U.K. Hits Vaccine Target; U.S. Deaths Rise: Virus Update
A worker checks in a visitor ahead of administering a vaccine at the Brussels Expo Covid-19 Vaccination Center in Brussels, Belgium. (Photographer: Olivier Matthys/Bloomberg)

U.K. Hits Vaccine Target; U.S. Deaths Rise: Virus Update

The U.K. hit its goal of offering a shot to all those over 50 three days early. England reopened shops, pub gardens, gyms and hair salons after months of lockdown, even as the Mayor of London called for wider testing in two city boroughs following a new outbreak.

The weekly death toll from Covid-19 in the U.S. rose for the first time since February and infections climbed for a fourth straight week, even as vaccinations surge. The Biden administration rejected a plea for more vaccine doses from Michigan, which has the nation’s highest infection rate.

A study in Brazil showed that Sinovac Biotech Ltd.’s vaccine is slightly more than 50% effective, raising new concerns over the efficacy of the China’s suite of Covid-19 shots, which are being used in a range of countries as well as domestically.

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U.K. Hits Vaccine Target; U.S. Deaths Rise: Virus Update

U.K. Hits Vaccine Target Early (5:35 p.m. NY)

The U.K. said it hit its target to offer a first vaccine shot to all people over 50 ahead of schedule, a significant boost to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plans to unlock more parts of the economy.

The goal was to do so by April 15, and people in their late 40s are expected to be invited to receive vaccines in the “coming days,” the Department of Health and Social Care said.

“We will now move forward with completing essential second doses and making progress toward our target of offering all adults a vaccine by the end of July,” Johnson said in a statement.

London Mayor Calls for Extra Testing (4:37 p.m. NY)

London Mayor Sadiq Khan urged people who live, work or study in two city boroughs to be tested following an outbreak of new cases linked to the South African variant.

Anyone over the age of 11 should book a test as soon as possible, whether they’re symptomatic or not, so infected people can be identified and the spread of the virus limited, Khan said in a post on Twitter.

There have been 44 new cases and 30 probable cases identified in Wandsworth and Lambeth, Khan said.

Calgary Stampede Possible, Premier Says (3:25 p.m. NY)

The Calgary Stampede can probably go ahead this year as Alberta’s vaccination campaign accelerates, the Canadian province’s premier said.

The yearly festival that draws thousands of visitors was canceled due to the pandemic last year, but it “will be possible” in 2021, albeit with public heath precautions, Jason Kenney said in a webcast press conference.

The province that holds the world’s third-largest crude oil reserves in its oil sands is ramping up vaccinations and aims to have two thirds of the population protected from Covid-19 by the end of June, just in time for the festival and rodeo that’s normally held each July.

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Ireland Limits Astra Shot to People Over 60 (3:10 p.m. NY)

Ireland recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine be given to people age 60 and older only, becoming the latest country to restrict its use amid blood clot concerns. People under 60 who have already received a first dose should have the interval before the second shot extended to 16 weeks from 12 weeks “to allow further assessment of the benefits and risks as more evidence becomes available,” the state’s vaccine advisory group said Monday night.

While the vaccine is “highly effective,” authorities recommended the restriction because the reported clotting events carry “a very high risk of death or severe outcome,” the group said.

Russia Suspends Most Air Travel With Turkey (2:12 p.m. NY)

Russia suspended most air travel with Turkey, citing rising coronavirus infections, cutting off a key source of tourism revenue to the country amid tensions over Ankara’s support for Ukraine.

Most charter and regular flights will be suspended between April 15 and June 1, but two flights a week will still run between Moscow and Istanbul, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said in a televised briefing Monday. Fully 80% of the cases of Covid-19 identified in Russians returning from abroad were in people who came from Turkey, public-health chief Anna Popova told the same briefing.

Kentucky Sees Bourbon as Key to Vaccinations (1:45 p.m. NY)

In a bid to overcome vaccine hesitancy, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said he’ll remove nearly all pandemic restrictions once 2.5 million residents are vaccinated, allowing Kentuckians to join friends in their hallowed distillery tap rooms.

The move is what Beshear called a creative strategy to incentivize indifferent Kentuckians by dangling a carrot -- the removal of bar curfews and restaurant capacity restrictions that have hurt tourism centered on the state’s $8.5 billion bourbon-making industry.

Beshear’s plan called on employers in the rural and increasingly Republican state to encourage 900,000 more people to get a shot at a time when enthusiasm for the vaccine is waning. Roughly 42% of the state’s vaccine allotment went unused during the week of March 29 through April 2, and the state currently has more than 400,000 vaccines available to distribute.

Michigan Plea for More Doses Rebuffed (1:20 p.m. NY)

The Biden administration on Monday put Michigan’s Democratic governor on notice that her plea for more vaccine to be sent to the state isn’t going to happen, despite a surging Covid-19 outbreak there.

Shutdowns are needed to control the spike in cases, not more vaccine, said Rochelle Walensky, the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a Monday news briefing. Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a separate briefing that the administration is “not in a place, nor will we be, where we take supply from one state to give them to another.”

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has urged the federal government to increase the amount of vaccine sent to Michigan, which has the highest rate of new infections in the U.S.

N.Y. to Give Vaccines Directly to Colleges (11:30 a.m. NY)

New York state will be giving vaccines directly to colleges and universities so they can administer them to their students, Governor Andrew Cuomo said. The state is focusing on the 18-to-24-year-old population, which is growing in positivity, Cuomo said Monday during a press conference at Suffolk County Community College.

Cuomo urged students to protect themselves and others by getting the vaccine. The goal is to get students vaccinated this school year before they return home for the summer, he said.

