N.J. Sees 20% Spike; Bidens Receive Pfizer Vaccine: Virus Update
Shoppers walk along Regent Street, after the capital was placed into tier 3 coronavirus restrictions, in London, U.K. (Photographer: Betty Laura Zapata/Bloomberg)

N.J. Sees 20% Spike; Bidens Receive Pfizer Vaccine: Virus Update

Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s Covid-19 vaccine won the backing of a key European review panel, clearing the way for inoculations to start before year-end.

Europe and regions from Canada to Hong Kong suspended travel links to the U.K., as a full lockdown came into force in London and southeast England to contain a mutation to the coronavirus.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has asked the three airlines that fly from the U.K. directly to New York to add the state to a list of 120 countries requiring pre-boarding Covid tests. He said he believes the new strain is already circulating in New York.

In Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking, a measure of the best places to be in the Covid-19 era, the U.S. ranking dropped steeply, as the death toll has surged with one American dying from the virus every 41 seconds over the past month.

Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases pass 76.8 million; deaths top 1.69 million
  • U.S. Hot Spots: Covid killing faster in rural areas than cities
  • The best and worst places to be in Covid: U.S. drops in ranking
  • U.S. virus relief package includes tax breaks, airlines aid
  • Europe turns to super-freezers, church leaders in vaccine drive
  • Sydney’s swelling Covid outbreak risks scuppering Christmas

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N.J. Sees 20% Spike; Bidens Receive Pfizer Vaccine: Virus Update

Bidens Get Coronavirus Vaccine (3:53 p.m. NY)

President-Elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, received the coronavirus vaccine on Monday, joining a list of U.S. political leaders who’ve sought to boost public confidence in the shot.

Joe Biden received the first of a two-shot regimen at a public event at ChristianaCare Hospital in Wilmington, Delaware, on Monday. Jill Biden got the vaccine earlier in the day. Both received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

China Vaccine Found Effective in Brazil, WSJ Says (3:21 p.m. NY)

China’s Sinovac vaccine, which scientists hope can be used to combat Covid-19 in much of the developing world, has shown to be effective in late-stage trials in Brazil, people involved in its development told The Wall Street Journal.

Brazil is the first country in the world to complete Phase 3 trials of Sinovac’s vaccine, CoronaVac, which is also being tested in Indonesia and Turkey, the Journal reported. With Covid-19 largely under control in China, the country’s vaccine developers have had to conduct their clinical trials abroad.

U.S. Airlines Carry 1 Million for Third Day (2 p.m. NY)

Americans are putting aside health risks and flying in increasing numbers during the Christmas holiday season.

Sunday was the third day in a row in which more than 1 million people passed through U.S. airport screening, the first time that has occurred since the virus erupted in mid-March, according to Transportation Security Administration data.

Airline travel during the Covid-19 pandemic remains well below 2019 levels, however. Even with the recent surge, the number of people flying on Friday through Sunday was only 42% of the equivalent three days last year.

N.J. Sees Post-Holiday Case Spike (1:22 p.m. NY)

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said there’s been a 20% increase in cases since Thanksgiving, up to 4,800 a day on average since the holiday. Some of those days have recorded totals of more than 6,000 new cases. He warned New Jerseyans not to travel or gather with those outside immediate family.

“This is not the year for Christmas or New Year’s Eve as usual,” he said Monday at a virus briefing. “We cannot take the risk of one or both of those celebrations leading to a growth in cases.”

New Jersey reported 3,186 new positive test results for the coronavirus, bringing cumulative positives to a total of 435,463. Its positivity rate for tests stood at 10.78%. One data point of good news: The state’s rate of transmission was 0.99, the point at which spread rates may start

“This is the first time in a long time that RT is below 1, but we are still recording big numbers,” the governor said. He warned against overstating its significance. “We had 5,200 just yesterday,” he said, of the state’s new cases.

U.K. Official Says Vaccines Likely to Work on New Strain (1:20 p.m. NY)

The U.K.’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, warned the public to stay local to keep the new coronavirus strain in check, but said some areas of England will face tighter restrictions with the variant likely to spread across the country.

Speaking at a press conference alongside Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who ordered London and much of southeast England into lockdown over the weekend, Vallance said current vaccines should work against the latest Covid-19 mutation.

NIH to Study Allergic Reactions Linked to Covid-19 Shots (12:55 p.m. NY)

The U.S. National Institutes of Health plans to begin a clinical trial that aims to help doctors “predict and manage” allergic reactions related to the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE Covid-19 vaccine, according to Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific adviser to Operation Warp Speed, the U.S. vaccine program.

Slaoui said during a Monday news briefing that the aim of the trial, which will also study the Moderna Inc. shot just authorized for emergency use, will be to pinpoint why the incidents, known as anaphylaxis, are occurring.

WHO Eyes Emergency Use OK for Pfizer Shot This Month (12:47 p.m. NY)

The World Health Organization is finalizing its emergency use listing for the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE vaccine, likely to be issued before the end of December, said Mariangela Simao, assistant director-general for drug access, vaccines and pharmaceuticals.

The WHO’s vaccination dashboard, which will track inoculations worldwide, is planned to go live early in 2021 and will “hopefully” be updated monthly, said Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan. She added a limited Pfizer shot rollout through the facility run by Covax, the global effort to ensure that countries get equal access to vaccines, could start late January or early February.

Separately, WHO officials said there is no evidence yet that a new virus variant seen in the U.K. is likely to cause more severe disease, or that it will impact the value of vaccines.

N.Y.’s Cuomo Calls for Testing of Passengers From U.K. (12:01 p.m. NY)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has asked the three airlines that fly from the U.K. directly to New York to add the state to a list of 120 countries requiring pre-boarding Covid tests.

