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California ‘days’ from easing restrictions

Wall Street is closing out a painful week of earnings reports with one bright spot: Clorox reported higher profit off demand for cleaning products. As states struggle to find the balance between keeping their populations safe and allowing workplaces to restart their engines, the market is cheering news about possible Covid-19 vaccines and treatments. Gilead Sciences and Moderna continue to make headlines as drugmakers work furiously to end the pandemic.

This is CNBC’s live blog covering all the latest news on the coronavirus outbreak. All times below are in Eastern time. This blog will be updated throughout the day as the news breaks. 

  • Global cases: More than 3.2 million
  • Global deaths: At least 233,704
  • US cases: More than 1 million
  • US deaths: At least 63,019

The data above was compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

7:08 pm: Dr. Fauci will not testify at House hearing on coronavirus response

Trump administration health official Dr. Anthony Fauci was blocked by the White House from testifying at a House hearing on the U.S. coronavirus response next week.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said while the administration tries to combat the pandemic, “it is counter-productive to have the very individuals involved in those efforts appearing at congressional hearings.”

Read the full report on the White House move from CNBC’s Jacob Pramuk here. —Chris Eudaily 

6:53 pm: What the University of California system needs to reopen in the fall

For University of California campuses to reopen in the fall semester, testing and contact tracing programs must be in place, system president Janet Napolitano said.

“If they’re going to reopen at all, they’re going to need to have a testing plan, a contact tracing plan, a quarantine plan, things of that sort,” Napolitano said.

The university system has 10 campuses across California and around 280,000 students.

Napolitano said the system will offer classes in the fall, but was not certain on how instruction will take place, CNBC’s Kevin Stankiewicz reports. “It might be remote. It might be in person. It might be some sort of hybrid,” said Napolitano. —Chris Eudaily

6:33 pm: BBQ Holdings, parent of Famous Dave’s and Granite City, gets $13 million in small business rescue loans

BBQ Holdings, the parent company of Famous Dave’s of America and Granite City Food & Brewery restaurants, announced in an SEC filing that the company got more than $13 million in loans from the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

Famous Dave’s got $7.2 million and Granite City got $5.8 million through Choice Financial Group, a bank headquartered in North Dakota, according to an 8-K. Both loans were funded Friday.

BBQ Holdings, which has 126 restaurants, did not announce plans to return the loans. The company released the following statement from CEO Jeff Crivello:

“We are extremely thankful to be able to access the PPP Loan program. As a ‘nanocap’ public restaurant company our access to capital differs greatly from our larger competitors. We require these funds to retain, recall, and pay our loyal employees. The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a government required shut down of dining rooms, and with this loan we are able to continue serving our neighbors in the communities we care about so much. After a thorough review and consultation, pursuant to the guidance provided by SBA, we are able to certify with a high level of confidence that we meet the requirements of the loan.”

There has been outrage directed at the many publicly traded companies that received PPP loans, with many of them deciding to return the funds.

The federal government issued guidance last week, encouraging publicly traded companies that received the loans to return the money. —Jennifer Schlesinger

6:06 pm: NBA postpones 2020 draft lottery and combine

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver

Stacy Revere | Getty Images

The National Basketball Association announced that the draft lottery and combine for prospects, which were both set for May in Chicago, are being postponed indefinitely, the league announced.

It is unclear how this move will affect the 2020 NBA Draft, which is currently scheduled for June 25.

The league, which this week set May 8 as the earliest possible date for teams to begin limited workouts after the season was suspended due to the coronavirus, said it is monitoring the pandemic and consulting with health experts and would share more information on the events at a later date. —Chris Eudaily

5:45 pm: CDC issues new criteria for contact tracing apps

The CDC issued new criteria this week for contact tracing apps, a new technology that could help slow the spread of coronavirus. In particular, the CDC recommended an anonymous approach for Bluetooth apps that closely resembles the system proposed by Apple and Google. The CDC criteria opens the door for contact tracing apps to be deployed widely by public health groups in the coming months. — Kif Leswing 

5:20 pm: CDC says 3% of surveyed meat processing workers tested positive

File photo

Scott Olson | Getty Images

About 3% of workers in over 100 meat processing plants surveyed across the U.S. have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a new report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Major meat processing plants have become hotbeds of infection in recent weeks as the virus spreads rapidly throughout the crowded facilities.In the new CDC report, the researchers said physical work inside the plants makes it difficult for worker to wear protective equipment like masks, the researchers said.

