Germany Curbs U.K. Travel; Eiffel Tower to Reopen: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) — Germany will impose fresh restrictions on travelers from the U.K. starting on Sunday due to the rapid spread of a coronavirus strain first identified in India. Travelers from the U.K. will have to spend two weeks in quarantine upon arrival in Germany even if they test negative for the virus, according to the foreign ministry.

New research on the BioNTech/Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines shows that a double dose will better guard against variants of the virus first detected in India and Kent in the U.K. Britain is now offering vaccinations to those aged 32 or over.

Masayoshi Son, the billionaire founder of SoftBank Group Corp., called for a halt to the Tokyo Olympics as Japan battles new variants amid a slow vaccine rollout. Singapore reported its first school-based transmission of the virus, while the number of new cases in India dipped to a five-week low.

Key Developments:

Global Tracker: Cases pass 165.9 million; deaths exceed 3.4 millionVaccine Tracker: More than 1.6 billion doses have been givenHow the India variant exposed U.K.’s pandemic weaknessesVaccine tourists urged to read fine print on trips overseasItaly’s disappearing villages are having a pandemic renaissanceBillionaire’s year at home gives impetus to Africa vaccine planFungal epidemic, sick babies: Worst of Covid plays out in India

Eiffel Tower Prepares to Reopen (5:41 p.m. HK)

The Eiffel Tower is getting ready to welcome visitors again starting in mid-July as restrictions linked to the coronavirus ease throughout France. The French capital’s iconic structure will reopen from July 16 to tourists eager to climb the 324-meter tower’s staircases or use its lifts, according to an announcement on Twitter.

The news comes as the terraces of cafes, restaurants and bars in Paris and throughout France reopened this week. The country’s curfew was pushed back to 9 p.m. and French citizens can now shop for shoes and visit museums, albeit with restrictions on the number of people who can enter.

Germany Imposes U.K. Travel Curbs (5:13 p.m. HK)

Germany will impose fresh restrictions on travelers from the U.K. starting on Sunday due to the rapid spread in Britain of the coronavirus strain first identified in India.

Travelers from the U.K. will have to spend two weeks in quarantine upon arrival in Germany even if they test negative for the virus, according to the foreign ministry. In addition, transport companies will only be allowed to bring German citizens back into the country.

Germany now classifies Britain as a “virus variant area,” the country’s highest risk category, following a recommendation from the Robert Koch Institute, according to the foreign ministry.

Double Dose Works Best Against Variants (5:05 p.m. HK)

New research on Covid-19 vaccines shows that two doses are required to provide “strong protection against symptomatic infection” from a variant of the virus first identified in India, the Financial Times reported Saturday.

Two doses provided 81% protection against the B.1.617.2 variant, while one shot offered 33% protection, according to the report, which cited people briefed on preliminary data from Public Health England. A double dose was also found to better guard against the B.1.1.7 strain first detected in Kent, England. The research included data from the BioNTech/Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines.

The U.K. is rolling out its vaccination program to those aged 32 or over, the country’s health secretary Matt Hancock said in a tweet on Saturday.

Italy Weighs Mandatory Vaccines (4:10 p.m. HK)

Italy may consider making Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory in the future, the country’s head of civil protection, Fabrizio Curcio, said in an interview with La Stampa daily on Saturday. “It is an option that needs to be thoroughly assessed, given the need of annual booster shots.” Italy has so far administered almost 30 million vaccinations.

SoftBank Joins Calls to Halt Tokyo Olympics (3:25 p.m. HK)

Masayoshi Son, the billionaire founder and top executive of SoftBank Group Corp., joined growing criticism of the plan to hold the Tokyo Olympics this summer amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Now, more than 80% of the people want to postpone or call off the Olympics. Who is going to push for it, with what rights?” Son, an outspoken business leader, tweeted on Saturday. His comments came hours after a top official of the International Olympic Committee said the Games can be held even if the city remains under a state of coronavirus emergency, according to Kyodo.

Organizers have come under fire for pressing ahead with the event under a pandemic, and critics’ voices have grown louder. Japan’s slow vaccine rollout and the spread of variants is adding to fears that new virus mutations could be imported because of the Games and worsen the already-strained medical system.

Singapore Sees School Link (12:40 p.m. HK)

Singapore reported its first case of school-based Covid-19 transmission as an outbreak in the city-state showed little signs of abating.

