Brasília (AFP) – Brazil on Saturday reached 28,834 coronavirus fatalities, authorities said, surpassing hard-hit France and becoming the country with the world’s fourth-highest death toll.
At the epicenter of South America’s coronavirus outbreak, Brazil also saw an increase of 33,274 cases in the past 24 hours — a new daily record, the Health Ministry said.
That number brings Brazil’s total caseload to 498,444, the second-highest in the world, lagging only behind the United States.
Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro remain the hardest-hit states in Brazil in terms of sheer numbers, while per capita rates are higher in the country’s impoverished north and northeast, where health facilities are reaching capacity.
Brazil’s Ministry of Health has indicated “there is no way to foresee” when the country’s outbreak will peak, and experts say the number of cases could be 15 times higher than the confirmed figure because there has been no widespread testing.
The pandemic is spreading across Brazil under a cloud of confrontation, as governors and mayors implement restrictive measures while President Jair Bolsonaro, who has pinned his hopes of re-election on a booming economy, has berated them for imposing what he calls “the tyranny of total quarantine.”
The US death toll now stands at 103,685. The United Kingdom, meanwhile, has a toll of 38,376 and Italy stands at 33,340, according to a latest count by AFP.
Fox News host Chris Wallace risked drawing the ire of Donald Trump yet again on Friday after he debunked the president’s false claims on mail-in voter fraud.
Trump has ramped up his rhetoric against mail-in voting in recent weeks, at one point even threatening to withhold federal funds from Nevada and Michigan if they went ahead with sending applications to voters.
That’s despite Trump himself voting by mail in Florida’s GOP primary in March.
Wallace, the host of “Fox News Sunday,” fact-checked the president’s claims on Friday’s broadcast of “America’s Newsroom.”
“Well, you know, I’ve done some deep dive into it, there really is no record of massive fraud or even serious fraud from mail-in voting,” he said.
Check out the video here:
Chris Wallace pours cold water on Trump’s mail-in voting lies
Wallace: “There really is no record of massive fraud, or even serious fraud from mail-in voting … When people get their ballots and mail them in themselves, no history of fraud at all.” pic.twitter.com/4cyYDu26iu
“It’s being carried out in Republican states. It’s being carried out in Democratic states,” Wallace continued. “There’s no indication that mail-in voting, as opposed to in-person voting, tends to favor one party over another.”
Wallace noted how “if anything, it tends to favor Republicans” because “the people, now we’re talking about outside a pandemic, who historically have tended to vote most often by mail are elderly people, people over 65, and they tend to vote more Republican than Democratic.”
“Have there been some cases? Yes,” Wallace acknowledged, also citing the potential problem of vote harvesting. “But when people get their ballots and mail them in themselves, no history of fraud at all,” he said.
Trump has also falsely claimed on multiple occasions that up to 5 million votes were illegally cast in the 2016 presidential election. He lost the popular vote to Democratic rival Hillary Clinton by almost 3 million votes.
Wallace’s fact-checking of Trump came amid an escalation in tensions between the president and Fox News, whose primetime hosts, in particular, have been widely accused of being a propaganda vehicle for the Trump administration.
Trump lashed out at the widely watched conservative network earlier this week after anchor Neil Cavuto slammed the president’s claim about taking the unproven drug hydroxychloroquine as protection against the coronavirus.
“Many will disagree, but @FoxNews is doing nothing to help Republicans, and me, get re-elected on November 3rd,” Trump tweeted Thursday.
Many will disagree, but @FoxNews is doing nothing to help Republicans, and me, get re-elected on November 3rd. Sure, there are some truly GREAT people on Fox, but you also have some real “garbage” littered all over the network, people like Dummy Juan Williams, Schumerite Chris…
….Hahn, Richard Goodstein, Donna Brazile, Niel Cavuto, and many others. They repeat the worst of the Democrat speaking points, and lies. All of the good is totally nullified, and more. Net Result = BAD! CNN & MSDNC are all in for the Do Nothing Democrats! Fox WAS Great!
Here’s our economics editor Larry Elliott on the jump in UK borrowing:
The government was forced to borrow a record £62bn to balance its books in April as the public finances felt the strain from a shutdown of the economy that saw high street spending plummet by an unprecedented 18%.
