Chile to Create Covid Fund; U.K. Deaths at Zero: Virus Update
(Bloomberg) -- For the first time, the U.K. reported zero daily deaths of people within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test. In the U.S., New York City’s positivity rate dropped over the Memorial Day weekend to its lowest point since the pandemic began.
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said in his annual speech to Chile’s congress that the government will create a $2 billion fund to finance the fight against Covid. Moderna Inc. became the second drugmaker to seek full U.S. approval for its vaccine.
Companies, meanwhile, are finding varying ways to envision the post-Covid workplace. Bank of America Corp. wants all of its Hong Kong staff back at their desks by the end of June, while Deutsche Bank AG unveiled its hybrid model for remote work.
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Chile to Create $2 Billion Fund to Fight Covid (4:35 p.m. NY)
The Chilean government will create a $2 billion fund to finance the fight against Covid-19 and strengthen health services, President Sebastian Pinera said in his annual speech to Chile’s congress.
The government will resort to increased public debt and state savings to pay for emergency funding, the president said.
Trudeau Covid Aid Favored High Earners (4:18 p.m. NY)
Canada’s highest-earning families were the biggest beneficiaries of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s pandemic aid, opening his government to criticism that its programs were wasteful.
The top 20% of income-earning families received an average of C$6,728 ($5,577) from emergency Covid-19 assistance programs, according to Statistics Canada data. The lowest-earning households got C$4,097 in aid, on average.
All told, the bottom 20% of earners got just 14% of the C$95.2 billion in direct government transfers related to Covid-19 last year, data from the statistical agency show. The numbers have fueled concerns that Canada’s pandemic support -- among the world’s most generous, and financed with hundreds of billions in new debt -- was inefficient as cash was funnelled to dozens of different groups, and ended up being hoarded in bank accounts.
Booster Study to Mix Vaccines (3:59 p.m. NY)
The National Institutes of Health has started a year-long clinical trial to determine if vaccinated people can safely get booster shots using vaccines that are different from the ones they received initially.
The trial will also monitor the effectiveness of changing vaccines in this manner. It’s designed to include about 150 individuals who have received a vaccine regimen now available under emergency use authorization in the U.S.
“We need to prepare for the possibility of needing booster shots to counter waning immunity and to keep pace with an evolving virus,” Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a statement. “The results of this trial are intended to inform public health policy decisions on the potential use of mixed vaccine schedules should booster doses be indicated.”
U.K. Reports Zero Deaths (11:11 a.m. NY)
The U.K. reported no additional deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test. Britain’s official death toll remains at 127,782, according to government data. There were 3,165 new cases, bringing the total to 4.49 million.
It’s the first time the U.K. reported zero daily deaths within 28 days of a positive test since the start of the pandemic, the BBC reported.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces a dilemma of whether to proceed with a highly-anticipated easing of restrictions later this month at a time when scientists are increasingly worried about another surge of cases.
Vaccine Seen Safe in Pregnancy (10:55 a.m. NY)
Two new studies confirm that messenger RNA vaccines available in the U.S. “appear to be completely safe for pregnant women,” according to Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, writing in a blog post.
The studies were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. The tesearch also indicated vaccines might offer protection to infants born to vaccinated mothers.
NYC Positivity Rate Hits Low (10:42 a.m. NY)
New York City’s Covid positivity rate on Sunday dropped to its lowest point since the pandemic began, crossing an important milestone for a city desperate to jump start its depressed tourism industry and boost its battered economy.
Only 0.83% of New York City tested positive for the coronavirus over the last seven days, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Tuesday. The seven-day average of hospitalizations per 100,000 has also dropped below 1% and deaths have fallen to single digits for the first time since last summer. There was an average of 7 deaths over the last seven days, according to city data.
De Blasio said the city would reopen indoor activities at senior centers on June 14, bringing back one of the last city-operated programs that closed during the pandemic.
WH0 Validates Sinovac Vaccine (10:34 a.m. NY)
The World Health Organization has validated the Sinovac-CoronaVac for emergency use.
