WHO Origin Report Draws Fire; Germany Limits Astra: Virus Update
Visitors wearing protective mask walk in the grounds of the Yellow Crane Tower in Wuhan, China, on Aug. 8, 2020. (Photographer: Yan Cong/Bloomberg)

WHO Origin Report Draws Fire; Germany Limits Astra: Virus Update

A World Health Organization-China study on the origins of the coronavirus is drawing fire with WHO’s chief saying it didn’t adequately analyze the possibility of a lab leak. The White House also criticized the report, calling it incomplete and faulting data and access provided by China.

Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. are expected to bottom out in the next two weeks and then may inch higher as the nation races to blunt an incipient new wave of cases with its vaccination campaign.

Kenyans are paying $70 a shot for the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine. Chile is boosting its vaccine supply, signing an agreement with CanSino Biologics Inc. for 1.8 million Covid vaccine doses that will start to arrive in May. Brazil sets new daily record for deaths.

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WHO Origin Report Draws Fire; Germany Limits Astra: Virus Update

Transport Demand Down in Australia (6:52 a.m. HK)

Demand for public transportation fell in Australia in the past week while consumption, spending and other alternative indicators mainly increased amid little change in coronavirus-related restrictions.

In Sydney, in the week ended March 24, demand for public transport was down 12.4% from the week earlier, while the number of seated diners in Australian restaurants was 79% higher on March 29 compared with the same day a year earlier, an improvement from the 53% increase recorded on March 22, according to OpenTable Inc.

Australia had 29,296 confirmed Covid-19 cases as of March 30, a 0.2% increase in the week to date.

Brazil Sets Record for Daily Deaths (5:34 p.m. NY)

Brazil hit a record of 3,780 on Covid-19 deaths as the pandemic spirals out of control in Latin America’s largest country. Total coronavirus fatalities reached 317,646 and 84,494 new cases were registered in the last 24 hours, totaling almost 12.7 million, while the country works to speed up vaccination under new Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga.

The country’s health regulator issued a good practices certificate for Janssen’s facilities, but denied the same certification for Bharat Biotech. Brazilian foundation Fiocruz expects to file a request to start testing the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine in children, the head of the organization Nisia Trindade, said in an online event promoted by the World Health Organization.

Wells Fargo Sees Return to Office in September (4:36 p.m. NY)

Wells Fargo & Co. is making plans to bring its employees back into offices in September.

The U.S. bank with the largest workforce has about 200,000 employees working from home and is extending that arrangement through Sept. 6. It aims to return to a “more normal operating model” that month, according to a memo from Chief Executive Officer Charlie Scharf and Chief Operating Officer Scott Powell.

“The significant increase in vaccination availability” has encouraged the bank and allowed it to begin planning for the employees’ return, the executives said in the memo.

Chile Signs Vaccine Deal with CanSino (3:10 p.m. NY)

WHO Origin Report Draws Fire; Germany Limits Astra: Virus Update

Chile signed an agreement with CanSino Biologics Inc. for 1.8 million Covid vaccine doses that will start to arrive in May, the government’s Vice Minister of Trade Rodrigo Yanez said in an interview.

The country has already received close to 13 million total shots against Covid-19 and it’s expecting the arrival of an extra 15 million doses by June to reach herd immunity in the first half of the year, Yanez said. CanSino, which is a one-shot vaccine, will provide 1.8 million doses, while the remaining supply will come from Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac and AstraZeneca.

Kenyans Pay $70 a Shot for Russia’s Sputnik (3:10 p.m. NY)

Kenyans have begun getting inoculated with Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines for a fee after the nation’s authorities approved the shots for emergency purposes.

A single shot costs 7,700 shillings ($70.30), according to Nairobi-based lawyer Donald Kipkorir, who got an injection Tuesday.

U.S. Covid Deaths Expected to Rise Soon (2:47 p.m. NY)

Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. are expected to bottom out in the next two weeks and then may inch higher as the nation races to blunt an incipient new wave of cases with its vaccination campaign.

A plateau or small increase -- instead of the hoped-for decline -- could mean tens of thousands of additional fatalities.

The deaths are likely to dip to 6,028 in the week ending April 10 before slightly increasing, according to the Covid-19 Forecast Hub, a project from the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Reich Lab. Its so-called ensemble forecast, which was updated Tuesday, is based on dozens of independent models and projects fatalities four weeks into the future.

