U.S. Deaths Top 400,000; Merkel Strikes Curb Deal: Virus Update
A notice and a TraceTogether sign on a cafe window in Singapore. (Photographer: Lauryn Ishal/Bloomberg)

U.S. Deaths Top 400,000; Merkel Strikes Curb Deal: Virus Update

The number of U.S. deaths topped 400,000, the worst toll in the world, even as cases fell in all regions. New York City will have to close vaccination sites after Thursday unless it receives a major resupply, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and regional leaders agreed to extend and tighten Germany’s restrictions. Ireland’s hospitalizations fell for the first time since Dec. 22, and France is seeing benefits from an earlier curfew. Portugal and the U.K. reported record deaths, while Italy saw some positive indications.

In Asia, Indonesia had its deadliest day of the pandemic. Hong Kong will extend social-distancing measures, expand mandatory testing and introduce restrictions in certain neighborhoods as cases surge. The city will also ban travelers from Ireland and Brazil.

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U.S. Deaths Top 400,000; Merkel Strikes Curb Deal: Virus Update

L.A. County to Vaccinate Older Residents (4:45 p.m. NY)

Los Angeles County started accepting reservations for residents 65 years and older after an order from county Supervisor Hilda Solis.

County public health director Barbara Ferrer said at press conference Tuesday that more than 70% of the 685,000 doses the county has received have already been administered, and another 168,000 shots are expected by Wednesday. She said the county expects to be able to offer 50,000 appointments this week.

Texas Halts Liquor Sales at Crowded Clubs (4:04 p.m. NY)

Texas suspended the liquor licenses of three Houston nightclubs after large gatherings of unmasked partiers drew criticism from the mayor of the fourth-largest U.S. city.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner engaged in a three-day Twitter war with fans of rapper Bow Wow after social-media posts of the artist’s sold-out Jan. 15 show sparked outrage over non-existent antivirus measures.

“Safe to say the mayor of Houston hates my guts,” Bow Wow tweeted on Monday. “I can’t believe I get the blame for a whole weekend. This is ridiculous.”

The liquor-license suspensions stemmed from failures to limit capacity and enforce social-distancing and mask requirements, the state’s alcoholic-beverage regulator said in a statement on Tuesday. Meanwhile, hospitalizations climbed statewide for a second straight day and intensive-care units were maxed out in three of Texas’s 22 hospital regions, health department figures showed.

Merkel Tightens Curbs, Warns on Border (4 p.m. NY)

Chancellor Angela Merkel and regional leaders agreed to extend and tighten Germany’s coronavirus restrictions to check the stubborn spread of the disease. She also warned that she might impose border controls without coordinated efforts to guard against risks posed by new strains.

On a video call on Tuesday, Merkel and the premiers of the 16 federal states prolonged lockdown rules -- which include closing non-essential stores and movement restrictions in hard-hit areas -- until Feb. 14. While select measures were sharpened, Europe’s largest economy stopped short of imposing a national curfew as in France.

Merkel extended her tough line to Germany’s neighbors, calling on European partners to synchronize measures to contain mutations. Otherwise, travel restrictions would be imposed.

“We don’t have all the time in the world to act,” Merkel said at a news conference after more than seven hours of tense discussions. “We need to act now” to prevent the risks posed by new virus mutations.

U.S. Deaths Exceed 400,000 (2:45 p.m. NY)

The U.S. has recorded 400,000 Covid-19 deaths, a sobering milestone that comes as the nation prepares to inaugurate a new president who has pledged to speed up vaccine delivery and promote protective measures like mask-wearing as a patriotic duty.

With more than 24 million Covid-19 infections, the U.S. has been the world leader in cases and deaths, contributing about a fifth of the more than 2 million fatalities reported globally. India and Brazil are next in line.

Abbott’s Binax Misses Some Cases (1:20 p.m. NY)

Abbott Laboratories’ BinaxNOW, a 15-minute test for Covid-19, may miss nearly two-thirds of infections in those without symptoms, according to a federal study that suggests repeat testing is needed to catch people when they are most contagious.

Moderna Slides After California Warning (12:50 p.m.)

Moderna fell as much as 7.1% Tuesday after the California state epidemiologist advised a pause in the distribution of a batch of the biotech’s Covid-19 vaccine amid a rise in the number of possible severe allergic reactions. The move was done “out of an extreme abundance of caution,” said Erica Pan, the epidemiologist.

U.K. Records Most Deaths in Single Day (11:40 a.m. NY)

The U.K. reported 1,610 new deaths from the coronavirus on Tuesday, the most reported in a single day.

A further 33,355 cases were reported, lower than the seven-day rolling average of 44,997. The average number of new cases has been steadily falling since early January, although it remains significantly higher as a more infectious strain spreads through the country.

There are now more than 4.26 million people who have received their first coronavirus vaccine dose.

The number of deaths reported in the U.K. is often higher on Tuesdays due to a backlog that accumulates over the weekend. Deaths are within 28 days of a positive test, and are reported on the day they are recorded, not the day they occur.

Italy Sees Some Positive Signs (11:35 a.m. NY)

Italy reported 10,497 new cases compared with 8,825 the day before, but down 26% from a week earlier. The test positivity rate fell to 4.1% from 5.6%. Daily fatalities jumped to 603 from 377 on Monday. Patients in intensive-care units fell by 57 to 2,487, the fewest since early November.

NYC Warns Supply May Run Out This Week (10:51 a.m. NY)

New York City will have to close vaccination sites after Thursday if it doesn’t get a major resupply, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

The city wants to vaccinate 300,000 people this week but has only about 92,000 doses, de Blasio said in a Tuesday briefing. More than 450,000 doses have been in administered in the city.

