Covid Origin Hunt Ordered by U.S.; EU Rips Astra: Virus Update
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden said he ordered the U.S. intelligence community to “redouble” its effort to determine the origin of the coronavirus, including whether it possibly came from a Chinese lab accident.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration may refuse to grant new emergency-use authorizations for vaccines for the remainder of the pandemic, according to a guidance update.
The European Union attacked AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine supply “failure” and demanded an urgent order for millions more doses in the latest round of a bitter legal dispute over alleged broken promises by the drugmaker. France unveiled extra restrictions for passengers coming from the U.K. to fend off the coronavirus variant first identified in India.
- Global Tracker: Cases top 168 million; deaths exceed 3.48 million
- Vaccine Tracker: More than 1.74 billion doses have been given
- Billions flow to U.S. digital health care after Covid kick-start
- 15 States and DC close at least half their Black vaccine gap
- Generation of Covid orphans at risk of exploitation in India
Alberta to Ease Most Covid Rules (4:36 p.m. NY)
Alberta, the province that produces most of Canada’s oil, expects to lift almost all Covid-19 restrictions by July as vaccinations pick up and infections decline.
Outdoor dining will be permitted in restaurants starting next week and hair salons will be allowed to book appointments, Premier Jason Kenney said in a press conference. By the middle of June, gyms will be allowed to reopen and restaurants will be able to serve people indoors.
Two weeks after 70% of the population receives a first dose of vaccine, almost all restrictions will be lifted. The province expects to hit that milestone around the end of June.
South Africa Reviews Sinovac, Sputnik Vaccines (3:08 p.m. NY)
South Africa’s review of the Sinovac and Sputnik coronavirus vaccines is nearing completion, the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority said.
China’s Sinovac Biotech Co. may be able to supply South Africa with as many as 5 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine, Johannesburg-based newspaper Business Day reported in March. In April, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize directed officials to buy 10 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V and China’s Sinopharm shots. No applications have been received yet for the Sinopharm inoculation, officials said.
N.J. Eases Mandates for Employers (1:45 p.m. NY)
New Jersey employers starting June 4 no longer must accommodate remote-working arrangements or keep on-site staff to minimum, Governor Phil Murphy announced. Employers also may allow fully vaccinated workers to choose not to mask or maintain social distance, he said at a Trenton virus update.
Also, effective immediately, child-care providers no longer are subject to a limit of 15 youngsters. “This is an important piece of getting our economy back working for more parents,” the governor wrote on Twitter.
Slovenia PM Sees Recovery Faster Than EU (1:05 p.m. NY)
Slovenia won’t extend the state of epidemic in mid-June, when the citizens can expect lifting of most restrctive measures, Prime Minister Janez Jansa said in Wednesday’s address of the parliament. He sees a year of economic recovery that will be faster than the European Union average.
N.Y. Raffles Scholarships as Shot Incentives (11:56 a.m. NY)
New York is raffling off 50 four-year full-tuition scholarships, including room and board, to any public college and university in the state to adolescents who get vaccinated.
Staring Thursday through July 7, teens 12 to 17 years old who get their first vaccine dose will be in a pool to win one of ten scholarships given weekly, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced. The drawing will be held every Wednesday.
Only 8.7% of New Yorkers ages 12-17 are vaccinated. Currently only the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE shot is authorized for the age group, though Moderna Inc. said this week it is seeking to have its shot authorized for teens by early June.
“The greatest need is the 12-17 year olds,” Cuomo said at a news briefing Wednesday. “They are 5% of the current Covid tests but they are 10% of the positivity rate -- that’s the highest percent of any age group.”
WHO Mulls Next Steps in Origin Search (10:45 a.m. NY)
The World Health Organization has had informal consultations with member states about the next phase in efforts to find the origins of the coronavirus, and will continue to have those discussions in the coming weeks, Mike Ryan, head of the WHO health emergencies program, said in a speech to the World Health Assembly, the governing body of the Geneva-based agency.
“We’re very much welcoming of your suggestions around those inputs for the next phase and around the need for further experts to be able to carry out different studies as needed,” Ryan said. “The Director-General will consider all of that over the coming weeks and we’ll be then able to communicate with you what we believe is the best next step in this journey.”
The group of international scientists that traveled to Wuhan, China, where the first Covid cases emerged at the end of 2019, said in a joint report with Chinese counterparts that the pathogen most likely spread from bats to humans via another animal. A lab accident was deemed least likely, though WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus joined the U.S. and other governments in saying the probe didn’t adequately analyze the possibility of a lab leak.
FDA to Curb Vaccine Emergency Authorizations (8:40 a.m. NY)
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration may refuse to grant new emergency use authorizations for vaccines for the remainder of the pandemic, particularly for developers that have not engaged with the agency during the past year, according to a guidance update. Vaccine makers that have already received early feedback from the agency are more likely to have the appropriate data and information needed for authorization, the agency said late Tuesday.
Vaccine Makers May See $190 Billion in Sales (8:36 a.m. NY)
Vaccine manufacturers stand to gain as much as $190 billion in sales this year if they hit production targets, with two Chinese companies accounting for at least a quarter of the revenue, according to Airfinity Ltd. estimates. Production constraints and shortfalls will likely bring the final 2021 sales numbers closer to a range that tops out at $115 billion, the research firm said.
France to Add Restrictions to U.K. Borders (7:48 a.m. NY)
France will unveil extra restrictions for passengers coming from the U.K. to fend off the variant first identified in India, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said after a cabinet meeting.
France will request mandatory isolation for passengers, according to Attal.
U.K.’s Johnson Faces Criticism (7:48 a.m. NY)
Boris Johnson faced facing an onslaught of criticism over his handling of the pandemic and his suitability to be British prime minister from his former adviser Dominic Cummings.
Cummings’ comments to a parliamentary hearing came as Johnson’s government was forced to backtrack over its attempt to restrict travel to coronavirus hotspots in England where the so-called Indian variant is spreading.
The U-turn came after ministers were accused of introducing “local lockdowns by the back door” with the new guidance against travel to eight areas in England, which was published without fanfare online late last week but didn’t reach the attention of local leaders for several days.
Germany Creates Covid Culture Fund (7:04 a.m. NY)
Germany created a 2.5 billion-euro fund to help artists and event organizers recover from the coronavirus crisis. Finance Minister Olaf Scholz called it the country’s biggest cultural fund since the end of World War II. The money would come from the 16 states and the federal government.
Under the plan, the government would from July 1 pay a surcharge on tickets sold to help support events where the number of attendees is reduced by the pandemic. The plan also includes cancellation insurance for events with more than 2,000 participants.
Mexico’s Deaths Drop on Immunity, Vaccines (6:38 a.m. NY)
Mexico, which lost more people to Covid than almost any other country, is seeing a mammoth drop in cases and deaths, the likely result of post-infection immunity, some vaccines, warming weather and proximity to the U.S.
After a deadly winter of saturated ICUs and desperate searches for oxygen tanks, Covid clinics are closing and the positivity rate of tests, which at one point was the highest in the world, is down to 17%. Hospital capacity, 90% in January, is 13%.
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