Covid-19 travel update: South Korea seeks travel bubble, Maldives extends curfew
The European Union and the US are set to back a renewed push into investigating the origins of Covid-19 after conflicting assessments about where the outbreak started, according to a document seen by Bloomberg News.
The US is easing travel advisories for dozens of nations, including Olympics host nation Japan. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser on Covid-19, issued a warning about the delta variant that was first identified in India. The World Health Organization said the strain is markedly easier to transmit and more virulent than previous mutations.
The Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE vaccine will be tested in children under 12 in a late-stage study. The UK will join the US to rally the Group of Seven behind a plan to make shots available to low-income nations.
- Global Tracker: Cases exceed 173.8 million; deaths pass 3.74 million
- Vaccine Tracker: More than 2.19 billion doses administered
- Biggest vaccine maker’s problems keep world short of Covid shots
- Haiti is only country in Western Hemisphere without vaccines
- U.S. eases travel warning for many nations as pandemic eases
- U.S. gets crucial EU support for new study into Covid’s origins
- Singapore sequencing reveals delta variant crowds out others
Indian Miner’s Vaccine Plea (10:20 a.m. HK)
Coal India Ltd., one of the nation’s biggest employers, has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to help accelerate the vaccination of its work force after the deaths of almost 400 staff from Covid-19.
The plea for more shots comes as Modi’s administration has come under intense criticism for the handling of India’s deadly second virus wave and botched vaccine rollout. The country -- which has the second-highest number of Covid cases in the world -- has seen its health infrastructure break down over the past two months, with major cities running out of oxygen and hospitals flooded with patients.
Melbourne Lockdown to Ease (10:12 a.m. HK)
Melbourne’s two-week lockdown will ease as authorities in Australia’s second-most populous city bring a Covid-19 cluster under control. The city’s stay-at-home order will lift from Friday, Victoria state Acting Premier James Merlino told reporters. Retail stores and schools will re-open and outdoor gatherings will be allowed with a maximum of 10 people. The city’s 5 million people have been forced into lockdown four times since the pandemic began for a total period of more than 140 days.
Korea Seeks Travel Bubbles (10:06 a.m. HK)
South Korea is seeking travel bubble agreements with Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Guam and Saipan to allow group trips as soon as July for people who are fully vaccinated. Under the government’s proposal, travel would be limited to the use of Incheon airport and designated airport in counterpart location. Returning tourists who test negative at the airport won’t have to quarantine.
Hong Kong Extends Social Distancing (8:51 a.m. HK)
Hong Kong will extend social distancing measures until June 23, according to a government statement. “A number of local cases with the N501Y mutant strain have been recorded in Hong Kong recently, and the source of infection has yet to be identified,” a government spokesman said. Under pressure from Beijing, Hong Kong’s government has taken increasingly extreme measures to prevent another wave taking hold in the city. Residents returning to the city are currently subject to a two-to-three week quarantine stay in a hotel on a select list, unless they are coming from mainland China.
Delta Strain More Virulent, Says WHO (7:55 a.m. HK)
The delta variant of coronavirus that first arose in India appears markedly easier to transmit and more virulent than previous mutations, including the alpha strain that emerged last year in the U.K., according to the World Health Organization’s weekly update.
People infected with the delta variant were 2.6 times more likely to land in the hospital. They were also more likely to spread the virus to others, the WHO said. Two studies suggest Covid vaccines may be less effective against the delta strain, which is now found in 74 countries, up by about a dozen from a week ago.
Singapore Cases Down as Curbs Eyed (7:47 a.m. HK)
Singaporean authorities found four locally transmitted coronavirus infections on Tuesday, extending a streak of low daily virus counts since the start of the week. The decline in cases comes ahead of a possible easing of restrictions after June 13.
Still, Covid-19 sequencing has revealed the emergence of the delta variant as the country’s major local virus strain. And only one of the four cases Tuesday was linked to earlier infections, government data showed, underscoring the difficulty of completely eradicating a recent outbreak.
US to Set Up Groups to Advise on Global Travel (6 a.m. HK)
The Biden administration is forming expert working groups with Canada, Mexico, the European Union and the U.K. to determine how best to safely restart global travel, Reuters reported, citing a White House official. The groups will be led by the White House Covid Response Team and the National Security Council. They will also include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as other agencies
Maldives Extends Curfew (5:05 p.m. NY)
Maldives extended a 16-hour curfew and other restrictions to a third week even as active cases fell to the lowest since April 29. The island nation expects to receive next month 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca Plc vaccine made in Singapore. It has administered about 485,000 doses, enough to cover 65.2% of its population, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.
