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Coronavirus latest: Melbourne quarantine hotel closed down as Australia braces for ‘wicked and changing’ variants

US oil production will continue its coronavirus-driven decline through at least June, according to government forecasts. Output is expected to slide from 11m barrels a day in January to about 10.9m in June, the Energy Information Administration said on Tuesday, down from a pre-pandemic peak of 12.9m.

US president Joe Biden is set to meet business leaders including Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan and Doug McMillon, Walmart chief executive, as he seeks corporate support for his $1.9tn stimulus plan. The gathering in the Oval Office on Tuesday will mark Biden’s first with key company voices since his inauguration.

The most recent wave of Covid-19 is showing signs it might have peaked. Global average daily deaths fell steadily from a high of more than 14,200 on January 29 to 12,691 on February 7, according to a Financial Times analysis. The fall in deaths over the past week is the largest decline since May last year.

Scientists have identified 170 cases of the variant first identified in South Africa — known as 501.V2 — in the UK, including 18 cases not linked to travel, suggesting there is some community transmission. They also found 21 cases of the B117 variant, first identified in Kent and London, with an extra mutation of concern.

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AstraZeneca’s chief executive has sought to allay fears about the efficacy of its vaccine against new strains of coronavirus after South Africa postponed the rollout of the jab following the results of a clinical trial. Pascal Soriot said on Tuesday that he was confident the jab prevented severe disease triggered by the mutated strain.

Nissan and Honda raised their annual profit guidance on Tuesday as the carmakers cut costs to buck a decline in vehicle sales caused by the pandemic-triggered global chip shortage. Nissan trimmed its vehicle sales forecast for the year ending in March by 3.6 per cent, while rival Honda cut its target 2.2 per cent.

Beauty group Coty said weak demand for make-up from consumers stuck at home during the pandemic triggered a bigger-than-expected quarterly sales drop. Revenues at the company behind Max Factor and Rimmel fell 16 per cent from a year ago to $1.42bn in the three months to December 31.

Micro Focus, one of Britain’s largest technology companies, raised a goodwill impairment charge to $2.8bn as it completed the first year of a three-year turnround plan but reinstated its dividend. The IT group on Tuesday reported a 9 per cent decline in full-year sales to $3bn for the year ended October 31.

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