australia is offering free childcare to about 1 million families as the government steps up efforts to cushion the impact of the coronavirus. The support will "deliver hip pocket relief" to families while ensuring childcare centers can stay open during the crisis. The sector is expected to receive A$1.6 billion ($973 million) over the coming three months in taxpayer subsidies, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement.
BP Workers Test Positive (11:31 a.m. HK)
Workers at BP's Gulf of Mexico, Alaska and Indiana refinery operations were infected with Covid-19. Several workers who had previously been on one offshore Gulf platform tested positive, a spokeswoman said.
L.A. Mayor Urges City to Mask Up (10:17 a.m. HK)
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti recommended residents use face covers when outside for essential activities to stop the virus spreading from people who aren't showing any symptoms. He urged using cloth, or even a tucked-in bandana, to slow the spread of infectious droplets.
"Please do not get medical-grade or surgical masks," he said. "We must not contribute to the shortage." The mayor estimated his city is 14 days behind New York in cases per capita. He also said Los Angeles had brought criminal charges against eight businesses not in compliance with an order to shut down unless deemed "essential."
Trump Seeks Walmart's Help for Surgical Gowns (8:40 a.m. HK)
Walmart Inc. will help the U.S. government procure surgical gowns amid a shortage of personal protective equipment, after President Trump called Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon directly.
The world's largest retailer will delve into its sprawling global supply chain to identify a company to make an undisclosed number of gowns, a Walmart spokesman said.
Thousands Stranded in Cruise-Ship Standoff (8:29 a.m. HK)
A cruise-ship operator with six vessels stranded off Australia is calling on the nation to help evacuate thousands of crew as the outbreak ravages the industry.
Carnival Plc said it needs Australia's help to bring crew to shore so they can return to their home countries. The government had a duty to act on humanitarian grounds, Carnival said.
Global Times Slams Report of China Concealment (8:06 a.m. HK)
U.S. intelligence's conclusion that China under-reported its infections is an attempt to divert attention from surging deaths in the U.S. and other Western nations, Global Times's Editor-in-Chief Hu Xijin said.
Hu, who made the remarks on his own Weibo account, said there was no way to seriously fabricate data in today's China, especially about an incident that has drawn such widespread attention.
Trump Says China's Virus Count Seems 'Light' (6:27 a.m. HK)
Trump said he hadn't received an intelligence report about discrepancies in China's total cases and deaths, but said "their numbers seem to be a little bit on the light side."
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