Figures from the office for national statistics highlighted the dramatic impact of the Covid-19 restrictions introduced in late March on activity – with public borrowing up by more than £50bn on the same month a year earlier and spending in clothes stores down by 50%.
The ONS said there had been a sharp drop in all the state’s main sources of revenue – income tax, national insurance, VAT and corporation tax coupled with a marked increase in spending. With the economy at a virtual standstill, the government borrowed as much last month as in the whole of the previous financial year.
Britain’s retailers are suffering from one of the most “profound shifts” in consumer behaviour in a century, says Lynda Petherick, managing director at Accenture.
April was always going to be the month when the full force of government lockdown measures would hit retailers. Clothing has continued to suffer, and though there are still some bright spots in grocery, “panic-buying” and online household goods orders subsided slightly as consumers continued to restrict their shopping trips.
Yes – these are hard times for the sector, however there are lessons to be learned if retailers are to come out the other side of the pandemic ready to respond. Online sales continue to reach new heights, suggesting that consumers have been quick to shift their buying habits – a trend which is only likely to continue. Retailers will need to act quickly and deliberately to improve their capabilities if they are to drive growth and profitability in an increasingly digital future.”
Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, hopes that the worst may be over though, after the 18% slump in April:
However bad April’s figures are, we believe that retail has reached a turning point in the Covid-19 crisis. In the short term, May has already seen a loosening of lockdown restrictions across all the home nations. Indeed, enterprising operators have begun to reopen cautiously, from garden centres to some furniture stores coming back for the bank holiday weekend.
Economist Rupert Seggins has shown the unprecedented scale of the drop in April:
As rumoured, the UK government has extended its mortgage payment holiday scheme by three months.
It’s also extended the ban on home repossessions until the end of October, in an attempt to prevent the pandemic leading to rising homelessness.
My colleague Mark Sweney explains:
More than 1.8 million homeowners have taken a three-month mortgage holiday since the scheme was announced in March to help borrowers in financial difficulty because of the coronavirus crisis, according to Treasury figures. It was due to expire at the end of June.
“We’re doing everything we can to help people with their finances at this difficult time and that includes making sure people get the support they need with their mortgages,” said John Glen, the economic secretary to the Treasury. “That’s why we’re working with the banks and lenders to extend payment holidays if people need them.”
Over in the City, shares are dropping as investors worry about the economic impact of Covid-19.
The FTSE 100 index of leading UK-listed shares dropped by 110 points, or 1.8%, in early trading to 5903. That wipes out most of this week’s gains. Nearly every share is down, led by financial services firms like Prudential (-9%), HSBC (-5.8%) and Standard Chartered (-4%).
The slump in retail sales, and the spike in borrowing, are a reminder of the economic cost of the pandemic. Recent hints from the Bank of England that it could impose negative interest rates in the UK are weighing on bank stocks too.
Shares are also down in Germany and France. Traders are worried that China has dropped its annual GDP target today – clearly growth this year is simply too bad [Beijing has an remarkable track record of achieving these targets…]
But there’s another reason for the sell-off: China’s ruling Communist Party has proposed a controversial national security law for Hong Kong to ban “treason, secession, sedition and subversion”.
The proposal, which could bypass Hong Kong’s lawmakers, would also allow the central government to set up “security organs” in the territory.
It’s likely to inflame tensions with pro-democracy supporters in the city state, and with the White House too, as Jim Reid of Deutsche Bank told clients:
This will likely draw a large amount of opposition given the pro-democracy protests in the country over the past year. This could be another wedge between China and the US, given how many US politicians on both sides of the aisle supported HK’s efforts last year.
Paul Dales of Capital Economics predicts Britain’s deficit could hit 17% of GDP this year. That’s an immense figure — exceeding the last financial crisis, when the deficit hit 10% of annual output.
With little prospect of a swift return this year towards pre-crisis levels of economic activity, we expect borrowing to total £340bn (17.5% of GDP) over 2020/21, which would be over £40bn more than the OBR’s forecast.
