Covid-19 travel update: Seoul tightens social distancing rules, Chile eases curb
South Korea is tightening curbs on social distancing rules in the greater Seoul area for two weeks starting July 12. Growing concern that vaccines deployed across much of the developing world aren’t capable of thwarting the delta variant has prompted some countries to look at offering third doses.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government has negotiated with Pfizer Inc. for millions of vaccine doses to be delivered ahead of previous schedules. Meanwhile, Pfizer plans to request U.S. emergency authorization in August for a third booster dose of its vaccine.
The Tokyo Olympics will ban domestic spectators at events in the nation’s capital, as the resurgence of the virus there pushed the government to declare a state of emergency. Most young people face an “extremely low” risk of illness and death from Covid-19 and have no need to shield from the virus, according to researchers behind a large UK study.
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Taiwan Asked to Prioritize Migrant Workers for Vaccines (8:55 a.m. HK)
Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Philippines urged Taiwan to add migrant workers to the priority list for Covid-19 vaccination, Taipei-based Central News Agency reported Thursday.
CDC, FDA Say Fully Vaccinated Don’t Need Booster (8:50 a.m. HK)
People who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 don’t need a booster shot at this time, the U.S. CDC and FDA said in a joint statement.
Seoul to Face Toughest Social Distancing Rules (8:45 a.m. HK)
South Korea is raising social distancing in Seoul to its highest level, banning gatherings of three or more people after 6 p.m. and ordering night-time entertainment businesses to close, as the capital is at the center of a surge in coronavirus cases.
The country is moving social distancing rules to the top level of 4 for Seoul, where the majority of new cases in recent days has emerged with sporadic outbreaks at restaurants, bars and shopping malls. The latest surge is a setback for a country that has been lauded as a model for containing the outbreak without imposing a lockdown.
Australia Secures Extra Pfizer Jabs (7:12 a.m.)
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government has negotiated with Pfizer Inc. for millions of coronavirus vaccine doses to be delivered ahead of previous schedules, with the aim of offering every Australian at least one jab by the end of the year.
Pfizer doses will ramp up to about 1 million a week from July 19, more than double the weekly average of about 350,000 in June, according to a spokesperson for Morrison. That’s expected to deliver 2.8 million jabs this month, and more than 4.5 million in August.
“We’ve been working on this for some time to get those brought forward,” Morrison said in a separate Australian Broadcasting Corp. interview on Friday. “We really are hitting the marks we now need to hit. We’ve done a lot of catch up over the month of June.”
Very Few Kids Need to Shield From Covid (7:01 a.m. HK)
Most young people face an “extremely low” risk of illness and death from Covid-19 and have no need to shield from the virus, according to researchers behind a large UK study.
The analysis, which its authors say is the most comprehensive on the topic to date, backs up clinical reports that show children and teens are less likely to be hospitalized or face severe effects from the virus. Covid-19 does increase the chance of serious illness in the most vulnerable children -- those with complex disabilities and severe existing medical conditions -- but even in those cases the risks are smaller compared with adults.
“We see very few seriously unwell children,” Elizabeth Whittaker, senior clinical lecturer in pediatric infectious diseases and immunology at Imperial College London, said in a statement.
Mexico Cases Post Highest Rise Since Feb. 13 (6:30 a.m. HK)
Mexico Covid-19 cases rose by 9,452 to reach almost 2.6 million, the biggest daily increase in almost five months, according to government data. For a third day in a row, the country’s cases have jumped the most since February. Deaths rose 266 to reach 234,458.
Canada Won’t Allow Unvaccinated Tourists Yet (5:45 a.m. HK)
Canada will hold off allowing unvaccinated tourists to enter the country for “quite a while” because the government isn’t willing to jeopardize the progress the country made to contain the outbreak, CNBC reported, citing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“I can tell you right now that’s not going to happen for quite a while,” Trudeau told reporters when he was asked when Canada would allow open its borders to these tourists.
Canada just waived quarantine requirements for fully-vaccinated citizens. Further announcements are expected in coming weeks, the prime minister added. Trudeau has previously said the government is looking closely at vaccination rates, the spread of variants and how the pandemic is handed globally.
Boosters Eyed for Chinese, Astra Shots (5:39 p.m. NY)
Growing concern that vaccines being deployed across much of the developing world aren’t capable of thwarting the delta variant is prompting some countries to look at offering third doses to bolster immunity against more-infectious virus strains.
Though definitive evidence is yet to emerge backing the need for so-called “booster” shots, health officials from Thailand to Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have already decided to offer the extra doses to some people already inoculated with vaccines from Chinese makers Sinovac Biotech Ltd., Sinopharm and from AstraZeneca Plc.
Myanmar Vaccine Drive Stalls (5:29 p.m. NY)
Myanmar’s inoculation drive has ground to a near halt due to a vaccine shortage, forcing the military government that seized power in February to hunt for new supplies to stem a spike in cases and deaths.
With the Southeast Asian country receiving no vaccine supplies since early May, just 1.75 million of a population of about 55 million have been fully vaccinated, according to Health Minister Thet Khine Win. The administration is now in talks with Russia and China to urgently secure more shots, officials said.
Texas Cases Surge (5:13 p.m. NY)
Texas posted its highest daily new-case count in almost two months, and hospitalisations also spiked.