The validation is aimed at “giving countries, funders, procuring agencies and communities the assurance that it meets international standards for safety, efficacy and manufacturing,” according to an emailed statement by the group.
Abbott Cuts Forecast as Testing Slows (10:06 a.m. NY)
Abbott Laboratories fell after the company warned that profits for the year would be lower than expected because of eroding demand for Covid tests.
The health-care company said it expects full-year adjusted earnings from continuing operations to range from $4.30 a share to $4.50. In January, the company forecast at least $5 per share.
Testing for Covid-19 is declining in the U.S. as vaccination rates grow, infections wane and pandemic restrictions loosen. Early this year, Laboratory Corp of America Holdings said testing demand could decline by as much as half this year while Quest Diagnostics Inc. in late April only provided guidance for the first half of the year,
Scotland Delays Easing of Restrictions (9:43 a.m. NY)
Scotland will keep a swathe of the country under tighter coronavirus restrictions because of concern about the number of cases of the variant first identified in India.
Edinburgh, the capital, will remain in the current level rather than seeing a further easing of some rules on household mixing and on businesses on June 7 as planned, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday. Glasgow, the biggest city, will drop to the same level as Edinburgh after a surge in cases had kept restrictions there for longer.
Moderna Seeks Full FDA Approval (8:18 a.m. NY)
Moderna Inc. is seeking full approval for its vaccine, a move that could make the shot a stable source of revenue for years. The company said it will submit data to the Food and Drug Administration on a rolling basis in coming weeks to support the application for use in people 18 and older.
Moderna’s shot, like rival Pfizer Inc.’s, is based on messenger RNA technology and has been a linchpin of the U.S. immunization campaign.
Deutsche Bank’s Hybrid Model for Work (7:46 a.m. NY)
Deutsche Bank AG launched its new remote working policy, pledging to implement a hybrid model for staff once pandemic conditions allow a return to offices. The lender will allow staff to divide their work hours between the office and their home, it said in a memo.
The management of each division will provide detailed information “in due course” to the bank’s units about how to implement the policy. In April, Chief Financial Officer James von Moltke said a range of 40% to 60% of work from home makes sense.
Hong Kong Ramps Up Back-to-Office Push (6:40 a.m. NY)
Hong Kong ramped up its return-to-office drive as the central bank told financial institutions to hand over a list of staff they expect to be vaccinated and Bank of America Corp. said it plans to have all of its employees in the city back at their desks by the end of June.
Hong Kong Monetary Authority on Tuesday urged all banks in the financial hub to “strongly encourage” staff in client-facing roles or support functions to get vaccinated. The authority told banks to draw up lists of designated staff and submit them within two weeks.
Transplants Force Patients to Amass Shots (6:30 a.m. NY)
Emerging research is showing that transplant patients, who suppress their immune system with drugs so their bodies don’t reject donated organs, are dramatically less likely to develop protective antibodies using the authorized vaccine dosage.
That’s spurring some recipients to get extra shots as worries mount over the end of restrictions and as U.S. vaccine supply outpaces demand.
Germany Lowers Risk Level (5:47 p.m. HK)
Germany cut its risk level to “high” from “very high.” After raising it in December, the Robert Koch Institute -- the country’s public health authority -- is lowering it on Tuesday, according to Health Minister Jens Spahn. The move is a sign of reduced infections and fewer people with the virus in intensive care, he said.
Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday said she’s ready to allow Germany’s controversial lockdown law to lapse as infections ebb.
‘Revenge Spending’ in the U.K. (4 p.m. HK)
Visits to department stores on London’s Oxford Street and designer boutiques on Bond Street are increasing amid a global boom in so-called revenge spending, with shoppers deploying the cash they saved during lockdowns on new wardrobes, accessories and cappuccino pit-stops.
The Pret Index, based on exclusive data from U.K. sandwich chain Pret A Manger Ltd., shows that about three-quarters of the company’s business in London’s West End shopping district was back to pre-Covid 19 levels last week.
