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Friday, April 24: Coronavirus global update

More than 2,745,469 people have been infected across the world and over 191,791 have died but at the same time 755,462 people have recovered.

THE PANDEMIC IN NUMBERS

INFECTED CASES DEATHS DUE TO THE VIRUS
USA 886,709 USA 50,243
SPAIN 219,764 ITALY 25,549
ITALY 189,973 SPAIN 22,524
FRANCE 158,183 FRANCE 21,856
GERMANY 153,307 UK 18,738
CYPRUS 795 CYPRUS 13

All the latest news in brief as it happens

18:35 US coronavirus death toll doubles in 10 days to more than 50,000

The US death toll from the novel coronavirus reached 50,000 on Friday, having doubled in 10 days, according to a Reuters tally.

More than 875,000 Americans have contracted the highly contagious respiratory illness Covid-19 caused by the virus, and on average about 2,000 have died every day this month, according to a Reuters tally.

18:18 Pentagon confirms coronavirus outbreak on US destroyer

The Pentagon on Friday confirmed an outbreak of coronavirus aboard a US Navy destroyer, saying one of the sailors infected was medically evacuated from the vessel and it was halting operations and returning to port.

18:02 Italy’s coronavirus epidemic began in January, study shows

The first Covid-19 infections in Italy date back to January, according to a scientific study presented on Friday, shedding new light on the origins of the outbreak in one of the world’s worst-affected countries.

Italy began testing people after diagnosing its first local patient on February 21 in Codogno, a small town in the wealthy Lombardy region.

Cases and deaths immediately surged, with scientists soon suspecting that the virus had been around, unnoticed, for weeks.

17:30 Sweden to shut bars and restaurants that ignore coronavirus restrictions

Sweden warned on Friday it would shut restaurants and bars in the capital that did not comply with guidelines aimed at preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus, amid signs Stockholm residents were beginning to ignore the rules.

The capital has been the hardest-hit city in Sweden, accounting for more than half of Sweden’s 2,021 fatalities from Covid-19, the disease cause by the coronavirus.

17:10 Portugal ramps up coronavirus testing at care homes

Portugal hopes to conduct 70,000 coronavirus tests by the end of May at care homes, among whose residents around two in five of the country’s coronavirus deaths have occurred.

Around 17,000 tests have been conducted so far at some 200 homes.

16:38 French public to get reusable textile masks for coronavirus protection

The French public will be provided millions of washable face masks from early May, the government said on Friday amid a row over its flip-flopping on the value of masks in protecting against coronavirus infection.

Junior Finance Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher told financial daily Les Echos that domestic and international plants produced more than 10 million textile masks last week and that output should reach 25 million a week by the end of April.

16:32 World leaders launch WHO Covid-19 plan, but US not involved

Global leaders joined the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday to launch an initiative to accelerate work on drugs, tests and vaccines against Covid-19 and to share them around the world.

French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen were among leaders taking part in a videoconference to announce the plan, but the United States stayed away.

16:22 Georgia forges ahead with reopening despite disapproval of Trump, pandemic

Georgia pushed ahead with its plan to become the first US state to allow an array of merchants to reopen on Friday following a month-long shutdown to stanch the coronavirus outbreak, even though both US President Donald Trump and health experts voiced disapproval.

Gyms, hair salons, tattoo parlors and some other businesses have been given the green light to open their doors on Friday by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, who disregarded warnings from public health experts that relaxing restrictions could lead to a surge in infections of the novel coronavirus and more deaths.

16:17 Mortality rates drop sharply in parts of India, bucking coronavirus trend

Parts of India have recorded dramatic falls in the number of deaths at a time when funeral parlours were bracing for a surge amid the coronavirus crisis.

Emergency room doctors, officials, and crematoriums noted that strict lockdowns had cut the number of road traffic accidents and deaths on India’s packed railways, and may also be deterring relatives from reporting a family death.

15:26 Islam’s holiest sites emptied by coronavirus crisis as Ramadan begins

The holy month of Ramadan began on Friday with Islam’s holiest sites in Saudi Arabia and Jerusalem largely empty of worshippers as the coronavirus crisis forced authorities to impose unprecedented restrictions.

