Author: gbaddy

EU Forecasts ‘Recession Of Historic Proportions’ This Year Due to Coronavirus

File photo of an European Union flag. (Representative image from Reuters)

File photo of an European Union flag. (Representative image from Reuters)

The 27-nation EU economy is predicted to contract by 7.5 per cent this year, before growing by about 6 per cent in 2021.

The European Union predicted Wednesday “a recession of historic proportions this year” due to the impact of the coronavirus with a drop in output of more than 7 per cent, as it released its first official forecast of the damage the pandemic is inflicting on the bloc’s economy.

The 27-nation EU economy is predicted to contract by 7.5 per cent this year, before growing by about 6 per cent in 2021.

The group of 19 nations using the euro as their currency will see a record decline of 7.75 per cent this year, and grow by 6.25 per cent in 2021, the European Commission said in its Spring economic forecast.

“Europe is experiencing an economic shock without precedent since the Great Depression,” EU Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said in a statement.

More than 1.1 million people have contracted the virus across Europe and over 137,000 have died, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Unclear outbreak data, low testing rates and the strain on health care systems mean the true scale of the pandemic is much greater.

With the spread slowing in most European countries, people are cautiously venturing out from confinement and gradually returning to work, but strict health measures remain in place amid concern of a second wave of outbreaks and any return to something like normal life is at least months away.

The pandemic has hurt consumer spending, industrial output, investment, trade, capital flows and supply chains. It has also hit jobs.

The unemployment rate across the 27-nation EU is forecast to rise from 6.7 per cent in 2019 to 9 per cent in 2020 but then fall to around 8 per cent in 2021, the commission said.

While the virus hit every member country, the extent of the damage it ultimately inflicts will depend on the evolution of the disease in each of them, the resilience of their economies and what policies they put in place to respond.

Gentiloni said that the depth of the recession and the strength of recovery will be uneven across the world’s biggest trading bloc.

Much will depend, he said, on “the speed at which lockdowns can be lifted, the importance of services like tourism in each economy and by each country’s financial resources.

Such divergence poses a threat to the single market and the euro area – yet it can be mitigated through decisive, joint European action.”

How quickly things can change.

On February 13, the commission had predicted “a path of steady, moderate growth” this year and next of 1.2 per cent.

At that time, uncertainty over U.S. trade policy and a Brexit trade deal plus tensions in Latin America and the Middle East were the main threats.

The coronavirus outbreak in China was noted at the time as “a new downside risk” but the commission’s assumption less than three months ago was “that the outbreak peaks in the first quarter, with relatively limited global spillovers.”

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Asia coronavirus cases hit 250,000 but pace much slower than US, Europe

US airlines are collectively burning more than $10 billion in cash a month and averaging fewer than two dozen passengers per domestic flight because of the coronavirus pandemic, industry trade group Airlines for America said in prepared testimony seen by Reuters ahead of a US Senate hearing on Wednesday.

Even after grounding more than 3,000 aircraft, or nearly 50% of the active US fleet, the group said its member carriers, which include the four largest US airlines, were averaging just 17 passengers per domestic flight and 29 passengers per international flight.

“The US airline industry will emerge from this crisis a mere shadow of what it was just three short months ago,” the group’s chief executive, Nicholas Calio, will say, according to his prepared testimony.

Net booked passengers have fallen by nearly 100% year-on-year, according to the testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee. The group warned that if air carriers were to refund all tickets, including those purchased as nonrefundable or those canceled by a passenger instead of the carrier, “this will result in negative cash balances that will lead to bankruptcy.”

Separately, Eric Fanning, who heads the Aerospace Industries Association, will ask Congress to consider providing “temporary and targeted assistance for the ailing aviation manufacturing sector,” in testimony made public by the group.

Boeing Co said last week it would cut 16,000 jobs by the end of the year, while GE Aviation plans to cut up to 13,000 jobs and airplane supplier Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc is cutting 1,450 jobs.

Fanning will say at the hearing that “there is strong support in our industry for a private-public partnership to protect jobs and keep at-risk employees on the payroll through the pandemic,”

He will also raise concerns about some Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury lending programs that have “conditions that prevent companies from accessing this aid with the speed and flexibility required.”

‘DIFFICULT ROAD AHEAD’

US airlines have canceled hundreds of thousands of flights, including 80% or more of scheduled flights into June as US passenger traffic has fallen by 95% since March. They are conducting additional cleaning measures and requiring all passengers to wear facial coverings.

