Biden Unveils U.S. Plan; Singapore Weighs Limits: Virus Update

U.S. President Joe Biden presented a national strategy to combat the coronavirus, saying the pandemic is likely to claim another 100,000 lives over roughly the next month. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s infectious-disease chief, said it’s “somewhat of a liberating feeling” to work for Biden after Donald Trump tried to sideline him.

Indonesia recorded its highest daily death toll yet from the virus. Singapore is considering tightening restrictions over the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday.

New York City hasn’t stopped giving vaccinations despite shortage warnings and pleas for resupply, but some appointments were canceled. Germany’s coronavirus deaths passed 50,000 while the U.K. suffered its worst day in the pandemic.

Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases exceed 97.3 million; deaths surpass 2 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 56.7 million shots given worldwide
  • Covid cases arefalling in 46 U.S. states, easing load on hospitals
  • Canada’s vaccine rollouthits snags despite huge orders
  • Senior living’s newsales pitch: Sign lease, get vaccine
  • Palm Beach draws flood ofwealthy homebuyers in Covid exodus
  • Where are our coronavirus vaccines? South Africans ask

Subscribe to adaily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis teamhere. Click CVID on the terminal for global data on cases and deaths.

Macau Records First Positive Case Since June (8:05 a.m. HK)

Macau reported itsfirst coronavirus case since June. The asymptomatic patient is a Macau resident who was in Dubai and traveled to Japan via Singapore before returning to the city, the government said in a statement.

Air Crews to Face Two-Week Quarantine in Hong Kong (8:04 a.m. HK)

All air crews arriving in Hong Kong will berequired to quarantine for 14 days at designated hotels, Radio Television Hong Kong reported, citing the territory’s food and health secretary.

Indonesia Sees Record Death Count (8:01 a.m. HK)

Indonesia recorded itshighest Covid death toll since the outbreak began as movement restrictions were extended for two more weeks in Java and Bali. The authorities confirmed 346 deaths in the 24 hours through midday Thursday, taking the total to more than 27,000.

Singapore May Tighten Covid Rules for Lunar New Year: ST (7:42 a.m. HK)

Singapore is considering implementingfurther restrictions ahead of the mid-February Lunar New Year festival after new Covid cases inched up after year-end holidays, the Straits Times reported Thursday.

The government is still studying details of the measures, the report said, citing Education Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the country’s pandemic task force.

Malaysia Extends Restrictions Amid Case Surge (7:35 a.m. HK)

Malaysiaextended movement restrictions in six states and federal territories by more than a week amid surging coronavirus cases. The Movement Control Order — the nation’s strictest form of lockdown — was due to end Jan. 26 but will continue until Feb. 4.

After the restrictions were extended, Resorts World Genting, the hilltop casino, said it will close for two weeks.

Myanmar to Begin Vaccinations Next Week (7:23 a.m. HK)

Myanmar will begin vaccinations against Covid-19 next week, with 1.5 million doses from India expected to arrive Friday, according to de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The first vaccine rollout of 750,000 people will prioritize front-line health workers, key government officials and members of parliament, followed by vulnerable and high risk groups.

Myanmar has ordered 30 million doses from Serum Institute of India — which manufactures a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University — and is in talks with Chinese manufacturers. It expects to receive jabs for 20% of its 55 million population from the global Covax facility.

Earlier this week, the International Monetary Fund’s resident representative cautioned Myanmarnot to ease virus restrictions too quickly even with local cases falling.

Thailand Approves AstraZeneca Jab as Bangkok Reopens (7:14 a.m. HK)

Thailand approved AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid vaccine for emergency use, paving the way for the country to begin inoculating its 67 million people amid a resurgence in cases. AstraZeneca is the first vaccine developer to win approval in Thailand, which also has ordered shots developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd.

Meanwhile, Bangkokwill allow spas, gyms, senior daycare centers and 10 other types of businesses to reopen from Friday, after new cases have begun declining following two weeks of a partial lockdown.

Portugal to Halt Flight Connections With U.K. (5:44 p.m. NY)

Portugal will halt flights to and from the U.K. as the government tries to reduce contagion risks associated with a Covid-19 variant that emerged there. The decision will take effect at midnight Friday, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said. Flights will be allowed for British and Portuguese citizens wanting to return home.

Texas Hospitalizations Dip to 10-Day Low (5:42 p.m. NY)

Virus hospitalizations in Texas fell to the lowest level in 10 days and the pace of new infections tumbled by more than one-fourth, state heath department figures showed. There were 13,564 Covid-19 patients in hospitals in the second-most populous U.S. state, the lowest tally since Jan. 11, and almost 600 intensive-care beds available.