Overall, the small easing of the lockdown on 13th May probably means that retail sales started to edge higher in May and that the government might not have had to borrow quite as much as in April. But it’s very clear that the retail activity will remain worrying weak for some time yet and that the government will have to borrow a few hundred billion pounds this year.
Jeremy Thomson-Cook, chief economist at financial services group Equals, says we should welcome the jump in borrowing – the alternative is worse.
The UK’s budget deficit is at the highest level since records began in 1993. This is a good thing; if your house is on fire, you don’t ask the Fire Brigade to only use a certain amount of water.
The water will need to keep flowing and the deficit will continue to grow because the alternative – a deeply scarred economy – is far worse.”
Howard Archer of EY Item Club points out that falling tax receipts also hit the public finances:
Central government receipts fell 26.5% year-on-year in April, as they were impacted by a combination of sharply contracting economic activity, markedly rising unemployment and weaker earnings, and companies being allowed to delay tax payments.
“Income and capital gains tax receipts were down 36.0% year-on-year in April, as jobs were lost and pay hit. There was also a fall of 14.1% in corporation tax receipts while VAT receipts were down 43.6% year-on-year.
Introduction: Government borrowing hits £62bn in April
Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.
We start with some breaking news — UK government borrowing hit its highest level on record last month amid the Covid-19 pandemic, as retail sales across the country plunged at a record pace.
The Office for National Statistics has just reported that public borrowing in April is estimated to have surged to £62.1bn. That’s £51.1bn more than in April 2019, and the highest borrowing in any month since records began in January 1993.
Indeed, it’s almost as much as the UK borrowed in the whole of the last financial year:
This is an early sign of the massive cost of the government’s attempts to limit the damage of the Covid-19 crisis, including its jobs guarantee scheme. It’s also due to a sharp drop in tax takings.
But the ONS also cautions that “the effects of COVID-19 are not fully captured in this release”.
The ONS has also reported that retail sales across the UK slumped at an unprecedented rate in April.
Sales fell by over 18% compared with March, due to the widespread shutdown of non-essential shop, taking turnover down to its lowest level since 2005.
The ONS explains:
The volume of retail sales in April 2020 fell by a record 18.1%, following the strong monthly fall of 5.2% in March 2020.
All sectors saw a monthly decline in volume sales except for a record increase in sales for non-store retailing at 18.0% and a continued increase in sales for alcohol stores at 2.3%.
The volume of clothing sales in April 2020 plummeted by 50.2% when compared with March 2020, which had already fallen by 34.9% on the previous month.
This comes as fears over the UK hospitality industry grow, with many pubs, bars and restaurants warning they will close some outlets permanently.
Stock markets are also under pressure, after China abandoned its long-held practice of setting a GDP target – presumably because growth has been so badly hit by the pandemic.
The World Health Organization is set to meet Thursday, for the third time in a week, to determine if the deadly coronavirus outbreak should be declared a global emergency.
Such a declaration would trigger tighter containment and information-sharing guidelines, but may disappoint Beijing, which had expressed confidence in defeating the “devil” virus.
Some 6,000 people are being kept on board an Italian cruise ship as tests are carried out on two Chinese passengers suspected of having caught coronavirus, a spokesman for the Costa Crociere cruise company said on Thursday.
Jump to live updates
The couple arrived in Italy on Jan. 25 and boarded the ship, the Costa Smeralda, in the port of Savona that same day. They subsequently came down with a fever and are suffering breathing difficulties
The liner has visited Marseilles in France, and the Spanish ports of Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca this week before docking on Thursday at Civitavecchia, north of Rome.
No one was being allowed off the ship while medical checks were carried out to see if the pair had the potentially deadly coronavirus, the company spokesman said.
He said it might take “a few hours” before the situation became clearer.
On Thursday countries began isolating hundreds of citizens evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed 170 people.
Follow along below for live updates on the coronavirus outbreak from around the world and Canada:
Typhoon Phanfone has killed at least 28 people in central Philippines on Christmas Day and left 12 missing, while thousands have been forced to flee their homes.
The locally known as Typhoon Ursula ravaged three provinces, as it fist made landfall on Eastern Samar province on Tuesday and continued to sweep west across the Eastern Visayas region, southern Luzon and Western Visayas the next day.