The Lone Star state had 2,583 new cases in the past 24 hours, the most since May 11 and more than double the daily tallies of the past four weeks, according to state health department data.
Meanwhile, virus hospitalisations across the second-largest US state jumped to 1,851, the highest since late May, the data showed. In the past 10 days, hospitalisations have climbed 30%. The new-case and hospitalisation figures remain far below the peaks reached in December and January, respectively.
Pfizer to Seek Booster Approval (5:05 p.m. NY)
Pfizer plans to request US emergency authorisation in August for a third booster dose of its vaccine, based on early data showing that it can sharply increase immune protection against the coronavirus.
The company has received initial data from an early human study showing that a third dose of its existing vaccine is safe and can raise neutralising antibody levels by 5 to 10 fold compared with the original vaccine, Pfizer research head Mikael Dolsten said in an interview.
Once more data is in hand, Pfizer plans to ask the FDA to authorise a booster shot that could be given six to eight months after the original two doses, Dolsten said.
White House Defends Door-to-Door Vaccine Push (4:18 p.m. NY)
The White House defended a push to support groups with door-to-door efforts to encourage vaccinations -- a day after Missouri Governor Mike Parson said it would “not be an effective or a welcome strategy.”
Missouri has the US’s highest percentage of cases caused by the delta variant, and vaccinations lag behind the national average. A team was dispatched earlier this week to southwestern Missouri, where the outbreak is straining medical capacity.
On Thursday, Jeff Zients, the White House pandemic response coordinator, pushed back against the Republican governor’s tweeted comment, saying that “trusted messengers” like doctors or faith leaders were effective in helping boost vaccinations.
“I would say for those individuals or organisations that are feeding misinformation and trying to mischaracterize this type of trusted messenger work, I believe you are doing a disservice to the country and to the doctors, the faith leaders, the community leaders and others who are working to get people vaccinated, save lives and help end this pandemic,” Zients said at a White House briefing.
Quebec Backs Vaccine Proof Over Shutdowns (3:50 p.m. NY)
Quebec, which had some of the toughest restrictions in North America during the pandemic, says it won’t close its economy again if there’s another outbreak.
Instead, Canada’s second-most populated province will only allow fully vaccinated people to access non-essential places like bars and gyms. The passport-based approach, which is still rare in Canada, will take effect on Sept. 1, leaving Quebeckers enough time to get a second shot, Health Minister Christian Dube said.
Chile Eases Curbs (3:20 p.m. NY)
Chile will loosen restrictions against for residents who are fully vaccinated as new cases plunge and the government expands one of the world’s fastest inoculation programs.
Starting July 15, capacity rules for establishments like gyms and restaurants in districts that aren’t under quarantine will be relaxed for people with two doses, according to a government statement on Thursday. The nightly curfew will be shortened depending on virus and vaccination metrics, and schools will be able to open for on-site classes even in neighbourhoods under strict lockdown.
Portugal Expands Curfew (1:13 p.m. NY)
Portugal said a nighttime curfew will apply to more municipalities as the government tries to contain an increase in infections.The limit to movement in public spaces between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. in regions including Lisbon will now be imposed in 60 municipalities, up from 45 municipalities previously, Presidency Minister Mariana Vieira da Silva said. Existing limits on weekend opening hours of restaurants and non-food stores will also apply to more municipalities, and remote working remains mandatory in those locations.
NYC Plans Smaller Classes in Fall (11:40 a.m. NY)
New York City will reduce classroom sizes and embark on curriculum changes when the US’s largest public school system reopens -- fully in-person -- in September.
The city will use billions of dollars in federal pandemic aid to retrofit school buildings, increase special education support, and bring a system-wide expansion of counselling and mental health resources for students traumatised after a year of the pandemic. Many of those students spent much of last year in remote learning. The city plans to add 140 teachers in 72 schools with the highest class sizes and permit two teachers in many classrooms for younger students.
Olympics Bars Fans in Tokyo (10:07 a.m. NY)
The Tokyo Olympics will ban domestic spectators in events held in the country’s capital, revising an earlier decision to allow some fans, as the resurgence of virus cases pushed the government to declare a state of emergency in the city.
The decision, announced by Olympics Minister Tamayo Marukawa, comes after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a fourth state of emergency for Tokyo, running from July 12 through Aug. 22. Officials are still discussing the status of events to be held outside Tokyo.
US Keeps Foreign Travel Curbs (9:36 a.m. NY)
The US isn’t yet ready to lift restrictions on incoming international travel and ultimately the decision will be based on data, not arbitrary dates, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in an interview with Bloomberg.
He added that the US has working groups with the UK, the European Union, Canada and Mexico to determine when it will be appropriate to lift the bans.
“A lot of this is based on what’s going on with progress in the vaccines,” Buttigieg said. “We see good news and bad news in terms of the variants. One moment, you are reading about a variant across the world, next thing you know, it’s becoming the dominant strain in the US”
Hanoi Steps Up Restrictions (6:15 a.m. NY)
Hanoi officials, concerned about the spread of the coronavirus in the nation’s capital, are directing residents to limit going outside and banning outdoor exercise from 6 p.m. Thursday until further notice, according to a statement on the city’s website.