Spreading the news

Written by Javier Maquieira, Associate

Edited by Tom Gillingham, Associate Partner

Good morning,

As the news continues to spread faster than the Covid-19 respiratory disease, reporting on the subject can be a real challenge. However, the last few days have been increasingly worrying for populations outside of China, especially in South Korea, Italy, and Iran. The surge of cases in those three countries is not only making the declaration of a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) more likely by the day, but is also exposing the dangers of an interdependent yet widely uncoordinated world. In Europe, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, and Croatia have all confirmed their first cases of the virus. Those infected appear to share one thing in common: they had recently travelled from virus-hit parts of Italy, where at least 11 people have died, and more than 300 infections have been reported. While calls for self-isolation, quarantines, and lockdowns are  ongoing in borderless Europe and other affected regions, the situation in Iran, where even the deputy health minister and an MP have tested positive for the coronavirus, is raising fears about a potential outbreak in the Middle East. Unlike Italian officials, Iranian authorities have refused to impose any quarantines, as they reportedly find them old-fashioned. Next to reports that Iran might be concealing the real number of cases, the existing conflict between religious conservatism and secular science is set to complicate containment efforts in the region. Despite all the panic and alarmism, the emerging consensus among epidemiologists such as Harvard professor Marc Lipstich is that the new coronavirus will keep spreading, but the most likely outcome is that it becomes a new seasonal disease, with many of those infected eventually presenting a mild or asymptomatic illness. Meanwhile, the race to find a vaccine for Covid-19 is well underway. An American biotech firm, Moderna, announced on Monday that it had shipped an experimental vaccine to US government researchers. Although initial trials could begin as soon as April, the process of testing and approvals would last at least a year, if successful. Either way, coronavirus has already managed to infoxicate us all.


Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has died at the age of 91. Ousted in 2011 during the Arab spring uprisings, Mubarak spent 29 years in office. In 2012, he was sentenced to life imprisonment over the deaths of some of the 900 protesters but was released in 2017 after the more serious charges were overturned. The European Union’s General Affairs Council has approved the bloc’s mandate for post-Brexit trade talks with the UK. The document, approved by the European affairs ministers from all EU member states, sets the basis for the negotiations, which will be carried out by the Union’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier. The final agreement will be presented in the European Parliament on Thursday. The Democratic presidential debate in North Carolina saw candidate spar in a chaotic showdown last night. While senator Bernie Sanders and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg faced attacks from all sides, former vice-president Joe Biden leaned into his record throughout the night with Super Tuesday looming. The Duke of Sussex is back in the UK for the first time since disagreeing with other members of the Royal Family about his future. Prince Harry, who now lives in Canada with his wife and son, will carry out final engagements as senior royal ahead of the spring 2020 transition, which will take effect on 31 March. Last week, a palace spokesperson said that the duke and duchess would not be using the word ‘royal’ in any future charitable initiatives.

Business and economy

Walt Disney’s Bob Iger is stepping down as chief executive of the company. Iger, who will now serve as executive chairman after leading the world’s largest media business since 2005, will be immediately succeeded by Bob Chapek, former chairman of Disney parks, experiences and products. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned chancellor Rishi Sunak that the fiscal targets presented by his predecessor will be extremely difficult to meet. The influential economic think tank said in its pre-budget analysis that the new chancellor must recognise the need to raise taxes, reinstate austerity, or get rid of the Conservative party’s fiscal rules. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) admitted that a major data breach compromised consumer information on its website last year. The regulator published details of about 1,600 people who filed complaints, including their names, addresses, and telephone numbers. The error took place when the FCA shared its response to a Freedom of Information Act request, in which complainants criticised the watchdog’s lack of communication and fees.

Columns of note

Writing in The Times, Alice Thomson argues that Harvey Weinstein’s verdict is far from a triumph for women. Although his case may have made high-powered abusers slightly more anxious about their behaviour, for women having been forced into sexual acts appearing in court to report rape and sexual assault is still a traumatising experience. (£) Natalie Wharton writes in City AM that it shouldn’t take a global pandemic for companies to find out about the benefits of flexible working. She highlights research pointing to productivity increases of at least 2.5% when employers give autonomy and trust to their teams to manage their own workload, further reducing organisational costs coming from expensive office spaces and associated overheads.

Source: The Times


What happened yesterday?

London stocks closed in the red again on Tuesday amid the latest developments of the coronavirus crisis. The FTSE was down 1.94% at 7,017.88, while the pound remained stronger both against the US dollar by 0.62% at $1.3007 and versus the euro by 0.4% at €1.1959. Investor panic over the global spread of Covid-19 has wiped nearly £100bn off the value of the UK’s biggest companies so far this week, lowering the value of Britain’s blue-chip businesses by about £35bn. Concerns about supply chains have also been emerging, with Associated British Foods (-4.44%) warning about potential shortages in some clothing lines at its fashion brand Primark later in the year. Travel companies have been among the worst hit by the coronavirus crisis. Carnival, the cruise operator and owner of the quarantined Diamond Princess ship, was the biggest faller, down 5.9%. TUI (-4.87%) and EasyJet (-3.50%) were also lower, adding to their losses from the previous session. In the US, Wall Street fell for the second consecutive day as US health authorities warned Americans to prepare for the spread of the virus, with the S&P 500 tumbling three per cent.

What's happening today?

Finals Avast   Gran Tierra Mmc Norilsk Adr Restaurant Gp Rio Tinto Serco Taylor Wimpey William Hill AGMs Aberdeen Di&g Bankers Investment Trust Baronsmead Vt

Ediston Prprty Pcgh Zdp Polar Cap Glbl SSP Group UK economic announcements (00:01) BRC Shop Price Index Int. economic announcements (12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US) (15:00) New Homes Sales (US) (15:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)

Source: Financial Times

Did you know?

The word ‘craic’ meaning ‘fun’ is actually English in origin – it entered Irish as ‘crack’ from English via Ulster Scots, was Gaelicised into ‘craic’ and then re-imported into English as an apparently Irish word.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons Oral questions Wales Prime Minister's Question Time Ten Minute Rule Motion Workers (Definition and Rights) Bill - Chris Stephens Legislation Environment Bill: Second Reading Motion To approve a Statutory Instrument relating to terrorism Adjournment Secondary education in Ellesmere Port - Justin Madders House of Lords Oral questions Financial assistance to UK businesses for the costs of staff training and administration resulting from the new customs rules for the UK’s departure from the EU - Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Extending the time limit on pre-charge police bail - Lord Kennedy of Southwark Government's response to the report ' A perverse and ominous enterprise: the death penalty and illegal executions in Saudi Arabia' - Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Impact of Wuhan coronavirus on UK tourism. - Lord Lee of Trafford Legislation NHS Funding Bill (Money Bill) – Second Reading (and remaining stages) - Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford Orders and regulations Police and Crime Commissioner Elections (Amendment) Order 2020 - Earl Howe Scottish Parliament Ministerial Statement Modernising and Empowering Scotland’s Inshore Fisheries Portfolio Questions Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party Debate Police Scotland Underfunded in Draft Budget Members' Business S5M-19270 Jenny Gilruth: National Parent Forum of Scotland.