Calio said airlines “anticipate a long and difficult road ahead. … History has shown that air transport demand has never experienced a V-shaped recovery from a downturn.”

The US Treasury has awarded nearly $25 billion in cash grants to airlines to help them meet payroll costs in exchange for them agreeing not to lay off workers through Sept. 30. Major airlines have warned they will likely need to make additional cuts later this year to respond to a long-term decline in travel demand.

United Airlines Co said on Monday it planned to cut at least 3,450 management and administrative workers on Oct. 1, or 30% of those workers and has also said it will reduce hours for thousands of other workers.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers sued United on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in New York for what it called an “illegal implementation of drastic pay and benefit cuts.”

United said in a statement that the lawsuit was “meritless,” and that the reductions were in compliance with the terms of its $5 billion in federal assistance and its collective bargaining agreements.

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US airlines burn through $10 billion a month as traffic plummets

US airlines are collectively burning more than $10 billion in cash a month and averaging fewer than two dozen passengers per domestic flight because of the coronavirus pandemic, industry trade group Airlines for America said in prepared testimony seen by Reuters ahead of a US Senate hearing on Wednesday.

Even after grounding more than 3,000 aircraft, or nearly 50% of the active US fleet, the group said its member carriers, which include the four largest US airlines, were averaging just 17 passengers per domestic flight and 29 passengers per international flight.

“The US airline industry will emerge from this crisis a mere shadow of what it was just three short months ago,” the group’s chief executive, Nicholas Calio, will say, according to his prepared testimony.

Net booked passengers have fallen by nearly 100% year-on-year, according to the testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee. The group warned that if air carriers were to refund all tickets, including those purchased as nonrefundable or those canceled by a passenger instead of the carrier, “this will result in negative cash balances that will lead to bankruptcy.”

Separately, Eric Fanning, who heads the Aerospace Industries Association, will ask Congress to consider providing “temporary and targeted assistance for the ailing aviation manufacturing sector,” in testimony made public by the group.

Boeing Co said last week it would cut 16,000 jobs by the end of the year, while GE Aviation plans to cut up to 13,000 jobs and airplane supplier Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc is cutting 1,450 jobs.

Fanning will say at the hearing that “there is strong support in our industry for a private-public partnership to protect jobs and keep at-risk employees on the payroll through the pandemic,”

He will also raise concerns about some Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury lending programs that have “conditions that prevent companies from accessing this aid with the speed and flexibility required.”

‘DIFFICULT ROAD AHEAD’

US airlines have canceled hundreds of thousands of flights, including 80% or more of scheduled flights into June as US passenger traffic has fallen by 95% since March. They are conducting additional cleaning measures and requiring all passengers to wear facial coverings.

Calio said airlines “anticipate a long and difficult road ahead. … History has shown that air transport demand has never experienced a V-shaped recovery from a downturn.”

The US Treasury has awarded nearly $25 billion in cash grants to airlines to help them meet payroll costs in exchange for them agreeing not to lay off workers through Sept. 30. Major airlines have warned they will likely need to make additional cuts later this year to respond to a long-term decline in travel demand.

United Airlines Co said on Monday it planned to cut at least 3,450 management and administrative workers on Oct. 1, or 30% of those workers and has also said it will reduce hours for thousands of other workers.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers sued United on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in New York for what it called an “illegal implementation of drastic pay and benefit cuts.”

United said in a statement that the lawsuit was “meritless,” and that the reductions were in compliance with the terms of its $5 billion in federal assistance and its collective bargaining agreements.

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Trump Tours New Face-mask Factory in Arizona But Refuses to Wear One Amid Pandemic

U.S. President Donald Trump watches manufacturing workers create protective face masks as he, White House National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, Honeywell CEO Darius Adamczyk, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Honeywell's Vice President of Integrated Supply Chain Tony Stallings observe an assembly line during the president's visit to a Honeywell facility making masks for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Phoenix, Arizona, US, May 5, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

U.S. President Donald Trump watches manufacturing workers create protective face masks as he, White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, Honeywell CEO Darius Adamczyk, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Honeywell’s Vice President of Integrated Supply Chain Tony Stallings observe an assembly line during the president’s visit to a Honeywell facility making masks for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Phoenix, Arizona, US, May 5, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

US President Donald Trump told reporters as he left the White House earlier on Tuesday that he would likely wear a mask at the facility.