The typhoon tore roofs off houses and destroyed water and power lines, and led to severe floodings and landslides in many cities, according to the government’s office of civil defence.
Flights and ferries were canceled, leaving behind thousands travelling on their way home, while many major roads remain impassable and internet and mobile networks are cut in badly damaged areas.
According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), a total of 58,400 people were pre-emptively evacuated ahead of the typhoon, forced to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in temporary evacuation shelters at school gymnasiums and bus terminals.
“Ursula”, that touched gusts of 95 kilometres per hour, was reported to be easing in strength on Thursday, as it moved over the western Philippines toward the South China Sea .
“I join in the pain that affected the dear people of the Philippines because of the Typhoon Phanfone. I pray for the numerous victims, for the injured and for their families,” said Pope Francis.
Rescue operations in flooded communities are still taking place, while the death toll is constantly rising.
Philippines are struck by more than 20 typhoons annually with Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 being the deadliest, leaving more than 6,000 victims behind. Typhoon Kammuri hit Philippines just three weeks ago, killing at least 17 people, as it ripped the capital Manila and neighbour areas.
A search has failed to locate the bodies of the last two victims of a volcano eruption in New Zealand that claimed the lives of at least 16 people.
It came as New Zealand police confirmed the 16th victim died on Saturday at Sydney’s Concord Hospital, one of several Australian hospitals where survivors suffering from severe burns were being treated.
It comes as the first five victims were officially named by police.
On Sunday, two four-person teams landed on the volcanic White Island by helicopter to search a location thought to be where one of the remaining bodies might be.
The teams were wearing heavy protective clothing due to the toxic air and gases present on the island as a result of the eruption.
Their breathing apparatus allowed them to search for only 75 minutes.
The searchers were unable to locate either body and returned to the mainland where they underwent decontamination.
New Zealand Police national operations commander John Tims said the search will continue.
“We have always anticipated recovering all bodies from the island, and we remain deeply committed to that goal, to allow families some closure,” he said.
“We are now debriefing, reassessing and coming up with a new plan going forward.”
Mr Tims said the process of identifying victims and releasing bodies to their loved ones was ongoing in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city.
“We will continue to release the names of those who have died as soon as we are able to,” he said.
Five victims have so far been named, four of whom are Australians.
The first to be named was Krystal Browitt, a veterinary nursing student from Melbourne, Australia, who turned 21 on November 29.
On Sunday, Zoe Hosking, 15, and her stepfather Gavin Dallow, 53, both from Adelaide, were confirmed as dead. Lisa Dallow, Zoe’s mother, is being treated for severe burns.
Anthony Langford, 51, of Sydney, has also been confirmed dead. He was travelling with his wife Kristine Langford and their children Jesse, 19, and Winona, 17.
Jesse survived the eruption and was identified in a New Zealand hospital on Tuesday evening. His mother and sister are still unaccounted for.
The fourth person identified on Sunday is New Zealand resident Tipene Maangi, 24.
Two British women were among those admitted to hospital in New Zealand after the volcano erupted.
All 13 Australians who suffered burns were transported to hospitals around Australia for treatment, at least eight of whom are reported to be in a critical condition.
Navy and police divers are expected to resume the search of waters around the island later on Sunday.
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Seven people have been injured and a man has been arrested after a bus bound for Swansea University crashed into a railway bridge.
One person has been seriously injured and another has life-threatening injuries, South Wales Police said.
Emergency services are at the scene following the crash on Neath Road, Swansea, just before 09:40 GMT.
A 63-year-old man has been arrested and the bus company, First Cymru, said a full investigation had been launched.
Four people were taken to Swansea’s Morriston Hospital, one with serious injuries, two to Neath Port Talbot’s minor injuries unit and a number of other people were assessed at the scene. One person was airlifted to University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff with life-threatening injuries.
The bus was travelling from Swansea University Singleton campus to its Swansea Bay campus when the crash happened but was off its normal route due to a temporary road closure, a First Cymru spokesman said.
Swansea University said its students were among the passengers and its welfare staff were offering help and support.
