Bill Gates on Trump call for quick end to lockdown: It’s tough to tell people ‘keep going to restaurants, go buy new houses, ignore that pile of bodies over in the corner’


‘There really is no middle ground, and it’s very tough to say to people, “Hey, keep going to restaurants, go buy new houses, [and] ignore that pile of bodies over in the corner. We want you to keep spending because there’s maybe a politician who thinks GDP growth is all that counts.” ’


Bill Gates

That’s billionaire Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft

MSFT, -4.11%

and noted philanthropist, sharing in a TED interview as described by the Vox Media site Recode his view on the drumbeat, notably from President Donald Trump, for an earlier end to public health policies aiming to mitigate the spread of a deadly pandemic that has brought much of the world’s business activity to a screeching halt.

Most of the U.S., including New York, New Jersey, Illinois and California, are under rules that limit movement and travel. Those efforts to dull the impact of the outbreak of COVID-19 are putting the U.S. economy into a recession and have tanked U.S. equity markets that were just a month ago at record highs.

See: Governors reject Trump’s timeline to reopen economy; ‘Job one has to be save lives,’ Cuomo says

The illness that is carried by the novel strain of coronavirus first identified in China in December has been contracted by some 622 ,000 people and killed more than 28,000 across the globe, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, as of Saturday late morning.

In the U.S., where the epidemic is likely still in its nascence, more than 105,000 have been infected and 1,710 killed.

Trump, however, said on Tuesday during a Fox News interview in the White House Rose Garden that he hopes to have the country reopened as early as Easter on April 12, though most countries have taken months to achieve some semblance of managing the infection.

Trump has argued that a longer U.S. shutdown would make it more difficult for the economy to rebound from a recession. “The longer it takes, the longer we stay out, the longer that is to do,” he explained.

Read: Do you need to change and wash your clothes after visiting the grocery store?

An early end to the lockdown in the U.S. has been viewed as ill-advised by many experts and politicians who fear that lives would be sacrificed in the bid to resume business-as-usual, and achieve a stock-market rebound, before the virus subsides.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose updates on the virus’s impact on the Empire State have been closely followed, expressed views similar to those of Gates on Tuesday. “No American is going to say, accelerate the economy at the cost of human life, because no American is going to say how much a life is worth. Job [No. 1] has to be save lives,” the governor said.

See: ‘You pick the 26,000 people who are going to die’: New York’s Cuomo, in plea to Trump administration for ventilators

Gates told TED, according to Recode, that “it’s very irresponsible for somebody to suggest that we can have the best of both worlds,” referring to mitigating the impact of the deadly pathogen on human lives and keeping the economy whirring.

U.S., and global, stock markets have been in turmoil due to the viral outbreak, with some at least partly attributing Tuesday’s biggest percentage gain since 1933 by the Dow Jones Industrial Average

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, up 11.4%, to a belief that Trump’s administration may push forward with reopening the U.S. economy, despite public health experts indicating that such a move would likely be premature. Noted infectious-diseases specialist Anthony Fauci suggested at a late-afternoon news conference at the White House that it might be worth exploring an idea floated by Trump that some sections of the country could have restrictions eased ahead of others.

The Dow surged 2,112 points on Tuesday, while the S&P 500 index

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soared 9.4%, and the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index

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finished Tuesday’s session up 8.1%. All three indexes finished out the week lower but booked strong weekly gains, as President Trump signed a $2.2 trillion coronavirus rescue package into law.

Gates, who boasts a net worth of $94.6 billion, according to Forbes (making him the second wealthiest man in the world behind Amazon.com’s

AMZN, -2.83%

Jeff Bezos) is among a group of billionaire philanthropists who have said they would give away at least half their wealth to charities under terms of the Giving Pledge. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has donated $100 million to pandemics science and testing.

Check out: Man who scored big wins during the 2008 financial crisis says the stock market could be ‘near a bottom’ if U.S. gets a coronavirus recovery plan



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European stocks slide as U.S. coronavirus cases surpass China and global spread intensifies


European stocks and U.S. equity futures fell on Friday, as U.S. coronavirus cases surpassed China and the global spread intensified.