  • Reuters
  • Last Updated: May 6, 2020, 8:14 AM IST

Phoenix: Without wearing a face-covering himself, President Donald Trump toured a new medical mask factory in Arizona on Tuesday, taking a rare trip out of Washington to visit a state he hopes to win in the November election even as Americans avoid travel to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Touching down in Phoenix in midafternoon, Trump visited a Honeywell International Inc factory making N95 face masks for healthcare workers. The facility was rushed into service in less than five weeks because of a shortage of the protective equipment and is producing face masks for the US Department of Health and Human Services.

The president wore safety goggles during the factory tour but did not wear a mask, even though production workers at the facility did and a sign was visible that read: “Attention: Face Mask Required in this Area. Thank You!”

Honeywell Chief Executive Officer Darius Adamczyk, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and some other visiting dignitaries also did not wear masks.

Trump told reporters as he left the White House earlier on Tuesday that he would likely wear a mask at the facility.

The federal government has encouraged Americans since early April to wear masks to avoid spreading the virus even when not feeling any symptoms of COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory disease it causes. Trump has so far declined to wear a mask himself.

Vice President Mike Pence said on Sunday he erred in not wearing a face mask to the Mayo Clinic last month. His decision not to wear the mask had drawn widespread criticism.

The White House did not immediately respond to a query on why Trump did not wear a face mask at the Honeywell plant.

Trump has sought to give an optimistic view about the country’s ability to recover from the virus and is eager for states to reopen businesses whose lockdown closings have crushed the economy and left millions unemployed.

The virus is known to have infected more than 1.2 million people in the United States, including at least 70,000 who have died, according to a Reuters tally.

In Arizona, Trump also participated in a discussion about supporting Native Americans. He took the opportunity to argue that the US economy should be reopened quickly.

“Will some people be affected? Yes. Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open and we have to get it open soon,” Trump said.

The Republican president confirmed his administration’s plans to wind down the White House’s coronavirus task force as it focuses on a new phase, the aftermath of the pandemic.

STUMP TOUR

Asked if he would receive a coronavirus vaccine as soon as one is developed, Trump said he would but also might decide not to if that were deemed better for the country.

“If there’s a vaccine and they wanted me to be first in line, I’d be first in line or I’d be last in line, or I wouldn’t take it at all, whatever’s best for the country,” Trump said.

The location of Trump’s first trip out of Washington in weeks was not coincidental.

Trump won Arizona in the 2016 election against Democratic presidential nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but opinion polls show him currently trailing the presumptive 2020 Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, in the Southwestern state.

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Covid-19: ‘Reporting gaps by states behind spurt in cases’ | India News

NEW DELHI: The Centre on Tuesday said efforts to pursue gaps in reporting protocols with some states have resulted in more number of positive Covid-19 cases as well as deaths being reported. The problems had led to late clinical management and inefficient contact-tracing which had now been ironed out to a considerable extent.
As many as 3,900 new cases and 195 deaths have been reported in the last 24 hours, taking total number of confirmed cases to 46,433. The total number of fatalities reported so far were 1568. “We are dealing with an infectious disease. Therefore, timely reporting of cases and their clinical management is important. In some states, this gap (in reporting) has been noted and are now being addressed,” health ministry joint secretary Lav Agarwal said.
Responding to a question on an increase in numbers in West Bengal, where there has been a controversy over how Covid-19 deaths were being recorded, he said, “We followed up with certain states as we were not receiving reports of cases and deaths on time from them. We pursued them and issues are now being addressed. As we are now receiving reports of cases and deaths from them, there is an increase in cases reported in last 24 hours.”
The Centre also urged states to effectively implement contact-tracing, active case search and clinical management of cases. “At the level of states, it is important that based on cases reported, contact-tracing, active case search and clinical management of cases are effectively implemented,” Agarwal said.
Reiterating that lockdown has yielded better results in terms of doubling time of positive cases improving to 12 days from 3.4 days, Agarwal said the momentum has to be sustained and reach a level where the curve flattens. However, he said efforts are channeled towards stabilising the rise in cases.
“We need to come to a level where day-to-day increase in cases should actually be happening in geometrical progression. It should be happening in such a manner where number of cases that get added vry day are less and subsequent to a level where we can actually increase the doubling rate much higher so that cases remain stable and that is where we end up seeing a flattening of curve,” he said. So far, a total of 12,726 people have been cured. This takes our total recovery rate to 27.41%, Agarwal added.

