U.S. Count Eases; India Reports Record Death Toll:  Virus Update
A worker monitors commuters having their temperatures taken before boarding a bus at Victory Monument in Bangkok, Thailand. (Photographer: Luke Duggleby/Bloomberg)

U.S. Count Eases; India Reports Record Death Toll: Virus Update

The U.S. looks set for its first week since mid-September in which daily coronavirus cases have not exceeded 50,000.

India reported more than 4,000 daily deaths, a record, as the pandemic intensifies in the world’s worst-hit nation.

The European Union approved a contract with Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE for as many as 1.8 billion vaccine doses as the region bulks up its vaccination campaign through 2023.

Key Developments

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U.S. Count Eases; India Reports Record Death Toll:  Virus Update

U.S. Vaccination Pace Slows (3:51 p.m. NY)

The U.S. recorded 2.57 million vaccinations administered on Saturday, as the seven-day average slipped below 2 million for the first time since early March. Daily vaccinations fell from the previous day, with the general demand for vaccinations dropping sharply since a peak in mid-April, according to data from the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.

States around the U.S. are requesting fewer doses than allocated to them, and the Biden administration has said it will reallocate doses to places that can use them. Meantime, the focus of vaccinations is shifting from mass sites to smaller places like pharmacies, mobile clinics and doctors’ offices. A total of 257 million doses have been administered.

South Africa Finds India Variant (3:40 p.m. NY)

A variant of the coronavirus that was first detected in India has been found in four people in South Africa. Two cases of the B1.617.2 variant were identified in patients in the central Gauteng province and another two in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province, and all of them were isolated to prevent its spread, the health department said in a statement on Saturday. South Africa has confirmed 1.59 million Covid-19 cases so far, more than any other African nation, and 54,724 of those diagnosed with the disease have died.

‘Dracula’s Castle’ Offers Vaccinations (3:12 p.m. NY)

Romania’s Bran Castle, often cited as the inspiration for the home of the fictional Count Dracula, will be offering vaccinations every weekend this month as well as free admission to see the collection of 52 torture instruments, Reuters reported. Just over 21% of Romania’s adult population has received at least one dose of vaccine, among the lowest in Europe, according to data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

California Positive Rate at 1.2% (2:40 p.m. NY)

California’s positive test rate stood at 1.2%, little changed from the seven-day average. The state reported 1,945 new Covid-19 cases yesterday, a rate of 3.8 new cases per 100,000, the health department’s website said. There were 140 deaths for a total of 61,167. California has administered more than 32.1 million vaccines in total.

N.Y. Passes 60% With One Dose (12:30 p.m. NY)

New York state has administered at least one vaccine dose to 60% of people 18 years and older, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. Almost 48% in that age range are fully vaccinated, he said. New York ranks 10th in the U.S. for its pace of vaccinations, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.

The seven-day average for positive tests dropped to 1.47%, the lowest since late October, Cuomo said. Hospitalizations also fell, to 2,178, the lowest since November. Amid an easing of the state’s outbreak in recent weeks, another 3,195 cases and 32 deaths were reported.

Prince Harry Headlines Vaccine Special (12:06 p.m. NY)

Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, will headline a TV and social media special Saturday night that calls for action on speeding vaccines to the world’s most marginalized people.

Organized by the anti-poverty group Global Citizen, “Vax Live: The Concert to Reunite the World,” will air on ABC and CBS in the U.S., stream on YouTube, and later be shown in Europe and elsewhere. It comes at a time when developed countries have accounted for most of the 1.25 billion shots delivered to date, and pressure is rising to address the imbalance.

Selena Gomez will host, with musical performances from Jennifer Lopez, Eddie Vedder, the Foo Fighters, Colombia’s J Balvin, and H.E.R. President Joe Biden and the first lady will deliver pre-recorded remarks along with celebrities from Sean Penn to Gayle King.

Connecticut Has 242 ‘Breakthrough’ Cases (10:50 a.m. NY)

Connecticut, the top third state in the U.S. for vaccinations, has reported 242 “breakthrough” cases -- in which a person is infected after being fully vaccinated against Covid-19. That is out of a total 1,467,189 fully vaccinated people, or more than half of those 16 years and older in Connecticut, the state Department of Public Health reported on Friday.

