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AstraZeneca Plans New Trial; N.Y. Cases Spike: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) — Global coronavirus cases topped 60 million. In New York, new infections hit a seven-month high, while hospitalizations rose to their highest level since June.

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AstraZeneca Plc, meanwhile, said it’s likely to conduct an additional global trial to assess its Covid-19 vaccine, after current studies raised questions over its level of protection. In Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans to do more to rein in the pandemic as the nation saw a record daily jump in new cases and virus-related deaths reached a seven-month high.

Merkel also called on Europe’s ski resorts to close this winter to halt the spread of the illness. Elsewhere, London will avoid the toughest coronavirus restrictions when England’s partial lockdown ends next week, under plans laid out Thursday.

Key Developments:

Global Tracker: Cases top 60.5 million; deaths top 1.4 millionBiden warns of ‘long, hard winter’ for virus in somber addressAs virus ravages U.S. jails, Korea may provide a templateAirline claims that flying is safe stir doubts among expertsThe best and the worst places to be in the coronavirus eraWorld’s biggest glove producer at risk as pandemic hits homeCovid vaccine rush in China raises fears of booming black market

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



chart, histogram: U.S. death toll tops 1,600 a day, highest since mid-May


© Bloomberg
U.S. death toll tops 1,600 a day, highest since mid-May

Astra Likely to Run Fresh Covid Vaccine Trial (11:03 a.m. NY)

AstraZeneca’s new trial would evaluate a lower dosage that performed better than a full amount in Astra’s studies, according to the company’s chief executive officer, after current studies raised questions over its level of protection. The company’s acknowledgment that the lower level was given in error fueled concerns.

CEO Pascal Soriot said he didn’t expect the additional trial to hold up regulatory approvals in the U.K. and European Union. Clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration may take longer because the regulator is unlikely to approve the vaccine on the basis of studies conducted elsewhere, especially given the questions over the results, he said.

New York’s New Cases Hit Seven-Month High (10:45 a.m. NY)

Numbers in New York show no sign of letting up. Hospitalizations in the state topped 3,000 to their highest level since June 1, while new infections hit 6,933, the highest tally for seven months.

Delta to Test Passengers for Covid in Trial (10:00 a.m. NY)

Delta Air Lines Inc. will test passengers for Covid-19 on flights to Rome in a pilot program that marks the latest attempt by the airline industry to open up trans-Atlantic travel.

The flights from Atlanta will enable quarantine-free travel to Italy under a new policy expected soon in the European country, Delta said. Alitalia will also offer flights between Rome and New York’s JFK, Il Sole 24 Ore reported on Wednesday.

Norway Wealth Fund CEO Tests Positive for Virus (9:50 a.m. NY)

Nicolai Tangen, the chief executive officer of Norway’s $1.2 trillion sovereign wealth fund, tested positive for the coronavirus. The CEO said he took a test on Wednesday afternoon, “after feeling a bit under the weather, but my symptoms are mild.”

Once-Relaxed Croatia Tightens Curbs (9:20 a.m. NY)

Croatia introduced new measures to fight infections, which hit a record of 4,009 in the last 24 hours. The Balkan state, which had a relatively relaxed regime in European terms, plans to close restaurants, bars and gyms, limit public gatherings to a maximum of 25 people and make masks mandatory in all public spaces.

Johnson Ends England’s Lockdown; Regions Face Curbs (7:15 a.m. NY)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed England’s national lockdown will end next week, to be replaced by a tougher three-tier system of regional restrictions.

London will avoid the toughest restrictions, having been placed into tier 2 — which means pubs, restaurants and bars can open for business, but alcohol can only be served as part of a meal. Under the new rules for England, from Dec. 2 shops, hairdressers and gyms will reopen across the country, but bars and restaurants will be takeaway only in areas under the tightest restrictions.

The government will announce on Thursday into which tiers regions are being placed. Ministers are drawing up plans to allow rules to be relaxed across the U.K. in time for Christmas and Johnson said if all goes well with the roll-out of vaccines, “the vast majority” of people who need a shot will get one by April.

