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New York allows walk-in shots; South Africa registers 1...

Covid-19

CORONAVIRUS GLOBAL UPDATE

New York allows walk-in shots; South Africa registers 1,569 new cases

Locals sit in a tent to be monitored after receiving their first dose of the Covid-19 Moderna vaccine near Bucharest, Romania, on 21 April 2020. (Photo: EPA-EFE / ROBERT GHEMENT)
By Bloomberg
21 Apr 2021 0

South Africa registered 1,569 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 1,569,935. A further 53 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, taking total deaths to 53,940.

India is driving a surge of cases in Asia, reporting more than 200,000 new infections every day for the past week and a record death toll on Wednesday. In Japan, Tokyo and Osaka will ask the government to declare a State of Emergency, looking to contain surging cases ahead of the Olympics.

France plans to lift curbs on regional movement and reopen schools in coming weeks, while leaving a curfew in place, the government spokesman said. In Germany, the lower house of Parliament backed Chancellor Angela Merkel’s controversial lockdown law. Greece plans to ease most lockdown measures.

Airlines’ losses will amount to as much as $48-billion this year, the industry’s trade group said, widening its estimate by about a quarter as virus flare-ups and mutations push back the restart of global travel. New York City is embarking on a $30-million marketing campaign to bring back tourists.

Key developments

New York allows walk-ins for people over 60

Governor Andrew Cuomo said New Yorkers over 60 will be able to walk into any of the state vaccination sites and get a shot without an appointment starting on Friday. After months of limited vaccine supply, the governor said that New Yorkers now have “no excuse” to not get the vaccine and that residents have a “responsibility” to get a shot.

Biden urges businesses to vaccinate workers

US President Joe Biden is calling on employers to use a tax credit to provide paid time off to workers to get vaccinated and for businesses to do more to boost the inoculation effort as US vaccine supply begins to meet demand.

Biden will announce that the US will achieve its goal on Thursday of giving 200 million vaccine shots in his first 100 days in office, while pivoting to a new phase of the campaign by urging businesses to make vaccination as accessible as possible.

Greece to ease most lockdown limits

Greece will ease most key lockdown measures in early May ahead of the country’s opening to international tourism in the middle of the month, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Wednesday.

The country’s restaurants, bars and cafes can raise their shutters starting on May 3 for outdoor dining as part of the easing of measures. The nation’s primary and secondary schools will welcome pupils from May 10, and inter-regional movement will be permitted again from May 15 to coincide with the nation’s opening to all international visitors, the premier said in a nationally televised address.

Kenya plans to build a fill-finish facility

Kenya is working on a plan to develop a manufacturing plant that will enable the country to import Covid-19 vaccines in bulk, and fill the vials and distribute them locally, Health Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said in meeting with lawmakers.

“We want to create our own vaccine making and distributing capacity. This is not just a health issue, it is also a security issue,” Kagwe said.

Kenya is in talks to buy 10 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines, with the first shipment expected in June, according to the minister. It has ordered another seven million doses from Pfizer, Kagwe said, adding that Pfizer has agreed to use its own supply chain to deliver the vaccines to major distribution points across Kenya.

Kagwe said 2.4 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccines, which will be Kenya’s second shipment under the Covax facility, will be delivered at the end of May.

New York City spending $30m to lure tourists

New York City will embark on a $30-million tourism marketing campaign in an effort to recharge a moribund industry that at one time employed 400,000 and injected $70-billion into the city economy.

The funds, which come from federal stimulus programs, will be the largest marketing campaign the city has undertaken, said Fred Dixon, chief executive officer of NYC & Company, the city’s tourism and convention marketing agency. It will include television ads and social media campaigns, including a “Wish You Were Here in NYC” campaign on its website, in which New Yorkers may invite friends to visit the city.

The last few weeks have seen an uptick in hotel occupancy. Museums and tourism venues such as the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building reported increased visitor volume. Daniel Boulud, the celebrity chef planning a new restaurant at One Vanderbilt Avenue near Grand Central Terminal, joined Mayor Bill de Blasio at a news briefing on Wednesday, to promote the new eatery, which he said would focus on local vegetables and seafood.

“You’re starting to see a change and we want to bring back that change,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a Wednesday news briefing. “It’s not going to happen overnight – we know that.”

Emergent plant to remain on hold

Production at an Emergent BioSolutions facility in Baltimore will remain on hold, US regulators said, following an inspection that turned up several manufacturing problems.

Emergent is a contract manufacturer that is expected to produce the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine, but output there has been paused while officials from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scrutinise its operations.

In an inspection report posted on the agency’s website on Wednesday, the FDA found Emergent failed to thoroughly investigate unexplained discrepancies, including the cross-contamination of a vaccine substance batch with vaccine ingredients from another client.

Merkel lockdown law backed

Germany’s lower house of Parliament backed Chancellor Angela Merkel’s controversial lockdown law, as officials struggle to check a fresh wave of coronavirus infections that’s putting intense pressure on hospitals.

Merkel’s ruling coalition pushed the legislation through after her government failed to find common ground with regional leaders on measures needed to fight the pandemic. The law – which expires at the end of June – triggers tighter restrictions in virus hot spots, including night-time curfews and closing schools and non-essential stores.

