Saturday, June 10

H.K. May Widen Vaccine Mandate; Germany Cases Rise: Virus Update

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(Bloomberg) — Hong Kong is considering expanding its vaccine mandate to include premises including shopping malls and public transport, HKET reported. Singapore will increase enforcement of its social distancing rules over the Lunar New Year holiday next week in an effort to mitigate the spread of omicron.

China reported two new coronavirus cases among Olympic teams. Germany’s seven-day rate of infections rose to a record.

San Francisco removed an indoor mask mandate for offices and gyms, provided people prove they are up to date on vaccinations and boosters, starting Feb. 1. Cases are soaring among dockworkers at West Coast ports, stretching capacity at the U.S.’s busiest gateway for shipping containers.


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Key Developments: 

Virus Tracker: Cases top 365.7 million; deaths pass 5.6 millionVaccine Tracker: More than 10 billion shots administeredUAE, Saudi top list of best places to be in an omicron worldAlmost half the world trails IMF vaccine targets to end pandemicWhat we know about the omicron variant now: QuickTake

Singapore Plans Stiffer Rule Enforcement Over Holiday (12:33 p.m. HK)

Singapore will increase enforcement of its social distancing rules over the Lunar New Year holiday next week in an effort to mitigate the spread of omicron. The government has increased the number of safe distancing personnel in Chinatown, and said it would cut off access to some park areas when they get too crowded.

“While we understand this festive period is a time for reunion with loved ones, there is a strong need to exercise caution amid the surging Omicron infections,” the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment said in a statement.


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Philippines Scraps Vaccinated Visitors’ Quarantine (12:18 p.m. HK)

The Philippines will no longer require fully vaccinated arriving passengers to undergo facility-based quarantine, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said.

Starting Feb. 1, fully-vaccinated visitors from non-visa countries shall only be required to present a negative RT-PCR test taken within 48 hours prior to departure, Nograles said in a televised briefing.

Hong Kong 6 Weeks Away From Vaccine Goal (11:56 a.m. HK)

It will take Hong Kong at least six weeks to vaccinate 90% of the population if the current immunization pace holds, meaning mid-March may be the earliest the city can potentially start easing restrictions.

The first-dose rate among people 12 years old and above stands at 79% and will cross 90% by March 14, according to Bloomberg News calculations based on the average speed over the past three weeks. Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Thursday that’s the level at which authorities could consider easing some social distancing rules, which currently include restaurant restrictions and the closure of gyms and bars.


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China Reports New Cases Among Olympic Teams (11:20 a.m. HK)

China reported a combined 12 Covid infections among incoming air travelers involved in the Winter Olympics and in the “closed-loop” system on Thursday, the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympics said in a statement.

Two were from a category of athletes or team officials; a further ten infections were from a category of “stakeholders,” which include broadcasting staffers, members of international federations, marketing partners’ personnel, Olympic and Paralympic family members and media and workforce staff members.

Germany Infection Rate Rises to Record (11:02 a.m. HK)

Germany’s seven-day rate of coronavirus infections rose to record 1,073 per 100,000 people. For the time being, hospitals are not coming under the same pressure as in previous waves.


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The nation reported 190,148 new Covid-19 cases, compared with a record 203,136 the day before, according to the country’s public health authority RKI. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach expects the latest wave to peak in mid-February.

Chinese Holiday Travel Recovers Slowly (11 a.m. HK)

Hundreds of millions of Chinese people are expected to make the trip back to their hometowns over the Lunar New Year break, though holiday travel is nowhere near pre-pandemic levels as Covid-19 spreads.

For the holiday period through Feb. 25, the Ministry of Transport expects people to make 1.18 billion trips. That’s well below the almost 3 billion trips made in 2019, the last year before the pandemic broke out in China, and shows the recovery in travel and spending has a long way to go.


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Hong Kong May Impose Vaccine Mandate in Malls (10:24 a.m. HK)

Hong Kong is considering expanding vaccine mandate to include premises including shopping malls and public transport, HKET reported, citing unidentified people. The city will also ban most unvaccinated people from entering restaurants, gyms and bars.

The move comes as the city struggles to stem a worsening outbreak that’s filling hospital beds and has put thousands of people into quarantine or lockdown.

Experts Push for Broader Vaccine Production (8:01 a.m. HK)

A former head of England’s health service, a Nobel Prize winner and World Health Organization advisers are among more than 300 experts urging the U.K. government to clear the way for lower-income nations to produce Covid-19 vaccines, drugs and tests.


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In a letter, the scientists and public health specialists called on the government to support efforts to suspend intellectual property rules, while expressing concern about omicron and the threat of future variants. Joined by groups including Global Justice Now, they’re pushing the U.K. to spur drugmakers to share vaccine recipes.

Australia Approves Booster for Teens (7:24 a.m. HK)

Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration approved Pfizer booster shots for people aged 16 and 17. Health Minister Greg Hunt said the boosters could be available within a week, with the country’s technical advisory group on vaccinations also expected to soon sign off, and to give the government advice on the timing of the third shot.


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More than 93% of Australians aged 16 and over have had two doses of Covid-19 vaccine.

Japan May Shorten Isolation for Covid Contacts (7:07 a.m. HK)

Japan’s government is considering shortening the isolation period for people who have been in close contact to those with Covid-19 to 7 days from 10 days, Nikkei reported without attribution. The period was already shortened from 14 days in mid-January.

