Biden’s New Plan; Variants Dominate in Minnesota: Virus Update

U.S. President Joe Biden announced a plan to work with churches, colleges, businesses and celebrities to boost coronavirus inoculations. Variants now make up 85% of present cases in Minnesota.

Israel has found a probable link between the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE vaccine and cases of heart inflammation in young men. The European Union passed 250 million vaccinations and is on track to reach its target of inoculating 70% of adults in July, according to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson indicated that Britain remains on course to lift restrictions this month, but he urged caution. Germany is exploring ways to prevent a potential new wave after the summer, and it will probably need to buy Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, officials said.

Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases top 171.3 million; deaths pass 3.68 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 1.98 billion doses given
  • Weary seafarers come ashore in the U.S. for J&J shots
  • Melbourne learns to go hard and early with lockdowns: Chart
  • Summer camps reopen to a stampede of stressed-out U.S. parents
  • Lab leak theory’s revival risks upending any U.S.-China detente
Biden’s New Plan; Variants Dominate in Minnesota: Virus Update

Variants Make Up Most Cases in Minnesota (4:38 p.m. NY)

The number of new cases is dropping in Minnesota, but an estimated 85% of have been traced to emerging variants of the virus, which have also sent a higher percentage of people to hospitals, said Kris Ehresmann, Minnesota Department of Health infectious disease director.

Viruses constantly change through mutation and new variants of the virus that causes Covid-19 that were first identified in Brazil, India, U.K. and other countries are now spreading within the state, but not through exposure to travelers, Ehresmann said.

“What we’ve been seeing is less evidence of international travel and more evidence that these variants are now circulating within the communities” of the state, Ehresmann said.

Minnesota’s statewide case rate is currently 9.7 new daily cases per 100,000 residents, the lowest since July 2020, she said.

Brazil Expects Fewer Shots, Globo Says (4:28 p.m. NY)

Brazil’s Health Ministry said it expects to receive 39.8 million doses of vaccines in June, 3.9 million fewer than it had forecast, O Globo reported, without saying how it got the information.

Until last week, the federal government expected to receive about 43.8 million vaccines in June.

The estimated delivery of CoronaVac fell to 5 million doses from 6 million previously, while the forecast for AstraZeneca/Oxford shots was reduced to 18 million from 20.9 million.

South Africa Monitoring Positivity Rate (4:12 p.m. NY)

South Africa’s Department of Health said the positivity rate of Covid-19 tests has risen to 12.7% and the country had 5,782 new confirmed infections over the last 24 hours.

“We will be monitoring this increase in positivity rate to see if it sustains,” the department said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that the surge in cases was highest in Gauteng province, the country’s commercial hub.

South Africa has vaccinated just over 1.1 million of its 60 million people.

N.J. to Close Vaccine Mega-Sites as Demand Wanes (2 p.m. NY)

New Jersey will close all six of its vaccine mega-sites by July 23 as demand wanes and the state nears its goal of immunizing 70% of residents. “We’re localizing and this is yet another step in that direction,” Governor Phil Murphy said at a streaming virus update. Health officials now will encourage vaccine seekers to make arrangements at any of almost 1,800 sites, including pharmacies, retailers and community medical centers.

The mega-sites at their height were processing 400 or more recipients per hour on an appointments-only basis, for almost 1 million people in all. Each now takes walk-ins. New Jersey, with 9.2 million residents, intends to fully vaccinate 4.7 million people by June 30. The state is at 90% of that goal.

Child Care as U.S. Shot Incentive (12:17 p.m. NY)

Free child care will be available during vaccine appointments as part of new incentives to reach President Joe Biden’s target of getting 70% of U.S. adults at least partially vaccinated by July 4, according to a statement from the White House.

Other new initiatives include offering shots at Black-owned barber shops and beauty salons as well as private-sector incentives such as free beer from Anheuser-Busch. Biden is calling for a national month of action to get more people vaccinated.

Portugal Eases Rules on Remote Work (11:55 a.m. NY)

Portugal will no longer require people to work remotely as it continues to ease confinement measures after the number of new Covid-19 cases eased and the vaccination campaign advances.

While working from home will no longer be mandatory from June 14, it will still be recommended, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said at a press conference in Lisbon on Wednesday. Restrictions on opening hours for shops will be lifted and restaurants can remain open until 1 a.m. Bars and nightclubs will remain closed, he said.

Portugal reported 724 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, a fraction of the daily record of more than 16,000 cases reported at the end of January, when the country faced one of the world’s worst outbreaks. The country aimsto administer at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose to 70% of its adult population by Aug. 8.