France to Allow Travel Abroad From Dec. 15 (6:45 a.m. NY)

French PM Jean Castex said it will be possible to travel abroad from Dec. 15, when the government plans to lift its latest lockdown. Travelers must check the health situation in the destination country ahead of travel, Castex said on Thursday. Ski resorts will be open over holiday period but ski lifts will remain closed.

Iran Cases Hit Record Again (6:40 a.m. NY)

Iran reported a record 13,961 new virus cases on Thursday, setting a record for the third straight day. Total cases stand at 908,346. The Health Ministry also announced 482 new deaths. In total, 46,689 people have died from the virus in Iran.

Swedish Faith in Covid Strategy Plunges (6:20 a.m. NY)

Swedish confidence in the nation’s strategy to fight the coronavirus pandemic has slumped. A poll published on Thursday showed that 82% of Swedes are either “somewhat” or “very worried” as to whether their health-care system can meet the challenge facing it.

Confidence in the authorities’ ability to fight the virus sank to 42% of those polled from 55% in October. Meanwhile, 44% of Swedes fear authorities aren’t doing enough to fight the virus, compared with 31% last month.

Russia Plans to Start Mass Vaccination (6:10 a.m. NY)

Russia expects to begin to vaccinate the population this year and will roll out the program in stages, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday.

Developers of Russia’s flagship vaccine, Sputnik V, said this week that its efficacy was 91%, although it has yet to publish the results in a peer-reviewed journal. Russia has had nearly 2.2 million Covid-19 cases, the fifth most globally, and on Thursday reported a record 524 deaths in the last day.

Merkel Frets Over Ski Resorts (6:05 p.m. H.K. )

Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans to do more to rein in the coronavirus to avoid the “worst-case scenario” of an overburdened health care system. Restrictions extended and expanded on Wednesday night will likely remain in place until early January, Merkel said.

Europe should shut down its ski resorts this winter to prevent a renewed virus uptick, according to Merkel. She said that any non-essential travel needed to be avoided and that Europe would look “whether we can shut down all ski resorts.” But given Austria’s opposition, that won’t be easy, she said.

On a more upbeat note, a vaccine may be available before Christmas, Merkel said.

Singapore Finds First Local Covid-19 Case After Nearly Two Weeks (5:45 p.m HK)

Singapore confirmed its first case of locally transmitted Covid-19 in almost two weeks, the country’s health ministry said. The government said the case was identified in the community and no new cases in the foreign worker dormitories have emerged.

Germany Sees Record Caseload After Shutdown Extended (2:42 p.m. HK)

Germany registered a record increase in new virus cases, bringing the total to just under 1 million, hours after the government extended a partial shutdown to check the disease’s spread.

There were 32,687 new infections in Europe’s biggest economy in the 24 hours through Thursday morning, lifting the total to 995,879. The number of deaths rose by 378, the most since mid-April, and has now exceeded 300 for three straight days for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.

South Korea Surge Expected to Wane Next Week (2:20 p.m. HK)

South Korea’s daily Covid-19 infections jumped to nearly 600, the most since March, with the spike expected to wane next week as the impact of stricter social-distancing measures is felt.

Korea Disease Control & Prevention Agency on Thursday reported 583 coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours, compared to 382 a day earlier, and officials expect the caseload to remain at 400-600 per day through early December. The spike comes days after the country imposed stricter social-distancing measures, including limiting restaurant hours and social gatherings, the second time restrictions have been tightened in the past two weeks.

U.S. Considers Lifting European Entry Rules (5:26 p.m. NY)

Several federal agencies have recommended that the White House lift an entry ban on non-U.S. citizens arriving from Europe that was put in place to slow the spread of Covid-19.

The organizations, which participate in the White House Coronavirus Task Force, have signed off on lifting the restrictions, said two people briefed on the discussions. The Homeland Security Department imposed the rules after a presidential proclamation on March 11. The rules applied to 28 European nations and were expanded to Brazil on May 25.

It’s unclear whether White House officials, including President Donald Trump, will go along with lifting the ban or what the timing of a decision will be, said the people, who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to discuss the issue.

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