Meanwhile, a Harris County Public Health doctor was arrested for stealing a vial containing nine doses of vaccine from a clinic in suburban Houston, the district attorney’s office said. The physician was fired and is facing criminal charges of theft by a public servant.

Utah Ties Record for Deaths (5:25 p.m. NY)

Utah reported 30 deaths, tying a pandemic record for the state’s most in a single day, bucking a general trend toward declining deaths, cases and hospitalizations. Utah’s seven-day rolling average of deaths fell to six from a peak of more than 20 in mid-December, according to the latest data from the Covid Tracking Project.

Fauci Says ‘Let the Science Speak’ With Biden in Power (4:42 p.m. NY)

Anthony Fauci said he feels “somewhat” liberated working for President Joe Biden after Donald Trump tried to sideline him.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, addressed reporters Thursday at the White House as Biden’s chief medical adviser. Under Trump, he had been displaced by Scott Atlas, a politically conservative neuroradiologist who disparaged face masks, social distancing and other public health precautions.

“The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know, what the evidence, what the science is and know that it’s, let the science speak, is somewhat of a liberating feeling,” Fauci said.

California Case Increase Slows While ICU Capacity Drops (4:35 p.m. NY)

California added 19,673 new cases to reach 3.04 million, with a slower pace pushing the 14-day average to a two-week low. Deaths rose by 571 to 35,004.

Test positivity dropped to 11%, the lowest in more than a month, and hospitalizations also fell. Still, the state’s ICU bed capacity of 1,030 is at one of its lowest levels since the pandemic started. The mixed data come as most of the state is under some form of lockdown and as the state anticipates new clusters of infections.

Florida Limits Vaccines to Residents (4:23 p.m. NY)

Floridasought to limit vaccines to residents Thursday, saying availability is “extremely limited” in the state. Vaccine providers are urged to confirm that anyone seeking the first dose is a Florida resident, according to anorder by state surgeon general Scott Rivkees. Non-residents who are health care workers treating patients in Florida can receive shots.

Officials have downplayed the number of non-residents coming to Florida to get the vaccine, saying snowbirds who spent several months in the Sunshine State should be considered residents. Faced with long wait times for appointments or overloaded phone and online systems to get one, many local residents, particularly in South Florida, have complained that “vaccine tourists” were taking up the limited supply of shots.

Wyoming to Ease Curbs on Gatherings (4:10 p.m. NY)

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon is easing Covid-19 restrictions as a surge in cases that overwhelmed hospitals recedes. Indoor gatherings will be permitted up to 25% capacity or 250 people, and outdoor gatherings of as many as 500 people will be allowed, Gordon’s office said in a statement.

Wyoming, where Donald Trump won 70% of the vote in November’s presidential election, was one of the last U.S. states to set statewide rules on face coverings. Hospitalizations declined to 81 on Wednesday from a peak of 247 on Nov. 30, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

J&J to Analyze Vaccine Trial Data (3:29 p.m. NY)

Johnson & Johnson has enough data from its late-stage Covid-19 vaccine trial to begin analysis, possibly in a week or two, said Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease doctor.

J&J previously had said it would have a first chance to review data from its late-stage trial of 45,000 volunteers in the last week of January or the first week of February, consistent withFauci’s timeline.

Biden Unveils National Strategy for Covid-19 (2:55 p.m. NY)

President Bidenannounced a series of executive actions aimed at overhauling the federal response to the pandemic, which has claimed more than 400,000 lives in the U.S. He repeated his warning that the crisis will worsen before it improves, and that the U.S. will experience a “dark winter.”

“We’ll move heaven and Earth to get more people vaccinated for free,” Biden said Thursday at the White House. But he warned: “The brutal truth is it’s going to take months before we can get the majority of Americans vaccinated.”

He also encouraged Americans to begin wearing masks more frequently, saying the simple precaution could save 50,000 lives through April.

Italy Blames Pfizer Delays With Vaccinations (2:26 p.m. NY)

Italy’s coronavirusvaccination campaign could come to a near standstill next week amid rising anger across Europe over a slowdown in vaccine deliveries. “We received 29% fewer doses this week, and there will be a further 20% decline next week” from Pfizer Inc. and its partnerBioNTech SE, Domenico Arcuri, the country’s virus emergency czar, told reporters.