Swansea Bay health board asked people to avoid attending Morriston A&E “unless you have a serious illness or injury”, saying the department was “extremely busy”.
The road remains closed and people have been asked to avoid the area.
Lines to Swansea railway were closed for a time but have since reopened. National Rail said trains at Swansea could still be cancelled, delayed by up to 20 minutes or revised.
‘There was a crunch and smashing glass and screaming’
Alastair Hawkes, 22, was on the top deck when the crash happened: “There was a lady who was cut out, she was bleeding heavily and flown to hospital in Cardiff.
“I think there were three injured – somebody else was bleeding badly and an older gentleman was shaken, in shock. We thought he passed out.”
Mr Hawkes, who got on the bus in the Uplands area, said it had taken a different route to normal, he believes because of a fallen tree.
“There was a crunch and smashing glass and screaming.
“Everyone was thinking ‘what just happened?’ as there was a bridge halfway up the bus.”
The student, originally from Kettering, said he dialled 999 while another passenger managed to hail down police.
He described the top half of the bus slicing off on to the train track above and passengers in shock.
“Those that were bleeding were taken to hospital and the rest brought here (Landore Social Club),” he said.
“Most are alright, but they’re just making sure.”
What is the bus company saying?
The managing director of First Cymru, Andrew Sherrington, said: “We can confirm one of our vehicles operating Service 10 between Swansea University Singleton campus and Swansea Bay university campus has been involved in a collision with a bridge, which has resulted in a number of passengers sustaining injuries.
“We’ve immediately dispatched a support team and launched a full investigation to establish the circumstances that has led to this collision, and are assisting South Wales Police with their enquiries.
“Everyone at First Cymru is shocked by this incident and our heartfelt sympathies go out to those injured.”
‘We heard an almighty bang’
Tom Evans, who works near to the scene of the crash, said it looked like “a tin opener had taken the top of the bus off”.
He arrived on the scene shortly after the crash and said he believed the bus driver had misjudged the height of a railway bridge and tried to drive under it.
He added: “I heard it and went out soon after. Police were there quickly, cordoning it off. It’s now a no-go area.”
A man who works nearby who did not wish to be identified, said the crash looked “really serious”.
He added: “We heard an almighty bang and all thought it was thunder because it’s raining, but then we saw an ambulance, we thought somebody’s crashed on the M4 but then, no, they’re outside.
“We ran outside and saw the bus and we could see anyone who would have been on the top deck at the front, well it would be really serious… it was destroyed.”
Secretary Terry Edkins opened up the nearby Landore Social Club at the request of police to offer tea and coffee to passengers.
“There are about 20 people at the social club having teas and coffees. The ones at the club are a bit shaken but OK,” he added.
What about transport disruption?
Transport for Wales (TfW) were reporting delays. “Due to a road vehicle colliding with a bridge at #Swansea fewer trains are able to run on some lines. Services are running but will not call at Swansea Station,” it tweeted.
It said replacement buses were in operation and motorists have been asked to avoid the Neath Road and Hafod area.
TfW said coaches are being sourced to run between Swansea and Cardiff, and services between Carmarthen and Manchester are also disrupted and will not call at Swansea.
National Rail said disruption was expected until 17:00 and the routes affected are Great Western Railway between Swansea and London Paddington and TfW’s service between Shrewsbury and Cardiff Central.
Traffic analyst site Inrix said there was queuing traffic on the A483 Fabian Way, more than one mile away from the crash.
What do the emergency services say?
Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service said crews were in attendance and the Welsh Ambulance Service said it sent five ambulances, two rapid response cars and three ambulance officers to the scene.
South Wales Police said: “We and our fellow emergency services are currently in attendance at a road traffic collision involving a bus and a bridge in Neath Road, Swansea.
“We are asking motorists to avoid the area while this incident is ongoing.”
First Test, Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui, day four of five:
England 353 & 55-3: Santner 3-6
New Zealand 615-9dec: Watling 205, Santner 126, De Grandhomme 65
England trail by 207 runs
England face a tough battle to save the first Test against New Zealand after BJ Watling scored a superb double century on day four in Mount Maunganui.