They added that some of the surveyed plants have struggled to implement heightened disinfecting protocols.Some workers might feel pressured to go into work even if infected due to socioeconomic circumstances, the researchers said, adding that medical leave and disability policies could be exacerbating the problem. —William Feuer

5 pm: Large crowds protest Gov. Newsom’s beach ban at Huntington Beach

Demonstrators protest against the state’s stay-at-home order amid the coronavirus pandemic, on May 1, 2020 in California.

Robyn Beck | AFP | Getty Images

Large crowds poured into Huntington Beach Pier on Friday to protest against California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ban on Orange County beaches, which he ordered on Thursday after he said beachgoers had congregated on the shore without following proper social distancing guidelines.

Police and sheriff’s deputies could be seen on horseback, on foot and on motorcycles pushing back lines of protesters in front of the pier, according to NBC Los Angeles.

Newsom said beaches in the southern part of California, including those in Orange, Los Angeles, and San Diego counties, have raised alarm bells. The city councils for both Huntington Beach and Dana Point pushed back on the order after it was issued and voted to take legal action. Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said that the order unfairly singled out Orange County beaches and that it “is wrong and fails to recognize the sacrifice made by our 3 million residents, according to a tweeted statement. Newsom said his decision was based on advice from local health officials and data, and that he has confidence in local law officials to carry out the order. —Noah Higgins-Dunn

4:45 pm: US lawmakers open probe into coronavirus infections on Carnival cruise ships

A woman wearing a face mask as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus, runs with Cruise Ships docked in the background at the port of Long Beach, California on April 11, 2020.

Apu Gomes | AFP | Getty Images

The U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure asked Carnival to hand over documents related to its response to Covid-19 outbreaks on its ships that infected more than 1,500 and killed dozens.

The letters described cruise ships as “a fertile breeding ground for infectious diseases.”

“We would hope that the reality of the Covid-19 pandemic will place a renewed emphasis on public health and passenger safety, but frankly that has not been seen up to this point,” the letter said. “It seems as though Carnival Corporation and its portfolio of nine cruise lines, which represents 109 cruise ships, is still trying to sell this cruise line fantasy and ignoring the public health threat.” Read the full report by CNBC’s William Feuer here. —Riya Bhattacharjee

4:30 pm: California Gov. Gavin Newsom says state is ‘days, not weeks’ away from easing restrictions

A field washing station in Greenfield, California.

Brent Stirton | Getty Images

California could be “days, not weeks” away from making significant modifications to its shelter-and-place order, the state’s Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

“I feel some confidence over the course of the next week we’re going to be able to make some announcements that will give people some more confidence in the ability for California to get back on its economic feet,” Newsom said.

State officials are “very, very close to making some announcements” that would benefit people in the retail and hospitality industries, including restaurants, he added.

“If we can hold the line and continue to do good work and just avoid the temptation to get back and congregate with people in ways where we can see an increase in the spread, we’ll get there much sooner than many people perhaps think,” Newsom said, according to a report by CNBC’s Noah Higgins-Dunn. —Riya Bhattacharjee

4:13 pm: Dow sinks more than 600 points to start the month

Stocks sank on the first day of the trading month, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average shedding 622 points, or roughly 2.5%. The S&P 500 fell 2.8% during the session, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite fell more than 3% after a week of earnings reports from major tech firms.

The Dow is coming off its best month in more than three decades and has drawn optimism from recent improvements from U.S. coronavirus hot spots and from progress on potential treatments. Read more about the markets from CNBC’s Fred Imbert and Thomas Franck—Sara Salinas 

3:52 pm: Trump says Gilead virus treatment granted emergency FDA authorization

President Donald Trump said the Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency authorization to Gilead Science’s remdesivir drug to be used as a coronavirus treatment, CNBC’s Will Feuer reports. Earlier this week, Gilead reported “encouraging” early results in treating Covid-19 patients with a shortened regimen of the drug.

