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California Expands Vaccinations; U.K. Death Record: Virus Update

Bloomberg News
·11 min read

(Bloomberg) -- Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose Covid-19 vaccine may not be authorized for use until March, weeks later than U.S. officials have suggested. The number of hospitalized patients in the U.S. was roughly flat this week, and probably will begin declining for the first time since September.

The U.K. reported the most deaths in one day since the pandemic began. Germany agreed on stricter rules for travelers arriving from high-risk nations to curb the spread of more transmissible Covid-19 strains. Turkey granted emergency approval to the vaccine developed by Sinovac Biotech Ltd. of China.

Japan expanded its state of emergency beyond the Tokyo region, encompassing an area that accounts for more than half of its economy. The worsening outbreak is casting doubt on the fate of the postponed Olympics, which are set to be held in the nation’s capital in less than 200 days.

Key Developments:

Global Tracker: Cases top 92 million; deaths surpass 1.97 millionVaccine Tracker: More than 30.5 million shots given worldwideU.S. vaccine shift stirs fresh unease as 128 million join lineU.K. promises to crack down on people flouting lockdown rulesVisitors to U.S. will require proof of a negative Covid-19 testHow Covid-19 has turned the spotlight back on obesity

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click CVID on the terminal for global data on coronavirus cases and deaths.

Denmark Extends Its Lockdown (5 p.m. NY)

Denmark extended a lockdown that’s been in place since the end of last year, as health authorities warn that a British mutation of the coronavirus is spreading at an alarming rate.

With a 55% spike in the number of recorded cases of the U.K. variant -- B117 -- over the past four days, Denmark will keep its current restrictions in place until Feb. 7, Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said at a briefing in Copenhagen. He said authorities registered 208 cases of the mutation on Wednesday, though state broadcaster DR has reported that the true figure could be multiples of that.

Restrictions, which include the shutting of restaurants, bars and non-essential shops, as well as schools, were to expire Jan. 17.

California Expands Vaccines to 65-Year-Olds (3:55 p.m. NY)

California will start offering vaccine shots to residents 65 and older, joining New York, New Jersey and other states that are loosening requirements under new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Until now, doses were available only to health-care workers and nursing-home residents, under a tiered system established by the state. But California has struggled to ramp up vaccinations, administering roughly a third of the doses shipped so far.

At the same time, the most-populous state is struggling through a surge in cases, with more than 22,500 people hospitalized, intensive-care units at capacity and daily death tolls averaging more than 450.

Mozambique Closes Bars, Casinos (3:10 p.m. NY)

Mozambique imposed stricter restrictions to curb a second wave of the coronavirus after the December holidays.

President Filipe Nyusi closed bars, casinos and beaches as the daily tally of new confirmed cases surged to a record 730, bringing the cumulative total to 23,726. Alcohol sales will also be restricted as coronavirus patients fill 80% of private hospital bed-spaces and half of those run by the government.

Portugal Tightens Curbs But Schools Open (3:06 p.m. NY)

The Portuguese government tightened restrictions while keeping all schools open. Shops will have to close with several exceptions including supermarkets and other food stores, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said in Lisbon on Wednesday.

From Friday, people will have a duty to stay at home and remote working will be mandatory when possible. Those measures may have to be in place for a month, he said.

In March, the government’s confinement measures included closing schools. Portugal on Wednesday reported the biggest daily increase in confirmed virus cases since the start of the outbreak -- 10,556 new cases, more than the previous record of 10,176.

J&J Expects Vaccine Decision in March (1:44 p.m. NY)

Johnson & Johnson’s highly anticipated single-dose Covid-19 vaccine may not be authorized for use until March, weeks later than U.S. officials have suggested.

Operation Warp Speed officials have said they believe that the shot could receive emergency clearance from U.S. regulators as soon as the middle of next month. But that timeline may be aggressive, based on the drugmaker’s expectations for when it will have reliable data in hand demonstrating the one-shot vaccine’s efficacy.

U.S. Hospitalizations on Brink of Decline (1:16 p.m. NY)

The number of hospitalized Covid-19 patients was roughly flat in the U.S. this week, and likely will begin declining for the first time since September.

The numbers are now dropping compared with a week earlier in both the Northeast and Midwest, according to the Covid Tracking Project. In the West, they were up 0.8%, the least since Oct. 1 on a percentage basis. The South has the most alarming momentum, with an increase of 4.2% from seven days earlier.

The most recent pandemic wave has packed medical facilities, which are desperate for a reprieve. Hospitals across the country are currently caring for more than 130,000 Covid patients, according to Tracking Project data, more than double the load at any earlier point.

Outbreaks Not Driven by Classes, CDC Says (1:13 p.m. NY)

The return to in-person classes in nearly two-thirds of the U.S. hasn’t led to a rash of community outbreaks, federal scientists said in a study of 2.87 million cases among those under age 24.

Disease rates in counties where in-person learning is available for school-age children and adolescents is similar to areas where classes are entirely online, according to a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It concludes schools should be the last to close, and the first to reopen.

NBA Postpones Seventh Game of Season (12:30 p.m. NY)

The National Basketball Association is struggling to keep its games on schedule as Covid-19 contact tracing forces more players to the sideline, leaving teams without enough players on their rosters.

The league postponed its seventh game of the season, which started shortly before Christmas, with Wednesday’s matchup between the Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns called off.

French Vaccine Skepticism Wanes (12:30 p.m. NY)

French citizens are increasingly willing to get a Covid-19 shot, as the alarming spread of the coronavirus overcomes their skepticism of the vaccines.

