China Speeds Vaccine Pace; U.K. Pushes to Test All: Virus Update

China is ramping up its Covid-19 vaccination push, aiming to be twice as fast as the U.S. Mumbai authorities asked private offices to work from home as India’s financial hub emerges again as a viral epicenter.

Everyone in England will be urged to take a coronavirus test twice a week as a new system of Covid passports is assessed for wide-scale use, under Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to reopen the economy after lockdown.

President Joe Biden issued an Easter message casting vaccinations as a “moral obligation, one that can save your life and the lives of others.” Republican opposition to vaccine passports grew as Mississippi’s governor said they were not “a good thing to do in America.”

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click CVID on the terminal for global data on cases and deaths.

U.K. to Make Free Test Kits Available (8:23 am H.K.)

Everyone in England will be urged to take a coronavirus test twice a week as a new system of Covid passports is assessed for wide-scale use, under Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to reopen the economy after lockdown.

Free test kits will be made available through local pharmacies, community centers and home delivery services, when the new regime goes live on April 9.

With most of the adult population now having received a vaccine, the government believes rapid testing of the whole population and a system of Covid status certification will help keep control over the pandemic as restrictions are eased.

China Steps Up Vaccine Pace (5:31 p.m. NY)

China is ramping up its Covid-19 vaccination push, aiming to be twice as fast as the U.S. by pressuring Communist Party members, bank workers and college staff to get shots, as the lagging rollout threatens to undermine the advantage it secured by effectively wiping out the virus.

The inoculation effort has been stepped up markedly in recent weeks, with China now administering an average of 5 million doses a day from less than a million at the start of the year. While a significant increase, that translates to 5 doses for every 100 people, compared to 25 in the U.S. and 56 in Israel, according to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker.

Texas Rangers to Hold Opener at Capacity (5:19 p.m. NY)

China Speeds Vaccine Pace; U.K. Pushes to Test All: Virus Update

The Texas Rangers will reopen their stadium at full capacity for their home opener on Monday, ABC News reported, the first Major League Baseball team to do so since the pandemic began a year ago.

Some 40,000 seats may be filled at the stadium in Arlington, west of Dallas. It comes about a month after Texas’ Republican Governor, Greg Abbott, ended the state’s mask mandate and encouraged businesses to open fully. Masks will be required for the Rangers’ game, though.

The other Texas baseball team, the Houston Astros, plans to operate at 50% capacity during April and will require fans to wear masks except when they’re eating.

No Covid Deaths in North Dakota for Nine Days (4:45 p.m. NY)

North Dakota has gone nine consecutive days without a Covid-19 fatality, a record since the first death on March 27, 2020, according to data from Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. The longest previous stretch without a fatality — in a state with almost 1,500 total virus deaths — was six days in June. North Dakota, which had been among the worst-hit states per capita, is in the top tier of U.S. states for vaccinations. Almost 35% of the population has received at least one dose and 23% are fully vaccinated, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.

California Vaccination Numbers Climb (2:54 p.m. NY)

California, with a population of around 40 million people, has already administered more than 19.7 million Covid vaccines, according to the health department’s website said. There were 2,400 new cases reported yesterday and 109 more deaths. The state’s seven-day positive test rate was 1.7%, down from 1.8%.

China Speeds Vaccine Pace; U.K. Pushes to Test All: Virus Update

Cases High as France Locks Down (2:46 p.m. NY)

France reported 80,711 new coronavirus cases this weekend as the country enters a third nationwide lockdown. The number of ICU patients has risen by 87 since Friday to 5,341, according to French health authorities. There were 370 deaths in the last 48 hours, taking the total to 96,650.

Cases have been surging in France since December due to more contagious, deadlier variants, forcing President Emmanuel Macron to abandon a strategy of regional measures and opt for another lockdown.

Vaccine Widens to More Poor Countries (2:29 p.m. NY)

Coronavirus shots should be rolled out to over 100 countries in the next couple of weeks, from 84 at present, with a shortage of supplies the limiting factor, said one of the leaders of the World Health Organization’s vaccine initiative.

“If we had more doses, we could make these available,” Seth Berkley, chief executive officer of Gavi Alliance, a public-private partnership that works to provide vaccines for developing countries, told CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”

Gottlieb Sees Limited U.S. Surge (12 p.m. NY)

Rising U.S. Covid-19 cases won’t amount to a full-blown “fourth wave,” former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

China Speeds Vaccine Pace; U.K. Pushes to Test All: Virus Update

Gottlieb said he expects daily vaccinations to increase to 5 million. Meanwhile, some 130 million people in the U.S. who have been infected also have some level of immunity, he said.

