Singapore will move to home-based learning and Taipei is closing schools as they race to head off surging infections after earlier winning plaudits as Covid-19 success stories.
Thailand reported 9,635 new cases, the majority from the country’s prisons, while Indonesia is pausing a specific batch of the vaccine from AstraZeneca Plc as its regulator investigates side effects.
The U.S. rolling one-week average of new virus cases fell to the lowest level since June. Any mandates in the U.S. to require people to be vaccinated against Covid-19 will be set at the local level by companies and institutions such as colleges, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Global Tracker: Cases pass 162.7 million; deaths exceed 3.37 millionVaccine Tracker: More than 1.45 billion doses have been givenCovid is airborne, scientists say. Now authorities think so, tooVaccine Shortfall Leaves Nations Vulnerable as Covid SpreadsTaiwan Races to Avert Lockdown, Save Covid Success StoryCDC’s big mask change went from science to secret to surpriseThere’s no hidden U.S. vaccine stockpile ready to send abroad
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China Is Vaccinating Almost 14 Million People a Day Amid Flareup (11 a.m. HK)
China is vaccinating almost 14 million people a day, a record for the nation as worries grow amid a Covid-19 flareup.
The ramp up in shots comes just days after China detected its first new cluster in months with a smattering of cases in the eastern province of Anhui and northeastern region of Liaoning. Videos on social media showed citizens rushing to get their vaccines, with long queues at inoculation sites despite heavy rainfall.
Many nations in Asia, China included, are struggling to combat vaccine hesitation. Some people have been wooed into a sense of complacency due to the region’s early success in containing the virus while others simply don’t trust the safety or efficacy of the vaccines available.
Taipei City to Close Schools After Surge in Local Cases (10:54 a.m. HK)
Taipei City will close high schools, elementary schools and kindergartens for two weeks until May 28 to prevent the pandemic from spreading, Mayor Ko Wen-je said at an online briefing.
New Taipei City will also close schools, Mayor Hou Yu-ih said at a separate briefing.
Weakened Thai Economy Faces Uphill Battle Amid Virus Surge (10:41 a.m. HK)
Thailand’s economic contraction continued into the start of year, setting the stage for a further slump as the country now faces its worst wave of Covid-19 cases.
Gross domestic product in the first quarter shrank 2.6% from a year earlier, the National Economic and Social Development Council said Monday. The government faces a fresh dilemma between containing the new outbreak and sustaining domestic demand, which had started to recover in March before slumping again last month.
The fresh wave, with new cases hitting a record 9,635 on Monday, has almost quadrupled the country’s total caseload since the start of April, sending consumer confidence to a 22-year low.
Indonesia Pauses Use of Certain Batch of AstraZeneca’s Vaccine (8:27 a.m. HK)
Indonesia is suspending use of a certain batch of AstraZeneca’s vaccine pending an investigation into its side effects by the country’s food and drug regulator BPOM, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Health.
BPOM’s investigation into batch CTMAV547 of AstraZeneca’s vaccine is taken as a precautionary measure to test its toxicity and sterility, the ministry said. The specific batch contains 448,480 doses.
Mexico Covid Deaths Rise by 53 to 220,433, Health Ministry Says (8:24 a.m. HK)
Mexico reported a daily rise of 53 Covid-19 deaths, bringing the total to 220,433, according to data released Sunday by the Health Ministry.
Mexico has administered more than 23 million doses of vaccine against the coronavirus with 10.6 million people now fully vaccinated.
Working From Home Will Cut London Office Footprint 15%: Deloitte (7:01 a.m. HK)
The amount of central London office space companies need will fall by as much as 15% as people continue working from home even after coronavirus restrictions ease, according to a Deloitte survey.
Developers anticipate that more flexible working patterns post-pandemic will result in less densely filled offices, so businesses will need less square footage, although this will be offset by reduced hot-desking and demand for more meeting space. Some large corporate tenants will shrink their office footprints by half, Deloitte said.
About 85% of developers cited weak tenant demand as a major concern in the London office market. In particular, the survey found that the financial services sector was consolidating its office presence in central London while “considering how businesses and functions can be deployed outside the capital, supporting regional growth.”
South Africa, Ghana Expand Vaccine Drives (5:12 p.m. NY)
South Africa will start a mass vaccination effort Monday at 87 sites across the country using Pfizer Inc. doses administered to frontline health-care workers and the elderly, health minister Zweli Mkhize said Sunday.
Ghana will begin administering doses from a second delivery of vaccines from the WHO-backed Covax facility starting May 19. Ghana received a batch of 350,000 AstraZeneca Plc vaccines. Priority will be given to those who already have a first shot, President Nana Akufo-Addo said in a television broadcast in the capital, Accra.
Cyclone Pauses Mumbai Vaccinations (3:50 p.m. NY)
Mumbai canceled vaccinations Monday at all public sites after a cyclone warning, the municipality said on Twitter.
Cyclone “Tauktae” is set to hit the western coast of India — the country’s industrialized belt with big refineries and ports — prompting authorities already grappling with a deadly second virus wave to start preparations for evacuating citizens. Local authorities in Mumbai have already moved hundreds of Covid-19 patients to other facilities.
Frontline Workers’ Union Criticizes CDC (3:14 p.m. NY)
United Food and Commercial Workers, the union that represents more than 1 million food and retail employees, praised the governors of New Jersey and Hawaii for maintaining stricter indoor mask rules.
