Pocket City

¡¡¡¡Global equities were pinned around all-time highs on Wednesday, as traders stayed on the sidelines ahead of US inflation data on Thursday that may pressure the Federal Reserve to roll back its pandemic-era support for financial markets.

¡¡¡¡The FTSE All World index, which has gained more than 30 per cent in the past year as the world¡¯s largest economies recovered from Covid-19, traded flat at the start of London morning dealings at close to record levels. The Stoxx Europe 600 was also flat after inching up to a new record earlier this week.

¡¡¡¡The yield on the 10-year US Treasury, which moves inversely to the price of the benchmark government debt security, was steady at 1.523 per cent.

¡¡¡¡Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expect that US consumer prices, excluding volatile food and energy costs, rose 3.5 per cent in May in their biggest year-over-year jump since 1993. Data on Wednesday also showed that Chinese factory gate prices, which influence what importer nations pay for goods, rose at the fastest pace since the financial crisis last month.

¡¡¡¡¡°Markets are very much in wait-and-see mode,¡± said Aneeka Gupta, equity and commodity strategist at WisdomTree. ¡°But the reaction to Thursday¡¯s inflation figures may be driven not so much by the data itself but by what the Fed signals it will do about it.¡±

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¡¡¡¡Oliver Ralph

¡¡¡¡The UK motor insurance industry last year made its best underwriting profit since records began as the pandemic kept motorists at home and reduced the number of accidents on the roads.

¡¡¡¡The industry made a combined ratio ¡ª a measure of costs and claims as a proportion of premium income ¡ª of 90.3 per cent in 2020, a sharp improvement on the lossmaking 100.8 per cent recorded in 2019, according to figures from EY.

¡¡¡¡¡°As commuting patterns change, perhaps for good, we expect the downward shift in car usage and claims to continue ¡ª albeit not to the level seen in lockdown,¡± said Tony Sault, UK general insurance market lead at EY.

¡¡¡¡However, EY predicts that it will be tougher for motor insurers to make profits in 2021.

¡¡¡¡Prices for cover are falling because of reduced car usage and reforms which should cut the size of whiplash claims.

¡¡¡¡Insurers are also facing a shake-up to the way they price their policies, with regulators banning the so-called loyalty penalty ¡ª the practice of charging existing customers more for their cover than new ones.

¡¡¡¡EY expects the combined ratio to deteriorate to 103 per cent this year and 112 per cent in 2022.

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¡¡¡¡George Steer

¡¡¡¡The UK will continue to offer coronavirus vaccines by age rather than redirect jabs to areas reporting high numbers of cases of the Delta variant first identified in India, a government minister has said.

¡¡¡¡The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has advised the government to offer jabs ¡°on a national basis, to work progressively down the age groups, rather than to adopt a regional, geographical approach¡±, housing secretary Robert Jenrick told BBC Radio 4¡¯s Today programme on Wednesday.

¡¡¡¡His comments come a day after Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, said the city needed thousands of extra doses following a surge in cases of the Delta variant, which has overtaken the Alpha variant, first identified in Kent, to become the dominant strain of the virus in England.

¡¡¡¡Measures including surge testing, isolation support and vaccine buses, which will be used to bring doses to areas with low take-up, were being deployed across Greater Manchester, Jenrick said.

¡¡¡¡The government had no intention of returning ¡°to the regional or tiered [lockdown] approach we saw last autumn¡±, Jenrick added.

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¡¡¡¡Peter Campbell

¡¡¡¡Ferrari has named an electric components specialist as its chief executive, a surprise appointment that ends a search that began late last year when its former boss Louis Camilleri stepped down with Covid-19.

¡¡¡¡The new boss Benedetto Vigna, an Italian, is the head of the sensors unit at STMicroelectronics, the technology group¡¯s largest and most profitable division. He will join the supercar maker in September.

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¡¡¡¡Sylvia Pfeifer

¡¡¡¡Rolls-Royce has named Anita Frew as its next chair, making her the first woman to be appointed to that role in the 115-year history of the British aero-engine group.

¡¡¡¡Frew, 63, will join Rolls-Royce on July 1 as non-executive director and will succeed Sir Ian Davis in October. Davis will retire after nearly nine years as chair.

¡¡¡¡Frew will take over after a tumultuous time for the FTSE 100 group, which has been hit hard by sharp falls in air travel because of the coronavirus pandemic.

¡¡¡¡Sir Kevin Smith, Rolls-Royce senior independent director, said Frew had emerged as the ¡°outstanding candidate¡± and would bring a ¡°wealth of experience from two decades of board appointments both in the UK and internationally and her skills, and reputation with investors and government institutions will be invaluable to the group¡±.

¡¡¡¡The company, led by chief executive Warren East, was forced to shore up its balance sheet with ¡ê7.3bn of new equity and debt last year.

¡¡¡¡It launched a disposal programme and a large restructuring that will lead to 9,000 jobs being cut, almost a fifth of the total workforce.

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¡¡¡¡Alice Hancock

¡¡¡¡SSP, the owner of Caffe Ritazza and Upper Crust, has revealed a ¡ê300m pre-tax loss and said that it did not expect to recover to its pre-pandemic sales levels until 2024 because of lockdowns and coronavirus outbreaks.

¡¡¡¡The food-to-go company said on Wednesday that in the six months to the end of March, sales were ¡ê256.7m, 79 per cent below the same period in 2020 just before the pandemic hit. Pre-tax losses in the period amounted to ¡ê299.7m, up from a ¡ê34.3m loss in 2020.

¡¡¡¡SSP, which calls itself ¡°the food travel experts¡±, has been acutely affected by the lack of travel during the pandemic with the majority of its 2,800 outlets located in airports and railway stations.

¡¡¡¡It said that because of second and third waves of infection in its UK and US markets in late 2020 and the beginning of 2021, sales had not improved to more than 22 per cent of 2019¡¯s levels between October and March.

¡¡¡¡Since lockdowns in the UK and US had begun to ease, however, SSP said that sales had improved to 30 per cent of 2019 figures but that it was still being affected by high infection levels in India and Thailand, which meant that travel there remained subdued.

¡¡¡¡It said that it currently had about 1,150 outlets trading and that it expected to open another 350 over the summer.



