(Bloomberg) — New Zealand and Australia will open a quarantine-free travel corridor April 19, restoring unrestricted two-way travel between the neighbors for the first time since the pandemic began. Most toddlers infected with Covid-19 don’t have symptoms, but have a high viral load and may be silent spreaders in the community, according to a new study out of Hong Kong.
Everyone in the U.K. will be urged to take a coronavirus test twice a week as a new system of Covid passports is assessed for wide-scale use under Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to reopen the economy. New York’s vaccination program picked up speed last week, with the most populous U.S. city reporting a record of more than a half-million doses administered.
South Africa agreed to buy 20 million shots of the Pfizer Inc. vaccine, Business Day reported. Brazil expects to vaccinate 2 million people per day next month, according to its Senate president.
Sweden Boosts Spending on Pandemic Measures (2:55 p.m. HK)
Sweden’s government will spend a further 6.9 billion kronor ($792 million) on measures to fight the pandemic, Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson said at a presser. The money will be used to prevent the spread of the disease and carry out vaccinations, and to extend support measures for individuals that need to work from home until June 30.
Each month the pandemic can be cut shorter means a boost to GDP worth 25 billion kronor, and 20 billion kronor for public finances, Andersson said.
U.K. Starts Latest Government-Backed Virus Loan Program (2:36 p.m. HK)
The U.K.’s Recovery Loan Scheme starts Tuesday, offering loans of as much as 10 million pounds ($14 million) to businesses, the Treasury said in a statement.
The government is providing an 80% guarantee for all loans, and interest rates have been capped at 14.99% — though they’re expected to be much lower in most cases. The program runs until the end of the year and replaces various emergency loan programs that have distributed more than 75 billion pounds of loans since the pandemic began.
Indonesia Extends Movement Curbs in Several Areas (2:32 p.m. HK)
Indonesia’s government expanded movement restrictions to Aceh, Riau, South Sumatra, North Kalimantan and Papua, Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto said in a statement Tuesday. Curbs are now being implemented in 20 provinces through April 19.
Valneva to Start Final-Phase Tests on Vaccine This Month (1:55 p.m. HK)
French drug maker Valneva SE plans to start final-phase clinical trials on its vaccine candidate this month after a phase 1/2 test gave positive results for a high dose. The vaccine uses a sample of the coronavirus that has been killed to stimulate an immune response, an approach that has been used for decades in inoculations against other diseases.
Valneva has said it believes the well-established safety profile of inactivated jabs will allow a successful shot to be used in a broader group of people than newer technologies being tested by other drugmakers. The results are very promising, U.K. Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zawahi said in the company’s statement.
The U.K. has signed a deal worth as much as 1.4 billion pounds ($1.9 billion) to receive as many as 190 million doses of the shot between 2021 and 2025. The British government is also investing in the biotech’s Scottish manufacturing plant, where the vaccine will be created.
Toddlers May Be Silent Spreaders: Hong Kong Study (1:32 p.m. HK)
Most toddlers infected with Covid-19 don’t have symptoms, but have a high viral load and a long duration of live viral shedding, making them potential silent spreaders of the infection in the community, according to a study by the Faculty of Medicine at The Chinese University of Hong Kong.
To identify any hidden transmission chain, the authors recommend testing stool samples from young children. “While we are working intensively to prevent high-risk individuals from being infected, it is important to come up with a solution to avoid unfavorable outcomes in young children,” said Siew Chien Ng, associate director of the university’s Centre for Gut Microbiota Research.
Russia Delays Chinese Vaccine, Favors Local Shots (1:11 p.m. HK)
Russian officials have slowed authorization of China’s CanSino Biologics Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine, the only foreign inoculation that’s undergoing domestic testing, because local authorities are prioritizing Russian-developed inoculations, according to three people familiar with the situation.
When CanSino’s local partner, Petrovax Pharm LLC, filed for approval in November, it wasn’t clear how quickly Russia would be able to scale up production of its domestic vaccines, according to one of the people, who is a government official.
Now, though, Russian officials now are confident they can vaccinate the public using homegrown shots. There currently isn’t any need for foreign doses, the person said, adding that the CanSino shot may get approval later.
Testing of Thai Bar Patrons Finds New Clusters (12:55 p.m. HK)
Thailand reported 250 new virus cases Tuesday as testing of hundreds of patrons of Bangkok bars confirmed several new infection clusters. The flareup prompted authorities to close almost 200 night-life entertainment venues Monday for two weeks, including bars, pubs and karaoke centers.
The surge in new cases comes ahead of Thailand’s New Year holiday next week, when millions of Thais travel across the country, and can potentially derail a government plan to gradually ease quarantine requirements for vaccinated foreign visitors.
