(Bloomberg) — An experimental vaccine developed by India’s Bharat Biotech International Ltd. showed 81% efficacy in an interim clinical trial. AstraZeneca Plc’s and Pfizer Inc.’s vaccines protected the elderly after a single dose in a new study that validates giving both shots to older people and spacing out injections.
For the second consecutive day, Brazil reported a record number of deaths from the coronavirus. The U.S. is benefiting from its vaccine supply, and has averaged 2 million inoculations a day for the first time.
A virus-tracking app intended for use during the Tokyo Olympics is riddled with glitches. And in Germany, officials came to agreement on a plan to gradually unwind restrictions on Europe’s largest economy.
Germany Lays Out Plan for Opening Up (6:56 a.m. HK)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel set out a plan to gradually unwind restrictions on Europe’s largest economy, bowing to pressure from the pandemic-weary public.
After hairdressers resumed operations on Monday, the next step will start on March 8, the German leader said late Wednesday after more than nine hours of tense talks with regional officials.
Remaining restrictions — including the closure of hotels, restaurants and other non-essential retail outlets — will continue with further easing steps tied to local contagion rates. An “emergency brake” was set up to react to hot spots.
U.S. Vaccination Pace Hits 2 Million a Day (6:45 a.m. HK)
The U.S. is administering an average of 2.01 million doses a day, the first time it has crossed that threshold, according to the latest analysis from the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.
A surge in make-up doses that were temporarily delayed during the winter storms last month, combined with increasing U.S. vaccine supply, has pushed the seven-day average of doses administered above the 2 million mark.
In total, 80.5 million doses have been given in the U.S., with 1.91 million reported on Wednesday. At least 52.9 million people have received at least one dose of a vaccine.
Tokyo Olympics Has Another Setback (6:15 a.m. HK)
Organizers for the Tokyo Olympics are asking athletes and teams to install a smartphone app that tracks their movements to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus when they arrive in Japan.
But there’s just one problem: The app has suffered a series of high-profile glitches, including one in which it didn’t notify users they were exposed to confirmed infections for more than four months.
The problematic software, called Cocoa, is just the latest headache for the delayed games, which has been beset by everything from allegations of plagiarism for its original official logo to a high-profile delay due to the pandemic.
Indian Vaccine Shown to Be 81% Effective (6:10 a.m. HK)
An Indian coronavirus vaccine that generated controversy when it was granted emergency approval before finishing its final stage testing has shown to provide strong protection against Covid-19 in an interim analysis of an advanced clinical trial.
Coaxing, co-developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech International Ltd. and the Indian Council of Medical Research, showed an efficacy rate of 81% in those without prior infection after a second dose. That’s better than Bharat Biotech’s guidance last year of around 60% and the country’s benchmark of 50%.
Another Day of Record Deaths in Brazil (4:10 p.m. NY)
Brazil reported record deaths from the coronavirus for a second straight day as the country’s richest state tightens rules to contain the spread. Brazil also said it reached an agreement to buy Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine.
Deaths rose by 1,910 in last 24 hours, the Health Ministry said, pushing the total to 259,271. Confirmed cases increased by 71,704, to 10,718,630.
Sao Paulo state said that all non-essential businesses, such as shops and gyms, will have to remain shut for the next two weeks.
Michigan Lowers Vaccine Age to 50 (3 p.m. NY)
Michigan lowered its vaccine eligibility age to 50 from 65, becoming one of the first U.S. states to take that step.
On March 8 Michiganders who are at least 50 and have a medical condition making them more vulnerable to the virus will be eligible, Governor Gretchen Whitmer said. The state will allow vaccines for all people age 50 and up on March 22.
NYC Could Open Vaccines to All by April (3 p.m. NY)
New York City could offer Covid-19 vaccines to all residents by late April, the city’s health commissioner said Wednesday in an interview with Bloomberg News.
“I would estimate for New York City sometime in, I hope, late April to May, we will have sufficient supply to be able to offer a vaccine to every New Yorker who wants one,” Dave Chokshi, commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said by telephone.
