FirstFT: US is to keep Covid-related travel restrictions in place


World updates

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The Biden administration has said it will maintain its Covid-related travel bans for the foreseeable future on a range of countries, including the UK, the EU and China, due to the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

The comments from the White House will dash the hopes of many European countries and airlines that the US would relax its long-held bans in time for the start of the summer holidays.

Early optimism about restoring international travel has been dented by the rapid spread of the Delta variant and the toughening response of the Biden administration and some of the bigger states and cities.

Anthony Fauci, Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said over the weekend that the number of new cases in the US was “going in the wrong direction”, especially in areas with low vaccination rates. He also said the government was discussing tightening guidance on mask use to help contain the spread of the Delta variant.

California and New York City announced yesterday that they would require public employees to get a Covid-19 vaccine or submit to weekly testing in a move designed to boost inoculation rates.

Meanwhile, Gayle Smith, head of global Covid-19 response at the US state department, has told the Financial Times that she wants US vaccine makers — which include Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson — to share technological expertise with international rivals who can make the vaccines at a lower price point.

Her comments follow criticism that the US is not doing enough to boost supplies in developing countries struggling to contain the spread of the Delta variant.

Five more stories in the news

1. Chinese stocks sink for a third day Chinese tech stocks fell sharply again today as fears of a growing regulatory crackdown spread. Shares in Tencent, one of China’s biggest tech groups, fell the most in a decade after it suspended user registrations to upgrade its security software to comply with new government guidance. Today’s edition of Unhedged looks at the growing discount investors are attributing to Chinese markets compared to their western counterparts.

  • In other markets news: The returns investors expect to earn after inflation on 10-year US Treasuries fell further below zero to reach a record low yesterday, with sweeping implications for global markets.

2. Tesla boosts profit margins The electric carmaker overcame severe supply chain problems in the latest quarter, boosting its profit margins and pushing its revenue above Wall Street expectations. Elon Musk used the upbeat moment to announce he would no longer take part in most Tesla earnings calls.

3. Jeff Bezos offers Nasa $2bn discount for lunar contract Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin has offered to cover $2bn in costs in exchange for being awarded a Nasa contract to help land astronauts on the moon as soon as 2024. The offer comes a week after Blue Origin successfully carried out its first manned flight to the edge of space.

4. Aon/Willis Towers Watson deal collapses Aon and Willis Towers Watson have abandoned a $30bn tie-up that would have created the world’s biggest insurance broker after the US government sued to block the merger. Aon’s chief executive Greg Case said the companies had reached an “impasse” with the US justice department.

5. Ex-lover sues Spain’s former king over ‘unlawful surveillance’ Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, former lover of ex-King Juan Carlos of Spain, is suing him in the High Court in London, accusing the former monarch and the Spanish secret service of putting her under illegal surveillance in the UK.

Tokyo Olympics round-up

Four-time tennis Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka is out of her home Games © MICHAEL REYNOLDS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
  • Naomi Osaka, the face of the Tokyo Games, is out of the Olympics after a shock defeat in straight sets to Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic.

  • US swimmer Lydia Jacoby won gold in the women’s 100-metre breaststroke. Returning champions Lilly King and Ryan Murphy were forced to settle for bronze in their respective events.

  • British swimmers Tom Dean and Duncan Scott won gold and silver medals respectively in the men’s 200-metre freestyle.

  • Flora Duffy won Bermuda’s first-ever gold medal in the women’s triathlon.

  • Momiji Nishiya of Japan, a 13-year-old skateboarder, became the sport’s first female Olympic champion after winning the women’s street event. (BBC, CNN, NYT — paywall — FT)

Add ‘Tokyo Olympics’ to myFT for all our coverage from the Games, and don’t miss our “alternative medals table”.

The days ahead

Tech earnings US tech giants Apple, Alphabet and Microsoft report earnings that are expected to underline their dominance throughout the pandemic. The results come as a French competition regulator has warned that multimillion-euro fines can force Big Tech companies to change their behaviour.

  • Other companies reporting: 3M, AMD, Starbucks, General Electric, UPS and Visa. Read our full list here.

Fed meeting begins The US central bank begins a 2-day interest rate setting meeting, with officials divided over when to begin the withdrawal of its $120bn a month asset-buying programme.

Vatican cardinal goes on trial Giovanni Angelo Becciu will become the first cardinal to face trial for financial crimes in the Vatican’s criminal court today. The case centres on an ill-fated multimillion pound Vatican investment in a luxury London property development.

Ariane 5 launch The EU-backed Ariane 5 spacecraft returns to flight today after being grounded for almost a year. Success will be greeted with relief after the European project struggled to maintain its position as a leader in space exploration.

Coronavirus digest

  • South Korea’s economy grew at its fastest pace in a decade in the second quarter. But optimism was damped by a surge of Covid-19 infections that the government is struggling to contain.

  • Singapore’s health minister has ruled out another lockdown to contain the spread of the Delta virus, telling the city state’s parliament we must “find ways to live with this virus.”

  • A sharp fall in positive Covid-19 cases in the UK over the past six days has surprised and delighted scientists.

Sign up for our Coronavirus Business Update newsletter and get the latest on our live blog.

What else we’re reading and watching

Joe Biden’s Afghan pullout could end in tragedy Biden may believe that drawing a line under the Afghan war will allow the US to concentrate on more urgent problems, writes Gideon Rachman. Sadly, he may have created a new crisis that will come back to haunt him.

High-risk bets spark a backlash at Binance The crypto exchange will drastically cut the risk clients can assume in one of its flagship products after uproar from regulators and consumers over high-risk derivatives that can quickly leave users nursing painful losses. Read our explainer.

Donald Trump ally Tom Barrack fights criminal charges over UAE ties The 74-year-old Lebanese-American founder of Colony Capital is fighting a charge of acting as an illegal agent of the UAE, which prosecutors say was looking to restore its clout in Washington. The case has implications for other senior figures in finance, business and real estate whom Donald Trump leaned on to perform roles typically entrusted to career diplomats and political appointees.

Fire ‘season’ stalks California The number of acres burnt in California so far this year has outpaced what was seen at the same stage in 2020. Using the lessons of the past, Cal Fire is deploying a new fire behaviour-modelling system and weather data to help put firefighting teams into position. “California is just a year-long fire season,” says a captain in the state’s fire department. 

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