France to donate vaccines

France will give 100,000 vaccine doses to poorer countries in April via the Covax multilateral program, an official in President Emmanuel Macron’s office said. France will be the first country to give doses – as opposed to funds – to Covax, according to the Elysee official, who asked not to be identified in line with government rules.

The country aims to deliver 500,000 doses to Covax by mid-June, starting with AstraZeneca vaccines this month. While the French vaccination campaign is picking up, there’s reluctance in the country to get the Astra shot.

Swiss set reopening plan

Switzerland will pursue a three-tiered reopening strategy, with each phase contingent on the epidemiological situation and the proportion of the public vaccinated. In light of the still-fragile situation, social distancing restrictions are unlikely to be eased further before late May, the government said.

The second stage will begin once the general public has been vaccinated, which is likely to be in July and will allow in-person teaching to resume at universities, a relaxation of capacity limits at sporting facilities and potentially the reopening of indoor dining at restaurants. In a final phase, remaining restrictions will be unwound. If Covid-19 infections surge again, the government can backtrack on any of the reopening steps.

Finland puts age limits on Astra

Finland decided to keep the lower age limit for administering AstraZeneca vaccines at 65, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare said in a statement on Wednesday. For second doses, people over the age of 65 can be administered the Astra vaccine, but for the under 65s the second dose will always be a mRNA vaccine, the authorities said.

Airlines see 2021 losses ballooning

Airlines will lose $47-billion to $48-billion in 2021, the International Air Transport Association (Iata) said on Wednesday in an online presentation. It had earlier forecast a $38-billion deficit.

In widening its loss estimate, the industry’s chief lobby group cited new Covid-19 flare-ups and mutations that have put the crucial summer season at risk. Iata now sees 2021 seat capacity at 43% of 2019 levels, down from the 51% forecast in December.

France to lift travel curbs

French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said curbs on inter-regional travels and other movements will be lifted on May 3, four weeks after they were announced by President Emmanuel Macron. There’s no plan to remove the 7pm to 6am curfew, he said.

Some bar and restaurant terraces will reopen in mid-May, Attal said, adding that the time frame for easing measures could vary by regions. Elementary schools are set to reopen on April 26, middle and high schools on May 3.

Merkel’s lockdown law in Parliament

Germany’s lower house of Parliament is set to approve Chancellor Angela Merkel’s controversial lockdown law later on Wednesday, as officials struggle to check a fresh wave of coronavirus infections that’s putting intense pressure on hospitals.

Merkel pushed for the legislation after her government failed to find common ground with regional leaders on measures needed to fight the pandemic. The law – which would expire at the end of June – gives federal officials the authority to impose tighter restrictions in virus hot spots, including night-time curfews and closing schools and non-essential stores.

France aims to boost vaccine trust

In a bid to restore trust in the AstraZeneca vaccine, the French government is negotiating with TV channels to have famous people over 55 – such as actress Mimie Mathy or TV host Arthur – get the shot live on TV, according to an official who declined to be identified in line with government rules.

Symptoms linked to Sinovac shots

Sinovac Biotech’s vaccine may have led to six cases of temporary, “stroke-like” symptoms among people who got jabs this month, according to a Thai Health Ministry panel.

Six female health workers suffered from symptoms that lasted from one to three days, and have since recovered, Kulkanya Chokephaibulkit, representing Thailand’s national committee on the vaccine’s adverse effects, said at a briefing on Wednesday. The investigations, which included brain scans, found no other possible causes of the symptoms, which occurred within several minutes of the jab, Kulkanya said.

The committee didn’t recommend temporary suspension of the Sinovac vaccine roll-out as it saw more benefits than risks. It also didn’t find any irregularities with this specific lot of the vaccine and will continue to monitor the situation as well as look for other cases of these symptoms, Kulkanya said.

Roche’s Covid pill tests delayed

Roche Holding has run into a speed bump as it seeks to rush a pill for Covid-19 to the market: the UK’s aggressive vaccine drive has made it harder to find sick people to test it on.

A trial of the pill for people with mild or moderate Covid which began in the UK earlier this year is delayed, Roche said. To speed things up, the Swiss pharma giant has started recruiting patients in a range of other places, from Texas to Bulgaria, Canada and Spain, the US clinical trials registry shows.

China urges second shots on time

Local governments in China need to make a precise vaccine allocation to ensure the second dose can be given within eight weeks after the first shot, National Health Commission spokesperson Mi Feng said at a briefing.

China has given more than 200 million doses of vaccines so far, Mi said. The inoculation rate among medical staff has exceeded 80%, said Li Dachuan, another official with the commission.

CureVac may get EMA review soon

CureVac’s mRNA vaccine may be evaluated by the European Medicines Agency by the end of May, Italy’s drug agency Director-General Nicola Magrini said in an interview with Radio24.

CureVac’s two-dose vaccine relies on a technology similar to that used by the Pfizer-BioNTech alliance and Moderna. DM

— With assistance by Jeff Sutherland, Christopher Palmeri, Ania Nussbaum, Kati Pohjanpalo, Catherine Bosley, Henry Goldman, David Herbling, Paul Tugwell, and Shelly Banjo.

Gallery

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