Madrid Lockdown Urged; China Sets Vaccine Target: Virus Update

Europe’s biggest economies are struggling to bring the coronavirus back under control as hospitalizations climb following a surge in cases to record levels in some countries.

Spain’s government asked for curbs on movement to extend across the entire city of Madrid, putting pressure on local authorities to act. Poland will announce new restrictions next week.

Some countries in the northern hemisphere are having trouble sourcing additional flu shots as they prepare for potential higher demand amid the pandemic, according to Ann Moen, WHO’s head of Influenza Preparedness and Response.

In China, authorities are aiming to have 610 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine available by year’end. China detected its first local asymptomatic cases in more than a month in two port workers responsible for unloading frozen seafood, stoking concern that contaminated imports could be transmitting the virus.

Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases top 32 million; deaths exceed 980,000
  • Who’s succeeding against the coronavirus and why?: QuickTake
  • This is why Covid may be life-threatening for some patients
  • Death toll nears 1 million, but real number may be double
  • The world’s car industry pins its hopes on China’s recovery
  • Record virus cases across Europe put hospitals under pressure

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China Annual Vaccine Capacity Seen at 1 Billion Doses by End-2021 (4:36 HK)

China’s annual vaccine capacity is expected to reach 610 million doses by year-end and 1 billion doses by the end 2021, Zheng Zhongwei, an official at the National Health Commission, says at a briefing in Beijing. Prices will be affordable for the public, Zheng said, without giving specifics.

No serious cases of adverse reaction were reported yet in emergency use program of China’s inoculations.

Moscow Cases Soar as Mayor Asks Seniors to Stay Home (2:57 p.m. HK)

New cases in the Russian capital jumped by half on Friday from the previous day as Mayor Sergei Sobyanin told people over the age of 65 and with chronic health problems to stay home. He said there had been a “serious increase” in hospitalizations and requested businesses let more employees work from home, in a post on his official website.

The contagion rate in Moscow has risen to the highest since early May, when the city was subject to a strict lockdown, according to calculations by the state-controlled Tass news service. Moscow is the epicenter of the epidemic in Russia, which has 1,136,048 confirmed cases, the fourth-most worldwide.

Philippines in Talks With Vaccine Suppliers (2:49 p.m. HK)

The Philippines expanded its vaccine search to 17 potential suppliers, hoping to close a deal within the second quarter of next year.

Israel Lockdown Set to Tighten (2:30 p.m. HK)

Israel confirmed a record 7,527 new coronavirus cases in a single day, bringing its total to 214,458, including 1,378 fatalities.

A weeklong countrywide lockdown is set to tighten Friday. Some workplaces, including financial institutions, defense and construction companies, will be permitted to continue to operate, a cabinet subcommittee decided on Friday.

Minister Distances From Quarantine Decision (2:04 p.m. HK)

The leader of the state at the center of Australia’s outbreak said he doesn’t know who in his government made the decision to hire security firms to monitor quarantine procedures in Melbourne hotels that subsequently failed.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews and his Labor government are under mounting pressure over security failures at quarantine hotels for returned overseas travelers that led to a resurgence of community transmission in the state.

German Daily Infections Back Above 2,000 (1:15 p.m. HK)

Germany recorded 2,321 new infections, the most since late April and taking the total to 281,346, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. It was the first figure above 2,000 since Saturday.

Along with European neighbors like France, Germany has experienced an uptick in infections since the start of August, though the daily increase remains far below levels of around 7,000 seen at the height of the pandemic in the spring.

Germany’s reproduction figure — the average number of people infected by one person with the disease — fell for a fifth day Thursday, down to 0.78 from 0.79, according to the RKI public health institute.

New Singapore-Japan Track to Open (12:20 p.m. HK)

Singapore and Japan will start a “residence track” to allow people with work passes to travel between both countries with health safeguards in place, the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. People can apply from Sept. 30.

South Korea Braces for Holidays (11:55 a.m. HK)

South Korea will temporarily bolster distancing rules from Sept. 28 to Oct. 11, as it aims to prevent a coronavirus resurgence during back-to-back holidays.

Restaurants, internet cafes, movie theaters and concert halls will be required to either have a one-seat or 1-meter separation between customers. Nightclubs will be banned nationwide during the so-called special quarantine period.

New cases have hovered at around 100 a day for more than two weeks after peaking at 441 amid an outbreak at a church last month. Many Koreans travel to their hometowns during the Chuseok holidays.