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Over 200 KSRTC buses ferry migrant workers

The Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) on Monday and Tuesday operated over 200 buses from Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts to the northern parts of the State to ferry migrant workers, amid chaos and confusion.

While 73 buses were operated from Mangaluru, 83 buses were operated from different parts of Dakshina Kannada and 56 buses were operated from Udupi district, according to a senior KSRTC official.

The corporation would operate services for two more days as per the direction of Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa.

Chaos prevailed at Bangra Kulur from where the corporation operated its buses from Mangaluru to North Karnataka districts.

Sources said that the district administration had asked the corporation to operate services from its Bejai terminal itself. However, KSRTC said that such a measure would result in chaos and instead, suggested the open space at Bangra Kulur from where it could run these special services.

Neither was there any registration of workers nor any identification. Everyone, including workers, students and the general public, thronged the boarding points and the corporation had no choice but to ferry them, the sources noted.

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1 in every 4 employed persons lost jobs in March & April: CMIE

NEW DELHI: A jobs crisis may be staring the country in the face as several crucial sectors of the economy have been severely impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak threatening to push more people into poverty, engulfing both formal and informal sector workers.
The lockdown triggered a massive wave of migration across the country and shut down units across sectors such as small, medium and micro enterprises, hotels, restaurants, cinema halls, malls, multiplexes, airlines, manufacturing units, shops and market. This has led to job cuts as firms scampered to deal with the emergency.
The latest monthly data from economic think tank CMIE showed that India’s unemployment rate shot up to 23.5% in April. Among large states, unemployment was highest in Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, and Bihar at 49.8%, 47.1%, and 46.6% respectively. It was lowest in Punjab, Chhattisgarh, and Telangana at 2.9%, 3.4%, and 6.2%, the CMIE survey results showed. The latest figures for the week upto May 3 showed the unemployment rate hit 27.1%, the highest so far, according to the CMIE jobs survey.
“The estimated loss of employment between March and April 2020 is 114 million. Given that the total count of employed is around 400 million, the loss of 114 million implies that one in every four employed persons lost their jobs,” said Mahesh Vyas, managing director and CEO of CMIE. On Tuesday he said in his post that the data up to May 3 indicated that the rate could climb further.
“The situation on the employment front is very serious,” said Vyas. He said the labour participation rate (a measure of the active workforce in the economy) is extremely low and in April it was 35.6%. Vyas said an extension of the lockdown could worsen the situation.
“We saw the unemployment rate rise from 23% initially to 24% and then 26% during April. It came down to 21% in the last week as the lockdown was eased a bit in rural India post April 20. Evidently, a further extension of the lockdown will make matters much worse for labour and relaxation can bring some instant, albeit small relief,” said Vyas.
Pronab Sen, former chief statistician of India, said the rural areas may be less affected as the agriculture sector has not been hit too badly, but there remains uncertainty about the net income of farmers.
“Urban poverty is going to be a serious concern,” Sen said, adding that the CMIE figures were a reflection of what is happening on the ground. He also said it will have a major impact on the country’s efforts to reduce poverty.
Experts said the informal sector workers have borne the brunt of the impact of the pandemic.
“A large proportion of India’s workforce, which comprises the informal sector, has taken a hit. The most affected are daily-wage earners and those with no job security. In India, casual labourers form about 25% of the workforce. These labourers would take the first hit, due to the shutdowns and layoffs. The most-affected industries – construction, a large section of manufacturing, and transport – have a sizeable proportion of casual labourers; for example, they form roughly 83% of the construction workforce,” said D.K. Joshi, chief economist at ratings agency Crisil.
“Even in the salaried category, about 38% do not have job security, implying that they do not have a valid job contract, are not eligible for paid leave and do not have social security benefits. Services such as accommodation and food services and airlines have been hit hard. The continuation of lockdown therefore has serious consequences for the livelihoods of these categories of workforce,” said Joshi.
Last month, the International Labour Organisation warned that in India, with almost 90% of people working in the informal economy, about 400 million workers are at risk of falling deeper into poverty during the crisis and it is expected to wipe out 6.7% of working hours globally in the second quarter of 2020 – equivalent to 195 million full-time workers.
Economists said the long term impact on jobs would depend on how the recovery is scripted.
“Government intervention at the time of the crisis is very important to mitigate the pain on households. However, if recovery takes more time, it may lead to a significant impact on employment and the poverty situation,” said Devendra Pant, chief economist at IndiaRatings.
Experts also said that the country’s track record of lifting millions from poverty may suffer a serious setback. Between 2011-15, more than 90 million Indians escaped extreme poverty and improved their living standards thanks to robust economic growth, according to the World Bank.
Noted economist Ashok Gulati expects the unemployment and poverty situation to deteriorate. “The question is by how much and how long? Even malnutrition and infant mortality may go up,” warned Gulati, Infosys chair professor for Agriculture at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER).