During Ramadan, Muslims the world over join their families to break the fast at sunset and go to mosques to pray. But the pandemic has changed priorities, with curbs on large gatherings for prayers and public iftars, or meals to break the fast.

15:01 Belgium will not use coronavirus contact tracing apps -minister

The Belgian government has decided not to use apps to trace the path of coronavirus infections, Telecommunications Minister Philippe De Backer said, in a U-turn after initially pushing the idea.

While Belgium was one of the first European nations to voice interest in mobile data and the development of smartphone apps to pinpoint those in the country of 11.5 million at risk of infection, De Backer said this had been ruled out for now.

“There is no need for an app for contact tracing, it can be done manually and it has been around for years,” he told Belgian television channel VRT on Thursday.

While contact tracing apps are already used in Asian countries hard hit by coronavirus outbreaks, copying their approach by using location data would violate tight privacy laws in the European Union.

14:18 Trump’s coronavirus disinfectant comments ‘dangerous’, doctors say

Doctors and health experts urged people not to drink or inject disinfectant on Friday after US President Donald Trump suggested scientists should investigate inserting the cleaning agent into the body as a way to cure Covid-19.

“(This is an) absolutely dangerous crazy suggestion,” said Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at Britain’s University of East Anglia.

14:00 German economy to shrink by more than 6% this year – government source

The German economy will contract by more than 6% this year, a government source told Reuters on Friday, which would be a post-World War Two record.

The economy will rebound from the coronavirus pandemic in 2021 with growth of more than 5%, the source added.

13.55 Poland’s health minister says no data to show coronavirus will ease in autumn

Poland’s Health Minister Lukasz Szumowski said on Friday that there was no reliable data showing that the new coronavirus will ease in autumn, when asked whether he expected infections to increase later in year, along with cases of flu.

Poland on Friday extended school and kindergarten closures until May 24.

13.48 Swiss coronavirus death toll rises to 1,309

he Swiss death toll from the new coronavirus has reached 1,309, the country’s public health agency said on Friday, rising from 1,268 people on Thursday.

The number of positive tests also increased to 28,677 from 28,496 on Thursday, it said. Switzerland is due to start the first phase of its relaxation of the coronavirus restrictions on April 27 with the reopening of hairdressers, florists, and garden centres.

13.46 Britain’s self-referral testing website closes after “significant demand”

A website for essential workers in Britain applying to get a test for COVID-19 said on Friday it was closed for new applicants just hours after the government widened the number of people eligible for its testing programme.

Health minister Matt Hancock said Friday’s launch of the new online booking system to an increased number of essential workers, including people such as teachers and delivery drivers, was part of efforts to boost Britain’s testing programme to reach his target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month.

13.33 Poland extends school lockdown until May 24

Poland’s government is to extend the closure of schools, and pre-schools by a month, until May 24, Education Minister Dariusz Piatkowski said on Friday.

Piatkowski also told a news conference that he was considering whether it would be possible to allow some educational establishments to offer day care for children, but gave no further details.

13.20 Spain records lowest number of daily coronavirus deaths in over a month

Spain said on Friday the number of daily coronavirus-related fatalities fell to its lowest level in more than a month, with 367 deaths in the previous 24 hours.

That took total fatalities to 22,524 from 22,157 the day before, the health ministry said. The overall number of coronavirus cases rose to 219,764 from 213,024 the day before.

13.19 Lysol maker says don’t inject disinfectant after Trump remarks

Lysol and Dettol maker Reckitt Benckiser said on Friday its disinfectants should not be administered to humans, after U.S. President Donald Trump said researchers should try putting disinfectant into coronavirus patients’ bodies.

“Under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route),” the company said.

13.08 Iran coronavirus death toll rises by 93 to 5,574 – health official

Iran’s death toll from the new coronavirus rose by 93 on Friday, to reach a total of 5,574, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said on state TV.

The total number of people diagnosed with the disease is 88,194, of whom 3,121 are in critical condition, he added.

