Categories
Economy

Winnipeg man starts dream job — right as coronavirus pandemic hits

It seemed like great timing for a Winnipeg man to quit his longtime career to follow his dream of owning a yoga studio — at least until COVID-19 reared its ugly head.

Reid Davies, new co-owner of Modo Yoga, says he’s staying positive, despite the coronavirus pandemic scuppering his plans — at least for the time being.

“My big piece of life advice to everybody, when they ask me how I’m doing in my new world, is just ‘don’t buy two yoga studios right before a pandemic.’”

Davies said he had been working in sales for most of his career, and although he enjoyed the people and the companies he worked for, the extensive travel across Canada and the U.S. was losing its appeal. He wanted a career with a better work-life balance.

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“When I went to my first yoga class about 11 years ago, I thought, ‘I’m gonna be a yoga teacher one day, when I grow up’… and then the opportunity sort of came about last summer,” he said.

To stay active within that community, he said Modo has been offering on-demand virtual classes, as well as live classes via Instagram, and has been keeping connected with technology as much as possible.

Besides, he said, if there was ever a business to be in during such a stressful, uncertain time, it’s yoga.

“When I put in my application for becoming a member of this community and an owner, they say, ‘why yoga?’, and my first line was, ‘my family likes me better when I’m doing yoga.’

“I think this is the perfect time to start doing yoga.”


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World News

Spain overtakes China in coronavirus infections

MADRID (Reuters) – Spain overtook China in the number of those infected with coronavirus on Monday, as the government tightened restrictions on a population entering its third week under one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe.

Business leaders criticized Spain’s actions over the weekend to ban all non-essential work until mid-April and to extend for another two weeks a nationwide shutdown that has paralyzed industries like car manufacturing and tourism.

“If you stop the country, we’ll have a huge social problem within five months,” Antonio Garamendi, president of Spain’s business association, said in a television interview.

The total number of infections rose to 85,195 on Monday, above the 81,470 registered in China where the disease originated. An overnight death toll of 812 people brought fatalities in Spain from the virus to 7,340.

Still, the daily infection increase has slowed since the introduction of lockdown measures, falling to 12% on average in the past five days from around 20% in the preceding 10 days, said health emergency spokeswoman Maria Jose Sierra, brought in to substitute for her predecessor who has tested positive for the virus.

Madrid held a minute of silence for the victims of the disease, and Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings was played from loudspeakers at the town hall while the regional, Spanish and European Union flags flew at half mast.

The government said it was imposing caps on funeral prices, following reports that undertakers were taking advantage of increased demand.

The left-wing government must tread a fine line between slowing the spread of a disease that has overwhelmed the health service and preserving employment in a country with the second-highest jobless rate in Europe.

The government gave businesses an extra 24 hours to wind down operations, with full closure of non-essential activity to start on Tuesday.

Spain unveiled earlier this month a 200 billion euro ($220 billion) economic aid package to help furloughed workers get benefits and businesses draw state-backed credit lines.

In further measures to soften the blow of the outbreak, the government is likely to approve on Tuesday a moratorium on rent for vulnerable groups like unemployed people with dependents, government sources said.

However, in a show of how some parts of the economy such as grocery retail are booming as people hunker down at home, supermarket chain Dia said on Monday it had hired 1,000 people to deal with increased demand in online orders.

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World News

What qualifies as an essential service under B.C.’s coronavirus response?

The provincial government has outlined what qualifies as an essential service, as it brings in substantial new measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Under B.C.’s response to the pandemic, essential services are defined by government and the provincial health officer as services that people rely on in their daily lives.

This is different from what is designated an essential service under B.C.’s Labour Relations Code, which requires certain sectors to still provide a basic level of service if they take job action during a labour dispute.

Essential services, as set out under COVID-19, “should and are encouraged to remain open,” the province says, as long as they obey public health orders to reduce the spread of the virus.

All other businesses, if they haven’t already been ordered to shut, “may stay open” as long as they obey public health orders.

