EU Curbs on Vaccine Exports in Focus; German Cases: Virus Update
(Bloomberg) — Australia asked the European Union to review a decision by Italy to block a shipment of AstraZeneca Plc’s coronavirus vaccine to the country. France’s Health Minister backed Italy’s measure and said other EU member states may act similarly amid delays in inoculations across the bloc.The decision could reignite concerns echoed by many including the World Health Organization that the EU is engaging in damaging protectionism, at a time when countries around the world race to immunize their populations.Germany reported the largest rise in new Covid-19 cases in a month as the country grapples with the spread of mutations, though a minister remained upbeat about the prospect of reopening hotels and restaurants later this month.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. South Africa said it was going to miss a vaccination target this month due to the insufficient number of shots.Key Developments:Global Tracker: Cases pass 115.6 million; deaths exceed 2.5 millionVaccine Tracker: More than 279 million shots given worldwideU.S. Spotlight: Hospitalizations in New York remain highest in nationInside Pfizer’s fast, fraught and lucrative vaccine distributionVaccinated workers get more office benefits than holdoutsWhere we are in hunting for the origin of Covid-19Subscribe 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.Iran to Import AstraZeneca Shots (5:23 a.m. NY)Iran will import a million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the World Health Organization’s COVAX scheme between March 18-28, according to the head of the country’s coronavirus task force. The Health Ministry on Friday reported 8,367 new virus cases and 81 deaths overnight.Iran has so far imported Sputnik V and Sinopharm jabs, and clinical trials are underway for its own domestically produced vaccines.South Africa to Miss Vaccination Target (5:08 a.m. NY)South Africa expects to miss its target of inoculating 1.5 million people by the end of this month because sufficient shots aren’t available.“We expect now only to complete 700,000 vaccines by end of March,” Deputy Health Minister Joe Phaahla said in an online briefing on Friday. “We are expecting more Johnson & Johnson vaccines and some from Pfizer, but we will still be behind target.”U.K. Says 2 in 5 Businesses Furloughed Staff in January (5:42 p.m. HK)Two in five U.K. businesses were furloughing staff in January, taking the number of workers in the scheme to 4.9 million, or 16.1% of the total, according to the Office for National Statistics. London had the highest share of workforce on furlough.Among those working, more traveled to a job than worked from home last week for the first time since June, adding to indications that fewer people are adhering strictly to lockdown rules to control the coronavirus.Australia Urges EU Review After Italy Blocks AstraZeneca Doses (5:36 p.m. HK)Australia asked the European Union to review a decision by Italy to block a shipment of AstraZeneca Plc’s coronavirus vaccine to the country and broached the topic in a previously planned call with the EU’s top trade official on Friday.Italy informed the European Commission that it would withhold the vaccine shipment, using a new rule that obliges member states to inform the EU executive of its decisions to stop vaccine exports outside of the bloc. The commission didn’t oppose Italy’s decision, an EU official said. The company declined to comment.“Australia has raised the issue with the European Commission through multiple channels,” Greg Hunt, Australia’s health minister, told reporters. “We have asked the European Commission to review this decision.”A French minister backed Italy’s decision and said other EU states could take similar measures.AmEx Executive Sees Business Travel Changing (5:00 p.m. HK)There’ll be fewer transatlantic slogs for routine meetings, but more teambuilding exercises in sunny climes. Plus, just maybe, there’ll be more company-sponsored stints of telecommuting from the beach. That’s the scenario presented by Evan Konwiser, the executive vice president of product and strategy for American Express Global Business Travel.He predicts a re-envisioning of business travel that prioritizes experiential meetings—in-person bonding opportunities for scattered remote workers and trips that feel more like work perks than obligations.Denmark Expands Use of AstraZeneca Shot (4:33 p.m. HK)Denmark expanded the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine to everyone above the age of 18, scrapping an earlier ban on people older than 65. The decision follows similar steps from Germany, France and Sweden.Cyprus to Allow Test-Free Entry for Vaccinated British Tourists (4:23 p.m. HK)Cyprus will allow vaccinated British tourists to enter the country without any further restrictions from May. Holiday-goers won’t have to show negative Covid-19 tests and won’t face a quarantine after receiving the second dose of a vaccine, Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios told state-run Cyprus News Agency.Health protocols, such as mask wearing and social distancing will continue to apply to all. Cyprus concluded a similar agreement with Israel on Feb. 14.Singapore Sees Safe Reopening of Changi as Key (3:53 p.m. HK)Singapore is