Almost half had no symptoms, and three died. “The main takeaway is that Covid-19 vaccines are highly effective and cases of infection after a person is fully vaccinated are very rare,” acting health commissioner Deidre Gifford said in a press release.

Across the U.S., 9,245 breakthrough cases among 95 million fully vaccinated people were reported as of April 26, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, 132 died, and 27% of the cases were asymptomatic.

U.S. Cases Continue to Slow (8:08 a.m. NY)

The U.S. recorded 47,082 new cases on Friday, as daily infections fall or are roughly even in most states and territories, according to data from Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. The week is on track to be the first since mid-September in which daily cases have not exceeded 50,000.

Another 832 deaths were reported. The decline in fatalities following the holiday surge has flattened out, the data show.

U.K. Expert Optimistic on Covid’s End (6:15 a.m. NY)

One of the U.K.’s top vaccine experts said Covid-19 will no longer be circulating in Britain by August.

“Sometime in August, we will have no circulating virus in the U.K.,” Clive Dix, departing head of the country’s vaccine task force, told the Daily Telegraph in an interview.

The U.K. remains on track to meet its target of giving all adults at least one Covid-19 shot by the end of July, which should give adequate protection against all known variants of the disease, he added.

The widespread vaccination should even allow the country to delay the booster program beyond autumn to January or February next year, Dix said.

France May See ‘Crazy’ Months After Lockdown (6:10 a.m. NY)

A top French banker said the easing of lockdown restrictions could unleash “a few crazy months” of indulgence as people seek to enjoy themselves and spend money.

“I think we’re going to have a pretty dynamic recovery, we all want to go out to restaurants with our family and friends, party and travel,” Societe Generale SA Chief Executive Officer Frederic Oudea said on France Inter radio on Saturday. “People weren’t able to do a lot of things, and there will be a mood, mindset to go out and spend again.”

Companies will recover, many sectors are working fine and those with big difficulties like travel and hospitality are “limited” and have been helped by the government, he said.

EU Secures 1.8 Billion Doses (6 a.m. NY)

The EU approved a contract with Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE for 900 million vaccine doses guaranteed with the option of 900 million more through 2023. In a tweet, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said “other contracts and other vaccine technologies will follow.” In other comments, the Commission president said she’s open to discussing Joe Biden’s proposal to waive vaccine patents, but the U.S. needs to dramatically ramp up the shots it’s exporting.

Russia Outbreak Stabilizes (4 p.m. HK)

Russia recorded 8,329 new cases and 370 fatalities, as the pandemic toll stabilizes. The country is on an unplanned holiday through May 10 to slow the spread of Covid-19 with expectations that incidence of the disease will ease accordingly.

Hopes Rise in Germany for Easing (2:40 p.m. HK)

Germany recorded 15,090 new cases on Saturday, continuing a recent trend of slowly declining numbers. The country remains in a partial lockdown as officials grapple with a third wave of the virus, but accelerating vaccinations and shrinking infections are increasing hopes that the authorities can ease some restrictions.

U.K. Travel Means Lines, Tests (2:09 p.m. HK)

The U.K. government’s decision to loosen border rules frees Britons to feed their pent-up appetite for leisure travel. But getting to a sun spot and back this summer will be neither easy nor particularly cheap.

The new policy that takes effect on May 17 lists just a handful of destinations -- including Portugal, Israel and Singapore -- as green in the so-called traffic-light system. For now, Greece and Spain are excluded, and most of the dozen deemed safe aren’t yet accepting visitors.

While passengers returning from green-lit places won’t be asked to quarantine, they’ll be subject to expensive Covid-19 tests that airlines warn could put the cost of a summer vacation out of reach for many U.K. families on a budget.

U.S. Count Eases; India Reports Record Death Toll:  Virus Update

India Reports Record Daily Deaths (11:41 a.m. HK)

India reported a record 4,187 deaths as the nation battles the world’s worst outbreak of the virus. The country added 401,078 new cases as the capital New Delhi and other big metro cities continue to report fresh infections. Tamil Nadu, a southern state, joined a growing list of provinces to announce a lockdown to curb the spread and ease pressure on the health system.

U.S. Count Eases; India Reports Record Death Toll:  Virus Update

Hospitals around the country have been overwhelmed by the fresh wave of infections with oxygen supplies running short in medical facilities due to the sudden surge in demand.

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