(Bloomberg) — China recorded its first Covid-19 death since April as new clusters continued to expand. South Korea reported more than 500 more cases and could extend its current social distancing level and ban on private gatherings with five or more people.
California opened a vaccine center “Super POD,” or point-of-dispensing site, at Disneyland in Anaheim. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is mulling new measures that could allow for expanded travel, after unveiling coronavirus testing requirements for people flying into the U.S. Montana’s new Republican governor reversed virus measures imposed by his Democratic predecessor.
Australia defended its use of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Montana’s new Republican governor, Greg Gianforte, reversed Covid-19 restrictions imposed by his Democratic predecessor.
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South Korea May Extend Current Social Distancing Level (11:05 a.m. HK)
South Korea is likely to extend its current social distancing level and ban on private gatherings with five or more people, Yonhap News reported. Senior health ministry official Yoon Tae-ho told reporters he believed the immediate easing of social distancing and measures on small gatherings would be difficult.
South Korea reported 524 new Covid-19 cases over the last 24 hours, down from 562 the previous day, according to data from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency. The number of daily cases in the country — which is among the places battling a resurgence of the virus following early success containing it — was below 600 for a fourth day.
Japan Could Extend Covid Emergency Area (10:42 a.m. HK)
It’s possible Japan may further extend the area covered by its emergency declaration, depending on the infection situation, Japanese Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told a parliamentary committee. His comments came a day after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga expanded the declaration from Tokyo and the surrounding region to cover Osaka and other major economic hubs.
Philippine Stocks Fall As New Strain Detected (10 a.m.)
Stocks fell in the Southeast Asian nation, bucking broad gains in Asia, after authorities detected its first case of the more contagious Covid-19 variant that first appeared in the U.K. The Philippine Stock Exchange Index dropped as much as 0.9% to 7,180.88, heading for third-straight day of declines.
China Records First Covid Death in 9 Months (8:50 a.m. HK)
China recorded its first Covid-19 death since April, as clusters in its north continued to swell. The country reported 124 new local infections on Thursday, including 81 in Hebei province and 43 in Heilongjiang, the National Health Commission said. Another 78 asymptomatic cases were reported, including three that were imported.
The Hebei cluster’s expansion is fueling the risk of a full-blown outbreak as the Chinese New Year holiday — a time of widespread travel — nears. Hebei, which encircles the Chinese capital Beijing, had earlier locked down multiple cities and is set for another mass testing campaign.
Malaysia Projects Virus Curve to Flatten in 12 Weeks (8:10 a.m. HK)
Malaysia’s projection is based on current data, which could change after two weeks of targeted lockdown that began Wednesday, Malaysiakini reported citing Health Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah.
U.S. CDC Mulls Measures for More Global Travel (7:53 a.m. HK)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is weighing new measures that could allow expanded travel after unveiling testing requirements for people flying into the U.S.
Lifting travel restrictions on countries such as Brazil and EU countries is part of ongoing discussions, Martin Cetron, director of the agency’s division of global migration and quarantine, said in an interview. Whether to make allowances in the future for people who have been vaccinated is also under debate, he said.
“Protecting the global public’s health while minimizing the interference to travel and trade is essentially our goal,” he said. “This testing order is really a recognition and another step in that direction.”
Brazil Aims to Start Vaccination in Capitals (7:31 a.m. HK)
Brazil’s vaccination campaign will start in its capitals, executive secretary of the Health Ministry Elcio Franco told a briefing. The country’s territorial extension and diversified means of transport are some of the factors hindering the arrival of vaccines to countryside municipalities in the short term, he said.
Montana’s New Governor Reverses Measures (7:18 a.m. HK)
Montana’s new Republican governor, Greg Gianforte, reversed Covid-19 restrictions imposed by his Democratic predecessor, the Billings Gazette reported. Gianforte is lifting restrictions on capacity and hours of operation at bars, restaurants, casinos, breweries, distilleries and other businesses, effective Jan. 15, the newspaper said. With a population just over 1 million, Montana has reported 1,069 virus deaths, according to the state’s online dashboard.