An FDA Emergency Use Authorization allows physicians to prescribe the treatment on an expedited timeline, without the lengthy reviews typically required.

The drug has become something of a bellwether for the broader stock market, with investors hanging hopes on its quick approval and effectiveness. Shares of Gilead ticked higher after Trump’s announcement, but were still down on the day as part of a larger sell-off. —Sara Salinas

3:45 pm: 7 ways the coronavirus pandemic is changing consumers’ behaviors

As consumers ride out the coronavirus pandemic from home, there are a number of ways our shopping habits are going to change permanently. According to brand experience firm Big Red Rooster, there are 7 key changes we might see including more shopping local, protecting our personal bubbles when in physical retailers, and more opportunities to try on clothes and jewelry virtually. —Lauren Thomas

3:40 pm: Bank of America CEO says stimulus impact will hit over the next few weeks

3:30 pm: Sen. Romney proposes hazard pay

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, unveiled a plan to give up to $12 an hour in hazard pay to essential workers during the coronavirus crisis.

It resembles a measure Senate Democrats released last month to raise wages by $13 per hour for front-line workers such as health care and food service employees. However, Romney’s proposed pay bump would last through July, while Democrats favor keeping the wage increase through the rest of the year.

As the pandemic ravages the economy and health-care system, Congress could start to craft its fifth coronavirus rescue bill next week, when the Senate returns to Washington. The House will not go back to work until the week of May 11 at the earliest. —Jacob Pramuk

2:26 pm: World Health Organization defends its early response to outbreak

A volunteer operates a remote-controlled disinfection robot to disinfect a residential area amid the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province on March 16, 2020.

STR | AFP | Getty Images

Facing mounting criticism from President Donald Trump about the World Health Organization’s actions early in the coronavirus outbreak, Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the group gave world leaders “enough time to intervene.”

The WHO labeled the Covid-19 outbreak a global health emergency on Jan. 30 and declared it a pandemic on March 11.

Tedros said the WHO sent a team to China in February when there were “many unknowns” and the outbreak “was raging,” according to a report from CNBC’s Berkeley Lovelace Jr. —Chris Eudaily

1:59 pm: Texas reopening may be ‘more show than go,’ Cuban says

Billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban told CNBC that small businesses in Texas need more support as the state lifts some coronavirus-related restrictions.

“There’s all these downstream issues that really haven’t been addressed yet,” he said, such as costs associated with complying with new safety and sanitation standards. “I think it’s more show than go, but we’ll see what happens.”

The state’s limit on operating capacity also presents challenges for workers who rely on tips, Cuban said. “Unless the employer is going to guarantee them a much higher rate because you’re going to have diminished number of customers, then they’re not going to want to come back to work,” the “Shark Tank” investor and Dallas Mavericks owner said. —Kevin Stankiewicz

1:44 pm: San Francisco makes free coronavirus testing available

People who live or work in San Francisco can access a free coronavirus test if they have symptoms, according to a tweet from Mayor London Breed. Insurance is not needed to get a test and results will be provided within 1 to 3 days.

Los Angeles became the first major U.S city to offer free coronavirus testing, CNBC’s Christina Farr reported Wednesday. Residents can access tests even if they do not have symptoms. —Hannah Miller 

1:37 pm: Updated map of hot spots in the US, as total number of infections hits 1,070,032

12:50 pm: UK says it’s reached 100,000 daily coronavirus tests

The U.K. has quickly ramped up its daily Covid-19 testing this week from 52,000 on Tuesday to 122,347 on Thursday, Health Minister Matt Hancock said.

Earlier this month, Hancock said the government would carry out 100,000 daily tests by the end of April.