British Airways has already agreed to do so, starting Tuesday, Cuomo said Monday at a virus briefing. The other two airlines are Delta and Virgin Atlantic, he said. The three carry several thousand passengers every day, said Cuomo, who added that he believes “intuitively” that the new mutation found in the U.K. has already reached the U.S.

“I hope the other two airlines agree, or New York state will consider other options,” he said.

Cuomo blasted the U.S. government for “doing nothing” and urged officials to enact a travel ban from the U.K. or require testing of passengers. The new strain of the virus that has been discovered in the U.K. “is flying around the world,” he said.

“I believe intuitively it’s already here,” the governor said. “This is another disaster waiting to happen.”

N.Y. MTA Says Aid Deal Avoids Major Cuts (11:02 a.m. NY)

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it stands to receive $4 billion of aid from the economic stimulus agreement struck in Congress, allowing the nation’s biggest mass-transit system to avoid thousands of job cuts and deep reductions to bus, subway and commuter train service.

The latest coronavirus relief package will help balance the MTA’s budget through 2021 by making up for its steep revenue loss over the course of the pandemic. The MTA last week approved a $17.1 billion budget for 2021 that put off some of the draconian measures under consideration to close its deficit, assuming Congress would allocate more money to the agency.

South Africa Faces Hospital Strain (11 a.m. NY)

South Africa’s private hospital operators have warned that they are facing severe capacity constraints due to a resurgence in coronavirus cases.

The Covid-19 pandemic first peaked in Africa’s most industrialized economy in late July before infections tailed off. The country is in the midst of a second wave of the disease that began shortly before the festive season -- which sees millions of people traverse the country to holiday destinations and home towns and villages.

Netcare Ltd., Life Healthcare Group Holdings Ltd and Mediclinic International Plc, the country’s three biggest private hospital groups, which had spare capacity in most areas during the initial surge, all said they were confronting bed shortages.

NYC Vaccinates More Than 18,000 (11 a.m. NY)

New York City is vaccinating at more than twice the national rate, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. More than 18,000 doses were administered as of Dec. 20. That’s 42.2% of all available doses, compared with 19.6% for the U.S., de Blasio said Monday at a virus briefing.

“We are going to keep speeding that up further and further,” he said.

Luxembourg Extends Restrictions (10:25 a.m. NY)

Luxembourg will go into a fuller lockdown from Dec. 26 to at least Jan. 10, closing all non-essential shops, extending school holidays by an additional week with home-schooling for that period, and moving up the existing curfew to 9 p.m. from 11 p.m. All sport activities will be stopped, home-working will become the norm where possible and alcohol will be prohibited in public, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said at a press conference Monday. Restaurants, bars have been closed since Nov. 26.

EU Regulator Optimistic Shot Will Work Against New Strain (10:12 a.m. NY)

The European regulator said it is “very likely” the Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE vaccine will offer protection against the new strain of Covid-19 spreading in the U.K., as the watchdog recommends the approval of the shot.

Marco Cavaleri, chair of the European Medicines Agency’s pandemic taskforce, said that while more evidence is needed, the antibody response seen from the shot suggests the new strain shouldn’t compromise its effectiveness. If, however, the spike protein from the virus mutated that would cause concern, he said.

“Even if we don’t have yet full confirmation, it is very likely that the vaccine will retain protection and also against this new variant,” said Cavaleri at a press conference after the EMA recommended the clearance. We would be worried “if we see multiple mutations, particularly in the spike protein” that would alter the antigenic profile of the virus with respect to the vaccines.

Amazon Shuts N.J. Warehouse After Spike (10:09 a.m. NY)

Amazon.com Inc. has temporarily closed a New Jersey warehouse after a spike there in asymptomatic Covid-19 cases, a rare move that comes as the company gears up for a final push in what’s widely expected to be a record holiday shopping season.

The world’s largest online retailer told employees at the warehouse in Robbinsville Township that the facility will be shuttered until Dec. 26, a spokesperson confirmed.

Pfizer, BioNTech Vaccine Wins European Backing (9:20 a.m. NY)

Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine won the backing of a key European review panel. European Union leaders pushed the European Medicines Agency to speed up its review amid complaints that residents across the continent were still waiting to get a vaccine -- pioneered in Germany -- that is already being used in the U.K. and U.S.

The goal is to start a European immunization campaign on Dec. 27, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said last week.

U.K. Mutation Also Found in Australia, Denmark (8:21 a.m. NY)

The new faster-spreading mutation of the virus has also been detected in Australia, Denmark and Gibraltar, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, Jamie Davies, told reporters on Monday.

Switzerland Bans U.K., South African Arrivals (7:45 a.m. NY)

Switzerland is banning the entry of all arrivals from the U.K. and South Africa following the discovery of the new and more contagious variant of the coronavirus. Those who have entered from either country since Dec. 14 are subject to 10-day quarantine. Flights were suspended as of midnight on Sunday. No cases of the new strain have so far been identified in Switzerland.

Malaysia Condom Maker, Panasonic Unit Find Covid Cases (7:30 a.m. NY)

Karex Bhd., the world’s top producer of condoms, and Panasonic Manufacturing Malaysia Bhd. became the latest companies in the Southeast Asian nation to say that some of their employees caught the coronavirus.

Karex said 35 tested positive after a routine screening of more than 2,000 employees, while Panasonic said it found 116 cases among its 2,137 workers.

U.S. Resilience Ranking Drops (6:37 p.m. HK)

In Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking, the U.S. dropped 19 places to 37th position. The U.S. authorized two cutting-edge mRNA vaccines this month and hundreds of thousands of doses have been rolled out, but that is yet to translate to an easing of the devastation on the ground. New Zealand remains in the top position, and the U.K. dropped two places to 30th.

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