An advance team from the World Health Organisation (WHO) has left for China to organise an investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus which sparked the global pandemic, a spokeswoman said on Friday.
The virus is believed to have emerged in a wholesale market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late 2019, since then closed, after jumping the species barrier from the animal kingdom to infect humans.
“The two WHO experts, specialists in animal health and epidemiology, will work with Chinese scientists to determine the scope and itinerary of the investigation,’’ WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said, declining to name them.
She told a briefing that they have gone, they are in the air now, they are the advance party that is to work out the scope.
“This would involve negotiations on issues including the composition of the fuller team.
“One of the big issues that everybody is interested in, and of course that’s why we’re sending an animal health expert, is to look at whether or not it jumped from species to a human and what species it jumped from.
“We know it’s very, very similar to the virus in the bat, but did it go through an intermediate species? This is a question we all need answered,” Harris said.
United States President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo have said it may have originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, although they have presented no evidence for this and China strongly denies it.
Scientists and United States intelligence agencies have said it emerged in nature.
According to Lawrence Gostin, a professor at Georgetown Law in Washington, D.C., if there was wrongdoing and we may never know that for sure, it will be very hard to uncover.
“The wet market was closed immediately.
“There is no independent record, evaluation or investigation of a potential zoonotic source, so it will be very hard to go back and piece together,” he said.
Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye and Isaac Aregbesola (NAN)
Dollar slips as yields dive on recovery worries
The dollar fell in Asia on Wednesday, hitting a five-month low on the yuan.
A hardening perception that the United States recovery is lagging Europe has buttressed the euro, which has repelled a rebound in the dollar and rose back above $1.18 on Wednesday.
At the same time speculation that stalemate over fiscal policy in Washington could leave the Federal Reserve with more to do, has hastened a steady decline in United States yields – undermining the dollar more broadly.
Sterling, the Australian dollar and the kiwi all climbed back toward pre-pandemic highs, while the yen rose and gold soared as real yields plumbed record lows.
“United States economic outperformance, relative to the eurozone and Japan, is no longer guaranteed given the damage from the COVID-19 pandemic,’’ said Tai Hui, J.P. Morgan Asset Management’s chief strategist in Asia.
“Dollar interest rates are also converging to other developed economies’ interest rates, which means that the dollar is less appealing,’’ Hui said.
He added it is difficult to see the Fed easing policy ahead of its global peers.
The Australian dollar led gains among the majors with a 0.4 per cent rise to $0.7189.
Ten-year Australian government debt now yields about 31 basis points more than 10-year United States government debt, up from 16 basis points two months ago.
The New Zealand dollar rose 0.3 per cent to $0.6646, catching some support from a surprise dip in the jobless rate.
The yen rose 0.1 per cent to 105.60 per dollar and sterling edged higher to $1.3091.
Even the Chinese yuan, which had struggled to capitalise on the dollar’s weakness amid simmering Sino-United States tensions, forged higher to a five-month top of 6.9570 per dollar in onshore trade.
Other Asian currencies also made gains, notably the Malaysian ringgit, which was stronger than 4.2 per dollar for the first in five months.
The dollar has been sliding since March, but its prime antagonist in recent weeks has been the euro, which in July posted its best month in almost 10 years.
That has the common currency more or less back where it began life in 1999 and has many investors convinced it can keep climbing as a Europe-wide fiscal relief package anchors recovery and allays perennial worries about the bloc’s stability.
“Right now, looming long-term negative United States issues – like the dollar’s reserve status as the United States and China decouple – are at the forefront of FX concerns and not the euro’s structural problems,’ said Deutsche Bank strategist, Alan Ruskin.
“The door to $1.20+ remains wide open,’’ he said.
For now, eyes are on Washington where White House negotiators have vowed to work “around the clock” with congressional Democrats to try to reach a deal on coronavirus relief by the end of this week.
Investors expect steady services growth in Europe and a slowdown in the United States in hiring, with surprises on any front likely to illuminate the apparent divergence between Europe and the United States
Analysts at ING have also noted that equity investors have yet to really buy into the European recovery story – and say a pile-in could provide even more support to the currency.
“Buy-side surveys suggest that investors are still heavily overweight United States equities, especially tech stocks, and are minded to rotate into the Eurozone and see the euro as cheap,’’ said ING’s global head of markets, Chris Turner.
“If that rotation comes to pass … then euro/dollar may be a $1.25 story after all.’’
Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)
Oil prices snap four-day winning streak as COVID-19 cases grow
Oil prices fell for the first time in four days on Wednesday, slipping from as much as five-month highs as mounting coronavirus cases worldwide and in the United States undercut market confidence about a potential pickup in fuel demand.
Brent crude was down four cents, or 0.1 per cent, at $44.39 a barrel by 0449 GMT.
It finished 0.6 per cent higher on Wednesday – the highest close since March 6.
West Texas Intermediate oil was down eight cents, or 0.2 per cent, at $41.62 a barrel.
The contract ended Tuesday trading 1.7 per cent higher, its highest close since late July.
Coronavirus cases continued to rise in the United States, and deaths are at more than a 1,000 a day while dozens of states have had to pause or scale back plans to reopen their economies.
Still, a big fall in United States inventories of crude oil provided a bottom to prices.
Crude inventories were down by 8.6 million barrels in the week to Aug. 1 to 520 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations for a drop of three million barrels.
Official figures from the United States Department of Energy are due out later on Wednesday.
“It would be safe to say that United States crude oil inventories are in a firm downward trend,’’ if the official numbers confirm last week’s drop, ING Economics said in a note.
Helping support sentiment were signs that talks between Democrats in Congress and the White House on a new package of coronavirus relief started moving in the right direction, although the two sides remain far apart.
United States factory data this week also showed an improvement in orders, which some analysts saw as offering relief to concerns about risks to any recovery.
Japan’s services sector contracted for a sixth consecutive month in July, data showed on Wednesday.
Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)
COVID-19: Nigeria’s total hits 44,433 as NCDC announces 304 new cases, 910 deaths
The NCDC made this known on its official twitter handle on Tuesday.
According to it, as of Aug. 4, 14 deaths were recorded in the country.
Till date, 44,433 cases have been confirmed out of which 31,851 cases have been discharged and 910 deaths recorded nationwide.
Others were Edo (6), Bauchi (4), Kwara (4), Ogun (4), Osun (4), Bayelsa (3), Plateau (3), Niger (3), Nasarawa (2) and Kano (1).
Meanwhile, the agency warned that the coronavirus does not care if a person ‘believe’ in use of face masks or not.
“You may not believe in the virus, but the virus sure believes in you.
“Do not wear masks with valves.
“Why? Because a valve acts as an open doorway, allowing your breath to leave the mask and putting those around you at risk of catching COVID-19.
“Again, there are many ways to wear a mask incorrectly, but only one way to maximise protection; wear a well-fitted mask with gaps.
“Check if your mask fit before going outside, it is really simple.
“Step 1, inhale: Your mask should pull on your face.
“Step 2, exhale: Your mask should expand.
“Step 3, check leaks: There should be no major leaks.
“Readjust your mask if there are leaks for best protection, your mask should fit well,’’ it advised.
“Even if you wear protective mask in public, it is important that you also use other preventive measures, stay at least two metres away from other people.
“Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
“Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands; cover your coughs and sneezes.’’
It, however, said that coronavirus could not overwhelm Nigerians.
“There’s an end; let’s just do the needful,’’ it stated.
The figures have reduced significantly over the past seven days with the lowest figure over this timeline, being 288 recorded on Aug. 3.
Between June and July, new cases had risen to as high as 790 on July 1.
With the recent trend, the case rate is slowing down in the country.
Edited By: Chidinma Agu/Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)
UN, United States commiserate with Lebanon over deadly explosions
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has commiserated with the people and government of Lebanon over Tuesday’s explosions in the capital, Beirut.
No fewer than 70 people died while 2,700 others were injured in the massive blasts at the city’s port, the Minister of Health, Hamad Hassan, said.
Officials said the two blasts originated from highly explosive materials stored in a warehouse although investigations were ongoing to determine the exact cause.
The UN chief’s reaction came in a statement by his deputy spokesman, Mr Farhan Haq.
“The Secretary-General expresses his deepest condolences to the families of the victims as well as to the people and government of Lebanon following the horrific explosions in Beirut today.
“He wishes a speedy recovery to the injured, including several United Nations personnel working in Lebanon.
“The United Nations remains committed to supporting Lebanon at this difficult time, and is actively assisting in the response to this incident,” Haq said.
United States Ambassador to Lebanon, Dorothy Shea, also reacted to the incident with a condolence message, in which she described the explosions as horrific.
“Having witnessed the horrific explosions at the port this evening, our heartfelt sympathies go out to the victims and their families.
“We mourn each loss from this terrible tragedy alongside the Lebanese people,” the embassy quoted her as saying in a tweet.
Edited By: Mufutau Ojo) (NAN)