13.00 US coronavirus death toll expected to reach 50,000 on Friday

The US death toll from the novel coronavirus is expected to reach 50,000 on Friday, doubling in 10 days and the highest in the world, according to a Reuters tally.

About 875,000 Americans have contracted the highly contagious respiratory illness COVID-19 caused by the virus, and on average about 2,000 have died every day this month, according to a Reuters tally.

The true number of cases is thought to be higher, with state public health officials cautioning that shortages of trained workers and materials has limited testing capacity.

12.55 Coronavirus crisis not changing EU priorities on Brexit – French minister

The new coronavirus outbreak crisis does not change European priorities in the Brexit negotiations, French European Affairs Minister Amelie de Montchalin said on Friday.

She also told reporters that a no-deal Brexit would be an extra shock on top of the COVID-19 crisis but Britain would suffer the most.

12.43 UK cricket board suspends professional game until July 1

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday extended the suspension of the professional game in the country until July 1 due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

As a result, England’s three-match home test series against the West Indies scheduled for June and the women’s T20I and ODI matches against India in June and July will be moved.

12.22 Wizz Air plans to resume flights out of Vienna on May 1 – APA

European low-cost airline Wizz Air plans to resume flights out of Vienna from May 1, Deputy Chief Executive Stephen Jones said in comments reported by Austrian news agency APA on Friday.

Jones told reporters the airline intended to offer connections to 20 destinations including Milan, Valencia and Tel Aviv despite widespread travel restrictions introduced because of the coronavirus pandemic, APA reported.

11.57 Few hundred daily coronavirus cases will enable easing lockdown – Germany’s RKI

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany needs to fall to a few hundred a day to enable further easing of lockdown measures, the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases said on Friday.

Germany recorded 2,337 new cases to bring the total number of confirmed infections to 150,383 on Friday. The reported death toll rose by 227 to 5,321.

11.43 Malaysia reports 88 new coronavirus cases and one new death

Malaysian health authorities on Friday reported 88 new coronavirus cases and one more death.

That brought the cumulative total to 5,691 cases in Malaysia, with the daily rise remaining in double digits for the eighth straight day.

The country has now reported 96 fatalities due to COVID-19 since the outbreak began

11.12 Philippines’ coronavirus infections top 7,000

The Philippines’ Health Ministry on Friday reported that confirmed cases of the new coronavirus have risen to more than 7,000.

In a bulletin, the ministry recorded 211 new infections, 15 additional deaths and 40 more recoveries. It brought the total cases to 7,192, deaths to 477 and recoveries to 762.

10.45 Russia’s coronavirus case tally nears 70,000

Russia on Friday reported 5,849 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, pushing its nationwide tally to 68,622.

Sixty people with the virus died overnight, pushing the death toll to 615, Russia’s official crisis response centre said.

10.41 Britain to stick with lockdown for now despite economic pressure – minister

Britain will keep lockdown measures in place until it is safe to ease restrictions despite the economic costs of the rules, health minister Matt Hancock told BBC Radio on Friday.

“I will not allow for changes to be made that are unsafe. We’ve got to keep the public safe. And I understand the economic pressures, that is my background and I care deeply about that,” Hancock said, adding that getting the number of cases down was the best thing for the economy and that a second spike would be economically damaging.

10.30 European shares slide as pandemic jitters return

European shares tumbled on Friday on fears of a severe and lasting economic hit from the coronavirus pandemic after a report raised doubts about progress in developing a treatment for COVID-19.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index was down 1.1% at 0719 GMT, with London’s FTSE 100 shedding 1.3% as data showed UK retail sales crashed in March.

Global equity markets headed lower as a closely watched Gilead Sciences Inc experimental drug failed to help patients with severe COVID-19 in a clinical trial, even as the drugmaker said findings were inconclusive because the study was terminated early.

10.17 Singapore records 897 new coronavirus infections

Singapore registered 897 new coronavirus infections on Friday, taking its total number of cases to 12,075.

The health ministry said the vast majority of the new cases were migrant workers residing in dormitories, many of which are under government-ordered quarantine due to mass outbreaks.