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¡¡¡¡Kate Beioley,?legal correspondent

¡¡¡¡The UK competition regulator has launched enforcement cases into Ryanair and British Airways after the airlines refused to offer customers refunds for flights they were forbidden by law to take during the pandemic.

¡¡¡¡The Competition and Markets Authority said on Wednesday it was investigating whether or not BA and Ryanair had broken competition law and had written to both companies detailing its concerns.

¡¡¡¡BA offered vouchers or the chance to rebook flights to customers who could not travel during the lockdown while Ryanair only provided the option to rebook.

¡¡¡¡¡°While we understand that airlines have had a tough time during the pandemic, people should not be left unfairly out of pocket for following the law,¡± said Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA.

¡¡¡¡¡°Customers booked these flights in good faith and were legally unable to take them due to circumstances entirely outside of their control. We believe these people should have been offered their money back.¡±

¡¡¡¡The CMA has looked into various issues during the pandemic including into possible profiteering by retailers selling hand sanitiser and package holiday companies that refused to offer customers fair cancellation terms.

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¡¡¡¡Daniel Dombey in Madrid

¡¡¡¡Inditex, the world¡¯s biggest clothing retailer, marked its recovery from the depths of the pandemic with first-quarter results that showed sales up 50 per cent from the same period in 2020, as economies bounced back and the company continued its shift to online sales.

¡¡¡¡For the three months to the end of April, sales reached €4.9bn compared with €3.3bn a year before, when many countries, such as Inditex¡¯s home nation of Spain, locked down in response to the first wave of coronavirus. The results also contrasted with the fourth quarter of last year when the second wave of the pandemic closed stores again and consumers resorted to casualwear.

¡¡¡¡The group, best known for its Zara chain, racked up net profits of €421m compared with a loss of €409m in the first quarter of 2020, and increased its cash pile to €7.2bn, up a quarter from a year before.

¡¡¡¡Inditex indicated that sales growth subsequently picked up further speed, with sales in local currency between May 1 and June 6 doubling compared with the same period of 2020 and up 5 per cent on 2019 levels. As of June 7, 98 per cent of its stores were open and trading hours reduced 10 per cent by coronavirus restrictions, compared with 24 per cent during the first quarter.

¡¡¡¡The company uses stock held in stores to help meet online orders, a strategy it says has helped keep inventory levels under control as it has shifted towards online sales.

¡¡¡¡For the quarter it recorded growth in operating expenses of 19 per cent, considerably less than sales growth. Its gross margin rose to 59.9 per cent, 152 basis points above the level recorded in the first quarter of 2020 and 47 basis points above the 2019 level.

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¡¡¡¡Stefania Palma in Singapore

¡¡¡¡Singapore has reported one Covid-19 death, taking the city state¡¯s toll above the 33 casualties during the Sars outbreak of 2003.

¡¡¡¡An 86-year-old Singaporean woman died due to complications caused by Covid-19, the south-east Asian nation said on Tuesday.

¡¡¡¡She had not been vaccinated and had a history of medical conditions, including hypertension and diabetes.

¡¡¡¡Singapore¡¯s death toll of 34 remains among the lowest in the world.

¡¡¡¡The city state¡¯s Covid-19 outbreak started about a year and a half ago while it eradicated Sars, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, in less than five months.

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¡¡¡¡George Russell in Hong Kong

¡¡¡¡Indonesia will expand vaccination eligibility to all adults aged 18 and older in Jakarta as Covid-19 cases in the sprawling capital rise, authorities said on Wednesday.

¡¡¡¡Jakarta has recorded more than 435,000 Covid-19 cases, with 1,019 new cases added on Tuesday, the state-run Antara news agency reported. Overstretched hospitals are treating more than 11,000 active cases.

¡¡¡¡The capital¡¯s test positivity rate remains above 5 per cent, the health ministry told Antara. ¡°This shows that the transmission of disease in [Jakarta] is still quite high,¡± the national directorate-general of health wrote to the city health office, authorising the expansion of jab eligibility.

¡¡¡¡¡°As Jakarta is the capital city ¡­ the centre of government and national economic growth ¡­ the directorate-general considers it important for the Jakarta [city] government to immediately suppress and control Covid-19 cases in its area,¡± the letter continued.

¡¡¡¡The vaccination rollout would also expand its focus from slum areas, authorities said. Indonesian officials hope to achieve herd immunity by autumn, which would require 180m people to be vaccinated.

¡¡¡¡Indonesia has administered more than 40m mostly Chinese-made jabs, with priority so far given to health workers, civil servants, the uniformed services, the elderly and those with disabilities.?

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¡¡¡¡George Russell in Hong Kong

¡¡¡¡Nearly 20,000 Rohingya stranded on a remote island off Bangladesh are bracing for an outbreak of Covid-19, which human rights activists fear will be devastating because of a lack of medical facilities.

¡¡¡¡The Bangladesh government relocated the refugees from Myanmar to Bhasan Char?to ease overcrowding in refugee camps near the city of Cox¡¯s Bazar, 50km from the island.

¡¡¡¡But Human Rights Watch said Bhasan Char lacked ¡°adequate health care, livelihoods or protection¡±. It is a low-lying silt island formed just 15 years ago.

¡¡¡¡The group said the UN and donor governments should urgently call for an independent assessment of the ¡°safety, disaster preparedness and habitability at Bhasan Char¡±.

¡¡¡¡Dhaka has said it wants to move at least 100,000 people to the island in the Bay of Bengal. But Human Rights Watch said refugees already on the island reported inadequate health care and education, onerous movement restrictions, food shortages, a lack of job opportunities and abuses by security forces.

¡¡¡¡Rohingya refugees are taken to Bhasan Char aboard a Bangladesh naval vesselRohingya refugees are taken to Bhasan Char aboard a Bangladesh naval vessel ? Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters

¡¡¡¡The group said in May 2020 Bangladesh authorities rescued about 600 Rohingya who had been stranded at sea trying to make their way to Malaysia.?

¡¡¡¡One group of about 290 refugees was quarantined to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and then reunited with their families, while another group of 306 was taken to Bhasan Char.?

¡¡¡¡Human Rights Watch said the government told them that they had been brought to the island for quarantine, but a year later the authorities are yet to send them to camps on the mainland.?

