France, Italy Extend Curbs; Brazil Record Deaths: Virus Update
(Bloomberg) -- French President Emmanuel Macron said a four-week lockdown will begin on Saturday, and Italy’s cabinet extended restrictions on movement and business openings. They were the latest signs that Europe is yet again losing control of the pandemic, although Hungary plans to ease curbs.
Pfizer Inc. said its vaccine was 100% effective in a final-stage trial in kids age 12 to 15, a finding that could pave the way for shots for teens and pre-teens before the next school year.
Brazil reports record deaths for second day in a row. The Latin American also detected a new variant of the coronavirus, similar to one found in South Africa.
- Global Tracker: Cases pass 128.5 million; deaths exceed 2.8 million
- Vaccine Tracker: More than 577 million shots given worldwide
- Covid was third-leading cause of U.S. deaths in 2020, CDC says
- WHO origin hunters push back as report assailed from all sides
- Covid has cornered Bolsanaro, who’s maneuvering to stay on top
- The Olympics is relying on a giant virus bubble. It could burst
Brazil Has Another Day of Record Deaths (5:08 p.m. NY)
Brazil hit a record number of Covid-19 deaths for the second day in a row, with 3,869 fatalities in the last 24 hours, the Health Ministry reported. Total deaths rose to 321,515 and the country reported 90,638 new cases, pushing the total to 12.7 million, the second highest tally globally.
The health care system in the Latin American country is collapsing with 18 of 27 states reporting over 90% intensive-care beds occupied, the Fiocruz foundation reported. President Jair Bolsonaro said that “only without a lockdown policy it is possible to return to normality.”
Brazil also detected a new variant of the virus Wednesday in Sorocaba, near Sao Paulo, according to the local government. The new strain is said to be similar to one found in South Africa, according to authorities.
Houston Methodist to Require Vaccines (4:32 p.m. NY)
The Houston Methodist hospital system in Texas will soon require its 26,000 employees get the Covid-19 vaccine, in what a spokeswoman said appears to be the first such move by a large U.S. hospital system.
Managers have until mid-April to get “at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine or get an approved exemption,” according to an email sent by the system’s CEO. No deadline for all employees was given in the email.
Hungary Plans to Ease Restrictions (4:24 p.m. NY)
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban vowed to ease restrictions soon even as his nation has the world’s highest Covid-19 death rate and reported a big jump in fatalities. The first easing steps will include reopening stores days after Easter, followed by schools and then restaurants and hotels, he said.
“Infections are widespread and lockdowns or curbs can only slow the spread but they can’t stop them,” Orban said on state television, adding only vaccines can “kill” Covid-19.
France Heads for Four-Week Lockdown (3:22 p.m. NY)
French President Emmanuel Macron announced a nationwide four-week lockdown, shutting down schools and business.
“We did everything we could to make these decisions as late as possible, until they became strictly necessary, which is now,” Macron warned in an address to the nation on Wednesday. “The virus is more contagious and deadlier.”
He implored people to make an extra effort as the lockdown begins to come into force on Saturday. Restrictions will be flexible this weekend, during the Easter holidays, to allow people to relocate.
N.J. Models Show Infections Increasing in April (1:40 p.m. NY)
New Jersey presented moderate and high-case model scenarios for Covid-19, both of which predict cases will increase in April.
Under the moderate scenario, cases and hospitalizations will reach a high in mid-April. Cases wouldn’t drop below 3,000 until June, while hospitalizations wouldn’t be less than 1,000 until August.
The high-case model assumes that the vaccines are far less effective against variants, and that people will relax their adherence to social distancing and masks, Governor Phil Murphy said Wednesday at a press briefing. If this occurs, New Jersey sees daily cases of more than 8,000 in mid-May and again in mid-June, and hospitalizations reaching December and January’s high levels in August.
Greece Relaxes Limits Even as Cases Surge (1:12 p.m. NY)
Greece will ease certain lockdown measures even as new cases surge. The country will allow non-essential shops to reopen from April 5 but only with online ordering and pickup, and appointment-only in-store shopping, Deputy Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias said Wednesday. At weekends only, starting April 3, a maximum of three citizens or families will be allowed to move outside the municipality where they live for personal exercise. Greece reported 3,616 new Covid-19 cases Wednesday, the second-highest daily increase since the start of the pandemic. That followed Tuesday’s record 4,340 new cases.
Variant Accounts for 26% of U.S. Cases, CDC Says (1 p.m. NY)
A more contagious strain of the coronavirus is now predominant in five U.S. regions and accounts for a quarter of new cases nationally, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
The B.1.1.7 variant, first uncovered in the U.K., makes up from 4% to 35% cases depending on the region, and 26% of cases nationally, Rochelle Walensky said at a press briefing Wednesday. U.S. officials had warned it could become the predominant strain of the virus in the U.S. by early April.
Pennsylvania Rolls Out Vaccine Timeline (11:40 a.m. NY)
Governor Tom Wolf announced the changes on Twitter.
NYC Administers 4 Million Doses (11 a.m. NY)
New York City has passed the 4 million mark for vaccinations, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
“We’re absolutely confident about hitting the 5 million mark in June,” the mayor said at his daily briefing. He said he is seeing a decline in the number of people hesitant to be vaccinated.
At least a third of adult city residents have received at least one dose, while 19% are fully vaccinated, according to city data. The state lowered the eligibility age for vaccines to 30 on Tuesday.