The testing target is being described as a “red herring” by National Health Service providers, CNBC’s Sam Meredith and Ryan Browne report. —Chris Eudaily

12:22 pm: NY schools to remain closed for the academic year, Gov. Cuomo says

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state’s schools and colleges will stay closed for the remainder of the academic year as the state continues to employ distance learning in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Cuomo said state officials don’t believe schools could develop a plan in time to reopen for the school year that would keep students safe. A decision on summer school will be announced at the end of May, CNBC’s Noah Higgins Dunn and Jasmine Kim report. —Terri Cullen

12:17 pm: Virus blamed for miscarriage

New research has shown that a second-trimester miscarriage in a Covid-19 patient was attributed to a placental infection of the virus, and some U.S. obstetricians have noticed an uptick in still births since the pandemic hit, CNBC’s Jasmine Kim reported.

Reports suggest that there may be a Covid-19-induced placental infection, according to research published Thursday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“This case of miscarriage during the second trimester of pregnancy in a woman with Covid-19 appears related to placental infection with SARS-CoV-2, supported by virological findings in the placenta,” the researchers said. —Terri Cullen

12:01 pm: Manufacturing tanks in April, but not as much as expected

An employee works to make ventilators as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visits the General Motors Components Holding Plant that is manufacturing ventilators for use during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Kokomo, Indiana, April 30, 2020.

Chris Bergin | Reuters

The U.S. manufacturing sector came under intense pressure in April, falling to its worst level in 11 years, but economists noted the drop was not as bad as they feared.

The ISM Manufacturing Index dropped to 41.5, compared with Street estimates of 35, but down sharply from March’s 49.1, CNBC’s Jeff Cox reports. A reading below 50 indicates a contraction in the sector. —Terri Cullen

11:56 am: Second-quarter outlook for some big tech and ad firms is darker than Q1

As earnings season kicked into high gear, companies that rely heavily on ad revenue reported a steep drop-off of advertising in March though it wasn’t as dire as analysts expected.

The second quarter is likely to be a whole different story. CNBC’s Megan Graham reports on what Alphabet, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, and some of the biggest ad companies are saying about the current-quarter outlook. —Terri Cullen

11:40 am: An Apple app maker is poised to boom amid the crisis

At least one Apple business expects the coronavirus crisis to add to its bottom line rather than weigh on its near-term prospects. The business is app-developer Claris, which sells the low-code application development software called FileMaker.

“There is a massive opportunity for low code to help in the Covid-19 situation,” said Claris CEO Brad Freitag.

Claris has worked with health-care providers to develop apps in as short as one day, according to a report by CNBC’s Eric Rosenbaum. One app was developed for a hospital in Europe, which became critical to make real-time medical decisions for Covid-19 patients. —Terri Cullen

11:32 am: Mortgage bailout program balloons again as more homeowners put off payments

A growing number of borrowers are delaying monthly mortgage payments as part of the government’s bailout program, as the ranks of the unemployed continued to swell due to the coronavirus outbreak.

As of Thursday, more than 3.8 million homeowners, or 7.3% of all active mortgages, were in forbearance, according to mortgage data and analytics firm Black Knight.

The federal program allows borrowers to delay up to a year’s worth of payments, though they must be made up later through either repayment plans or mortgage modifications, according to CNBC’s Diana Olick. —Terri Cullen

Click here to check out the current mortgage and refinance rates.

11:15 am: More big employers are talking about permanent work-from-home positions

Companies have been forced to embrace remote working amid stay-at-home orders for all nonessential positions and businesses.

With proof that productivity does not suffer, more major employers, including Mondelez, Nationwide, and Barclays, talk about a permanent shift to work from home and reduced office space.

Read the full report from CNBC’s Adedayo Akala on big employers talking about permanent work-from-home positions here. —Melodie Warner

11:10 am: A lottery system is the only fair way to grant PPP loans, Mark Cuban says

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told CNBC the only fair way to operate the federal Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, is through a lottery.

Cuban suggested that all applications for small business relief loans go into a repository at the Treasury Department, and then officials would randomly select a certain quantity of loans for approval, CNBC’s Kevin Stankiewicz reports.

