England Locks Down; Variant Strain Is in New York: Virus Update

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England Locks Down; Variant Strain Is in New York: Virus Update
A nurse prepares to administer the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at the King’s Point retirement home in Delray Beach, Florida. (Photographer: Saul Martinez/Bloomberg)

The variant strain of the coronavirus first identified in the U.K. has been found in New York State. Global coronavirus infections climbed above 85 million, after daily cases in the U.S. soared to a record of nearly 300,000 following the New Year holiday.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered a national lockdown in England starting from Monday night until mid-February to prevent a surge in coronavirus from overwhelming the National Health Service. Israel said it plans to vaccinate 70% to 80% of its population by April or May. Germany is set to extend its lockdown.

Hong Kong won’t reopen classrooms for more than a month, as many nations opt to delay reopening schools. Japan’s prime minister is considering another state of emergency for the Tokyo area, with cases at records and a vaccine rollout more than a month away.

Key Developments:

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England Locks Down; Variant Strain Is in New York: Virus Update

New York has case of virus variant (4:15 p.m. NY)

New York State has found its first case of the U.K. variant of coronavirus, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

A man in his 60s who lives in Saratoga County in upstate New York tested positive for the B117 variant, Cuomo said. The man had not traveled recently, which suggests it was the result of community spread, Cuomo said on a conference call.

The state has done about 5,000 tests looking for the new strain, Cuomo said. The new strain is more transmittable, he said, which could be a problem as the state deals with rising hospitalizations.

Johnson Hits England With Full Lockdown (3:10 p.m. NY)

England Locks Down; Variant Strain Is in New York: Virus Update

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed a third coronavirus lockdown across England, shutting schools and ordering the public to stay at home, amid dire warnings that the National Health Service is being pushed to breaking point.

The full emergency lockdown will start immediately and last until at least Feb. 15, potentially devastating retail and hospitality businesses and threatening to push the economy into a double-dip recession, as medics try to get a grip on the pandemic.

In a televised address to the nation, the prime minister insisted he had no option but to close down all social activities, education and non-essential travel in the face of a sudden and severe surge in infections.

EU Decision on Moderna Vaccine Wednesday at Earliest (2:45 p.m. NY)

The European Union’s drug regulator said a decision on the safety and efficacy of Moderna Inc.’s Covid vaccine would come on Wednesday at the earliest. There had been speculation that a decision would come during a meeting Monday, but a spokesman for the European Medicines Agency said the discussion had not concluded and will continue Wednesday.

Approval would give the EU a second cleared shot, after one from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE got the go-ahead in December.

Moderna Lifts Vaccine Output Outlook 20% (2:40 p.m. NY)

Moderna Inc. said it will make at least 600 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine in 2021, with a goal of finishing the year with as many as 1 billion doses produced. The shares rose.

The announcement increased the bottom end of the company’s production forecast by 100 million doses. Moderna is “continuing to invest and add staff” to produce the two-shot vaccine, according to a statement by the Cambridge, Massachusetts biotech company on Monday.

England Locks Down; Variant Strain Is in New York: Virus Update

Ireland to Suspend Some Hospital Services (1:45 p.m. NY)

Ireland will start suspending non-essential hospital services, in an effort to preserve capacity to handle surging coronavirus cases. The country reported a record 6,110 new cases Monday, with six deaths.

“This is a really serious situation that demands immediate action,” Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan told reporters in Dublin.

People with flu-like symptoms should now assume they have Covid-19, he said, while the positivity rate is now at about 20%. The government may delay reopening schools until the end of January, state broadcaster RTE reported. Schools are due to open on Jan. 11.

Cuomo Calls on Hospitals to Speed Vaccinations (12:05 p.m. NY)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called on the state’s public and private hospitals to administer coronavirus vaccines more quickly, warning of fines of as much as $100,000 for those who don’t comply.

The 194 hospitals in the state have received about 46% of the state’s total vaccine allocation, he said at a briefing Monday. “I need those public officials to step in and manage those systems. You have the allocation; we want it in people’s arms as soon as possible.”

The state health department this week notified providers that if they don’t use the allocations they already have by the end of the week, they will be fined up to $100,000.

Moving forward, the providers will be required to use the vaccines within seven days of receipt, he said. Those providers who are “seriously deficient” can be subject to sanctions, including limited allocations in the future, he said.

The governor also said New York is going to supplement and expedite the federal program to vaccinate nursing-home residents.

There are currently 611 facilities enrolled in the program, 288 of which have completed the first dose for residents, amounting to 47% of the residents, Cuomo said. The state plans to provide an additional 234 doses this week to get up to 85% of residents vaccinated with the first dose, he said.

