U.K. to Give Shots to All Adults; N.Y. Deaths Drop: Virus Update

The U.K. will offer vaccines to all adults by the end of July and everyone over 50 by mid-April as the government beefs up efforts to contain one of the world’s worst outbreaks. People living in care homes in England will be able to choose one person to regularly visit them from March 8, as lockdown measures ease next month.

Daily deaths in New York state fell below 100 for the first time since mid-December. Second doses in the U.S. are coming due, straining state rollouts and and leaving some without complete immunizations.

Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine is expected to be given European Union approval in the next two to four weeks. The vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE is 98.9% effective at preventing Covid-19 deaths, according to Israel’s Health Ministry.

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U.K. to Offer All Adults Shots by July (5:35 p.m. NY)

The U.K. will significantly accelerate its vaccination program, offering shots to all adults by the end of July and everyone over 50 by mid-April as the government beefs up efforts to contain one of the world’s worst outbreaks of the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will set out the new targets on Monday when he reveals his “roadmap” to easing lockdown restrictions. It is the first time the government has given a firm target for when it expects to offer all adults their initial dose, having previously said it hoped to do so by autumn. The previous target set for over-50s was the end of May.

Brazil’s Second Wave Not Receding (5:17 p.m. NY)

Brazil’s cases ticked up this week after a month in decline, a signal that the nation’s second wave has not receded, Health Ministry data show. Another 57,472 cases were reported on Saturday, for a total of 10.1 million, the most after the U.S. and India.

Deaths fell slightly this week, though they remain at levels seen during a peak last summer. Another 1,212 deaths were reported Saturday, for a total of 245,977, the world’s second-highest toll.

Pfizer Vaccine Prevents 99% of Deaths: Israel Ministry (3:37 p.m. NY)

The vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE is 98.9% effective at preventing Covid-19 deaths, according to Israel’s Health Ministry.

Protection was highest two weeks after getting the second shot, while effectiveness was at 94.5% a week after the second dose, according to data the ministry released on Saturday.

The rates of preventing morbidity, symptomatic cases and hospitalization were all higher than 95% two weeks past the second jab, the data show.

Canada’s Vaccine Drive Accelerates (3:31 p.m. NY)

Canada’s vaccine efforts are ramping up after a slow start caused by shipment delays and that no vaccine is manufactured in Canada. Health authorities have given 1.4 million doses in the country of 38 million people as of Feb. 19, according to the government. There are now 32,241 active Covid cases, out of almost 850,000 who have been infected since the start of the pandemic.

California Positive Test Rate Continues Decline (2:39 p.m. NY)

California’s 14-day positive test rate dropped to 3.7%, the lowest since Nov. 9, according to the health department’s website. The state said there were 6,668 new cases yesterday, below the average of 8,166. Still, deaths climbed by 481, above the 370 average. California has administered 46.8 million tests in total.

France Outbreak Steady (2:26 p.m. NY)

France added 22,371 cases and 183 Covid-19-linked deaths, in line with levels recorded in the last month. So far in France, 2.54 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine against the virus.

Second-Shot Crunch Leaves Many Without Full Immunizations (2:18 p.m. NY)

Almost a month after U.S. vaccination campaigns ramped up to give Covid-19 shots to more than a million people a day, their second doses are coming due, straining state rollouts and and leaving some without complete immunizations.

In Texas alone, almost 6,000 people were overdue for their second shots in early February. Washington state officials said earlier this week that some mass vaccination clinics would only deliver follow-up doses. And a Michigan hospital system canceled last-dose appointments for the past week after its supply was reduced.

“For the first six weeks of this program or so, we were only giving first shots, and now we have to kind of pay the piper,” said Eric Toner, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

Mexico’s Coronavirus Czar Tests Positive (2 p.m. NY)

Mexican Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell, known as the nation’s coronavirus czar, has tested positive for Covid-19, according to a tweet.

Lopez-Gatell says he’s dealing with mild symptoms that began Friday, and he plans to continue working from home for now.

Lopez-Gatell speaks regularly at press conferences on Covid developments, including Mexico’s vaccine strategy, and oversaw President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s recent recovery from the virus.

Mexico received the first 200,000 doses on Saturday of the Coronavac vaccine made by China’s Sinovac, according to a Foreign Ministry tweet.

Argentine Health Minister Out After Vaccine Scandal (1:16 p.m. NY)

Argentine President Alberto Fernandez fired his health minister in an attempt to defuse a scandal over government allies having received preferential access to Covid-19 vaccinations.

Gines Gonzalez Garcia resigned Friday at Fernandez’s request after reporter Horacio Verbitsky told a radio station that he’d received a vaccine at the Health Ministry following a personal request to the minister. Local newspaper Clarin reported that other government allies had also received vaccines ahead of schedule.

South Carolina Cases of South African Variant Rise (12:39 p.m. NY)

South Carolina’s cases of the coronavirus variant first found in South Africa have jumped to 21, the latest sign that the more-transmissible strain is spreading in the U.S. As of Thursday, the latest data available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed only 21 cases in the whole nation, including two in South Carolina.

N.Y. Daily Deaths Fall Below 100 (11:03 a.m. NY)

New York state reported 97 new deaths, the first time the daily toll has fallen to less than 100 since mid-December. Hospitalizations dropped to 5,977, the first time under 6,000 also since then. Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. The statewide positive test rate dropped to 3.06%, the lowest since late November, he said. Cuomo reported 7,692 new infections.

