Cuomo Says Surge Over; EU, Astra Feud Escalates: Virus Update
Healthcare workers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) work at the Seoul Medical Center in Seoul, South Korea. (Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg)

Cuomo Says Surge Over; EU, Astra Feud Escalates: Virus Update

Governor Andrew Cuomo lifted restrictions in most hot spots across New York state, declaring an end to the post-holiday surge in cases and hospitalizations. New York City said it will receive 17,000 additional vaccine shots next week, after the Biden administration boosted deliveries.

The European Union failed to resolve its dispute with AstraZeneca Plc over vaccine supplies, raising the risk of additional delays to the bloc’s sluggish inoculation campaign and putting the drugmaker on a collision course with 27 governments. The quarrel could add another thorn to the tumultuous post-Brexit ties between Britain and the EU.

In France, the government is delaying a decision on whether to lock down the country, amid concern more restrictions could spark social unrest, while U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is tightening border rules after his country became the first in Europe with 100,000 deaths.

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Cuomo Says Surge Over; EU, Astra Feud Escalates: Virus Update

Queensland to Reopen New South Wales Border (5 p.m. NY)

Australia’s Queensland will reopen it’s border to the nation’s most populous state starting Feb. 1 after a spate of Covid cases saw entry restricted in December.

Visitors from Greater Sydney will no longer be required to quarantine in a hotel upon arrival, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Wednesday. New South Wales has had no cases of Covid-19 for 10 days, and in Victoria, 21 days have passed without a transmission.

“People have done a terrific job looking after each other through the pandemic and now Queensland is good to go,” Palaszczuk said.

Australia has recorded 28,786 cases of coronavirus and 909 deaths.

Morocco to Roll Out Vaccines (3:32 p.m. NY)

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI will launch a national vaccination campaign on Thursday, as the North African kingdom rushes to revive the tourism-reliant economy.

The arrival of 2.5 million doses of vaccines from AstraZeneca’s labs in India and China’s Sinopharm allows the launch of the campaign, state news agency Map reported citing a statement from the royal cabinet.

“The vaccination campaign will be gradual,” covering people over age 17 and will be made available for free, it added.

Czech Republic Eyes Tighter Curbs (3:30 p.m. NY)

The Czech government will consider imposing tighter restrictions to stem the coronavirus pandemic as numbers of newly infected and hospitalized people started to rise again this week, Prime Minister Andrej Babis said.

“No easing is on the table right now at all. On the contrary, the government will have to consider measures that will better stem the pandemic,” Babis said. He didn’t elaborate what measures the cabinet may debate or approve at its extraordinary session on Thursday.

After a brief lockdown easing in early December, the Czech Republic shut most shops, services and schools again on Dec. 27 as numbers of newly infected people started to surge after Christmas.

Dubai Imposes New Restrictions (2:11 p.m. NY)

Dubai imposed further restrictions on air travel and hospitals as coronavirus cases continue to climb in the United Arab Emirates.

The Middle East business hub reduced the validity of PCR test to three days from four “irrespective of the country they are coming from,” according to a statement. It also made it mandatory to have prior appointments for hospital visits.

North Dakota to Lower Risk Level (1:43 p.m. NY)

The governor of North Dakota is cutting the state’s Covid-19 risk level to “low,” effective Friday, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

Governor Doug Burgum’s order will lift recommended occupancy limit for bars, restaurants and other food-service establishments to 80% of capacity, up to 300 patrons, the newspaper said.

Social distancing and face coverings are strongly recommended or required, the Tribune said.

Spain Infections Near Record High (1:43 p.m. NY)

New coronavirus infections in Spain hovered near a record high as a third wave continues to grow following a relaxation of restrictions on movement over the holiday period. New virus cases rose to 18,462 on Wednesday compared with 15,660 on Tuesday. That was near the all-time record of 18,504 on Jan. 21. The infection rate rose to 900 per 100,000 people while hospitalizations fell slightly to 24%. of available beds.

IOC Confidence on Tokyo Games Grows (1 p.m. NY)

The International Olympic Committee remains “fully concentrated and committed” to holding the Tokyo Olympic games on July 23 this year, President Thomas Bach said in a press briefing on Wednesday.

Bach said the IOC is “gaining even more confidence from the effectiveness of the countermeasures” to combat the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Texas Deploys National Guard in Rural Push (12:48 p.m. NY)

Texas National Guard troops are being deployed to remote areas to vaccinate rural populations that can’t access clinics in towns and cities.

The “mobile vaccination teams” initially will target five counties -- Marion, Starr, Sherman, Real and DeWitt -- starting on Thursday, Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement.

“The State Mobile Vaccine Pilot Program will help us ramp up vaccination efforts among homebound Texans, Texans 65 years of age or older, and among communities in need,” Abbott said.