The pan-European Stoxx 600

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 index declined 2.5% in early trading, while the FTSE 100

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 slipped 3.8% lower. The German DAX

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 dropped 2.1% and the French CAC

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fell 3%. Stocks slipped back at the end of a good week as investors digested the increasing spread of the virus and the uncertainty ahead. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures

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 were down 2%, Nasdaq futures

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 fell 1.9% and S&P 500 futures

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 were 2.1% lower ahead of the open.

What’s moving the market?

The U.S. has now surpassed China as the country with the most coronavirus cases, rising above 85,500. The U.S. death toll climbed to just below 1,300 but sits far below Italy — 8,215 — and Spain — 4,365. Global infections grew by 13.6% in the past 24 hours — the seventh double-digit rise in 8 days. Cases have now tripled in Europe in a week, with Germany and France also among the worst affected.

The Dow entered a new bull-market phase on Thursday, driven by a $2 trillion stimulus package, bringing the 11-day-old bear market to an end, but was set to fall back on Friday. Asian markets followed Wall Street higher overnight but European stocks headed lower as the continent’s own equity rally came to an abrupt end.

OANDA analyst Craig Erlam said it made sense that investors were taking profit ahead of the weekend, given the fast-changing nature of the pandemic.

“We may have had a good run this week but the weekend can feel like a long time at moments like this and the numbers we’re getting from the U.S., which now has more cases than China or Italy, are getting uglier by the day. I fear a few more shocks lie ahead as we get closer to peak coronavirus in countries like the U.S., U.K. and more,” he said.

China’s industrial profits slumped 38% in January and February. As the first country impacted and locked down, global investors are closely following China’s economic fallout and recovery.

Stocks to watch

Cruise operator Carnival plunged 11% in early trading as the hard-hit industry was left out of the $2 trillion U.S. stimulus package.

As the U.K.’s national lockdown took hold and the economic impact began being felt across the country, shares in house builder Persimmon

PSN, -7.82%

 tumbled 9% and retail property company Hammerson

HMSO, -11.12%

 dropped 12%.



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Man who scored big wins during the 2008 financial crisis says the stock market could be ‘near a bottom’ if U.S. gets a coronavirus recovery plan


Hedge-fund manager David Tepper says there is nothing wrong with “nibbling” at stocks that have experienced a brutal selloff in the past month, amid growing fears centered on the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. However, the star fund manager and billionaire says that U.S. lawmakers and the Trump administration need to act quickly to stabilize the economy and mitigate the damage from the deadly pathogen.

“There’s nothing wrong with nibbling here,” the founder of Appaloosa Management said during a phone interview with CNBC on Monday, referring to stocks that have fallen at an unprecedented rate, as business activity across the globe shutters in order to contain the illness, COVID-19, the infectious disease that was first identified in Wuhan, China in December. Nearly 370,000 people have contracted the illness and some 16,000 lives have been lost, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

In the U.S., there are more than 41,000 confirmed cases and almost 500 dead due to the infection.

Tepper signaled that stock-market indexes, that have fallen by more than 20% from their peaks, meeting the widely accepted criteria for a bear market, could be “near a bottom once we get this package done,” he said.

“It might be time to buy a little, and that means a little,” he emphasized. He cautioned that the market could still fall by another 10% or 15%, and investors should be willing to endure further pain.

With that in mind, he told the business network that investors need to be prudent in identifying stocks in the wake of the carnage at least partly sparked by the outbreak.

Asked if it was time to buy stocks, Tepper asked, rhetorically, “Which stocks?”

”You have to be very selective, right here,” he admonished.

For his part, Tepper said he was buying beaten down technology-related names, as well as health-care shares. He said he also was buying corporate debt.

“We are nibbling, no question about it,” he acknowledged. “Things look really interesting for the long term,” he said.