¡¡¡¡¡°This is extremely dangerous considering the rapid spread of the virus that causes Covid-19,¡± Meenakshi Ganguly, south Asia director at Human Rights Watch, told the Financial Times.?

¡¡¡¡¡°While the refugees were checked for symptoms before relocation, there are vendors that travel regularly to the island,¡± she said. ¡°If an infection were to spread on Bhasan Char, the authorities will not be able to provide the necessary care for those impacted.¡±

¡¡¡¡Ganguly said there were no ambulance services or oxygen support. ¡°Nor are there critical care facilities, including ventilators,¡± she added.

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¡¡¡¡George Russell in Hong Kong

¡¡¡¡The Australian state of Victoria will provide another A$8.4m (US$6.5m) in support for businesses affected by the latest coronavirus restrictions, bringing total government support since the pandemic began to more than A$500m.

¡¡¡¡Melbourne, the country¡¯s second-largest city, has been locked down for two weeks after an outbreak that began in hotel quarantine.

¡¡¡¡¡°We are now in a place where we can continue to ease restrictions and reopen more businesses safely ¨C but those businesses that will still be affected by restrictions will share a new injection of $8.4m,¡± state treasurer Tim Pallas said.

¡¡¡¡The government of the state of 6.4m people had previously announced A$492.2m of support for small and medium-sized businesses and sole traders.

¡¡¡¡The initial funding supported restaurants and cafes, event suppliers, tourism and accommodation providers and non-essential retailers.

¡¡¡¡Nearly 70,000 businesses have been affected by restrictions set beyond June 3, state officials said.

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¡¡¡¡Kiran Stacey in Washington

¡¡¡¡Joe Biden¡¯s administration has taken the first step towards relaxing America¡¯s pandemic-related travel bans, setting up working groups to advise on how to loosen restrictions with the UK, EU, Mexico and Canada.

¡¡¡¡The White House said on Tuesday it was establishing policy teams formed of officials from five different parts of the US government to help decide when and how to allow entry to non-citizens from the UK and Schengen areas, as well as when to reopen the land borders with its immediate neighbours.

¡¡¡¡The restrictions have been in place since the early stages of the pandemic, but have come under fire from foreign governments and the travel industry as case counts have fallen in many countries and vaccination rates have risen.

¡¡¡¡A White House official said: ¡°Recognising the importance of travel to our citizens and their families, and the critical role trade relationships and our transportation sector play in our economies, the Biden administration is launching a series of expert working groups with four key partners: Canada, Mexico, the European Union and the United Kingdom to determine how best to reopen travel safely.¡±

¡¡¡¡US and Canadian flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge connecting Detroit with Windsor, OntarioUS and Canadian flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge connecting Detroit with Windsor, Ontario ? Cole Burston/Bloomberg

¡¡¡¡The Trump administration imposed a series of travel bans early last year in an unsuccessful effort to stem the spread of Covid-19.

¡¡¡¡Under those rules, any non-American who has been in the UK, Ireland, the Schengen area (which includes most EU members as well as Norway, Switzerland and Iceland), China, South Africa, Iran or Brazil in the past 14 days is not allowed to enter the US.

¡¡¡¡As one of his final actions in office, Donald Trump dropped those rules, but they were reimposed by Biden almost immediately after he became US president.

¡¡¡¡Biden also added India to the list of proscribed countries.

¡¡¡¡The land borders with Canada and Mexico have also remained closed for anyone undertaking non-essential travel.

¡¡¡¡The travel rules are some of the last remaining Covid-19-related restrictions in the US, where a rapid vaccination drive has brought case numbers down to about 15,000 a day ¡ª a level not seen since March last year.

¡¡¡¡A passenger walks through a terminal at John F Kennedy Airport in New YorkA passenger walks through a terminal at John F Kennedy Airport in New York ? Spencer Platt/Getty Images

¡¡¡¡British officials in particular have pushed for a relaxation of the measures, pointing out their country¡¯s death rate has been lower than that of the US on a per capita basis since February. UK representatives told the Financial Times last week that they were hoping to use this weekend¡¯s G7 summit in Cornwall as an opportunity to press their case.

¡¡¡¡The global travel industry has also put pressure on the Biden administration to reopen US borders, demands the White House has resisted not least because Americans are still able to travel widely outside the US, albeit while adhering to local quarantine restrictions.

¡¡¡¡Tuesday¡¯s announcement was the first sign the rules could be relaxed this summer ¡ª although such inter-agency groups often take weeks to come up with concrete proposals.

¡¡¡¡The five parts of the government involved in the working groups are the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state, homeland security, health and transport departments.

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¡¡¡¡Hudson Lockett in Hong Kong and Benjamin Parkin and Stephanie Findlay in New Delhi

¡¡¡¡India¡¯s industrial moguls Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani have swept past the likes of China¡¯s Jack Ma in global wealth rankings as the fortunes of leading billionaires in two of Asia¡¯s largest economies diverge.?

¡¡¡¡The wealth of Ambani, chair of conglomerate Reliance Industries, and infrastructure mogul Adani jumped to $84bn and $78bn respectively, according to Bloomberg data, making them Asia¡¯s richest businesspeople.?

¡¡¡¡That reflects the growing power of India¡¯s biggest corporate groups as the Covid-19 pandemic squeezes smaller competitors and leaves investors with few options for betting on the country¡¯s economic rebound, analysts said.

¡¡¡¡Read more here

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¡¡¡¡George Russell in Hong Kong

¡¡¡¡Greece fared better than richer countries during the pandemic because of investment in health infrastructure and an early closing of borders, the country¡¯s prime minister said on Tuesday.

¡¡¡¡The EU member state managed to avoid the full effect of the pandemic¡¯s first wave, Kyriakos Mitsotakis told an online conference on health security.

¡¡¡¡He acknowledged that avoiding the impact of the second outbreak was not possible. ¡°Yet the government did invest in its national health system and fared better than richer countries,¡± he said.

¡¡¡¡Mitsotakis noted that delays in vaccination rollouts were caused ¡°at the EU level¡±, but added that he felt ¡°proud that the EU managed to procure vaccines on behalf of all its member states¡±.

