World Coronavirus Dispatch: Amazon says 20,000 US staff positive in 6 mths

FILE PIC: Student undergoes thermal screening before entering an examination centre
Amazon.com said almost 20,000 US employees have tested positive for Covid-19 during a time period of a little over six months, a disclosure that follows criticism from some lawmakers and employees that the world’s largest online retailer was too secretive about outbreaks within its ranks.

The retailer said Thursday that 19,816 workers tested positive for the respiratory disease, or were presumed positive, out of 1,372,000 US front-line employees who worked for the company from March 1 to September 19, an infection rate of 1.44 percent. The company said that if its employees contracted the virus at a rate equal to that of the general population, Amazon would have seen 33,952 cases. Read more here


Total Confirmed Cases: 34,312,510

Change Over Yesterday: 344,239

Total Deaths: 1,022,976

Total Recovered: 23,866,172

Nations hit with most cases: US (7,278,385), India (6,394,068), Brazil (4,847,092), Russia (1,179,634) and Colombia (835,339)


US stimulus talks remain in limbo: US stimulus talks remain on life support after the House passed a Democrat-only $2.2 trillion package that did nothing to bridge the gap with Republicans. The 214-207 vote followed the most concerted talks between the top negotiators since early August. Democrats reduced their stimulus demands from a $3.4 trillion bill the House passed in May. But the legislation approved Thursday is still more than Republicans have said they could accept. Read more here

 
Jefferies CEO says normalcy won’t return until late 2021: CEO Rich Handler and Brian Friedman, the firm’s president, say they’ve “decided to lead and prepare Jefferies in every way possible for the probability that it may not be until at least the third quarter of 2021 when we will have a true and fuller return to a world resembling the one we all took for granted.” Their October memo was posted online for clients and employees. Read more here

Europe’s big banks to slash 2,500 branches as clients go online: Spanish lender Banco de Sabadell SA’s UK TSB unit said this week it will close more than a third of its branches, just a week after Deutsche Bank AG announced it will shutter a fifth of its network. Sweden’s Handelsbanken AB recently presented plan to slash the number of its branches by almost half. Read more here

Meatpackers in the Americas accelerate automation after outbreaks, lagging Europe: The US, Canada and Brazil, all major meat producers and exporters, have adopted technology at a slower pace than Northern Europe or Japan and lagged other industrial factories in automating their operations. The concentration of COVID-19 outbreaks in the meatpacking industry in the Americas partly reflected its greater reliance on elbow-to-elbow working conditions. Read more here

Europe shares slip after trump tests positive for Covid-19: The Stoxx 600 index was down 0.3 percent at 9:05 am in London, after losing as much as 1.2 percent shortly after the open. The retreat was led by shares in the retail, chemicals and energy sectors. The region’s volatility index, the VStoxx, rose to 27.2, while the US VIX Index climbed to 28.8. Trump announced early Friday that he and First Lady Melania Trump had tested positive for Covid-19. Read more here


Australia allows no quarantine travel from New Zealanders: New Zealanders are to be granted access to Australia in the first opening of international borders by either nation since Covid restrictions were imposed. People will be able to fly from New Zealand to New South Wales and the Northern Territory - and avoid mandatory quarantine - from 16 October. The nations closed their borders in March. Read more here

Specials 

JPMorgan sees frequent-flyer points as alternative for investors 

 
JPMorgan Chase wants to help turn airline and hotel loyalty points into an asset akin to stocks or corn futures. The bank is working with Affinity Capital Exchange to let companies turn rewards programs into a standardized, exchangeable currency to be traded by institutional investors and used as collateral to raise capital, according to a statement Thursday. Through the partnership, massive loyalty programs can be converted into pieces, or “reserve points,” sold to investors like hedge funds or banks on the ACE marketplace, and later traded on the same venue. Pledging miles programs as collateral for debt financings has become a popular way for cash-strapped airlines to raise funds to get them through the pandemic. Using the ACE platform, a company could pledge a slice of its loyalty program as collateral instead of the entire thing. Read more here


Wall Street’s biggest banks are muscling into small deals

 
Wall Street’s biggest banks traditionally shied away from getting their hands dirty advising on small mergers and acquisitions. Too much work for the modest fees, so they focused on the blockbuster deals. But with the pandemic-induced slowdown in dealmaking this year, bankers who have been talking about embracing smaller clients for ages are finally doing it. They’re swooping in on smaller transactions -- those of $500 million or less -- winning assignments to an extent not seen in five years. And in so doing, they are elbowing out some lesser rivals that typically make their bread and butter advising smaller clients. Read more here

Companies ditch plans for rapid coronavirus spit tests at home

 
If these rapid saliva tests worked, as many news articles have pointed out, they could greatly expand the number of people getting tested. Some experts have even said they could perform as well as a vaccine in curbing the spread of the coronavirus and paving a path back to normalcy. But so far, the technology is not panning out as some have hoped. E25Bio and OraSure, two companies pursuing rapid at-home coronavirus tests, have abandoned efforts to use saliva in their products. Their tests, which detect pieces of coronavirus proteins called antigens, will for now rely on shallow nose swabs instead. Read more here


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