(Bloomberg) — Global coronavirus cases topped 60 million. Hong Kong will empower doctors to mandate Covid tests for suspected virus patients, while South Korea recorded the most daily infections since March, threatening its fine-tuned strategy against the pandemic.
In the U.S., California and Texas broke daily records for infections, while an outbreak is accelerating in the Southwest and Rocky Mountain regions. A growing number of U.S. hospitals have canceled or delayed some planned medical procedures to preserve staff and beds, while the death toll in U.S. nursing homes and long-term care facilities topped 100,000.
The White House is considering lifting entry restrictions on non-U.S. citizens arriving from Europe. German Chancellor Angela Merkel extended a partial lockdown for at least three weeks as the continent’s biggest economy struggles to regain control of the virus.
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H.K. to Require Tests for Suspected Covid Patients (12:24 p.m. HK)
The Hong Kong government will empower doctors to mandate Covid-19 tests for suspected virus patients starting Saturday, Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan said Thursday. The measure will last until Dec. 11.
India Reports 45,000 More Cases (12:08 p.m. HK)
India reported nearly 45,000 new Covid-19 cases Thursday, bringing its total recorded outbreak to 9.27 million — the largest in the world after the U.S. — with 135,223 deaths.
The number of daily infections has fallen by more than half from a mid-September peak above 97,000, but the drop has raised questions over India’s testing regime and whether it reflects the true state of the local epidemic.
Mexico Hospital Beds Filling Up Fast (10:42 a.m. HK)
Mexico reported 10,335 new Covid-19 cases Wednesday night, bringing the total to 1,070,487, according to data released by the Health Ministry. Deaths rose 858 to 103,597.
In Mexico City, 61% of hospital beds with ventilators are occupied, up from 53% a week earlier. Mexico has been criticized for its lack of testing, with officials acknowledging the country’s actual virus toll is probably much higher than reported.
Tokyo Joins Wave of Bond Sales for Pandemic Relief (10:17 a.m. HK)
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government plans to price a 60 billion yen bond ($575 million) Friday, with the proceeds used to offer small-to-mid sized companies long-term funding at low interest rates.
The city’s decision to specify the use of proceeds for pandemic-related relief “resonated with a lot of investors,” according to Kosuke Suzuki, deputy director of the bond section at Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s finance bureau. The local government initially planned to sell 30 billion yen of the note, but doubled the amount due to strong demand, he said.
Borrowers globally sold more than $100 billion of so-called social debt in the first 10 months of the year, much of it fueled by government demand for funds during the pandemic. This is the first such bond from a Japanese municipal government that specifies the money must be used exclusively for the pandemic as the country’s caseload hit a record this month.
Malaysia to Require Testing of Foreign Workers (8:59 a.m. HK)
Malaysia will impose mandatory Covid-19 screening for 1.7 million foreign workers due to the high number of cases in the group, Star reports, citing Defense Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
Employers should get workers tested early and “pay the bill rather than waiting for the disease to spread, as factory operators will suffer greater losses when their premises are forced to shut down,” Ismail said. The government also will impose a 50,000 ringgit ($12,240) fine per worker on employers that house foreign workers in crowded spaces.
Hanmi Pharm Rises on Vaccine Manufacturing Report (8:57 a.m. HK)
Shares rise as much as 11% after Maeil Business Newspaper reports the Korean company is in talks with global pharmaceutical firms to make genetic vaccines for Covid-19 on contract. Hanmi Pharm can produce as many as 100 million units of genetic vaccines annually, the report says, citing the firm.
South Korea Records Most New Cases Since March (8:41 a.m. HK)
South Korea’s daily Covid-19 infections jumped to nearly 600, the most since March, raising worries that the latest spread could threatened a fine-tuned strategy to combat the pandemic.
The spike in cases comes days after the country imposed stricter social-distancing measures, including limiting restaurant hours and social gatherings. Korea Disease Control & Prevention Agency on Thursday reported 583 coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours, compared to 382 a day earlier.
South Korea has raised the social-distancing alert level twice in the past two weeks, highlighting the challenge of containing the latest spread as the number of infections continues to rise. The country has been held up as a model for managing the virus spread without having to lock down or impose draconian measures after quelling two previous severe outbreaks in February and August.
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 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 who were briefed on the discussions. The rules were imposed by the Homeland Security Department after a presidential proclamation on March 11. It applied to 28 European nations and was 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.
Texas Cases Break Daily Record (5:15 p.m. NY)
Texas reported 14,648 new infections, setting a record for the second straight day, according to figures from the Department of State Health Services.
El Paso County has the most cases in the state, at 37,114, the figures show. That far exceeds infections in the more-populous Dallas County and Harris County, home of Houston.
Biden Calls for Unity in Virus Fight (4:20 p.m. NY)
President-elect Joe Biden called on Americans to unite in the face of a “long, hard winter,” using a Thanksgiving address to the nation to grieve for those lost to the coronavirus pandemic and promise that the nation would beat it in the new year.
“We have fought a nearly yearlong battle with a virus in this nation. It’s brought us pain and loss and frustration, and it has cost so many lives — 260,000 Americans — and counting,” he said in a speech in Wilmington, Delaware.