Defending India’s Response (11:30 a.m. HK)

In an interview with the Financial Times, the head of India’s top clinical research institution defended the government’s response to the pandemic, saying the country had done “exceedingly well” compared to developed nations considering its vast and diverse population.

Balram Bhargava, director-general of the Indian Council of Medical Research, said “cost-effective diagnostic capabilities” were helping authorities control the spread of the virus and that the situation was “bound to improve in coming days.”

Meanwhile, Bharat Biotech International will begin Phase-3 trials of a vaccine next month, the Economic Times reported. The company plans to recruit about 20,000 participants across India for tests.

India has over 5.8 million confirmed infections, the most in the world after the U.S.

U.S. Bailiffs Sue Over Protection (10:37 a.m. HK)

Federal court bailiffs accused the government in a lawsuit of failing to provide necessary protective gear and sanitation to keep them safe from the virus.

The suit also alleges that the U.S. Marshals Service and the private contractor that employs the bailiffs use veiled threats of disciplinary action to keep them from complaining about work conditions.

Rio Carnival Postponed Indefinitely (9:59 a.m. HK)

Rio de Janeiro has postponed its world-famous carnival because of the virus, Agence France-Presse said on its Twitter account, citing an unidentified official.

Asymptomatic Cases in China’s Qingdao (9:32 a.m. HK)

Two port workers in Qingdao tested positive, the first local asymptomatic cases reported in China since Aug. 20. The two workers were responsible for unloading frozen seafood, so the infections are likely to intensify concern about the virus being transmitted on imported seafood, meat and their packaging.

While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said that there’s no evidence Covid-19 is transmitted on food or food packaging, Chinese researchers have found coronavirus on chilled salmon may be infectious for more than a week.

NYC Steps Up Efforts to Contain Cluster (8:55 a.m. HK)

New York City health inspectors will start entering private schools in several Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods experiencing an outbreak, the city health department announced Thursday. Officials are adding enforcement personnel to ensure people comply with mask and social distancing requirements. The city may tighten rules to ban gatherings of more than 10 people in those areas, close schools or impose fines if mask standards aren’t met.

Some of the hotspots have large Orthodox Jewish communities. The school inspections will include Jewish Yeshivas before Sunday’s start of the solemn holiday of Yom Kippur, when worshipers by the thousands plan to attend synagogues. Mobile testing units and sound trucks blaring warnings in English and Yiddish have been deployed to the affected areas, along with thousands of robocalls, mailings and newspaper ads with a focus on the holiday.

Alarm Over Political Interference in Science (8:20 a.m. HK)

The presidents of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine in the U.S. expressed alarm over “the politicization of science, particularly the overriding of evidence and advice from public health officials and derision of government scientists.”

Marcia McNutt and Victor Dzau said the U.S. is in a critical stage of the pandemic, with important decisions to be made, especially on the efficacy and safety of vaccines. “Policymaking must be informed by the best available evidence without it being distorted, concealed, or otherwise deliberately miscommunicated,” they wrote in a statement.

Brazil Cases, Deaths Slow (6:16 a.m. HK)

Brazil reported 32,817 cases, fewer than the previous two days and continuing the general downward trend of the nation with the third-highest case count. Daily cases have been dropping steadily from a peak of 69,079 on July 29, and this week’s cumulative cases are on track to be the fewest since May, according to Health Ministry data.

North Dakota Matches Fatality Record (5:30 p.m. NY)

North Dakota reported eight new deaths, matching the record reached last weekend. Among the total 211 fatalities, 64 have been reported in September, the most of any month in the pandemic, according to the state Department of Health.

Another 471 new cases were reported, among the highest in the outbreak, for a total of 19,451 cases. The state also hit a record of active cases, 3,483.

Genes Offer Hints to Covid Severity (5:05 p.m. NY)

Genetic variants that identify weak spots in the immune system could explain why Covid-19 cases range from asymptomatic to death, according to two studies published Thursday in the journal Science.

The studies are the first published findings from the Covid Human Genetic Effort, an international consortium examining whether genetic factors can explain the wide variation for how the disease manifests in people. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases announced the findings.

Wisconsin Reports Near Record (4:55 p.m. NY)

Wisconsin, a key battleground state in the presidential election, reported 2,392 daily cases, its second highest on record, the department of Health Services reported. Positive-test results were 18%, compared with less than 1% in New York.

