Germany will impose a drastic five-day lockdown over the Easter break to try to reverse a wave of Covid-19 infections. Chancellor Angela Merkel said the European Union shouldn’t impose a general vaccine export ban, while London and Brussels edged toward breaking their deadlock over AstraZeneca Plc’s coronavirus doses.
AstraZeneca may have released outdated information about its Covid-19 vaccine trial, giving an “incomplete” view of the efficacy of the shot, said the leading U.S. agency on infectious diseases, dealing a potential setback to a vaccine that has faced questions over its safety and effectiveness.
Progress in fighting the pandemic is showing signs of stalling, as global deaths and cases edge higher. While fatalities in the U.S. and U.K. are easing, places like India and eastern Europe are seeing a resurgence. Brazil continues to be a hot spot, with cases topping 12 million.
- Global Tracker: Cases pass 123 million; deaths top 2.7 million
- Vaccine Tracker: More than 458 million shots given worldwide
- Hong Kong vaccine rollout hampered by reliance on Chinese shots
- A new generation of vaccines is coming,
some with no needles
- Why the mutated coronavirus variants are so worrisome: QuickTake
- Where are we in hunting for the coronavirus’s origin?: QuickTake
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Malaysia, Singapore Vaccine Certification (2:46 p.m. HK)
Malaysia and Singapore are working toward reciprocal vaccination certification as the Southeast Asian neighbors plan to restore cross-border travel.
Operational details, including the application process involved for entry and exit between the two nations will be discussed further, the countries’ foreign ministers said in a joint statement.
Covid Patients Should Postpone Elective Surgery: Study (2:15 p.m. HK)
Surgery should be delayed seven weeks for people who test positive for Covid-19 to reduce the risk of dying, according to the COVIDSurg Collaborative, an international group of 15,000 surgeons reviewing the likelihood of complications from elective surgery in coronavirus cases. Using data from 140,727 patients in 1,674 hospitals across 116 countries, the group found patients are more than 2.5 times more likely to die after surgery if the operation was performed within six weeks of a SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis.
Astra May Have Given Outdated Vaccine Data, U.S. Agency Says (1:16 p.m. HK)
AstraZeneca may have released outdated information about its Covid-19 vaccine trial, giving an “incomplete” view of the efficacy of the shot, said the leading U.S. agency on infectious diseases.
The Data and Safety Monitoring Board, charged with ensuring the safety and accuracy of AstraZeneca’s vaccine trial, has expressed concerns to the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases that the information released about the testing results included outdated information.
This “may have provided an incomplete view of the efficacy data,” the agency said in a statement early Tuesday, without elaborating.
“We urge the company to work with the DSMB to review the efficacy data and ensure the most accurate, up-to-date efficacy data be made public as quickly as possible,” said the group headed by Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease official.
AstraZeneca did not immediately respond to a request for comment made outside of office hours.
Thailand Cases Jump (12:13 p.m. HK)
Thailand reported 401 new cases on Tuesday, the highest daily increase since Feb. 6, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Philippines Eyes J&J, Russian Vaccines (10:45 a.m. HK)
The Philippines may sign a supply deal this week with Johnson & Johnson, from which the nation plans to buy 5 million doses, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez said Monday night. Talks with Russia’s Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology will also start this week for the supply of as many as 15 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine.
Hong Kong May Consider Shorter Quarantine (10:30 a.m. HK)
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam said she would look into reducing the city’s three-week mandatory quarantine for arrivals, one of the strictest in the world, adding that she was “aware” of the pressure it had put on residents.
Lam told a weekly briefing she would “see whether we could find mitigating factors to reduce or to bring back the 21 days to the norm of 14 days which is adopted in many other countries.” She added that if people were to leave their quarantine center or hotel in fewer than 21 days, there would need to be “safeguards or medical surveillance in place to ensure that they will not bring infection into the community.”
Hong Kong will also consider allowing anyone 16 or older to receive vaccinations when more doses arrive in the city, she said. Adults above the age of 30 are currently eligible.
