N.Y. Cases Jump; Merkel Declares Covid ‘Watershed’: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) —

The U.S. added the fewest deaths since Monday, even as infections have been rising nationally. New York state reported the most daily cases in more than a month. More than 3 million people in the U.S. were vaccinated for the third day in a row, as the inoculation drive picks up pace, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.

The U.S. has “real concerns about the methodology and the process” of a draft World Health Organization report on the origins of the Covid-19 virus, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel threatened to assert federal control over measures to stem the Covid-19 pandemic, picking a legal fight that reflects the gravity of the latest surge in infections. The EU will block exports of AstraZeneca vaccines if the company fails to deliver doses bought by the region on time, according to an EU commissioner.

Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases pass 127 million; deaths exceed 2.7 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 535 million shots given worldwide
  • New York, London beat Asian finance hubs in race to vaccinate
  • Mystery of Italian town’s 29 million shots strains EU-Astra ties
  • Covid keeps spreading death where vaccines haven’t reached
  • Vaccinated Britain is about to face its biggest Covid test yet

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click CVID on the terminal for global data on cases and deaths.

Biden Tweets on Expanded Eligibility (6:26 a.m. HK)

President Joe Biden said most U.S. states are meeting his goal of opening up vaccinations to all adults by May 1, while pointing out four that haven’t: New York, South Carolina, Arkansas and Wyoming.

Asked why cases have crept up again in the U.S., Biden told reporters on Sunday that “apparently people are letting their guard down.” He said he’ll meet with his pandemic response team on Monday and “get a better sense.”

Brazilians Protest Restrictions (5:55 p.m. NY)

Protesters took to the streets of Rio de Janeiro on Sunday in response to restrictions curbing crowds on beaches, restaurants and bars, even as daily deaths and new infections reach the highest point of the nation’s outbreak.

Dozens of demonstrators waving Brazilians flags and chanting, “we want to work,” marched down the main drag along the iconic Copacabana Beach, capping a week in which Brazil passed the milestone of 300,000 registered coronavirus deaths.

One of last major urban centers to reinstate strict restrictions on commerce, Mayor Eduardo Paes issued a 10-day lockdown on Friday for non-essential businesses. Despite a surge in cases in coastal city, small protests of businesses owners and supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro have cropped up in as authorities have placed limits on movement.

Texas Patient Tally Hits 6-Month Low (4:33 p.m. NY)

Virus hospitalizations in Texas dipped to a six-month low, according to data released Sunday, more than two weeks after a statewide mask mandate and other restrictions were lifted.

Hospitalizations on the second-largest U.S. state dropped to 3,104, the lowest since Sept. 19, the state health department said. The tally is well below the peak of more than 14,000 reached on Jan. 11.

Thus far, dire warnings that Governor Greg Abbott’s decision to relax anti-pandemic restrictions earlier this month would lead to a deadly fourth wave have failed to become manifest. Last week, Abbott announced the number of vaccinations administered across the state had reached 10 million.

U.S. Vaccinations in Higher Gear (4:24 p.m. NY)

More than 3 million people in the U.S. were vaccinated for the third day in a row, as the inoculation drive picks up pace, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. Another 3.3 million doses were recorded Sunday, compared with the average of 2.7 million over the last week. So far 143 million doses have been administered. At the current pace it will take an estimated four months to cover 75% of the population.

Merkel Threatens to Take Over Covid Fight (3:50 p.m. NY)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel threatened to assert federal control over measures to stem the Covid-19 pandemic, picking a legal fight that reflects the gravity of the latest surge in infections.

In an extraordinary turn of events, Merkel said she may use federal law to regain the initiative after rescinding a wide-ranging lockdown for the Easter holidays amid a storm of criticism. She expressed exasperation with what she described as broken commitments by the leaders of Germany’s 16 states.

“We can’t go on like this,” Merkel said in an interview with ARD television. “I’m declaring a watershed — and I’m not done thinking about it, either.”

Gottlieb Urges Personal Approach on Vaccines (3:08 p.m. NY)

The federal government isn’t the best messenger to combat vaccine hesitancy among some Republicans and should cede the way to a more “community-centric” approach, said former U.S. Food and Drug Administration chief Scott Gottlieb.

“We should be looking at every single interaction that patients have with the medical system, and trying to offer a vaccination at those points of care, through a provider that patients know,” Gottlieb said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Gottlieb said current outbreaks in Michigan, around Boston and in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut were “worrisome” as cases nationwide tick up. The Biden administration could try allocating more vaccines to regional hot-spots, he said.

“If we could just get two or three more weeks of around three million vaccines a day, that’s going to be a pretty big backstop against a true fourth surge,” he said.

California Cases, Deaths Slow (2:29 p.m. NY)

California reported 2,998 new Covid-19 cases yesterday, down from the previous day’s 3,278, according to the health department’s website. Deaths rose by 195, lower than the 215 reported on Friday. The state’s 14-day positive test rate hovered at a record low 1.7%. California has administered more than 17 million vaccines.