The ban on gatherings of more than 50 people and a required physical distance of one to two metres between people has led to the forced closure of bars, restaurants, cafes and personal-service businesses such as hair salons and spas.

Specifically on childcare, the province says childcare provides must prioritize looking after children whose parents are front-line workers such as health workers, first responders, and law enforcement.

Here is the B.C. government’s list of essential services:

Health services

All health-care services, including acute care, secondary/long-term care, coroners’ services, health-care providers working within and outside an acute care setting and other health services, including public health, detox facilities, safe-injection sites, COVID-19 testing, clinical research supporting the COVID-19 response, blood/plasma donation services and emergency pre-hospitalization services.

Other health services and caregivers including physicians, dentists, psychiatrists, psychologists, mid-level practitioners, nurses and assistants, infection-control and quality-assurance personnel, pharmacists, physical and occupational therapists and assistants, social workers, mental-health and substance-use workers, including peer support workers, speech pathologists, diagnostic and therapeutic technicians and technologists, counsellors, chiropractors, naturopaths, dentists, crisis centres, outreach workers, overdose and harm-reduction services, meal programs.

Health first responders (paramedics) providing emergency care.

Pharmaceutical production, medical laboratories/research, medical testing, pharmacies, medical supply and equipment manufacturers, wholesale, distribution and stores, and analytical testing labs related to testing of finished product for pathogens and contaminants.

Safety supply (e.g., work clothes, personal protective equipment, medical/pharmaceutical/ laboratory supplies, etc.) stores, manufacturers, technicians, logistics and warehouse operators.

Medical wholesale distribution.

Health plans, billing and health information.

Law enforcement and emergency response personnel

First responders, including police, fire and those services providing for public safety, including commercial vehicle safety enforcement, corrections and detainment facilities, park rangers, security and protective services, court services, bylaw enforcement, as well as communications/dispatching support for first responders and volunteers, such as search-and-rescue and public-safety lifeline volunteers.

Public-sector workers for peace, order and good government, and employees of contracted service providers in these fields, including maintenance of technical infrastructure to support this work and compliance with health and public-safety orders,

Businesses providing support to police and correctional services; operations and services in support of the Canadian Armed Forces and Canada Border Services Agency; emergency management personnel at local, regional and provincial levels; businesses that ensure global continuity of supply of aggregates to support critical infrastructure repairs and emergency response requirements (e.g., sandbags, armour stone barriers, etc.) and equipment and uniform suppliers for first responders.

Service providers for vulnerable people

Businesses and non-profits that provide food, shelter, social and support services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise vulnerable individuals, such as food banks, community kitchens, and voluntary and community service providers.

Residential health facilities; mental-health, substance-use and addictions services; transitional, social and supportive housing; single-room occupancy housing;

Community services and outreach for immigrants, refugees, vulnerable populations and non-market housing, including businesses that sell, rent or repair assistive/mobility/medical devices, aids and/or supplies, care for seniors, adults, children or individuals with disabilities.

Childcare services for those persons providing essential services, caregivers for children in care and out of care, elder and disability care, including disabled service support for people with physical and cognitive disabilities, residential care for individuals with mental health and substance use challenges, including licensed and registered treatment and recovery facilities

Government and non-profit service delivery staff who provide access to income supports for people in need of food and shelter, residential and care facilities and shelters for seniors, adults, children and people with disabilities, overdose prevention sites, clinical overdose prevention services or medical marijuana provision and businesses that sell, rent or repair assistive/mobility/medical devices, aids and/or supplies, or other products/services that support the health sector, including mental-health and addictions/counselling supports.

Critical infrastructure service providers

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Infrastructure, drilling and production, refineries, processing, completion facilities, utilities, transportation, transmission, stations and storage facilities critical in supporting daily essential electricity needs, drinking water, waste water, electricity (including associated infrastructure), steam, alternative energy production, waste and hazardous management, industrial recycling, oil and natural and propane gas, fuel and other fuel sources, such as heating oil and wood pellets, as well as operating staff.

