(Bloomberg) — Japan plans to recommend lifting of virus emergency. Tanzania’s president, a fierce skeptic of the coronavirus pandemic, died at 61. Serbia says it won’t suspend the use of AstraZeneca’s embattled Covid-19 vaccine, which was defended Wednesday by the World Health Organization.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen threatened to withhold vaccine exports to the U.K. Almost half of all adults in the U.K. have had a coronavirus vaccine, as the number of first doses administered crossed 25 million.
In the U.S., Walt Disney Co. plans to reopen its two California theme parks on April 30. Vaccination coverage was lower in counties with the most socially vulnerable residents, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Mexico and Canada are at the top of President Joe Biden’s list of countries to eventually receive exports of U.S.-made coronavirus vaccines.
Japan Recommends Lift of Emergency (6:58 a.m. HK)
Japan’s Economy Minister, Yasutoshi Nishimura, said the government will recommend that the Tokyo area emergency be lifted on March 21. Nishimura made the announcement at a virus panel meeting on Thursday.
Nishimura, who is also in charge of coronavirus response in Japan, said the country will strengthen the monitoring of variants of the virus and is preparing to start inspections in the Tokyo region this week.
The government says it will continue to call on restaurants and bars to close early and companies to further promote remote working, NHK reported.
Tanzanian Leader Who Scoffed at Covid, Dies (5:45 p.m. NY)
Tanzanian President John Magufuli, who drew widespread criticism for his denialism of the coronavirus pandemic, has died only five months after he won a second term in a disputed election. He was 61.
Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan said Magufuli died of a “heart illness.”
Magufuli insisted his country was free of Covid-19, discouraged the use of face masks and advised his people to pray and undergo steam therapy to safeguard their health. While most of the rest of the world clamored to access vaccines, his administration eschewed them and said it was working on developing alternative natural remedies.
Brazil Surpasses 90,000 Cases in Record Day (5:35 p.m. NY)
Brazil registered more than 90,000 Covid-19 cases for the first time, a second straight day of record numbers as the country fights against a health system collapse.
The occupancy rate of ICUs at public hospitals is above 80%, a threshold considered critical, in almost all states. In 19 of 27 state capitals, more than 90% of beds are occupied.
Serbia Carries On With AstraZeneca Shots (4:47 p.m. NY)
Serbia’s drug regulator ALIMS said it’s not suspending the use of AstraZeneca shots but is monitoring for any side effects, after importing 150,000 doses of vaccines from the drug maker.
AstraZeneca shots account for less than 6% of 2.64 million doses that Serbia has imported from multiple manufacturers and account for only a few dozen, mostly mild reactions among patients, none fatal or causing blood clots, the Belgrade-based ALIMS said on website.
NYC Indoor Fitness Classes to Resume (3:55 p.m. NY)
New York restrictions on fitness classes and curfews for casinos, movie theaters and gyms will be lifted in the coming weeks, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday.
On Monday indoor fitness classes in New York City will be allowed at 33% capacity, with social distancing, sanitizing and mask rules in place, Cuomo said during a virus briefing. The state on Monday also will be lifting restrictions in Queens, the Bronx and other zones, allowing them to once again align with the more relaxed statewide Covid restrictions.
The 11 p.m. curfew currently in place for businesses including casinos, movie theaters, bowling alleys and gyms will be lifted on April 5, Cuomo said. The curfew will remain in place for restaurants and catering halls for the time being, he said.
U.S. Studying Oral, Nasal Vaccine Delivery (3 p.m. NY)
Children and other patients who are afraid of needles could find protection from Covid-19 through a nasal spray or an oral version in future generations of these vaccines.
Anthony S. Fauci told a House panel Wednesday that the National Institutes of Health is funding research to make it easier to administer vaccines that could eliminate the need for shots.
If successful, these inhaled or swallowed forms of Covid-19 vaccines could go a long way in protecting children. A fear of needles is common, particularly in children, and has been documented as a barrier to immunization, according to a study led by University of Toronto professor Anna Taddio.
N.J. to Boost Some Indoor Capacity (1:20 P.M. NY)
New Jersey will increase indoor capacity limits for restaurants, gyms and health clubs, recreational facilities and arcades and personal care businesses to 50% effective Friday at 6 a.m., Governor Phil Murphy said in a tweet.
Embattled N.Y. Governor Gets J&J Shot (1:15 p.m. NY)
New York Andrew Cuomo got his Covid-19 vaccination on Wednesday in Harlem, surrounded by Black leaders who heaped praise on the embattled governor. He received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the Mount Neboh Baptist Church pop-up site, flanked by more than a dozen Black leaders.