Biden went on to draw an implicit contrast with President Donald Trump by calling for a different approach to combating Covid-19. “It has divided us. Angered us. And set us against one another,” he said. “I know the country has grown weary of the fight. But we need to remember we’re at war with a virus — not with each other.”
Germany Extends Curbs at Least Three Weeks (4 p.m. NY)
Chancellor Angela Merkel extended a partial lockdown for at least three weeks, to just before Christmas.
Europe’s largest economy tightened limits on private gatherings but kept schools and most businesses operating under a deal hashed out Wednesday by Merkel and the leaders of Germany’s 16 states. The restrictions — slated to expire at the end of November — will run until Dec. 20 and will likely be extended into January unless there’s an unexpectedly rapid decline in contagion rates.
With infection rates surging, German officials this month ordered the closing of restaurants, gyms and cinemas. Nations like France and Britain imposed tougher restrictions, and with outbreaks there easing, officials are cautiously moving to loosen curbs ahead of the Christmas holidays.
California Shatters Daily Record (2:40 p.m. NY)
California reported 18,350 new virus cases, shattering the daily record set last weekend. The 14-day average rate of positive tests climbed to 5.9%, a three-month high and up 2 percentage points in just two weeks.
The most populous state is grappling with a virus resurgence spreading faster than at any point in the pandemic. Hospitalizations spiked 5.8% Tuesday to a total of 7,049, according to the state health department, and have more than doubled since the start of the month. Health Secretary Mark Ghaly warned Tuesday that hospitalizations and deaths, which trail infections by two to three weeks, are poised to surge further as cases accelerate.
Drive-thru Covid-19 testing in Los Angeles, on Nov. 23. California is grappling with a virus resurgence that is spreading at a faster pace than at any point in the pandemic.
Photographer: Bing Guan/Bloomberg
N.J. Changes Quarantine Policy (1:55 p.m. NY)
New Jersey has stopped advising 14-day quarantines of visitors and residents returning from U.S. hot spots. The policy, started in June and put into effect by New York and Connecticut as well, relied on voluntary compliance. But as cases and positivity grew, all save for a few states landed on the list. By mid-October, New Jersey, amid its second wave, achieved the three states’ definition of a hot spot.
Governor Phil Murphy said in a statement that New Jersey no longer will use “previously outlined metrics to inform its travel advisory.” The state continues to discourage non-essential travel and intends to issue a new policy, he said.
New York on Nov. 4 started allowing people to test and isolate for just three days. Connecticut on Tuesday listed 48 states and territories still subject to the quarantine rule.
France’s Pace of Cases Falls to 6-Week Low (1:50 p.m. NY)
France registered 16,282 new Covid cases Wednesday, health authorities reported. The seven-day average of infections, which smooths out swings in cases over the course of a week, fell to 14,994, the lowest since Oct. 9. The share of positive tests fell to 13%, compared with close to 21% at the start of November. Both hospitalizations and the number of patients in intensive-care units continued to fall from the second wave’s peak Nov. 16. Deaths linked to the virus rose by 381 to 50,618.
The report follows President Emmanuel Macron’s announcement Tuesday that France will start relaxing its lockdown measures on Saturday, and lift most of them in mid-December if numbers for cases and ICU patients continue to improve.
Turkey Changes Reporting Method After Outcry (1:10 p.m. NY)
Turkey changed its reporting method for Covid-19 cases after Health Minister Fahrettin Koca came under increasing criticism for not fully disclosing the number of people who test positive for the virus, much like the rest of the world does.
Turkey reported 28,351 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, Koca said in televised press conference. The total death from the virus rose by 168 to 12,840.
Turkey’s opposition parties and medical associations have been criticizing the minister for portraying a rosy outlook and the government for prioritizing economic gains over lives. The change also came after the surge in new symptomatic “patients” more than doubled this week compared with the previous one, to a pace not seen since the early stages of the pandemic in Turkey.
N.Y. Sees Most New Cases Since April (11:45 a.m. NY)
New York state had 6,265 new coronavirus cases Tuesday, the highest since April 24, according to a briefing from Governor Andrew Cuomo. The overall positive testing rate was 3.62%.
In New York City, hospitalizations are on the upswing. Daily admissions for Covid-like symptoms totaled 141 on Nov. 23, the highest in weeks. Of those, 45% tested positive for coronavirus. The seven-day average of total hospitalizations is 647, up 38% from a weekly average of 469 over the last four weeks.
Covid-19 “is bearing down on us, more every day,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press briefing Wednesday.
State data show total hospitalizations for New York City at 931 on Nov. 22, more than double the number on Nov. 1. At the height of the outbreak in April, more than 12,000 were hospitalized for Covid.
U.S. Surpasses 100,000 Nursing Home Deaths (10 a.m. NY)
Covid-19 has killed more than 100,000 residents and staff of nursing homes and long-term care facilities in the U.S., according to a report Wednesday from the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on health issues.
The U.S. passed the grim milestone Tuesday, based on reports from across the country, the foundation said. Deaths in long-term care facilities have accounted for 40% of all Covid-19 deaths nationwide, according to the report.
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