Ireland Easing Limits After 3-Month Lockdown (1:30 p.m. NY)

Ireland will begin easing some restrictions from April 12, after more than three months in lockdown. Travel restrictions will be loosened while some sports and construction will resume, Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said in a national address. Limits on household mixing will also be reduced. The government may open so-called non-essential retail in May and hotels in June, depending on the state of the virus, Martin said. Vaccines are to ramp up sharply in the second quarter he added. “We are on the final stretch of this terrible journey,” he said.

WHO Chief Faults Covid Report (11:15 a.m. NY)

WHO Origin Report Draws Fire; Germany Limits Astra: Virus Update

The World Health Organization’s chief said a mission to study the origins of the coronavirus in China didn’t adequately analyze the possibility of a lab leak before it concluded that the pathogen probably spread from bats to humans via another animal.

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said even though the international team of scientists determined that a leak is the least likely hypothesis for the origin of the pandemic, it requires further investigation. He said he’s ready to deploy additional missions involving specialist experts as he doesn’t believe the assessment was extensive enough. He made the comments in a briefing to WHO member countries Tuesday.

WHO Origin Report Draws Fire; Germany Limits Astra: Virus Update

Greece Cases Surge as Reopening Looms (11:10 a.m. NY)

Greece reported 4,340 new Covid-19 cases Tuesday, the highest daily increase since the start of the pandemic. The last record was 3,586 new cases on March 23. Despite the rise, the government is coming under increasing pressure to begin a faster easing of lockdown measures to help the retail and restaurant sectors. Medical advisers to the government will meet Wednesday to formulate recommendations, with non-essential shops seen reopening in some form from April 5 and citizens allowed to move again outside the municipality where they live from April 3. A ban on movement between regions will likely continue.

Google Gives $1 Million for NYC Vaccinations (10:45 a.m. NY

Google will donate $1 million to help New York City reach its goal of 5 million vaccinations by the end of June, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. The donation includes advertising grants to run ads on where, when and how to get a vaccine, as well as a grant from the tech giant’s philanthropic arm to set up an inoculation center at the Fulton Houses public-housing complex in Chelsea, near Google’s main New York office. De Blasio said Tuesday that the city is approaching 4 million vaccine doses.

WHO Origin Report Draws Fire; Germany Limits Astra: Virus Update

Bulgaria Eases Some Limits Ahead of Election (10:40 a.m. NY)

Bulgaria will reopen restaurants and pubs with open-air space, as well as gyms, theaters and museums with limited capacity from April 1, the health ministry said in a statement. Kindergartens will reopen April 5. The Balkan country reported Tuesday 203 new coronavirus death cases, the highest since Jan. 5, amid a new wave of infections caused by the U.K. strain, as it is preparing to hold a general election on Sunday.

Iceland Tightens Border Surveillance (10:15 a.m. NY)

Iceland said travelers from so-called danger zones, which is most of Europe, will need to stay in a special hotel for their obligatory five-day quarantine upon arrival. The reason is that infections have been spread by visitors who have broken quarantine to view a new volcanic eruption.

WHO Origin Report Draws Fire; Germany Limits Astra: Virus Update

Germany to Recommend Astra Just for Over 60s (9:30 a.m. NY)

Germany is planning to recommend the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine only for people older than 60, after new data emerged on potential side effects from the shots.

The country’s vaccination commission has drafted a decision paper that leaves open the possible use for younger people at a doctor’s discretion, according to a person familiar with the draft document. A final decision still needs to be made and could be announced as early as Thursday.

WHO Origin Report Draws Fire; Germany Limits Astra: Virus Update

BioNTech Raises Target to 2.5 Billion Doses (6:30 a.m. NY)

BioNTech and Pfizer raised this year’s production target for their vaccine to as many as 2.5 billion doses, with the German biotech’s chief executive officer predicting a version of the shot that can be stored in refrigerators will be ready within months.

WHO Origin Report Draws Fire; Germany Limits Astra: Virus Update

The new target represents an increase of about one quarter from an earlier estimate. BioNTech said it expects 9.8 billion euros ($11.5 billion) in revenue from the supply contracts signed already, which amount to 1.4 billion doses. Revenue expectations include milestone payments from BioNTech’s partners and will rise as more orders are signed, the company said.

Indian State Orders Oxygen Supply Reserves (6:15 a.m. NY)

The government of Maharashtra, the Indian state that houses Mumbai, on Tuesday ordered oxygen suppliers to reserve 80% for medical use. The new rule will stay in force through June 30. India has seen a recent resurgence in infections that threatens the nation’s economic recovery.

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