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SixCap filed for liquidation, owes investors $143 million: report

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The company, known as SixCap, was placed into insolvent liquidation last month in the British Virgin Islands where it’s incorporated, according to a statement dated Feb. 26 from appointed liquidator Baker Tilly.

Investors and creditors were told they’re collectively owed more than $143 million, according to a Wednesday report by Singaporean newspaper The Business Times.

Baker Tilly did not immediately respond to an email from CNBC requesting confirmation of that figure and asking for other details such as the number of investors involved.

The development marks the latest in the downfall of a firm that once occupied a prime-location office in Singapore’s central business district. SixCap was a sponsor of high-profile events, had its name painted on an airplane, and wooed new clients at places like the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Troubles started emerging around June last year when SixCap informed customers that it was having problems with its bank account.

That led to investors wanting to cash out millions of dollars they poured into what the firm claimed were fintech products that generate turns through foreign currency trading. But investors failed to get back their money.

SixCap closed its office, and angry investors filed police reports late last year, according to Singapore’s The Straits Times.

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Novartis CEO outlines how best to prepare for the next pandemic

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LONDON — The chief executive of Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis on Wednesday outlined how policymakers and the health care industry can learn from the ongoing coronavirus crisis to improve pandemic preparedness.

“Pandemics have been with us for centuries. If you go back into the recorded history, probably on the order of 15 pandemics in the last 200 to 300 years. And, so pandemics periodically happen, and they are probably bound to happen again in the future,” Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan told Julianna Tatelbaum at the virtual CNBC Evolve Global Summit.

“We know what the solutions are — it is just very hard to maintain the investments over time. We need world-class surveillance to really identify when viruses move from animal populations to human populations and we need a policy framework for that information to be very rapidly shared,” he said.

Narasimhan said health care systems would need so-called “warm preparedness,” referring to having protective-gear stockpiles and manufacturing capabilities ahead of time. It would also be essential to maintain the stock levels of critical goods to help intra-patient care and continue to invest in therapeutics, vaccines and diagnostics, he added.

“We know the answers and we know what needs to happen. The tricky thing, I think, is going to be four [or] five years from now, often what happens is attention moves away from pandemic preparedness, investments go down and then the susceptibility levels go up,” Narasimhan said.

An official in personal protective equipment (PPE) manages the crowd as people queue to receive China’s Sinopharm Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine in Phnom Penh on May 31, 2021, as part of the government’s campaign to halt the rising number of cases of the virus.

TANG CHHIN SOTHY | AFP | Getty Images

“I’m optimistic this time, I think this pandemic has really been a wake-up call. I also think we have better technology than we have ever had from a therapeutics and diagnostics standpoint, so hopefully for the next pandemic will be even better.”

Narasimhan said the topic of future pandemic preparedness was discussed by health ministers and other biopharmaceutical executives at the G-7 health minister’s meeting earlier this month.

The Basel-based firm has seen its efforts to repurpose existing medicines to fight the coronavirus pandemic come up short thus far. Novartis announced on Dec. 14 that a late-stage clinical trial of ruxolitinib in addition to standard of care therapy showed no statistically significant reduction in severe complications of Covid-19, including death and admissions to the intensive care unit.

The company had previously said late-stage trials of anti-inflammatory medicine canakinumab failed to help patients with Covid-19.

More recently, Novartis said that alongside Swiss drugmaker Molecular Partners it would start clinical trials for an investigational medicine they are developing to treat Covid-19.

The clinical trial program, referred to as “EMPATHY,” is designed to examine the safety and efficacy of ensovibep in patients who are in the early stages of Covid-19 infection. The aim is to prevent worsening symptoms and hospitalization.

The first phase of the study will enroll 400 patients to identify a dose with optimal safety before a second late-stage trial moves ahead with an additional 1,700 patients. The results are expected in the first half of next year.

Covid cases worldwide

In the week through to June 15, the number of new Covid-19 cases and deaths continued to decrease, with more than 2.6 million cases and 72,000 deaths reported, according to data compiled by the World Health Organization.

It marked the lowest weekly incidence of cases since February, with weekly cases down across all WHO regions except for the African region when compared to last week. The number of new deaths in the past week fell across all regions bar the African and Southeast Asia regions.

