By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch
Tesla gets green light to reopen California plant, and investors await earnings from Walmart, Target and Alibaba
The number of cases of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 rose to 4.8 million on Monday, as Chinese President Xi Jinping said China would support an international investigation of the origins of the pandemic led by the World Health Organization, as soon as the crisis has been brought under control.
Xi made the comments in a video address to the WHO's virtual annual meeting in Geneva (/), and said China would donate $2 billion to the UN to help with health-care infrastructure in Africa ( ), where the virus is taking hold at an alarming rate.
Xi called on world leaders to "step up information sharing" and defended his country against allegations that it was not transparent about the early spread of the virus, which was first reported in the city of Wuhan late last year (). China will make any vaccine available all around the world if it succeeds in developing one, he said.
There was good news on the vaccine front from Moderna Inc. (MRNA), which reported positive results from a Phase 1 clinical trial of its vaccine candidate.
Elsewhere, Russia reported almost 9,000 infections overnight, (/) its lowest one-day spike since May 1, while Brazil moved past Spain and Italy by case tally. The mayor of São Paulo said Brazil's biggest city's hospitals are close to collapse after reaching 90% capacity and could run out of space in two weeks, the BBC reported ( ).
South Africa reported its biggest one-day increase in infections (Sunday and Japan officially entered recession ( ). India said it's extending its lockdown for another two weeks to May 31, but is easing some restrictions on public transport.
The head of the United Nations, António Guterres, said the pandemic should act as a wake-up call to the world. Speaking at the start of the World Health Organization's annual meeting, Guterres lamented the lack of international cooperation in addressing the crisis.
"Many countries have ignored the recommendations of the World Health Organization," he said, as the Guardian reported (). "As a result, the virus has spread across the world."
There are now 316,898 fatalities from COVID-19 worldwide, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University (). At least 1.7 million people have recovered.
The U.S. has the highest case toll at 1.49 million and the highest death toll at 89,874.
Russia has 290,678 cases and 2,722 deaths.
The U.K. has 247,706 cases and 34,876 deaths, the highest death toll in Europe and second highest in the world after the U.S.
Brazil has moved past Spain and Italy by case number with 244,595 cases and 16,370 deaths. Spain has 231,606 cases and 27,709 deaths, while Italy has 225,886 cases and 32,007 deaths.
France has 179,693 cases and 28,111 deaths, while Germany has 176,551 cases and 8,003 deaths.
Turkey has 150,593 cases and 4,171 deaths, while Iran has 122,492 cases and 7,057 deaths.
See now:Work-from-home productivity pickup has tech CEOs predicting many employees will never come back to the office ()
India is next with 100,340 cases and 3,155 fatalities, followed by Peru with 92,273 cases and 2,648 deaths. China has 84,054 cases and 4,638 deaths.
New York remains the U.S. epicenter with 355,037 cases and 28,168 deaths, according to a New York Times tracker ().
New York, and neighboring New Jersey and Connecticut, are gradually reopening for business in a move that may offer a blueprint for other states, if they succeed in containing the spread of the virus. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has stressed that health officials will closely monitor data from the first five upstate regions that started reopening on Friday, using a checklist of metrics that will be watched daily. ()
New Jersey is allowing curbside pickup of goods beginning Monday and allowing nonessential construction activity to resume. Connecticut is allowing restaurants, offices, retailers and hair salons to reopen on Wednesday, but capacity is to be restricted to just 50% and workers and customers will have to follow public-safety measures.
See now:States reopen after coronavirus lockdowns: Some New York counties open Friday; New Jersey, Delaware beaches to reopen for holiday weekend ()
New York City, which has borne the brunt of cases and deaths in the state, remains under lockdown until May 28, and likely later. Mayor Bill de Blasio said beaches will be open for the coming Memorial Day weekend, but people will not be allowed to swim and must observe social-distancing rules. He said a more realistic time frame to "relax anything" is "the first half of June." ()
What's the latest medical news?
Moderna Inc. shares surged 23%, after it said a Phase 1 clinical trial for its experimental mRNA coronavirus vaccine, done in partnership with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, showed early promise, as MarketWatch's Jaimy Lee reported. ( )
Within 43 days and after two doses, the participants taking one of two dosing levels of the vaccine candidate reported the same or higher levels of antibodies as in blood samples gathered by patients who have recovered from COVID-19, the company said. There were four adverse events during the trial, including one participant who reported a severe skin reaction where the investigational vaccine was administered.
"These interim Phase 1 data, while early, demonstrate that vaccination with mRNA-1273 elicits an immune response of the magnitude caused by natural infection starting with a dose as low as 25 [micrograms]," Moderna's chief medical officer, Dr. Tal Zaks, said in a news release ().
The next step is a Phase 2 trial, which has been approved to move forward by the Food and Drug Administration. It will focus on two dosing levels (50 and 100 micrograms). The early-stage trial had a third dosing level, 250 micrograms.
See also: Abbott's coronavirus test may need a backup for false negatives ()
Moderna's vaccine candidate is widely viewed as a front-runner in the effort to develop the first vaccine for the virus. The preclinical company said earlier this month that the Phase 2 trial will begin "shortly," and on Monday it said it expects a Phase 3 trial to begin in July, if the vaccine is successful in the midstage trial.
Don't miss: These 23 companies are working on coronavirus treatments or vaccines -- here's where things stand ()
What are companies saying?
The earnings calendar was light on Monday, but the week will bring numbers from some heavy hitters, () including retail giants Walmart Inc. (WMT), Target Corp. (TGT) and China's Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (9988.HK). Retailers are expected to have benefited from the surge in e-commerce sales brought on by stuck-at-home consumers during the pandemic. But sentiment overall is expected to be subdued by worry about the financial impact of the crisis.
Chinese government data showed slower overall growth for online purchases of physical goods in January and February, but the April growth numbers were back near pre-virus levels in what one analyst said was a positive sign for Alibaba.
Tesla Inc. (TSLA) has been given the green light from local officials to resume operations at its Fremont, Calif., factory, the San Francisco Chronicle reported (). The electric-car company has been locked in a battle with Alameda County, one of six Bay Area counties under lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus, over reopening.
(MORE TO FOLLOW) Dow Jones Newswires
May 18, 2020 14:54 ET (18:54 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.