Manufacturing of goods necessary for the continued and immediate operation of other essential infrastructure and businesses, gas stations, diesel, propane and heating fuel providers including providers of motor vehicle, aircraft and water/marine fuels, and providers of charging stations for electric vehicle.

Operations and employees needed to operate and maintain drinking water and wastewater/drainage infrastructure, including: operational staff at water authorities, operational staff at community water systems, operational staff at wastewater treatment facilities, workers repairing water and wastewater conveyances and performing required sampling or monitoring, operational staff for water distribution and testing, operational staff at wastewater collection facilities

Operational staff and technical support for supervisory control, data-acquisition control systems,
chemical disinfectant suppliers for wastewater and personnel protection; workers who maintain digital systems infrastructure supporting water and wastewater operations.

Food and agriculture service providers

Food cultivation, including farming, livestock, aquaculture and fishing, and businesses that support the food supply chain as well as community gardens and subsistence agriculture

Food processing, manufacturing, storage and distribution of foods, feed products and beverages.

Workers essential to maintaining or repairing equipment in food processing and distribution centres; workers, including temporary foreign workers, to support agricultural operations to enhance food security.

Retail workers including grocery stores, convenience stores, farmers markets and other establishments engaged in the retail sale or provision of food, pet or livestock supply, liquor, cannabis (including producers), and any other household consumer products, such as cleaning and personal care products.

This includes stores that sell groceries and also sell other non-grocery products, and products necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation and essential daily operation of residences such as home supply, hardware, building material stores, pawn brokers, and garden centres and nurseries,
farming supply, including seed, fertilizer, pesticides, farm-machinery sales and maintenance.

Inspection services and associated regulatory and government workforce and supporting businesses required for slaughter of animals, dairy production and food safety and businesses that provide for the health and welfare of animals, including veterinarians, farms, boarding kennels, stables, animal shelters, zoos, aquariums, research facilities and other service providers.

Transportation, infrastructure and manufacturing

Supply chain services needed to supply goods for societal functioning, including cooling, storing, packaging, transportation, warehousing and distribution, workers who support the maintenance and operation of cargo transportation services, including crews, maintenance, operations and other facilities workers, manufacturers and distributors (to include service centres and related operations) of packaging materials, pallets, crates, containers and other supplies needed to support manufacturing, packaging staging and distribution operations.

Truck drivers who haul hazardous and waste materials to support critical infrastructure, capabilities, functions, and municipal and provincial services, local, regional, and provincial delivery services, including but not limited to businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, goods or services directly to business and residences and mailing and shipping services.

Services to support and enable transportation, including highway, road, bridge maintenance and repair; employees who repair, maintain and overhaul vehicles, aircraft and parts, rail equipment, marine vessels, and the equipment and infrastructure that enables operations that encompass movement of cargo and passengers, as well as vehicle rentals and leasing.

Services that facilitate the transportation of essential supplies, personnel and services, including port/waterfront operations, road, air and rail operations, facilities supporting interprovincial and intra-provincial delivery of goods, including truck scales, commercial vehicle inspection stations, brokerages, truck towing and repair services, commercial cardlock fuel providers, truck and rest stops.

Government-owned or leased buildings.

Businesses that supply other essential businesses and people working from home with the support or supplies necessary to operate; private transportation services, such as taxis, ride-hailing, helicopter, aircraft and marine vessels and public transportation services under rules for physical distancing or other recommendations from the provincial health officer.

Workers supporting the chemical and industrial gas supply chains, including workers at chemical manufacturing plants, workers in laboratories, workers at distribution facilities, workers who transport basic raw chemical materials to the producers of industrial and consumer goods and support the natural resource sector, as well as workers supporting safety at such facilities.

