Ramadan Spike Concern Climbs; Canada Halts Flights: Virus Update
People walk through a park in Beijing, China. (Photographer: Yan Cong/Bloomberg)

Ramadan Spike Concern Climbs; Canada Halts Flights: Virus Update

Southeast Asia’s biggest predominantly Muslim nations are tightening movement restrictions to avert a possible surge in Covid-19 infections around the Ramadan holidays. Canada suspended direct flights from India and Pakistan, underscoring the threat of virus variants and the pandemic’s enduring disruption of travel.

In the U.S., getting more people vaccinated is increasingly a challenge after those who actively sought out shots got theirs. Portland, Oregon, and Charlotte, North Carolina, led the CDC’s latest list of large U.S. metro areas with increasing Covid burdens.

Pfizer Inc. and Johnson & Johnson officials are balking at calls to waive vaccine patent rights. Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention meet on Friday to decide whether the U.S. can resume using J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine.

  • Global Tracker: Cases pass 143 million; deaths exceed 3 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 940 million shots given worldwide
  • The U.S. is weighing an appeal to accelerate global access to Covid-19 vaccines
  • Pandemic-battered workers are saying they’ll retire later than planned
  • U.S. weighs calls for intellectual-property waivers on vaccines
  • ‘Long hauler’ study shows Covid can kill months after infection

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Ramadan Spike Concern Climbs; Canada Halts Flights: Virus Update

Japan Set to Declare Emergency (6:40 p.m. NY)

The Japanese government is set to declare a coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures, which will span from April 25 through May 11.

Eateries serving alcohol, establishments with karaoke equipment and commercial facilities with floor space of 1,000 square meters and over will be asked to close, said Yasutoshi Nishimura, minister in charge of Japan’s Covid-19 response.

Ramadan Spike Concern Climbs; Canada Halts Flights: Virus Update

Venezuela’s Guaido Taps Frozen Funds (6 p.m. NY)

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido plans to make the biggest one-time withdrawal from offshore accounts frozen by U.S. sanctions to purchase Covid-19 vaccines as well as pay wages, legal fees and expenses.

Guaido approved the release of $152 million, of which about $100 million will be used to buy vaccines through the World Health Organization-backed Covax initiative or other organizations, according to a budget report approved by the National Assembly.

Pfizer, J&J Resist Calls to Loosen Covid Vaccine Rights (5:44 p.m. NY)

Pfizer Inc. and Johnson & Johnson officials on Thursday balked at calls from the global community to waive patent rights in favor of broader immunization.

Intellectual property rights are critical to ensuring that Covid-19 vaccines can be deployed around the world, said Pfizer’s chief patent counsel, Bryan Zielinski. “It would never come out right,” said J&J chief intellectual property counsel Robert DeBerardine. “It wouldn’t taste like Grandma’s cookies.”

U.S. President Joe Biden is facing calls from some lawmakers to back a proposal before the World Trade Organization that seeks a broad waiver of rules on intellectual property rights on Covid-19 vaccines.

California Colleges Seek Vaccinations for Fall Return (5:35 p.m. NY)

The University of California and California State University systems are proposing a policy to have students, faculty and staff vaccinated before they return in the fall.

Cal State Chancellor Joseph I. Castro called it “the most comprehensive and consequential university plan for Covid-19 vaccines” in the U.S. The university systems comprise more than 1 million students and employees across 33 major campuses.

Ramadan Spike Concern Climbs; Canada Halts Flights: Virus Update

Under the plan, students heading to UC and CSU campuses in the fall will need to update their immunization records on file. Exemptions are granted for medical reasons, according to statements from both school systems.

Canada Halts Flights from India, Pakistan (5:14 p.m. NY)

Canada imposed a 30-day ban on direct flights from India and Pakistan as of 11:30 p.m. Thursday in Ottawa.

Some Canadian provinces have found cases of a virus variant detected in India, which reported almost 315,000 new infections on Thursday. Leaders of Ontario and Quebec, Canada’s most populous provinces, have asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to further tighten restrictions for international travelers arriving by air or land.

Ramadan Spike Concern Climbs; Canada Halts Flights: Virus Update

Portland, Charlotte Lead Increase in Cases (5:15 p.m. NY)

Portland, Oregon, and Charlotte, North Carolina, led a list of large U.S. metro areas with increasing Covid-19 burdens in the week through Tuesday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Portland’s cases rose by 24% compared to the previous seven-day period, Charlotte’s increased by 18% and Denver reported 13% more cases, the CDC said in a regular update. Jacksonville, Florida, and Seattle had the next-highest increases. Miami leads the list of 10 metro areas in cases relative to population, though it recorded a 5% drop in new infections for the period.

WHO Head Calls for Global Vaccine Sharing (3:45 p.m. NY)

The head of the World Health Organization called on governments and companies that “control the global supply” to share doses and know-how to increase equitable vaccine distribution.

“Scarcity drives inequity and puts the global recovery at risk,” WHO director general Tedros Ghebreyesus said in a New York Times op-ed. Even with almost 1 billion doses administered, many countries face a crisis of high Covid-19 transmission and intensive care units overflowing with patients and running short on essential supplies such as oxygen, he said.