The two biggest U.S. pharmacy chains, CVS Health Corp. and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., are working with the federal government to vaccinate residents at more than 50,000 long-term care centers.

England Locks Down; Variant Strain Is in New York: Virus Update

U.K. Reports Record Cases (11:30 a.m. NY)

The U.K. reported an increase of 58,784 new coronavirus cases on Jan. 4, the most on record. The total currently stands at 2.71 million. It also reported 407 deaths, compared with a seven-day average of 604. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce later Monday stricter restrictions as a third national lockdown for England seems highly possible.

NYC Ramps Up Vaccination Program (10:42 a.m. NY)

New York City aims to materially speed up the pace of Covid-19 vaccinations, expanding the groups of people it gives the shots to beyond health-care workers to include educators and first responders in the next few weeks, Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a briefing Monday.

De Blasio said he expects the city to administer 400,000 vaccinations a week at 250 sites by the end of January. The city has only administered around 100,000 doses since it began vaccinating residents about three weeks ago.

The city will also make new groups eligible beginning Jan. 11, including home-care workers, hospice employees and more nursing home staff. The city will also open up three new vaccine hubs later this week, and will add two new pop-up clinics and five new vaccination sites. “I want to go 24-7, seven days a week,” de Blasio said, noting that it was important to proceed with caution at the beginning of the vaccine rollout. “Getting it right gave confidence; now it’s time to sprint.”

New York also asked the federal government to speed up the vaccine rollout for nursing homes and asked manufacturers to continue sending the stock it needs. Currently, New York doesn’t have the supply it needs to reach its goal of administering one million doses by the end of the month. “We have enough to get through this week, but we need these deliveries,” de Blasio said.

Pfizer Offers Discount to South Africa (10:17 a.m. NY)

Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE offered to supply South Africa with their Covid-19 vaccine at a discounted $10 a dose, yet the president’s office still described the cost as prohibitive. The discount reflects South Africa’s status as a middle-income country and the site of a vaccine trial being conducted by the companies, the person said. The price is about half the cost of a shot in the U.S.

EU Decision on Moderna Vaccine Possible Monday (10:15 a.m. NY)

The European Union’s drug regulator is meeting Monday to discuss the safety and efficacy of Moderna Inc.’s Covid vaccine. Approval would give the EU a second cleared shot, after one from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE got the go-ahead in December.

The European Medicines Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use had been scheduled to meet Wednesday on the Moderna vaccine. That meeting will be maintained if no decision is reached Monday, the agency said in emailed comments.

Scotland Moving Into Lockdown (9:20 a.m.)

Scotland will implement another lockdown from midnight, including keeping schools closed and ordering people to largely remain at home.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said there was no choice but to take more drastic action as hospital admissions reached levels not seen since the previous peak of the pandemic in April. School closures will be reviewed in the middle of January.

Israel Surges Ahead With Vaccination (9 a.m. NY)

England Locks Down; Variant Strain Is in New York: Virus Update

Israel plans to vaccinate 70% to 80% of its population by April or May, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said on Monday. The inoculation drive, which leads efforts around the world on a per capita basis, has already administered first doses of the Pfizer Inc. shot to about 1.2 million residents, or more than 12% of the population.

“I hope that in several weeks we’ll be ready to report that the majority of the at-risk population got two doses of the vaccine,” he said.

South Africa Awaits Vaccine Detail (8:45 a.m. NY)

South Africa’s largest health worker labor union urged the government to accelerate vaccine rollout plan, criticizing the existing program as “scant on details and very ambiguous on the time lines.”

The country has yet to conclude any supply agreements with pharmaceutical companies. With more than 1.09 million confirmed coronavirus infections and almost 30,000 deaths, South Africa is the worst-hit country on the African continent.

North Korea Requests Vaccine, WSJ Says (6:20 a.m. NY)

North Korea asked for virus vaccines from the main global alliance helping lower-income countries fight the pandemic, the Wall Street Journal said, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Gavi, the international vaccine alliance, declined to comment on North Korea’s application, the WSJ said. North Korea has reached out to several European embassies, asking how the country might get vaccines, the newspaper said.

Germany Set to Extend Stricter Lockdown (6 a.m. NY)

Germany is poised to extend stricter lockdown measures beyond Jan. 10 amid criticism over alleged failures in the nation’s vaccination program. Authorities agreed to continue curbs until Jan. 31, Bild newspaper reported.

Regional and federal officials will hold preliminary talks later on Monday, before Chancellor Angela Merkel consults with the 16 state premiers to decide on prolonging restrictions that include closing schools and non-essential stores. Germany’s daily tally of virus cases and deaths reached record numbers last week, before falling back over the New Year.

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