“At this rate, we will run out on Thursday and hit zero on Friday,” de Blasio said. “We will not be able to give shots at a lot of our sites. We won’t get shots until next week.”

De Blasio said the city is opening massive vaccination sites that will be operating around the clock, seven days a week at Citi Field in Queens and Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. “Capacity is growing every day, but it won’t work without the vaccine,” he said.

Slovenia Eyes Vaccine Coverage by Summer (10:43 a.m. NY)

Slovenia ordered and is expecting to get 3.23 million doses of currently approved Covid-19 vaccines in 2021, premier Janez Jansa said. The Alpine state of 2.1 million people can achieve immunization coverage by the beginning of summer, Jansa said.

Slovenia is third in the world by number of deaths per million inhabitants, behind San Marino and Belgium, according to Our World in Data.

The nation’s Covid-19 death toll reached 3,231 on Monday. Although the number of new infections is dropping, as well as positivity rates and the reproductive rate, which fell to 0.95 at the start of the week, the number of patients that need hospital care is hovering at 1,200, with 187 needing intensive care.

Portugal Reports Record Deaths Again (10:22 a.m. NY)

Portugal on Tuesday reported the biggest daily increase in deaths from the coronavirus since the start of the outbreak. There were 218 fatalities in a day, more than the previous record of 167 on Monday, taking the total to 9,246 deaths.

The government reported 10,455 new confirmed coronavirus infections in a day, less than a record 10,947 cases announced on Saturday. The number of patients in intensive-care units rose by six to 670. The country’s national health service has a capacity of about 1,200 ICU beds.

Scotland Extends Lockdown (9:54 a.m. NY)

Scotland extended its lockdown until at least the middle of February as the rate of coronavirus infections puts severe pressure on the health service.

U.K. Watchdog: Vaccine Reactions Normal (9:46 a.m. NY)

The U.K.’s health regulator said it hasn’t seen any worrisome reactions to Covid-19 vaccines so far after reports from Norway raised safety concerns. “There’s nothing unusual in what we’re seeing,” June Raine, interim chief executive officer of the U.K. Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, said at a public board meeting Tuesday.

India to Ship Vaccines to S. Asian Nations (9:45 a.m. NY)

India will begin shipping coronavirus vaccines to Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles from Jan. 20. The vaccines will be sent as grant assistance and will cover health-care providers, front-line workers and the most vulnerable in the South Asian nations, the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

India is waiting for regulatory clearances from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius to send out vaccines, it said.

Polish Deputy Premier Sasin Hospitalized (9:37 a.m. NY)

Polish Deputy Premier and Minister of State Assets Jacek Sasin has been hospitalized with Covid-19, his spokesperson said by phone.

Netherlands Faces More Measures (9 a.m. NY)

The Dutch caretaker government will announce further measures on Wednesday, according to Health Minister Hugo de Jonge. Concern about new variants has prompted the cabinet to weigh additional steps on top of the lockdown in place until at least Feb. 9. A curfew or lowering the number of home visitors are possible, according to local media reports.

Homeless Danes to Get Early Shots (8:17 a.m. NY)

Denmark has added homeless people to the list of those set to be vaccinated against Covid-19 early on, as the country barrels ahead of the rest of the EU in inoculating its population. Almost 3% of Danes have now received at least one immunization shot since the program started shortly after Christmas. Still, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told lawmakers on Tuesday that a lockdown currently set to stay in place until Feb. 7 may need to be extended.

Ireland Sees Hopeful Sign (7:13 a.m. NY)

Ireland’s Covid-19 hospitalizations fell for the first time since Dec. 22, a sign one of the world’s worst outbreaks may be abating. There were 1,954 confirmed cases in the hospital on Tuesday morning, according to health authority data, down from 2,023 a day earlier. Still, the hospital system remains under pressure, with about 94% of intensive-care beds occupied across the country. Intensive care is full in 13 of Ireland’s 29 public hospitals.

France Sees Effect of Earlier Curfew (6:26 a.m. NY)

France is starting to see the effect of an earlier curfew on the coronavirus spread, Health Minister Olivier Veran said on France Inter radio on Tuesday. In areas that extended the measure by two hours to 6 p.m. starting Jan. 2, the number of weekly new cases is about 16% lower than in other regions, the minister said. France expanded the earlier curfew nationwide starting Saturday.

France isn’t facing an exponential spread at this time, even if the situation remains “worrisome,” according to the minister. Veran said 1.4% of positive PCR tests in the country are of more transmissible variants of Covid-19.

Singapore Defers Reopening Nightclubs (6:19 a.m. NY)

Singapore will defer reopening some nightclubs and karaoke outlets until further notice following an increase in the number of community cases. The reopening under a pilot program was due to start this month.

London Metal Exchange May Shut Floor (6:15 a.m. NY)

The London Metal Exchange will propose permanently closing its open-outcry trading floor, putting an end to the century-old practice of setting the world’s metals prices in a daily shouting match.

The trading floor known as “the Ring” is one of the last of its kind in the world. It’s been closed since the U.K.’s first lockdown in March, when the LME switched to an electronic system. The 10 months of smooth operations since then have revived a years-long debate about whether the Ring has outlived its usefulness.

Russia Says 2nd Vaccine 100% Effective: Tass (6 a.m. NY)

Immunological efficacy of the second Russian vaccine, EpiVacCorona -- developed by Vector State Virology and Biotechnology Center in Siberia -- is 100%, based on clinical trial data, Tass reported, citing public health agency Rospotrebnadzor.

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