A student at a local school contracted the virus after his classmate tested positive on Wednesday, according to a statement by the Ministry of Education. Close contacts of both pupils have been placed under quarantine. Previous cases this month involving school children included clusters that originated at private learning centers. Students from 30 schools have been infected in the past four weeks, the Straits Times reported Friday.

Singapore will review how it can further support companies following the latest clampdown. While some firms haven’t been required to cease operations, they have been impacted by the decline in foot traffic and the scaling back of activities, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said in a Facebook post Saturday.

India Cases Ease (12:20 p.m. HK)

India added fewer than 300,000 new Covid-19 cases for the sixth straight day on Saturday, in early signs that infections are slowing. The tally of 257,299 is the lowest since April 17. Still, IMF economists say the worst may be yet to come in the developing world, citing the infections trend in India and Brazil. New Delhi will need to immediately procure about 1 billion doses to cover 60% of its population by the first half of 2022, according to the note by IMF economists Ruchir Agarwal and Gita Gopinath. India reported another 4,194 deaths, bringing the toll to almost 300,000.

Bharat Biotech International Ltd. meanwhile is in discussions with overseas firms to expand its Covaxin production, the Hindu BusinessLine reported, citing people it didn’t identify. The Hyderabad-based company said earlier this week that it plans to make an additional 200 million doses at a Gujarat facility from the fourth quarter, raising its capacity of doses to about 1 billion a year. Many in India struggle to book scarce vaccination slots, and at the current rate, the country will take almost three years to inoculate 75% of its population of almost 1.4 billion, according to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker.

Hong Kong Plans Border Opening (9:50 a.m. HK)

Hong Kong’s border with mainland China could reopen for quarantine-free travel as early as June, starting with the launch of a proposed bubble with Guangdong for business travelers, the South China Morning Post reported, citing unidentified sources. Mainland authorities remain concerned about the city’s ability to stay on track and achieve a zero infection goal, the newspaper reported Friday, adding that uncertainties over recent Covid-19 cases could scuttle the plan.

Japan May Extend Emergency (9:30 a.m. HK)

Osaka prefecture plans to ask the government to extend a state of emergency, currently set to expire at the end of this month, the Yomiuri newspaper reported. Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said the situation remains serious and lifting the emergency can’t be considered under current circumstances, according to the report.

Japan’s government will decide whether to extend a state of emergency in Tokyo and other areas by the end of this month. John Coates, a top official at the International Olympic Committee, said the Tokyo Olympics can be held even if the city remains under a state of emergency, Kyodo reported.

Biden Sees 1 Billion Doses by Year-end (7:28 a.m. HK)

President Joe Biden said Friday that the U.S. could produce up to 1 billion Covid-19 vaccine doses by as early as the end of the year.

The “hope and expectation” is for the remainder of 2021, the U.S. will “be able to vaccinate every American,” Biden said after a day of meetings and ceremonies at the White House with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

U.S. Deaths Approach 14-Month Low (5:30 p.m. NY)

A measure of U.S. deaths related to Covid-19 fell to the second-lowest level since the earliest days of the pandemic. The seven-day moving average of deaths reached 580 on Thursday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. Apart from Apart from March 2020 when the pandemic took off in the U.S., only July 7 had a lower number.

Variant From India Found in Louisiana (5:13 p.m. NY)

Two cases of a virus variant first found in India have been identified in Louisiana, the Center for Emerging Viral Threats at LSU Health Shreveport reported on Friday. Two other cases of the variant were reported Thursday in North Texas by UT Southwestern Medical Center.

The variant, called B.1.617.2, was initially detected in India, where it’s helping drive the most severe outbreak in the world. It’s spreading rapidly in the U.K., more than doubling this week to almost 3,500 cases. The World Health Organization classifies it as a variant of concern, though the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t.

Oregon Joins Vaccine Sweepstakes (3:16 p.m. NY)

Oregon joined states offering lottery winnings to people who get vaccinated. Governor Kate Brown said one person will win $1 million, five teenagers will win $100,000 college savings plans and 36 people will win $10,000 — one from each county. All Oregon residents who have at least one dose will eligible for the June 27 drawing.

“Take your shot,” the Democratic governor said at a press briefing. “It can save your life and just maybe make you a millionaire.”

New York, Ohio, Maryland and Kentucky are also offering lottery prizes or tickets to encourage vaccinations, as the pace of inoculation slows nationwide. Almost 52% of Oregonians have had at least one dose, compared with the national average of 48.2%, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.

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