India Reports 2,000 Deaths; Tokyo Emergency Seen: Virus Update
The World Health Organization said coronavirus cases are rising in all regions except Europe, with India driving a surge in Asia. India reported a record of more than 2,000 deaths on Wednesday, while cases rose by nearly 300,000.
Despite the worsening situation, India’s prime minister is asking states to avoid shutting businesses. Elsewhere, nations are adopting tighter measures, with Singapore reviewing its border measures for recovered travelers. Tokyo and Osaka will ask the Japanese government to declare a state of emergency, looking to contain surging cases ahead of the Olympics.
On the inoculation front, Japan is poised to buy more doses of Pfizer Inc.’s shot, cutting its reliance on the controversial AstraZeneca Plc vaccine. Shipments of Johnson & Johnson’s shot will be restarted to the European Union after the bloc’s drug regulator said benefits outweigh the risks.
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Pfizer Deal Would Cut Japan’s Reliance on Astra (12 p.m. HK)
Japan is poised to buy more doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, a move that would pave the way for the country to immunize its adult population without using any of the controversial shots it purchased from AstraZeneca Plc.
Pfizer is expected to provide an additional 50 million doses by September in a contract that could be agreed on this month, the Nikkei said, without citing sources. The purchase would bring Japan’s total supply of the companies’ vaccine to 195 million doses. The nation also has an agreement for 50 million doses of Moderna Inc.’s shot, creating enough supply of the two-dose immunizations to protect around 110 million residents above the age of 16.
Singapore Reviews Border Measures (10:57 a.m. HK)
Singapore is reviewing its border measures for recovered travelers following the emergence of new variants. The city-state will also closely monitor for re-infection of people who have previously recovered from Covid-19, the Health Ministry said.
The announcement came after a recent case where an individual likely contracted the virus again during a visit to India and was infectious when he returned to Singapore, the ministry said.
New measures include reducing border entry approvals and extending isolation measures for travelers from India amid an escalation of cases in that country.
Las Vegas Rules on Large Gatherings Eased (8:37 a.m. HK)
Convention Business Commissioners in Clark County, Nevada, home to Las Vegas, voted to allow large gatherings to be held at 80% of capacity starting May 1. The decision paves the way for a return of the city’s convention business, which ground to a halt as a result of the pandemic and related restrictions.
If 60% of the population is vaccinated, all county restrictions will lifted. The county is at 44% presently. Concerts with as many as 20,000 guests could be held indoors, if all attendees are tested for the virus.
MGM Resorts International, the largest operator of casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, applauded the move. “This plan represents another important step as Las Vegas continues to recover and will help our economy, our industry and our community bounce back,” the company said in a statement.
Netflix Sees Pandemic Boom Stall (8:29 a.m. HK)
Netflix Inc. credited the pandemic with delivering record growth in 2020. Now it’s blaming the pandemic for the worst first quarter in eight years. The streaming service added far fewer new customers than Wall Street expected in the first three months of 2021, even missing its own forecast by millions of subscribers.
Netflix has been warning for months that growth would slow after customers emerged from their Covid-19 hibernation, but few expected the company to stall so dramatically.
Japan Moves Closer to Emergency in Tokyo (8:17 a.m. HK)
Tokyo and Osaka will ask the Japanese government to declare a state of emergency, looking to ramp up restrictions to contain a surge in coronavirus just three months before the start of the delayed Olympics.
Virus cases are spreading in the capital and swift action is needed, with the medical system coming under strain in some areas, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told reporters. Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said Tuesday he’ll seek the declaration to stem record infections in the country’s second-biggest metropolis.
Myanmar Warns of Possible Third Wave (7:42 a.m. HK)
Myanmar’s Ministry of Health and Sports warned people to prevent a possible third wave by strictly following precautionary measures. The warning comes as cases sharply increase in nearby India and Thailand, while testing in Myanmar has declined since a coup earlier this year.
Moderna Vaccine Shipment to Korea Delayed (7:35 a.m. HK)
Moderna Inc.’s vaccine will be supplied to South Korea in the second half of 2021, Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki told lawmakers Tuesday. South Korea said last year Moderna agreed to provide enough vaccines for 20 million people, with shipments starting in the second quarter. South Korea is still aiming for herd immunity nationwide by November.
Moderna Has Supply Pact With Israel (4:30 p.m. NY)
Moderna reported a new supply agreement with Israel for 2022, with the nation also getting an option to purchase doses of variant-specific vaccine booster candidates, pending regulatory approval.
“This is an important moment for our company as the first firm order for 2022 supply and for the supply of our variant-specific booster vaccine candidates against Covid-19,” said Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel.
