More States Open Vaccines to Anyone 16 and Older: Virus Update
(Bloomberg) -- The European Union and the U.K. signaled a thawing of relations over vaccine sharing, just hours after the bloc escalated their long-running public battle with tougher restrictions on exports of shots. At least three more U.S. states expanded vaccine eligibility to anyone 16 and older.
Poland reported record new cases, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel dropped plans for a strict Easter lockdown. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi called on allies across Europe to guarantee “strategic autonomy” by forging a vaccine production chain across the continent.
BioNTech SE said it initiated an investigation following issues with the packaging material for vaccine vials that led Hong Kong and Macau to suspend immunizations with the company’s shots. Meantime, Singapore will relax measures to allow more people to return to offices and permit larger gatherings.
- Global Tracker: Cases pass 124 million; deaths exceed 2.73 million
- Vaccine Tracker: More than 468 million shots given worldwide
- Biden uses Trump’s ‘America first’ vaccine plan to corner market
- Under pressure, Bolsanaro pivots on pandemic response in Brazil
- Hispanic vaccination rate in U.S. lags with 16 states under 10%
- ‘Too many questions’: Decades of mistrust spur vaccine hesitancy
CDC Dashes Cruise Industry Hopes for Restart (4:15 p.m. NY)
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is holding firm on a phased return to cruise-line operations, dashing the industry’s hopes for a swift restart.
Cruise Lines International Association, the main lobbying group for cruise companies including Carnival Corp., issued a statement earlier Wednesday calling for the CDC to drop the order and agree to let U.S. sailings resume by July.
But in an emailed response to questions, the CDC said the so-called Framework for Conditional Sailing Order, or CSO, remains in effect.
“Returning to passenger cruising is a phased approach to mitigate the risk of spreading Covid-19,” the CDC said. “Details for the next phase of the CSO are currently under interagency review.”
Louisiana Joins Rush to Open Eligibility (3:40 p.m. NY)
Louisiana joined the growing list of U.S. states allowing anyone age 16 and older to receive coronavirus vaccines. Idaho and Utah announced similar moves earlier Wednesday.
Idaho Expands Shot Eligibility (2:30 p.m. NY)
Idaho Governor Brad Little said all residents over age 16 will be eligible for vaccinations on April 5. Utah announced a similar decision earlier Wednesday.
N.J. Hospitalizations Rising (1:50 p.m. NY)
New Jersey hospitalizations for Covid-19 are on the rise. The number of patients has reached 2,136, the most since Feb. 19. Hospitalizations have increased every day but one since March 12, state data show.
Intensive-care patients number 430, roughly the same as a month ago. In all, 218 patients were using ventilators to breathe, down from 273 on Feb. 23.
“We know these variants are more easily transmissible,” Governor Phil Murphy said Wednesday, referring to mutations of the coronavirus. At the same time, the most severe illnesses appeared to be trending downward. “There might be a decoupling between hospitalizations on one hand and intensive care and ventilator use on the other hand.”
Murphy warned residents to continue wearing masks and staying socially distant as vaccinations are expected to ramp up. The state has administered more than 3.6 million doses, enough for 20.9% of the population, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.
Utah Expands Eligibility to 16 and Older (12:45 p.m. NY)
Utah became the latest U.S. state to open eligibility for vaccinations to those 16 and older, the Deseret News reported. The move adds about 1 million people to the list of those eligible for the vaccine, the newspaper said. Utah’s population is roughly 3 million.
Duterte Warns Vaccine Line Jumpers (11:30 a.m. NY)
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warned officials against jumping the vaccine queue, saying the nation risks losing donated doses from the World Health Organization-backed Covax facility if health workers aren’t prioritized.
Five mayors and a local celebrity’s son may face charges for being inoculated ahead of priority groups, Duterte said in a televised briefing late Wednesday. “We accepted the donations knowing fully well that we have to honor the condition. Right now, we’re not complying,” he said.
Iceland Imposes Tighter Limits (11:30 a.m. NY)
Iceland, whose handling of the pandemic is regarded as one of the best in the world, is imposing tighter social measures following a surge in infections linked to the British variant. The new restrictions, which will be in effect for three weeks, include closing schools and universities.
“Now is the time to react strongly and swiftly,” Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir said a news briefing. “Our conclusion is that reacting decisively now will help us get this down quickly.”