Cases Soar Among U.S. West Coast Dockworkers (6:49 a.m.)

About 1,700 dockworkers at West Coast ports have tested positive for Covid-19 in January, stretching capacity at the U.S.’s busiest gateway for shipping containers.

The number of infections for this month compares with 1,624 for all of 2021, according to the Pacific Maritime Association, which negotiates contacts with the International Longshore and Warehouses Union for 70 companies at 29 ports on the coast. About 80% of January’s reported infections were at the U.S.’s two largest ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Almost 15,000 ILWU workers are employed at West Coast ports.


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U.S. Urges China to Alter Rules for Diplomats (5:40 p.m. NY)

The Biden administration said it recommended changes to China’s requirements for Covid-19 quarantine and testing among American diplomats, adding to tensions between the world’s biggest economies ahead of the Olympics. 

“We have long-standing concerns regarding the PRC’s quarantine and testing policies that run counter to diplomatic privileges and immunities,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Thursday, referring to China’s formal name. 

The remarks followed a report by CNN saying that officials at the U.S. embassy in Beijing formally asked the State Department to allow American diplomats to leave the country after some diplomats expressed concern over China’s increasingly strict Covid-19 restrictions. 


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Southwest CEO Shifts on Masks (4:18 p.m. NY)

Southwest Airlines Co.’s chief executive officer is weighing in again on measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus — and this time he’s firmly in the pro-mask camp as carriers struggle to cope with the omicron variant’s impact.

CEO Gary Kelly said on the airline’s quarterly conference call Thursday that now would not be the best time to lift a federal requirement for masks to be worn at all times on aircraft and in airports — unless a person is eating or drinking. The mandate, which covers all transportation networks across the U.S., is set to expire March 18.

Kelly’s comment follows his controversial remarks during a U.S. Senate committee hearing in December that masks didn’t add much, “if anything,” to fight the virus on airplanes. Kelly himself came down with Covid-19 days later.


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Musk Supports Canadian Trucker Protest (3:46 p.m. NY)

Elon Musk voiced his support for a so-called “freedom convoy” of Canadian truckers and other activists on their way to Ottawa to protest Canada’s vaccine mandates and other Covid-19 control measures.

“Canadian truckers rule,” the Tesla Inc. chief executive officer said Thursday in a tweet, a clear nod to a convoy that’s been picking up attention around the world. The truckers have drawn the praise of Donald Trump Jr. and been featured on Fox News in the U.S.  

It’s unclear how many trucks will actually make it to the Canadian capital for the weekend protest, with the convoy slowed by winter weather conditions in Northern Ontario. Police reports from along its path suggest the number is much lower than supporters’ claims of thousands of vehicles en route.


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San Francisco Eases Some Mask Rules (3:13 p.m. NY)

San Francisco removed an indoor mask mandate for offices and gyms, provided people prove they are up to date on vaccinations and boosters, starting Feb. 1. The city also changed its rules to allow attendees of indoor “mega events” of 500 people or more to show a negative Covid test as an alternative to proof of vaccination.

San Francisco virus cases are “still high but rapidly dropping,” and its relatively high vaccination rate means some restrictions can be eased, the Department of Public Health said in a statement. More than 90% of eligible residents have had at least one vaccine dose.

Finland Loosens Restrictions (3:09 p.m. NY)

Finland eased some restrictions intended to stop overcrowding of health care after witnessing a decline in hospitalizations caused by the coronavirus.


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The government is opening up some cultural venues, such as theaters and cinemas, and some sporting facilities including gyms and swimming pools, and expanding the opening hours of restaurants, Hanna Sarkkinen, minister for social affairs and health, told reporters on Thursday.

Boosters Prevented Delta Hospitalizations (12:51 p.m. NY)

A third dose of mRNA Covid-19 vaccine provided more protection against hospitalization during the rise of the delta variant compared with two shots, according to a U.S. government study.

Vaccine efficacy for adults who received a booster dose made by Moderna Inc. or partners Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE was as high as 88% for those with weakened immune systems and 97% for those without such conditions, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis. After just two doses, the vaccines were 69% effective in immunocompromised people and 82% effective in otherwise healthy recipients, according to the data which analyzed almost 3,000 hospitalized adults.


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The results were gathered between Aug. 19 and Dec. 15, when delta was still dominant in the U.S., and efficacy against omicron is likely to be lower, the researchers said. Studies have shown that three doses of mRNA vaccine give better protection than just two against severe disease caused by omicron.

Boosters Protect Against Omicron (12:15 p.m. NY)

Booster vaccines are a strong shield against Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths due to the omicron variant, the latest data out of the U.K. showed.

Protection against death with omicron was about 60% roughly six months after a second dose of any Covid vaccine, a figure that soared to 95% two weeks after a booster, the U.K. Health Security Agency said on Thursday. The results mirrored what’s been seen in large studies out of the U.S.

Vaccines were also able to keep infected people out of the hospital, even months after a booster dose. The Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE vaccine showed about 75% effectiveness against hospitalization by 10-14 weeks after a booster dose, the U.K. agency said. Up to nine weeks after a Moderna Inc. booster, vaccine effectiveness against hospitalization was 90% to 95%. These figures may change with time, the agency said.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.



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