The island of 5.7 million people now has one of the highest infection rates in Asia, according to official figures, behind only China, India and Japan.

10.15 Airlines in Philippines extend flight suspensions to mid-May

The Philippines’ major airlines said on Friday their domestic and international flights will remain suspended until mid-May following the extension of coronavirus lockdown measures in the capital and affected cities and provinces.

Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and the Philippine unit of Malaysia’s Airasia Group Bhd said passenger flights, which were halted in March, will remain suspended. Cargo and special recovery flights will continue, the airlines told Reuters.

10.11 EU heading for 5-10% economic contraction in 2020-Breton

European Union Industry Commissioner Thierry Breton said on Friday the EU was heading this year towards a 5-10% economic contraction due to the new coronavirus outbreak.

“As of today, in the European Union, we’re on course for a 5% to 10% (recession), meaning it’s about 7.5%. But that is today, and if things don’t improve and if we have a second peak (of the outbreak), things could get worse”, Breton said on France 2 television.

10.01 EU heading for 5-10% economic contraction in 2020-Breton

European Union Industry Commissioner Thierry Breton said on Friday the EU was heading this year towards a 5-10% economic contraction due to the new coronavirus outbreak.

“As of today, in the European Union, we’re on course for a 5% to 10% (recession), meaning it’s about 7.5%. But that is today, and if things don’t improve and if we have a second peak (of the outbreak), things could get worse”, Breton said on France 2 television.

9.31 UK PM Johnson in good shape after coronavirus, says minister

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in good shape and recovering after falling gravely ill with COVID-19, health minister Matt Hancock said on Friday.

“I’m sure he’ll come back as soon as his doctors recommend it,” he told Sky News.

“That decision is for the prime minister in consultation with his doctors. I spoke to him yesterday, he’s on very good form and is clearly recovering.”

9.24 70% of Paris transport network to be running by May 11

French RATP boss Catherine Guillouard said on Friday that the transport authorities were working towards having 70% of the Paris transport network operational by May 11 up from 30% now, ready for when France exits its lockdown. Making sure 70% of the transport network was running would be equivalent to delivering about eight million trips a day, she told France Inter radio.

9.17 Norway Q1 GDP contracts, 2020 seen plunging 5.5%

The Norwegian economy contracted in the first quarter and risks a 5.5% plunge for the full year as efforts to halt the novel coronavirus outbreak brought many industries to a standstill, Statistics Norway (SSB) said on Friday.

The mainland economy, which excludes the volatile offshore oil and gas production, shrank by 1.9% in the January-March period from the final quarter of 2019, SSB said, adding that the decline in March from February was 6.4%.

9.04 UK considering 100% guarantees on small business loans – FT says

British finance minister Rishi Sunak is preparing to offer 100%guarantees on loans to Britain’s smallest businesses, after sustained pressure from Conservative lawmakers and the Bank of England, the Financial Times reported.

The FT said Sunak was “weighing up” whether to go against his instincts and offer full state backing to loans of up to 25,000 pounds ($30,800) to “micro-SMEs” struggling to get credit to see them through the coronavirus crisis.

8.50 Hungary to scrap curfew, refocus anti-coronavirus defense -PM

Hungary plans to replace the current lockdown that imposes a blanket curfew over the population with a more fine-tuned version from early May, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio on Friday.

Orban said the new rules will focus on the elderly, the sick and those living in big cities, as those people are exposed to a disproportionate measure of risk.

8.35 Indonesia to ban air, sea travel to end-May

Indonesia will temporarily ban domestic and international air and sea travel, with some exceptions, starting this week to prevent a further spread of the coronavirus, the transport ministry said in a statement on Friday.

The announcement came as the holy month of Ramadan began in the world’s largest Muslim majority country, and the government has already banned citizens’ traditional annual exodus from the cities to the provinces during the holiday period..

The ban on sea travel took immediate effect, but the ban on air travel will start on Saturday so that some pre-booked flights can go-ahead.

7.50 Thailand reports 15 new coronavirus cases, no new deaths

Thailand reported on Friday 15 new coronavirus cases and no new deaths, bringing the total number of cases since its outbreak in January to 2,854 cases and 50 deaths.

