As a national debate raged over the duration and severity of U.S. restrictions aimed at containing the coronavirus outbreak, Senate leaders and the Trump administration reached an agreement early Wednesday on a $2 trillion stimulus package to rescue the economy. The developments in Washington bolstered Asian and European markets, and U.S. stock futures and oil prices also edged higher.
Here are some significant developments:
- The spending deal aims to support the U.S. economy by sending $1,200 checks to many Americans, creating a $367 billion loan program for small businesses and setting up a $500 billion fund for industries, cities and states. A vote in Congress appears likely on Wednesday.
- The number of confirmed cases around the world has surged past 400,000, suggesting that the global pace of infection continues to increase. Italy reported 743 new deaths Tuesday, bringing the country’s total to 6,820. And Spain’s death toll is on the verge of surpassing China’s.
- European countries pushed ahead with aggressive measures that are increasingly being replicated in parts of Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. India, home to more than 1.3 billion people, began the world’s largest lockdown, though prominent political leaders appeared to be flouting the directives.
- The White House coronavirus task force, citing concern about the high infection rate in and around New York City, is asking everyone who has left that area recently to self-isolate for 14 days. Still, President Trump said he wants the United States “opened up” by Easter — April 12 — and continued to play down the dangers of the pandemic even as experts warned of a worsening crisis.
- South Korea, lauded for its swift and widespread testing, agreed to send the United States spare medical equipment in response to Trump’s request.