Colorado Hospital Spike ‘Concerning’ (3:10 p.m. NY)
Colorado’s fourth wave of Covid-19 is intensifying with hospitalizations reaching the highest since the end of January at 553, Governor Jared Polis said at a Tuesday news conference. Most patients admitted to Colorado hospitals are between 20 and 50, a “concerning trend,” said Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist. The state has opened four on-demand vaccine sites to reverse the trend.
Toronto to Shut Offices If 5 Cases Found (2:55 p.m. NY)
Toronto health authorities will order workplaces across Canada’s biggest city to close if they have more than five confirmed cases of Covid-19.
The decision Tuesday overrides less-stringent provincial orders, and follows a similar move by Peel Region, a western suburb. It comes as the city struggles to contain a surge in variant cases that threatens to collapse the local health-care system.
North Dakota, Manitoba in Trucker Vaccine Pact (2 p.m. NY)
North Dakota and the province of Manitoba have undertaken a joint initiative to vaccinate Canada-based truck drivers transporting goods to and from the U.S. The arrangement was announced by North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum and Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, who said it was the first such program between a Canadian and American jurisdiction.
Netherlands to Lift Some Restrictions (1:30 p.m. NY)
The Netherlands will ease some lockdown restrictions starting next week, though conditions will be attached to the amended measures as the country’s health system remains hard-hit. A hotly debated nighttime curfew, which triggered riots when first implemented, will end on April 28, caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte said during a press briefing Tuesday evening.
Taking a first step in lifting some restrictions is “a balancing act” that will involve taking some risks, he said. Other relaxed measures include shops that will be allowed to welcome a limited number of consumers without an appointment until 8 p.m., and outdoor bar seating that will reopen between noon and 6 p.m., with a maximum of 50 people per area.
House Probing Emergent Contracts: Clyburn (1:15 p.m. NY)
U.S. House Democratic Whip James Clyburn said he’s concerned about the track record of Emergent BioSolutions Inc., a manufacturer expected to produce Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine at its Baltimore plant, and has launched an investigation into how the company came to be awarded its federal contracts.
Two House panels, including one that Clyburn chairs, launched an investigation Monday into whether Emergent officials leveraged a relationship with a Trump administration official to profit from federal contracts, and whether the company’s actions impeded the U.S. pandemic response. Clyburn has requested testimony from Emergent executives.
J&J to Restart EU Vaccine Shipments (12:12 p.m. NY)
Johnson & Johnson will restart shipments of its vaccine to the European Union after the bloc’s drug regulator said the benefits of the shot outweigh the risks of a possible link with cases of rare blood clots.
The European Medicines Agency assessment on Tuesday echoed that of the vaccine from AstraZeneca Plc, which has also been linked with the rare clot. In both cases, the regulator said Covid can be fatal and the use of vaccines is crucial to fighting the virus.
Delhi Official Pleads for Oxygen Supplies (10:25 a.m. NY)
The chief minister of India’s capital took to Twitter Tuesday to plead for oxygen supplies from the federal government as the country reels under a ferocious second wave of virus infections.
His deputy, Manish Sisodia, said that several hospitals treating critically ill Covid-19 patients had only a few hours of oxygen supplies left.
The city reported nearly 24,000 new infections Monday, forcing the government to order a lockdown for the next six days.
Israel Warns on India Variant (10:15 a.m. NY)
There are at least eight known cases of the Indian variant in Israel, and two more possible cases, Hezi Levi, health ministry director general, said in a radio interview Tuesday. While the variant seems to have characteristics that make it more resistant to vaccines, the shots will still work against it, though less efficiently, Levi said. Not enough is known about the variant, he added.
Saudi Reports Case Surge Amid Ramadan (9:17 a.m. NY)
Saudi Arabia reported 1,070 new cases on Tuesday, the biggest daily jump in eight months, bringing the total number of infections to 407,010. The kingdom recorded 12 new coronavirus-related deaths, raising the total to 6,846, the health ministry said in a tweet.
A health ministry spokesman said the spike is attributable to gatherings and people not observing virus restrictions in all regions as they celebrate the month of Ramadan, a key Islamic holiday that often involves social gatherings.
Scotland to Ease Restrictions (7:24 a.m. NY)
Scotland will proceed with its biggest easing of virus restrictions this year as vaccinations reduce the number of new infections and deaths. Starting next week, non-essential shops, gyms and museums will be able to reopen, while cafes, restaurants and pubs can resume the sale of food and drink outdoors, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.
A ban on travel between Scotland and England and Wales will also be lifted. More than 60% of Scotland’s adult population has now received a first dose, according to government data.
— With assistance by Jeff Sutherland, and Christopher Palmeri