(Bloomberg) — Southeast Asia’s biggest predominantly Muslim nations are tightening movement restrictions to avert a possible surge in Covid-19 infections around the Ramadan holidays. Direct flights from India and Pakistan into Canada were suspended, and the U.K. announced a mandatory quarantine for travelers from India, which is recording record Covid cases and deaths.
China is expected to approve the BioNTech vaccine for distribution before July and will relax its requirement that inbound travelers have a jab made by a Chinese company, two signals that the country’s eager to bring home citizens stranded abroad and kickstart international travel. In Europe, Italy, France and Greece are planning to loosen restrictions in the next few weeks. Germany is considering privileges for those who are fully immunized.
Pfizer Inc. and Johnson & Johnson officials are balking at calls to waive vaccine patent rights. Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention meet on Friday to decide whether the U.S. can resume using J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine.
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China Will Recognize Non-Chinese Vaccines for Travelers (9:05 a.m. HK)
China will relax its requirements for inbound travelers from Dallas, Tex., allowing those inoculated with a non-Chinese vaccine to apply for the health code required to enter the country, according to a statement from the Chinese Embassy in the U.S.
China-bound passengers can apply if they have a negative Covid test and a positive antibody test, which would indicate that a vaccine shot is working. All travelers are still subject to the mandatory two-week hotel quarantine.
Still, the move, along with new reports that China plans to apprve the BioNTech vaccine within the next two months, signals China’s eagerness to repatriate its citizens and to facilitate international travel.
China Likely to Approve BioNTech Vaccine Before July (8:31 a.m. HK)
The COVID-19 mRNA vaccine co-developed by Germany-based BioNTech and China’s Fosun Pharma is “highly likely” to be approved in China before July, Global Times said Thursday. The report affirms information receieved earlier this week by the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, which was told by a government official to expect a similar time frame.
The shot, which will be rolled out by Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co., is likely to be the first of the highly effective mRNA vaccines approved in mainland China. It’s availability will help alleviate supply shortages currently faced by the world’s most populous country, which has set a target of vaccinating 40% of the nation, or some 560 million people, by the end of June.
U.K. Imposes Mandatory Quarantine For India Travelers (7:55 a.m. HK)
Starting today, all travelers arriving in the U.K. from India will be required to isolate in managed quarantine facilities for 10 days, with testing for the coronavirus on the second and eighth day, Public Health England said Thursday. Travelers who test positive will be required to stay in quarantine for another 10 days from the date of the positive test.
The requirement comes amid an increase in cases of SARS-CoV-2 infections caused by a variant first detected in India. The strain contains a number of mutations associated found in other variants of concern, Public Health England said in a technical report.
Japan Set to Declare Emergency (6:40 p.m. NY)
The Japanese government is set to declare a coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures, which will span from April 25 through May 11.
Eateries serving alcohol, establishments with karaoke equipment and commercial facilities with floor space of 1,000 square meters and over will be asked to close, said Yasutoshi Nishimura, minister in charge of Japan’s Covid-19 response.
Venezuela’s Guaido Taps Frozen Funds (6 p.m. NY)
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido plans to make the biggest one-time withdrawal from offshore accounts frozen by U.S. sanctions to purchase Covid-19 vaccines as well as pay wages, legal fees and expenses.
Guaido approved the release of $152 million, of which about $100 million will be used to buy vaccines through the World Health Organization-backed Covax initiative or other organizations, according to a budget report approved by the National Assembly.
Pfizer, J&J Resist Calls to Loosen Covid Vaccine Rights (5:44 p.m. NY)
Pfizer Inc. and Johnson & Johnson officials on Thursday balked at calls from the global community to waive patent rights in favor of broader immunization.
Intellectual property rights are critical to ensuring that Covid-19 vaccines can be deployed around the world, said Pfizer’s chief patent counsel, Bryan Zielinski. “It would never come out right,” said J&J chief intellectual property counsel Robert DeBerardine. “It wouldn’t taste like Grandma’s cookies.”
U.S. President Joe Biden is facing calls from some lawmakers to back a proposal before the World Trade Organization that seeks a broad waiver of rules on intellectual property rights on Covid-19 vaccines.
California Colleges Seek Vaccinations for Fall Return (5:35 p.m. NY)
The University of California and California State University systems are proposing a policy to have students, faculty and staff vaccinated before they return in the fall.
Cal State Chancellor Joseph I. Castro called it “the most comprehensive and consequential university plan for Covid-19 vaccines” in the U.S. The university systems comprise more than 1 million students and employees across 33 major campuses.
Under the plan, students heading to UC and CSU campuses in the fall will need to update their immunization records on file. Exemptions are granted for medical reasons, according to statements from both school systems.
Canada Halts Flights from India, Pakistan (5:14 p.m. NY)
Canada imposed a 30-day ban on direct flights from India and Pakistan as of 11:30 p.m. Thursday in Ottawa.
Some Canadian provinces have found cases of a virus variant detected in India, which reported almost 315,000 new infections on Thursday. Leaders of Ontario and Quebec, Canada’s most populous provinces, have asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to further tighten restrictions for international travelers arriving by air or land.
WHO Head Calls for Global Vaccine Sharing (3:45 p.m. NY)
The head of the World Health Organization called on governments and companies that “control the global supply” to share doses and know-how to increase equitable vaccine distribution.
“Scarcity drives inequity and puts the global recovery at risk,” WHO director general Tedros Ghebreyesus said in a New York Times op-ed. Even with almost 1 billion doses administered, many countries face a crisis of high Covid-19 transmission and intensive care units overflowing with patients and running short on essential supplies such as oxygen, he said.
Israel, Bahrain in Vaccine Passport Pact (2:53 p.m. NY)
Israel and Bahrain have reached an agreement for the mutual recognition of vaccine passports for quarantine-free travel between the two countries, NPR correspondent Daniel Estrin said on Twitter, citing Israeli Foreign Ministry officials.
Israel is in talks with the U.S., U.K. and other countries for similar arrangements.
Intel Says Expansion Site in Ireland Has Outbreak (1:07 p.m. NY)
Intel Corp., the world’s largest chipmaker, said 70 people working for a construction contractor at an expansion of the company’s manufacturing plant in Ireland have contracted Covid-19.
The chipmaker said Thursday that it was told about the outbreak last weekend. Intel’s plant is in Leixlip, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) west of the center of Dublin.
Indonesia, Malaysia to Limit Travel (1 p.m. NY)
Indonesia and Malaysia will limit travel toward the end of the month-long fasting period which typically sees more than 81 million people head home to regional towns from urban centers.
The restrictions are aimed at avoiding a resurgence in cases similar to those playing out in other developing countries, which are threatening overall global growth. India set a daily record for cases this week, while infections are also rising in Turkey, Argentina and Brazil.
Covid Can Kill Months Later: Study (12:10 p.m. NY)
Covid-19 survivors had a 59% increased risk of dying within six months after contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus, researchers reported in Nature. That works out to about eight extra deaths per 1,000 patients, worsening the pandemic’s hidden toll as many patients require readmission — and some die — weeks after the viral infection abates.
One of the largest studies of Covid-19 “long haulers” proved what many doctors suspected: Not only are many patients suffering a raft of health problems six months after infection, they’re also at significantly greater risk of dying.
N.Y. State Passes 2 Million Cases (11:44 a.m. NY)
New York on Thursday surpassed 2 million Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. The state is third behind Texas, with 2.9 million, and California with more than 3.7 million reported cases, according to Bloomberg data.
New York state recorded the biggest numbers of infections in mid-January, peaking on Jan. 14 with 19,942 positive tests.
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