Merkel Agrees Radical Easter Lockdown (9:55 a.m. HK)
Chancellor Merkel and regional leaders agreed to put Germany into hard lockdown over Easter to try to reverse a “third wave” of Covid-19 infections fueled by faster-spreading mutations.
Under the radical plan, all stores will be shuttered from April 1 for five days, except for food stores which will open on April 3, Merkel said after a video call with the country’s 16 state premiers that lasted more than 11 hours. Citizens will be encouraged to remain at home, and private gatherings limited to one other household and a maximum of five people.
“We are now in a very, very serious situation,” Merkel said at a news conference that started just after 2:30 a.m. in Berlin. “The case numbers are rising exponentially and intensive-care beds are filling up again,” she said, adding that the number of infections must come down to allow the country’s vaccination campaign to start taking effect.
Separately, Merkel said the EU shouldn’t impose a general vaccine export ban. “We must be very careful with general export bans at this stage,” she said. “Instead we will have to look very closely at supply chains.”
Indonesia to Reopen Batam to Foreign Tourists (9:31 a.m. HK)
Indonesia has added Batam and Bintan to a travel corridor arrangement with Singapore that would see foreign visitors back in the resort islands for the first time since the pandemic began last year, according to Indonesian Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno. Tourism sites in Nongsa in Batam and Lagoi in Bintan will be reopened on April 21, under very strict health protocols, Uno said in a March 20 statement on the ministry’s website.
Sinovac to Produce 2 Billion Vaccine Doses (9:24 a.m. HK)
Sinovac Biotech Ltd. will be able to produce 2 billion Covid-19 vaccine doses annually soon, Chief Executive Officer Yin Weidong told a forum on Monday. The company has supplied 160 million shots globally so far, he said.
Sinovac’s vaccine produces higher levels of Covid-19 antibodies in children and adolescents compared to adults, Zeng Gang, the company’s medical director, said at the forum.
South Korean President Gets Vaccine (8:37 a.m. HK)
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in got inoculated with an AstraZeneca dose Tuesday, becoming the latest Asian leader to cast a vote of confidence in the vaccine.
Moon was vaccinated along with his spouse and nine other top Blue House officials, including National Security Advisor Suh Hoon and spokesman Kang Min-seok, in preparation for attending the G7 summit in the U.K. in June, the presidential office said in a statement. Since the first inoculations began late last month, AstraZeneca has been the predominant vaccine for South Koreans.
U.K. Marks Year Since Start of First Lockdown (8:01 a.m. HK)
The U.K. is marking one year since the start of its first coronavirus lockdown, as the government reflects on the best and worst of its response to the pandemic.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will privately hold a minute’s silence Tuesday for more than 126,000 people who have died from Covid-19 in the U.K., the fifth-biggest death toll in the world according to Bloomberg’s Covid-19 tracker.
It comes as the country’s health service presses on with a vaccination program that has seen more than half of all adults receive their first dose of the vaccine, by far the fastest of all European countries.
Denmark to Ease More Restrictions (6:59 a.m. HK)
Denmark will ease more restrictions next month and will end its lockdown entirely once all Danes over the age of 50 have been vaccinated by June, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said.
Denmark will allow some businesses, including shopping malls and hairdressers, to open in stages next month, according to an agreement reached late Monday between the government and most parties in the country’s parliament. More children will also return to schools and restaurants will be allowed to serve outdoors.
EU Leaders Seek to Break Vaccine Deadlock (4:15 p.m. NY)
European Union leaders are aiming to break their deadlock with the U.K. over deliveries of AstraZeneca’s vaccine by sharing a Dutch plant’s output, according to diplomats familiar with the matter. The appeal stems from the EU’s view that the drugmaker had double booked its production and that both Brussels and London have valid claims.
Earlier, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he’s “reassured” that the EU is not seeking a vaccine blockade, as government and opposition politicians showed rare united front on the issue. Both sides were critical of the bloc over reports it plans to restrict exports of vaccines to its former member.
”I’m reassured by talking to EU partners over the last few months that they don’t want to see blockades,” Johnson said in a pooled interview with broadcasters Monday. “That’s very, very important.”
— With assistance by Tom Redmond