Taiwan Confirms 327 Local Cases (2 p.m. HK)
Taiwan had 262 newly confirmed domestic cases on Tuesday and added 65 local infections to previous tallies due to test result delays, according to a statement from Taiwan Centers for Disease Control. Taiwan is battling its worst outbreak of Covid-19, having made it through 2020 with few deaths or infections.
Vietnam Asks Covax to Speed Vaccine Delivery (13:05 p.m. HK)
Vietnam asked the World Health Organization-backed Covax facility to speed up its pledged vaccine delivery and increase supplies of vaccines to the country, Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said during a teleconference with program representatives.
The country, whose containment of the coronavirus allowed the economy to continue growing all last year, is now facing a real challenge from a lack of vaccines, as coronavirus outbreaks hit key manufacturing hubs.
Guangzhou Airport Tightens Flights (12:05 p.m. HK)
Baiyuan Airport in south China’s Guangzhou city has seen almost half of inbound and outbound flights canceled as of 10 a.m. local time Tuesday, after a resurgence of Covid cases required local authorities to tighten travel restrictions, China News Service reports, citing data from the flight service app VariFlight. Starting Monday, authorities have asked those who want to leave the city to present a negative test result within 72 hours of their departure.
Guangdong province added 11 local confirmed Covid-19 infections and two asymptomatic cases on May 31, according to the latest report from China’s National Health Commission. The provincial capital has discovered more than 50 infections. The first case was reported on May 21, a 75-year-old woman with no travel history who was infected with the variant first detected in India.
Greek Alphabet Naming Scheme for Variants (9:50 a.m. HK)
The World Health Organization announced a new naming scheme for coronavirus variants using the Greek alphabet.
The scientific names used to date “can be difficult to say and recall, and are prone to misreporting,” the organization said in a statement. “As a result, people often resort to calling variants by the places where they are detected, which is stigmatizing and discriminatory.”
The B.1.1.7 variant, the variant that emerged from the U.K., will be called Alpha, whereas the B.1.617 first detected in India will be referred to as Delta. The existing names will remain in use by scientists and in research, the WHO said.
Thailand Overturns Bangkok Plan to Ease Curbs (9:30 a.m. HK)
Thailand’s Covid-19 task force overturned Bangkok’s plan to relax restrictions on June 1 as the capital struggles to contain its worst wave of coronavirus infections. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration had earlier said that businesses including beauty clinics, nail salons and spas would be allowed to reopen from Tuesday, but the national task force rescinded the announcement, and ordered an extension of the closures until at least June 14.
The country’s capital and largest city remains the epicenter of the current outbreak. Since the resurgence began in early April, infections have spread from Bangkok’s night-entertainment venues into the capital city’s crowded communities and construction-worker camps. Since April 1, a third of Thailand’s new cases have been reported in Bangkok.
Hong Kong Vaccine Bookings Jump (8:30 a.m. HK)
Total bookings for coronavirus vaccine appointments, which include first and second doses, surged to the highest in nearly two months after Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced a new campaign to boost the city’s sluggish inoculation rate by September. Measures include paid leave for vaccinated civil servants and possible additional restrictions for unvaccinated citizens.
Some 25,400 people reserved slots for BioNTech vaccinations on Monday, while another 12,300 booked appointments to receive Sinovac shots.
Some Japan Panel Experts Warn on Olympics (7:30 a.m. HK)
Some members of the Japanese government’s coronavirus expert panel warned that it would be “difficult” to hold the Tokyo Olympics this summer if the capital’s virus situation remains at the highest of four levels, the Asahi newspaper reported.
Meanwhile, the first group of foreign athletes arrived in Japan on Tuesday for training ahead of the Games, Kyodo said. The Australian women’s softball team flew in to Narita airport, and are fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, the organizers of the Games are making preparations to hold the events with spectators, provided they present either a negative test result or vaccination certification, broadcaster TV Asahi said.
Calls for Vaccine Equity (7:10 a.m. HK)
The heads of the International Monetary Fund, the World Health Organization, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization called for a “stepped-up coordinated strategy, backed by new financing, to vaccinate the world,” in an editorial published in the Washington Post. The call, issued before the G-7 meeting next week, aims to boost vaccinations in developing countries.
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