Citigroup Inc., Qantas Airways Ltd. and Singapore’s United Overseas Bank Ltd. joined companies globally making deeper cost cuts, from property and equipment to jobs and pay, as the pandemic drags on.

Hong Kong is set to deploy a new round of its virus relief fund. The city will reopen pubs, swimming pools and theme parks from Friday, the South China Morning Post reported. Developing Asia’s battered economy will this year shrink for the first time since the early 1960s, the Asian Development Bank said.

A vaccine may be available for “ordinary Chinese” as soon as November, the state-owned Global Times said. In the UK, researchers are beginning the first study of whether two experimental vaccines can be inhaled.

Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases pass 29.1 million; deaths exceed 925,000
  • A cure for Covid? Your body is still the best virus killer
  • Lockdowns halt Europe’s air-travel recovery, threaten jobs
  • World governments blasted for lack of pandemic preparation
  • At JPMorgan, productivity falls for staff working at home
  • The keys to speed in race for vaccine, and its perils: QuickTake
Hong Kong’s New Stimulus (10:07 a.m. HK)

Hong Kong will launch a new round of its virus relief fund as the city’s economy continues to suffer from a recession prompted by pro-democracy protests and worsened throughout the pandemic.

The city will provide more information at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said. Fresh funding would add to nearly HK$290 billion ($51.08 billion) in direct Covid-19-related relief measures.

Looser Rules in Regional Victoria (9:05 a.m. HK)

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews outlined a plan to reopen regional areas this week after the Australian state recorded an average of less than four cases a day over a 14-day period.

In areas of Victoria outside the capital Melbourne and its surrounds, the four essential reasons to leave homes will no longer apply. Gathering limits will increase to 10 people and most workplaces will reopen.

Texas Positive-Test Rate at 3-Month Low (9:02 a.m. HK)

Texas’s positivity rate slumped to 6.71%, the lowest since June 4, after the second-largest US state revamped its calculation methodology.

The state made the changes Monday in response to growing criticism about wildly volatile ratios brought on by data-analysis glitches. The Texas Department of State Health Services said it was no longer accepting test results sent by laboratories via fax, and eliminating duplicate cases.

The new methodology pegged the peak positive rate at 20.8% on July 7, compared with the faulty prior calculation process that showed the rate reached 24.5% five weeks later.

Broad China Vaccine Flagged for November (8:50 a.m. HK)

A Covid-19 vaccine may be available for “ordinary Chinese” as soon as November or early December following a Phase III trial that “went very smoothly,” the Global Times said in a tweet, citing the Chinese CDC’s chief biosafety expert.

Ordinary Chinese could take the #COVID19 vaccine as early as November or December as the phase III clinical trial went very smoothly: Chinese CDC chief biosafety expert

— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) September 15, 2020

George Washington Enrollment Sinks (8:48 a.m. HK)

George Washington University’s enrollment is down about 17% from last year, an early indication of the impact of Covid-19 on US higher education.

President Thomas LeBlanc told a faculty senate meeting that preliminary undergraduate enrollment is about 1,000 students below its target of 10,126, a spokeswoman said Monday.

Hong Kong Concludes Mass Test (8:40 a.m. HK)

Hong Kong concluded a Beijing-backed campaign to offer everyone in the city a free virus test. Health experts see the drive as an additional weapon against the disease and preparation for any flareups.

Close to 1.8 million residents — about a quarter of the city’s population — completed tests over the past two weeks, through which at least 32 new infections were identified, according to government data.

Participation trailed the 3 million turnout hoped for by the lab running the project.

S. Korea Adds Fewest Cases in Month (8:37 a.m. HK)

South Korea added 106 more cases in the past 24 hours, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

The number of confirmed cases was the smallest in a month, while remaining below 200 for a 13th day. Total number of confirmed cases rose to 22,391. The death toll rose by four to 367.

Qantas Considers HQ Move (8:06 a.m. HK)

The Australian airline said it’s considering moving its headquarters from Sydney as part of an office and property review to cut costs.

“Like most airlines, the ongoing impact of Covid means we’ll be a much smaller company for a while,” Chief Financial Officer Vanessa Hudson said.

Singapore Bank UOB Freeze’s Pay and Hiring (7:52 a.m. HK)

United Overseas Bank Ltd. imposed a freeze on hiring, pay and promotions as the Singapore lender prepares for a further decline in earnings after the pandemic.

The city state’s third-largest bank told staff that it expects the situation to worsen before improving when the government cuts some of its support, according to an internal memo sent to senior staff. The hiring freeze will last until December 2021, and any exceptions will need senior approval.

Citigroup Resumes Job Cuts (7:20 a.m. HK)

Citigroup Inc. will resume job cuts this week, joining rivals such as Wells Fargo & Co. in ending an earlier pledge to pause staff reductions during the coronavirus pandemic.

The cuts will affect less than 1% of the bank’s global workforce, the bank said in a statement. With recent hiring, overall headcount probably won’t show any drops, the bank said.

Astra Trial on Hold Pending US Scrutiny: Reuters (4:30 p.m. NY)

AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid-19 vaccine trial remains on hold in the US as regulators examine a serious side effect suffered by a UK patient, Reuters reported.

The drugmaker and its partner, the University of Oxford, restarted the UK trial of the vaccine on Saturday after it was halted on Sept. 6. The UK Medicines Health Regulatory Authority recommended the study resume after an independent review of the safety data had triggered the pause.

However, enrollment of new study participants and other trial procedures remain stopped in the US pending an investigation by the Food and Drug Administration and an independent safety panel, Reuters reported, citing unnamed sources.

AstraZeneca and the FDA didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

US Cases Rise 0.5% (4 p.m. NY)

Coronavirus cases in the US increased 0.5% as compared with the same time Sunday to 6.54 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. The increase matched the average daily gain over the past week. Deaths rose by 0.2% to 194,339.

  • Missouri experienced a 2.7% increase in the number of cases from the same time yesterday, bringing the total to 105,262, according to the data from Johns Hopkins and Bloomberg News.
  • California reported 2,855 new virus cases, less than the 14-day average of 3,835, extending a trend of improvement. The average rate of positive tests over the past 14 days reached a new low of 3.7%. Hospitalizations from Covid-19 dropped 1% and are now at the lowest since April.
Bordeaux Adds More Restrictions (2:05 p.m. NY)

France reported more than 6,000 new coronavirus cases on Monday, down from the previous day’s figure, as Bordeaux became the latest city to announce additional measures to control the pandemic.

Laboratory-confirmed cases rose by 6,158 to 387,252 in the past 24 hours, health authorities said on their website. That compares with 7,183 a day earlier and Saturday’s post-lockdown high of over 10,000 infections.

Inhaled Versions of UK Vaccines to Be Studied (10 a.m. NY)

Researchers are beginning the first study of whether two of the UK’s experimental Covid-19 vaccines can be inhaled, a possible way of raising their ability to prevent the airborne infection.

The study will compare vaccine candidates from Imperial College London and the University of Oxford delivered by inhalation through the mouth, according to a statement Monday. The hope is that targeting cells in the lining of the lungs will induce a more effective immune response.