Moderna Inc. said it will deliver fewer vaccines than planned to the U.K., Canada and other countries this quarter due to a shortfall in doses in its European supply chain. Hong Kong quarantined residents in a building after a mutant strain was found.
Global Tracker: Cases pass 139.5 million; deaths approach 3 million
Vaccine Tracker: More than 869 million shots given worldwide
Relapse concerns stunt air travel reopening
J&J’s limbo status crimps U.S. vaccine drive at a pivotal moment
The U.S. South is fast closing the country’s widest Black vaccine gap
How Europe’s vaccine rollout turned into a nightmare
Covid is much deadlier in Brazil than India and no one knows why
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Hong Kong Quarantines Building After Mutant Strain Found (1:55 p.m. HK)
Hong Kong health officials quarantined more than 80 residents of a building in a densely populated neighborhood after a Covid-19 case detected there initially tested positive for a highly transmissible mutant strain.
Health authorities locked down the Parkes Building in the Jordan area of the Kowloon district to conduct mandatory testing, according to a government statement late Friday.
The preliminary test result from the confirmed case involved the N501Y mutant strain of the coronavirus, which is highly transmissible, the Department of Health said in a statement. The building is “relatively old" and houses some sub-divided units, it said.
Australia Links Death to AstraZeneca (12:15 p.m. HK)
The death of a 48-year-old woman in New South Wales was “likely linked" to the AstraZeneca vaccine, though the case was “complicated" by underlying conditions, Australian health officials said Saturday.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt expressed condolences to family of the woman, who was inoculated before the government’s April 8 announcement that the Pfizer vaccine was preferred for people under the age of 50, given concerns about blood clotting linked to the AstraZeneca dose.
“Vaccines are overwhelmingly safe, recommended and effective," Hunt said in a press conference Saturday, adding that they remain under continuous review by the immunizations task force.
Thailand to Roll Out Vaccines for General Public (11:15 a.m. HK)
Thailand will begin vaccinating the general public from June with about 6 million doses of AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid-19 vaccines to be locally manufactured by Siam Bioscience Ltd., Bangkok Post reported, citing Chawetsan Namwat, a director at the Health Ministry.
The Southeast Asian nation, battling a fresh wave of infections, has so far administered 586,032 doses to priority sector workers and those older than 60 years, the newspaper reported. The government has ordered a nationwide ban on the sale of alcohol at restaurants and closure of schools and entertainment venues such as bars and pubs at least until the end of April to contain the latest outbreak.
New South Wales Reworks Vaccines on AstraZeneca Concern (9:45 a.m. HK)
Australia’s most populous state is planning a major overhaul of its Covid-19 innoculation program, including a possible increase in the volume of Pfizer Inc.’s doses and distribution of new alternative vaccines, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
The strategy in New South Wales is under review ahead of Monday’s national cabinet meeting, which is also likely to address the future of the rollout of AstraZeneca Plc’s shots for people over 50 years of age, the paper said.
Los Angeles Test Positivity Hits Record Low (8:02 a.m. HK)
Los Angeles County, an epicenter of the outbreak after the year-end holiday travel, said its test positivity rate reached 1%, the lowest since the start of the pandemic. That’s down from more than 20% late December.
Almost one in eight people in the metropolitan area’s 10 million population had been infected at some point. The county has administered 5.4 million doses of the vaccine, with more than 1.9 million having received their second shot.
Meanwhile, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill requiring hotels, convention centers, and other hospitality venues to prioritize the rehiring of former workers laid off during the pandemic, a reversal from his decision last year to reject a similar bill.
Global Deaths Near 3 Million (7:15 a.m. HK)
Global fatalities from Covid-19 are nearing 3 million. The relentless pace of death continues unabated despite vaccination efforts and is increasingly borne by the world’s poorest places.
The current death toll is 2.99 million, according to Johns Hopkins University data, only about three months since it crossed the 2 million mark on Jan. 15. It took about 8.5 months after the initial fatality in China to mark the first million, and just another 3.5 months to reach the second million.
The shortening intervals, coupled with the increasing number of new cases worldwide, is dealing a blow to hopes that the end of the pandemic is in sight with the widespread deployment of vaccines. The real death toll is likely far higher than three million, due to under and patchy reporting around the world.