New Zealand, Australia to Open Travel Bubble This Month (12:21 p.m. HK)
New Zealand has agreed to open a quarantine-free travel corridor with Australia as of April 19, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Tuesday, restoring unrestricted, two-way travel across the Tasman Sea for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began.
“The bubble will give our economic recovery a boost and represents a world leading arrangement of safely opening up international travel while continuing to pursue a strategy of elimination and keeping the virus out,” Ardern said. “We have worked hard to ensure travel is safe and that the necessary public health measures are in place.”
Before the pandemic, Australian visitors accounted for one-quarter of the revenue New Zealand generated from foreign tourists. New Zealand has consistently topped Bloomberg’s Covid resilience ranking and Australia currently lies third, but both have suffered sporadic outbreaks requiring regional lockdowns.
Panacea Biotec Jumps on Russian Vaccine Deal (12:08 p.m. HK)
India’s Panacea Biotec jumped 20%, making it the top gainer in the S&P BSE Small Cap Index, after the company signed an agreement with the Russian Direct Investment Fund to produce 100 million doses a year of the Sputnik V vaccine.
Variants Heighten Need for Vaccine Funds: Rockefeller (12:02 p.m. HK)
A plan to end the pandemic by speeding up immunizations could be financed through a record asset allocation via the International Monetary Fund, according to the Rockefeller Foundation.
The IMF should approve and swiftly distribute $650 billion in additional reserve assets to help developing economies vaccinate as much as 70% of their populations by the end of next year, the foundation said in a report.
The report, whose contributors include former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Jeffrey Sachs, a professor of economics at Columbia University, details ways to leverage a large issuance and reallocation of IMF special drawing rights that can be exchanged for freely usable currencies. The plan calls for wealthier countries to voluntarily reallocate at least $100 billion of their unneeded drawing rights to provide further support to the developing world.
North Korea to Skip Tokyo Olympics Due to Covid-19 (10:16 a.m. HK)
North Korea has decided not to participate in the Tokyo Olympics due to the coronavirus, a state-run sports website reported, making it the first country to skip the games because of the pandemic.
The decision was made March 25 by the country’s Olympics committee, which cited the need to protect its athletes amid the global health crisis, Sports in the DPR Korea, a website run by North Korea’s sports ministry, said Tuesday. North Korea won seven medals at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Kim has imposed strict measures to prevent the coronavirus from entering North Korea, and was among the first in the world to close borders. U.S. and Japanese officials doubt North Korea’s claim that it has had no virus cases.
Venezuelan Opposition Figure Says He Has Recovered (9:55 a.m. HK)
Juan Guaido, president of the opposition-led National Assembly in Venezuela, said he has recovered from Covid-19 after announcing March 27 that he tested positive.
“I want to announce that today I tested negative for Covid-19 and am now recovered,” he wrote Monday evening on Twitter. Guaido, who is recognized by the U.S. and around 50 other countries as Venezuela’s legitimate leader, said the opposition is trying to organize a national vaccination plan.
Washington Lowers Age for Covid Vaccine Shots (9:10 a.m. HK)
Washington, D.C. residents aged 16 and older will be eligible for Covid vaccinations starting April 19, Mayor Muriel Bowser said on Twitter. She urged those eligible to pre-register.
Ratio of Deaths to Cases Declines in India (9:08 a.m. HK)
India now has the highest daily Covid caseload in the world, with more than 100,000 new infections reported Monday, yet the ratio of reported deaths to cases has fallen to around 1.3% from as high as 3.6% a year ago, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The trend could be caused by increased testing, better hospital treatment, improved immunity, the age of those infected and even vaccinations.
A comparison with other nations shows progress isn’t linear. While the U.S. has brought its rate down to a stable 1.8%, countries that lagged in vaccinations seem to have suffered as more contagious coronavirus strains emerged. Germany’s rate swung from 1.5% in November to 2.9% in early March — passing Brazil — before easing to 2.7%. Japan’s rate climbed to 1.9% from 1.3% in mid-January.
The U.S. has administered 167 million vaccine shots, India 79 million, Brazil 25 million, Germany 14 million and Japan only 1.2 million.
Brazil Sees 2 Million Shots per Day in May (6:50 a.m. HK)
Brazil expects to vaccinate 1 million people per day in April, doubling that number in May, Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco told CNN. The pandemic scenario for April is bad, Pacheco said.
The country reported 1,319 deaths related to Covid-19 in the last 24 hours and 28,645 new cases.
South Africa Signs Pfizer Deal (5:47 p.m. NY)
South Africa has finalized a deal for 20 million shots of the Covid vaccine produced by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, with deliveries starting mid-April, allowing it to begin a broad roll-out of inoculations, Business Day reported.