To date, more than 176.6 million Covid-19 cases have been reported globally, with 3.82 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

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European Union adds the U.S. to its safe travel list

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Aerial images of Kea island also known as Gia or Tzia, Zea, and, in antiquity, Keos, is a Greek island in the Cyclades archipelago in the Aegean Sea. Kea is part of the Kea-Kythnos regional unit.

NurPhoto | NurPhoto | Getty Images

LONDON — The European Union decided on Wednesday to add the United States to its safe travel list, meaning it will be easier for American citizens to take a vacation in one of the 27 member states, two EU sources have confirmed to CNBC.

Non-essential travel from the United States, and from other places, had been banned in the EU in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic to avoid further contagion. However, as vaccinations gather pace, the 27 EU ambassadors based in Brussels recommended on Wednesday that the region should allow non-essential travelers from eight new countries and territories.

These are the U.S., Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia, Lebanon, Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong.

In an interview to the New York Times in April, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had said that fully vaccinated American tourists would be allowed to visit the bloc this summer.

But this new EU recommendation could go one step further in allowing U.S. tourists to visit with only a negative test, and avoid the need for a period of quarantine. It is now up to the individual EU countries to decide how they will implement the guidelines and allow tourists to enter. Travelers should confirm the rules on their intended destination before flying.

Wednesday’s recommendation at the EU level aims to coordinate the travel rules across the bloc and should be finalized in the coming days, following the national decisions from each member state.

UK omitted

One notable absence from the exemption list is the United Kingdom, where almost half of the population is currently fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

One EU official, who did not want to be named due to the sensitivity of the subject, said non-essential travel from the U.K. remains banned “due to the delta variant.”

The U.K. government earlier this week delayed a plan to lift all coronavirus restrictions this month due to rising infections. A recent surge in the number of Covid-19 cases is linked to the delta variant first discovered in India, which is believed to be around 60% more infectious than previous strains of the virus.

The U.K. is now hoping that more vaccinations in the next four weeks will allow it to end all coronavirus measures on July 19.

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China’s Guangzhou reports zero new cases for first time in new cluster

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A citizen reacts to a throat swab sampling during a mass covid test in Guangzhou in south China’s Guangdong province Monday, May 31, 2021.

Barcroft Media | Barcroft Media | Getty Images

GUANGZHOU, China — The southern Chinese city of Guangzhou has reported zero new locally transmitted coronavirus cases for the first time since a new cluster of cases cropped up in May.

The recent uptick in cases prompted mass testing and lockdowns, and also threatened global trade.

On Tuesday, health authorities found no new confirmed cases in Guangzhou, a city of over 15 million people which became China’s new Covid hotspot.

The first new case, a 75-year-old woman, was detected on May 21. It was the first time the delta variant of the virus, first identified in India, was detected in China.

Authorities were concerned because of the highly transmissible nature of the variant and took action swiftly.

Liwan, in the west of Guangzhou, had parts of the district locked down. People were not allowed in or out of these areas except under special circumstances. Some restaurants had to close, while others operated take-out only or at a reduced capacity.

Health workers lined the streets of Guangzhou to carry out mass coronavirus testing on the population. Tens of millions of people have been tested in the last two weeks.

Meanwhile, police in Guangzhou fined and detained individuals who allegedly broke laws such as not wearing masks in public, or not cooperating when asked to take a coronavirus test.

Guangzhou’s outbreak, which threatened to spread more broadly across the Guangdong province, an economic and trading powerhouse, has also impacted shipping. Increased checks and virus prevention measures have caused delays at Guangdong’s key shipping ports with experts warning it could lead to disruptions to the global supply chain.

Authorities have also urged people to get vaccinated in Guangdong province and across China. Over 900 million doses of vaccine have been administered in the country.

While one day of zero new cases is a positive development, authorities will be hoping it can be sustained so they can eventually fully reopen the local economy and take areas out of lockdown.

On Wednesday, Chen Bin, deputy director of the Guangzhou Municipal Health Commission, said zero cases “does not mean zero risk,” according to comments reported by local media. Authorities have continuously urged citizens to remain cautious and continue to wear masks and reduce unnecessary social contact.

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