Ontario Sets Up Checkpoints (6 a.m. HK)
In a Hail Mary attempt to control a third wave of Covid-19, Ontario unveiled its strictest measures yet to restrict the movement of people, setting up checkpoints with neighboring Quebec and Manitoba for the first time in Canada’s outbreak.
The government of Premier Doug Ford said it will extend an emergency stay-at-home order to six weeks from four. Essential stores such as supermarkets and pharmacies will operate at 25% of capacity.
“My friends, we’re losing the battle between the variants and vaccines," Ford said at a news conference Friday afternoon.
U.K. Pilot Events Won’t Require Masks (5:47 p.m. NY)
Anyone attending one of the large-scale public events the U.K. government is planning in the weeks ahead won’t have to wear a face mask but will have to show evidence of a negative Covid-19 test, the Telegraph reported.
Attendees will also have to take a PCR test before the event and again five days later as part of the government’s plan to ensure any transmission of the virus is properly monitored.
Chicago Hospital to Re-Offer Shots (5:43 p.m. NY)
Chicago will offer vaccines again at Loretto Hospital “following a pause" last month, according to a statement from the department of public health. The city had stopped sending doses to the hospital after a string of local news reports revealed that some people who were not yet eligible got shots through Loretto. The Chicago Department of Public Health has reviewed an internal hospital audit and then decided to reopen a vaccination clinic at the hospital next week with the city managing registration, scheduling and reporting to the state of Illinois.
Oregon Won’t Reimpose Curbs (4:40 p.m. NY)
Oregon Governor Kate Brown said she wouldn’t reimpose tougher restrictions despite a worsening outbreak in the state. “Oregonians at this point know how to take personal responsibility" by wearing masks and socially distancing, the Democratic governor said at a media briefing. She also said that the “dynamic has shifted" as more of the state is vaccinated. Oregon has administered vaccinations at just below the national average, covering almost 31% of the population, according the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.
Governors around the U.S. have been reluctant to extend restrictions even as virus caseloads have increased in recent weeks, citing the economy, vaccines and general fatigue after more than a year of limitations under the pandemic.
U.S. Hospitalizations Accelerate (3:40 p.m. NY)
Hospital beds in the U.S. filled up with Covid-19 patients this week to the highest level in almost six weeks, according to Health and Human Services Department data. Michigan reported the highest share of occupied beds with 20.1%, followed by Maryland at 15.6%.
The hospitalization rate rose to 6.5% on Tuesday from 6.4% a day earlier, latest available HHS data show.
North Dakota and South Dakota had the biggest weekly increases in hospitalizations for Covid-19 relative to each state’s number of hospital beds, followed by Puerto Rico, Vermont and New Mexico, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
France’s Museums to Reopen in Mid-May (2 p.m. NY)
France confirmed Friday that some cultural venues and outdoor dining will start reopening in mid-May. The country is currently under national lockdown as hospital intensive care unit capacity hovers at 117%. Another The 36,442 new cases were reported on Friday, while deaths rose by 331 to 100,404.
Study Finds 40% Death Rate From Clots (12:53 p.m. NY)
Rare blood clots and high platelet counts after taking AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine led to death in about 40% of 39 identified cases, according to an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Most of the reports were women younger than age 50, the editorial said. The authors called for more study of whether certain population groups would be more suitable for certain Covid vaccines.
U.S. Vaccinations Reach 200 Million (12:35 p.m. NY)
The U.S. has administered 200 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine, a White House official said Friday. Just under 40% of Americans have had at least one dose, and about a quarter have completed the one- and two-dose vaccinations.
The vaccine rollout has been accelerating as supply increases, with the U.S. giving shots to about 1% of the population every day, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. It took the U.S. 89 days to administer the first 100 million doses, a milestone reached on March 12. The second 100 million has come in just 36 days.
NYC Mayor Urges Workers Back (12:12 p.m. NY)
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is sticking to his call to start bringing city workers back to the office on May 3, refuting claims by some employees that it’s too soon.
“It’s definitely time to come back," de Blasio said Friday after a city employee asserted on WNYC radio that many people don’t feel comfortable returning to the office. Other workers have objected on social media, and union officials have questioned whether work sites have made appropriate health and safety changes.