“They see what the total is, and however much money left they have, they go to the next 50,000 until the money is gone,” he said. “That’s the only way to be objective and fair.” Cuban has been critical of the PPP program’s roll out.” —Terri Cullen

10:56 am: Hopes for a cure push biotech stocks to best monthly gain in two decades

scientists’ team work

Getty Images

Biotech stocks saw the best monthly gain in two decades as investors find hope in coronavirus drug and testing developments that may help mitigate the pandemic.

The S&P 500 health-care sector gained 12% in April and the sector’s top-performing stocks were diagnostic firms at the heart of the Covid-19 testing expansion. For the month, Hologic surged 42%; Quest Diagnostics soared 36%; and Incyte Corp., which is developing a coronavirus treatment, jumped 33%.

Read the full report from CNBC’s Bertha Coombs on biotech stocks here. —Melodie Warner

10:50 am: Pandemic could last 18 to 24 months, scientists say

The coronavirus pandemic could last up to two years, according to a report published Thursday from scientists at the University of Minnesota.

The scientists said that the coronavirus is more contagious than the flu, has a higher rate of asymptomatic transmission, and would continue to circulate after the first wave this spring, according to a report by CNBC’s Chloe Taylor. —Hannah Miller

10:19 am: Moderna hopes to start making potential vaccine ‘as early as July’

U.S. biotech company Moderna is aiming to begin manufacturing an unapproved coronavirus vaccine “as early as July,” CEO Stephane Bancel told CNBC.

The company has entered into a 10-year partnership with Swiss drugmaker Lonza to quickly move forward with manufacturing of the experimental vaccine mRNA-1273, which is now in a phase 1 human trial. The potential vaccine became the first candidate to enter a phase 1 trial in March, though the results of the trial have not yet been released, according to a report by CNBC’s Will Feuer.Hannah Miller

10:00 am: Target, Walmart workers and others plan ‘sickout’ protests over coronavirus safety

Workers are planning to call out of work today as part of a nationwide employee “sickout” involving companies like Target, Whole Foods, Amazon, Instacart, FedEx, and Walmart.

They are protesting the slashing of hours, unstable schedules, and the need for greater health benefits. They are also asking for greater safety protections from the coronavirus at their jobs.

Read the full report from NBC on workers’ protest plans here—Hannah Miller 

9:50 am: Coronavirus patients describe symptoms that last a month or more

Teresa Rodriguez

Source: Teresa Rodriguez

Teresa Rodriguez said on March 23, she woke up feeling extremely tired, and her health deteriorated quickly from there. It’s now been more than a month and she’s still battling a lingering headache, cough, and fatigue.

Patients diagnosed or suspected to have Covid-19 are posting via online forums and on social media about symptoms that feel endless. Many say it comes in waves. They start feeling better after a few weeks, but it hits them again and persists.

Read the full report from CNBC’s Christina Farr on coronavirus patients’ symptoms here—Melodie Warner

9:40 am: Dow falls 400 points after best month in three decades, Amazon leading tech lower

9:30 am: Exxon reports first-quarter loss on writedowns tied to plunging oil

Fuel prices are displayed at an Exxon Mobil Corp. gas station in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, April 29, 2020.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Exxon Mobil lost $610 million in the first quarter due to write-downs tied to falling oil prices. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. oil benchmark, has dropped more than 70% this year.

“Covid-19 has significantly impacted near-term demand, resulting in oversupplied markets and unprecedented pressure on commodity prices and margins,” CEO Darren Woods said in a statement.

Read the full report from CNBC’s Pippa Stevens on Exxon’s first-quarter results here—Melodie Warner

9:12 am: Amazon lets some employees work from home through Oct. 2

Amazon employees who can perform their jobs from home will be allowed to continue to work from home until at least Oct. 2. The company said the new timeline applies to workers around the globe, Reuters reported.

Amazon did not provide details about how much of its overall workforce works remotely or which roles are included. On Thursday, Amazon said it will spend all of its profit for the second quarter of 2020, at least $4 billion, on its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Read the full report from Reuters on Amazon’s extended work from home order here—Elisabeth Butler Cordova 

9:04 am: Germany’s economic response is an example for the world, union chief says

Germany’s approach to employment in the coronavirus crisis is an example of how the world can deal with the economic fallout of the pandemic, the head of the United Nation’s labor agency said.

