Vaccine Tensions Rise in Europe; U.S. Deaths Slow: Virus Update

European Union officials will probably block future exports of AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine to the U.K., according to an EU official, deepening a post-Brexit conflict that has festered as Europe seeks to get its vaccination drive on track. The EU also said it’s unable to donate vaccines to poor nations for the time being.

U.S. weekly deaths declined by a quarter even as daily infections reached as many as 60,000. Miami Beach police cleared spring-break revelers after imposing a stricter curfew.

Chancellor Angela Merkel proposed keeping German lockdown restrictions in force for another four weeks. The Palestinian Authority started the mass rollout of its vaccination campaign.

Key Developments:

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EU Set to Block Astra Vaccine to U.K. (4:58 p.m. NY)

European Union officials will probably block future exports of AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid-19 vaccine to the U.K., according to an EU official, deepening a post-Brexit conflict that has festered as Europe seeks to get its vaccination drive on track.

Any AstraZeneca vaccines and components produced in the EU are set to be reserved for local use and the EU isn’t responsible for helping the company meet commitments to Britain, said the official, who asked not to be named discussing internal EU deliberations.

U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace earlier Sunday called on the European Commission to honor Covid-19 vaccine contracts.

Merkel Proposes Longer Lockdown (4:38 p.m. NY)

Chancellor Angela Merkel proposed keeping German lockdown restrictions in force for another four weeks after Covid-19 cases rose beyond a level that may prompt government action to avoid health-care overload.

The plan would extend existing curbs through April 18, according to a chancellery draft seen by Bloomberg. Merkel and regional government leaders will discuss the proposals on Monday during talks on how to proceed with the lockdown amid an upward curve of infections in Europe’s biggest economy.

Cases in Locked-Down France High (4:02 p.m. NY)

France, where about a third of the population has been subjected to a lockdown since Saturday, reported 30,581 new daily cases and 138 deaths on Sunday evening. That brings the total to 92,305 deaths in the country, as hospitalizations and critical cases keep rising.

Massachusetts Eases Curbs Monday (2:14 p.m. NY)

Massachusetts will reopen further on Monday, as the outbreak there continues to recede. Indoor and outdoor stadiums, including Fenway Park, can open at 12% capacity, and the numbers allowed at public and private gatherings will increase. The quarantine for high-risk states will end, replaced with an advisory. Overnight summer camps are now permitted.

Ireland Cases Accelerate (1:59 p.m. NY)

Ireland reported the most new cases in nearly a month, threatening government plans to ease restrictions. There were 769 newly confirmed cases with two deaths, the health ministry said. Ireland has been effectively locked down since Christmas, and the government had planned to ease limits on travel and construction early next month. Cases have started to increase in recent days despite the current restrictions, while hospitalizations are increasing again too.

German Coastal States Urge Travel (1:51 p.m. NY)

The prime ministers of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Schleswig-Holstein and Lower-Saxony want to allow their citizens to go on holiday this Easter within the confines of their own states, while Germany’s Vice-Chancellor Olaf Scholz warned against a “big wave of travel.” The disagreement comes a day before Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to meet regional leaders to discuss future steps in the country’s pandemic strategy.

According to the proposal by the three coastal states, a prerequisite for such a vacation would be a negative coronavirus test before arrival. “I cannot understand why the federal government considers a holiday in Mallorca to be safer than an Easter weekend with mandatory testing in a holiday apartment on the North or Baltic Sea,” Schleswig-Holstein’s Prime Minister Daniel Guenther said.

L.A. Theaters Open, Hollywood Waits (1:44 p.m. NY)

The popcorn is popped and the doors have reopened at theaters in Los Angeles for the first weekend in a year, giving Hollywood some confidence that movie-going is bouncing back.

Major studios are still waiting to see just how eager people are to return to cinemas. The top movie this weekend is still Walt Disney Co.’s “Raya and the Last Dragon,” an animated film that was released two weeks ago and is also available to at-home audiences for $30 on the Disney+ streaming service.

Gottlieb Warns On NYC Variants (12:46 p.m. NY)

Former FDA chief Scott Gottlieb remains focused on the virus variants swirling around New York City. Even as cases overall decline, “you’re seeing a lot of infection surging in pockets,” including parts of Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, he said Sunday on CBS.

“What we don’t understand with B.1.526,” a variant that began to show in New York City samples in November, “is whether or not people are being reinfected with it, and whether or not people who might have been vaccinated are now getting infected with it.”

It’s an open question whether the variant is the start of a new, wider outbreak in the city, said Gottlieb. “We need to step in much more aggressively and start sequencing cases, especially people who report that they either were previously vaccinated or already had Covid.”

GOP Governor Foresees Vaccine Acceptance (12:34 p.m. NY)

A sizable number of people in Arkansas remain skeptical of receiving the Covid vaccine, consistent with nationwide polling showing many Republicans are wary, but confidence may start to build, the state’s Governor Asa Hutchinson said.