Tepper’s comments come as Senate lawmakers race to finish a massive aid package to help Americans devastated by the coronavirus. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said it needed to be completed “today,” to do the most good.

However, talks have been stalled as Democrats blocked a fresh effort by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to move a bill forward.

“We hope and expect to conclude negotiations today,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

During the CNBC interview, Tepper said, “Tell me when you have a plan.”

“In some sense, you need a plan and you need to go out and do this to give confidence to the market,” he explained. “Do whatever it takes to get it down,” he said, referring, perhaps, both to a plan by U.S. lawmakers and by the Trump administration to get much-needed ventilators and masks produced for those sickened by the illness.

“I can’t wait to invest again,” he said, striking an upbeat tone.

Markets, however, were far from upbeat. The Dow Jones Industrial Average

DJIA, -3.04%,

the S&P 500 index

SPX, -2.93%

and the Nasdaq Composite Index

COM, +0.93%

all ended sharply lower Monday, as investors also awaited clarity from Capitol Hill on a rescue package.

Tepper may be best known for the concentrated bets he made on the financial system during the 2007-09 financial crisis, when he cited the backstop provided by the Federal Reserve as a reason to own beaten-down bank shares.

He also saw a windfall after betting, correctly, that commercial property bonds underpinned by New York City’s hulking Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village residential complex would recover.

Tepper’s net worth was estimated at $12 billion by Forbes, ranking him as the world’s fifth-wealthiest hedge-fund manager. Tepper has also been an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump.

Since buying the National Football League’s Carolina Panthers, Tepper mostly retreated from investing for others. Back in May, he started converting his hedge-fund firm to a family office, according to reports.

Appaloosa Management LP has earned an average annual return of 25% since its inception in 1993, and his flagship fund regularly features among the ranks of all-time top performers.



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Second dog tests positive for coronavirus as owners warned not to abandon pets


The Hong Kong government has urged people not to abandon their pets and to stop kissing them after a second dog repeatedly tested positive for coronavirus.

The German shepherd living in the Pok Fu Lam area on Hong Kong Island was sent for quarantine along with another mixed-breed dog from the same residence on Thursday after its owner was confirmed as being infected, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said in a statement.

No positive results were obtained from the mixed breed dog and neither dog has shown any signs of disease,” the department said, adding it will continue to closely monitor both dogs and conduct repeated tests on the animals.

The animal welfare authority reminded pet owners to use good hygiene practices and urged them to avoid kissing their pets, but stressed that there is currently no evidence that pet animals can be a source of the virus or that they can get sick from it.

”Under no circumstances should they abandon their pets,” the AFCD said.

The new case comes after a 17-year-old Pomeranian which had tested “weak positive” during repeated tests for the virus died two days after it was released from quarantine virus-free. The AFCD said the dog’s owner wasn’t willing to allow an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

Some animal welfare experts have suggested that the elderly Pomeranian’s death could have been caused by the stress of being quarantined and separated from its owner.

Both the World Organisation for Animal Health and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention have said there is no evidence that companion animals such as cats and dogs can spread the virus. “Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare,” the animal health organization said.

The AFCD said it “strongly advises” that mammalian pet animals including dogs and cats from households with persons infected with Covid-19 or those who have had close contacted with others infected with the virus, should be quarantined in government facilities.



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‘The sunbathers all seemed to be talking about coronavirus’: Australians brace for the end of summer — and the start of flu season


Just last week my daughter was reading dystopian texts for high-school English. One short story, “The Pedestrian,” begins with a robotic police car pulling up to the only man in a city of millions walking alone along an empty street.

I wonder whether our port city of Fremantle, Western Australia, will be like that soon.

Australia can learn from countries further along the curve about what slowed the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new virus SARS-CoV-2. There have been 681 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia and six deaths; 26 people have recovered. Worldwide, 236,384 people have been confirmed with the disease, and 9,790 have died, with Italy and China reporting the highest number of deaths and cases.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, leader of the Liberal Party, told Australians not to travel abroad and introduced a ban on all indoor gatherings of 100 people or more. An earlier ban on all outdoor events or meetings with 500 people or more remains in place.