¡¡¡¡He said that Greece¡¯s financial crisis last decade had made the country more resilient. ¡°Greece went through a lot in previous years but our democracy came out stronger.¡±

¡¡¡¡The prime minister added that Greece had a plan for the safe reopening of its tourism sector, using self-diagnostic tests and digital vaccination certificates.

¡¡¡¡Migrants from Afghanistan leave a vaccination tent set up on the Greek island of LesbosMigrants from Afghanistan leave a vaccination tent set up on the Greek island of Lesbos ? Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

¡¡¡¡The country¡¯s parliament passed a bill introducing a Covid-19 digital certificate by a broad majority on Tuesday.

¡¡¡¡Greece recorded 1,339 new infections the same day, according to the National Public Health Organization.

¡¡¡¡Since the start of the pandemic, Greece has identified more than 400,000 infections and recorded more than 12,000 deaths.

¡¡¡¡The country will soon be included in the UK ¡°green list¡± of destinations where travel is permitted, Kate Smith, British ambassador, told a tourism webinar.

¡¡¡¡Greece is now on the ¡°amber list¡±, which means that Britons are advised not to travel there.

¡¡¡¡If they do, passengers must pay for at least three Covid-19 tests ¡ª before flying, and two and eight days after ¡ª and must quarantine on their return for 10 days, unless they also pay for a fourth test to get out early.

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¡¡¡¡Song Jung-a in Seoul

¡¡¡¡South Korea¡¯s employment is nearing pre-pandemic levels on a faster-than-expected economic recovery although the country is still contending with increasing coronavirus infections.

¡¡¡¡The economy added 619,000 jobs in May from a year earlier, marking a third straight month of gains, the statistics office said on Wednesday. The country has now recouped more than 80 per cent of the jobs lost during the pandemic, according to the finance ministry.

¡¡¡¡¡°Total number of jobs, currently 0.7 per cent below pre-pandemic levels, could recover fully by September on this trend,¡± said economists at Goldman Sachs in a report.

¡¡¡¡The number of employed people rose to 27.3m last month on a seasonally-adjusted basis, just shy of the pre-pandemic peak of 27.5m in February 2020.

¡¡¡¡The job market recovery was led by the service sector as the government¡¯s job-creation efforts helped add 83,000 jobs in the public sector. The jobless rate fell to 4 per cent last month, from 4.5 per cent a year earlier.

¡¡¡¡The data come after President Moon Jae-in called for more fiscal spending to support the recovery in Asia¡¯s fourth-largest economy while the Bank of Korea is considering an earlier-than-expected exit from record-low interest rates.

¡¡¡¡Finance minister Hong Nam-ki said earlier this month that the government was considering a sixth supplementary budget to shore up pandemic-hit businesses.

¡¡¡¡The South Korean economy grew 1.7 per cent in the first quarter from the previous three months, faster than the preliminary estimate of 1.6 per cent, the central bank said on Wednesday.

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¡¡¡¡Thomas Hale in Hong Kong

¡¡¡¡Factory gate prices in China rose at their fastest pace since the financial crisis, adding to pressure on the country¡¯s leaders as they grappled with a global rally in commodities.

¡¡¡¡The country¡¯s producer price index added 9 per cent in May, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed on Wednesday, the biggest increase since September 2008. In April, they gained 6.8 per cent, and growth remained in negative territory for most of last year.

¡¡¡¡The recent leap in producer prices, which last month came in ahead of economist forecasts, is fuelled by soaring commodity prices that have been supported by China¡¯s strong industrial recovery but now threaten to squeeze profits as costs rise.

¡¡¡¡Raw materials, which form a core part of China¡¯s PPI index, rose sharply last month. NBS data showed that prices in the ferrous metal smelting industry rose 38 per cent year on year, while those for coal mining added 30 per cent.

¡¡¡¡The Chinese government¡¯s economic planning agency last month warned of ¡°excessive speculation¡± in commodity markets and said it would crack down on monopolies and false information. Iron ore, which in May hit its highest level, tumbled on the news.

¡¡¡¡The government has also emphasised the need to prevent transmission to consumer prices, which remain low and have been driven by volatility in pork prices over the past year. Economists have said that high costs would instead squeeze business margins, especially for those facing consumers. Consumer prices rose 1.3 per cent in May, the most since September last year, but fell 0.2 per cent month on month, the NBS said.

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¡¡¡¡Jamie Smyth in Sydney

¡¡¡¡Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand prime minister, takes selfies with supporters in Auckland on the campaign trail in 2020Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand prime minister, takes selfies with supporters in Auckland on the campaign trail in 2020 ? Fiona Goodall/Reuters

¡¡¡¡Auckland has been named the world¡¯s most liveable city owing to the New Zealand government¡¯s adept handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, a new survey has found.

¡¡¡¡The Japanese city of Osaka scooped second place and Australia¡¯s Adelaide is placed third on the annual rankings, which compares 140 cities across the world in terms of stability, healthcare, culture and a range of other factors.

¡¡¡¡New Zealand and Australian cities dominate the top 10 owing to their ability to suppress coronavirus and reopen their economies. In contrast, European and Canadian cities have plummeted down the rankings, which are compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

¡¡¡¡The ranking is further praise for the government led by Jacinda Ardern, prime minister, who won re-election in a landslide in October 2020.

¡¡¡¡¡°Auckland rose to the top of the ranking owing to its successful approach in containing the Covid-19 pandemic, which allowed its society to remain open and the city to?score strongly on a number of metrics including education, culture and environment,¡± said the EIU in a statement.

¡¡¡¡Wellington was ranked fourth, Perth sixth, Melbourne ninth and Brisbane 10th on the rankings, highlighting how Oceania has so far escaped the worst ravages of Covid-19 due to early border closures and strict lockdowns.

¡¡¡¡Vienna, which last year claimed the title of world¡¯s most liveable city, sank to 12th on this year¡¯s ranking due to Covid-19. The biggest mover this year was Germany¡¯s Hamburg, which fell 34 places to 47th on the list.

¡¡¡¡Damascus, the Syrian capital, remains the world¡¯s least liveable city.?

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¡¡¡¡Thomas Hale and Primrose Riordan in Hong Kong and Harry Dempsey in London

¡¡¡¡A Covid-19 outbreak in southern China is curbing activity at some of the country¡¯s biggest ports, stoking fears that further disruption in international trade risks pushing up the price of exports.