Amid an outbreak around the Midwest, the state said its seven-day average was 1,939 daily cases, with a total of 108,324. Another six people died, for a total 1,265 fatalities.

Noravax Set to Start Late-Stage Study (4:13 p.m. NY)

Novavax Inc. plans to start enrolling participants for a late-stage study of its experimental shot for the coronavirus in 10,000 patients in the U.K.

The company joins the ranks of AstraZeneca Plc, Pfizer Inc. with German partner BioNTech SE and Moderna Inc. as its vaccine enters the final stretch on the path toward regulatory approval. There are roughly 38 shots being tested in humans around the world and more than 140 others in earlier stages of study, according to the World Health Organization’s estimates.

U.S. Cases Rise 0.6% (4 p.m. NY)

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. increased 0.6% compared with the same time Wednesday to 6.95 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. The increase matched the average daily gain of over the past week. Deaths reached 202,404.

Democrats’ Stimulus Bill at About $2.4 Trillion (3:05 p.m. NY)

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told senior Democrats a draft coronavirus relief bill would be about $2.4 trillion because it will include airlines, restaurants and PPP small business aid, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The Democratic leadership is still seeking a deal with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and no decision has been made on whether a bill will be voted on next week.

France Cases Jump to Record (2:20 p.m. NY)

France reported 16,096 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, a record, as cases surge across Europe and bring new restrictions on social life.

The seven-day rolling average of new infections, which smooths out reporting spikes, stood at about 11,679 after breaching 13,000 daily cases in the last week.

Ireland Imposes More Curbs (1:40 p.m. NY)

Ireland’s government moved to tighten restrictions in a second county and signaled more limits may follow. Travel to and from Donegal in the northwest of the country will be limited, while restaurants will be restricted to outdoor service only. That mirrors restrictions placed on Dublin six days ago.

N.Y. Will Review Federal Vaccine Plans (12:40 p.m. NY)

Skeptical of the Trump administration’s oversight of the Covid-19 response, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state would review any vaccine authorized by the federal government.

“Frankly, I’m not going to trust the federal government’s opinion,” Cuomo said.

U.K. Cases Hit Record (12:25 p.m. NY)

The U.K. reported the highest number of new coronavirus cases in a single day since the start of the pandemic, breaking a record set at the peak of the first wave.

A further 6,634 new cases of Covid-19 were reported on Thursday by Public Health England, the agency tracking the data.

The milestone is “a stark warning for us all,” Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, said. “The signals are clear. Positivity rates are rising across all age groups and we’re continuing to see spikes in rates of admission to hospital and critical care.”

Italy Cases Rise (12:22 p.m. NY)

Italy reported 1,786 new cases Thursday, compared with 1,640 the previous day and amid increased screening, with more than 108,000 tests in one day. Patients in intensive care units rose to 246 and 23 deaths were reported.

The region of Campania, which registered the most new cases in the past few days, ordered the use of face masks outside, as did the city of Genoa for the city center. Masks are already compulsory in the nation after 6 p.m. if social distancing isn’t possible.

College Enrollment Drops (11:20 a.m. NY)

Fewer students are opting to attend college in the U.S., deterred by Covid-19 risk and the prospect of taking classes online.

Undergraduate enrollments dropped 2.5% for the current academic year, according to data released by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. The steepest decline was among international students, with non-resident alien undergrads down 11.2%.

Meanwhile, the District of Columbia became the fifth jurisdiction to grant certain U.S. law school graduates to be licensed to practice law without taking the bar exam.

U.S. Jobless Claims Remain Elevated (8:39 a.m. NY)

Applications for U.S. unemployment benefits were little changed last week, contrasting with forecasts for a decline and highlighting an economic recovery that’s coming in fits and starts.

Initial jobless claims in regular state programs rose by 4,000 to 870,000 in the period ended Sept. 19, according to Labor Department figures released Thursday. Continuing claims fell 167,000 to 12.6 million in the week ended Sept. 12, which coincides with the reference period for the government’s monthly jobs report.

— With assistance by Will Davies, Kara Wetzel, Virginia Van Natta, Peter Pae, Niluksi Koswanage, Iain Rogers, Alisa Odenheimer, Clarissa Batino, Rodrigo Orihuela, Jake Rudnitsky, Alan Katz, and Corinne Gretler

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