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Biden to Double J&J Order; Variants Gain in NYC: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) — President Joe Biden will double the U.S. order of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, bringing the country’s supply to enough for 500 million people, according to officials familiar with the plan.The U.K. accused European Union politicians of damaging its vaccination program by making misleading statements that cast doubt on AstraZeneca Plc’s shot, in an escalation of tensions between the two sides.The first European company to reach a deal to produce Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine said it could start manufacturing in the third quarter. Romania extended its curfew by an hour.Key Developments:Global Tracker: Cases pass 117.6 million; deaths top 2.6 millionVaccine Tracker: More than 319 million shots given worldwideU.S. Spotlight: Death forecast drops as pandemic indicators improveBiden duo’s nudge eased Merck-J&J logjam to speed vaccine outputDesperate for Europe, travelers say book now then figure it outWhat’s the best Covid vaccine? Why it’s not so simple: QuickTakeSubscribe 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.Variants Account for Most New Cases in NYC (10:30 a.m. NY)New virus variants account for 51% of New York City’s Covid cases, health officials said on a virus briefing Wednesday. The variants, known as B.1.1.7, which originated in the U.K., and B.1.526, which was first detected in New York, appear to be more infectious than older strains of the virus. But research doesn’t indicate that the variants cause more severe illness or reduce effectiveness of vaccines, said Jay Varma, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s senior public health adviser. Varma warned that the data is still preliminary.Kenya Approves Russia’s Sputnik Vaccine (10 a.m. NY)Kenya approved the use of the Sputnik V Covid-19 shots for emergency purposes, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund.Other African nations that have allowed their use include Angola, the Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Ghana and Guinea, the sovereign fund said in a statement. Sputnik V has a 91.6% efficacy and provides full protection against severe cases of the illness, it said.Germany’s Merkel Sees Tough Months Ahead (9:05 a.m. NY)German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned citizens to prepare for several more tough months before vaccinations start to have a tangible impact on the pandemic.“We are seeing light at the end of the tunnel,” Merkel said during an online dialog with emergency telephone service operators. “There will be three or four more difficult months and then we’ll be so far along with vaccinations that we will also really see actual effects and things will clearly improve.”Biden to Order More J&J Doses (8:31 a.m. NY)President Joe Biden will announce a doubling of the U.S. order of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine during an event with the chief executives of J&J and Merck & Co., who struck a collaboration to boost production of the shot, officials familiar with the plan say.Ireland Plans ‘Modest’ Curb Easing (8:30 a.m. NY)Ireland will allow a limited easing of curbs next month as cases drop, Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said in an interview with state broadcaster RTE. Still, with vaccines delayed, restrictions such as the closure of non-essential stores will remain in place, he said.Ireland has one of the strictest lockdowns in Western Europe, after enduring one of the world’s worst outbreak after Christmas.Finland, Portugal Back Astra Shot for All (8:22 a.m. NY)Portugal endorsed the AstraZeneca vaccine for all age groups, even the elderly, in an updated recommendation. The prior advice was that the shot be “preferably” used for people age 65 and younger. Finland did the same, ruling that the product can be given to people over 70. The decisions follow similar endorsements from France and Germany last week as real-life data show the vaccine protects older patients as well.Romania Extends Restrictions and Curfew (7:27 a.m. NY)Romania extended restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus and increased the length of a night-time curfew by an hour. It also limited the occupation capacity for hotels in ski resorts to 70%. Prime Minister Florin Citu ruled out a full lockdown for the time being.U.K. Accuses EU of Harming Health (7:25 a.m. NY)The U.K. accused senior European Union politicians of damaging its vaccination program by making “misleading” statements that cast doubt on the AstraZeneca shot, in an escalation of post-Brexit tensions between the two sides.Cabinet minister Grant Shapps said fewer British people had taken up the offer of shots in the U.K. after EU figures questioned the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine, a clear reference to remarks from French President Emmanuel Macron, among others.Lilly Antibody Combo Gets Good Results (7 a.m. NY)Eli Lilly & Co.’s combination antibody therapy reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 87% in high-risk patients with newly-diagnosed Covid-19, the company said.The combination received emergency-use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in February, and the results and may give more confidence to doctors with qualms about insufficient evidence.The study followed 769 high-risk patients 12 years old and older. Four of 511 patients on the therapy were hospitalized, with no deaths, compared with 15 hospitalizations and deaths, including four deaths, among 258 patients on placebo, the company said. The results suggest that the therapy maintained its effects even as variants have emerged, said Lilly Chief Scientific Officer Daniel Skovronsky.Mauritius Embarks on 16-Day Lockdown (4:54 p.m. HK)Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth imposed a 16-day nationwide lockdown after the number of coronavirus infections doubled to 28.Residents of the Indian Ocean island nation will be confined to their residences until March 25, Jugnauth said in a statement broadcast on national television. An island-wide vaccination program that began on Monday has been suspended until a new calendar is worked out, the government said in