“I think that there’s enough immunity in the population that you’re not going to see a true fourth wave of infection,” he said. “What we’re seeing is pockets of infection around the country, particularly in younger people who haven’t been vaccinated and also in school-age children.”

Mumbai Pushes for Work-From-Home (11:06 a.m. NY)

Mumbai authorities asked all private offices to work from home through April as India’s financial hub emerges once again as the epicenter of a new wave of coronavirus infections.

Banks, medical and insurance offices will be allowed some staffing concessions, Rajesh Tope, health minister of the state of Maharashtra — of which Mumbai is the capital — said in video messages Sunday. All non-essential services including malls, places of worship, beauty salons will shut operations from 8 p.m. on Monday. Detailed guidelines are awaited.

“There is an alarming rate of growth of Covid-19 cases and deaths in the country,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s federal government said in a statement earlier Sunday.

Biden’s Easter Message: Get Vaccinated (10:54 a.m. NY)

President Joe Biden called on Americans feeling the “longing and loneliness of distance” during the second consecutive pandemic Easter to get vaccinated in a holiday video posted to White House social media channels.

“We share the sentiments of Pope Francis who has said getting vaccinated is a moral obligation, one that can save your life and the lives of others,” Biden said. “By getting vaccinated and encouraging your congregations and your communities to get vaccinated, we can not only beat this virus but we can haste the day when we can celebrate the holidays together again.”

A Kaiser Family Foundation survey published this week found that 28% of White evangelical Christians said they would “definitely not” take the vaccine even if it were available to them, putting the demographic group among the most hesitant to receive the shot.

Mississippi Governor Opposes Vaccine Passport (10:15 am N.Y.)

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves is the latest Republican governor opposing so-called “vaccine passports” that would document that an individual has received the Covid-19 vaccines to gain entry into businesses.

“I don’t think it’s necessary and I don’t think it’s a good thing to do in America,” Reeves said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “At some point we gotta let Americans make their decision that they think is the best for them and their family.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order Friday banning businesses from requiring vaccine passports in the state, saying they would “reduce individual freedom and will harm patient privacy.” South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster and Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts also spoke out against the use of vaccine passports.

New York is the first state to launch an optional government-sponsored digital vaccine passport called the Excelsior Pass, which will allow residents to verify their vaccinations or negative test results to enter stadiums and entertainment venues.

New U.S. Viral Wave Predicted (10:11 a.m. NY)

A fourth surge of infections in the U.S. is just gathering pace and is focused on younger people who’ve yet to be vaccinated, said epidemiologist Michael Osterholm, reflecting the race between more contagious variants and quickly getting shots into arms.

“We are now seeing an increasing number of severe illnesses [and] ICU hospitalizations in individuals between 30 to 50 years of age,” Osterholm, a member of President Joe Biden’s Covid-19 advisory board, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

China Speeds Vaccine Pace; U.K. Pushes to Test All: Virus Update

Michigan’s report Saturday of 8,413 new cases — the highest since early December — was “a wake up call for everyone,” he said.

U.S. New Cases Steady at 65,000 (8 a.m. NY)

The U.S. added almost 65,000 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday, matching the rolling seven-day average and keeping the country on pace for what could be the most weekly infections since the end of February.

Nationwide deaths declined for the third consecutive day to 710, although reporting often lags on weekends and it’s too early to determine a trend. The data are collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg.

More than 100 million people in the U.S. have had at least one Covid-19 shot, and vaccinations are running at an average of 3.1 million a day, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. At that rate, it’ll take three more months to cover 75% of the population, the tracker shows.

U.K. Covid Pass May Take Months (5:44 p.m. HK)

The Covid passports designed to restart large-scale events in the U.K. may not be ready until fall, according to the Telegraph newspaper.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will confirm on Monday a plan to allow people to attend public events including sports by either showing proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or antibodies from an infection in the last six months, the newspaper reported on Sunday. But the certification project, which will likely be on a mobile app, will take months to develop, the Telegraph said, citing unidentified senior government officials.

J&J Takes Over Vaccine Plant (12:09 p.m. HK)

China Speeds Vaccine Pace; U.K. Pushes to Test All: Virus Update

Johnson & Johnson, with help from the Biden administration, is taking over a Baltimore vaccine production facility that was the site of a major manufacturing error last month — and moving production of material for a second company’s shot to minimize risk of another mistake.

J&J announced Saturday that it was “assuming full responsibility regarding the manufacturing of drug substance” at the Emergent BioSolutions Inc. plant. To facilitate that, the Department of Health and Human Services worked with AstraZeneca to move its production out of that plant so it can focus only on J&J, according to an HHS official familiar with the measure, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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