¡¡¡¡More than 100 new cases have been reported since late May in Guangdong province, one of China¡¯s most important manufacturing hubs, leading to strict counter-measures from the government.

¡¡¡¡Processing at the Yantian container terminal in Shenzhen, which suspended exports for almost a week last month after workers tested positive, has plummeted. There has also been a sharp decline in the number of ships berthing as authorities enforce coronavirus prevention measures.

¡¡¡¡Read more here

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¡¡¡¡George Russell in Hong Kong

¡¡¡¡Australia¡¯s Olympic Games baseball team has given up trying to qualify for the event because of coronavirus-related travel complications, officials said on Wednesday.

¡¡¡¡Glenn Williams, Baseball Australia¡¯s chief executive, said the decision to withdraw made Olympic qualification impossible.?

¡¡¡¡The final qualifying tournament was due to be hosted by Taiwan but was moved late last month to Puebla, Mexico.

¡¡¡¡¡°Attending the final Olympic qualifier in a Covid-19 world was always going to present significant challenges,¡± Williams said in a statement.?

¡¡¡¡¡°The planning for Taiwan was extensive and with the late change in location and dates, those plans became obsolete,¡± he said.

¡¡¡¡Taiwan, fourth-ranked, pulled out of the event last week. China had already withdrawn from the qualifier before it was moved to Mexico.

¡¡¡¡Williams, a 2004 Olympic silver medallist, said even if Australia won the qualifying event, quarantine requirements made it impossible to compete at the Tokyo Games, due to start on July 23.

¡¡¡¡¡°We worked through multiple options and scenarios but the logistical challenges of providing a safe environment for the group were insurmountable,¡± he said.

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¡¡¡¡George Russell in Hong Kong

¡¡¡¡The Philippines said it would boost vaccine supplies this month after the country¡¯s jab rate fell sharply due to a scarcity of deliveries.

¡¡¡¡Carlito Galvez, who heads the National Task Force Against Covid-19, said vaccine deliveries from the last week of May and first week of June were delayed.

¡¡¡¡Galvez said the country¡¯s seven-day moving average of vaccinations had fallen, without giving specific figures. He said the rate was ¡°expected to rebound¡± this month with impending deliveries of nearly 10m doses.

¡¡¡¡The Covax and Gavi multilateral vaccine initiatives were committed to inoculate at least 30 per cent of the global populace, Galvez said, and were due to provide 4.2m doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab to the Philippines this month.

¡¡¡¡Galvez said Manila and Pfizer were close to finalising an agreement for the delivery of 40m doses. ¡°Pfizer will deliver more or less 15m doses in the third quarter and the remainder in the fourth quarter,¡± Galvez said. ¡°That would be a huge help for us.¡±?

¡¡¡¡About 100,000 doses of Russian-made Sputnik V vaccines produced by the Gamaleya Research Institute were due to arrive on June 10, he added.

¡¡¡¡A shipment of 1m doses of Sinovac¡¯s CoronVac vaccine arrived on Sunday, with two further shipments of 2m jabs over the next week.

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¡¡¡¡George Russell in Hong Kong

¡¡¡¡Katherine Nichol and Philip Owira walk with their baby across a ditch from British Columbia into Peace Arch Historical State Park in Blaine, WashingtonKatherine Nichol and Philip Owira walk with their baby across a ditch from British Columbia into Peace Arch Historical State Park in Blaine, Washington ? Elaine Thompson/AP

¡¡¡¡Washington state governor Jay Inslee said on Tuesday he had urged Antony Blinken, US secretary of state, and Alejandro Mayorkas, homeland security secretary, to immediately reopen the border with Canada.

¡¡¡¡He said cross-border travel was essential for border states like Washington to fully reopen their economies.

¡¡¡¡¡°Washington state has taken a science-based approach to the pandemic and has enacted public health measures that prioritise safety and protect the lives of Washingtonians,¡± he wrote.

¡¡¡¡¡°Because of rising vaccination rates, Washington state has a plan to reopen our economy statewide by June 30. Therefore, I respectfully request that the [US and Canada] … find innovative ways to reopen the border consistent with public health guidance.¡±

¡¡¡¡Inslee said if a full border opening was not feasible, he wanted partially open crossings. ¡°The hardships being experienced along the US-Canadian border are significant, and measurable forward progress is needed,¡± the governor wrote.

¡¡¡¡He said the governments of Washington and adjacent British Columbia would be able to assist the federal governments to safely open their section of the border.

¡¡¡¡Both the US state and the Canadian province have vaccinated about 60 per cent of resident adults. ¡°We share a sense of urgency in meeting the needs of our impacted communities,¡± Inslee wrote.

¡¡¡¡Other than Washington, 12 states?border Canada: Alaska, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Vermont.

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¡¡¡¡George Russell in Hong Kong

¡¡¡¡Trevor Reed and Alina Tsybulnik Trevor Reed and Alina Tsybulnik ? Alina Tsybulnik

¡¡¡¡An American student jailed in Russia for assaulting police officers is ¡°gravely ill¡± with Covid-19, his girlfriend told Russian media on Tuesday.

¡¡¡¡Trevor Reed, a former US marine sentenced last year to nine years¡¯ imprisonment, has been admitted to hospital with coronavirus, Alina Tsybulnik told the Tass news agency.

¡¡¡¡¡°We have no opportunity to pass medicines to him and we also don¡¯t know what kind of aid he receives there,¡± she was quoted as saying.

¡¡¡¡Reed was convicted of an August 2019 attack on two police officers who responded to a call from residents about an intoxicated man arguing with several women on a Moscow street.?

¡¡¡¡He was sentenced in July 2020. Reed, who pleaded not guilty, was given a jail term close to the maximum 10-year penalty.

¡¡¡¡John Sullivan, US ambassador to Russia, described the evidence against Reed as flimsy. ¡°This is not a good story for US-Russia relations,¡± Sullivan told NBC News at the time of Reed¡¯s sentencing.

¡¡¡¡¡°And it is not good for encouraging US private citizens and business to visit and invest here if what they did to [Reed] can be done to anyone,¡± he added.

