N.Y. Cases Jump; Merkel Declares Covid ‘Watershed’: Virus Update
A police officer speaks with people on Ocean Drive in the South Beach neighborhood of Miami. (Photographer: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg)

N.Y. Cases Jump; Merkel Declares Covid ‘Watershed’: Virus Update

The U.S. added the fewest deaths since Monday, even as infections have been rising nationally. New York state reported the most daily cases in more than a month.

The U.S. has “real concerns about the methodology and the process” of a draft World Health Organization report on the origins of the Covid-19 virus, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel threatened to assert federal control over measures to stem the Covid-19 pandemic, picking a legal fight that reflects the gravity of the latest surge in infections. The EU will block exports of AstraZeneca vaccines if the company fails to deliver doses bought by the region on time, according to an EU commissioner.

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N.Y. Cases Jump; Merkel Declares Covid ‘Watershed’: Virus Update

Merkel Threatens to Take Over Covid Fight (3:50 p.m. NY)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel threatened to assert federal control over measures to stem the Covid-19 pandemic, picking a legal fight that reflects the gravity of the latest surge in infections.

In an extraordinary turn of events, Merkel said she may use federal law to regain the initiative after rescinding a wide-ranging lockdown for the Easter holidays amid a storm of criticism. She expressed exasperation with what she described as broken commitments by the leaders of Germany’s 16 states.

“We can’t go on like this,” Merkel said in an interview with ARD television. “I’m declaring a watershed -- and I’m not done thinking about it, either.”

Gottlieb Urges Personal Approach on Vaccines (3:08 p.m. NY)

The federal government isn’t the best messenger to combat vaccine hesitancy among some Republicans and should cede the way to a more “community-centric” approach, said former U.S. Food and Drug Administration chief Scott Gottlieb.

“We should be looking at every single interaction that patients have with the medical system, and trying to offer a vaccination at those points of care, through a provider that patients know,” Gottlieb said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Gottlieb said current outbreaks in Michigan, around Boston and in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut were “worrisome” as cases nationwide tick up. The Biden administration could try allocating more vaccines to regional hot-spots, he said.

“If we could just get two or three more weeks of around three million vaccines a day, that’s going to be a pretty big backstop against a true fourth surge,” he said.

California Cases, Deaths Slow (2:29 p.m. NY)

California reported 2,998 new Covid-19 cases yesterday, down from the previous day’s 3,278, according to the health department’s website. Deaths rose by 195, lower than the 215 reported on Friday. The state’s 14-day positive test rate hovered at a record low 1.7%. California has administered more than 17 million vaccines.

China Picks UAE to Produce Shots (2:16 p.m. NY)

China is partnering with the United Arab Emirates to make millions of doses of its state-backed Sinopharm vaccine, in a deal that takes manufacturing of the shot overseas for the first time and deepens Beijing’s influence in the Middle East.

A newly-created joint venture between Sinopharm CNBG and Abu Dhabi-based G42 aims to produce up to 200 million doses annually at a new plant that will become operational this year, the companies said in a statement. Production on a smaller scale has already started at an existing Gulf Pharmaceutical Industries PSCplant with a capacity of 2 million doses per month.

Biden Tweets on Expanded Eligibility (2:03 p.m. NY)

President Joe Biden said most U.S. states are meeting his goal of opening up vaccinations to all adults by May 1, while pointing out four that haven’t: New York, South Carolina, Arkansas and Wyoming.

Iraq Gets First Astra Doses (1:13 p.m. NY)

Iraq received 336,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Sunday, according to the government’s official Twitter account citing the health ministry’s spokesperson. The country agreed with the vaccine manufacturer last year to get 16 million doses, the spokesperson said. More shipments of the AstraZeneca vaccine are set to gradually arrive in the coming days and weeks, covering 20% of the population.

Marriott Calls for Vaccine Passes (12:37 p.m. NY)

The new chief executive of hotel group Marriott International Inc. called for the U.S. and other countries to do more to create something akin to a vaccine passport to unlock international travel.

In an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” Anthony Capuano, who took over as CEO of Maryland-based Marriott in February, said he was concerned that no one was coordinating current efforts to develop a system to allow international travel for people who have been vaccinated. “We need a comprehensive and global solution for it to be effective,” Capuano told CBS.

The Washington Post on Sunday reported that the White House was consulting with the private sector about developing a possible app-based vaccine passport system. The efforts were focused on greater coordination and identifying privacy and other issues raised by the need for such a passport, according to the report. It said the White House had identified at least 17 different initiatives now underway to develop portable vaccine credentials.

N.Y. Cases Tick Up (12:22 p.m. NY)

New York state reported 9,395 new cases, the largest daily increase since early February. Average daily cases rose about 3% over the last seven days compared with the previous week.

Hospitalizations decreased slightly, to 4,529, according to a statement from Governor Andrew Cuomo. While that number has been relatively stable in recent weeks, the state still has the most Covid-19 hospitalizations in the nation, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New York has the second highest number of cases per capita after New Jersey, CDC data show. Another 64 people died.