N.Y. Eases More Restrictions (1:52 p.m. NY)
New York state said starting March 22 the outdoor limit on residential gatherings will increase to 25 from 10. Limits for social events will rise from 50 to 100 people indoors and to 200 outdoors. Venues that hold fewer than 10,000 people can open at 33% capacity from April 2, with up to 100 people indoors and 200 people outdoors. Social distancing and face coverings are still required for attendance.
Governor Andrew Cuomo also said domestic travelers would not longer be required to quarantine or test-out within 90 days of full vaccination.
Montenegro Turns to Army on Masks (12:50 p.m. NY)
Montenegro, with one of the highest infection rates in Europe, is relying on police and the army to enforce virus restrictions, including mandatory face masks and social distancing, according to a government statement Wednesday.
The Adriatic state of 650,000 is also curbing intercity travel and suspending non-essential services as a last-ditch attempt to avoid a complete lockdown, Finance Minister Milojko Spajic said in a briefing in the capital city of Podgorica. “The pandemic is also a financial problem, but we cannot chose between health and the economy,” Spajic said.
CDC Urges Texans to Keep Wearing Masks (11:55 a.m. NY)
Federal health officials called on Texas and Mississippi residents to keep wearing masks as governors there lift Covid-19 restrictions, saying it’s premature to abandon mitigation efforts and that the virus can still erupt again.
Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that though cases have halted their decline from January highs, it’s not yet time to lift restrictions.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said Tuesday that the state would lift its mask mandate and reopen businesses next week while banning counties from fining or jailing people who disregard local measures, in so doing defying previous warnings from Walensky and others.
Greece Tightens Restrictions (11:55 a.m. NY)
Greece announced more measures to further restrict movement after recording 2,702 new Covid-19 cases, the highest daily increase since Nov. 19. The number of patients in intensive-care units also rose. Citizens will only be allowed to carry out essential shopping in the municipalities where they live while the use of cars to travel for personal exercise is prohibited, Deputy Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias said. Measures go into effect March 4 at 6 a.m. The current lockdown in high-risk areas is extended by one week until March 16.
Fake Vaccines Seized in South Africa (10:30 a.m. NY)
South African authorities said they’d seized about 2,400 doses of fake coronavirus vaccines after following up on a global alert issued by Interpol warning that criminal networks were trying to cash in on the inoculation rollout. The bogus shots were found at a warehouse in Germiston, near Johannesburg, and three Chinese nationals and a Zambian national were arrested, the police said in a statement.
Rwanda Receives Pfizer Vaccines (10:10 a.m. NY)
Rwanda received 102,000 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses on Wednesday, according to Unicef. It’s the first African nation to receive mRNA vaccines through Covax, the global alliance working to ensure equitable access to vaccines. Rwanda also received 240,000 AstraZeneca/Oxford doses.
Lithuania Eases Restrictions (9:52 a.m. NY)
Lithuania eased some of its lockdown restrictions to allow contacts between two households outdoors, as well as sports or cultural sessions of up to five people outdoors. The government is also introducing a requirement to hold a negative Covid-19 test taken within the previous three days to be eligible for entry to the country.
Vaccines Underestimated for Variants: Citi (8:39 a.m. NY)
A not yet peer-reviewed abstract suggests that messenger-RNA based vaccines may cut severe incidences of the disease against the four most-concerning variants, a Citi analyst said, and that may wipe out the need for future follow-up shots.
“High rates of vaccination could preclude additional waves of Covid-19, potentially without requiring additional booster or novel vaccines to address variants of concern,” Andrew Baum wrote in a research note. The data suggest that T cell responses in recovering patients or mRNA vaccines aren’t substantially affected by mutations, he said.
U.K.’s Sunak to Hike Business Tax (8:28 a.m. NY)
Rishi Sunak extended emergency tax cuts to help the country mired in a third national lockdown, making clear that safeguarding jobs is his priority in the short term. He said he’s adding another 65 billion pounds ($90.7 billion) of pandemic support to help the country recover this year and next.
But Sunak sketched out a plan to start plugging the deficit, with an increase in corporation tax to 25% from the current 19%, taking effect in 2023.
One Astra, Pfizer Dose Shields the Elderly (6 a.m. NY)
A single shot from AstraZeneca’s or Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccines protected people aged 80 and over from being hospitalized based on data collected in the U.K., supporting the rationale for spacing out injections to protect more people.
Pfizer helped fund the research.