Miami Beach imposed a stricter curfew to crack down on spring-break crowds flocking to Florida, which just surpassed 2 million Covid-19 cases. New York announced its first case of the virus variant stoking the outbreak in Brazil, where deaths have increased for four weeks in a row.
A report by scientists, slated for release this week, will say that China’s thriving wildlife trade is the most likely source of of the coronavirus that changed the world last year.
Paris and several other French regions faced the first weekend in a monthlong lockdown. While Chancellor Angela Merkel promised speedier vaccinations in Germany, she suggested that restrictions may not be eased as quickly as planned in the short term.
Brazil Cases Rise for Fifth Week (7:30 a.m. HK)
Brazil exceeded half a million weekly cases for the second time in a row, capping a week marked by record daily deaths and infections.
Latin America’s biggest country added some 79,000 cases, bringing the total for the seven days through Saturday to 510,901 — the fifth consecutive week with an increase. During the previous surge, weekly cases peaked at 379,000 in early January, according to Health Ministry data.
Weekly deaths increased by almost 3,000 to a record of 15,650, the most since the pandemic began. With almost 12 million cases and some 292,000 deaths, Brazil lags behind only the U.S. on both counts.
Covid Origin Report May Point to Wildlife (7:10 a.m. HK)
The highly anticipated findings from experts convened by the World Health Organization and the Chinese government are expected to show parallels to the spawning in 2002 of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, a bat-borne coronavirus spread by civets that killed 800 people. The path trod by SARS-CoV-2 — as the new coronavirus is known — before it emerged in central China in December 2019 remains a mystery, though it’s one researchers say can be solved.
Rain Slows Australia Vaccine Drive (6:55 a.m. HK)
Australia’s rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine has been hampered by torrential rain and flooding that has seen residents along the New South Wales coast — including parts of Sydney — evacuated. The government has faced already criticism for poor organization and a slower-than-expected start to its vaccine rollout.
Miami Beach Cracks Down on Spring Break (5:05 p.m. NY)
Miami Beach imposed an 8 p.m. curfew and other restrictions to curb what officials said was overwhelming crowding during the U.S. spring break holidays. The curfew will last at least 72 hours and apply to the main avenues with bars, restaurants and clubs. The city previously set a midnight curfew.
Mayor Dan Gelber said at a news conference that the crowds seemed larger than previous years because fewer places were open for spring break due to Covid-19 and cheap airfares.
“There are just too many moments when we are hoping something horrible won’t happen,” he said. “We can’t endure that as a community.”
N.Y. Reports First Case of Brazil Variant (4:40 p.m. NY)
The first case of the more-transmissible coronavirus variant first found in Brazil has been reported in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. The patient is from Brooklyn, more than 90 years old with no travel history, he said.
The variant is helping fuel a renewed outbreak in Brazil. In the U.S., there are 48 known cases of the P.1 variant in 15 jurisdictions, with 21 cases in Florida alone, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
France Wants Full Astra Supply (3:20 p.m. NY)
France supports the EU’s threat to use any tools available to obtain planned deliveries of the AstraZeneca vaccine, junior minister for EU Affairs Clement Beaune said on BFM TV, though he warned any legal proceedings could take months.
While the EU is exporting vaccines to the U.K., European officials suspect that some U.K.-made vaccines initially intended to be delivered to the EU are staying in the U.K.
He also said approval of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine in Europe could happen in April or May. In France, around 9% of the population has received at least one shot of vaccine, and 3.6% got both injections.
Florida Surpasses 2 Million Cases (2:56 p.m. NY)
Florida passed 2 million cases on Saturday, the third state to do so after California and Texas. New cases have leveled off recently after a steep drop following a holiday surge. On Friday, Governor Ron DeSantis said he would open vaccine eligibility to all people 50 and older starting Monday.
Anti-Lockdown Protests Hit Europe (2:20 p.m. NY)
Anti-lockdown protests were held in Germany, Britain, Austria, Finland, Romania and Switzerland on Saturday, the Associated Press reported. Demonstrations were also reported in Sweden’s three largest cities.
More than 20,000 people defied a court ban to demonstrate in the central German city of Kassel, German news agency DPA reported. Some protesters attacked officers and several journalists, DPA said.
At least 33 people were arrested in central London, mostly for breaching Covid restrictions, the Metropolitan Police said on Twitter. The protests around Piccadilly Circus were larger than police had expected, the BBC said.
Brazil Says It’s Discussing Vaccines With U.S. (1:55 p.m. NY)
Brazil is negotiating “to import vaccines from the surplus available in the United States,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted Saturday. The Biden administration said earlier this week it plans to send about 4 million doses of AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid-19 vaccine to neighboring Mexico and Canada.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at the time the U.S. government has about 7 million available doses of the vaccine, which hasn’t been approved yet for use in the U.S. “With the importance of helping stop the spread in other countries, we are assessing how we can loan doses,” she said. She added that any loans weren’t “fully finalized.”
Brazil’s outbreak has worsened dramatically, breaking records for most cases and deaths earlier this week.
Mumbai Moves to Mandatory Tests (10:31 a.m. NY)
Authorities in the Indian city of Mumbai will conduct random rapid antigen tests in crowded places including malls and railway stations. “If the citizen refuses to test, it would amount to an offense under Epidemic Act, 1897,” the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai said in a statement. People tested at malls will have to pay for the test while at other places the government will incur the expense. Mumbai has invoked the colonial era law for mandatory testing as it recorded its highest ever daily tally of infections on Friday.
More Cruise Lines Look to Restart (10:13 a.m. NY)
On the heels of Crystal Cruises’ announcement this week that it would circumvent the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by launching Bahamas-only trips this summer, two further lines will open itineraries in the Caribbean as soon as June.
The latest announcements came from Royal Caribbean International, which will sail a ship from Nassau, the Bahamas, to Cozumel, Mexico, and sister line Celebrity Cruises, which will explore southern Caribbean itineraries from Sint Maarten. Additional cruise lines are expected to follow with similar announcements in the coming days and weeks.
U.K. Vaccination Drive on Track (7:18 a.m. NY)
More than half of U.K. adults have now received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, putting the nation on track to offer a first dose of the vaccine by the end of July. In comparison, fewer than one in 10 adults in the European Union have been inoculated.
Still, the U.K.’s progress is under threat as resistant variants of the virus could undermine the jab’s efficacy and so-called vaccine nationalism could stifle the U.K.’s steady supply.
Tokyo Olympics Avoids Foreign Spectators (7:08 a.m. NY)
The world’s biggest international sporting event will take place without overseas spectators and tickets bought by them will be refunded. A decision on limiting domestic fans will be taken in April, Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said.
Before the games were postponed last year, some 600,000 foreign visitors were expected to attend, in addition to more than 11,000 athletes.