Australia Reports Clot Death (12:05 p.m. NY)
Australia regulators said a link is likely between the AstraZeneca vaccine and the nation’s first death from a blood clot after inoculation, Reuters reported. The nation’s Vaccine Safety Investigation Group said “a causative link to vaccination should be assumed at this time," according to the Therapeutic Goods Administration. The victim was a 48-year-old woman from New South Wales who was vaccinated with AstraZeneca on April 8.
The outbreak in Michigan, which has emerged as the worst U.S. hotspot, is surging in a critical factory for Stellantis NV’s Ram pickup truck with an estimated 10% of production employees out for Covid-related reasons.
About 630 production workers were absent on Tuesday because they’d either tested positive or were in quarantine, according to three people familiar with the matter, who declined to be identified.
Moderna Cuts Supply to U.K., Canada (11:13 a.m. NY)
Moderna said it will deliver fewer Covid-19 vaccines than planned to the U.K., Canada and other countries this quarter due to a shortfall in doses in its European supply chain.
Deliveries to the U.K. will be reduced from this month, just days after the vaccine was rolled out in Britain, which will affect the overall number of doses previously expected to be supplied by the end of June. Moderna is working with Lonza Group AG to make the shots in Europe.
U.S. to Track Variants More Closely (11:03 a.m. NY)
President Joe Biden’s administration is allocating $1.7 billion in funding to track the spread of Covid-19 variants, which are proving dangerous as they spread quickly and risk dragging out the pandemic.
The announcement, with funding from the aid package Biden signed a month ago, comes as mutations of the virus fuel new outbreaks across the U.S. -- especially in the upper Midwest.
Italy Eases Lockdown (11:01 a.m NY)
Prime Minister Mario Draghi said many business activities in much of Italy can resume starting April 26 in a bet on an economic rebound fueled by what he called “good debt."
Government and regional leaders on Friday decided to ease Italy’s lockdown, reintroducing so-called yellow risk areas where restaurants with open-air seating can reopen and residents have more freedom of movement, Draghi told reporters in Rome. All schools will reopen in medium-risk and lower-risk areas as the coronavirus contagion slows.
Merkel Gets Astra Shot (10:01 a.m. NY)
Chancellor Angela Merkel got her first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday as Germany’s immunization drive continued to gather pace after a sluggish start.
Vice Chancellor and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz was also due to get the AstraZeneca shot Friday, with both opting for the company’s vaccine despite possible links to rare blood clots that have led to its use being limited in some countries, including Germany.
India Worries Over Double Mutation (9:32 a.m. NY)
As India’s daily tally of Covid-19 infections surged by a record 200,000-plus cases on two consecutive days, public health experts worry that a new -- possibly more virulent -- coronavirus variant could be racing through the crowded nation of more than 1.3 billion people.
The new variant, which has a so-called double mutation, is thought to be fueling India’s deadlier new wave of infections that has made it the world’s second worst-hit country, surpassing Brazil, and has already begun to overwhelm its hospitals and crematoriums. The Asian nation has reported more than 14 million cases so far and more than 174,300 fatalities.
Sinovac Efficacy Reported at 67% (9:30 a.m. NY)
A Chilean study said Sinovac Biotech Ltd.’s vaccine was 67% effective in preventing symptomatic Covid-19 infections, the first such evidence from a mass vaccination program.
The report also said the vaccine was 85% effective in preventing hospitalizations, 89% effective in preventing people from entering intensive care units and 80% effective in preventing fatalities.
China to Approve First Foreign Shot (8:07 a.m. NY)
China is planning to approve its first foreign Covid-19 vaccine before July, according to people familiar with the matter, as pressure mounts from domestic scientists and the foreign business community to expand beyond the country’s own roster of shots.
Chinese officials have been scrutinizing clinical-trial data for the coronavirus vaccine made by Germany’s BioNTech SE and are expected to green light domestic distribution of the shot within the next 10 weeks, people privy to these discussions say.
EU Sours on Astra, J&J (2:50 a.m. NY)
The EU “most probably" won’t renew its coronavirus vaccine contracts with AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, French Industry Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said on BFM TV on Friday.
“The decision has not been taken as of today, but I can tell you we haven’t initiated discussions with AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson about another contract, whereas we have already started discussions about contracts with BioNTech, Pfizer and Moderna," Pannier-Runacher said.
A delay to J&J’s vaccine could push EU efforts to vaccinate three-quarters of its population back to December, from the end of September, Airfinity estimates.