North America Update: February 2
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TOPLINE PERSPECTIVE: february 2, 2021
- A group of 10 Republican senators are calling on President Biden to compromise on his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package and consider a smaller proposal worth $618 billion. The senators say their proposal provides targeted assistance for Americans most in need. The proposal includes another round of stimulus checks, extended federal unemployment at the current level, full funding for food assistance for struggling families, and more. To get a bill through Congress without Republican support, Democrats will need to use a procedure called reconciliation, which allows legislation to pass with just 51 votes, but limits the plan to measures with budgetary impacts. Democrats will take the first steps in that process this week.
- The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) this week issued an improved economic outlook and said the U.S. labor market will return to full strength quicker than expected due to the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and stimulus legislation passed in 2020. U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to reach its previous peak in mid-2021 and the labor force is forecast to return to its pre-pandemic level in 2022, according to the CBO. The forecasters see the unemployment rate falling to 5.3% this year and further to 4.0% between 2024 and 2025. GDP is expected to grow 3.7% in the fourth quarter of 2021, compared with a year earlier, and to expand 2.4% in 2022.
- A consortium of some of Canada’s largest companies, representing 350,000 employees nationwide, has launched a rapid testing program aimed at reopening the country’s economy. The 12 companies, including Canada’s biggest airline and grocery chain, have worked together for four months, creating a 400-page operating manual on how to run rapid antigen tests in various work settings. They began piloting the tests in their workplaces this month, and expect to expand the program to 1,200 small and medium-sized businesses.
- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced a new agreement with airlines to suspend travel to the Caribbean and Mexico due to COVID-19.
- Novavax Inc. has submitted its COVID-19 vaccine candidate to the Canadian health regulator for emergency-use authorization after the pharmaceutical company said last week its vaccine was 89% effective in a UK trial.
- The EU has imposed export controls on vaccines to more than 100 countries, requiring express authorization for the export of vaccines. While national governments will still be in charge of issuing authorizations, the EU will be able to issue “binding opinions”, according to EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis.
- Germany’s retail sector ended 2020 with a record increase despite a historic slump in sales in December. Revenues for the year were up 3.9% year-on-year after price adjustments, according to the Federal Statistical Office.
- Vaccine manufacturer Biontech-Pfizer announced plans to supply up to 75 million more vaccine units to the EU in the coming quarter
- The advent of ecommerce has led to transformation in Indonesia’s logistics sector. The archipelago has some of the highest logistic costs in Asia, amounting to 24% of the country’s GDP. As part of the government’s National Logistics Ecosystem (NLE) reform plan, logistics costs will be reduced to 17 percent to boost competitiveness.
- Thailand’s government has approved a US$68 billion loan bill proposed by the Transport Ministry for high-speed railway and other transportation mega projects that will reduce logistic costs from 18 percent to 10 percent.
- Japan’s government has announced the launch of a nationwide smart logistics platform to collect data on the end-to-end delivery process. Due to go live by March 2023, the platform is estimated to increase efficiency in the logistics sector by 20 percent.
- Having tested positive for COVID-19 a week ago, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador continues to be only mildly affected by the virus, an official said on Saturday, a day after the Mexican leader broadcast a video informing the public that his health was improving.
- Mexico’s COVID-19 deaths surpassed those in India, making the country’s outbreak the third-most deadly worldwide, as officials struggle to contain a pandemic that’s taking an increasingly grim toll.
- Since the beginning of the pandemic, Brazil has accounted for more than 9,000,000 cases and 200,000 deaths due to COVID-19.
- As a result of the new variant found in Brazil, Italy extended its veto to Brazilian travelers in fear of the new variant. The strain that emerged in the Amazon has already made other countries take the measure, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and Portugal.
- Brazil will receive between 10 million and 14 million doses of Oxford/AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine starting in mid-February through the World Health Organization’s COVAX program, the health ministry announced on Saturday.
INSIGHTS & INTEL
- Some of America’s largest retailers are preparing to administer COVID-19 vaccinations, hoping to avoid delays that have slowed the vaccine rollout. The U.S. is falling short of its vaccination goals because health departments, hospitals and long-term-care facilities are plagued with supply-chain bottlenecks, vaccine hesitancy and a myriad of systems for making appointments.
- Many Americans are not yet eligible for the vaccines and shots are in short supply. But doses are becoming more available in some states, and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention aims to make them available in local pharmacies beginning next month. Companies such as CVS Health, Walgreens, Walmart and Kroger say they are they are prepared to give tens of millions of shots a month.
- Pharmacy chains like Walgreens are already working with hospitals and healthcare facilities to administer COVID-19 vaccines to staff and residents. They are well-positioned to play a larger role in vaccination efforts because many Americans already get their medications from local supermarkets or drugstores.
- Virtual Programming: New virtual events from Politico, FT and Techonomy cover a variety of topics related to the pandemic, including public trust in the vaccine, the need for business to focus on sustainability post-pandemic, and the health and wealth of America during these times.
- Music Festival Cancellations: California-based music festivals Coachella (April 9-11 & 16-18) and Stagecoach (April 23-25) were cancelled following orders from county health officials.
- LA Marathon Postponed: The LA Marathon was again postponed and will take place in Fall 2021. The event was originally slated to proceed on March 21, then postponed to May 23.
- Entertainment Industry Support for Vaccine Distribution: NIVA, AEG, Live Nation and other live entertainment industry groups signed an open letter to President Biden offering their venues and staff to help distribute Covid-19 vaccinations.
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