Germany Eyes Travel Limits for Holiday Spots (10:45 a.m. NY)
The German government is looking at alternative measures to halt the spread of the coronavirus after abandoning its plan for a five-day Easter shutdown, spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said.
Cyprus Opening to Visitors (8:49 a.m. NY)
Cyprus will open its borders starting April 1 to visitors from the U.S., Russia and Ukraine, the tourism ministry said Wednesday. All travelers who were tested and proven to be Covid-free and who haven’t come into close contact with a confirmed case will be guaranteed a quarantine-free stay, it said. Cyprus said Tuesday that it will reopen borders in April for those coming from Israel, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, while visitors from the U.K. can come from May 1.
Colorado Relaxes Rules (8:47 a.m. NY)
Colorado has eased more Covid-19 restrictions and lifted all limits on the size of personal gatherings, the state’s Department of Public Health and Environment said. The state will also allow bars to open at limited capacity in counties with a low case count, the department said.
Belgium Tightens Restrictions (8:07 a.m. NY)
Belgium’s federal government and regions tightened virus restrictions for the first time since late October, closing schools one week ahead of a two-week Easter break, and ordering hairdressers and beauty salons to shut again for four weeks starting Saturday.
Belgium is shying away from stricter lockdown measures enacted twice last year, however, allowing non-essential retailers to stay open on appointment and not issuing limits to domestic movements.
Italy Police Find Astra Doses (8:04 a.m. NY)
Police on Saturday carried out inspections at a pharmaceuticals plant near Rome where millions of doses of the AstraZeneca Plc vaccine have been held. An EU official confirmed that 29 million doses were found at the site run by Catalent Inc. The origin and destination of the stock are still to be determined, the official said.
Daily La Stampa reported earlier on the doses possibly being ready for export to the U.K. At least some of the doses were produced by Astra sub-contractor Halix in the Netherlands, according to the newspaper.
EU Tightens Vaccine Export Rules (7:50 a.m. NY)
The EU will give itself stronger powers to stop Covid vaccine exports as it seeks to accelerate a sluggish inoculation campaign.
The bloc will demand that countries that receive doses from the EU allow shots to be sent back. It will also consider a nation’s vaccination rate and pandemic situation when deciding whether to green light shipments. The mechanism won’t be automatic, but will be used on a case-by-case basis.
Merkel Scraps Easter Lockdown (7:38 a.m. NY)
Chancellor Angela Merkel asked the German people for forgiveness after making a rare public apology for sparking massive criticism with plans for a five-day Easter shutdown.
Merkel dropped the proposal, calling it a “mistake,” after a hastily-arranged video conference with the heads of Germany’s 16 states around 33 hours after announcing the move. She defended one of Germany’s toughest steps since the start of the pandemic but said there wasn’t enough time to implement it properly.
Patients Remain Ill After Hospitalizations (7:18 a.m. NY)
Seven out of 10 patients hospitalized with Covid-19 hadn’t fully recovered five months after they were discharged, and one in five had reached the threshold for a new disability, according to a U.K.-wide study of 1,077 patients by the National Institute for Health Research Leicester Biomedical Research Centre.
The most common persistent symptoms included muscle pain, fatigue, and impaired sleep quality, and one-quarter had symptoms of anxiety and depression. Levels of a marker of inflammation, called C-reactive protein, were elevated in all but the mildest cases of persistent symptoms, according to a statement.
BioNTech Probing Vaccine Batch (6:47 a.m. NY)
BioNTech temporarily halted vaccinations in Hong Kong and Macau and initiated an investigation following reports of issues with the primary packaging material for vials in one batch, the company said.
The probe includes the handling of the batch at the vaccination centers, throughout the supply chain and during re-packaging, as well as at the time of fill and finish of the batch. At this point, there’s no reason to believe there’s any safety risk for the population, the company said.
Singapore Eases Rules (6:27 a.m. NY)
Singapore will allow more people to return to offices and permit larger gatherings for various activities as the virus situation improves.
The government’s stance will shift from working-from-home as a default to a more flexible approach, where up to 75% of staff can be at the workplace starting April 5, up from 50% now, the health ministry said Wednesday. The size limits for live performances, conferences and sports events will increase to 750 people starting April 24, if they implement pre-event testing.
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