Macron Warns Vaccine May Not Work Long-Term (1:43 p.m. NY)

French President Emmanuel Macron told European Union leaders they shouldn’t assume Covid-19 vaccines will necessarily prove effective in the long run, according to two people with knowledge of his comments.

France reported more than 20,000 new Covid-19 cases for the third straight day as the government warnedanother lockdown may be unavoidable as a more contagious variant spreads. The latest seven-day average of new cases is the highest since November, when France was in full lockdown.

France is also raising its target for Covid vaccinations, and all residents could be vaccinated by the end of August, Health Minister Olivier Veran said on TF1 television.

U.S. Cases Declining in Most States (1:35 p.m. NY)

Covid-19 cases aredeclining in 46 states, reducing pressure on hospitals. In 42 of those states, the seven-day case average has fallen more than 10% from a week earlier, while the other four had more modest drops, according to Covid Tracking Project data. Overall, the U.S. seven-day average is down 20% from a week ago, to 192,825, because the drop is much greater in some states — down 39% in Missouri, for instance.

EU to Approve AstraZeneca Vaccine, Von Der Leyen Says (1:18 p.m. NY)

AstraZeneca’s vaccine is expected to get conditional market authorization in the European Union next week and the company plans to begin deliveries in mid-February, European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen told EU leaders, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Johnson & Johnson is expected to apply for market authorization in mid-February, and receive it around early March, according to the people.

Britons Face $1,000 Fines for Going to House Parties (12:42 p.m. NY)

People who deliberately flout U.K. lockdown rules and attend house parties will facenew fines of as much as 800 pounds ($1,098), Home Secretary Priti Patel announced.

“Such irresponsible behavior poses a significant threat to public health,” Patel said at a news conference in London. “We will not stand by while a small number of individuals put others at risk.”

The U.K. has administered more than 5 million vaccinations, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in atweet Thursday. The government intends to vaccinate about 15 million carers and those most vulnerable to the disease by mid-February.

Airlines Say U.S. Standards Needed for Covid Health Pass to Fly (11:47 a.m. NY)

Federal standards are needed to verify the validity of tests and vaccines necessary for Covid-19 health passes, Airlines for America, an industry association whose members include American Airlines and Delta, said in a letter to Alejandro Mayorkas, President Biden’s designate for Homeland Security secretary.

NYC Continues Vaccinations Despite Supply Issues (11:11 a.m. NY)

New York City has not stopped giving vaccinations despite shortage warnings and pleas for resupply, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday. About 45,000 people were vaccinated in New York City on Wednesday but the city has had to cancel some future appointments due to lack of supply.

Meanwhile, the city continues to see diverging trends among Covid-19 rates: The seven-day average of hospitalizations continues to climb, reaching 5.16 per 100,000 residents, up from around 4 at the beginning of the month. But the seven-day average of new cases is flat-lining, and 8.83% of city residents tested test positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday. Hospitalizations are often a lagging indicator.

Germany Reports 21 Deaths After Covid Vaccinations (10:35 a.m. NY)

Germany reported 21 deaths after Covid-19 vaccinations, saying they didn’t significantly exceed the expected death rate for the age group. The people who died were between ages 56 and 99, and died between one hour and two weeks after vaccination, according to the Paul Ehrlich Institute, which monitors drug safety.

Two patients died of Covid-19, with symptoms appearing four to five days after the first vaccination — too soon for the vaccine to take effect, the institute said. All the patients had serious illnesses, including cancer, kidney disease or Alzheimer’s, though the institute said it’s still necessary to collect further information in some cases.

Chancellor Angela Merkel haspromised widespread availability of coronavirus vaccines in Germany by late September.

Pfizer Says It’s Willing to Sell Vaccine to States (10:18 a.m. NY)

Pfizer Inc. is open to selling Covid-19 vaccine doses directlyto states trying to boost their supplies, pending approval from the federal government, a company spokesman said Thursday.

The drugmaker is willing to collaborate with the federal government “on a distribution model that gives as many Americans as possible access to our vaccine as quickly as possible,” Pfizer spokesman Eamonn Nolan told Bloomberg News.

— With assistance by Michael Arnold, Vincent Del Giudice, Jonathan Levin, Joe Carroll, Joao Lima, Henry Goldman, Naomi Kresge, Kitty Donaldson, Nikos Chrysoloras, Ben Sills, Flavia Rotondi, Jennifer Jacobs, Jennifer Epstein, Tina May, Josh Wingrove, Riley Griffin, and Ian Fisher

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