Of the new cases, nine were linked to previous cases and two had no known links.

Four other new cases were reported from the southern province of Yala where the authorities are aggressively testing the population because of high infection rates there, said Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for the government’s Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration.

Since the outbreak 2,490 patients have recovered and gone home.

7.37 Germany’s confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 2,337 to 150,383 – RKI

Germany’s confirmed coronavirus cases increased by 2,337 to 150,383, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Friday – a slight deceleration after three straight days of new infections accelerating.

On Thursday confirmed coronavirus cases had increased by 2,352.

The reported death toll rose by 227 to 5,321, the tally showed on Friday.

7.05 Coronavirus tally rises to 91 on Italian cruise ship in Japan

As many as 91 crew of an Italian cruise ship docked in Japan’s southwestern port of Nagasaki are infected with coronavirus, officials said on Friday, as questions persist over how and when they will return to their home countries.

Authorities have tested about half the vessel’s crew of 623 and are racing to screen the rest after finding one of them infected this week, fanning worries that the illness could spread wider and eventually put a strain on medical services.

6.49 Australian PM says will be illegal for non-health officials to get data from COVID-19 app

People other than authorised health officials will be banned by law from accessing data collected in government smartphone software to trace the contacts of people with the coronavirus, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday.

“It will be illegal for information to go out of that data store to any other person other than that for whom the whole thing is designed, and that is to support the health worker in the state to be able to undertake the contact tracing,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

5.47 Philippines extends capital’s coronavirus lockdown to May 15

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has extended until May 15 a lockdown in the capital Manila, his spokesman said on Friday, stretching to eight weeks one of the world’s strictest community quarantines to curb coronavirus infections.

The measures will be expanded to other regions with big outbreaks but modified in lower-risk areas, which would see a partial resumption of work, transport and commerce, Harry Roque told reporters.

5.02 NZ finmin says there will be time when economy would need more stimulus

New Zealand’s finance minister said on Friday there will be a time when more stimulus would be needed to boost the economy that has taken a hit due to the impact of the coronavirus.

“There will come a time when we will need some more stimulus in the economy. There are a range of options available on how to do that,” Grant Robertson said in a news conference, adding that no decisions have been taken yet on how more stimulus would be added.

4.59 Saudi G20 presidency urges more donations to fund pandemic response

The Saudi presidency of the Group of 20 major economies on Thursday called for additional immediate donations to fund the emergency response to the coronavirus pandemic and develop needed vaccines.

In a statement, the G20 secretariat said $1.9 billion had been donated by countries, philanthropic organizations and the private sector toward an $8 billion target set by the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, but more funds were needed.

3.52 China reports 6 new coronavirus cases in mainland vs 10 a day earlier

Mainland China reported 6 new coronavirus cases as of end-April 23, down from 10 reported a day earlier, putting the total number of COVID-19 infections at 82,804.

China’s National Health Commission said in a statement on Friday that 2 of the new cases were so-called imported ones involving travellers from overseas.

There were 6 such imported cases reported a day earlier.

3.21 Mexico announced 99 more deaths as cases rise to 11,633

More than 1,000 new cases and 99 deaths were reported in Mexico over the past 24 hours. Total deaths now number1,069.

2.44 Panama registers 174 new cases

Panama health authorities announced 174 new coronavirus cases bringing the total to 5,166 cases. So far there have been 146 deaths, two in the last 24 hours

1.23 Costa Rica pushes back coronavirus, reducing current cases

While parts of Latin America enter the toughest phase of the coronavirus pandemic, Costa Rica has for the past week reported a steady fall in the number of people currently infected, in a sign the country’s approach to the crisis may be paying off.

The first country in Central America to register a coronavirus infection on March 6, Costa Rica has gone three days without reporting a related fatality. Thursday was the seventh day in succession in which the number of active cases fell.

00.58 Algeria eases coronavirus lockdown for Ramadan

Algeria will ease confinement measures from the first day of the holy month of Ramadan on Friday by shortening a night curfew and lifting a full lockdown for a province near the capital Algiers, the prime minister’s office said on Thursday.