Norway Sets Strict Border Controls (12:45 p.m. NY)

Norway put in place the strictest border controls since March to reduce the risk of the more infectious variant of the virus taking hold. Foreign nationals that aren’t residents of Norway and don’t have close family in the country will be denied entry from Thursday night, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said at a press conference in Oslo.

Cuomo Lifts Some Hot Spot Restrictions (12:07 p.m. NY)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, saying the “holiday surge is over,” lifted restrictions in hot spot areas across the state. He kept curbs in two areas of the Bronx, Manhattan’s Washington Heights, an area of Queens, and in Newburgh.

In those areas, known as “yellow zones,” non-residential gatherings are restricted to a maximum of 25 people, residential gatherings are limited to 10 people, and houses of worship can operate at 50% capacity. Nonessential businesses can remain open and indoor and outdoor dining is allowed with certain restrictions. Schools can remain open for in-person learning with increased testing.

Cuomo said he will be speaking with health officials and Mayor Bill de Blasio about potentially reopening indoor dining in the city. The state will announce a plan for city restaurants by the end of the week.

NYC Gets Vaccine Supply Boost (10 a.m. NY)

New York will receive 17,000 additional vaccine shots next week, increasing supply in a city that has the capacity to vaccinate 500,000 a week if it had enough doses, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

The federal government should invoke the Defense Production Act to require Merck to start manufacturing vaccines created by Pfizer or Moderna, after Merck scrapped plans for its own shot, de Blasio said. He also called on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to allow cities to use hundreds of thousands of vaccines now instead of keeping them in storage for second doses weeks away, the mayor said.

“The ability to use those second doses that can’t be used for weeks, let’s put them into play now,” the mayor said.

The city reported 279 Covid-19-related hospital admissions as of Monday an increase from 234 the previous day. New cases on a seven-day average totaled 4,621 as of Monday, down from 5,218 the previous day. The positivity rate from testing stood at 8.08% on a seven-day average, its lowest rate since late December.

Johnson Imposes Quarantine at U.K. Border (9:30 a.m. NY)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said schools will stay closed until at least March 8 as he tightened U.K. border rules to require all travelers arriving from virus hot spots to quarantine for 10 days.

The premier is drawing up a longer-term blueprint for lifting the lockdown, in which a return to face-to-face teaching will be prioritized.

France Holds Off On New Lockdown (9:15 a.m. NY)

The French government is delaying a decision to lock down the country, hoping that a curfew will contain the virus. President Emmanuel Macron “has asked for additional analysis” before deciding on any new restrictions, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said Wednesday.

Christophe Castaner, head of Macron’s party at the National Assembly, told Le Parisien newspaper there was a risk of “civil disobedience” in France, should a new lockdown be imposed.

Madrid Halts Vaccine Program (9:10 a.m. NY)

The region of Madrid has halted its vaccination campaign after getting half the expected vials last week, Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported, citing the regional government’s vice president.

Portugal Reports Record Fatalities (9:10 a.m. NY)

Battling one of the world’s worst outbreaks, Portugal documented 293 virus-linked fatalities, a daily record, taking the total to 11,305 deaths. The number of patients in intensive-care units rose by 18 to 783. The country’s national health service has a capacity of about 1,200 intensive-care beds.

Norway’s Pfizer Deliveries to Resume, Report Says (8:55 a.m. NY)

Norwegian deliveries are set to return to the agreed rate starting next week after the country received 15% fewer doses this week, TV2 reported, citing Joachim Henriksen, a spokesman for Pfizer in Norway. Norway will receive doses faster than the initial estimates, TV2 said.

Astra, EU Call to Go Ahead (7:15 a.m. NY)

The European Commission said a crunch call with AstraZeneca over vaccine-delivery delays is going ahead on Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for the European Union’s executive arm had earlier told reporters in Brussels that Astra had pulled out of the call. The drugmaker’s spokesperson denied this was the case.

The confusion added to the spat over deliveries of life-saving shots, after the bloc and Astra clashed over accounts of the clauses in the vaccine supply contract.

Oman Delays Vaccine Rollout on Supply Delay (7 a.m. NY)

Oman postponed administration of the second-dose of Pfizer’s vaccine due to delays from the manufacturer, the Ministry of Health said. The postponement comes just 10 days after the nation started giving second jabs of the shot. The Persian Gulf country has so far administered about 34,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Japan Ousted From EU Travel ‘White List’ (6:19 a.m. NY)

The European Union shuts its door to visitors from Japan following a surge in coronavirus cases there, according to an EU official.

EU governments decided to remove Japan from their common list of countries whose residents should be allowed to visit the bloc during the pandemic, the official said on the condition of anonymity; the update of the EU’s recommended travel “white list” keeps the U.S. and most other nations off it.

The ouster of Japan -- approved by EU member-country envoys at a meeting in Brussels following a recommendation by experts -- shrinks the European list of permitted travel to residents of just seven states: Australia, China, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand.

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