Switzerland Cases Keep Growing (9:34 a.m. NY)
The rate of new coronavirus infections has doubled in Switzerland since mid-February, and is now approaching a so-called reproduction rate of almost 1.2, Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset told reporters. The growth rate is accelerating even if not yet an “explosion,” Berset said.
More than 900,000 people have been vaccinated in the country so far, about 10% of the population. The country has received 1.8 million doses, which will be used in the coming weeks and months, according to Berset.
Ukraine Capital to Close Schools (8:36 a.m. NY)
The Ukrainian capital will close all schools from April 5 and will limit all public transport to special permits, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said at a briefing.
Croatia Imposes Masks in Capital (7:52 a.m. NY)
Croatia made mask-wearing mandatory in all open spaces in the capital, Zagreb, as the British variant now accounts for 80% of new cases, Deputy Premier Davor Bozinovic told reporters. The number of new cases on Wednesday reached 2,763 in the country.
France Said to Consider Lockdown (7 a.m. NY)
France is headed toward a nationwide lockdown to contain the latest surge, with measures that could include school closures and extending a ban on intercity travel, two people familiar with the matter said.
French President Emmanuel Macron will address the nation at 8 p.m. Paris time, and Prime Minister Jean Castex will address the Parliament for a debate and a vote on the measures needed to address the epidemic tomorrow, according to Macron’s party.
Teens Protected by Pfizer Vaccine in Study (6:45 a.m. NY)
Pfizer Inc. said its vaccine was 100% effective in a final-stage trial in kids ages 12 to 15, a finding that could pave the way for shots for teens and pre-teens before the next school year.
The vaccine is already authorized in the U.S. for people ages 16 and up. Pfizer and its partner BioNTech SE said they planned to submit the data to regulators in the U.S and Europe as soon as possible, seeking to amend their vaccine authorizations to include the younger age group.
EU Delivers More Than 100 Million Shots (6:35 a.m. NY)
The European Union will have delivered 107 million vaccines by the end of this week, reaching the bloc’s targeted goal for the first three months of the year.
The milestone was confirmed by European Commission spokesperson Dana Spinant. It was a revised goal that had to take into account multiple delays in the deliveries from AstraZeneca Plc.
German ICU Official ‘Deeply Worried’ (6:28 a.m. NY)
The head of Germany’s intensive-care and emergency medicine association said he’s “deeply worried” about the pressure Covid-19 patients are putting on ICUs and called for tougher lockdown measures.
“I can very well understand that people are tired and everyone wants this to be over, but we are in an especially critical phase of the pandemic, if not the most critical,” Gernot Marx, president of the DIVI lobby group, said in an interview with ARD television. “If we wait longer then we’ll have 6,000 or 7,000 intensive-care patients and we are really scared about that because it would mean the system is overburdened.”
The number of virus patients in ICUs climbed to 3,668 on Wednesday and the occupancy rate rose to 86% according to the latest data from DIVI.
China’s Fosun Could Supply Taiwan (6:21 a.m. NY)
The Chinese company with the deal to distribute BioNTech and Pfizer’s vaccine in “Greater China” said it’s willing to supply Taiwan, after the contested island suggested Beijing blocked it from securing the shot.
Speaking in an interview from Shanghai, Guo Guangchang, the chairman of Fosun International Ltd. -- whose medical arm has the deal with Germany’s BioNTech -- said the company “has the responsibility, duty and willingness to offer the best vaccine to the Greater China region, including Taiwan.” Guo said he hopes this “desire can soon be realized,” without elaborating further.
WHO Origin Hunters Push Back (6:03 a.m. NY)
Nearly three dozen scientists gathered in Wuhan, China, early this winter to start the arduous task of finding the origins of Covid-19. The working group this week delivered an analysis that laid out four possible scenarios and recommended next steps for digging deeper to find the pandemic’s genesis.
Their report was immediately engulfed by criticism. The most unexpected detractor was WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who said the theory that the virus escaped via a laboratory accident -- a hypothesis that has been vigorously denied by the Chinese government -- needed to be more thoroughly vetted.
U.K. Variant Isn’t More Deadly in Study (4:30 p.m. HK)
The U.K. variant that first emerged in Kent and has spread to the rest of the world, crowding out the original in many countries, may not be more deadly after all, according to a study conducted by Public Health England.
The study’s findings contradict data from late last year that found the variant could be 30% more deadly. The scientists noted that it did increase the risk of being hospitalized by roughly that much.
Italy May Chastise Medical Staff Who Refuse Shots (4 p.m. HK)
Italy is evaluating a measure to categorize medical staff who refuse to be vaccinated as “unsuitable” for their jobs, Labor Minister Andrea Orlando said in an interview with Sky TG24.
“We need to avoid having fragile citizens in contact with workers who don’t want to be inoculated,” Orlando said.
Hungary Posts Big Jump in Deaths (9:39 a.m. HK)
Hungary, which in recent weeks has had the world’s highest pandemic death rate, reported a big jump in fatalities amid the government’s ramp-up of vaccination efforts.
Across the country, 302 people died in a single day, a 10% increase from the previous 24 hours, health authorities said. Prime Minister Viktor Orban is ignoring a plea by doctors to further tighten virus curbs as understaffed hospitals are overwhelmed by patients.
Taiwan to Vaccinate All Medical Workers (2:22 p.m. HK)
Taiwan will provide all medical workers, including those at centralized quarantine facilities and non-health care workers at hospitals, with vaccination starting from April 6, Taiwan Centers for Disease Control said on its website.
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