NYC Plans In-School Vaccinations (10:20 a.m. NY)

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would launch in-school vaccination sites in partnership with the United Federation of Teachers, the city’s largest teachers union, starting on Friday. The program will begin with four schools in the Bronx and expand to all five boroughs in the next few weeks.

New York is outpacing the nation in vaccinating young people, de Blasio said at a briefing Wednesday. Nearly 120,000 kids in New York City age 12-17 have been vaccinated, or about 23% of the population, which surpasses the national average of 22%, he said.

Laggard Burkina Faso Begins Vaccine Drive (10:15 a.m. NY)

Burkina Faso, one of the last countries in the world to start administering Covid-19 vaccines, launched its inoculation campaign Tuesday.

Health Minister Charlemagne Ouedraogo got the West African nation’s first jab in the capital, Ouagadougou, after a first shipment of 115,000 AstraZeneca shots arrived Sunday through the Covax facility, backed by the World Health Organization.

U.K.’s Johnson Says Easing Is On Course (8:55 a.m. NY)

Boris Johnson indicated his government remains on course to lift lockdown restrictions this month, a day after the U.K. recorded no new Covid-19 deaths for the first time.

“I can see nothing in the data at the moment that means we cannot go ahead,” the British prime minister said in a pooled interview Wednesday. “But we’ve got to be so cautious,” he warned, given the recent rise in infections.

Tuesday’s milestone has bolstered calls from business and members of Johnson’s Conservative Party for the government to proceed with the fourth and final stage of unlocking the economy on June 21.

Singapore Allows Sinovac (8:18 a.m. NY)

Singapore will allow the use of Sinovac Biotech Ltd.’s vaccine, after the World Health Organization approved the drug as part of its emergency use listing.

Serbia Invites Bosnians for Vaccines (8:16 a.m. NY)

Serbia is offering free vaccines to visitors from neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina, President Aleksandar Vucic told reporters in Belgrade on Wednesday.

“We’ve got as many vaccines as you need,” Vucic said after meeting officials from the neighboring country. “We were hoping for a better response from our citizens.”

Serbia pulled off one of the fastest inoculation campaigns in Europe, though the pace has slowed recently. The Balkan country has inoculated almost half of its population of 7 million, including 2.1 million with both doses. The government has already donated more than 100,000 vaccines to neighboring countries.

EU Passes 250 Million Vaccinations (7:41 a.m. NY)

The European Union passed 250 million vaccinations on Wednesday. The bloc is on track to reach its target of vaccinating 70% of its adult population in July, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a tweet. More than 80 million people living in the EU have been fully vaccinated, she added.

Germany Likely to Need Sputnik (7:23 a.m. NY)

Germany will probably need to buy Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine to help complete its inoculation drive, according to a regional minister.

Officials are conducting “intensive talks” on buying the shot, but the approval process is being delayed as some documents requested from Russia haven’t been provided, Harry Glawe, minister of economy, labor and health in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, said at a Russian-German business forum.

Earlier, Health Minister Jens Spahn said Germany has begun preparations to block a potential “fourth wave” from materializing after the summer. Spahn said he has initiated discussions with experts from the RKI public-health institute on how the nation can be better prepared than in the previous wave.

Malaysia Reports Record Deaths (6:33 a.m. NY)

Malaysia reported a record 126 deaths from Covid-19 on Wednesday as the Southeast Asian nation entered the second day of a two-week hard lockdown. The tally pushed Malaysia’s total death toll to 2,993, more than half of which occurred last month.

HSBC Offers French Staff Remote Options (6:24 a.m. NY)

HSBC Holdings Plc is giving some of its French staff two options to work from home part-time. Employees can decide between occasional remote working, with as many as 30 days per year away from the office, and frequent remote work, with either 8 or 12 days per month at home, according to a spokeswoman.

HSBC is also among major banks and brokers operating in Hong Kong that are doling out cash credits, free stocks and days off to get more people vaccinated after authorities in the financial hub leaned on companies to revive a faltering inoculation drive.

Hong Kong’s expert advisory panel on Covid vaccinations, meanwhile, has agreed to expand eligibility to children as young as 12, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Ryanair CEO Calls Delta a ‘Scariant’ (6:12 a.m. NY)

The delta variant, first identified in India, is a “scariant being used to urge caution,” Ryanair Holdings Plc Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary said in an interview with Sky News, calling on the U.K. government to lift travel restrictions to Europe.

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