Italy Cases, Deaths Slow (10:52 a.m. NY)

Italy reported 14,931 new cases on Saturday, compared with 15,479 on Friday. Daily deaths were 251 compared with 353 the day before. Alessio D’Amato, counselor for health for the region that includes Rome, said in a statement that AstraZeneca has announced a cut in vaccine deliveries to the region of about 9,000 doses.

U.K. Evaluates Lateral Flow Test (10:42 a.m. NY)

The U.K. is believed to be in the final stages of testing a new super-fast lateral flow test, the Daily Mail reported. It would deliver results in five minutes and its developer, U.K. company Avacta, say it’s more accurate than U.S. devices currently being used. The rapid test could aid the return to large sporting and entertainment events, the paper said. Mass testing is key to the government’s strategy to managing the next phase of the pandemic.

Iran to Get China Vaccine (9:30 a.m. NY)

Iran plans to import 250,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines developed by China’s Sinopharm next week, Health Minister Saeed Namaki said on state TV.

The country aims to expand its vaccination program by rolling out AstraZeneca-Oxford shots by the end of February and secure more doses from India, South Korea, Cuba and Russia.

Germany Expects J&J Vaccine Approval in 2-4 Weeks (9 a.m. NY)

A rival shot developed by CureVac NV will take longer and may get the green light in April or May, Spahn said during a virtual discussion on Germany’s vaccination program.

Spahn added that Germany would have no problem using the Russian Sputnik V vaccine as long as data and testing conformed with EU standards.

U.S. Deaths Reach More Than 495,000 (8:10 a.m. NY)

The U.S. added more than 108,000 cases on Friday, a count inflated by some 27,000 cases reported by Iowa health officials after the state adjusted its counting method. The daily average over the preceding two weeks was about 85,000. U.S. cases passed the 28 million mark this week.

U.S. Covid hospitalizations fell to 9.5% of beds on Feb. 17, the least since Nov. 8, according to the Department of Health & Human Services. Hospital beds occupied by Covid-19 patients totaled 65,682.

France Calls for More Restrictions in Nice (6:36 a.m. NY)

French Health Minister Olivier Veran called for tighter restrictions in the Nice area, which is facing a surge in coronavirus infections.

Veran invited the local authorities to pursue their consultations to come up with new measures, such as an extended curfew or a partial lockdown, by the end of the weekend.

The minister also announced that 3,500 Pfizer vaccine doses will be delivered on Monday, to be used in the following 48 to 72 hours in the area. Thousands of AstraZeneca vaccine doses will also be delivered in the coming days.

Iran Records Drop in Cases (6:12 a.m. NY)

Iran reported a dip in its daily Covid-19 figures with 68 deaths and 7,922 new infections over the last 24 hours. The country now has a total of 59,409 fatalities from the virus in more than 1.5 million known cases.

U.K. Care Home Restrictions Relaxed (6 a.m. NY)

In news that will be welcomed by families who have been unable to see their relatives in care homes for months, chosen visitors will be able to meet indoors and hold hands, Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed in a statement today.

Hancock said the proposed easing of strict care home measures is the “first step to getting back to where we want to be.” Hancock’s statement comes ahead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealing his “road map” for bringing the nation out of lockdown on Monday.

Czech Positive Cases Rise 27% (5:21 a.m. NY)

The Czech Republic reported 11,192 new cases on Friday, a 27% increase from a week earlier.

Over the past 2 weeks, the country has had the highest number of positive tests per capita in the European Union, and one of the highest death rates, according to data from the bloc’s European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

The worsening spread has prompted the Czech government to scrap an earlier plan to reopen non-essential shops on Monday.

Italy’s Governors Meet Over ‘Worsening Scenario’ (5 a.m. NY)

Italy’s regional governors will meet this afternoon to discuss what the Head of Italy’s public health institute Silvio Brusaferro has defined as a “worsening scenario” in the coronavirus spread all over the country.

According to Corriere della Sera daily, they are expected to produce a document, to be sent to Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Health Minister Roberto Speranza, and Regional Affairs minister Maria Stella Gelmini, asking to put all Italian regions under the same medium-risk “orange zone” restrictions. This would aid containing the virus and provide clear security guidelines to citizens.

Russia Gets Third Vaccine (4:30 p.m. HK)

Russia became the first country with three approved Covid-19 vaccines as it registered an inoculation by the state-run Chumakov Center, even as Phase 3 safety trials won’t begin until March.

The first 120,000 doses of KoviVac will be available next month, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said in a televised meeting with officials on Saturday.

As many as 20 million doses will be made this year, Chumakov’s director general, Aydar Ishmukhametov, said.

Hungary Becomes First in EU to Authorize Sinopharm Covid Vaccine (3:36 p.m. HK)

Hungary became the first European Union nation to grant approval for the use of a Chinese Covid-19 vaccine amid efforts by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government to cut short what authorities described as the start of a third wave of the pandemic.

The nation’s drugs regulator published the documentation for the Sinopharm vaccine late Friday, clearing the way for authorities to start administering it from next week.

Sticky German Incidence Rate Creeps Up (3:30 pm HK)

Germany’s seven-day Covid-19 incidence rate per 100,000 people inched up again Saturday in the latest evidence that a steady decline since a peak before Christmas has ground to a halt.

The rate rose to 57.8, from 56.8 on Friday, according to the RKI public-health institute, and has been stuck at around that level for a week after falling from close to 200 on Dec. 22. The government has said a rate of 50 or below is manageable and may allow a cautious easing of lockdown restrictions including shuttered schools and non-essential stores.

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