Cuomo, facing growing calls for his resignation by members of his own party and a legislative impeachment investigation over accusations of sexual harassment, has held briefings in recent days focused on inequity in vaccine distribution. At most of the events, which are closed to the press, he has been joined by Black church leaders and lawmakers who have expressed support for the third-term Democrat.
Greece Sees Highest Rise in Cases (12:45 p.m. NY)
Greece reported the highest daily increase in Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began, with 3,465 new reported infections. Almost half the cases were found in Athens and its surrounding Attica region, where hospitals have reached their limits.
Private hospitals will contribute 550 more beds to the national health system in Attica, Greek Health Minister Vasilis Kikilias said in a Wednesday briefing. At least 200 doctors are needed to help from the private sector, he said. If doctors don’t respond within 48 hours, Kikilias said he’ll urge the Prime Minister to enforce an order for them to assist the health-care system.
Almost Half of U.K. Adults Have First Dose (12:04 p.m. NY)
Almost half of all adults in the U.K. have had a coronavirus vaccine, the Department of Health said on Wednesday as the number of first doses administered crossed 25 million.
That figure is nearly halfway to the U.K.’s target to offer a first vaccine to all adults by the end of July. The government said in an emailed statement that it is on track to reach its goals, which also include offering a first dose to everyone 50 and older by April 15.
One of those vaccinated will soon be Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He told Parliament it “will certainly be Oxford-AstraZeneca I’ll be having,” an apparent reference to European countries who halted using the British-developed vaccine.
The Department of Health said 95% of people aged 65 and over, and 1 in 9 clinically extremely vulnerable, have received a first jab.
Disneyland to Reopen April 30 (11:35 a.m. NY)
Walt Disney Co. plans to reopen its two California theme parks on April 30, more than a year after it shut them down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, which closed their gates on March 14 last year, are among the last of the company’s properties to welcome back customers. While Disney’s Paris resort is still shuttered, the four theme parks in Florida have been open since July.
CDC Study Finds Vaccine Inequity in 31 States (11 a.m. NY)
Vaccination coverage was lower in U.S. counties that have the highest social vulnerability, according to report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Wednesday. The CDC measures social vulnerability through an index that accounts for social, economic, racial and ethnic factors.
Equity in access to vaccination hasn’t been achieved nationally, the report suggested. Vaccination disparities were observed in 31 states, according to the overall measure. The largest disparity among counties related to socioeconomic status, with a gap of 2.5 percentage points in vaccination coverage.
Five states stood out for high vaccination coverage in highly vulnerable counties across all or many measures: Alaska, Arizona, Minnesota, Montana and West Virginia. The report highlighted best practices in states with high equity, including early prioritization of minority groups, free transportation to sites and collaborations with community partners and tribal health organizations.
N.Y. Expands Shot Eligibility to More Categories (11 a.m. NY)
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, in a tweet, announced an expansion of the state’s vaccine eligibility. The age cutoff remains at 60 and older.
Mexico, Canada Top Biden’s List for Exports (10:10 a.m. NY)
Mexico and Canada are at the top of President Joe Biden’s list of countries to eventually receive exports of U.S.-made coronavirus vaccines, according to a U.S. official familiar with the plans.
But Biden and administration officials have said the U.S. will not share its vaccines until after it has enough for its own people, leaving timing for any exports unclear.
Pakistan to Receive First Sputnik Batch (10:05 a.m. NY)
Local partner AGP is poised to receive the first 50,000 doses of the Russian vaccine on Wednesday that will be used in the private market, according to people familiar with the matter.
Ford to Let 30,000 Workers Stay Home (10 a.m. NY)
Ford Motor Co. told employees they can continue to work from home, allowing more than 30,000 to use the office only when they need to, even after the pandemic is over.
WHO Says Astra Shot’s Benefits Outweigh Risks (9:32 a.m. NY)
The World Health Organization said AstraZeneca’s vaccine should continue to be administered as the benefits outweigh its risks.
A WHO expert group is assessing the latest safety data and will communicate the findings once the review is completed, the agency said in a statement.
Reports of blood clots in some people who received the shots led to several EU member states pausing the use of the vaccine, risking another slowdown in the region’s inoculation campaign. The European Medicines Agency is expected to provide a definitive assessment on Thursday.
EU Touts Emergency Powers on Vaccines (8:04 a.m. NY)
Ursula von der Leyen said EU leaders should consider additional measures to secure vaccine supplies when they meet next week, including the potential use of emergency legal powers that would allow them to effectively seize control of production and distribution.
“All options are on the table. We are in the crisis of the century. I am not ruling out anything for now because we have to make sure that Europeans are vaccinated as soon as possible,” the president of the European Commission said when asked whether the EU should invoke Article 122 of the EU treaty. The clause allows the introduction of emergency measures when “severe difficulties arise in the supply of certain products.”