Germany optimistic of summer tourists, Bali moves closer to reopen to foreigners
The discrepancy between more-vaccinated Western countries and Asian economies lagging in jabs is growing starker, with Germany’s health minister expressing optimism about falling infection rates while Taiwan, Malaysia and India tightened curbs.
Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha warned that local infections may rise over the next few weeks as health officials track down new cases. Taiwan banned large gatherings, Malaysia shuttered schools and India’s capital of New Delhi extended its lockdown for another week.
Singapore said nearly a third of its population had received at least one dose of Covid vaccine as of May 9. Hong Kong, which is struggling to persuade people to take the jab, backtracked on a controversial requirement for all foreign domestic workers to get vaccinated before seeking visas. Bali moved closer to a target of inoculating 70% of its population by July so it can open up to foreign tourists.
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- Covid variant from India Triggers WHO concern over fast spread
- Malaysia closes schools, halts social gatherings to stem virus
- Employers face pitfalls in Requiring Covid-19 Shots for Workers
- Trust us, Modi government tells court as Virus Rages in India
Germany Sees ‘Good Summer’ (2:54 p.m. HK)
Germany has cause for optimism as it gets the third wave of the coronavirus under control, Health Minister Jens Spahn said in an interview with Deutschlandfunk radio.
“The pace of immunizations is increasing, the contagion rate is sinking,” he said. “If we maintain that through the end of June, it can be a good summer.”
Germany’s incidence rate declined to 115.4 infections per 100,000 people on Tuesday, the lowest level in more than a month. At least one-third of the population has had at least one shot of a Covid-19 vaccine, Spahn said, reiterating that Germany will be in position to open vaccinations up to all adults by early June.
Taiwan Bans Large Gatherings (2:20 p.m. HK)
Taiwan, which had successfully suppressed Covid-19 as the pandemic raged elsewhere over the past year, tightened restrictions for four weeks after finding local cases with unknown sources.
The restrictions include a ban on indoor meetings of more than 100 people and outdoor gatherings of over 500 people. The benchmark stock index plummeted 3.8%, the biggest drop since March 2020.
Singapore Says 1.8 million shots given (12:49 a.m. HK)
Some 1.2 million people are now fully vaccinated against Covid-19, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said Tuesday. The country, which is currently only vaccinating those aged 45 or above, will start widening eligibility from the second half of May, Gan told parliament in a statement.
Gan also said Singapore has “hit a bump” in its virus recovery and stressed the need to remain vigilant.
Singapore’s progress contrasts with that of Hong Kong, the competing financial center where vaccine coverage stands at just 12% of the population, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker.
Hong Kong Walks Back Vaccine Requirement (10:27 a.m. HK)
Hong Kong’s government won’t push ahead with a requirement that all foreign domestic workers must be vaccinated against Covid-19 before applying for or renewing work visas, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said. The proposal had been critizised for stigmatizing and singling out the city’s roughly 380,000 foreign domestic workers.
Domestic workers must, however, undergo a second round of mass Covid testing by May 30 if they’re unvaccinated. Lam also said schools can start to operate half-day in-person classes at full capacity from May 24.
All other social distancing measures were kept in place for another two weeks, even as Hong Kong recorded another day without any local infections.
Singapore Tests Hospitals (9:30 a.m. HK)
Singapore’s decision to test all hospital staff follows the the emergence of a cluster at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, which has since grown to be the country’s largest, with 43 linked cases. There are presently 11 active clusters nationwide, the Ministry of Health said in a statement Monday.
“We’re only as strong as our weakest link,” Singapore General Hospital said on its Facebook page. “No amount of stringent measures or guidelines can keep Covid-19 out of the hospital if as front-liners we do not know if we have been silently infected.”
Bali Targets Herd Immunity (8:26 a.m. HK)
Bali has secured nearly 2 million doses of Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines so far, with another 500,000 arriving later this month and more to come in June and July, Governor Wayan Koster said late Wednesday.
The added supply brings the tourism-dependent island closer to its goal of inoculate 70% percent of its population, a critical threshold for allowing it to welcome foreigners again.
Japan State of Emergency Debated (7:18 a.m. HK)
Governors in Japan have drafted a recommendation that calls on the central government to consider declaring a nationwide state of emergency, Asahi newspaper reported without attribution.
The officials called the national virus situation grave and urged the government to take immediate actions beyond the current measures to “to defeat covid variants that are rampant.”
LA Nears Herd Immunity, Officials Say (6:51 a.m. HK)
Los Angeles, the most populous county in the U.S., is likely to achieve herd immunity by mid- to late-July if the brisk pace of vaccinations continues, health officials said.