China Picks UAE to Produce Shots (2:16 p.m. NY)

China is partnering with the United Arab Emirates to make millions of doses of its state-backed Sinopharm vaccine, in a deal that takes manufacturing of the shot overseas for the first time and deepens Beijing’s influence in the Middle East.

A newly-created joint venture between Sinopharm CNBG and Abu Dhabi-based G42 aims to produce up to 200 million doses annually at a new plant that will become operational this year, the companies said in a statement. Production on a smaller scale has already started at an existing Gulf Pharmaceutical Industries PSCplant with a capacity of 2 million doses per month.

Iraq Gets First Astra Doses (1:13 p.m. NY)

Iraq received 336,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Sunday, according to the government’s official Twitter account citing the health ministry’s spokesperson. The country agreed with the vaccine manufacturer last year to get 16 million doses, the spokesperson said. More shipments of the AstraZeneca vaccine are set to gradually arrive in the coming days and weeks, covering 20% of the population.

Marriott Calls for Vaccine Passes (12:37 p.m. NY)

The new chief executive of hotel group Marriott International Inc. called for the U.S. and other countries to do more to create something akin to a vaccine passport to unlock international travel.In an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” Anthony Capuano, who took over as CEO of Maryland-based Marriott in February, said he was concerned that no one was coordinating current efforts to develop a system to allow international travel for people who have been vaccinated. “We need a comprehensive and global solution for it to be effective,” Capuano told CBS.

The Washington Post on Sunday reported that the White House was consulting with the private sector about developing a possible app-based vaccine passport system. The efforts were focused on greater coordination and identifying privacy and other issues raised by the need for such a passport, according to the report. It said the White House had identified at least 17 different initiatives now underway to develop portable vaccine credentials.

N.Y. Cases Tick Up (12:22 p.m. NY)

New York state reported 9,395 new cases, the largest daily increase since early February. Average daily cases rose about 3% over the last seven days compared with the previous week.

Hospitalizations decreased slightly, to 4,529, according to a statement from Governor Andrew Cuomo. While that number has been relatively stable in recent weeks, the state still has the most Covid-19 hospitalizations in the nation, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New York has the second highest number of cases per capita after New Jersey, CDC data show. Another 64 people died.

Fauci Cautious on Summer Camp (11:36 p.m. NY)

President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser on Sunday stopped short of telling parents it would be safe this summer to loose their children on community playgrounds and ship them off to summer camp.In an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” Dr. Anthony Fauci said he was concerned that while Covid-19 cases and fatalities had come down from a winter peak they had settled at a high plateau because of new variants and states loosening restrictions.

Increasing travel, such as that seen over the spring break school holiday in the U.S., was also a concern as travel inevitably led to rising infections, Fauci said. But Fauci said if the acceleration in vaccinations to its latest 3-3.5 million doses a day rate continued, it was “conceivable” families could dispatch their children to camp come summer.

U.S. Questions WHO Report on Virus Origin (11:59 a.m. NY)

The U.S. has “real concerns about the methodology and the process” of a draft World Health Organization report on the origins of the Covid-19 virus, including that the Chinese government “apparently helped to write it,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

The politically contentious report, based on findings by international scientists convened by WHO and China, is expected shortly. While there needs to be “accountability for the past,” the focus should be on building “a stronger system for the future,” Blinken said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Italy to Ease Some Curbs (11:49 a.m. NY)

Italy reported 19,611 new cases and 297 deaths on Sunday, reflecting a 7.2% positive test rate. New cases in the country remain stable as some regions, including the one around Rome, are set to slightly ease restrictions starting Tuesday.

Deputy health minister Pierpaolo Sileri said the slower rate of increase in new infections shows that tight restrictions introduced by Mario Draghi’s government are showing the first results.

Mumbai Region Faces Lockdown (11:01 a.m. NY)

The government of Maharashtra, which encompasses Mumbai, asked authorities to prepare for another lockdown if a resurgence in infections isn’t reined in and residents flout rules. Hospital facilities are quickly reaching capacity, with a fifth of isolation beds already filled up, it said in a statement Sunday. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray asked officials to prepare for food and supplies of other essentials. “There should not be any kind of confusion among the people once a lockdown is announced,” he said.

U.S. Death Toll Slows (8:15 a.m. NY)

The U.S. added 758 deaths from Covid-19 on Saturday, the fewest since Monday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. Reported new infections declined to about 63,000, the lowest in three days and a fraction of peaks of more than 300,000 daily cases late December and early January.

Vaccinations are picking up in the U.S., with 75% of the population on pace to be covered within an estimated four months, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. Some 3.5 million doses were administered on Saturday, more than the average of 2.7 million over the previous seven days.

EU Makes Astra Ultimatum (7:28 a.m. NY)

The EU will block AstraZeneca exports if the company fails to deliver the doses bought by the region on time, according to Thierry Breton, the EU commissioner in charge of fixing the bloc’s vaccination drive.

AstraZeneca has met about 30% of its commitment to deliver 70 million doses to the EU in the second quarter, Breton said on RTL radio Sunday.“As long as AstraZeneca doesn’t make good on its obligations, everything that’s produced on European soil is distributed to Europeans,” he said.

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