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Tokyo Extends Emergency; Australia Doses Blocked: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) — Japan recommended extending its virus state of emergency by two weeks for the Tokyo region set to expire Sunday to prevent a fresh wave of infections as the nation prepares to host the Olympic games in July. China set a conservative economic growth target of above 6% for the year, well below what economists forecast, and outlined ongoing fiscal support with prudent monetary policy as a recovery takes hold. A shipment of 250,000 doses of AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine that were destined for Australia was blocked by Italy under a new European Union regulation. The head of the world’s biggest vaccine maker and the World Health Organization’s chief scientist said manufacturers of virus shots face a global shortage of raw materials.More than a dozen U.S. states reported increases in hospitalizations for the coronavirus, threatening to reverse a national trend that has pushed in-patient numbers to the lowest level since the fall as social restrictions are being loosened across the country. Key Developments:Global Tracker: Cases pass 115.5 million; deaths exceed 2.5 millionVaccine Tracker: More than 279 million shots given worldwideU.S. Spotlight: Hospitalizations in New York remain the nation’s highestInside Pfizer’s fast, fraught and lucrative vaccine distributionVaccinated workers get more office benefits than holdoutsWhere we are in hunting for Covid-19’s originSubscribe 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.China Sets Growth Target Above 6% (9:12 a.m. HK) China set a conservative economic growth target of above 6% for the year, well below what economists forecast, and outlined ongoing fiscal support with prudent monetary policy.The government will narrow the budget deficit to 3.2% of gross domestic product this year from 3.6% in 2020, Premier Li Keqiang said Friday at the opening of the National People’s Congress.U.S. Hospitalizations Threaten Rebound (9:08 a.m. HK) More than a dozen U.S. states reported increases in hospitalizations for the coronavirus, threatening to reverse a national trend that’s pushed in-patient numbers to the lowest level since the fall.U.S. hospitals were treating 49,519 patients as of Thursday, data from the Department of Health and Human Services show. The tally fell 3.8% since March 1 after California reported 544 fewer cases and Texas recorded a decline of 391. Hospitalizations are down 62% from a peak of 131,637 in mid-January, though the pace of the reduction appears to be slowing.Michigan had 945 hospitalizations Thursday, an increase of 13% over the past three days. Cases jumped 4.9% to 2,075 in Pennsylvania. New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Virginia, Tennessee, Utah, South Dakota, Montana, New Mexico, Nebraska, Idaho and Wyoming also recorded an increase in in-patients.Covid cases make up 12% of hospital patients in New York and Georgia, the highest proportion among U.S. states.Group Calls for Independent Virus Probe (9:05 a.m. HK)A group of scientists called for an independent probe to consider all hypotheses and nail down whether the virus came from an animal amid controversy over the investigation organized by the World Health Organization and China.More than 20 signatories said in an open letter published by the Wall Street Journal that the mission isn’t independent enough as the WHO considered delaying an interim report.Indonesia Holds Phase-3 Trial for China Vaccine (8:32 a.m. HK)A trial on the Covid-19 vaccine produced by China’s Anhui Zhifei Longkema Biological Pharmaceutical will enroll as many as 4,000 participants in Bandung and Jakarta, CNN Indonesia reports.Approval for an emergency use of the vaccine is expected in September, CNN reports.Wells Fargo Offers Vaccine Time Off (7:02 a.m. HK)Wells Fargo & Co., which has the largest workforce among U.S. banks, is encouraging employees to get vaccinated against Covid-19 and is offering paid time off for the inoculations.The firm will offer up to eight hours paid time off for employees across the world to get vaccinated, according to an internal memo reviewed by Bloomberg. The San Francisco-based bank is expanding a testing program, offering the service free to workers at its 25 largest locations, and those who work at other facilities can request an at-home test.Tokyo Plans to Extend Emergency (6:20 a.m. HK)The Japanese government recommended to extend by two weeks its virus state of emergency for the Tokyo region set to expire Sunday, trying to maintain a declining trend in infections as it looks to host the Olympics in about four months.The move was announced early Friday by the government’s point man for virus management, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura. It came after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga strongly indicated Wednesday that he was looking to extend the nearly two-month measure, saying it was “an extremely important time for preventing infections.”Connecticut to Relax Restrictions (5:05 p.m. NY)Connecticut will end capacity limits for restaurants, offices, places of worship and businesses from gyms to stores on March 19, though bars must remain closed, Governor Ned Lamont said.Citing a decline in cases and vaccination rates “among the highest in the nation,” he contrasted his approach with two U.S. states that have reopened more aggressively and pleaded with residents to keep wearing face coverings in public.