Europe Steps Up Battle; U.S. Resurgence Widens: Virus Update

Europe’s leaders intensified efforts to stem a resurgent coronavirus outbreak across the continent with France announcing stricter measures, Germany warning of economic risks and London set to tighten restrictions.

Italy, Portugal and the Czech Republic reported record new cases. In the U.S., the virus’s comeback has reached the vast majority of the country, with case trends worsening in 46 states and the nation’s capital.

Russian health authorities approved a Covid-19 vaccine created by a former biological weapons research laboratory for public use, marking the second time the Kremlin has bypassed accepted scientific protocol as it tries to field a defense against the pandemic.

Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases pass 38.4 million; deaths near 1.09 million
  • U.S. Hot Spots: Covid’s deadly comeback spreads to 46 states
  • Interview: FDA chief says trial halt about safety, not politics
  • Pfizer, BioNTech vaccine study still on track, CEO says
  • U.S. states face big challenges readying vaccine distribution
  • How Do People Catch Covid-19? Here’s What Experts Say: QuickTake

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click CVID on the terminal for global data on coronavirus cases and deaths.

63,509 in IndiaMost new cases today

+2% Change in MSCI World Index of global stocks since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

-1.​014 Change in U.S. treasury bond yield since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

5.​3% Global GDP Tracker (annualized), Aug.


Czechs Post Record Cases, Prepare Arenas (7:21 a.m. HK)

The Czech Republic registered 9,544 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, the highest daily number since the start of the pandemic, according to Health Ministry data published on Thursday.

The country, which has the highest two-week cumulative number of infections in the European Union when adjusted for population, is preparing emergency medical facilities, Health Minister Roman Prymula said in a video on his Twitter account.

London Set for Clampdown as U.K. Response Fragments (7:01 a.m. HK)

London is on course for an imminent tightening of coronavirus restrictions, as cases continue to rise in Britain and the country’s response fragments.

A change in the rules in the U.K. capital is likely in very short order, according to an official in London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s office. Khan and health leaders met Wednesday to discuss the potential move into stricter restrictions, which would ban two separate households from meeting indoors, the official said. London will soon hit an average of 100 cases per 100,000 people, the person said.

Wells Fargo Fires More Than 100 for Abusing U.S. Aid (6:40 a.m. HK)

Wells Fargo & Co. fired more than 100 employees suspected of improperly collecting coronavirus relief funds, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

The firm determined that the staffers defrauded the Small Business Administration “by making false representations in applying for coronavirus relief funds for themselves,” according to an internal memo reviewed by Bloomberg. The review focused on employees who tapped the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, a key part of the government’s effort to prop up businesses during the pandemic.

Alabama Football Coach Tests Positive (6:20 a.m. HK)

Nick Saban, the head coach of the University of Alabama football team and a prominent figures in college sports, has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Associated Press. The team is ranked second in the country for football and is set to play No. 3 Georgia on Saturday.

The case follows news that the University of Florida will delay its football game on Saturday with Louisiana State University following a Covid outbreak.

Germany Imposes Limits in Hard-Hit Areas (5:15 p.m. NY)

Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a series of piecemeal measures to contain a second wave of the pandemic in Germany, and cautioned that more would follow if the rise in virus infections didn’t stop in 10 days.

In hard-hit areas, bars and restaurants must shut down by 11 p.m., while gatherings will be limited to 100 people. The use of masks in public will be extended.

“Economically we can’t afford a second wave with the same consequences as we had in the spring,” Merkel said, mainly appealing to citizens to abide by hygiene and distancing rules and avoid groups. “What we do and don’t do in the coming days and weeks will be key to the question of how we make it through this pandemic.”

Texas Hot Spots Face Dwindling ICU Capacity (5 pm NY)

Intensive-care units in Texas’s hardest-hit cities and towns are filling up as a new wave of infections grips the second-biggest US state.

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  • The El Paso area has just 10 ICU beds available after hospital admissions jumped by more than 80% in the past week, state and city data showed. In the other two hot spots around Lubbock and Amarillo, spare ICU capacity has dwindled to 27 beds -- to cover a region spread across 47 counties, according to the state health department.

    Ireland Bans Home Visits, Closes More Businesses (4:15 p.m. NY)

    Ireland is introducing new measures to curb the spread of the virus, after daily cases increased at the fastest rate since April. All household visits will end, and a number of districts close to the border with Northern Ireland will move to a so-called Level 4 lockdown.