Austria’s Capital Extends Lockdown to May 2 (11:25 a.m. NY)

The city of Vienna extended the regional lockdown measures for the Austrian capital until May 2 as intensive-care resources are increasingly strained by severe cases of coronavirus patients, Mayor Michael Ludwig told reporters. That means non-essential shops, services such as hairdressers will remain closed. Schools will also remain shut for most students until April 25. The lockdown was originally planned to be lifted gradually from next week.

Kenya Seeks Only WHO-Backed Vaccines (11:25 a.m. NY)

Kenya will only accept applications for emergency use of Covid-19 vaccines for jabs that have been listed by the World Health Organization, according to Ronald Inyangala, director in charge of products registration at the Pharmacy and Poisons Board.

A study into Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin has been temporarily stopped until the vaccine gets WHO approval, Inyangala said by phone on Monday. Kenya has so far allowed emergency use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine and Russia’s Sputnik V. The use of the latter, which hasn’t been listed by WHO, was frozen last week.

NYC Surpasses 5 Million Doses (10:30 a.m. NY)

New York City surpassed 5 million vaccine doses administered, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday. The city is now doling out over half a million doses a week in its quest to get 5 million of the city’s 8 million residents fully vaccinated by June, he said. A new vaccination site in Times Square opens Monday with dedicated appointments for film, television and theater workers as the city seeks to jump-start New York’s all-important arts and entertainment industry.

U.S. Weekly Death Toll Rises Again (10:23 a.m. NY)

The weekly death toll from Covid-19 in the U.S. rose for the first time since February, topping 7,000 for the period ending Sunday. Fatalities are again averaging about 1,000 a day, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg show. Meanwhile, infections have climbed for four straight weeks -- the longest streak since November. Two weeks ago, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned of “impending doom” even though more people are getting vaccinated.

U.K. Hits Vaccine Target; U.S. Deaths Rise: Virus Update

U.K. Shoppers Show Pent-Up Demand (10:20 a.m. NY)

Consumers flocked to shopping streets across England on Monday as non-essential retailers reopened after almost 100 days of lockdown, along with pubs and restaurants with outdoor space.

Shoppers lined up outside retailers on London’s famous Oxford Street, including the luxury department store Selfridges and outlets of sneaker retailer JD Sports Fashion Plc. Businesses are hoping the pent-up demand following England’s third lockdown will translate into bumper sales.

EMA Visits Sputnik V Clinics in Moscow (8:30 a.m. NY)

Experts from the European Medicines Agency visited a pair of clinics in Moscow that were involved with Phase 3 trials of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, Interfax reported Monday, citing an unidentified person familiar with the trip.

EU regulators are conducting a rolling review of Sputnik V, a process that could take several months. The inoculation has been approved in more than 50 countries, now including India.

Ireland Flags Covid-Related Stillbirths (7:35 a.m. NY)

Ireland has identified six stillbirths tied to Covid placentitis, a virus-related condition that leads to inflammation of the placenta. The findings make it “even more important that pregnant women do not come in contact with Covid,” Peter McKenna, the Irish health authority’s head of healthcare for women and infants, told RTE Radio. “The fact that this can affect the baby does change the emphasis a little bit.”

The frequency of cases in Ireland appears to be greater than elsewhere, McKenna said. “In the numbers we’re talking about, that hasn’t been recognized outside of Ireland,” he added.

U.S. Cancels Deal for Lilly’s Single Antibody (7:27 a.m. NY)

Eli Lilly & Co. said U.S. health officials canceled a deal for doses of its single antibody drug for Covid-19 to focus on the drugmaker’s combination treatment.

Health officials in three states have restricted use of Lilly’s single antibody because of possible reduced effectiveness against a new variant circulating in California. Dual antibody doses -- including a combination antibody treatment from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. -- are considered less likely to encounter resistance from new viral strains.

Separately, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. said that its antibody cocktail helped reduce the risk of symptomatic Covid-19 by 81% among household contacts of people who had the disease in a large trial. The finding that could pave the way for broader use of the drug.

Botswana Probes Deaths for Astra Link (7:01 a.m. NY)

Botswana’s health ministry asked the country’s health regulator to probe two deaths of people who had recently taken a Covid-19 vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India Ltd. on behalf of AstraZeneca Plc. The regulator has been tasked with finding out if the deaths are linked to taking the vaccine, the ministry said in a statement on Monday.

India Approves Sputnik V Shot (7 a.m. NY)

India granted emergency use approval to Russia’s highly effective Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, making it the third such shot approved by the nation as it races to contain an escalating health crisis amid a record daily surge in infections.

India reported a record 168,912 new Covid-19 cases Monday, with its total tally pushing past 13.5 million. India has seen more than 170,000 Covid deaths and administered 104.5 million vaccinations so far, according to data from its health ministry.

Some parts of India have already imposed partial lockdowns while states such as Maharashtra -- where financial hub Mumbai is located -- are seeing vaccine shortages. Adding a third vaccine to the country’s arsenal could ease the shortfall.

Efficacy Fears for China Vaccines (6:48 a.m. NY)

Concern is mounting that China’s Covid-19 vaccines are less effective at quelling the disease, raising questions about nations from Brazil to Hungary that are depending on the shots and the country’s own mammoth inoculation drive.

Research released Sunday showed the rate for Sinovac Biotech Ltd.’s vaccine -- deployed in Indonesia and Brazil -- was just above 50%, barely meeting the minimum protection required for Covid vaccines by leading global drug regulators. The other Chinese shots have reported efficacy rates of between 66% to 79%.

Vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc., Moderna Inc. and Russia’s Sputnik shot have delivered protection rates of more than 90%.

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