U.K. Cases Surge; BofA Sets Office Return Plan: Virus Update
(Bloomberg) -- Bank of America Corp. expects all of its vaccinated employees to return to the office after Labor Day in early September, and will then focus on developing plans for returning unvaccinated workers. BlackRock Inc. will allow only fully-vaccinated workers to come back to work starting next month.
The U.K. recorded the most cases in a day since mid-February, amid warnings the current wave of infections driven by the highly transmissible delta variant may still be weeks from peaking. Portugal is limiting weekend travel to and from Lisbon because of a surge in cases, also apparently driven by the variant.
The World Health Organization sounded the alarm over Africa, warning urgent action is needed to curb a third wave of infections sweeping across the continent.
- Global Tracker: Cases exceed 177.1 million; deaths pass 3.8 million
- Vaccine Tracker: More than 2.47 billion doses administered
- Japan’s ‘Dr. Fauci’ damps Olympic mood with call to ban fans
- Pockets of unvaccinated Americans threaten to prolong pandemic
- Double-lung transplants rise after Covid ‘honeycombs’ organs
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Columbia Nears 100,000 Deaths (4:21 p.m. NY)
Protest-wracked Colombia is fast on track to surpass 100,000 deaths from Covid-19 as the government tries to balance letting citizens work -- and eat -- with protecting them from the pandemic by reopening large swathes of the economy.
A slow vaccination rollout and social upheaval have meant that infections and mortality in Colombia continue to rise. Just in the past five days, the country of 50 million has marked records in daily deaths, registering as many as 599 fatalities on Tuesday alone. At the current rate, Colombia will hit 100,000 deaths as soon as Sunday.
NYC Subways Hit Pandemic High (4:19 p.m. NY)
New York City’s subway system reached a record 2.5 million customers on Wednesday, about 44% of pre-pandemic era ridership, and the highest level since the Covid-19 outbreak, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said Thursday.
The MTA is the largest mass-transit provider in the U.S. While the 2.5 million customers is below the pre-pandemic weekday average of 5.5 million, subway ridership has been increasing as New York City fully reopens, with more businesses asking employees to work from their offices, and cultural and entertainment venues loosening restrictions.
Washington Expands Lottery to Military (3:51 p.m. NY)
Governor Jay Inslee expanded Washington state’s vaccine lottery to veterans and people in the military, offering a prize of $250,000 for those who are vaccinated. He said in a news conference that military members or veterans who received shots from the federal government would be eligible for the prizes, which also include two giveaways of $100,000 in cash and other awards starting at the end of June.
“We want to say thank you to our veterans and active duty personnel,” the Democratic governor said at a news conference on Thursday.
Washington is one of more than half a dozen states offering lottery prizes and tuition as an incentive for people to get vaccinated. Overall, the state’s grand prize is $1 million, to be awarded after a July 13 drawing.
Gambia Runs Out of Astra Shots (3:21 p.m. NY)
Gambia, which started its vaccination campaign against the coronavirus in March, has already run out of AstraZeneca shots.
“The Ministry of Health wishes to inform the public that the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine is out of stock in the country,” the government said in a statement Thursday. The statement did not say when new doses would be imported.
Illinois Reports 64 Cases of Delta Variant (2:03 p.m. NY)
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said his biggest concern about the more-transmissible delta variant first found in India is children younger than 12 years old, who aren’t eligible for vaccination. The state reported on Thursday that it had identified 64 cases of the variant.
“The delta variant seems to have been predominant among people who are unvaccinated, so those kids are who I’m focused on,” the Democratic governor said in a news conference on Thursday. “So far it appears that the available vaccines are resistant to the delta variant.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday classified delta as a “variant of concern” and said it now made up 10% of sampled cases. CDC data show it accounts for just above 2% of cases in Illinois. The state with the highest percentage is Missouri, at almost 7%.
BlackRock to Allow Back Vaccinated Workers (12:48 p.m. NY)
BlackRock Inc. is adjusting its plans for U.S. employees to return to the office, allowing only fully-vaccinated workers to come back to work starting next month.
The world’s biggest asset manager said that U.S.-based employees who’ve been inoculated can resume in-person work in July and August if they’d like to, according to a memo from the New York-based company. Unvaccinated staffers are not allowed in the office as of then, the memo said.
Tanzania Ends No-Vaccine Policy (12:42 p.m. NY)
Tanzania has submitted a formal request to the Covax facility to receive vaccines, potentially bringing to a close the downplaying of the disease that left the country as one of three in Africa with no plans to inoculate its people.
“Tanzania has submitted to the Covax facility its vaccine request form and is currently preparing a Covid-19 vaccine deployment plan,” said Richard Mihigo, coordinator of the immunization programme at the World Health Organization’s Africa office.