The deal had been delayed by Pfizer’s insistence that South Africa’s health and finance ministers personally sign the pact, which includes indemnity clauses to protect the company. South Africa has inoculated more than 250,000 people so far, all of them health workers, as part of a study being carried out by Johnson & Johnson.
Maryland to Offer Shots to All 16 and Over (4:38 p.m. NY)
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said all residents 16 and older will be able to get a shot beginning Tuesday at any of the state’s mass vaccination sites.
By April 12, everyone 16 and over will be eligible for a vaccine from all providers, the governor’s spokeswoman Kata Hall said on Twitter.
Astra Gets White House Help Finding New Plant (4 p.m. NY)
President Joe Biden’s administration is working with AstraZeneca Plc to find new manufacturing capacity in the U.S. after the company agreed to abandon a Baltimore Covid-19 vaccine plant that will focus exclusively on making doses for Johnson & Johnson.
The talks are the latest development after an error at the Emergent BioSolutions Inc. facility — in which ingredients for the two companies’ vaccines were mixed up — led to a batch of 15 million doses worth of drug substance being spoiled.
U.S. Parents Comfortable on Shots for Kids (3:50 p.m. NY)
Almost eight in 10 parents in a Harris Poll taken April 2 through April 4 said they’re willing to have their kids vaccinated for Covid-19.
Last week, Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE said their vaccine is both safe and 100% effective in preventing illness in adolescents ages 12 to 15. The shot has already received emergency authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for Americans 16 and up. The announcement was cited by 39% of parents in the poll as making them feel more confident.
Smith Named State Department Covid Coordinator (3 p.m. NY)
Gayle Smith, a former U.S. Agency for International Development administrator and chief executive officer of the ONE Campaign to eradicate preventable disease, was named the coordinator for global Covid response and health security at the U.S. State Department.
Smith, who helped lead the Obama administration’s response to the Ebola outbreak in 2014, was introduced Monday by Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Smith will help oversee the Biden administration’s effort to get more Covid-19 vaccine to poor countries amid concern that rich nations like the U.S. have been too stingy with their supplies.
N.J. to Open Shots to Everyone 16 and Older (1:40 p.m. NY)
New Jersey will open Covid-19 vaccinations to people 16 and older starting April 19, Governor Phil Murphy announced Monday.
The state had said all adults would be eligible for the shot by May 1, in line with a goal set by President Joe Biden for universal adult eligibility. But other states, including New York and Connecticut, announced earlier eligibility dates as vaccine supply began ramping up.
Chile Surge Takes Toll on President’s Support (1 p.m. NY)
A record virus surge is eroding support for the Chilean government’s Covid-19 policies and tarnishing one of the world’s fastest vaccination drives, according to a survey.
Thirty-eight percent of Chileans back President Sebastian Pinera’s response to the coronavirus, down from 58% on Feb. 26, according to a Cadem poll published Monday. Meanwhile, 85% of respondents say it will take more than six months for daily life to return to normal, with open schools and stores.
Pinera’s administration is grappling with a resurgence of the virus that’s driven hospitalizations and daily infections to all-time highs. Critics say Chile shouldn’t have encouraged travel during the Southern Hemisphere summer, and that the economy was reopened too quickly.
U.K. Shops, Pubs to Reopen (12:06 p.m. NY)
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed restaurants and shops will open again for the first time in four months as England’s lockdown is eased next week, but the ban on foreign travel may remain for longer.
The earliest date for resuming non-essential international travel will be May 17, officials said. Meanwhile, a plan for a new system of Covid passports is being developed to make it easier for events with live audiences to resume and travel restrictions to be eased. But the passports may not be ready until fall, according to the Telegraph newspaper, citing unidentified senior government officials.
NYC Surpasses 500,000 Doses a Week (10:30 a.m. NY)
New York administered a record 100,669 vaccines Friday, helping to push the weekly total above the city’s goal of 500,000, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
“It shows what is possible,” the mayor said at his daily briefing, adding that the city will be receiving 77,000 new doses from Johnson & Johnson, whose vaccine requires only one shot. New York is also stepping up use of mobile units and taking vaccines to housing complexes and community centers for pop-up sites.
More than one-third of adults in the city have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and 21% are fully vaccinated, city data show. Among the five boroughs, Manhattan has the highest inoculation rate, with 44% of adults receiving at least one dose and 28% fully vaccinated. The Bronx has the lowest rate with at least one dose, 31%, while Brooklyn has the lowest percentage of fully vaccinated adults, 18%.
Passengers Into Singapore to Use Travel Pass (6:15 a.m. NY)
People flying to Singapore will be able to use the International Air Transport Association’s travel pass to share their pre-departure Covid-19 PCR test results at check-in and on arrival from May 1.