prioritizing safely reopening its borders this year and nailing down Changi Airport’s position as an international hub when travel recovers from the pandemic, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said in Parliament on Friday.Changi handled 11.8 million passengers in 2020, down from about 60 million in the years before. Singapore Airlines, another great pride of the city-state, has suffered record losses, cut thousands of jobs and is racing through funds raised via a rights issue and other means.German Minister Upbeat on Tourism Reopening (3:42 p.m. HK)The German government’s tourism commissioner said he’s optimistic that hotels and restaurants can start to reopen from late March as long as they follow strict hygiene and distancing rules.A major increase in Covid-19 testing should allow the government to push ahead with lifting virus restrictions, though caution is still needed due to faster-spreading mutations of the disease, Thomas Bareiss, a deputy economy minister, told ARD television.Hungary Seeks to Boost Hospital Capacity (2:41 p.m. HK)Hungary’s government is looking to expand its healthcare capacity in anticipation of a surge in hospitalizations. Professionals working in private healthcare and university students may be directed to treat patients with the number of people treated in hospital projected to almost triple to 20,000 in the coming weeks, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on state radio Friday.S. Korea Approves Pfizer Vaccine (2:31 p.m. HK)South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety approved the use of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine under the condition that it submits results of final clinical trials, according to a statement.Takeda Files for Japan Approval of Moderna Vaccine (2:28 p.m. HK)Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. submitted an application to Japan’s Health Ministry to seek an approval for the use of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine.Some 50 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine are expected to be distributed beginning in the first half of this year. Results of a phase 1/2 trial it’s conducting in Japan are expected to be available in May and will be submitted to the Japan Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency.German Cases Rise to Highest in a Month (2:24 p.m. HK)The number of new cases in Germany rose by 11,393 in the 24 hours through Friday morning, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That’s the biggest increase since Feb. 5.Germany’s health authority warned in a daily situation report that “due to the occurrence of different virus variants, there is an increased risk of a renewed stronger increase in the number of cases.”China Seeks to Beef Up Biosecurity Labs (1:37 p.m. HK)China plans to ramp up the construction and management of biosecurity labs to prepare for future emerging diseases, while it also grapples with allegations from the U.S. that the coronavirus outbreak could have resulted from a lab leak.The country seeks to “comprehensively enhance biosecurity governance capabilities” by improving its monitoring and emergence preparedness, according to a document outlining major policy priorities through 2025Tokyo Targets 140 Daily Cases to Lift Emergency (12:26 p.m. HK)The Tokyo Metropolitan Government aims to bring daily coronavirus infections down to a 7-day average of about 140 before lifting the state of emergency in the capital, Nikkei reports, citing an unidentified person.Infections by that measure are about 269 now and the government is also aiming to lower hospitalized patients to about 1,000 from the current 1,519.Hong Kong Vaccination Rate Dips a Second Day (12:08 p.m. HK)Hong Kong has seen vaccination rates in the city decline for two straight days, in a sign the government may face difficulties keeping up the momentum of the inoculation program.The city administered vaccines to 10,300 people on Thursday, 12% lower than Wednesday’s rate, which itself was a 10% drop from the previous day. Tuesday’s total of 13,000 was the largest number of vaccinations since Hong Kong began giving shots to the public at the end of February.Auckland to Exit Lockdown on Sunday (12:07 p.m. HK)Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, will exit a seven-day lockdown this weekend after a small community outbreak of Covid-19 was contained, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.Auckland’s alert level will drop to 2 from 3 at 6 a.m. local time Sunday, allowing schools and businesses to reopen, Ardern said after a cabinet meeting Friday in Wellington. The remainder of New Zealand will move to level 1, meaning people no longer have to observe social distancing or limit the size of gatherings.Taiwan to Make 120 Million Doses by Year-End (10:42 a.m. HK)National Health Research Institutes will apply to build a second plant to expand vaccine production capacity, Taipei-based Apple Daily reported, citing Health Minister Chen Shih-chung.The government expects mass production of Taiwan’s Covid vaccines to start in July, the newspaper said.U.S. Hospitalizations Threaten to 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.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.”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.