Michigan Lawmakers Ask for Help; Europe Eyes Curbs: Virus Update
(Bloomberg) -- Europe, the pandemic’s epicenter once more, is debating new measures to curb Covid-19’s resurgence to try to avert blunt, unpopular restrictions like curfews and lockdowns.
Germany may consider vaccine mandates for some groups, according to Olaf Scholz, the country’s next chancellor. Italy may announce rules for unvaccinated people. France will speed up its immunization campaign, and Denmark is seeking to make masks mandatory for people using public transportation.
About 92% of U.S. government employees have had at least one Covid-19 shot following President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for the federal workforce, according to data released Wednesday. Michigan lawmakers asked Biden to help fight the state’s outbreak.
Russian President Vladimir Putin meantime said he was feeling “fine” after taking two different boosters.
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Michigan Lawmakers Seek Help (4:35 p.m. NY)
Michigan lawmakers wrote President Joe Biden to “urgently request” help in combating a Covid-19 outbreak that’s overwhelming the state’s health system.
U.S. Representatives Debbie Dingell, a Democrat, and Republican Fred Upton sent a letter Wednesday asking the president to provide treatments, including Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s antibody therapy, rapid-testing supplies and military medical personnel to support hospitals coping with near-record levels of Covid patients.
Michigan has the highest per capita rate of Covid cases in the U.S., with hospitalizations reaching 4,080 as of Wednesday, approaching a record set in April 2020.
Trinidad and Tobago Faces Worst Spike (2 p.m. NY)
Trinidad and Tobago is experiencing its worst spike in Covid-19 cases, and at least five of its hospitals are at over 80% capacity, as case numbers rise across much of the Caribbean, the Pan-American Health Organization said. Trinidad and Tobago is just one of several Caribbean counties struggling with an uptick in infections, PAHO said.
While Central America saw a 37% reduction in new infections over the last week, in South America almost every country but Brazil, Suriname and Venezuela reported increased Covid rates, with the largest jumps occurring in Ecuador and Paraguay.
“These trends are telling,” PAHO Director Carissa Etienne said during a weekly press event. “Even though Covid cases have dropped significantly over the last few months, Covid transmission is still active across our region, so every time we lower our guard, the virus gains momentum.”
Pfizer Says Worker Stole Vaccine Secrets (12:10 p.m. NY)
Pfizer Inc. alleged a “soon-to-be-former employee” uploaded thousands of files including documents with trade secrets regarding the company’s Covid-19 vaccine.
Chun Xiao (Sherry) Li allegedly uploaded more than 12,000 files including “scores” of documents with confidential information, according to a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. The documents pertained to a broad range of topics including analysis of vaccine studies, operational goals, and development plans for new drugs.
Pfizer said in the complaint it believed Li was going to Xencor Inc. and that she provided “decoy” laptop when confronted about downloads.
Biden Mandate Yields 92% With Shot (11 a.m. NY)
About 92% of federal government employees have had at least one Covid-19 shot, according to data released by the administration following President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for the workforce.
An agency-by-agency breakdown of compliance rates on Wednesday showed a range of outcomes. Across the government, 92% of the estimated 3.5 million federal workers have at least one dose. About 4.5% -- more than 157,000 people -- either have requested or been granted exemptions from the mandate, the report also found.
The Agency for International Development has the highest vaccination rate, with 97.8% of its workforce receiving at least one shot, while the Department of Agriculture has the lowest, with 86.1%.
Denmark Proposes New Curbs (10:20 a.m. NY)
Denmark’s government proposes to make face masks mandatory for people using public transportation in the country’s latest effort to halt the recent rise in Covid-19 contamination.
The country, which has one of the world’s highest vaccination rates with almost 90% of its adult population having received at least one jab, has introduced new restrictions to cope with the peak in confirmed cases.
On Wednesday, Denmark saw most daily new cases since December 2020, when the government introduced a winter lockdown of the economy. Two weeks ago, the country reintroduced a so-called corona passport, which means people have to prove vaccination, a negative test or immunity through previous contamination when attending public events. State workers will also have to present the passport to show up physically for work.
The government will need to get backing from a majority in parliament.
Oslo Mulls New Restrictions (9:34 a.m. NY)
Oslo is recommending that face masks be used again in shops and public transport after a rise in infections in the Norwegian capital. A balance needs to be found between an open society and measures to limit infection, Governing Mayor Raymond Johansen told a meeting of the city council on Wednesday.
Germany’s Scholz May Force Shots for Some (9:28 a.m. NY)
Olaf Scholz, who will succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor, said his coalition government would consider vaccine mandates for people who work with vulnerable groups. Scholz said his government, which is expected to be sworn in in early December, will do everything to fight the pandemic.
Merkel asked members of the new coalition to impose a two-week lockdown but officials refused, according to a report by the newspaper Bild.
The number of infections in the country rose to a record 66,884, and the seven-day incidence rate per 100,000 people climbed above 400 for the first time, according to the latest data from the RKI public-health institute.
Putin ‘Feeling Fine’ After Taking Two Boosters (7:52 a.m. NY)
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was feeling “fine” after taking an experimental nasal Covid vaccine booster earlier this week.
The nasal version is still in clinical tests and hasn’t been approved by regulators. Putin, 69, also received an injected booster of the locally developed Sputnik Light a day earlier.
Switzerland First to Give Covax Vaccine Priority (7:50 a.m. NY)
Switzerland has become the first and only country so far to swap places in the vaccine supply queue with the global distribution program known as Covax, expediting the delivery of a small number of Moderna Inc. doses to lower-income nations.
Covax will get access to 1 million doses of the Moderna vaccine that were originally headed to Switzerland before the end of the year, according to a statement from the vaccine alliance Gavi. Switzerland will then take Covax’s spot and receive the doses later in 2022.
The government decided to hold off on tightening federal virus measures but it urged people to wear masks, keep their distance, air indoor spaces and get tested. The country votes on Nov. 28 whether the mandatory use of Covid certificates for access to indoor spaces and events should be maintained.
France to Bolster Pandemic Measures (7:31 a.m. NY)
France plans to reinforce measures to contain the virus, including wearings masks, social distancing and the use of health passes, and speed up its vaccination campaign in an effort to avoid the need for further restrictions such as curfews and lockdowns, according to government spokesman Gabriel Attal.
French Health Minister Olivier Veran will detail the measures at a news conference on Thursday, Attal told reporters following a cabinet meeting.
EU Awaits Vaccine Data to Unveil Travel Rules (6:56 a.m. NY)
The European Union delayed unveiling a proposal to update its Covid travel guidelines as it waits for guidance from the bloc’s public-health agency on the efficacy of different vaccines.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, may present the proposal later this week or early next week, depending on when it receives data from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, according to officials familiar with the plans.
The proposal will likely recommend that nations impose travel restrictions based on whether individuals have been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid, rather than the current system that judges where people are traveling from, said the officials who asked not to be identified because the preparations are private.
Cyprus Adopts New Curbs in Vaccine Push (6:56 a.m. NY)
Cyprus announced new restrictions, including a ban starting Dec. 15 preventing the non-vaccinated from entering venues such as theaters, cinemas, nightclubs and restaurants. The country’s health pass, which allows vaccinated people access, will also cease to be valid for those who haven’t received a booster shot within seven months of completing the initial vaccination schedule. Starting next week, all adults who aren’t vaccinated will need PCR tests conducted within 72 hours or rapid tests within 48 hours to enter indoor spaces.
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