    In addition to existing restrictions in those areas, including the closure of most bars and restaurants, most business and services deemed non-essential will shut, wedding guests will be limited to six and gyms will close.

    Barron Trump Had Virus, Now Negative (4:10 p.m. NY)

    President Donald Trump’s youngest son, Barron, tested positive for coronavirus while his parents recovered from Covid-19 but never showed symptoms of the disease, his mother said.

    First Lady Melania Trump said in a post on the White House website on Wednesday that Barron Trump initially tested negative after his parents both contracted the virus.

    “I couldn’t help but think ‘what about tomorrow or the next day?,” she wrote. “My fear came true when he was tested again and it came up positive. Luckily he is a strong teenager and exhibited no symptoms.”

    She added: “He has since tested negative.”

    Illinois Reports Most Deaths Since June (2:51 p.m. NY)

    Illinois on Wednesday reported 2,862 coronavirus cases and 49 deaths, the most since June 24, according to the state’s department of public health website.The state’s seven-day positivity rate has climbed to 4.6%, up from 4.5% a day ago and 3.5% a week ago

    France to Impose Curfews in Major Cities (2:05 p.m. NY)

    French President Emmanuel Macron announced an evening curfew in the country’s biggest cities to stem the unrelenting spread of the coronavirus, as rising infections begin to fill up hospital beds.

    “This virus is dangerous and serious for everyone,” Macron said during a televised interview on Wednesday night. “We are at a stage where we need to react.”

    Greater Paris, Lyon, Marseille and Toulouse are among the areas affected by the curfew, which will last four weeks starting Saturday.

    N.J. Sees Hospitalization Spike (2 p.m. NY)

    In New Jersey, coronavirus is causing more instances of serious illness: Hospitals had 699 positive patients over the past 24 hours, a jump of 51 from the prior day and the highest total since Aug. 5. Of those, 168 were in intensive care and 58 were relying on ventilators, for numbers not seen since late July. The state reported 953 new cases and nine deaths. In all, 14,402 deaths in New Jersey have a lab-confirmed Covid-19 link, and 1,789 more are untested but probable.

    Italy Reports Record New Cases (11:10 a.m. NY)

    Italy on Wednesday reported a record number of new coronavirus cases, as the spread of the contagion surpassed levels reached at the peak of last spring’s outbreak.

    New cases jumped to 7,332 from 5,901 on Tuesday, higher than the 6,557 infections at the peak of the pandemic on March 21. The spike at least partly reflects more thorough screening. Daily tests totaled 152,196, up from 112,544 the previous day and more than 9 times the March daily average of 15,752.

    NYC Makes Progress in Hot Zones, Mayor Says (11 a.m. NY)

    New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said city health officials are making progress in reducing infection rates in areas of Brooklyn and Queens where coronavirus cases have been spiking recently.

    “We’re seeing some leveling off in the city, some leveling off in the communities that are affected,” de Blasio said, referring to hot zones of elevated infection delineated by state health officials. “We need to see more progress obviously, but what we’re seeing overall in the indicators is that we are making some progress. We have to stop a second wave.”

    The mayor didn’t give any data on the specific areas of elevated infection, but the number of new reported cases on a seven-day average fell to with 512 from 520, the daily percentage or residents testing positive dropped to 1.13% from 1.90% and the seven-day rolling average of positive tests decreased slightly to 1.46% from 1.48%.

    Duterte Wants Soldiers Vaccinated First (10:45 a.m. NY)

    Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he wants the poor, soldiers and police officers to receive the first shots of the coronavirus vaccine once available.

    The Philippines, which has the most infections in Southeast Asia at nearly 347,000, has the funds to buy the vaccine, Duterte said.

    Portugal Tightens Limits as Cases Hit Record (10:40 a.m. NY)

    Portugal on Wednesday reported the biggest daily increase in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the outbreak. There were 2,072 new cases in a day, more than the previous record of 1,646 announced on Saturday, and taking the total to 91,193. The number of patients in intensive-care units rose by 3 to 135, a level that’s half of the peak reached in April.

    Portugal is tightening the limit on gatherings in public areas to five people from 10, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said on Wednesday.

    — With assistance by Rob Verdonck

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