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¡¡¡¡Oliver Barnes and John Burn-Murdoch in London and Andy Bounds in Manchester

¡¡¡¡Commuters wear face masks on a concourse at Manchester Piccadilly railway stationCommuters wear face masks on a concourse at Manchester Piccadilly railway station ? Ian Hodgson/Bloomberg

¡¡¡¡Greater Manchester and Lancashire will have access to military back-up and surge testing as part of a ¡°strengthened package of support¡± to combat the spread of the Delta variant of coronavirus, the government announced on Tuesday.

¡¡¡¡The two regions in northern England were also added to a list of areas, including Leicester and Hounslow in west London, where travel and indoor mixing is discouraged. Supervised in-school testing will also begin, health secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons.

¡¡¡¡The announcement will add to fears that the spread of the Delta variant, first identified in India, could scupper prime minister Boris Johnson¡¯s hopes of lifting all remaining restrictions on social contact on June 21.

¡¡¡¡Read more here

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¡¡¡¡George Russell in Hong Kong

¡¡¡¡Covid-19 new cases and deaths continued to decline worldwide in the week to June 6, according to World Health Organization data released on Tuesday.

¡¡¡¡There were still 3m new weekly cases and more than 73,000 new deaths, the WHO said in its weekly Covid-19 report. But those figures represented declines of 15 per cent and 8 per cent respectively, compared with the previous week.

¡¡¡¡Europe and south-east Asia reported ¡°marked declines in the number of new cases¡±, the WHO said. However, more cases were reported in Africa. The Americas, eastern Mediterranean and western Pacific reported similar new case and fatality numbers compared with the previous week.?

¡¡¡¡¡°Despite the downward trend in global case and death incidences for a sixth and fifth consecutive week respectively, many countries across all six regions have reported rises in the number of cases and deaths,¡± the WHO said.

¡¡¡¡The highest numbers of new cases were reported from India with 914,539, Brazil (449,478) Argentina (212,975), Colombia (175,479) and the US (99,103).

¡¡¡¡The global health body was upbeat about the pharmaceutical response to emerging variants. Two studies conducted in Canada had provided ¡°further evidence of the effectiveness¡± of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against variants of concern, such as the Alpha, Beta and Gamma strains, the WHO said.

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¡¡¡¡George Russell in Hong Kong

¡¡¡¡Hotel stays in Switzerland fell by more than a quarter this winter, as border closures and other Covid-19 restrictions kept visitors away from its ski slopes and chalets.

¡¡¡¡The central European country¡¯s statistics office said there were 9.4m overnight stays registered from November 2020 to April 2021.?

¡¡¡¡¡°Compared with the same period last year, overnight stays fell by 26.4 per cent,¡± the agency said.?

¡¡¡¡Foreign visitors fell more than 70 per cent to 1.9m nights. That was partly offset by a 16.5 per cent rise in domestic guests to 7.5m.

¡¡¡¡The statistics show 12 of the country¡¯s 13 tourist regions recorded a decrease in overnight stays in the tourist winter season compared with the same period in the previous year.?

¡¡¡¡Urban areas were particularly hard hit, with Geneva posting a 67 per cent decline, Zurich down 62 per cent and Basel experiencing a 55 per cent slump.

¡¡¡¡Ticino was the outlier, with an 88 per cent rise in visitor overnight stays.

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¡¡¡¡Stephanie Forshee in New York

¡¡¡¡Best Buy is launching sweepstakes to encourage employees to get a Covid-19 vaccine.

¡¡¡¡The US retailer said 20 store employees from across the country would be eligible to win $5,000 each upon showing proof of vaccination, in addition to one winner from Best Buy¡¯s corporate offices in Richfield, Minnesota.

¡¡¡¡¡°The best reason to get the Covid-19 vaccine is to avoid contracting the virus yourself and to prevent the spread of Covid-19 to your family, friends, co-workers and community,¡± Best Buy said in a note to employees on Monday.

¡¡¡¡¡°The second-best reason is that any Best Buy employee could be one of 21 winners across the company to win $5,000!¡±

¡¡¡¡Employees at the US electronics retailer have until July 22 to become fully vaccinated to enter the sweepstakes. The company previously announced paid time off for workers to allow them to get vaccinated, in addition to time off related to any side effects from the shots.

¡¡¡¡¡°The choice to be vaccinated is entirely yours and the company is not requiring it,¡± the note to Best Buy¡¯s 100,000 employees said.

¡¡¡¡Other companies have incentivised employees to get vaccinated. In February, Target announced that it would offer employees up to four hours of pay, two hours for each vaccine dose.

¡¡¡¡The company also said it would pay for Lyft rides for its US employees to take to their vaccine site, an offering that came before Lyft partnered with the White House to offer free rides to all individuals seeking transport to get the shot.

¡¡¡¡Walmart offered $75 cash bonuses, while Albertsons and Kroger announced $100 bonuses for vaccinated employees.

¡¡¡¡A shopper wears a mask inside a Vons grocery store in San Diego. Owner Albertsons has announced $100 bonuses for vaccinated employeesA shopper wears a mask inside a Vons grocery store in San Diego. Owner Albertsons has announced $100 bonuses for vaccinated employees ? Bing Guan/BloombergShare on Twitter (opens new window)Share on Facebook (opens new window)Share on LinkedIn (opens new window)6/8/2021, 9:49:03 PM

¡¡¡¡George Russell in Hong Kong

¡¡¡¡New York City hotel occupancy has bounced back faster than expected, according to the mayor¡¯s office.

¡¡¡¡Occupancy last weekend reached 72 per cent, city data showed. ¡°This is ¡­ showing a faster resurgence than what was predicted,¡± said mayor Bill de Blasio.?

¡¡¡¡Real estate group CBRE forecast an average occupancy level for hotels of 43 per cent for the first half of 2021, an increase from the average 35 per cent recorded in 2020.?

¡¡¡¡Last month, the city eliminated the 5.875 per cent hotel room occupancy tax rate for a three-month period, from June 1 to August 31.

¡¡¡¡¡°Mark my words, people are going to flock to New York City to be a part of the summer,¡± de Blasio said.

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¡¡¡¡Matthew Rocco in New York

¡¡¡¡Nevada will soon become the latest state to offer an incentive programme aimed at encouraging more people to get a Covid-19 shot amid a slowdown in vaccination rates across the US.