Portugal Limits Lisbon Travel (12:37 p.m. NY)
The Portuguese government will limit travel to and from the greater Lisbon area during the weekend following an increase in cases in the region.
The restrictions on movement will apply from 3 p.m. on Friday, with exceptions including international travel, Presidency Minister Mariana Vieira da Silva said on Thursday. “Apparently there is a greater prevalence of the delta variant” in the region, the minister said.
U.K. Cases Surge (12:19 p.m. NY)
The U.K. recorded the most coronavirus cases in a day since mid-February, amid warnings the current wave of infections driven by the highly transmissible delta variant may still be weeks from peaking.
More than 11,000 new cases of the disease were reported on Thursday, along with 19 deaths, according to the Department Health. A study by Public Health England showed infection rates increasing across all age groups, but are highest among peopleaged 20 to 29.
U.S. Invests in Antiviral Drugs (12:08 p.m. NY)
The U.S. will invest $3.2 billion into developing antiviral medicines to combat Covid-19 and other viruses with pandemic potential, the Health and Human Services Department said Thursday.
Dubbed the Antiviral Program for Pandemics, the effort led by U.S. health agencies will support the discovery, development and production of antiviral treatments for Covid-19 and future viral threats, HHS said. The collaboration, bringing together the National Institutes of Health and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, aims to develop antivirals that could be taken at home soon after someone gets sick.
U.S. Shots to Reach Taiwan Soon (11:06 a.m. NY)
Jonathan Fritz, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for China, Mongolia and Taiwan coordination, said shipments may be headed to Taiwan in less than a few weeks. Fritz, testifying to a Senate Foreign Relations Committee panel, said getting the vaccines to Taiwan is a priority, “keeping in mind a number of critical industries including semiconductors, for example, could be affected.”
BofA Sets Office Return Date (10:18 a.m. NY)
Bank of America Corp. expects all of its vaccinated employees to return to the office after Labor Day in early September, and will then focus on developing plans for returning unvaccinated workers to its sites.
More than 70,000 of the firm’s employees have voluntarily disclosed their vaccine status to the bank, Chief Executive Officer Brian Moynihan said in a Bloomberg Television interview Thursday. The firm, which has more than 210,000 employees globally, has already invited those who have received their shots to begin returning.
Kuwait To Ease Foreign Visits (10:09 a.m. NY)
Non-Kuwaitis will be permitted to enter the country from August 1, provided they have received two doses of the Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson shot. Expatriates will also have to quarantine at home for seven days, unless a PCR test during that time is negative, according to government spokesman Tareq Al-Mezrem.
As of June 27, no one will be permitted to enter numerous public places without at least one dose of the vaccine.
Kenya Restricts Internal Travel (10:05 a.m. NY)
Kenya announced restrictions on movement into and out of 13 counties located in the western part of the country nearing Uganda.
The areas constitute 60% of the national caseload and the surge of infections in the region is further compounded by their proximity to Uganda, which has recorded a spike in cases, according to an emailed statement from Mutahi Kagwe, Kenya’s Health secretary.
WHO Warns on Third African Wave (8:45 a.m. NY)
African cases rose by more than a fifth week-on-week, pushing infections to more than 5 million, WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said on Thursday. The spike in infections should push countries and governments into “urgent action” to expand vaccinations and inoculate priority groups, she said.
U.K. Weighs Easing Foreign Travel (8:30 a.m. NY)
British officials are considering plans to open up international travel for passengers who have been fully vaccinated. Under the policy, which is still being discussed inside government, people who have received both doses of Covid vaccines would not need to quarantine on returning from medium-risk countries on the so-called amber list.
Airline shares surged on the possible adjustment. Under current rules, destinations are coded red for the highest infection risk, amber for medium risk and green for the lowest risk. Travelers are advised against going to amber or red-list countries.
CureVac Shot Falls Short (4:30 p.m. H.K. )
CureVac’s shares plunged more than 52% in German trading, wiping out almost $9.6 billion in market value, after the company said the vaccine was only 47% effective in an early trial analysis. The interim analysis of data from about 40,000 volunteers included 134 Covid cases, the German company said.
The findings throw the future of the vaccine into question as wealthy nations around the world move swiftly to inoculate their populations with shots already available.
Austria to Ease Lockdown (2:57 p.m. HK)
Austria will end a daily curfew from July as its infections continue to drop. Sport and cultural events will be allowed at full capacity and the requirement to wear more protective FFP-2 masks in most public places will no longer stand, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told reporters.
The nation of about 9 million people registered an average 188 new cases a day in the week through Wednesday, the least since August. Further lockdown easing steps may be announced later in July.
South Africa Positivity Surges (2:42 p.m. HK)
South Africa recorded 13,246 confirmed coronavirus cases over 24 hours and a positivity rate of 21.7% on tests, the highest since January, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases said.
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