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Coronavirus living briefing

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In this living briefing, we’re looking at how Covid-19 is affecting major aspects of the global economy. You can expect something new every business day and recent updates since your last visit are highlighted for easy skimming.

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Recent updates


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By March 2021, oil prices recovered to pre-pandemic levels, reaching a 14-month high of $68 a barrel.

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The World Health Organization recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine in Feb. 2021. The WHO said doses can be spaced out, offer protection against variants, and can be administered to over-65s. At the end of February, the WHO’s Covax initiative successfully sent its first batch of 600,000 shots of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to Ghana.

  • Kenya ordered 24 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
  • South Africa said it made a deal with Serum Institute India to get 1.5 million doses of AstraZeneca. It was also in talks with Russia and China to procure vaccines.
  • Guinea tested the Russian vaccine, Sputnik V and has ordered 2 million doses.
  • Morocco has ordered 65 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from China, and AstraZeneca vaccine from Serum Institute India.
  • Egypt plans to buy 40 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine.
  • Nigeria says vaccine access was in its discussions this week with the Chinese foreign minister during his January 2021 visit to the county.
  • Tanzania is not vaccinating anyone, despite a spike in “pneumonia.” What are the implications of a no-vax strategy?

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  • Low-cost carriers seem to have better positioned their businesses for post-lockdown success. Budget airlines like Wizz, Ryanair, and easyJet have been more adept at managing their cash burn while their aircraft are grounded, which has helped them weather the pandemic disruption. They’re also less dependent on business travelers and long-haul routes.
  • Airlines are hoarding cash to stay afloat. Delta says it has enough to lose $27 million per day for 19 months. It is exploring a delayed delivery of dozens of aircraft and selling some of its planes then leasing them back to raise cash.
  • Southwest said in May that passengers were back to booking more trips than they are canceling. However, demand for flights and booking trends are still “inconsistent.” In July, it said that its bookings will likely need to triple by the end of 2020 to avoid layoffs and furloughs.
  • United doesn’t expect travel demand to rebound until there is a treatment or vaccine for Covid-19. 
  • United, Delta, and American have all eliminated change fees for certain tickets in attempts to encourage would-be travelers to book flights.
  • Ryanair cut its winter capacity by 60%. It cut capacity in September and October by 20%. Amid new outbreaks in Europe, new bookings “notably weakened,” the airline said.
  • IAG—the owner of British Airways, Iberian, Aer Lingus, and Level—says that it will fly no more than 30% of its usual flights through the end of 2020.
  • Singapore Airlines reported a net-loss for the year, the first in its 48-year history. 
  • Air Canada says it expects “to not only sustain itself during the pandemic but also emerge as a strong and competitive, albeit smaller, carrier.”
  • London’s Heathrow Airport made a $2.8 billion annual loss. A year ago, it was one of the world’s primary hubs, but it’s almost empty these days.

Airlines were required to not furlough workers or cut their pay to access money that supports payroll. Loans were offered partially in exchange for warrants to buy shares in the airline.

European Airlines have sought €33.2 billion ($39 billion) in assistance from governments. €29.3 billion in loans and guarantees have been agreed to so far according to a joint analysis by Transport & Environment, Greenpeace, and Carbon Watch.

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Gig work and delivery

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Uber is laying off about 25% of its workforce (paywall), about 6,700 people, as customers are taking fewer rides under stay-at-home orders. Uber’s job cuts include a layoff of 600 workers in India, where the market for ride-hailing continues to be depressed into 2021. Lyft is making a 17% cut to its workforce and cutting the pay of salaried employees 10%-30%. 

Jobs related to e-commerce and logistics have grown significantly, especially for the final delivery stage. The number of couriers and messengers rose 26% from February to December 2020, the largest gain among all the positions and industries tracked by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics according to its January 2021 data.

Walmart and Amazon dominate online food shopping, but more people are ordering groceries online using Instacart than Kroger or Target.

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European economies

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The UK government sold a bond with a negative yield in May 2020. It’s the first time this has happened in Britain, with investors agreeing to recoup less than they spent. Japan, Germany, and other European countries have also sold debt yielding less than 0%.

Every EU country except Norway saw retail sales shrink in April compared to 2019. For six countries that as been their only decline during the pandemic: 🇩🇪Germany, 🇪🇪Estonia, the 🇳🇱Netherlands, 🇵🇱Poland, 🇫🇮Finland, 🇷🇸Serbia

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