It said the full lockdown in the Blida province south of Algiers will be replaced with a curfew from 2 p.m. to 7 a.m. while a 3 p.m.-7 a.m. curfew in nine provinces, including Algiers, will be shortened to run from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m.

 


What happened on Thursday, 23 April

EUROPE

  • France has expanded its list of drugs that face export restrictions through the coronavirus crisis despite repeated calls from the European Union to lift curbs that could cause shortages in other countries, documents show.
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel signalled she was open to offering major financial support for a coronavirus recovery package worth as much as 2 trillion euros, but wanted to see how it would be used before committing.
  • Spain’s daily increase in fatalities further steadied at around 2% on Thursday, as the government apologised for confusion over lockdown rules for children.
  • Greece extended its general lockdown by a week to May 4, saying any relaxation would be staggered over May and June.
  • Two British doctors who have been exposed to COVID-19 patients have launched a legal challenge against the government over what they say is a lack of protective kits and unclear guidance on when and how it should be used.

AMERICAS

  •  U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said a fundamental reform of the World Health Organization was needed following its handling of the pandemic and that the United States, the WHO’s biggest donor, may never restore funding to the U.N. body.
  • The U.S. House of Representatives returned to Washington on Thursday to pass a $484 billion coronavirus relief bill, funding small businesses and hospitals.
  • Former Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s oldest brother, Donald Reed Herring, died on Tuesday night after contracting the novel coronavirus.
  • Gilead Sciences Inc’s experimental coronavirus drug failed its first randomized clinical trial, the Financial Times reported, but the drugmaker said the results from the study in China were inconclusive as it was terminated early.
  • Peru’s reported coronavirus cases rapidly increased this week and topped 20,000 on Thursday, doubling in nine days, as President Martin Vizcarra extended a national quarantine in the world’s No. 2 copper producer.
  • Canada pledged new money to develop and eventually mass-produce vaccines in its fight against the coronavirus.

ASIA AND THE PACIFIC

  • South Asia’s infections have crossed 37,000, with more than half in India, complicating the task of governments looking to ease lockdowns.
  • Around $1 trillion of debt owed by developing countries would be cancelled under a global deal proposed by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
  • Indonesia will temporarily ban domestic air and sea travel starting Friday, barring a few exceptions
  • Malaysia will extend travel and other curbs by two weeks to May 12, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said, but more sectors may be allowed to resume operations.
  • Spooked by a sharp increase in cases in the navy, Taiwan is debating whether to consider a broad lockdown.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

  • African nations that lack ventilators will receive some from a donation of 300 supplied by the Jack Ma Foundation.
  • The governors of Nigeria’s 36 states agreed to ban interstate movement for two weeks.
  • Botswana’s president and lawmakers were released from two weeks in quarantine after testing negative.
  • Egypt will keep a night-time curfew for the holy Muslim month of Ramadan to combat the coronavirus spread but make it one hour shorter.

ECONOMIC FALLOUT

  • World stock markets climbed as investors weighed a rebound in oil prices and prospects for further government stimulus against stark economic data showing the toll of the pandemic.
  • Global economic activity all but ground to a halt this month as government-imposed lockdowns took a particularly heavy toll on the world’s service industry, surveys showed.
  • A record 26 million Americans likely sought unemployment benefits over the last five weeks, meaning all the jobs created during the longest employment boom in U.S. history were wiped out in about a month.
  • Japan offered its bleakest assessment of the economy in over a decade as the pandemic threatens to tip the world’s third-largest economy into a deep recession.
  • South Korea’s ruling party and the government agreed to provide cash handouts to every household, not just to families below the top 30 percentile of income as previously announced.
  • Italy will target a budget deficit of around 10% of national output in 2020, and the gap will remain above 3% in 2021, as it readies a new stimulus package to soften the economic hit from the virus.
  • German consumer morale was driven to a record low heading into May, a survey showed, with the pandemic having a far more severe impact on household spending intentions than forecasters had estimated.

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