Pharmacist Gets 3 Years for Vaccine Tampering (3:15 p.m. NY)
A Wisconsin man was sentenced Tuesday to three years in prison for tampering with vaccine doses at the hospital where he worked, the U.S. Justice Department said in a statement.
Steven R. Brandenburg, 46, of Grafton, pleaded guilty on Feb. 9, to two counts of attempting to tamper with consumer products with reckless disregard for the risk that another person would be placed in danger of death or bodily injury. According to court documents, Brandenburg purposefully removed a box of Covid-19 vaccine vials manufactured by Moderna Inc. — which must be stored at specific cold temperatures to remain viable — from a hospital refrigeration unit during two successive overnight shifts in late December 2020.
According to his plea agreement, Brandenburg stated that he was skeptical of vaccines in general, and the Moderna vaccine specifically, and had communicated his beliefs about vaccines to his co-workers.
Germany Said Near Digital Vaccine Certificate (2:15 p.m. NY)
Germany’s launch of a digital vaccine certificate could be imminent, with Handelsblatt reporting that IBM will probably activate the technical infrastructure on Wednesday. The German newspaper cited a letter from the head of digital at the Federal Ministry of Health. Digital certificates will be available for citizens at “many” regular pharmacies starting June 14, according to a separate release by the ABDA Federal Union of German Associations of Pharmacists on Tuesday.
US Eases Dozens of Travel Warnings (1:50 p.m. NY)
The US State Department is easing travel advisories for dozens of nations including many in Europe, such as France and Germany.
The department changed its travel warnings Tuesday for many nations from level 4, or “do not travel,” to level 3, “reconsider travel,” according to the department’s website.
The State Department’s travel advisories aren’t binding but can help guide airlines on their own restrictions. Other countries often reciprocate for American citizens based on the department’s advisories.
Fauci Warns on Delta Variant (1:40 p.m. NY)
US health officials said Tuesday that the more harmful Covid-19 variant known as delta has surged in the UK, a country with high vaccination levels, in a warning to states as inoculation fades across the US
Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden on the pandemic, said at a news briefing that the delta variant that was first reported in India now accounts for more than 6% of cases being sequenced in the US while in the UK it has overtaken the alpha variant that originated there.
Alrosa Donates Sputnik Shots to Zimbabwe (12:02 p.m. NY)
Zimbabwe will take delivery on Wednesday of 50,000 Sputnik vaccines that were donated by Alrosa PJSC, Russia’s largest diamond mining company, to help bolster the southern African nation’s inoculation program, the state-owned Zimpapers Television Network reported on Tuesday. Alrosa, which has operations in Zimbabwe and Angola, first announced its plans to provide the shots -- which have been shipped to more than 30 countries -- to the two nations in February. Zimbabwe is set to receive another 500,000 vaccines on June 15, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa told reporters on Tuesday. She didn’t provide the suppliers’ details.
Pfizer Trials Shots in Under 12s (8:56 a.m. NY)
Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s Covid-19 vaccine will be tested in children under the age of 12 in a late-stage study of as many as 4,500 participants.
The vaccine partners announced plans on Tuesday to kick-start the trial of the shot within weeks. It will be conducted at more than 90 sites, spanning the U.S., Finland, Poland and Spain.
Germany Waives Quarantine for Euro Soccer (8:33 a.m. NY)
Germany will approve changes to travel rules this week that mean people accredited for the European soccer championship won’t have to quarantine even if they arrive from areas affected by mutations.
“The European football championship is a major sporting event that the whole world is watching and Germany will do its part to make it a success,” Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said in an emailed statement, adding that strict hygiene rules will still apply. The tournament starts on Friday.
Singapore Sequencing of Delta Strain (7:41 a.m. NY)
Sequencing in Singapore has revealed the emergence of the delta variant as the country’s major local strain, underscoring the highly infectious nature of the mutation that was first detected in India.
Of these cases to date, 449 have been found to be caused by variants of concern, among which 428 were infections of the delta strain, said the country’s health ministry. The next largest group was nine cases linked to the beta mutation that first emerged in South Africa.