Provision of public services that support the safe operation of regulated businesses those that support those businesses to meet other regulatory requirements

Workers who support the operation, inspection, and maintenance of essential public works facilities and operations as well as workers who support the inspection and maintenance for ongoing safety at industrial facilities.

Inspectors who ensure worksites are safe and health for workers, and who investigate serious workplace accidents, workers who process and manage claims made by injured workers, including services related to their care and treatment, as well as the provision of workers’ compensation benefits.

Hotels and places of accommodation.

Activities of the consuls general and staff who support the work of the consuls general.

Landlords of buildings where consulates are located and those who must guarantee access to consular offices as well as the operation of the consular offices.

Storage for essential businesses.

Businesses that provide materials and services for the operation, maintenance and safety of transportation systems (road, transit, rail, air and marine) including delivery of maintenance services, such as clearing snow, response to collisions and completing needed repairs to transportation systems.

Businesses that extract, manufacture, process and distribute goods, products, equipment and materials, including businesses that manufacture inputs to other manufacturers (e.g., primary metal/steel, blow moulding, component manufacturers, chemicals, etc., that feed the end-product manufacturer).

Vegetation management crews and traffic workers who support environmental remediation/monitoring and who respond to environmental emergencies.

Businesses providing staffing services, including temporary labour services

Businesses that support the safe operations of residences, essential businesses and facilities/buildings.

Sanitation

Cleaning services necessary to provide and maintain disinfection.

Manufacturing of sanitary products, household paper products, chemicals, microelectronics/semi-conductor, including companies able to retrofit their production facilities to produce goods/services that can be used to address critical shortages of sanitary and protective goods.

Businesses that support environmental management/monitoring and spill cleanup and response, including environmental consulting firms, professional engineers and geoscientists, septic haulers, well drillers, pesticides applicators and exterminators, management of industrial sewage/effluent (e.g., for mining operations) and environmental laboratories and waste (garbage and organics) and recycling collection, processing and disposal.

Communications, information sharing and information technology (IT)

Workers maintaining IT and communications infrastructure for medical facilities, governments facilities, emergency response and command agencies, energy and utilities, banks and financial institutions, employees working from home, and other critical infrastructure categories and personnel, including managing information and cyber-security incidents.

Newspapers, television, radio, online news outlets and other media services.

IT, radio, cable providers and telecommunications services, including phone, internet, wireless communications and data centres.

Satellite operations, undersea cable landing stations, internet exchange points, and manufacturers and distributors of communications equipment.

Non-health essential service providers

Feed, water, bedding, veterinary care, veterinary supply, transport and processing services for livestock, animal shelters and pets.

Coroners and workers performing mortuary services, including funeral homes, crematoriums and cemeteries, as well as workers supporting the appropriate handling, identification, storage, transportation and certification of human remains.

Banks and their branches, credit unions and related financial institutions, as well as workers who support security and technical operations supporting financial institutions.

Capital markets, including the BC Securities Commission, self-regulatory organizations, exchanges, clearing agencies and investment-fund dealers, advisers and managers.

Services related to bankruptcy/credit restructuring and non-bank sources of capital, cheque-cashing outlets, money sending and money remittance services, currency exchange services and pawn brokers.

Accounting, payroll, translation services, legal services and insurance providers; insurance assessment and adjudication providers.

Plumbers, electricians, elevator maintenance providers, exterminators, property management services, custodial/janitorial workers, cleaning services, fire safety and sprinkler systems, building systems maintenance and repair technicians, engineers, mechanics, smelters and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation and daily essential operation of residences and commercial buildings.

Educational institutions — including public and private K-12 schools, and public post-secondary institutions — for purposes of facilitating remote learning or performing essential functions, including services that are needed to ensure the safety, security, welfare, integrity and health of the community, property and research and certain operational and contractual activities, if operating under public-health orders for social and physical distancing or other recommendations.

In relation to research universities, services including COVID-19-related research, residential housing and food services for students on campus, building operations and risk management, animal care services, health services for students, IT including data security and infrastructure, finance/payroll/administration/HR/communications and childcare for essential university staff.