As people have of delayed action in other countries, what may seem like an overreaction before the pandemic will seem like an underreaction afterward.

The Department of Health introduced guidelines, telling people that they should practice social distancing, regularly wash and sanitize their hands, use “tap and pay” to avoid handling cash and credit cards between sales clerks and customers, and commute at off-peak hours when possible.

While governments are doing something now, many people — including medical experts — are clearly becoming frustrated with the timidity of the response. As people have said based on the delayed action in other countries, what may seem like an overreaction before the pandemic-really bites will seem like an underreaction afterward.

Much of Australia is still reeling from the recent devastating bush fires. We’ll soon enter the southern hemisphere’s flu season. Aussies are a relaxed bunch, but this will test us all. Australia may still be in a position to “flatten the curve” so the health system can cope with fewer cases at a time.

Also see: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson reportedly released from hospital

The ban on large outdoor and some indoor events — and free testing centers in states — and even a drive-thru testing clinic — is a good start, but we believe the moment has arrived to consider measures like proactively closing schools rather than waiting until it’s too late.

With school holidays a few weeks away for much of Australia, many people think the government should have declared that schools were on holiday last week, or at least this week. After all, schools are an everyday mass event of hundreds of people in each other’s faces for six hours a day, five days a week, and schools have unkindly been described as a Petri dish of nasties.

The government should have declared that schools were on holiday last week. After all, schools are an everyday mass event of hundreds of people.

Some of us with family overseas may have a keener sense for how bad it’s going to get. It just didn’t seem like others were in the same frame of mind. Except for the toilet paper. Ads for toilet paper now appear on Gumtree (Australia’s Craigslist). It was the first thing that flew off the shelves here when people heard about the coronavirus.

A couple of weeks ago, we bought enough groceries to last two weeks in case we were suddenly quarantined. I remember the date because I ordered some hand sanitizer online when there was still plenty.

A few days later a friend forwarded a message from a doctor who was working when Australian patients from the Diamond Princess — the cruise ship with 3,700 people aboard quarantined for two weeks off the coast of Japan — arrived at the hospital to get treated. Seven people who were on that ship died.

Despite that, he was not alarmist but — based on what he’d witnessed — he said it would be sensible to gather essential items for an extended stay at home. I now knew we weren’t crazy for buying some canned soup and fruit.

Since then, with only a small number of cases in Western Australia, most of whom contracted the disease while traveling overseas, more workplaces have been talking more seriously about the need to require staff to work from home.

My husband’s lingering cough kept us from attending a play based on a book written by a friend. A crowded theater is no place for even an ordinary cough.

Now, a few weeks after our first quarantine grocery-shopping trip, there is no doubt in our mind that we will need to stay home for the next week or two.

Morrison also said he would still be going to a rugby match, which was due to take place last Saturday. “The fact that I would still be going on Saturday speaks not just to my passion for my beloved Sharks; it might be the last game I get to go to for a long time,” he told reporters.

He has since changed his mind, most likely because the home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, just announced that he’d tested positive for the virus. As of Thursday morning local time, 565 confirmed cases of COVID-19 had been diagnosed in the country. It’s starting to get very real.

On Saturday, the nonprofit organization I work for postponed a national conference scheduled for next week. Today, the environmental campaign my husband runs also postponed a major part of the effort that he and his team have been preparing for weeks.

My husband’s lingering cough kept us from attending a play based on a book written by a dear friend. A crowded theater is no place for even an ordinary cough these days. I paused my gym membership and took our son out of his martial-arts class.

The implications of coronavirus are starting to hit home. After a day of work and social decisions — which will undoubtedly seem trivial soon — and sobering conversations with family overseas, we went to Cottesloe, Perth’s famed beach, where locals and tourists gathered as another hot, fiery-skied day ended.

From where we sat, it did appear that many were maintaining a 6-foot buffer zone. The mood was light, but the sunbathers all seemed to be talking about coronavirus.



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