Watling made 205 and Mitchell Santner hit 123 for his maiden Test century in a stand of 261 for the seventh wicket.
A dominant New Zealand declared on 615-9 just after tea, leading by 262.
England slipped to 55-3 at the close, trailing by 207, meaning they will have to bat out an entire day with just seven wickets in hand to force a draw.
Santner took all three wickets for just six runs, removing both England openers Dom Sibley and Rory Burns before dismissing nightwatchman Jack Leach with the last ball of the day.
Replays suggested Leach had not nicked the ball to short leg, but he and Joe Denly opted against a review, summing up a chastening day for the tourists.
With Santner extracting turn on an otherwise docile pitch and England jaded after being kept in the field for 201 overs, New Zealand will be confident of securing a 1-0 lead in the two-match series on day five.
Tired England falter late on
Facing 28 tricky overs until the close, Burns and Sibley negotiated the first hour with relative ease, seeing off opening bowlers Trent Boult and Tim Southee and not falling for Neil Wagner’s short-ball trap.
But just as England seemed on course to get through unscathed, Santner produced a canny spell that could prove decisive in securing a New Zealand win.
Testing the batsmen with drift and bounce, he saw Sibley dropped via an inside edge by Watling and a diving Southee put down Burns but neither England opener could add to their total before they were dismissed.
Sibley pushed at a wide one to be caught behind for 12 before a bogged down Burns miscued a sweep shot trying to rotate the strike and was caught by Colin de Grandhomme for 31.
Tom Latham then took a one-handed diving catch as Leach prodded uncertainly and was given out despite the ball appearing to only deflect off the pad, leaving England to rue not using a review.
That England’s concentration faltered late on was perhaps not surprising given they had been worn down in the field.
Despite an improved bowling performance, the damage had been done on day three as a tired attack could only muster one wicket in the first two sessions, with this now the sixth time in England’s last 24 overseas Tests that they have conceded 600 or more.
Watling and Santner give England masterclass
England have struggled to make imposing totals on overseas tours in recent years and here Watling and Santner showed them exactly how to, with an immaculate approach to batting on a flat, slow pitch.
Both continued to eschew flamboyant shots in the morning session as they ground out singles to establish a healthy lead of 99 at lunch and only then did they start to attack.
Where England thought they had earned the right to play more expansively at 277-4 and slipped to a disappointing 353 all out, Watling and Santner showed the virtue of doing so when the bowlers have been totally ground down as they added another 138 runs by tea.
Watling tapped his way to 150 before ramping a Jofra Archer short ball over third man for six, while Santner targeted fellow slow left-armer Jack Leach, using his feet superbly to loft several sixes down the ground
Santner scampered two to fine leg to bring up a fine century off 252 balls – his retrained celebration reflecting his admirable discipline after struggling early in his innings.
He finally miscued a lofted drive to long-on but Watling carried on, reaching his double century off 460 balls before nicking Archer behind shortly after the tea break, ending a masterful knock that took New Zealand from a tricky position to one of complete control.
Kane Williamson allowed his tailenders to tee off and punish England a while longer before calling them in on 615-9 – New Zealand’s highest score against England in Tests, surpassing the 551-9 at Lord’s in 1973.
‘We need to show a lot of character’ – reaction
Ex-England batsman Mark Ramprakash on Test Match Special: “It was always going to be a tough ask for England, given the fatigue factor. The two openers seemed to negotiate the opening burst pretty well, they looked very calm.
“But it was the introduction of Mitchell Santner that made the difference. He’s not a big spinner of the ball but he’s tall and gets extra bounce. I think that bounce troubled Rory Burns and led to his dismissal.
“England have to be able to rotate the strike but also back their defence for long periods of time. Burns was trying to rotate the strike but he got a top edge.”
Former England bowler Steven Finn: “This is an opportunity for England’s batsmen to keep their side in the series tomorrow.”
England batsman Jos Buttler: “The pitch is starting to create rough. There’s a few cracks but I still think it’s a pretty good wicket. If you can get through the odd ball that does something, it’s still a decent wicket.
“I’m sure the Kiwi seamers will try to get extra bounce out of the wicket. We need high skill levels and a lot of character and this side has got that in abundance.”