“Although we’re not sure what percentage of the population needs to be vaccinated for this level to be reached, we do assume it’s probably somewhere around 80%,” Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of public health, said at a briefing on Monday, referring to herd immunity -- when a large share of a community is considered immune to a disease, making it harder to spread.
As of May 7. about 59% of the county’s adult population has received at least one dose of a vaccine, Ferrer said.
FDA Authorizes Pfizer Shot for Ages 12-15 (5:19 p.m.)
The US Food and Drug Administration expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to include adolescents 12 through 15 years of age.
The FDA amended the EUA originally issued on Dec. 11, 2020 for administration in individuals 16 years of age and older.
“Today’s action allows for a younger population to be protected from Covid-19, bringing us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy and to ending the pandemic,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock.
NY College Students Need Vaccines for Class (4:35 p.m. NY)
Students attending public colleges and universities in New York state will be required to be fully vaccinated to attend in person, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
“No excuses,” Cuomo said at a virus briefing, urging state and city university system students to get vaccinated now instead of waiting until September.
The state can’t legally mandate the vaccination requirement unless the federal government fully approves the vaccine for permanent use beyond the current emergency use authorization, Cuomo said. “We believe that they will do that in the near future.”
NY Offers Free MTA Rides for Shots (12:10 p.m. NY)
New York is setting up vaccination sites at Grand Central, Penn Station and other mass transit stops, and will offer free Metropolitan Transportation Authority rides for everyone who gets a shot.
“We want to see more and more customers return to the system,” MTA Chairman Patrick Foye said at a press briefing with Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Riders will be given the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot. On Friday, the subway and the Long Island Rail Road both had the most riders since the pandemic began.
WHO Says India Variant a Global Concern (12:08 p.m. NY)
The World Health Organization considers a highly contagious Covid variant spreading in India as a “variant of concern” at the global level, according to Maria Van Kerkhove, the group’s technical lead for Covid-19.
The WHO will provide more details in a report Tuesday, Van Kerkhove said in a news briefing Monday. She called for more targeted sequencing to be done to track the variant.
“There is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility,” according to Van Kerhove. She said a paper that hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed studied a limited number of patients and found a suggestion of some reduced neutralization as well.
Illinois to Open Clinics in Office Buildings (11:27 a.m. NY)
Illinois will begin offering vaccine clinics at major commercial office buildings, Governor J.B. Pritzker said. The clinics will reach workers in Chicago sites such as the Merchandise Mart and Wrigley Building as well as several suburban office buildings, with slots available during shift changes, Pritzker said during a press conference.
“More vaccinations will mean more of a return to normal for everyone,” said Pritzker, who last week announced that his state is on track to reopen as soon as June 11.
Chicago’s reopening, which is planned for July 4, also partly depends on vaccination rates, and the city is working to increase uptake in young Black residents as well as in communities including the South side, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said during the event.
NYC Offers Free Tickets to Get Vaccinated (11:20 a.m. NY)
New York City will give away free tickets to Lincoln Center, Brooklyn Cyclones baseball, botanical gardens and other venues as incentives to get a Covid-19 vaccine in a bid to increase protection in the most populous U.S. city.
De Blasio said the city has administered more than 7 million shots but that the rate has dropped precipitously since April, when it doled out as many as 115,000 vaccinations in a single day. On Friday, fewer than 60,000 shots were distributed, and fewer than 16,000 were given to residents on Sunday, which was the Mothers Day holiday.
Most Vaccinated Nation Sees Case Surge (10:45 a.m. NY)
Seychelles, which has vaccinated the largest proportion of its population of any country against Covid-19, said active cases of the disease more than doubled in the week to May 7. The health ministry of the archipelago off Africa’s east coast said in a statement on Monday that 2,486 people currently have Covid-19 and of those, 37% have received two doses of vaccine. The number of active cases rose from 1,068 a week earlier. Of those in the country who have taken two doses, 57% were inoculated with Sinopharm shots and the rest with Covishield, a vaccine made in India under license from AstraZeneca Plc.
US New Cases Continue to Slow (10:15 a.m. NY)
The number of new coronavirus cases in U.S. rose last week at the slowest pace since the pandemic began, as more Americans are vaccinated and the nation recovers from a winter spike fueled by holiday travel.
There were 286,107 new infections in the week ended Sunday, a 0.9% increase from the prior week and the lowest total since the seven days ended Sept. 20, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. The total on Sunday of 21,767 new cases was the lowest single-day tally since June 14, also a Sunday.
Deaths, which typically lag behind new cases by several weeks, also rose at the slowest rate of the pandemic, 0.82%. The 4,709 new fatalities were the least since the week ended July 5.