“This is not Texas. This is not Mississippi,” he told a news briefing on Thursday. Still, he said, “It feels good that we’re able to do this.”Capacity limits for private and public gatherings will be revised, allowing as many as 25 people at private events indoors, and “all sports will be allowed to practice and compete,” according to a statement.Pfizer Plant Cited for Quality Issues (4:59 p.m. NY)The factory that Pfizer Inc. plans to use to boost production of its Covid-19 vaccine for the massive U.S. inoculation effort was cited by federal inspectors last year for repeated quality-control violations.Food and Drug Administration inspectors visited the McPherson, Kansas, plant at the end of 2019 into January 2020, according to an inspection report obtained by Bloomberg via a Freedom of Information request. They found the drug giant released medications for sale after failing to thoroughly review quality issues that arose in routine testing, the report shows.College Agrees to End Tuition Suit (2:50 p.m. NY)Southern New Hampshire University has agreed to pay $1.25 million to resolve a class action in federal court by students demanding refunds after the school canceled in-person classes last spring because of the Covid-19 pandemic.The deal appears to be among the first to be reached in a sea of hundreds of lawsuits filed by students against colleges and universities in federal court after Covid-19 disrupted in-person curricula last year.Canada Sees Faster Shot Timeline (2:45 p.m. NY)The Canadian minister in charge of vaccines said it’s “highly likely” the government will be able to move up its target date of September for inoculating every citizen who wants a Covid-19 shot.Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Thursday in an interview that more people could get their jabs at a faster pace as the delivery of doses ramps up.Canada had administered 5.5 doses of vaccine per 100 people as of Wednesday, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker, putting it last among all Group of Seven nations except Japan. The U.K. and U.S. have given 32.3 and 24.3 doses per 100 of their citizens, respectively.France Tightens Restrictions (1:20 p.m. NY)France plans to tighten restrictions and accelerate vaccinations in parts of the country as the government continues to shy away from a third nationwide lockdown on hopes that improvement is just weeks away.The Pas-de-Calais department on the northern coast of France will be put under a weekend lockdown as of Saturday, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said at a weekly news conference. “A lockdown, even limited to the weekend, is a heavy measure,” he said.Ireland Reports Stillbirths (1:18 p.m. NY)Irish authorities have identified four cases of stillbirth caused by Covid placentitis, a virus-related condition that leads to inflammation of the placenta, deputy chief medical officer, Ronan Glynn said. While the findings are preliminary, the nation’s health service has been informed and is monitoring the situation, he said. Ireland reported 462 more cases on Thursday, with 39 deaths.Kuwait Imposes Curfew (12:53 p.m. NY)Kuwait has imposed a partial curfew as daily cases jumped to the highest on record. The curfew comes into force from March 7 between 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. for a month, the Council of Ministers said in a statement. The Gulf nation reported 1,716 new cases on Thursday, taking the total to 196,497 with 1,105 deaths.Alabama to Lift Mask Rule in April (12:46 p.m. NY)Governor Kay Ivey said she’ll let Alabama’s mask mandate expire on April 9, as she announced immediate easing of other restrictions.“Folks, we’re not there yet, but we’re getting close,” she tweeted. She said the mask mandate has been “in place for more than a generous amount of time because it has helped.” She said businesses that wish to continue requiring masks will have until then to devise policies.This week, Texas and neighboring Mississippi said they were ending their mask mandates.NYC Gets First J&J Vaccine Shots (11:05 a.m. NY)New York City has received 16,300 Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses, its first delivery of the one-shot vaccine, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. The city will use the J&J shots to begin vaccinating home-bound seniors, the mayor said in a Thursday briefing.De Blasio said when he becomes eligible to get the vaccine, he hopes to get the J&J shot. The city surpassed 2 million vaccinations this week and the city’s health commissioner has said vaccines may be available to all residents by late April.Zimbabwe Approves Indian Vaccine (11:02 a.m. NY)Zimbabwe has become the first African country to authorize the use of India’s only homegrown coronavirus vaccine, which the developers this week said showed strong efficacy.The first batch of Covaxin, which was co-developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech International Ltd. and the Indian Council of Medical Research, is due to arrive shortly, the Indian Embassy in the southern African nation said on its Twitter account.Germany, Sweden Clear Astra Shot for Elderly (7:44 a.m. NY)Germany has joined countries widening guidelines for AstraZeneca’s vaccine, based on incoming data that support giving the shot to the elderly.Germany’s immunization commission is recommending the vaccine for people age 65 and older, Health Minister Jens Spahn said in an emailed statement. That expands on a ruling that initially limited it to adults between the ages of 18 and 64.Sweden has lifted its recommendation against using AstraZeneca’s vaccine for people older than 65, Public Health Agency Official Sara Byfors told reporters.Milan Tightens Curbs (6:42 a.m. NY)Almost one year after Milan became the first European region to enter into a hard lockdown, the Italian financial capital is again facing major restrictions.All schools will be closed until March 14 and no person will be able to leave town if not for business and health reasons. Milan citizens won’t be allowed to reach their holiday houses, with bars and restaurants remaining closed while shops can stay open.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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