¡¡¡¡Steve Sisolak, the state¡¯s governor, did not detail what incentives the state would offer but said on Tuesday he expected to announce more information on the programme in the next week.

¡¡¡¡States have offered cash, lottery tickets, scholarships and even guns in hopes of getting more shots into the arms of their residents.

¡¡¡¡The rate of vaccinations has slowed to levels last seen in late January, raising the odds that the rollout will miss Joe Biden¡¯s goal of having at least 70 per cent of adults inoculated with one or more doses by July 4.

¡¡¡¡The US has administered about 1m doses per day over the past seven days, down from a peak of 3.4m in mid-April, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

¡¡¡¡A healthcare worker administers the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a clinic in Morgantown, West Virginia

¡¡¡¡A healthcare worker administers the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a clinic in Morgantown, West Virginia ? Justin Merriman/Bloomberg

¡¡¡¡More than 164m Americans over the age of 18, or 63.8 per cent of the adult population, have received at least one shot as of Tuesday. About 53 per cent of adults are fully vaccinated.

¡¡¡¡Nevada ranks 32nd out of 50 states with 58.3 per cent of its adult population vaccinated with at least one dose.

¡¡¡¡West Virginia, which ranks 45th with 49.8 per cent of adult residents vaccinated, has sought to boost inoculation levels through a cash lottery and other prizes including custom rifles, pickup trucks and hunting and fishing licences. Governor Jim Justice said 70,000 West Virginians had registered for the giveaways.

¡¡¡¡Anthony Fauci, White House chief medical adviser, said on Tuesday the US needed to continue vaccinating more people to keep the Delta variant from becoming the dominant form of coronavirus in the country.

¡¡¡¡The Delta variant, which was first discovered in India and has made up the majority of new infections in the UK, accounts for about 6 per cent of US cases, according to Fauci.

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¡¡¡¡George Russell in Hong Kong

¡¡¡¡The coronavirus pandemic has underscored weaknesses in US supply chains for production of critical goods such as pharmaceuticals, a White House report issued on Tuesday said.

¡¡¡¡Joe Biden¡¯s administration said findings from its review of supply chains under an executive order issued in February would help build economic resilience.

¡¡¡¡¡°These efforts are critical because, as the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis have shown, structural weaknesses in both domestic and international supply chains threaten America¡¯s economic and national security,¡± the White House said in a statement.

¡¡¡¡Biden said he would deploy the Defense Production Act to expand production capacity in critical industries, including pharmaceuticals.

¡¡¡¡¡°The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the critical importance of a resilient US healthcare manufacturing sector,¡± the statement said.?

¡¡¡¡While private sector innovation and robust federal investment allowed the US to rapidly develop and strengthen Covid-19-related supply chains, the US remains ¡°critically dependent on imports for a range of key pharmaceutical products and the primary ingredients of generic drugs which represent 90 per cent of all prescription medications filled¡±.

¡¡¡¡Biden said the administration¡¯s Covid-19 Response Team had drastically expanded the manufacture of vaccines and other essential supplies.

¡¡¡¡February¡¯s executive order required the administration to find ways to secure the supply chains of critical items needed to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, including personal protective equipment.

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¡¡¡¡George Russell in Hong Kong

¡¡¡¡A US hospital worker was on Tuesday sentenced to three years in prison for tampering with Covid-19 vaccine doses.

¡¡¡¡Steven Brandenburg, 46, of Grafton, Wisconsin, pleaded guilty to two counts of attempting to tamper with consumer products with reckless disregard for the risk that another person would be placed in danger of death or bodily injury, according to the US justice department.?

¡¡¡¡According to court documents, Brandenburg removed a box of Covid-19 vaccine vials made by Moderna ¡ª which must be stored at specific cold temperatures ¡ª from a hospital refrigeration unit during two successive overnight shifts in December 2020.?

¡¡¡¡According to his plea agreement, Brandenburg stated that he was sceptical of vaccines in general, and the Moderna vaccine specifically, and had communicated his beliefs about vaccines to his co-workers.

¡¡¡¡Brandenburg acknowledged that after leaving the vaccines out for several hours each night, he returned the vaccines to the refrigerator to be used in the hospital¡¯s vaccine clinic.

¡¡¡¡The hospital said 57 people received doses of the vaccine from these vials.

¡¡¡¡¡°The purposeful attempt to spoil vaccine doses during a national public health emergency is a serious crime,¡± said acting assistant attorney-general Brian Boynton.

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¡¡¡¡FT reporters

¡¡¡¡The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Covid-19 incidence rates for April and May dropped 40 per cent compared with November and December, emergency room visits fell 59 per cent, hospitalisations declined 65 per cent and the number of deaths caused by coronavirus dropped 66 per cent.

¡¡¡¡US job openings climbed more than expected to a record high in April, underscoring concerns about labour shortages as the economy reopens. Job openings reached a high of nearly 9.3m in April, the highest on record, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey released on Tuesday.?

¡¡¡¡Football fans have been told that they can use vaccine passports to attend group matches at Wembley Stadium at the delayed Euro 2020 international football tournament this month. It is the first time that spectators will be able to use vaccine passports to enter a stadium for a UK sports event.

¡¡¡¡Nearly half a million vaccine appointments were booked in England in the five hours after eligibility was widened to 25 to 29-year-olds, indicating high levels of pent-up demand among younger groups. By midday on Tuesday, bookings had already outpaced the whole of Monday by more than two-fold.?

¡¡¡¡A Londoner receives the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab at the Fazl Mosque in SouthfieldsA Londoner receives the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab at the Fazl Mosque in Southfields ? Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

¡¡¡¡The Mastercard Foundation will put forward $1.3bn over the next three years to purchase Johnson & Johnson vaccines for at least 50m people in Africa in partnership with the continent¡¯s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. The jabs will be manufactured mainly in South Africa.

¡¡¡¡Equipment hire group Vp said its profit before tax was significantly reduced, but ahead of the company¡¯s expectations, following a year hampered by the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Vp said on Tuesday that its pre-tax profit before amortisation and exceptionals halved to ¡ê23.3m in the year ending March 31.