Ramadan Spike Concern Climbs; Canada Halts Flights: Virus Update

U.S. Vaccine Surpluses Signal Shift in Tactics (3:06 p.m. NY)

Having made its way through those who lined up eagerly to get vaccinated for Covid-19, the campaign to inoculate every American is slowing with surplus supply and open appointments appearing in pockets nationwide.

Daily vaccinations have declined to 3 million from a peak of 3.4 million -- and only 75% of about 28 million doses being shipped out weekly will be used at the current pace. The trend suggests that the effort is evolving from megasites that inoculated thousands a day to a slower grind designed to reach the half of Americans who haven’t yet received a dose.

Israel, Bahrain in Vaccine Passport Pact (2:53 p.m. NY)

Israel and Bahrain have reached an agreement for the mutual recognition of vaccine passports for quarantine-free travel between the two countries, NPR correspondent Daniel Estrin said on Twitter, citing Israeli Foreign Ministry officials.

Israel is in talks with the U.S., U.K. and other countries for similar arrangements.

U.S. Senate Takes Stand for Asian-Americans (2 p.m. NY)

The U.S. Senate voted 94-1 in favor of legislation to combat hate crimes in the U.S., as lawmakers united to respond after an increase in attacks against Asian-Americans since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

The vote responds to calls for action, including by President Biden, who pointed to last month’s shootings by a white gunman at three Atlanta-area spas that left eight people dead, including six women of Asian descent.

Ramadan Spike Concern Climbs; Canada Halts Flights: Virus Update

Colorado Hospital Cases Almost Double (1:48 p.m. NY)

Confirmed Covid-19 cases in Colorado hospitals have almost doubled since mid-March, reaching 561 as of Wednesday, as a fourth wave continues, state data show. Most hospitalized patients are between 40 and 60, Eric France, chief medical officer at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said at a Thursday online news briefing.

Guangzhou Ousts Atlanta as Top Airport (1:28 p.m.)

China’s Baiyun International airport in Guangzhou topped the list of the world’s busiest hubs in a coronavirus-wracked 2020, knocking Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International off a perch it occupied for more than two decades.

Baiyun moved up from 11th place, trade group Airports Council International said in a statement, capping a year when the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted global air travel. Hartsfield-Jackson slipped to second place, as hubs in six Chinese cities joined Beijing Capital International in the top 10 based on passenger traffic.

U.S. Weighs Global Vaccine-Expansion Move (1:09 p.m. NY)

The Biden administration is weighing an appeal from progressive Democrats to accelerate global access to Covid-19 vaccines by supporting a waiver of intellectual-property protections, a move opposed by big drugmakers.

Lawmakers led by senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren last week called on Biden to back a proposal before the WTO that seeks a broad waiver from obligations on the protection of intellectual property rights, including patents, copyrights and trade secrets.

Intel Says Expansion Site in Ireland Has Outbreak (1:07 p.m. NY)

Intel Corp., the world’s largest chipmaker, said 70 people working for a construction contractor at an expansion of the company’s manufacturing plant in Ireland have contracted Covid-19.

The chipmaker said Thursday that it was told about the outbreak last weekend. Intel’s plant is in Leixlip, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) west of the center of Dublin.

Indonesia, Malaysia to Limit Travel (1 p.m. NY)

Indonesia and Malaysia will limit travel toward the end of the month-long fasting period which typically sees more than 81 million people head home to regional towns from urban centers.

The restrictions are aimed at avoiding a resurgence in cases similar to those playing out in other developing countries, which are threatening overall global growth. India set a daily record for cases this week, while infections are also rising in Turkey, Argentina and Brazil.

France Sets Reopening From Mid-May (12:16 p.m. NY)

Prime Minister Jean Castex said France will begin a “cautious” reopening in mid-May, preceded by a gradual easing of domestic travel curbs starting May 3.

“The peak of the third wave seems to be behind us,” Castex told reporters. The timeline is conditional and not all venues will reopen at once, he said. A 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, which Castex has called “effective,” wouldn’t be the first measure to be lifted.

France also said travelers from Brazil, India, Chile, South Africa and Argentina would be subject to quarantine to prevent the import of variants.

Meanwhile Italy will loosen many restrictions on Monday, Greece will follow in early May and Germany is considering privileges for people who have been immunized.

Covid Can Kill Months Later: Study (12:10 p.m. NY)

Covid-19 survivors had a 59% increased risk of dying within six months after contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus, researchers reported in Nature. That works out to about eight extra deaths per 1,000 patients, worsening the pandemic’s hidden toll as many patients require readmission -- and some die -- weeks after the viral infection abates.

One of the largest studies of Covid-19 “long haulers” proved what many doctors suspected: Not only are many patients suffering a raft of health problems six months after infection, they’re also at significantly greater risk of dying.

N.Y. State Passes 2 Million Cases (11:44 a.m. NY)

New York on Thursday surpassed 2 million Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. The state is third behind Texas, with 2.9 million, and California with more than 3.7 million reported cases, according to Bloomberg data.

New York state recorded the biggest numbers of infections in mid-January, peaking on Jan. 14 with 19,942 positive tests.

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