Just one month on from countries across the globe suffering COVID-19 deaths in the high hundreds and still facing weeks of lockdowns, the landscape has shifted dramatically. Around the world now, countries are coming out of lockdown and beginning to return to some sense of normality. With infection rates and death tolls dropping steadily across the US, UK, Europe and Asia, global stock markets are rallying as investors begin to focus on the economic recovery underway. Recent data releases have provided further encouragement that the worst of the negative impact from the virus has passed with manufacturing PMIs last week shown to have improved in the US, UK & Europe.
New Vaccine Hopes
Optimism was boosted last week by news that US biotech firm Moderna had found some success with one of the candidate vaccines it has been trialling. Moderna noted that its drug had created a positive immune system response in all eight candidates tested and was no ready to move on to bigger human test groups.
Fast-forward to this week and there has been yet further good news as US biotech firm Novavax confirmed that it has begun human testing on one of its candidate vaccines. The drug, which mimics proteins found on the surface of COVID-19 cells to create a positive immune response, is being tested on 131 patients across Australia under the first phase of testing. With results expected to be in by July, Novavax will then progress onto stage 2 and 3 testing.
Meanwhile, the Jenner institute of Oxford University, which previously claimed it had an 80% chance of developing a vaccine in the UK by September has now said this probability has fallen to 50%. Speaking with UK reporters, Adrian Hill the director of the Jenner Institute explained “It’s a race against the virus disappearing, and against time. We said earlier in the year that there was an 80% chance of developing an effective vaccine by September.
“But at the moment, there’s a 50% chance that we get no result at all. We’re in the bizarre position of wanting COVID to stay, at least for a little while.”
Death Toll Dropping But Risks Remain
The UK death toll has been falling rapidly over recent weeks with Monday seeing the lowest death toll since the lockdown began on March 23rd. However, the key test will be whether there is a second spike in infections as lockdowns ease. there is grave concern around the re-openings underway in the US which many health experts warn are moving too quickly. Similarly, the better weather in the UK is leading to concerns that social distancing will not be respected as restrictions ease. However, with activity and demand picking up and with vaccine headlines offering hope, investors remain encouraged.
Global COVID-19 Deaths
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