Laundromats, dry cleaners and laundry-service providers.

Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food, if operating under public-health orders for social and physical distancing or other recommendations.

Towing services and other vehicle repair/maintenance operations.

Schools and other entities that provide free food services to students or members of the public, if operating under rules for physical distancing or other health recommendations.

Construction work, in accordance with health-official direction, construction firms, skilled trades and professionals, and construction and light industrial machinery and equipment rental.

Businesses that ensure global continuity of supply of primary and value-added forestry/silviculture products (e.g., lumber, pulp, paper, wood fuel, etc.) including soft-pulp products, such as protective masks, gowns, drapes, screens and other hospital supplies, as well as household paper products;
postal services, including both public and private mailing, shipping, logistics, courier, delivery services and post office boxes.

Research services supporting essential sectors, including medical/clinical research and industrial research.

All government (local, regional, provincial) functions or services.

Businesses and non-profits that provide support services to citizens and businesses on behalf of government – these include but are not limited to: income assistance and disability assistance, pensions, residential tenancy, BC Services Card, drivers’ licensing, Affordable Child Care Benefit, Medical Services Plan, forest-worker support programs, notary, commissioner, affidavits, pesticide exams, invigilation for essential trades, 1 888 COVID19, verify by video, and helpdesk for BCeID.

Weather forecasters.

Businesses that ensure global continuity of supply of mining materials and products (e.g., metals such as copper, nickel and gold) and that support supply chains including mining operations, production and processing; mineral exploration and development and mining supply and services that support supply chains in the mining industry including maintenance of operations, health and safety.

Workers at operations centres necessary to maintain other essential functions.

Professional services, including lawyers and paralegals, engineers, accountants, translators.

Land registration services and real estate agent services.

Building code enforcement, inspection of buildings, building sites and building systems by building officials and registered professionals (architects and engineers).

Public washrooms and hygiene facilities (toilets, handwash stations, showers) for unsheltered persons.

Parks and green space for public health and sheltering (for people experiencing homelessness).

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Business

U.S. corporate crisis bailouts may prove bonanza for insider trading, new study warns

WASHINGTON/BOSTON (Reuters) – White-collar crime prosecutors and defense attorneys are likely to be busy following a massive economic stimulus package from the U.S. Congress aimed at mitigating the fallout from the coronavirus, according to a new academic study of insider trading.

The research, from scholars at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Stanford University, University of Cambridge and IESE Business School, found insider trading profitability jumped dramatically during the 2007-2009 global financial crisis and subsequent government bailout.

“Anytime the government picks winner and losers, there is a greater opportunity for insider trading by connected individuals,” said Daniel Taylor, an associate professor at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and one of the authors of the report.

The report analyzed trading by corporate insiders at leading financial institutions before and after Congress finalized its $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to purchase toxic assets from troubled lenders, the details of which were largely thrashed out by executives and government officials in private.

The study, published online this month in the Journal of Finance, found evidence of abnormal trading by politically connected insiders 30 days ahead of the TARP infusions, which either boosted or hit company share prices, depending on the situation.

The researchers examined open market purchases and sales by officers and directors at 497 publicly traded institutions between 2005 and 2011. They then compared the trades placed by insiders who appeared to have identifiable connections at regulators, the Treasury and Congress, with the trades placed by insiders who appeared to have no such connection.

During the period over which TARP funds were disbursed, the one-month-ahead future returns between purchases and sales by insiders with political connections was 8.89% versus 2.81% for those without, according to the study. It also identified a pronounced increase in the trading activity of politically connected insiders 30 days prior to the TARP announcement.

“I hope we can avoid repeating it this time around, but I am not optimistic,” Taylor said.

Wall Street rallied for a second straight session on Wednesday as the U.S. Senate neared a vote on a $2 trillion package to support businesses and households devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. The package will include a $500 billion fund to help hard-hit industries including airlines, and at least $100 billion for hospitals and related health systems.