The union criticized guidance last week from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying fully vaccinated people could mostly stop wearing masks, though those rules can be overridden by localities. Union President Marc Perrone said New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Hawaii Governor David Ige “are doing the right thing by keeping these life-saving mask mandates in place.”
The union said that 462 frontline workers in the U.S., including in grocery stores and meatpacking plants, have died of Covid-19 and more than 93,000 were infected.
California’s Deaths Double (2:25 p.m. NY)
California’s deaths doubled to 55 from 27 the day before, with the fatalities still low at 0.1 deaths for every 100,000, based on the state’s seven-day average.
The positive test rate dipped slightly to 1%, the health department’s website said. The state reported 1,370 Covid-19 cases yesterday, a rate of 3.3 new cases per 100,000, a decrease from the day before. California has administered more than 34.4 million vaccines in total.
Singapore Faces Vaccine Delays (2 p.m. NY)
Singapore may be facing slower vaccine deliveries over the next couple of months, as the country considers delaying second shots.
Ho Ching, the wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, cited the scarcity in a Facebook post Sunday. “Yes, our vaccine deliveries are slow this month and possibly next 1-2 months,” said Ho, who is also the outgoing CEO of Singapore’s state-owned investor Temasek Holdings Pte.
New Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said the government is studying holding off the second shots in order to give more people at least one vaccine dose.
“There have been many international studies and it shows that even with one dose, it confers good protection without compromising efficacy,” Ong said. “Our scientists have been studying this.”
CDC Shuns Federal Vaccine Mandate (12:25 p.m. NY)
Any mandates in the U.S. to require people to be vaccinated against Covid-19 will be set at the local level by companies and institutions such as colleges, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
“It may very well be that local businesses, local jurisdictions, will work towards vaccine mandates,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “That is going to be locally driven and not federally driven.”
Separately, on “Fox News Sunday,” Walensky cited colleges or universities that may enforce vaccine mandates for students, and that the cruise ship industry may also consider it for people about to embark on multiday journeys at sea.
Walensky spoke days after the CDC announced that Americans vaccinated against Covid-19 were clear to shed their face masks in public at most times.
20 Million Fully Vaccinated in U.K. (12:16 p.m. NY)
More than 20 million people, or 38% of the British adult population, are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, the government said Sunday. Over 36.5 million, or 69%, have had one dose. The U.K. will open inoculations to everyone 35 and older this week as it combats cases of a highly transmissible variant that originated in India. The country reported another 1,926 cases and four deaths on Sunday. Both figures are up about 9% over the last seven days.
Hong Kong Tightens Travel Rules (10:55 a.m. NY)
Hong Kong will increase restrictions on arrivals from Taiwan and Singapore, the South China Morning Post reports.
Taiwan, Singapore and Japan are to be classified high risk according to the city’s vaccine bubble travel arrangements. Unvaccinated travelers arriving from those places will have to quarantine at designated hotels for 21 days as well as present proof of a negative test.
Singapore Shuts In-School Classes, Shifts Lessons Online (7:59 a.m. NY)
All primary, secondary, junior college and Millennia Institute students will shift to full home-based learning from May 19 till the end of the school term on May 28, Singapore’s Ministry of Education said on Sunday. Preschools and student care centers remain open to support parents who have to work.
The city also plans to vaccinate under 16 year-olds after a recent rise of infections among students.
U.S. Cases Now Fewest Since June (7:55 a.m. NY)
The U.S. added slightly more than 30,000 cases on Saturday, sending the nation’s rolling one-week average to the lowest level since late last June, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg.
Even so, another 480 people died of illness related to Covid-19. That compares with peaks of more than 5,000 deaths a day in January and February.
Amazon Sends More Oxygen to India (7:33 a.m. NY)
Amazon.com Inc. and Indian renewable energy company Greenko Group are boosting supplies of oxygen concentrators to the country.
The U.S. company is working with “sellers on its marketplace to help them bring in about 9,000 oxygen concentrators for customers in India,” it wrote in a blog on Saturday. The first batch of 1,000 oxygen concentrators have landed and are available for purchase while the rest are expected in the second half of May, it said.
Taiwan Local Cases Hit Record (5:38 p.m. HK)
Taiwan registered a record 206 new local cases on Sunday, after adding 180 infections the previous day. The country is racing to contain its worst outbreak of the coronavirus, while averting a full lockdown.
India Virus Cases Ease (1:50 p.m. HK)
India reported 311,170 new infections Sunday, continuing the downward trajectory seen in the past few days, bolstering hopes that cases may have peaked after a deadly second wave that overwhelmed hospitals and crematoriums. The case tally has crossed 24.6 million, according to the India’s health ministry. More than 182 million vaccine doses have been administered.
While the daily surge in cases is ebbing, there’s no let up in deaths with the Asian nation reporting 4,077 more casualties, pushing the total to 270,284. Those death toll numbers might be understated, according to local media reports of bodies floating along river banks in the northern states.
The Dainik Bhaskar, a Hindi newspaper popular across India’s crowded heartland, fanned 30 of its reporters along the banks of the river Ganga in Uttar Pradesh state. They found — and photographed — more than 2,000 corpses across some 1,140 kilometers (708 miles). The state government claims only about 300 are dying daily.
Their findings make grim reading: authorities are piling silt over more than 350 bodies lying in shallow graves in Kannauj, the reporters say; they see dogs gnawing at some of the 400 corpses just a short distance from a crematorium in Kanpur; they count 52 corpses floating down the river in Ghazipur, often crossing state borders.
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