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Coronavirus treatment hopes push stock markets up, and ‘Spoons to reopen in June

Investors are chirpy this morning amid hopes of a new coronavirus treatment that has been described as promising by the USA’s top infectious disease official, Dr Anthony Fauci. The experimental drug, called remdesivir, is produced by an American biopharmaceutical firm called Gilead Sciences, and is reckoned by US regulators to be safe for use in emergencies after a clinical trial found that it could improve Covid-19 sufferers’ recovery time by a third. Stock markets around the world have risen sharply on the strength of the news.

However, not everyone is convinced. A different, peer-reviewed study published in scientific journal The Lancet of a clinical trial carried out in China did not produce the same results. Gilead Sciences has cast doubt on the Lancet’s study of choice, as they say the process ended early and that this compromises the reliability of its findings. Nonetheless, the FTSE 100 closed yesterday at its highest level since the beginning of March. Incredibly, the definition of a ‘bull market’ – where trading indexes rise very rapidly – is marked by gains of 20% or more, and that is the territory we’re in today.

Firms dragging their feet on refunds face tough action from the CMA after it emerged that many firms are attempting to pressure customers into accepting vouchers in lieu of refunds – to which they are entitled – for things like holidays. It said some are point blank refusing to refund, and that vouchers offered can in some cases only be redeemed during a pricier period in the holiday season. The CMA said it will bring court action against offending firms, and said there had been a significant uptick in the number of complaints from consumers about their treatment.

It’s not just holidays, though. The regulator said it had established a Covid-19 ‘taskforce’, and was focussing mainly on holiday accommodation, events (including weddings), and childcare/nurseries; other sectors will be in the firing line, but as a secondary priority to these areas. If you’re wondering about cancelled flights, of which there have been thousands, you’ll need to talk to the Civil Aviation Authority, because the Competition and Markets Authority does not look after this area.

The boss of the CMA, Andrea Coscelli, said in a statement: “Our Covid-19 taskforce is shining a light on some of the big issues facing consumers in wake of this pandemic. Alongside price-gouging reports we’re now seeing cancellation issues in their thousands. So far the CMA has identified weddings, holiday accommodation and childcare as particular areas of concern.

“The current situation is throwing up challenges for everyone, including businesses, but that does not mean that consumer rights can fall by the wayside. If we find evidence that businesses are failing to comply with consumer protection law then we will get tough. That means launching enforcement cases and moving to court action where there is a strong reason to do so.”

The owner of JD Wetherspoon says June is pint-time after Tim Martin told investors on a call that he is aiming for “in or around June” to unlock doors on his 867 pubs around the country. It seems to be fighting talk however, given that the government hasn’t even set a date for the end of the lockdown, and given shops, pubs and restaurants were considered the most essential to close to halt the spread of the disease, it seems unlikely they will be the first businesses to reopen.

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