“As people see others getting the vaccination, the importance of it, I expect that acceptance rate to continue and to go up,” the Republican governor on CNN. “I’m optimistic we will get to that 70% rate, but we have got to first get to 50%.”

Hutchinson said he was “delighted” that former President Donald Trump indicated publicly that he got the vaccine, after receiving his shots privately at the White House in January. “Any message is helpful.”

Palestinians Start Mass Vaccinations (11:57 a.m. NY)

The Palestinian Authority started the mass rollout of its vaccination campaign on Sunday, opening up inoculations to medical workers, the elderly and at-risk residents, according to the government-run Wafa news agency.

While neighboring Israel outpaced the world in giving out shots, thanks to a special agreement with Pfizer Inc., the Palestinians’ effort lagged as they awaited shipments. Israel faced criticism for not doing more to help vaccinate the millions of Palestinians under its control, and recently began inoculating some Palestinians who work inside Israel and West Bank settlements.

South Africa Sells Its Astra Vaccines (11:51 a.m. NY)

South Africa sold its consignment of AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccines to member states of the African Union after studies showed the shot provided little protection against mild forms of the disease caused by a variant of the virus identified late last year.

“The first batch of vaccines that is being delivered will benefit nine member states,” the Department of Health said in an emailed statement Sunday. “The balance will be collected this week to be delivered to five other countries.”

The government, which has started inoculations of health workers as part of a study using Johnson & Johnson vaccines, aims to vaccinate about 67% of South Africa’s population this year in a phased program to achieve herd immunity. The country has administered 182,983 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and received 70,000 more on Sunday.

Florida Spring-Break Crowds Cleared (11:14 a.m. NY)

Miami Beach police dispersed spring-break crowds with pepper spray balls and SWAT teams, enforcing a tightened curfew Saturday night. The 8 p.m. curfew and ban on traffic on central roads was announced a few hours earlier, after city officials said a larger-than-usual number of people flocked to the city as one of the few places open during Covid-19 restrictions. The Miami Herald reported that it took the police two hours to clear one busy avenue.

Officials in the Tampa Bay area, another popular spring-break destination, say hotels are filling up but that they have not had to step up law enforcement, Bay News 9 reported.

Vaccine Tensions Rise in Europe; U.S. Deaths Slow: Virus Update

U.S. Adds Almost 55,000 Cases (8:45 a.m. NY)

The U.S. added almost 55,000 cases on Saturday, ending a week in which the highest daily number of infections exceeded 60,000 for the first time since early March.

U.S. new cases have declined and leveled off from peaks in January and it’s too early to declare a sustained upward trend again. Deaths related to Covid-19 declined last week to 7,265, compared with almost 10,000 the previous week, according to the data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg.

The U.S. leads the world in cases and deaths, which exceed 540,000 since the pandemic began. It’s also among the countries with the fastest pace of vaccination.

Emerging Europe Cases Soar (8 a.m. NY)

Poland registered 21,849 new cases, 26% more than a week ago. The country is struggling with another wave and has introduced some of the strictest lockdown measures in months. The nation has vaccinated 5 million of its 38 million people.

In Russia, 9,299 new cases have been registered over the past day, taking the nation’s total to 4.46 million. Also, 371 people died. Total deaths are 95,030.

English Pubs Go Al Fresco (7:15 a.m. NY)

U.K. pubs and restaurants are preparing to open for outdoor-only service from April 12 by using terraces and expanding onto sidewalks. Pub company Punch said it’s investing 1 million pounds ($1.4 million) in outdoor space and landlord Cadogan said it is adding 500 seats to newly pedestrianized streets in London’s Kensington and Chelsea district, the Financial Times reported.

EU Rejects Donating Vaccines (6:34 a.m. NY)

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen rejected calls for the European Union to donate vaccines to poorer countries for the time being. The EU already provides financial support to the World Health Organization’s Covax initiative, she told the Funke group of newspapers in an interview.

“We will start an additional mechanism to share vaccines with other countries when we have a better production situation in the EU,” von der Leyen said.

Germany’s Incidence Rate at Two-Month High (5:33 p.m. HK)

Germany’s seven-day rate of cases per 100,000 people rose to 103.9, the most since Jan. 26, the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s health agency, said on its website. Cases increased by 24,034 in the 24 hours to Sunday, compared with 10,568 recorded a week earlier, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Cases are rising again after authorities began to relax restrictions in late February and set out a plan to unwind curbs further.

U.K. Pushback on Vaccine Nationalism (5:11 p.m. HK)

The European Union must honor its vaccine contracts despite the sluggish rollout in the bloc, the U.K.’s Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told Sky News.

“It would damage the EU’s relations globally if they should renege on these contracts,” Wallace said. The U.K. has inoculated half of its adult population, while fewer than one in 10 in the EU have received at least one shot.

Meanwhile, The Telegraph reported that British ministers are working on plans to accelerate domestic coronavirus vaccine production to make the country self-sufficient.

The news came as European Commission boss Ursula von der Leyen threatened to block exports from the bloc if the pharma firm didn’t start meeting its delivery targets.

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