Guy Ryder, the director-general of the International Labour Organization (ILO), told CNBC that under Germany’s “Kurzarbeit,” or “short-time work,” program workers are sent home or see their hours slashed but are paid around two-thirds of their salary by the state.

Read the full report from CNBC’s Vicky McKeever on ILO Director-General Guy Ryder’s comments here—Melodie Warner

7:25 am: Clorox sees 15% sales jump on strong demand

Clorox announced results for its fiscal third quarter, reporting a 15% jump in sales as demand for its cleaning products skyrocketed.

Net income and earnings per share also rose year over year, coming in at $241 million, or $1.89 per share.

Read the full report from CNBC’s Amelia Lucas on Clorox earnings here—Sara Salinas

7:15 am: China’s Hubei province, where Covid-19 was first detected, set to relax lockdown

Travelers walk to the exit of the Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province Wednesday, April 08, 2020, after 76 days of lockdown of the city due to Covid-19.

Barcroft Media | Getty Images

China’s central province of Hubei, where the coronavirus was first detected in late 2019, is reportedly poised to ease lockdown restrictions.

Hubei’s health commission posted on its official WeChat account on Friday that it will move to lower its emergency response level to the second-highest grade on Saturday, according to Reuters.

It marks a major milestone in China’s fight against the coronavirus outbreak. Theories about the origins of the outbreak include that it emerged from a seafood market in Wuhan, Hubei’s provincial capital, in December.

To date, more than 3.27 million people have contracted Covid-19 worldwide, with 233,704 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. —Sam Meredith

6:45 am: Iran reports 63 new deaths, death toll at 6,091

Iranian sanitary workers disinfect Qom’s Masumeh shrine on February 25, 2020 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus which reached Iran, where there were concerns the situation might be worse than officially acknowledged.

MEHDI MARIZAD | AFP | Getty Images

Iran reported the number of cases reached 95,646, the health ministry said, according to Reuters.

The ministry also confirmed 63 new deaths over the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of Covid-19 deaths in the country up to 6,091.

The Islamic Republic is one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic in the Middle East. —Sam Meredith

6:00 am: Spain’s death toll climbs to 24,824

Two soldiers of the Military Emergency Unit are seen carrying material to disinfect the nursing and day centre ORPEA Sanchinarro for the second time to stop coronavirus infection on April 01, 2020 in Madrid, Spain.

Europa Press News

Spain reported 281 new fatalities over the last 24 hours, the health ministry said, taking the nationwide death toll up to 24,824. The previous day’s death toll was 268.

The number of cases rose to 215,216, up from 213,435 the day before. Spain has reported the second-highest number of Covid-19 infections worldwide.

The U.S. has recorded the most coronavirus cases, accounting for roughly one-third the global total after surpassing the 1 million milestone earlier this week. —Sam Meredith

5:20 am: How the gas that gave the world Viagra could help treat coronavirus patients

Viagra pill

John Greim | LightRocket | Getty Images

Studies and clinical trials underway at Massachusetts General Hospital aim to find out whether inhaled nitric oxide could help treat patients with the coronavirus.

Nitric oxide is a colorless, tasteless and short-acting gas that widens blood vessels in the lungs when inhaled.

Preliminary data has suggested that inhaled nitric oxide could have a virus-killing effect on the coronavirus, Massachusetts General said in an online statement. It is due to the genomic similarities between Covid-19 and those that caused the SARS and MERS outbreaks. Studies during the SARS outbreak in 2004 to 2005 demonstrated that nitric oxide was effective in killing that virus.

To be sure, the effectiveness of nitric oxide in treating the new coronavirus has not been studied before. There are no known vaccines or specific antiviral medicines against Covid-19.

In the ’90s, nitric oxide played a central role in the development of the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra. — Sam Meredith

Read CNBC’s coverage from CNBC’s Asia-Pacific and Europe teams overnight here: EU chief backs investigation into virus origin; Russia reports record spike in cases

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