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Stay near workplaces in Mumbai, KDMC residents told

Kalyan-Dombivli residents working in Mumbai, including government officials, will not be allowed to leave or enter Kalyan from Friday in view of the rising number of COVID-19 cases, Municipal Commissioner Vijay Suryavanshi said on Tuesday.

He said 224 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus so far in the Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC) limits. “Of them, 73 were found to be working in Mumbai while 28 others were their contacts. They were found to be working in various establishments like the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), hospitals, police department, and banks in Mumbai,” he said in a recorded message.

While acknowledging the importance of the service provided by these people, Mr. Suryavanshi underlined the fear among residents in view of the spurt in the number of COVID-19 cases in the KDMC limits.

He said, “Safety of family members of those working in Mumbai is also an issue. Hence we have requested their establishments to make arrangements for their stay in places like hotels near their places of work. We have been informed that the BMC is making arrangements for their employees near their place of work.”

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Migrant workers stage dharna at police station

Desperate to return home, several dozens of stranded migrant workers, mostly from Bihar, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, took to the streets here on Tuesday demanding immediate arrangements to send them back to their homes.

The aggrieved migrant workers of various granite factories and allied industries in Khammam division gathered near the two-town police station here, seeking the urgent intervention of the authorities to help them go back to their native villages.

Hit hard by the lockdown, the stranded workers expressed their anguish over the alleged delay in sending them back home despite the Home Ministry’s fresh guidelines permitting inter-State movement of stranded migrant workers.

The agitated workers displayed makeshift placards which read: “Hame Gao Jaane Dho” (Allow us to return to our homes).

Braving scorching sun, the workers squatted in front of the police station and resorted to sloganeering. The local police tried to explain to them the plan of action to ensure their return journey.

Tense situation prevailed for some time as the agitated workers continued their sloganeering and attempted to block the main road. Senior police officials intervened and brought the situation under control.

The officials urged the migrant workers to register their names and furnish the details of their residential addresses with the local police for making transportation arrangements to send them back to their native places.

Official sources said that more than 30,000 migrant workers, mostly farm labourers, had already left for their native villages from various parts of the district.

Efforts were on to send the remaining workers back to their homes either in special trains or hired vehicles with transit permits in adherence to norms in a day or two, sources added.

Meanwhile, a team of officials visited the Pandillapalli railway station near here on Tuesdayand chalked out arrangements for the smooth dispatch of the migrant workers from north India in a special train likely to be deployed in the small hours of Wednesday.

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Trump Administration Ignored Virus Warnings, Wanted to ‘Flood’ Hotspots With Malaria Drug: Whistleblower

Washington: The Trump administration failed to prepare for the onslaught of the coronavirus, then sought a quick fix by trying to rush an unproven drug to patients, a senior government scientist alleged in a whistleblower complaint Tuesday.

Dr. Rick Bright, former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, alleges he was reassigned to a lesser role because he resisted political pressure to allow widespread use of hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug pushed by President Donald Trump. He said the Trump administration wanted to “flood” hot spots in New York and New Jersey with the drug.

“I witnessed government leadership rushing blindly into a potentially dangerous situation by bringing in a non-FDA approved chloroquine from Pakistan and India, from facilities that had never been approved by the FDA,” Bright said Tuesday on a call with reporters. “Their eagerness to push blindly forward without sufficient data to put this drug into the hands of Americans was alarming to me and my fellow scientists.”

Bright filed the complaint with the Office of Special Counsel, a government agency that investigates retaliation against federal employees who uncover problems. He wants his job back and a full investigation.