The share of the population that plans to get vaccinated has increased to 47%, up 9 points from a week earlier, according to an Elabe survey on Wednesday. While vaccine resistance is a “French specificity,” acceptance of the Covid shot is growing, Prime Minister Jean Castex said in response to Senate questions.

Turkey Approves Sinovac Vaccine (12:09 p.m. NY)

Turkey granted emergency approval to the vaccine developed by Sinovac Biotech Ltd. of China.

Safety tests have been completed and the vaccine is “sufficiently safe,” said Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, who became the first person to be officially inoculated in the country. He urged Turkish citizens to get the shots.

Turkey has received 3 million doses of CoronaVac, the official name of Sinovac’s vaccine, and expects to receive 10 million new doses over the next two weeks. In all, Turkey has contracted to buy 50 million doses from Sinovac. Chinese-developed vaccines have faced skepticism over a lack of safety and efficacy transparency.

U.K. Has Most Deaths Since Pandemic Began (11 a.m. NY)

The U.K. reported a further 1,564 deaths within 28 days of a positive test on Wednesday, the most since the pandemic began, as England enters week two of its third coronavirus lockdown.

It comes as the country’s hospitals are filling up with patients suffering from the disease, and amid growing concerns that its lockdown may not be strict enough to control the spread of the new strain of the virus.

On Wednesday, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there are early signs the current measures are working but did not rule out tougher restrictions.

Two More U.K. Strains in NYC (10:46 a.m. NY)

Two new Covid-19 cases with the U.K. variant were found in New York City, bringing the state’s total to 12, Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a briefing Wednesday.

The city reported 279 new hospitalizations with Covid-19 symptoms, above the 200 public threshold, with hospital use in the city running at 4.62 persons per 100,000 in the population. The seven-day average positivity rate reached 8.89%, exceeding the public-health standard of 5%.

Meanwhile, de Blasio said the city was on track to reach its goal of vaccinating 1 million New Yorkers by the end of the month.

France Says Earlier Curfew Is Working (9:39 a.m. NY)

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said that bringing forward the curfew to 6 p.m. from 8 p.m. in certain parts of the country has been effective against the spread of the virus.

Where the earlier curfew is in place, “the growth dynamic of the virus isn’t as speedy as in other areas,” he told reporters in Paris following a weekly cabinet meeting.

Astra to Boost Vaccine Deliveries for U.K. (9:17 a.m. NY)

AstraZeneca pledged to deliver 2 million doses a week of its coronavirus vaccine for the U.K. before mid-February as it ramps up production to help fuel the country’s immunization campaign.

“It does need to become a national priority to ensure that we have the right capacity and capability for vaccine manufacturing onshore here,” Tom Keith-Roach, president of Astra’s U.K. operations, said at a hearing at the House of Commons.

Switzerland to Close Shops (9:10 a.m. NY)

Switzerland will close shops and toughen social distancing restrictions in a bid to prevent a surge of a faster-spreading strain that has already swamped U.K. hospitals.

Non-essential shops will be closed from Jan. 18 until the end of February. Restaurants and fitness centers will also have to stay shut until then, and private gatherings will be restricted to five people, according to the government on Wednesday.

N.J. to Expand Vaccine Eligibility (8:39 a.m. NY)

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said he was “gratified to hear” the CDC recommended that states expand eligibility to seniors. The 65-and-over population will be eligible “effective almost immediately, in the next day or two,” Murphy said Wednesday in a CNBC interview.

The state has administered 243,734 doses, according to the latest data. That’s about 37% of the vaccines distributed to New Jersey. The state so far has limited vaccines to health-care workers, long-term care residents and first responders.

Scotland Toughens Lockdown Restrictions (8:15 a.m. NY)

Scotland’s 5.5 million people, already subject to nationwide lockdown rules, will from Saturday face a series of additional restrictions intended to curb the spread of the virus, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.

The country’s devolved government, which is responsible for health, is imposing the extra restrictions in areas ranging from click-and-collect shopping to takeaways and the consumption of alcohol outdoors in an effort to limit social interactions, Sturgeon told lawmakers in Edinburgh on Wednesday.

More Countries Find Patients With U.K. Variant (7:45 a.m. NY)

The Philippines said it detected the Covid-19 variant first reported in the U.K in the samples of a male citizen who arrived from the United Arab Emirates on Jan. 7 via an Emirates flight.

Hungary, meantime, registered the first three cases of the strain, Chief Medical Officer Cecilia Muller said at a briefing on Wednesday. The mutated virus is considered much more transmissible than earlier strains.

Putin Expands Vaccinations (7:45 a.m. NY)

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his government to expand vaccination against Covid-19 to all adults starting next week, lifting the last remaining restrictions on who could get the shots. The inoculation campaign Putin kicked off last month had initially been limited to medical workers and other groups seen as especially in need, before expanding amid reports of limited demand.

The state-run fund behind Russia’s main Sputnik V vaccine said on Jan. 10 that more than 1.5 million people had already gotten at least one shot of the two-injection regimen. A total of 2.1 million doses will be produced for public use by the end of January, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova told Putin Wednesday.

African Union Secures Vaccine Doses (7:10 a.m. NY)

The African Union secured almost 300 million Covid-19 vaccine doses for the continent, a step toward starting the complex task of inoculating more than 1.2 billion people with limited logistical and financial resources.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also the AU chairman, is expected to give more detail on the vaccines later Wednesday, according to Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, deputy director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. The order would be by far the largest on the continent to date.

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