a separate statement.Swiss Firm Could Make Sputnik This Year (4:30 p.m. HK)The first European company to reach a deal to produce Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine said it could start manufacturing as early as the third quarter.Antonio Francesco Di Naro, founder and president of Adienne Pharma & Biotech SA, said Wednesday that his company had been selected to make the shot following an approach from Russia. The vaccine would be produced near Milan.Germany Halts Some Covid Aid to Companies (3:48 p.m. HK)Germany temporarily suspended certain types of aid to companies impacted by measures to contain the pandemic, due to suspicions that the money was illegally obtained in several cases.Payments were halted to review documentation and will resume shortly, the Economy Ministry said in a statement late Tuesday. Criminal investigations are under way in several cases, the ministry said, declining to comment on specifics of the alleged fraud.OECD Says No Vaccine Slows Recovery (2:58 p.m. HK)OECD Chief Economist Laurence Boone said on BFM Business television that countries failing to give vaccines to their population risk “accumulate delays” in recovery as nations such as the U.S. are on track with wide vaccination and a stimulus package. The OECD published its 2021 economic forecast on Tuesday.Baltic States Want Unused Shots Handed Out (2:36 p.m. HK)The European Union’s three Baltic nations called on the bloc to redistribute unused vaccines among member states. Such a move would improve the efficiency of vaccination efforts and foster solidarity by introducing “a re-distribution mechanism,” the health ministers of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia wrote in a March 9 letter to the EU’s health chief, Stella Kyriakides.The ministers cited situations in which “an unused surplus of delivered vaccines accumulates” in countries and the shots risk expiring, according to the letter, which was seen by Bloomberg.Taiwan Eases Rules on Hong Kong Visitors (2:28 p.m. HK)Taiwan is easing quarantine rules for business travelers from Hong Kong, which has now been put on a list of areas viewed as posing a mid-to-low risk to the island. Business travelers can undergo a seven-day quarantine with immediate effect, Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control said. A 14-day quarantine is required for most travelers to the island.L.A. Reaches Tentative Deal to Open Schools (12:45 p.m. HK)The Los Angeles Unified school district and United Teachers Los Angeles reached a tentative deal on how to reopen schools for in-person instruction over the next few weeks. They plan a hybrid model combining online and in-person instruction, with a progressive reopening. All students and staff will be tested for Covid-19 before returning, and other rules include requiring masks and social distancing for students, staff and visitors.Push for Vaccine Passports Grows in EU, U.S. (11:30 a.m. HK)There’s growing impetus for vaccine passports. The European Union will propose a certificate that may ease travel for those who have taken EU-approved vaccines or others, like the Chinese and Russian shots, that have had emergency national authorizations. The “EU Covid Card/digital green certificate” will show if holders have had a vaccine and which one; the results of any test; and details on whether they have recovered from an infection, a person familiar with the draft regulation said.U.S. airlines, joined by travel groups and labor, separately wrote to the Biden administration saying the U.S. “must be a leader” in global efforts to introduce health credentials that can be used for travel.China has also announced a digital vaccine passport. A health certificate showing a person’s vaccination status links to a program on China’s most widely-used messaging app WeChat. It’s unclear if any countries have yet recognized the certification.What Are Vaccine Passports and How Would They Work?: QuickTakeChina Extends Stretch Without Local Infections (10:40 a.m. HK)China reported five new infections today, but all were imported. The last time the country had a local transmission was Feb. 6, underscoring the success of a stringent strategy that includes border curbs, mass testing and hard lockdowns. Such measures included the likes of Tonghua, a city of 2 million people in Jilin province, in which residents were banned from leaving their homes in January.At the ongoing National People’s Congress in Beijing, delegates have continued to wear masks, though President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang appeared without masks on Friday.Mexico’s Death Toll Reaches 191,789 (10:30 a.m. HK)Mexico had a further 866 deaths from the virus, bringing the total to 191,789, according to the Health Ministry.Separately, El Financiero reported that eight Mexican states received Sinovac’s vaccine at between 11 and 12 degrees Celsius, when it should be kept between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius. The Health Ministry’s Lopez Ridaura said the vaccine can be kept at up to 25 degrees for more than a week without losing its potency, and at that temperature it wouldn’t begin to lose effectiveness until day 14, according to the report.New Zealand Releases Vaccine Rollout Plans (9:08 a.m. HK)New Zealand, which tops Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking of the economies that best-handled the pandemic, will have a targeted roll-out of vaccines over the next three-to-four months to reach 2 million people in the most at-risk groups. Those in South Auckland aged over 65 or with underlying conditions will get shots from the end of this month.The country has already started inoculating border and managed isolation facility workers and their families, along with 480,000 frontline workers and people living in high-risk settings. From May, shots will go to 1.7 million people who are at higher risk.“The rest of the population will be able to be vaccinated from July onwards and our plan is to have as many people as possible vaccinated by the end of the year,” Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said in a statement. “Every New Zealander will be able to get a vaccine and the vaccine will be free.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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