Disneyland ‘Super POD’ Opens (7:10 a.m. HK)
California’s Orange County opened a vaccine center “Super POD,” or point-of-dispensing site, at Disneyland in Anaheim on Wednesday. The site, one of five such large locations the county plans to open, will offer shots to more than 7,000 people a day. Disney is providing staffing assistance as well as space on its Toy Story lot.
Some 10,000 people signed up in the first two hours Tuesday, according to Andrew Do, chairman of the county board of supervisors. People are encouraged to sign up through a website or app and will need a reservation to get a shot at the facility. Right now only people in the first tier of eligible residents, such as first responders and health care workers, are allowed.
Australia Defends Its Vaccine Approach (7:02 a.m. HK)
The Australian government reaffirmed confidence in its “portfolio approach” to Covid-19 vaccines as the nation prepares to inoculate its population next month.
“That has been the best medical advice available to us. What we know with the AstraZeneca vaccine is that it’s safe, that it’s available, that it can be manufactured here, it can be transported at normal refrigeration levels,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Thursday.
The clarification comes after some medical groups called for the government to pause the rollout of the AstraZeneca Plc vaccine because of concern that it may not be effective enough to generate herd immunity. “The AstraZeneca vaccine saves lives and it is important,” Frydenberg told Sky News.
J&J’s Shot Grants Lasting Response (7 a.m. HK)
Johnson & Johnson’s experimental one-shot Covid-19 vaccine generated a long-lasting immune response in an early safety study, providing a glimpse at how it will perform in the real world as the company inches closer to approaching U.S. regulators for clearance.
More than 90% of participants made immune proteins, called neutralizing antibodies, within 29 days after receiving the shot, according to the report, and participants formed the antibodies within 57 days. The immune response lasted for the full 71 days of the trial.
J&J’s progress is being closely watched because its vaccine has the potential to become the first that can protect people after just one shot, making mass-vaccination campaigns much easier.
Mexico Days Away From Approving Sputnik Vaccine (6:42 a.m. HK)
Finance Minister Arturo Herrera said Mexico was two days away from approving Russia’s Sputnik vaccine for its use in the country. Herrera didn’t provide details about the shot’s effectiveness, or how Mexico is making sure the vaccine is safe.
Pfizer Vaccine Applied for Hong Kong Rollout (6:15 a.m. HK)
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the first to have applied for an emergency rollout in Hong Kong, with a government advisory panel expected to decide as soon as Monday whether to recommend its use, the local South China Morning Post reported, citing panel experts.
Denmark Extends Its Lockdown (6 a.m. HK)
Denmark extended a lockdown that’s been in place since the end of last year, as health authorities warn that a British mutation of the coronavirus is spreading at an alarming rate.
With a 55% spike in the number of recorded cases of the U.K. variant — B117 — over the past four days, Denmark will keep its current restrictions in place until Feb. 7, Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said. He said authorities registered 208 cases of the mutation on Wednesday, though state broadcaster DR has reported that the true figure could be multiples of that.
Restrictions, which include the shutting of restaurants, bars and non-essential shops, as well as schools, were to expire Jan. 17.
California Expands Vaccines to 65-Year-Olds (4:55 a.m. HK)
California will start offering vaccine shots to residents 65 and older, joining New York, New Jersey and other states that are loosening requirements under new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Until now, doses were available only to health-care workers and nursing-home residents, under a tiered system established by the state. But California has struggled to ramp up vaccinations, administering roughly a third of the doses shipped so far.
At the same time, the most-populous state is struggling through a surge in cases, with more than 22,500 people hospitalized, intensive-care units at capacity and daily death tolls averaging more than 450.
U.S. Hospitalizations on Brink of Decline (2:16 a.m. HK)
The number of hospitalized Covid-19 patients was roughly flat in the U.S. this week, and likely will begin declining for the first time since September.
The numbers are now dropping compared with a week earlier in both the Northeast and Midwest, according to the Covid Tracking Project. In the West, they were up 0.8%, the least since Oct. 1 on a percentage basis. The South has the most alarming momentum, with an increase of 4.2% from seven days earlier.
The most recent pandemic wave has packed medical facilities, which are desperate for a reprieve. Hospitals across the country are currently caring for more than 130,000 Covid patients, according to Tracking Project data, more than double the load at any earlier point.
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