Concerns are already growing that some individuals may have gained an edge amid the chaos by getting material information on the spread of the coronavirus and regulatory moves ahead of the rest of the world.

Most notably, the U.S. dollar pared gains moments before the Federal Reserve announced last week that it was launching a new dollar funding facility for nine central banks to ease a global dollar crunch, Reuters reported.

Separately, two Republican U.S. senators were criticized last week for selling large amounts of stock before the coronavirus-induced market meltdown and after closed-door briefings on the coronavirus outbreak.

Legally, trades that may be based on information gleaned from political connections occupy a “gray area” since the information may be valuable, but may not relate to a particular company or sector, or even be very specific, said Taylor.

“I[t]s something that causes the insider to revise their beliefs about future value, but it’s not a hard piece of information. The legal definition of insider trading differs from the economic definition,” said Taylor.

On Monday, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) warned executives against insider trading, noting the coronavirus disruption was increasing the number of people with access to material non-public information.

“I would not be surprised if enforcement activity picked up,” said Kathleen Ceglarski Burns, a partner in Nixon Peabody’s Litigation department. “I would expect the government will likely look closely at financial reporting, risk disclosures and corporate insider trading as well.”

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World News

Coronavirus aid bill negotiations continue, agreement in principle reached: sources

The House of Commons was expected to sit Tuesday for the tabling of legislation meant to provide economic support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But as of Tuesday night, talks over the draft bill stretched on.

Negotiations continued through the night and, at 11 p.m., opposition party sources said they expected it would be at least a few hours before legislation was expected to be put before the House.

Earlier, sources said that an agreement in principle had been reached.

Under the special operating rules for this extraordinary sitting of the House of Commons, a relief package and other measures can only be passed by unanimous consent of all Liberal, Conservative, BQ and NDP MPs in the House.

One Conservative MP said the party was ready to pass the aid package but not if it was a “power grab” for the Liberals.

“We asked them to remove the power grab,” tweeted Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre just before 11:45 p.m. ET. “They have not gotten back to us. As of 11:39pm, we haven’t seen a new bill.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had earlier said that proposed sweeping new powers to let the government spend money without parliamentary approval are needed because the COVID-19 pandemic presents an “exceptional situation.”

Speaking with reporters in his daily briefing outside Rideau Cottage, where he is in self-isolation, Trudeau was questioned on proposals that Global News first reported were contained in a draft version of the coronavirus support bill.

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World News

Coronavirus latest: WHO warns pandemic is ‘accelerating’ as worrying new figures emerge

New figures have shown the sharp acceleration in global cases of Covid-19. It took 67 days from the first reported of Covid-19 to reach 100,000 cases, 11 days for the second 100,000, and just four days for the third 100,000.

Now WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has spoken out about the spiralling global pandemic.

Offering a glimmer of hope, the Director General said it was still possible to “change the trajectory”.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Fifa president Gianni Infantino, Mr Ghebreyesus urged countries to adopt rigorous testing and contact-tracing strategies.

The WHO Director General attended the conference to launch a “kick out coronavirus” campaign featuring world famous footballers.

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Dr Tedros said asking people to stay at home and other social-distancing measures were an important way of slowing down the spread of the virus.

However, he made it clear this would not be enough to beat the disease.

He described them as “defensive measures that will not help us to win”.

He said: “To win, we need to attack the virus with aggressive and targeted tactics – testing every suspected case, isolating and caring for every confirmed case, and chasing and quarantining every close contact.”

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Dr Tedros expressed alarm at reports from around the world of large numbers of infections among health workers.

This appeared to be the result of a shortage of adequate personal protective equipment.

“Health workers can only do their jobs effectively when they can do their jobs safely,” he warned.

“Even if we do everything else right, if we don’t prioritise protecting health workers many people will die because the health worker who could have saved their life is sick.”

He said the WHO has been working with its partners to rationalise and prioritise the use of protective equipment, and to address the global shortage of it.

