Coronavirus latest: US states hint at tougher social restrictions as death toll passes 300,000

New York City faces the prospect of another “full shutdown” due to an increasing level of coronavirus infections, mayor Bill de Blasio warned. “We need to recognise that that may be coming and we need to get ready for that now,” he told CNN on Monday, saying employees should avoid offices and work from home as much as possible.

US stocks slipped for the fourth consecutive day on Monday as investors awaited word on whether policymakers in Washington would come to agreement on a $908bn stimulus package. The S&P 500 slid 0.4 per cent, with more than 70 per cent of companies within the benchmark falling at the start of the week. Energy and bank shares were among the hardest hit.

Vaccine-related issues remain the biggest risk to markets next year, according to a Deutsche Bank survey of 984 market professionals, with 38 per cent of respondents saying a virus mutation that would dodge the vaccine — which was administered for the first time in the US on Monday — poses the biggest risk to markets.

UK health secretary Matt Hancock said the government had identified a new fast-spreading coronavirus variant as he confirmed Greater London, the south and west of Essex and south of Hertfordshire would fall under the strictest category of restrictions. The “exponential rise” in cases in those areas had meant that the NHS was under immense pressure, he said.

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Philipp Hoffmann, a CureVac researcher, works on the company’s Covid-19 vaccine at a lab in Tübingen, Germany

German biotech company CureVac has launched a final-stage, large-scale trial for its Covid-19 vaccine, which will eventually involve 35,000 participants across Europe and Latin America. The company uses a similar mRNA platform to vaccines developed by BioNTech and Pfizer and US rival Moderna.

AstraZeneca shares fell almost 6 per cent as investors worried about the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker’s $39bn acquisition of Alexion, the biggest pharmaceutical deal since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Some shareholders are sceptical of the tie-up, which values Alexion at $175 per share, a 45 per cent premium to the US biotechnology company’s previous closing price.

Hollywood Bowl’s annual profits were almost entirely wiped out by Covid-19 after the pandemic shut down its more than 60 venues between March and August. Revenues for the UK’s largest ten-pin bowling operator dropped by almost two-fifths to £79.5m for the year to September 30, with pre-tax profits of £1.2m down 96 per cent compared with a year earlier.

Polypipe, the UK piping manufacturer, upgraded its profit guidance for the second time as November sales were 8 per cent higher than the previous year due to particularly strong demand from the residential sector, undergirding a rise in expectations of operating profit by the year end to about £40m, up from a range of £35m to £37m.

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