Coronavirus latest: US hospital admission rates ease amid significant decline in new cases

Joe Biden’s administration has taken its first steps to revive the flagging US economy but warned the moves were “not a substitute” for a large stimulus package, as it increased pressure on Congress to pass a $1.9tn Covid-19 relief bill. Mr Biden on Friday signed two executive orders to broaden access to food stamps and unemployment benefits.

US equities slipped on Friday as euphoria over Mr Biden’s spending plans gave way to concerns that the final package may be pared down in order to pass through Congress. On Wall Street, the blue-chip S&P 500 slipped 0.3 per cent, the first time in a week the index has closed lower. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite, meanwhile, traded flat.

Switzerland’s drug regulator said it has received 42 reports of suspected adverse reactions in connection with Covid-19 vaccinations. “So far this analysis has not resulted in any change in the positive benefit/risk ratio of the vaccines,” the federal council said in a statement. Switzerland has approved both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

New Zealand has instituted a “one-way travel bubble” with the coronavirus-free Cook Islands, a self-governing Pacific Island territory. Cook Islanders will now be able to skip quarantine requirements on Auckland-bound flights after a 10-month pause, enabling family reunions with the 60,000 islanders who work in New Zealand.

The Carnival cruise ship Panorama is docked in Long Beach, California

Carnival, the world’s largest cruise operator, has extended its suspension of all US departures until the end of April and cancelled its Australian operations until mid-May in response to rising Covid-19 cases around the world. It has also cancelled European cruises on its Carnival Legend ship and pushed back the launch of its Mardi Gras ship.

Morgan Stanley’s chief executive, James Gorman, will receive $33m in total compensation for 2020, a 22 per cent increase over 2019’s $27m. In a regulatory filing, the US investment bank said 2020 “was a record year … in terms of financial performance and in terms of advancement of the firm’s long-term strategic goals”, despite the global pandemic.

Shares in GameStop went on a wild ride on Friday, surging nearly 80 per cent after the struggling US video games retailer found itself at the centre of a battle between short-sellers and amateur online traders. The company, which has struggled for sales in the pandemic, has been a favourite of day traders, which has helped double the value of the stock since the start of the year.

UK bowling alley chain Hollywood Bowl has endured a bruising pandemic. Its chief people officer Melanie Dickinson has sold £181,420 worth of shares “for the purpose of settling personal tax liabilities”. This follows chief executive Stephen Burns, chief financial officer Laurence Keen, and their spouses offloading a little over £800,000 worth of shares.

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