The Department of Health and Human Services issued a terse statement saying that Bright was transferred to the National Institutes of Health to work on coronavirus testing, a crucial assignment. “We are deeply disappointed that he has not shown up to work on behalf of the American people and lead on this critical endeavor,” HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said.

According HHS, Bright has not reported to his new post. But his spokeswoman said that Bright is on sick leave, following his doctor’s orders, and that HHS has provided him no details on his new role.

Bright’s complaint comes as the Trump administration faces criticism over its response to the pandemic, including testing and supplies of ventilators, masks and other equipment to stem the spread. There have been nearly 1.2 million confirmed cases in the United States and more than 70,000 deaths.

Bright said his superiors repeatedly rejected his warnings that the virus would spread in the US, missing an early opportunity to stock up on protective masks for first responders. He said he “acted with urgency” to address the growing spread of COVID-19 — the disease the virus causes — after the World Health Organization issued a warning in January.

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., chair of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health, said she plans to hold a hearing into his complaint next week, and Bright’s lawyers said he would testify. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, appearing on MSNBC, called the complaint “very damaging.”

In his complaint, Bright said he “encountered resistance from HHS leadership, including Secretary (Alex) Azar, who appeared intent on downplaying this catastrophic event.”

During a Feb. 23 meeting, Azar, as well as Bright’s boss, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, “responded with surprise at (Bright’s) dire predictions and urgency, and asserted that the United States would be able to contain the virus and keep it out,” the whistleblower complaint said.

Bright said White House trade adviser Peter Navarro was a rare exception among administration officials, extremely concerned about the potential consequences of an outbreak. He described working with Navarro to break a bureaucratic logjam and set up military transport from Italy for swabs needed in the US.

Navarro was the author of several urgent memos within the White House. Bright said Navarro asked for his help, saying the trade adviser told him the memos were needed to “save lives.”

Navarro’s memos to top officials raised alarms even as Trump was publicly assuring Americans that the outbreak was under control.

Bright’s allegation that he was removed over his resistance to widespread use of the malaria drug was already public, but his whistleblower complaint added details from emails and internal communications while bringing to light his early attempts to acquire N95 respirator masks, which he said were ignored by superiors.

In late January, Bright said he was contacted by an official of a leading mask manufacturer about ramping up production. It was estimated that as many as 3.5 billion would be needed, while the national stockpile had about 300 million.

The complaint said that when Bright tried to press the issue about masks with superiors at HHS, he was ignored or rebuffed. “HHS publicly represented not only that COVID-19 was not an imminent threat, but also that HHS already had all the masks it would need,” the complaint said.

As the epidemic spread in the US and engulfed the New York metropolitan area, Bright alleges that political appointees at HHS tried to promote hydroxychloroquine “as a panacea.” The officials also “demanded that New York and New Jersey be ‘flooded’ with these drugs, which were imported from factories in Pakistan and India that had not been inspected by the FDA,” the complaint says.

Last month, the US Food and Drug Administration warned doctors against prescribing the drug except in hospitals and research studies. In an alert, regulators flagged reports of sometimes fatal heart side effects among coronavirus patients taking hydroxychloroquine or the related drug chloroquine.

Bright felt officials had “refused to listen or take appropriate action to accurately inform the public” and spoke to a reporter about the drug. He said he had to tell the public about the lack of science backing up its use, despite the drug being pushed by the president at press briefings.

“As the death toll mounted exponentially each day, Dr. Bright concluded that he had a moral obligation to the American public, including those vulnerable as a result of illness from COVID-19, to protect it from drugs which he believed constituted a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety,” the complaint says.

On Jan. 20, according to the complaint, the WHO held an emergency call that was attended by many HHS officials, and WHO officials advised that “the outbreak is a big problem.”

Trump has accused the UN agency of mismanaging and covering up the spread of the virus after it emerged in China. He has also said he wants to cut the WHO’s funding.

Bright’s agency works to guard against pandemics and emergent infectious diseases and is working to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus.

Top officials also pressured him to steer contracts to a client of a lobbyist, he reported.

“Time after time I was pressured to ignore or dismiss expert scientific recommendations and instead to award lucrative contracts based on political connections,” Bright said in the call with reporters. “In other words, I was pressured to let politics and cronyism drive decisions over the opinions of the best scientists we have in government.”

Zachary Kurz, a spokesman for the agency where Bright filed his complaint, said the office couldn’t comment or confirm the status of open investigations.

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