However, the official noted measures put in place to slow the spread of the virus may have “unintended consequences of exacerbating shortages of essential protective gear and the materials needed to make them.”

The WHO chief called for “political commitment and political co-ordination at the global level.”

Dr. Tedros revealed he would ask G20 group of nations at the G20 summit this week to work together to boost production of protective equipment, avoid export bans and ensure equity of distribution on the basis of need.

This comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson made an address to the nation yesterday evening in which he ordered Britons to stay home.

Mr Johnson ordered all shops selling “non-essential goods” to close, as well as other premises including libraries, playgrounds, outdoor gyms and places of worship.

Mr Johnson said that “the time has now come for us all to do more.”

He also told the public that the police now has the power to fine those who do not abide by the news measures.

They may also break up public gatherings.

Last week the Prime Minister made an urgent plea for retired NHS workers to return to work.

In an unprecedented call-to-arms, NHS England are surveying those who have recently left the health service on what type of role they could take on either through NHS 111 or face-to-face.

Staff will be asked to “opt in” to a register to fill a range of clinical and non-clinical roles across the NHS based on their skills and time away from practice.

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World News

Kenya's High Court holds open air hearings to slow spread of coronavirus

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Gloved judges heard applications for bail on Friday as Kenya’s high court held hearings outside the building to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.

“This is justice under the tree,” said High Court advocate Ham Lagat, who was applying for bail for a security guard accused of killing a student in a fight. “Everyone should be given a chance to – you know – participate in fighting for his right.”

After he spoke some of the court papers in the criminal case were blown away by wind and picked up by a plainclothes police officer.Kenya’s judiciary announced on Sunday that courts would scale down their activities for two weeks to “design appropriate measures to prevent the spread of the virus”.

Only serious matters are being heard. All appeals, hearings and mentions in criminal and civil cases are suspended and foreign travel was banned for judiciary staff.

Concern over unsanitary conditions in crowded jails also means that prisoners are not being presented in court. The Red Cross visited the prison service this week to try to help prevent the virus from reaching prison populations.

A number of countries have scaled down court activities or banned the public from attending cases over fears of the virus spreading. So far it has infected nearly 253,000 people across the world and the death toll exceeds 10,400.

Kenya has reported seven cases but instituted strict controls, including banning the entry of foreigners from countries that have reported cases.

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World News

U.S.-Mexico border restrictions on the table as coronavirus spreads

The United States and Mexico are working on plans to halt much of cross-border travel without disrupting trade during the coronavirus outbreak, officials said.

Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said Thursday he proposed steps to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that “won’t paralyze economic activity and keep the border open to commerce and work.” He promised details on Friday.

Pompeo said on Twitter that he was working closely with his Mexican counterpart “on travel restrictions that balance protecting our citizens from further transmission of #COVID19. Together, we can reduce public health risks and prioritize essential cross-border commerce and trade.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials briefed business leaders Thursday on plans to prohibit nonessential travel, similar to a measure announced earlier this week on the Canadian border, said Paola Avila, chair of the Border Trade Alliance, a business group.

The measure would effectively close the U.S. to all tourist and recreational visits along the Mexican border, said Avila, who participated in a conference call with CBP officials. Administration officials said the U.S. would announce it as early as Friday, though details were still being worked out and subject to change, she said.

U.S. officials provided a long list of “essential” workers that would be unaffected going to and from their jobs, including farmworkers, restaurant and grocery store employees and bus drivers, said Avila. Mexico was preparing similar restrictions on visitors from the United States.

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Categories
Politics

Trump says he's attending meetings on COVID-19 at White House

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said that he is attending White House meetings on Saturday on the COVID-19 outbreak caused by the coronavirus and would issue a “full report later.”

Trump issued his statement on Twitter and in a second tweet called for “SOCIAL DISTANCING.”