¡¡¡¡King Yuan Electronics, a Taiwan semiconductor testing and packaging company, said on Monday that it expected an outbreak among its workers to reduce June output and revenue by up to 35 per cent. Outbreaks have also hit packager Greatek, telecoms gear producer Accton and Foxsemicon, a chip equipment maker.

¡¡¡¡The Hong Kong government has extended a $1bn loan to beleaguered Cathay Pacific Airways for another 12 months, the airline said on Tuesday. The drawdown period of the bridge loan facility has been extended until June 8 next year. The loan was provided as part of a $5bn recapitalisation announced last year.

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¡¡¡¡Jonathan Wheatley in London

¡¡¡¡Developing countries are being left behind in the pandemic recovery and face the risk of a renewed economic downturn if vaccine supplies fail to materialise and global inflation rises, the World Bank warned on Tuesday.?

¡¡¡¡Emerging economies are particularly vulnerable, it said, as increasing prices and interest rates undermine their ability to deal with the high levels of debt accumulated during the coronavirus crisis.?

¡¡¡¡¡°While advanced economies are rebounding, many of the world¡¯s poorest countries are being left behind, and much remains to be done to reverse the pandemic¡¯s staggering human and economic costs,¡± the bank said in its twice-yearly Global Economic Prospects report.

¡¡¡¡Read more here

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¡¡¡¡George Steer in London

¡¡¡¡Counterfeit accounts or ¡°bots¡± operating on Facebook were responsible for spreading vast amounts of misinformation on the effectiveness of masks in slowing the spread of coronavirus, research has found.

¡¡¡¡In November, scientists at University of California, Los Angeles and University of Pennsylvania identified 563 Facebook groups in which a link to a paper suggesting that masks offer some protection against the virus had been posted.

¡¡¡¡They then analysed all of the content, human and automated, posted to the groups in the five days following the paper¡¯s publication.

¡¡¡¡Groups were labelled as either ¡°most¡± or ¡°least affected by automation¡± based on how many identical links were posted on their feeds seconds after appearing elsewhere ¡ª a telltale sign of bot activity.

¡¡¡¡Among posts made to the 169 ¡°most affected¡± groups, the researchers found that 20 per cent claimed masks harmed the wearer, and that 50 per cent made ¡°conspiratorial claims¡± about the trial mentioned in the paper.?

¡¡¡¡In contrast, among posts made to the least affected groups, 8.5 per cent claimed masks harmed the wearer, while a fifth of posts made conspiratorial claims.?

¡¡¡¡¡°The dangers of misinformation spreading on social media during the Covid-19 pandemic are known,¡± the researchers said.

¡¡¡¡¡°However, software that allows individuals to generate automated content and share it via counterfeit accounts to amplify misinformation has been overlooked, including how automated software can be used to disseminate original research while undermining scientific communication.¡±

¡¡¡¡Researchers concluded that ¡°greater enforcement of rules by social media companies,¡± as well as legislation penalising those behind counterfeit accounts, was required to limit the spread of misinformation.

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¡¡¡¡A St. Paul mother is suing the city for access to the police investigative file into the unsolved killing of her son 14 years ago.

¡¡¡¡Sharon Munson filed a suit in Ramsey County District Court after the St. Paul Police Department told her they wouldn’t release the records into her son Eric Woulard’s death because the case is still active, according to the suit.

¡¡¡¡Woulard was shot to death in his mother’s van on the night of June 16, 2007, while parked on Van Buren Avenue in the Frogtown neighborhood. He was 21.

¡¡¡¡His death was investigated by St. Paul police but remains unsolved. Although one person was arrested in 2008, no one has been charged.

¡¡¡¡To Munson, it feels like Woulard has been forgotten.

¡¡¡¡”I have called and called. I have not received return calls back, which is very disappointing,” Munson said. “That’s what led me to seek out help from others.”

¡¡¡¡In February, Munson submitted a data practices request for information including the investigatory file on his death, police reports and supplements by officers on the scene that day in 2007. She also requested video and photographs from the scene and other police communications.

¡¡¡¡Munson’s requests were denied. The case remains open, and the 30 years required before an investigation goes public has not passed, a data technician wrote in a letter, according to the suit.

¡¡¡¡Munson was shocked to hear that Woulard’s case still was open. Her calls and visits to the Police Department have given little indication that there has been activity of any kind, she said. Munson will turn 60 this month. “I’ll be gone in 30 years,” she said.

¡¡¡¡St. Paul communications director Peter Leggett said in an e-mail that the case is currently open and that police remain focused on finding the person responsible. They have not yet received the court filing, he said.

¡¡¡¡Rich Neumeister, an advocate for open government, said going to court is the only option to get around the statute that keeps active criminal cases confidential.

¡¡¡¡”A lot of the issues come into play now ¡ª is it really open, or is it just open to say it’s open and they’re not devoting any resources to it, or there’s not enough clues,” Neumeister said. “Are the police doing their due diligence? Are they looking at it every six months?”

¡¡¡¡There’s very little precedent for a case like this because there’s no payout and all costs are out of pocket, said Munson’s attorney Paul Bosman.

¡¡¡¡With the data, Munson hopes to hire a private investigator who has a history of solving cold cases. Munson hopes the records will show whether police dedicated proper resources to finding justice for her son.

¡¡¡¡”For me to be denied the right, the legal right of my child’s report for that investigation ¡­ this is another slap in the face. I think the St. Paul Police Department should be held accountable,” Munson said.

¡¡¡¡Knowing what happened could comfort Munson’s two grandchildren, Eric Jr., 15, and Trinity, 13. Trinity was born after her father was killed.

¡¡¡¡”I know they struggle a lot, and I know that Eric Junior struggles tremendously ¡­ not understanding why he doesn’t have a father, why him,” Munson said. “He wants to know who killed his dad.”

¡¡¡¡”If we’re not killing Black folks, we’re locking them up,” Munson said. “We’re not solving their pain, then you have parents that have died without their children’s cases being solved, you have angry children that don’t know what the heck happened. That domino effect spills over into schools and behavior,” she said.

¡¡¡¡Munson has not had any communication with the city since her lawsuit was filed.

¡¡¡¡Zo? Jackson ? 612-673-7112 Twitter: @zoemjack