Astra Preps New Trial; Victoria Has No New Cases: Virus Update
(Bloomberg) -- AstraZeneca Plc said it’s likely to conduct an additional global trial to assess its Covid-19 vaccine, after current studies raised questions over its level of protection. In New York, new infections hit a seven-month high, while hospitalizations rose to their highest level since June.
In Europe, the total number of cases in Germany topped 1 million, and the number of patients in intensive care rose to record levels. Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans to do more to rein in the pandemic and called on Europe’s ski resorts to close.
Elsewhere, London will avoid the toughest coronavirus restrictions when England’s partial lockdown ends next week, the number of severely ill French patients in intensive care fell to the lowest level in more than three weeks and Argentines mourning the death of soccer icon Diego Maradona ignored virus restrictions. In Australia, Victoria reported a 28th straight day without any new cases.
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Australian State Extends Streak of No New Virus Cases (4:20 p.m. NY)
Victoria has gone 28 days with no new cases of the virus, suggesting Australia will be among a handful of western nations that can look forward to Christmas with limited restrictions on family gatherings. The state reported a daily peak of about 700 cases in early August.
The 28-day run is “an extraordinary achievement psychologically as well as practically, in terms of opening up the economy,” said Sanjaya Senanayake, an infectious diseases physician and associate professor of medicine at the Australian National University in Canberra.
Maradona Farewell Turns Chaotic, Upending Covid Restrictions (3:23 p.m. NY)
Hundreds of thousands of Argentines took to the streets of Buenos Aires to mourn Wednesday’s death of soccer icon Diego Maradona, upending the nation’s strict Covid restrictions.
Pent-up emotions after eight months of curbs spilled over as people streamed into the palace known as Casa Rosada and police clashed with crowds in and around the Plaza de Mayo.
France’s Covid ICU Patients Fall to Lowest in 3 Weeks (1:25 p.m. NY)
France’s hospitalizations and virus patients in intensive care continued to fall from their Nov. 16 peak on Thursday, with the number of severely ill patients in ICU at the lowest in more than three weeks, dropping 130 to 4,018. Health authorities reported 13,563 new confirmed cases, with the seven-day average falling to 13,910, the lowest since early October.
France is on track for new infections to drop to an average of 5,000 a day in the second week of December, the target set by the government as one of the conditions for lifting lockdown measures, Health Minister Olivier Veran said.
Germany Surpasses 1 Million Covid Cases (1:00 p.m. NY)
The total number of coronavirus cases in Germany topped 1 million for the first time Thursday, one day after the government extended a partial shutdown until just before Christmas.
Europe’s biggest economy passed the grim milestone around 10 months after the country reported its first infections. Cases have tripled since the start of October, causing the number of patients in intensive care to climb to record levels.
Italy’s Intensive-Care Numbers Fall (12:21 p.m. NY)
The number of patients in Italy’s intensive-care units fell to 3,846, the first decline in seven weeks, and new infections dropped 20% from a week ago, adding to signs that the virus is spreading more slowly in the country.
Astra Likely to Run Fresh Covid Vaccine Trial (11:03 a.m. NY)
AstraZeneca’s new trial would evaluate a lower dosage that performed better than a full amount in Astra’s studies, according to the company’s chief executive officer, after current studies raised questions over its level of protection. The company’s acknowledgment that the lower level was given in error fueled concerns.
CEO Pascal Soriot said he didn’t expect the additional trial to hold up regulatory approvals in the U.K. and European Union. Clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration may take longer because the regulator is unlikely to approve the vaccine on the basis of studies conducted elsewhere, especially given the questions over the results, he said.
New York’s New Cases Hit Seven-Month High (10:45 a.m. NY)
Numbers in New York show no sign of letting up. Hospitalizations in the state topped 3,000 to their highest level since June 1, while new infections hit 6,933, the highest tally for seven months.
Delta to Test Passengers for Covid in Trial (10:00 a.m. NY)
Delta Air Lines Inc. will test passengers for Covid-19 on flights to Rome in a pilot program that marks the latest attempt by the airline industry to open up trans-Atlantic travel.
The flights from Atlanta will enable quarantine-free travel to Italy under a new policy expected soon in the European country, Delta said. Alitalia will also offer flights between Rome and New York’s JFK, Il Sole 24 Ore reported on Wednesday.
Norway Wealth Fund CEO Tests Positive for Virus (9:50 a.m. NY)
Nicolai Tangen, the chief executive officer of Norway’s $1.2 trillion sovereign wealth fund, tested positive for the coronavirus. The CEO said he took a test on Wednesday afternoon, “after feeling a bit under the weather, but my symptoms are mild.”
Once-Relaxed Croatia Tightens Curbs (9:20 a.m. NY)
Croatia introduced new measures to fight infections, which hit a record of 4,009 in the last 24 hours. The Balkan state, which had a relatively relaxed regime in European terms, plans to close restaurants, bars and gyms, limit public gatherings to a maximum of 25 people and make masks mandatory in all public spaces.
Johnson Ends England’s Lockdown; Regions Face Curbs (7:15 a.m. NY)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed England’s national lockdown will end next week, to be replaced by a tougher three-tier system of regional restrictions.
London is in the 57% of the country placed into tier 2, avoiding the most severe constraints: Pubs, restaurants and bars there can open for business, but alcohol can be served only as part of a meal. Another 41%, including Birmingham and Manchester, will be in the highest tier 3, so pubs and restaurants there must close except for takeaway. Households will not be allowed to mix indoors in either tier.
Ministers are drawing up plans to allow rules to be relaxed across the U.K. in time for Christmas and Johnson said if all goes well with the roll-out of vaccines, “the vast majority” of people who need a shot will get one by April.
France to Allow Travel Abroad From Dec. 15 (6:45 a.m. NY)
French PM Jean Castex said it will be possible to travel abroad from Dec. 15, when the government plans to lift its latest lockdown. Travelers must check the health situation in the destination country ahead of travel, Castex said on Thursday. Ski resorts will be open over holiday period but ski lifts will remain closed.
Iran Cases Hit Record Again (6:40 a.m. NY)
Iran reported a record 13,961 new virus cases on Thursday, setting a record for the third straight day. Total cases stand at 908,346. The Health Ministry also announced 482 new deaths. In total, 46,689 people have died from the virus in Iran.
Swedish Faith in Covid Strategy Plunges (6:20 a.m. NY)
Swedish confidence in the nation’s strategy to fight the coronavirus pandemic has slumped. A poll published on Thursday showed that 82% of Swedes are either “somewhat” or “very worried” as to whether their health-care system can meet the challenge facing it.
Confidence in the authorities’ ability to fight the virus sank to 42% of those polled from 55% in October. Meanwhile, 44% of Swedes fear authorities aren’t doing enough to fight the virus, compared with 31% last month.
Merkel Frets Over Ski Resorts (6:05 p.m. H.K. )
Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans to do more to rein in the coronavirus to avoid the “worst-case scenario” of an overburdened health care system. Restrictions extended and expanded on Wednesday night will likely remain in place until early January, Merkel said.
Europe should shut down its ski resorts this winter to prevent a renewed virus uptick, according to Merkel. She said that any non-essential travel needed to be avoided and that Europe would look “whether we can shut down all ski resorts.” But given Austria’s opposition, that won’t be easy, she said.
On a more upbeat note, a vaccine may be available before Christmas, Merkel said.
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