Fauci Cautious on Summer Camp (11:36 p.m. NY)

President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser on Sunday stopped short of telling parents it would be safe this summer to loose their children on community playgrounds and ship them off to summer camp.

In an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” Dr. Anthony Fauci said he was concerned that while Covid-19 cases and fatalities had come down from a winter peak they had settled at a high plateau because of new variants and states loosening restrictions.

Increasing travel, such as that seen over the spring break school holiday in the U.S., was also a concern as travel inevitably led to rising infections, Fauci said. But Fauci said if the acceleration in vaccinations to its latest 3-3.5 million doses a day rate continued, it was “conceivable” families could dispatch their children to camp come summer.

U.S. Questions WHO Report on Virus Origin (11:59 a.m. NY)

The U.S. has “real concerns about the methodology and the process” of a draft World Health Organization report on the origins of the Covid-19 virus, including that the Chinese government “apparently helped to write it,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

The politically contentious report, based on findings by international scientists convened by WHO and China, is expected shortly. While there needs to be “accountability for the past,” the focus should be on building “a stronger system for the future,” Blinken said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Italy to Ease Some Curbs (11:49 a.m. NY)

Italy reported 19,611 new cases and 297 deaths on Sunday, reflecting a 7.2% positive test rate. New cases in the country remain stable as some regions, including the one around Rome, are set to slightly ease restrictions starting Tuesday.

Deputy health minister Pierpaolo Sileri said the slower rate of increase in new infections shows that tight restrictions introduced by Mario Draghi’s government are showing the first results.

U.K. to Test Arriving Truckers (11:17 a.m. NY)

All truckers arriving into England from outside the U.K. will have to take a Covid-19 test within 48 hours, Transport Minister Grant Shapps said on Twitter. The drivers will then have to take additional tests for each 72 hours they remain, he said. The mandatory testing will help “ensure we keep track of any future coronavirus variants of concern,” he said.

EU To Offer Vaccine Passports (11:07 a.m. NY)

As inoculation progresses, EU member states will create a “health pass” from the middle of June to facilitate a rebound in leisure, tourism and business travel, Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal markets commissioner, said Sunday.
People will be able to display their vaccination status and most recent Covid-test results with a certificate using a QR code, Breton said. It will be available on a voluntary basis and will respect European data-protection rules, he said.

Mumbai Region Faces Lockdown (11:01 a.m. NY)

The government of Maharashtra, which encompasses Mumbai, asked authorities to prepare for another lockdown if a resurgence in infections isn’t reined in and residents flout rules. Hospital facilities are quickly reaching capacity, with a fifth of isolation beds already filled up, it said in a statement Sunday. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray asked officials to prepare for food and supplies of other essentials. “There should not be any kind of confusion among the people once a lockdown is announced,” he said.

Slovenia to Lock Down (10:51 a.m. NY)

Slovenia will impose an 11-day lockdown amid a surge in new infections driven by the U.K. variant, Prime Minister Janez Jansa said at a press conference at Brdo. The government will also enforce stricter border controls.

Between April 1-11 the Alpine state will close schools and most non-essential services, the majority of the public sector will switch to working from home and the government will ask industry to do the same. The government is also reintroducing mandatory masks in public places and a regional travel ban, with the exception of Easter Sunday.

German Restrictions Loom (9:20 a.m. NY)

Germany may come under pressure to impose a harder lockdown as the infection rate in the nation returns to January levels. The topic will be front and center when Chancellor Angela Merkel is interviewed on the Anne Will show on German state television Sunday night.

Bild newspaper reported an emergency meeting between Merkel and state leaders could decide on the course of action in the coming days. German cases topped 28,000 on Saturday, more than three times the rate at the start of the month, underscoring the challenge facing authorities as they attempt to curb the pandemic’s spread.

U.S. Death Toll Slows (8:15 a.m. NY)

The U.S. added 758 deaths from Covid-19 on Saturday, the fewest since Monday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. Reported new infections declined to about 63,000, the lowest in three days and a fraction of peaks of more than 300,000 daily cases late December and early January.

Vaccinations are picking up in the U.S., with 75% of the population on pace to be covered within an estimated four months, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. Some 3.5 million doses were administered on Saturday, more than the average of 2.7 million over the previous seven days.

EU Makes Astra Ultimatum (7:28 a.m. NY)

The EU will block AstraZeneca exports if the company fails to deliver the doses bought by the region on time, according to Thierry Breton, the EU commissioner in charge of fixing the bloc’s vaccination drive.

AstraZeneca has met about 30% of its commitment to deliver 70 million doses to the EU in the second quarter, Breton said on RTL radio Sunday.“As long as AstraZeneca doesn’t make good on its obligations, everything that’s produced on European soil is distributed to Europeans,” he said.

U.K. to Offer Shots to Ireland (6:38 a.m. NY)

Britain is planning to offer 3.7 million Covid jabs to the Republic of Ireland, in part to help lift the lockdown in Northern Ireland, saying it would be the first time the U.K. has exported vaccines to the EU, the Sunday Times reported.

Britain expects to receive the first doses of the U.S.-made Moderna Inc. vaccine within weeks, a government minister said Sunday.

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