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Economy

Global central banks boost liquidity as market panic triggers dash for cash

HONG KONG (REUTERS) – Global central banks acted to shore up money markets on Friday (March 13) after cratering share prices drove a rush for cash, hitting many regional currencies and threatening a surge in short-term borrowing costs.

With most developed economies moving into partial shutdown in response to the escalating coronavirus pandemic, Norway and Sweden announced stimulus packages as European trading got under way.

Earlier, following a half-trillion-dollar injection into the US banking system, Japan’s central bank pledged to buy 200 billion yen (S$2.66 billion) of five-to 10-year government bonds and inject a further 1.5 trillion yen in two-week loans. Buying bonds from banks releases cash into the markets.

“We should see more action from central banks because what we need here is a short-term liquidity bridge,” said Mohammed Apabhai, head of Asian trading strategy for Citigroup. “The issue is that if we don’t see that, then this situation risks becoming a more systemic problem.”

Norway’s central bank offered the first in a series of emergency three-month loans to the banking industry, and joined the growing list of monetary authorities that have slashed borrowing costs in recent days with an unexpected half-point cut in its key policy rate.

Sweden’s central bank said it would lend up to 500 billion Swedish crowns (S$72.4 billion) to local firms via banks to ensure they had access to credit.

Some companies have begun hoarding cash and drawing down credit lines as they look to balance the need to pay wages and overheads as their income is hit by the drop in everyday activity.

Air France KLM, like other major airlines heavily exposed to global flight restrictions imposed to try to limit the coronavirus’s spread, said it had drawn down on 1.1 billion euros (S$1.73 billion) worth of its revolving credit facility to help its financial position.

Earlier in Asia, Indonesia’s central bank bought 6 trillion rupiah (S$570 million) of government bonds in an auction – double its initial target, an official told Reuters, after Australia’s central bank injected AUS$8.8 billion (S$7.79 billion), an unusually large sum, into its financial system.

In South Korea, one of the countries on the frontline of the outbreak, the finance ministry met and agreed to cooperate with its central bank, following speculation that an emergency interest rate cut could be on the cards.

The cost of raising dollars through won-dollar swaps surged to a six-year high as demand for the world’s reserve currency soared among brokerages in Seoul.

GIANT FED STICKING PLASTER?

The succession of central bank moves came after the US Federal Reserve on Thursday surprised markets by injecting US$500 billion (S$705.5 billion) into the financial system, and pledged to add a further US$1 trillion.

That unscheduled offer of effectively unlimited dollars came as US stocks plunged nearly 10 per cent in their biggest one-day losses since the 1987 market crash and marked an attempt to avoid the credit market paralysis that occurred during the 2008 global financial crisis.

Heartened by the Fed’s cash bonanza, European stock markets on Friday clawed their way tentatively back from their worst day ever.

But world stocks remained on course for their worst week since the financial crisis, and deep-seated concerns about Italy – the epicentre of Europe’s coronavirus outbreak – extended losses for its government bonds after their worst day in nine years.

On Thursday the European Central Bank had announced a more modest stimulus, offering banks loans with rates as low as minus 0.75 per cent, below the ECB’s minus 0.5 per cent deposit rate and so essentially a rebate. It also promised to increase bond purchases but did not cut benchmark interest rates as many investors had expected.

MORE BOJ MOVES PLANNED?

The Bank of Japan’s announcement of extra bond buying was unscheduled, signalling policymakers’ concern that liquidity could dry up.

“When the BOJ meets next week, it will probably take more steps to provide liquidity,” said Ayako Sera, market strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank in Tokyo. “It could even buy corporate bonds or commercial paper, but this only benefits large companies. Something else is needed to direct support to small firms.”

Other central banks also took action on Thursday.

The Reserve Bank of India said it would provide dollars via currency swaps, with the first such transaction, for US$2 billion, to be held on Monday.

The Bank of Canada extended its bond buyback programme and pledged to hold more frequent debt exchanges in which banks can exchange older bonds for newer, more liquid ones.

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